As I write these words, in the waning hours of 2008, many are filled with fear and apprehension about the future of America and of the world. Around the world, stock markets have fallen precipitously. National governments are furiously trying to "rebuild confidence" in the world economic systems. Businesses have failed. Industries are at risk. Banks are in trouble. Thousands are out of work. Life savings have vanished into thin air.
As I write these words (12/31/2008), there is also more uncertainty in the Middle East, as Israel attempts to deal with the threat from Hamas.
At the same time, many Christians are becoming more aware of a rising and increasingly bolder and more aggressive hostility by much of the world toward Biblical Truth (and those who stand on that Truth).
We also watch, with sadness, as the church itself becomes more and more timid when it comes to taking a stand for truth and Biblical principles.
Many are trying desperately to "fix" things. Many are trying to keep hope alive. And others think that we are merely whistling in the dark. Of course, many Christians are hoping and believing (and teaching) that before the "bottom falls out" that our Lord will return and rapture Christians away.
But ominous questions loom before us. What if things happen to get worse? even much worse? And what if Jesus doesn’t return right away?
Are we just being negative and pessimistic to consider such questions? Should we be so filled with optimism that we simply refuse to ask such questions?
Or should Christians try to think about the "unthinkable?" Should we make whatever plans we can make in order to be useful to God if the bottom falls out and He sees fit to let us live for a while longer?
Many of you know that many years ago I changed my beliefs about the rapture of the church. I was brought up in a Christian atmosphere that taught that before the Great Tribulation comes upon the whole earth, the Lord will return and rapture the church away. We had lots of charts to illustrate it in great detail! Most of my Christian friends even now are pretribulationalists. They believe that before things get too bad, the church will be removed. I respect them. I would love for them to be right! But as I have tried to study the Scriptures closely on this subject, I have become convinced that they are in error.
Certainly, Christians can have fellowship with one another and worship together and disagree about eschatology. However, if we posttribulationalists happen to be right in our understanding of Scripture, many people may be very unprepared for the very difficult times that they may find themselves in.
Let’s consider what it might mean to be prepared for a time of great difficulty.
First of all, we must be prepared to die. Yes, I know. That sounds very morbid! But it is still the most reliable statistic we know of… One out of every one person dies. Sometimes we die spectacularly in dramatic numbers (e.g., 9/11/2001). Sometimes we die in unexpected auto accidents. Sometimes we die alone at home, or in a nursing home bed. And some die as martyrs for their Christian faith. Someday, under the reign of the man of sin, many will experience that kind of death. But die we shall. (Except of course for those who are still alive and remain at the coming of the Lord, who will be changed into their resurrected bodies immediately after the dead in Christ receive theirs!) But it is critically important that we be spiritually, mentally, and emotionally prepared to die!
And while I am not predicting that such desperate times will happen immediately, we certainly have to entertain the possibility that the world situation could become so dark that many of us will die at younger ages than we might have expected.
Of course, the main key in preparation for death is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
We should probably also be spiritually, mentally, and emotionally prepared to live in a very different world. That can be difficult, since these kinds of things are so unpredictable. But certainly it is good for Christians to be prepared for fiery trials. A lot of this preparation involves memorizing relevant chunks of God’s Word. We have some articles on our web site designed to help Christians get prepared for fiery trials. (You can find some of them here.)
And after all, even if the economy turns around and the world heaves a sigh of relief for now, many of us will have to go through our own personal times of fiery trials. We need to be prepared for that. It is certainly a sad sight to watch Christians panicking and becoming hysterical because they were totally unprepared for a fiery trial that has suddenly come upon them.
For some who can afford it, God may be pleased for them to become somewhat physically prepared to survive in a time of great tribulation. If the man of sin arises in our lifetimes, and if it becomes unlawful for Christians to buy or sell without renouncing our supreme commitment to our Lord Jesus Christ, and if God were to want us to live on for a brief time as a witness to His truth, it is possible that He would be pleased for Christians to have a plan for obtaining and sharing food and water for example. Of course, God is our Provider. And He is in charge of our life span on this earth. But, perhaps, the Scriptural warnings to watch and be prepared relate to being ready to live in uncertain times… at least long enough to bear witness to the Truth until He says that our part of the battle is over.
Again, if you would like to read a few more thoughts along these lines, there is an article here.
Is it better to be prepared for difficult times and be mistaken?
Or is it better to be unprepared for difficult times and be mistaken?
But whatever happens, our prayer for all of us, for as long as God allows us to draw breath, is that we may effectively…
…stay in the battle!