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Friday, July 10, 2015

Will You Endure the Time of Great Testing?

  
According to the belief held by proponents in their secret Pre-Tribulation Rapture escape to heaven theory, the Christian Church will not have to endure any form of persecution before The Second Advent. Instead, it will be “caught up” to meet the Lord in the air and then whisked up to reside safely in heaven during a time of great tribulation that supposedly will last between three and a half to seven years.  The Christian Church, then, supposedly returns with Christ after this a period of great tribulation on earth, which is to include the punishing of the Jacob’s descendants (Jews) unto repentance.  As their theory goes, the Christian Church will be Raptured (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17) before this awesome period they call The Great Tribulation

The above statements come for this author’s book, “Why Christians Will Suffer Great Tribulation,” words that were written over 25 years ago. Basically this sentiment continues to be the primary doctrine being promoted by most preachers and authors amongst most evangelical Christians. This is also the mantra being extolled through chat rooms on the Internet by many novice theologians, who have built thousands upon thousands of web sites promoting the Pre-Tribulation Rapture.
Basically these folks have read (and bought into) books which have been written by many financially successful authors for the last 25 years, the likes of Tim LaHaye, Chuck Missler, Mike Evans, John Hagee, Jack Van Impe (and the prince of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture mythology, Hal Lindsey) just to mention a few. Their basic premise is that the Bible clearly states (in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) that the dead in Christ are raised first and those who are still alive at that time are “caught up together” to be with the Lord in heaven. In essence, born again Christians will be rescued up to Heaven, will have VIP seats in heavenly grandstands, from where they can view those unbelieving sinners (the so-called Left Behind crowd) who will suffer great tribulation as all hell breaks loose on earth. Then after seven years, they will return to earth with Jesus Christ to rule and reign with Him for 1000 years.

They also preach from the scripture 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 that that day (not the Pre-Tribulation Rapture), but the coming of the Lord, to rule and reign for 1000 years, will not come until the rebellion (the apostasy of the church) occurs and the man of lawlessness (the Anti-Christ) is revealed. At this point in time (as the discussions as to who is Left Behind, who is the Antichrist, is the rescue to heaven a pre, mid, post or even a pre-wrath Rapture) the theories are many and confusing to say the least. But the most important issue in this post is the “Apostasy!”

What is Apostasy?

In a recent article that appeared in Christian Newswire Service (March 23, 2010) it stated that “Nearly 40% of churches across the country (speaking of the USA) experienced a decline in church giving and offerings in 2009, representing two consecutive years of significant decreases, according to the 2nd annual "State of the Plate" research by Maximum Generosity and Christianity Today International.
The article went on to say that "Churches today are in unchartered waters financially," says Brian Kluth, founder of Maximum Generosity. "After the October 2008 stock market drop, 29% of churches experienced a decline in giving and this past year the number has climbed up to 38% of churches. Multiple research projects last year documented the sharp decline in church giving and our research this year shows things have only gotten worse for a growing number of churches."

This phenomenon (among several other frailties impacting those of the Christian faith) is a vivid example of the apostasy that was predicted over 2000 years ago that would precede the imminent return of Jesus Christ. I wrote at great lengths in my book (Why Christians Will Experience Great Tribulation) about this (as previously stated above) during the prosperous times of the early 80’s, before America experienced the largest stock market crash since back in 1929. 
While many ersatz prophets point to news items such as political and civil unrest in the Middle East, wars, rumors of wars, and earthquakes in diverse places, to validate their claims that the end is near, and the Rapture is right around the corner, I have always believed that the issue of finances would impact the Christian faith more so than natural calamities and a political atmosphere that has been prevalent in that region throughout history. Americans (especially) do well during earthquakes, floods and fires, always rising to the occasion and helping their fellow man. But, when economic crisis’ hit home, this is when most folks’ faith in God buckles under the pressure, including self-avowed Christians.

Many theorists pose the theory that the Apostasy is not describing the Christian community, because most believe in that old adage that “once saved, always saved.” In other words, Christians, once they accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior, can never lose their salvation. They believe the Apostasy has to do with mankind’s overall declination of things spiritual or religious as it moves downward from a once revered moral paradigm to a more enlightened secular belief that mankind has the inner power to chart its own course through life, without God’s wisdom or help.

The word “apostasy” means an “abandonment of one's religious faith, a political party, one's principles or a cause. It comes from the Middle English apostasie, from Old French, from Late Latin apostasia, defection, from Late Greek apostasi, from Greek apostasis, revolt, from aphistanai, aposta, to revolt!” The word apostasy is used only twice in the Bible, in Acts 21:21 and 2 Thessalonians 2:3, the latter being the one verse that speaks about this revolt. Obviously, from its true rendering, the word cannot be applied to people’s evolution from a moral state to and enlightened one; it can only be applied to those folks who once believed in the true faith in Jesus Christ.

Theorists contend that the apostasy mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:4 does not apply to the Christian Church because it will have been secretly caught up from earth to heaven before the increasing times of great tribulation.  They contend that the apostasy here should be applied to the so-called “Roman Church” or other humanistic oriented religious groups, which will be more prevalent during this time.  But, if they apply their theories solely to these groups, or to unbelieving Jews, how can they see someone fall away from something they never had, which is true faith in Jesus Christ?

