There is a lot of controversy in certain circles about the way this age of the world will come to its end, about the final things that will precede the Judgment and Revelation of the Lord, and about how those who belong to Him will join Him in unshadowed bliss without the sin that mars this world. Prominent among these controversies are those related to what many call the ‘Rapture’, the translation of living Christians from mortal to immortal bodies like that of the Lord (at least I presume that is what they mean) and when it will occur, whether before, during, or after a period they call the ‘Tribulation’ of especially wide-spread and inescapable suffering and judgment they believe will occupy the final seven years before the Lord returns to judge and renew the earth.
I have no real interest in any of these controversies. All of them seem contrived to me, and I am content merely to wait for Him, whether in the guise of Death or in His Glorious Return, and to serve Him faithfully (by the grace of His good Spirit) until that time. However, I sometimes take part in conversations relating to these controversies because I wish to address certain ways of thinking or attitudes which seem to be linked to these theories about the end days of this age. That is what I will now address.
I’ve encountered some who believe that those who think that living Christians will be taken from the earth prior to this period they name the ‘Tribulation’ are especially likely to fall away in persecution. For my part, I fail to understand this. To die is to die. To be tortured is to be tortured. It does not really matter whether most people are suffering likewise or not. No human being feels the suffering of all nor is any human being responsible for all, and so I never saw how any of this mattered. Whether there is a period of judgment on the earth that Christians will or will not experience, that exempts none of us from any suffering. So I suppose I never understood either why anyone bothered believing what they call a ‘Pre-Tribulation Rapture’ or what the point of such a theory was, good or bad. Most of this is beside the point, but the source of my confusion about this theory, the question of why bother with it, is critical. Why someone thinks something indicates what it means to that person and to his or her life.
I never have, and still don’t, care exactly what you think will happen as this age draws to its end. What matters is one’s attitude, how one thinks about and considers things: why one thinks what one does. Thus, I hate, not the idea (strange, incomprehensible, and pointless as it is to me) of the ‘Pre-Tribulation Rapture’ but an attitude and ideology which is often used as its main support: that suffering for Christ at the hands of men (or anything else for that matter) is punishment, rather than reward. It is this, not the idea itself, which I believe is a spirit of apostasy – or of never having met the Risen Lord in His transforming Glory, which shows us the Cross as something to be embraced rather than feared or avoided.
Thus, as I said, I think the ‘Pre-Tribulation Rapture’, if true, is actually no guarantee against suffering and martyrdom, but that’s not the point. The problem is not how consistent or how intelligent our reasoning is, but where our desires lie, what our attitude is. What matters is how we’ve seen Jesus Christ. Do we believe Him? Do we trust Him?
“For it is granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him (emphasis mine).” God is blessing us, gifting us, honoring us, rewarding us – never punishing us – when we are privileged to suffer for Christ (an honor and gift which none of us can merit ourselves, but which we can receive on behalf of Christ). Thus, if someone thinks that it is punishment for a Christian to remain on earth until the end, to suffer for Christ on His behalf, to be His witnesses, to blessed for His sake, as the Spirit of God and of Glory rests on us, then there is a very great problem, and it is not the symptom or a corollary that must be addressed, but the underlying disease. That disease cannot be healed except by the vision of God, but at least it can perhaps be recognized as what it is, instead of having people argue over what will get no one anywhere. That it is a disease should be fairly clear, but sometimes I wonder if it is: do many “American Christians” think that they are more blessed by God than those who live in North Korea or Saudi Arabia or China or Eretia or Pakistan or those who lived in the Soviet Union or in the Roman Empire? Sometimes it seems as if many do think that they are more blessed than these because they have no slightest expectation of sealing their witness (do they have any?) with their blood. Other times, they speak of how much greater the faith of these others is than their own. Do they believe that God is not good? That He is not a rewarder of them that seek Him? That He is not all-sufficient? That there are things which can separate us from His love? Or, perhaps, that His love is not so real and great after all? I do not know, but it seems likely to me that there is something of this sort going on in the hearts of many, and that is the disease that must be healed through knowing the love of Christ. Binding up a few of the more obvious sores will not heal the disease or preserve the life, and pretending that the disease is not there is likely to only make it harder to cure, harder to heal.
I am inclined to ask anyone who thinks being called upon to suffer for the sake of Christ is punishment, rather than reward, to seriously reconsider whether you are a Christian, and if you cannot at least see that it is unChristian and unreasonable to think such suffering and witness is punishment, and that you should see it as a reward and blessing, if you do not want to see suffering for Him as a delight, to please stop calling yourself a Christian. It’s better to be honest and not a Christian than to be dishonest, to not really desire or follow Christ, and call oneself a Christian. (But if you happen to suspect whatever is called a ‘Pre-Tribulation Rapture’ for other reasons, as I said, why is what matters. This is not about the ‘Rapture.’ This is about thinking as Christians, as the members of the King of Glory.)
“If anyone wishes to follow Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and come after Me.”
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, and when a man had found it, rejoicing, he carefully buried it again, sold all that he had, and bought that field (emphasis mine).”
PLEASE do not read into this anything about my beliefs about what does and does not constitute “persecution” except the obvious, like throwing one in prison or torturing or killing one, or other things of similarly extreme severity, for publicly holding certain beliefs. Several times I have tried to be clear that I’m not at all interested in the “persecution complex” which some Americans seem to have about thinking they’re being persecuted anytime something is not just how they like (as if the legalization of other people doing as they please with fully consensual partners was somehow persecution) and somehow it has been missed, so I’m trying to be really clear now.
My purpose here is not to judge individual hearts. Only God knows what a person really means beneath the things he or she says. Nonetheless, those things must be addressed. They would not be so prevalent unless some at least were infected by the disease they suggest, and they can be very poisonous to others.
Copyright 2020 by Raina Nightingale