Just what should Christians be doing to prepare for a tribulation or rapture?
End times prophecy has become a hot topic again. History is replete with pockets of time where End Times, Rapture and Armageddon were topics of great concern to Christians and extremists. The turn of the new century played a role in this renewed discussion as have a series of fictional stories by two prominent Christian writers, Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye and their Left Behind series.
But are these prophesied times something that Christians ought to live in fear of? Just what should Christians be doing to prepare for the End Times? Is it the duty of the Christian to interpret the times and compare them to prophesy? The answers are not easy ones.
No Christian should live in fear. Countless times, the Bible counsels us to "˜fear not'. Faith in God and the redeeming work of Christ are all we need to cancel out fear. Romans 8: 31b advises, "If God be for us, who can be against us?" (KJV) We Christians should not fear anything the world or the times bring, but we should be prepared and cautious, forever on guard against false teaching and vigilant about the condition of our faith.
While our job as Christians is not to worry about when the End Times will happen and what exactly will happen, it is our job to be concerned about the condition of our spirits. We are warned that we won't know when the day of the Lord will be. In 2 Peter 3:10 we read: "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up." Peter goes on to warn us to be prepared for that day in verses 17 and 18: " Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness. 18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (KJV)
Christians should learn and understand the prophesies of the End Times. One of our charges or responsibilities is to spread the Good News, to witness to the unbelievers of the world. When we understand the Word of God and the prophesies He gave to His people, we are empowered to teach the unsaved and the unchurched the urgency their decision about Christ has.
Many of the things foretold in the Bible about the End Times align with current events. While these signs may not mean that the End Times are imminent, they are certainly strong enough signs to the Christian to warrant actively witnessing the truth of the Bible. Would you want anyone you love to have to suffer the tribulation or discover too late that what we Christians believed and practiced was the truth? For this reason, we Christians should be aware of the times and comparing them to the biblical prophesies so that we may convey the urgency of making a decision about Christ to those who are not saved.
Within the Christian church there are debates about whether Christians will be here for the tribulation, the period of time after the Anti-Christ rises to power and the time when Christ returns to usher in the 1,000 year reign of the new Heaven and the new Earth. The argument goes that the word Rapture doesn't appear in the Bible. This is true. However, the word Rapture is derived from the Latin word, raptus, meaning to be caught up or carried away. With this in mind read from 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18: "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words."
While the Book of Revelation is variously interpreted, most mainline churches do agree that there will come a time when an Anti-Christ rises up and seizes political control of the world. This figure will proclaim a new religion for all peoples and name himself god. Terrible trials and plagues will follow until a final battle will be waged and Satan will be bound for a thousand years. A New Heaven and a New Earth will prevail and there will be no more suffering. Christ will return and reign over the New Heaven and Earth.
Whether Christians have to live through this terrible time is something only our Lord knows for certain. We should not be worried about it, though, but instead be worried about the condition of our spirits and the spirits of those who are not saved. We will not know for certain when these things that were revealed to John will happen. We can try to forecast them but it serves little purpose to do so. Our energies are better spent evangelizing and righting our spirits with the Lord, believing that the hour is near. I certainly don't want to be left behind, whether that means left out of a great Rapture or left out of the New Heaven and Earth. I want the Lord to know me as His own whenever He chooses to come and get me.