Is Another Book Necessary?
I believe another book is necessary --- one that calls the Church to endurance rather than early rapture. There is little current material in Christian bookstores calling for endurance to the end of the age, but Jesus said to His disciples that those who endure to the end will be saved. That implies that those who do not endure will not be saved. The very end of the age is upon us, and those of us in the Church who are confused over this issue may be in danger of stumbling and even falling away rather than enduring. This grieves me, and I offer this book to the saints with the hope and prayer that hearts may be encouraged and faith may be strengthened, so that we may each finish the race that Jesus has called us to run.
At That Time Many Will Fall Away . . .
Jesus is warning His disciples of a sequence of events at the very end of the age which He compares to birth pains of increasing intensity, during which they will be persecuted and put to death and hated by all nations. These are His words about what lies ahead for His disciples. Those of us who are His disciples and who are alive at the end of this age should expect to see these things. His word settles it. Even though He warned us, many will fall away and the love of most will grow cold. Even though it sounds like a time of desperate hopelessness, it will not be, because a birth is not an event of hopelessness but of expectation and joy. The process, however, is not painless.
Whenever a woman is in travail she has sorrow, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she remembers the anguish no more, for joy that a child has been born into the world (John 16:21).
Jesus did not give these warnings to frighten and discourage us, but rather to warn and encourage us so that we do not stumble and fall away when these inevitable events do come. He has set before us the joy of being birthed as the children of God, but we must endure the birthing process. It was for the joy that lay ahead that Jesus endured the cross. This must also be our attitude as we enter the very end of this age.
Behold, I have told you in advance (Matthew 24:25).
These things I have spoken to you, that you may be kept from stumbling (John 16:1).
I offer this book to prepare and encourage my brothers and sisters to endure a time of birthing that, if not anticipated and understood, could result in stumbling and even falling away. I want to share what I believe the Holy Spirit is revealing about these times and their purpose in God’s plan for His Church. A birthing as the children of God is in view, and it is a birthing that will result in eternal joy for the saints who endure the temporary --- but necessary --- birth pains.
Not Gloom and Doom but Joy!
This message is a wake-up call to the Church, but it is not an alarm of gloom and doom. It is a message of restoring vision that has been stolen by the enemy. It is a message of God’s love. God so loves each of us that He desires to birth us into a bride without spot or wrinkle before Jesus returns. Even though our physical births were not events of gloom and doom, they were restrictive, violent, and even bloody events that we as ignorant babes would probably not have chosen had we the choice. The womb was a warm and comfortable place and we would have chosen to remain there in relative comfort and leave well enough alone.
The Church finds herself in this condition as the very end of the age draws near. We are beginning to see and experience the increasing pressures of the birthing process, but we are confused and are seeking a way to avoid it. Paul wrote that the whole creation is groaning, as in the pains of childbirth, for the revealing of the sons of God. He described his own agonizing, as in pains of childbirth, until Christ would be formed in the Galatians. It is the birth of the saints into the likeness of Jesus that is in view in these Scriptures, and we must allow provision at the end of the age for our promised births as the children of God, even though it means enduring the temporary discomfort of birth pains.
A Scriptural Prophetic Teaching
This book is a scriptural prophetic teaching of the glorious call and destiny of the Church at the end of this age. The intent is to identify misleading doctrine and eliminate confusion which might cause saints to stumble and even fall away when these birth pains come. It is also to present what Scripture indicates are the reasons for the majority of the Church to be on earth at the very end of the age in order to fulfill a glorious calling. It is a common-sense teaching centered on the cross and based on the plain and simple truth of Scripture. I believe that a good portion of it has been illuminated by the Holy Spirit. I consider myself more the delivering postman than the author of this teaching. I am the author, however, of anything that is not of the Holy Spirit. My unsophisticated role in end-times theology could be compared to the role of the child in the crowd in Aesop’s fable who cried out, "But the king has no clothes on!" The plain and simple teachings of Jesus about the end of the age have suffered immeasurably by teachings of men that are not in line with what He taught.
