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Three Rapture Obstacles

 

The Bible does not support a pre-tribulation rapture for several reasons and here are at least three: First, a pre-tribulation rapture requires a pre-tribulation judgment. For this theory to be true, it means God has to judge the living before the Great Tribulation begins to determine who can be ruptured and who has to be “left behind.” Moreover, this also means that if God judges a person unfit for the rapture, then the sinner will have a second chance at receiving salvation during the Great Tribulation. The Bible refutes both ideas. Second, the Bible says the devil is preparing to make war on the last or the remnant of the woman. “Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring – those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” (Revelation 12:17) The Bible also says the leopard-like beast will make war against the saints during the Great Tribulation. “He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them….” (Revelation 13:7, italics mine) How can the devil and the leopard-like beast make war on the remnant of the woman (the saints) if they are in Heaven? Third, Bible history and secular history affirms that God’s people have suffered persecution and harm ever since sin began. (Hebrews 11) Abel was slain because he obeyed the Lord. (Hebrews 11:4) Nine of the twelve apostles were martyred for their faith. Jesus was beaten and murdered and He told His disciples, “Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than the master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also…. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God.” (John 15:20; 16:2)

 

The rapture concept seems incongruous when we know that God deliberately handed over the woman (the saints) over to the Roman Catholic Church for 1,260 years of persecution! Consider this text: “He [the little horn, the Roman catholic Church] will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws. The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time.” (Daniel 7:25, italics and insertion mine) Who handed the saints over to the little horn if not God? God protected the woman from extinction, not persecution. More than fifty million Christians died for their faith during the Dark Ages! If God allowed the woman to suffer persecution for 1,260 years, there is no reason “the rest of the woman” should be protected from persecution during the Great Tribulation. (Revelation 13:5-7) I could go on and on about the shortcomings of the rapture doctrine, but you should understand this point: God does not view persecution as a horrible thing because His grace is more sufficient for every challenge that His children may face.

 

Corporately speaking, I believe persecution has a very valuable benefit for God’s people or why would God allow it? Please consider the following three statements and keep in mind that God’s treatment of the woman – during the Dark Ages and the Great Tribulation – is consistent with His changeless character of love. Keep in mind His wisdom goes beyond comprehension.

 

Persecution for Christ’s sake purifies our devotion to God. When people are persecuted for humbly doing the will of God, they have no bitterness or anger toward the predators because they accept through faith that it is God’s will that they pay the price that His truth demands. When faced with persecution for Christ’s sake, the importance of God’s Word becomes paramount. The fires of persecution separate the faith-full (the gold) from the faith-less (the dross). When the Great Tribulation begins, everyone (including Christians) who obey the first angel’s message will soon face persecution. Our Creator’s demand to worship Him on His Sabbath will stand in direct opposition to Babylon’s demand. Many Christians will suddenly discover that they really do not have the faith in Christ. They will cry out, “Oh God, how could you let this happen to me?” There is a huge difference between submission to the gospel and an admission that the gospel is true.

 

Peter’s experience is recorded in the Bible because he perfectly mirrors the difference between admission and submission. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter was bold, ready to die for His Jesus. When the mob rushed into the garden to lay hands on Jesus, Peter whipped out his fisherman’s knife and a brief scuffle ensued. He managed to cut off the right ear of Malchus, the high priest’s servant. (John 18:10) Six hours later, in Pilate’s judgment hall, this same courageous Peter denied that he even knew Jesus.

 

Peter did not know it, but he had no faith in God. Peter admitted that Jesus was the Messiah. (Matthew 16:16) Peter expected Jesus to set up His kingdom on Earth. (Matthew 20:21-28) Peter admitted that he loved Jesus. “But Peter declared, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ And all the other disciples said the same.” (Matthew 26:35) When the mob showed up, Peter proved he was ready to fight and die for Christ, but out of self-defense. When peter saw that Jesus was not going to defend Himself and overcome His enemies, Peter denied that he knew Jesus because Peter was not prepared to share in Christ’s condemnation and death. It is one thing to die in self-defense or in the defense of God and country, but it is altogether another matter to suffer death for no other reason than God requires it. This is the beauty of Isaac surrendering to his father on Mt. Moriah. Jesus said, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself [our self interests] and take up the cross [the will of God] and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” (Matthew 16:24,25) When the rooster crowed a third time, Peter had an epiphany. When he saw Jesus humbly submitting to inhumane treatment, he began to understand the meaning of submission to the will of God. In that moment, Peter’s head knowledge moved to his heart. He became ashamed of himself and wept bitterly. Peter realized for the first time that it was God’s will for Jesus to die. When Peter discovered that faith in God means total submission to God’s will, Peter was transformed and he surrendered himself to God’s will that day. Persecution purifies the soul of the persecuted and it often changes the hearts of those who observe such submission. Persecution refines us, puts our “self” aside, and makes God’s will central in our lives. Jesus said, “This third I will bring into the fire [of persecution]; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’” (Zechariah 13:9, insertion mine)

 

Persecution kept the faith of the woman pure for 1,260 years. When Jesus spoke to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3, the Christian faith was only sixty-five years old. Already, six of the seven churches in Asia Minor had become corrupted by false doctrines. Because religion mutated quickly, God allowed the devil to chase the woman into the desert. God knows the desert is a good place for training people. This is why He took Israel into the desert when they first came out of Egypt. I call God’s use of the desert, “Desert University.” When a person, nation, church is exiled to the desert, God has to be depended upon for everything. The desert is an unforgiving place, a hostile place, a lonely place, and not a place that allows self-indulgence and self-reliance. The carnal nature hates the desert. It seeks pleasure and luxury, and it wants the “easy life.” However, joy can be found in the desert because sanctification expands the ability of the heart to love God and man, and it redirects our motives from self-seeking to selfless service. “Desert U” teaches discernment and insight. This holistic experience is called “walking with God.” “This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.”(Genesis 6:9, italics mine) Looking at human nature, and knowing that God’s wisdom is perfect, we have to admit that putting the woman in the desert for 1,260 years had to be the best thing that God could do for her.

 

Humility is the soil that nurtures faith in God, God’s promises are the sunshine, and the Holy Spirit is the rain. Living by faith is like putting on a blindfold, taking hold of Christ’s arm, and following wherever He leads. When Jesus is leading, there is no way to know where we are going, but your destination is secure! God’s people are usually alone in this world. Family and friends rarely understand or appreciate the faith experience. In fact, family and friends are often opposed to the faith experience. Jesus said, “A man’s enemies will be members of his own household.” (Matthew 10:36) I have mentioned these matters because there is great joy at “Desert U” and God covers all the room, board, education, and security for you! If necessary, He can make food fall from the sky and water flow from the rocks. “The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God….” (Revelation 12:6, italics mine)

 

The final benefit that comes from persecution is exclusion. Persecution keeps those who love the world and the things of this world out of the visible church. When the threshold for being a Christian is suffering, the woman remains healthy. When the threshold for being a Christian is easy, the church suffers. The visible church differs from the invisible church in an interesting way. This visible church exalts unity at the expense of truth. The invisible church exalts advancing truth, social consequences notwithstanding.

 

The pure in heart are poor in spirit (ego). These people are willing to make whatever sacrifice is necessary because they seek only to glorify God and to help their neighbor. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12)

 

God’s people do not serve Him because they want to avoid Hell and achieve Heaven! The woman loves God even if there is nothing beyond this life, because she has found peace, joy, and the sustaining grace that comes through total submission to God’s will. This experience is called “overcoming the world.” “They [the saints] overcame him [the devil] by [their faith in] the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” (Revelation 12:11)                    


 

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