Since the time of Christ’s resurrection, ascension and subsequent outpouring of the Holy Spirit (which sealed the down payment on God’s redemption program), the single most important requirement for the true church has been to preach the Gospel and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ by faith and “Thou shalt be saved, (Romans 10:9, KJV).” Throughout the beginning of time, and even more so since the resurrection of Christ, it has been Satan’s primary mission to hammer a wedge between the believer and God.  This historic war has been waged from the time of Adam and Eve and continues to this very day.  However, during the last days (when tribulation will increase exponentially, leading to Christ’s return), the battle will intensify as never before.  One of the missions (if not the primary one) of Satan (during this period) will be to try even harder to separate as many believers as he can from their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, because he knows his time is short.  This is why during this period of persecution we should be witnessing the greatest evangelizing season in history, a time of reckoning where all of humanity (including Christians) should be choosing their allegiance to God regardless of the consequences that may befall them! Sadly, the church has turned away from God and is more focused on its finances; many of its preachers extolling soothing prosperity messages rather than preparing the church to deal with the more important subject of tribulation.
Many in the Christian Church today believe that when they accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior they now have immunity from persecution and a safety net in what theorists call The Rapture. They believe that by merely accepting Jesus Christ in their hearts, everything in their Christian journey from now on will be one smooth ride to Heaven. The debate between those who believe that “once saved, always saved” continues to this very day. The author will not enter this debate other than to say scripture clearly says two things about this issue. One is found in Romans 8:1, 35-39, which basically states that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. However, even though He will always be committed to loving us, can we say the same thing about our commitment to love Him to the very end, regardless of the horrendous circumstances that await the ecclesia before The Second Advent? Therefore, the proverbial question begs to be asked: Can a person lose their salvation after coming to Christ?”  The answer is “Yes!” (Hebrews 6:1-6) Can our salvation be lost or taken away without our acquiescence?  The author believes the answer is a resounding no!  In Romans 8:35-39, it emphatically states that nothing can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus.  He will forgive those who seek His forgiveness. However, during the times of increasing tribulation, many that profess to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ will rebel and will turn away from their faith in Christ! During these times of trials and testing, many will renounce Jesus Christ as Lord and savior merely to survive tribulation (financial and otherwise) at the hands of the money-changers of the world!
One of the greatest phenomena being experienced in evangelical circles today is the massive rallies and crusades that feature dynamic preachers extolling the gospel of Jesus Christ.  At these events, many are moved to a so-called conversion by the charisma of the speakers and the great emotional swell that springs up from the crowds.  The author believes that many are sincere when they come to the forefront and truly surrender their hearts to the calling of the Holy Spirit.  But have they surrendered all, everything, to follow Christ? Have they made a commitment to pick up their cross and give up everything, even their life to do his will? The author believes that many are caught up more so with the swell of emotional and euphoric experience produced by the theatrics of the event, and possibly experienced a brief moment of remorse. But, for the most part, many have not really made a true commitment to the totality of the Christian walk.  While many enjoy the healing, forgiveness and the blessings contained within Christianity, most are not prepared to surrender everything and make Jesus the Lord and Master of their lives. They love the blessings, but won’t pick up their cross! Instead, they are more pre-occupied with their finances than they are with one of the church’s most important missions. They now withhold what little they may have given to help the poor and needy to stock up for their own financial salvation. They now voice overzealous acrimony at an impotent government and cast negative epithets at anyone or anything they believe is causing their economic woes, such as blaming those who merely seek work in this country to provide food to their impoverished family members, while the faithless overindulge their own cravings and predilections.  
Throughout history, satanic forces have waged a spiritual warfare against God and His people, and they continue to this very day.  However, as the persecutions increase throughout the world, many Christians are abandoning their faith in God in droves. While many in the evangelical community continue to feed their coffers through much commercialism and theatrics, Satan’s power is being felt with greater measure because he knows his time is short.  A quick cursory glance in media reports, we can see Satan intensely pumping the bellows of his furnace of deception, hatred, violence and chaos, which, unfortunately (due to the incessant exploitation of these maladies by media) has numbed much of Christendom throughout the world, thereby fanning the flames of apostasy as never before.  These flames are reaching greater heights and, unfortunately, we see way too many Christians falling away in order to preserve their mortal lives rather than enduring the testing and working towards bringing more lost souls into the Kingdom of God.
But yet, there are a few, way to few, who trust in God to supply all of their needs, staying in the front lines, working with the poor, the downtrodden, the homeless, orphans, and others in a far worse financial state than they, invoking the Gospel of Jesus Christ through charitable action, not just through words. The Apostle Paul, in his missive to Timothy, shared what he has experienced throughout his ministry, and what the truly devoted to Christ would and should experience themselves!

"You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings – what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured.  Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.  12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil men and imposters will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.  14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scripture, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work, (2 Timothy 3:10-17, NIV)."
These faithful ones that Paul alluded to will be the called out ones of Christ, God’s ecclesia, who will be victorious in this increasing spiritual warfare, such as never been witnessed by mankind. These will be God’s Christian Soldiers of the Cross, who will be preaching the gospel to the end, even if it means giving up their lives so others can live in eternity with Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God!

Will you be among those who will endure and persevere under this time of great testing?
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