If it’s Not Biblical, it’s Not Here
Nothing will be presented here that is unscriptural or adds to or subtracts anything from existing Scripture. The issues brought forth will only underscore and illuminate what has already been written. The points that will be presented are prophetic only in that they seek to illuminate existing Scripture based on what I sense the Holy Spirit is freshly revealing. Everything that the Church needs to know about the end of the age in order to endure and emerge victorious has already been given in the Scriptures. We need to study and understand and believe it.
Fresh Insight into Existing Scriptures
Daniel was told that at the end of the age there would be increased understanding of his prophetic visions and dreams. We should expect increased prophetic clarity as the age draws to a close, but we should also anticipate increased prophetic deception as the enemy seeks to stumble the Church on her path to victory. Jesus’ first warning to His disciples concerning the end of the age was to beware of deception.
Although the Holy Spirit is giving fresh insight regarding the walk of the Church at the end of the age, this insight is typically at odds with most current end-times Christian literature. Of the multitude of current books dealing with end-times events, only a few place the Church on earth during the final years of the age. Even fewer provide insight into the reasons she is being left on earth and the crucial role she will play in God’s eternal plan to restore His creation.
The Church cannot understand and fulfill a major prophetic role on earth at the end of the age if she has no vision to be here. We will study Scriptures which clearly place the Church on earth during the final three and one-half years of the age. We will also study Scriptures which reveal the reasons why she must remain on earth in order to fulfill her glorious prophetic destiny. Rapture timing will become clear as a result of studying these Scriptures and gaining understanding of the destiny to which the Church is called. Rapture timing will be found to be a function of the Church’s role on earth and not a cause of it. We will see that the timing of the rapture is not a servant of our personal interests, but of God’s eternal glory.
Beware of False Prophetic Voices
We are cautioned that there will be many deceiving voices and false prophets speaking forth at the end of the age. Where there are true prophetic voices, there will always be false ones, even as amidst wheat there will always be tares. We must be as the Bereans, who were commended by Paul as more noble because they judged his words by the Scriptures. This must be more than an intellectual textbook search for facts, as the letter kills but the Spirit gives life. We must rely upon the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth or we shall surely be deceived. If you do not find this word verified by Scripture and quickened to you personally by the Holy Spirit, you have no reason to believe it.
The voice that spoke through Peter and suggested to Jesus that He need not go to His cross is the same voice speaking through men today and advising the Church that she need not endure to the end of this age and go to her cross. We seem to think that we have already arrived concerning God’s ultimate purpose for His Church on earth. But many of the same reasons Jesus chose to endure His cross in order to overcome Satan apply equally to His Church. Satan does not want the Church to fulfill her destiny on earth at the end of this age any more than He wanted Jesus to fulfill His destiny, because his ultimate defeat depends upon both destinies being fulfilled.
It is not conclusive to compile a list of what Bible scholars think about this matter, for most hold different opinions. Truth is not established by vote. Truth about any matter is what God says about it. Personal agendas and doctrines must be set aside, and the Holy Spirit must be solely relied upon to lead us into the truth of what Scripture says about the role of the Church at the end of the age.
We will find that what men teach and what Scripture teaches are often different. But we must decide now that this will not add arms to a battle between believers of different end-times doctrinal beliefs. Our battle is to be against the evil rulers and authorities in heavenly places. Our attack must be on the deception and not on the saints. Doctrine and understanding of the end-times will not move us into or out of the Kingdom of God, but our teachings must not lead the saints along a path which could cause them to stumble and possibly fall away.
A Deceptive Trap
I believe that the Church is being set up for such a stumbling and falling away by teachings which insist that these Scriptures of warning do not apply. These teachings insist that the true Church will have been removed from the earth before these events take place. That is contrary to the plain wording of Scripture. Such teachings unwittingly set a trap in which many saints will be confused and shaken when they find themselves in the midst of events they neither expected nor prepared for. They will be in danger of falling away rather than enduring to the end to which Jesus said we must endure. Jesus would not have warned His disciples to endure to the end of the age in order to be saved if that were not the primary call of the saints alive at the end of the age. Scripture must not be altered to fit our preferred doctrines. Our doctrines must conform to Scripture and, if necessary, be revised until they do.
