So far in our study of the theory of the rapture of the church we have examined the origins of the theory, the background of the 1 Thessalonians 14 passage where we find Paul speaking about the resurrection of the dead and not a rapture and the 1 Corinthians 15 passage where we find further evidence of a resurrection of the dead and the gathering of the church at the second coming of Christ. In addition, we also studied the words of Jesus Himself in Matthew 24 and Revelation 1 – 3. The background of Matthew explains and gives us the context of those who are taken or left, this comes during a time of war, famine and disease not during the rapture of the church.
Revelation 1-3 provides further evidence of Jesus preparing the church to face difficult days ahead. The church is told repeatedly to not fear, overcome and to be prepared for suffering and tribulation. In the third part of this series, we examined the evidence found in Revelation. We looked at six chapters of the book dealing with the tribulation period and how the church is affected by the events of these chapters. Chapters 6 & 7 find the opening of a seal and souls under an altar; chapter 9 finds the wrath of God being poured out on the unrepentant; chapter 12 is the cosmic battle of Satan against the church; chapter 13 finds Satan going out to war against believers and chapter 14 shows the church being gathered together at the return of Christ.
In this closing article we will once again turn to the words of Jesus to find that Jesus has been preparing His church since His days of walking with His disciples. We are to be prepared and know that we will find trouble in this world, not look forward to a day when we will escape trouble by a sudden and unexpected “rapture” of the church.
The Words of Jesus in John
Chapters 13 – 17 in John’s gospel account records the most intimate time Jesus spent with His disciples. This time begins at the final Passover meal with the disciples and concludes when Jesus is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. In between the meal and the garden, Jesus begins to speak plainly with the disciples about what is about to happen. While the original context is pointed directly at the disciples walking with Jesus, there are several things that apply to us in today’s world. Evidence of this is found in John 17 where Jesus prays for believers throughout the ages.
“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” John 17:20-21 (NASB)
With this in mind, let us now take a look at three passages where Jesus is clearly warning and preparing, not just the disciples with Him, but those of us who have come to faith in Jesus through the words of the disciples. First up, John 15:18-21.
“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.” John 15:18-21 (NASB)
I believe it is safe to say that we are now living in a time when the world hates Jesus. Yes, throughout history there have been countries where even the mention of the name Jesus would bring trouble beyond belief. But now, well, now even in the United States we are seeing a vast turning away from God and in particular Jesus. Ther has been a movement for many years to remove Jesus from the Bible and make all religions the same, offering as many paths as possible to God and entry into heaven. Since the early part of 2020 the attach on God has continued and spread to those who follow Him. The world truly hates Jesus and has now turned its hostility towards those who remain faithful to Him and keep His word.
Those who have chosen to follow Jesus are no longer of this world, making it easy for them to recognize and target Christians. Had we remained part of the world, following blindly the ways of a sinful world, we would be fully accepted and loved as part of the world. Because we have been chosen and stand as examples of all the world hates and will not accept, we are hated because Jesus chose us to be set apart from the world. It is sad to realize that, in many ways, Christians believe they are better or above Jesus, and the theory of the rapture is just one of those ways. Throughout Scripture we are called to identify in the suffering and death of Jesus, that is part of our baptismal experience, and we celebrate that experience. But it does not stop there.
Our experience is a real experience, one that happens to so many believers around the world, but the church and believers in the United States and the West in general have been spoiled for far too long. We have made the gospel a watered-down version, softening the message to make it attractive to unbelievers, and lost sight of the call to face trials, persecution and tribulation through our faith in Christ. Jesus took our sins upon Himself and nailed them to the cross, however, He said nothing of removing the trials, persecution and tribulation we will face. There is a time fast approaching when the world will think they are doing God’s work by persecuting those who remain faithful to Christ Jesus.
Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:31-33 (NASB)
Once again, in its original setting, this was spoken directly to the disciples as Jesus prepared them for His crucifixion, death and resurrection. However, this clearly has application for believers today. Consider what happened in March 2020 when churches were forced to close…believers were indeed scattered, giving us a glimpse of what is still yet to come. What we will face when persecution breaks out in this country will again scatter believers, only this time, the scattering will be wide-spread and not to the safety of our own homes or churches. Jesus asked the question, “When the Son of man returns, will He find faith on earth?”
We have come to lean on our faith in large group setting, but what will become of faith when our groups are no bigger than ten or twelve? What will happen when we are left to “fend for ourselves” with other believers we just happen across? Will we work to establish a plan of attack when the time comes, and we must face wide-spread persecution? Yes, I know that Jesus is speaking directly to His disciples and what is going to happen within their lives but if you think this cannot or will not happen to the church and individual Christians today, you are sadly under prepared and have not been reading your Scriptures clearly!! We will face persecution and the church will be scattered, be prepared!
There can be no clearer statement of this issue than the last line of this passage, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”There is no maybe in this sentence, there is no hint of being removed from the tribulation found in the world, there is nothing here but a clear WARNING that tribulation is coming to those who believe and remain faithful to Christ Jesus. What more do we, as the church, need to hear? How can we even begin to think we are better than our Lord and will be saved from facing nay kind of suffering or tribulation? The facts are clear, the Bible speaks plainly if you allow it, and this is a clear warning that the world will offer us tribulation. But there is also good news, for Jesus has overcome the world and we too can overcome through our faith in Him.
“But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.” John 17:13-19 (NASB)
This final passage should make it clear that we are not of the world and the world will hate us because we stand as examples of what the world is not, what the world hates and wants to remove from the world…faithful followers of Christ Jesus who hold to His word. Please take special not of the line I have underlined. This is the clearest statement made that Jesus does not want us taken out of the world but protected from the evil one. Now and in the end times soon to come. We are to be sanctified, that is set apart, in the truth, the word of God. We are to carry the word in our hearts and minds, we are to use the word as our weapon of warfare, we are to use the word as our armor against the enemy and his attacks. I think all of the evidence presented I this short series makes it plain that we, as believers, must be ready to face persecution, trials and tribulation until the return of Christ.
I will close by once again reminding you, I am NOT trying to persuade you to believe me, rather I am hoping to spur you on to your own study and not take the status quo of church tradition and believe what is taught out of tradition, without doing your own research and allowing the Spirit to guide you. I pray that the Lord will find us all ready to face the challenges ahead, relying on our faith in Christ to sustain us. May His Spirit fill you with boldness to stand up and test the spirits and see if they are from God.