Let me start off by saying up front I’m not an end-times prophecy expert. I’ve read the Left Behind series and found it to be quite exciting and enjoyable. Jerry Jenkins is a great storyteller, and Tim LaHaye has obviously spent years studying Bible prophecies as they relate to Christ’s return and the events that Revelation describes. I have read Revelation several times but when it comes to other passages relating to the end times, I don’t always even know I’m reading one when I am. So I’m no expert.
I do believe in the rapture, for the simple reason that the Bible says we know not the day nor the hour of Jesus’ return. If His second coming is only slated for after the Tribulation, and we believe Revelation’s timeline, then we can at least ballpark the day. At some point the Antichrist is going to come on the scene. While he may not be recognizable right away, sooner or later it’s going to be pretty obvious who he is. And once the events described in Revelation begin to occur, it’s pretty easy to start a countdown clock to Jesus return. So I believe that, whether it happens like Left Behind or not, we faithful believers can look forward to our Lord returning to bring us home to his Kingdom before the rise of the Antichrist.
It sure would be nice to escape any intense suffering like the events John foretells in Revelation. However, after reading the Psalms, I got to thinking about the parallels between the end times and God’s deliverance of His chosen people Israel from slavery in Egypt. For example, the ten plagues, and the so-called “bowl judgements” have some similarities, water to blood, darkness, and so forth. Once Moses led them out of Egypt, the Lord made sure they never suffered at Pharaoh’s hand again. But before that, they suffered quite a bit. There was no rapture then. No miraculous rescue lifting them out of Egypt before their enslavement.
While Israel remain God’s true chosen people, as Christians, we are God’s chosen people by “adoption” through Jesus death and resurrection. We share in Israel’s inheritance. But if we are to share in Israel’s inheritance, should we not also expect to share in their suffering? What makes us so special that we should expect a get out of tribulation free card? Maybe Jesus suffering on the cross and the miracle of our salvation means that we won’t have to endure Revelation in all its fury. I hope that’s true. It would be nice to dodge the Great Tribulation bullet.
But while I look forward to the rapture, if I indeed live long enough, I don’t think we can take for granted that believers aren’t in for a bumpy ride, even if we are to be spared the worst of Revelation. Anti-Christian sentiment and society’s moral decline have us heading in that direction. The Bible is full of stories about fiery trials of faith. Since we know God never changes, we know He still allows His faithful to be tested today. As Jesus return gets closer, I would expect that testing to only get tougher.
So however Revelation unfolds, we need to at least consider the possibility that we believers, pre-rapture, will still be tried like never before. While we can look forward to a clean getaway when our Lord does return, like the kid staring down the barrel of Dirty Harry’s magnum, we need to be prepared for the possibility that there’s still one left in the chamber.