These seeds of deception have already produced bad fruit. Confusion and difference of opinion, and even apathy among believers, as to the destiny of the Church is common. Some believe they will be momentarily raptured out while others believe they will stay on earth to be victorious and do mighty things. Others believe the point is not important because whatever will happen, will happen. But Paul said, regarding the timing of such events, "Do not be deceived in any way." He taught that the issue of timing was of crucial importance, and he went on to carefully describe the timing and nature of end-time events to the church at Thessalonica so that they would not stumble when difficult times came. Paul noted in 2 Timothy 2:18 that false teachings regarding the timing of the resurrection had already upset the faith of some. This is proof that proper understanding of the timing of events is important.
Scripture suggests it will be so at the end of this age. False teachings about the timing of the resurrection will result in the upsetting of the faith of many, and many will fall away, spiritually unprepared to endure what must be endured.
Many of us are firmly entrenched in the belief of a rapture which will exclude all of us from the times of turmoil and testing at the end of the age. The teaching of Jesus that "Those who endure to the end will be saved" should prompt serious questioning and re-evaluation of that belief. We must search our hearts for hidden motives that overrule the simple truth of His words. The end that Jesus is referring to is the end of this age. Jesus also taught that the harvest would take place at the end of the age. That harvest, as described near the end of Revelation Chapter 14, takes place after a specific time of three and one-half years of great tribulation during which believers in Jesus are encouraged to maintain their faith and perseverance. The harvest at the end of this age takes place after the great tribulation, not before. We must understand that the Bible clearly teaches that It is after the great tribulation of those days that Jesus sends His angels to gather His elect.
Many saints have no vision of being on earth at the end of this age and are banking on an early rapture before the events take place which are described in the prophetic Scriptures of Daniel, Matthew, and Revelation. They are being deceived, however, if they believe that Jesus’ warnings to His disciples do not apply to His disciples alive at the end of the age. Any teaching which removes the Church from these Scriptures removes the Church from earth during the most crucial period of her prophetic, earthly destiny.
Satan has Stolen and Twisted the Vision
Scripture says that without vision, people perish (Proverbs 29:18 KJV). If the Church is without vision of her calling at the end of the age, how can she survive to fulfill that calling? If she has been stripped of the vision of the need to endure to the end of the age, how can she endure? In the same voice as Peter we cry, "No way, Lord!" when confronted with the idea of having to endure through tribulation birth pains at the end of the age.
Are we willing to consider a restoration of vision that may violate our doctrinal beliefs and fleshly preferences? You can be assured that Satan has tried to steal and twist that vision, for the outcome of the vision is to see him defeated and crushed underfoot (Romans 16:20). He apparently understands the vision better than we do. He is fighting for his survival, and his only hope is to keep the Church deceived and unaware of her calling, because once the Church grasps her calling and rises to embrace it, he is finished.
We Christians have chosen to turn away from the centrality of the cross and the things of God and have turned to the things of men. We have refused to appropriate the vision of God for His Church at the end of the age, which is that He has created all things in order to demonstrate His wisdom through the Church to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places, and that this is His eternal purpose in Christ Jesus (see Ephesians 3:9-11).
Much current end-times doctrine teaches that the next event on the prophetic calendar is the rapture of the Church. This doctrine teaches that we need only hang on until this event, which could be any day now. I believe this is a deception from the pit of hell designed to prevent the Church from fulfilling her glorious prophetic destiny on earth at the end of the age --- a destiny which is to overcome Satan while being conformed to the likeness of Jesus. We are destined to be overcomers, but Satan would have us think otherwise. God has created all things in order to demonstrate His wisdom through His Church to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places, and those rulers and authorities will do everything in their power and authority to see that the Church does not fulfill this glorious call.
The Nature of the Deception
A. W. Tozer said somewhere in his writings that the more crucial an issue concerning the Church, the more likely the enemy will inject deception and lies into that issue. A perfect example of this is the confusion and controversy surrounding the issue of the destiny of the Church at the end of the age, particularly the rapture issue. We only need to look at the rapture controversy to see the fingerprints of Satan all over it.
Suppose you are presented with two opposing doctrines such as the pre-tribulation rapture scenario and a conflicting one which maintains that the rapture will take place at the harvest at the end of the age. This is a crucial issue, and according to A. W. Tozer’s logic, we can conclude that one of these scenarios is either wrong or at least more incorrect than the other. That’s just common sense. If one of them is wrong, then we can safely say that Satan is behind it, for Satan is the deceiver, and any important doctrine which concerns the Church and his defeat will be attacked and perverted.
