Most American Christians are familiar with the term “rapture.” The belief that Christians will avoid living through the tribulation is largely attributed to 1 Thessalonians 4:17—“Then we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so we will always be with the Lord.” The fictional series Left Behindglamorizes this view and reinforces the notion that the church will escape the tribulation.
I am not an expert in eschatology (the branch of theology concerned with the end of the world), but I am concerned with the implications of what we profess to believe. I also believe we are nearing the time of the end. Right now as you are reading this someone on this planet is tortured for his or her faith in Jesus Christ. In the last 100 years more Christians were martyred for their faith then the total of every century dating back to Christ’s crucifixion. Try explaining to Christians in China, Somalia, Sudan, North Korea, Egypt, Nigeria, Cambodia, Laos, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Cuba, Yemen, Libya, Indonesia . . . that they won’t have to go through the tribulation because they will be raptured! I am sure they will be comforted as they show you pictures of mutilated loved ones, as they reveal scars from brutal beatings and relate with joy stories of repeated persecution all because they refuse to renounce their allegiance to Christ.
Oswald Chambers noted in The Servant As His Lord:
"The word tribulation has its root in the Latin tribulum—a sledge for rubbing out corn, literally, a thing with teeth that tears . . . God allows tribulation and anguish to come right to the threshold of our lives in order to prove to us that His life in us is more than a match for all that is against us."
Around the world there is a steady onslaught of litigation, imprisonment and torture for those who dare share about Christ or hold to Biblical teachings. Does the hope of rapture color reality and lead to ambivalence towards those who are suffering? How we view the tribulation determines what we do in preparation.
When the day comes when you are told you cannot share your faith if it offends others will you be ready and willing to suffer by choosing God’s laws over man’s laws? Most of our brothers and sisters already answer that question everyday in places where Jesus is not welcome. Dr. Tom White, the Director of The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), reminds us that the real meaning of passion is not about intense desire or feeling. Rather it stems from the Latin word “pati” which means to suffer. To be passionate about God means to be willing to suffer in following Him.
If we cannot feel the pain of our afflicted Christian family in other lands and are disinclined to help them or at least pray for them, then we do not understand tribulation or what it means to be the body of Christ. It seems shallow and selfish to suggest God will liberate us in days ahead while ignoring the plight of His children everywhere else. Tribulation is here. The great tribulation will come. God help us to be faithful today so that our hope is not in what we miss but rather in what we have.
You can learn more about the persecuted church by contacting VOM at (877) 337-0302 or visit their website at www.persecution.com.
Revelation 7:14--I said to him, “Sir, you know.”Then he told me: These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
©2003 Daniel York ARR. Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause. If you would like to receive these devotionals go to www.firstcause.org and click on the “Click here to receive weekly devotionals” box. Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.
Ecclesiastes 12:10-The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. (Holman CSB)