Which scenario is the most probable deception --- the one which says the Church will be here during the great tribulation but she is not, or the one which says the Church will not be here but she is? Which one is a trap? Which one has the fingerprints of the deceiver all over it? I would much rather find myself raptured out earlier than expected than to find myself entering a time of great tribulation I neither expected nor prepared for. Wouldn’t you?
I don’t see a problem with being over prepared, but for the sake of discussion, let’s assume that all this concern about going through the tribulation is unnecessary and we find ourselves suddenly raptured. I will be elated, even at the expense of having to revise my doctrinal beliefs. I will not stumble and fall away. But what if the rapture doesn’t take place until near the end of the last three and one-half years of the age, and we are not prepared to persevere and endure because we have been taught otherwise? The seriousness of doctrinal error is much greater in the latter case. I believe this automatically suggests the place where Satan has set his trap.
We Can’t Call the Good News the Bad News
What a tragedy it will be to interpret the events of these times as the wrath of God, when in fact they will be evidence that we are in the process of being birthed and revealed as His sons and daughters. We must not take the good news of Scripture and call it the bad news. We must divide Scripture rightly and embrace the Church’s glorious calling and destiny at the end of this age. Our spiritual survival depends on our understanding of these things. We will be in danger of perishing from lack of knowledge and vision if we find ourselves caught up in events at the end of the age for which we have no knowledge and vision. We must understand and be prepared!
BE NOT DECEIVED!
This is a warning cry to the Church to "BE NOT DECEIVED" in the days ahead due to a lack of knowledge and vision. We must not be shaken when the world around us begins to teeter and crumble. We must not be shaken when famine, pestilence, warfare, and persecution move in ever closer. We must not think, "Why am I not raptured?" when these events begin to touch our comfortable and sheltered lives. We instead need to welcome them as the beginnings of birth pains which will result in our births into transfigured glory.
This message especially needs to be heard by a complacent and unsuspecting Western Church, because we will be in the greatest danger of falling away when these times of birth pains come to violate our doctrines and upset our sheltered lives.
There Seems to be Provision to Escape . . . through Maturity
There seems to be provision spoken of in Scripture to escape the time of testing that is coming. However, Scripture suggests that relatively few will be found ready and worthy for that escape. There is a group which shows up in heaven at the beginning of Revelation 14 who are identified as first fruits of the harvest. These seem to be those who have matured early. They are described as blameless with no lie in their mouths. But how many stalks of wheat can be held in a hand and waved before the Lord relative to the number of grains of the entire harvest? This is only a first-fruits company, not the majority of the saints. The majority of the saints are called to endure until the harvest at the end of Revelation 14, and that harvest comes after a period of three and one-half years in which the saints are counseled to persevere and not lose their faith in Jesus. It doesn’t matter whether these turn out to be saints who have come to faith during the tribulation, or saints who have missed a prior rapture, or saints who are awaiting a rapture that still hasn’t come; they are called to persevere and endure to the end.
A Great Multitude of Saints Identified in Great Tribulation!
Those disciples alive as the age ends will very likely be us and/or our children. Scripture clearly identifies a great multitude of saints "that no one could count" in the midst of great tribulation at the end of the age. We obviously won’t all escape via a pre-tribulation rapture even if there is one. Perhaps these are those who have missed a prior rapture, but regardless, they are the majority of the Church alive at the end of the age, for it is a great multitude which no one could count who emerge victorious from the great tribulation in Revelation 7:9. Scripture does not identify those who will be raptured as a great multitude which no one could count, but rather as "those of us who are alive and remain" (1 Thessalonians 4:15), as if these may be a minority rather than a majority.
Teachings which reassure the Church-at-large of an escape from tribulation through rapture are not accurately representing the plain and simple truth of Jesus’ teachings and warnings. Scripture indicates that the majority of the Church, made up of the harvest described at the end of Revelation 14 along with the great multitude of Revelation 7, is going to experience great tribulation to the extent needed to purify and make her worthy of the Kingdom of God. This great multitude of saints from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues who come out of the great tribulation, having washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb, must have been in the great tribulation in order to be coming out of it. Washed robes made white in the Blood of the Lamb imply a process of purification. Would any of us want to skip that process if it is required to make us worthy of the Kingdom of God?
Scripture clearly gives the reasons why God is allowing a large portion of the Church to remain on earth up to the end of the age. The reasons are to overcome Satan while being purified and made like Jesus. When we understand the glory to which the Church is called, a Church-majority pre-tribulation rapture will seem terribly inconsistent with that call.
The Path that Jesus Walked
Jesus said that in this world we would have tribulation, but not to fear because He has overcome the world. We who are His Church are destined to be victorious over Satan by the Blood of the Lamb, the word of our testimony, and by loving not our lives unto death (Revelation 12:11). God will crush Satan beneath our feet (Romans 16:20). The Church will be victorious! But the path to victory will be along the path that Jesus walked. As He was treated, so we should expect to be treated. Jesus has given us His power and authority to gain this victory, but we can appropriate it only by walking in faith. There is not one way for Him and another way for us, although Satan would have us believe there is. Jesus said, "Follow Me!" Satan will always try to lure us onto other paths.
The Flesh Will Resist the Path that Jesus Walked
The flesh is constantly at war with the spirit. Few relish the thought of suffering, even for a worthy cause. It is natural for us to seek a path of comfort and escape from trials, but God knows what is best for His people because He is the Designer of the transformation process. His pattern with His children has always been to transform them by directing their steps along the path that Jesus walked. We are called to embrace the cross, not flee from it. The most formative times in our lives are during times of trial. This is painful for the flesh to hear, but it is God’s way. God has chosen to bring restoration to His creation through a process likened to birthing. As a consequence of the fall, birthing involves birth pains. Though the process may be painful, we must look through the pain to the joy beyond. It was for the joy beyond the pain that Jesus endured the cross. The promises of eternal life and reward to the seven churches in the book of Revelation are for the overcomers, not for the cowardly and unbelieving.
God’s Love Letter to His Church
The book of Revelation has been described as God’s love letter to His Church, because it outlines God’s loving plan to conform us to the likeness of His Son. We might question the events described as demonstrating God’s love, but we must remember that our Father is bringing forth His transformed children out of a fallen creation. Satan will be overcome and crushed underfoot in the process. The glory of a new creation lies ahead. The process is a birthing, accompanied by necessary birth pains, which reflects the outworking of God’s love for His children and their redemption from a fallen state.
An Invitation to Reconsider . . .
I challenge and invite you to take another look at the Scriptures which deal with the plan of God for His Church at the end of the age. I invite you to take yet another look at the Scriptures which deal with the timing of the rapture. It’s one thing if the Church won’t be here during the birthing process at the end of the age, but it’s quite another thing if the Church will be here and these birth pains are hers. We need to seek to understand as much as God has given us in His Scriptures regarding the destiny of His Church.
If God’s perfect plan is to take us through such a birthing process, we don’t want to be as ignorant babes in the womb who cry out, "No way, Lord!" We need to consent to God’s plan for His Church at the end of this age, whatever it is.
Remember, this is not going to be a message of gloom and doom, but one of joy and glory. We may not see it that way, because our thoughts about restoration are not always God’s thoughts. We must have our minds renewed to align with the eternal purposes of God so that we can endure temporal birth pains for the eternal joy set before us. There is Someone Who has walked this way before Who said, "Follow Me!" It is His own death and resurrection that Jesus compared in John 16:21 to the joyous birth of a child.
It is my prayer that through study of these Scriptures, the Holy Spirit will lead you into a deeper understanding of the call of the Church at the end of the age. It is my prayer that this book will help and encourage those who might otherwise believe that the true Church will not be on the earth at the end of the age. It is my prayer that many will be strengthened and encouraged to stand when the inevitable prophesied shakings and testings come. It is my prayer that the faith of many will be strengthened by perceiving the glory to which the Church is called amidst and through the tribulation birth pains which lie ahead. And it is my prayer that our Father may be glorified by a Church who says "Yes!" to His eternal purpose in Christ Jesus which is to demonstrate His wisdom through the Church to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.