Now that the characteristics of the Return of Christ and the rapture have been defined in the previous sections, one may wonder why it is so necessary to understand these things. Is arguing over one event of the last days, namely the rapture, really that important? Despite the abundant evidence provided in the Bible as to when this event will occur, does it matter whether a person still believes that the rapture will happen in a pre-trib or mid-trib sense rather than post-trib? As we will see, the importance of knowing when this occurs actually can affect your faith and destiny.
On the surface, it may seem trivial as to what a person believes about this event. After all, your opinion on the timing of the rapture is not something that makes or breaks your standing with God. As long as we realize that Christ is coming and that all who believe in him will be saved, it might at first appear superfluous to be concerned with such a small detail like when the rapture will occur.
However, this was not the attitude that Jesus or the prophets had when they taught on this subject. God obviously believed that their words were worth writing down and preserving for all time. If the timing of the rapture was just a minor point in the chronology of the last days, then the Bible would not have bothered to mention it at all—and certainly not in an elaborate series of prophecies that intricately correlate and build upon each other so beautifully.
The importance of knowing when the timing of our deliverance will occur is primarily emphasized in the seriousness of the events prophesied to happen in the last days. The things that are about to happen on this earth are so significant that the question of whether we will be around to experience them is perhaps the most important aspect of all the prophecies to understand. If the rapture was predicted to occur before the last seven years or Daniel’s Seventieth Week even got underway, then we would not need to concern ourselves with any of the events of the end. End Times prophecy would just be an interesting subject that proves the reality of God, but not one that has any real application to Christians’ lives today. On the other hand, if Christians are prophesied to go through the entire 3.5 year reign of the Antichrist as well as the subsequent 3.5 year tribulation period, then the importance of understanding the sequence of events and preparing for them suddenly becomes acute.
Jesus actually spoke in dire terms when he described the reaction that Christians will have to the events of the end. The consequences for his people if they are not prepared for the arrival of the End Times could be devastating. After describing the initial conditions of the Last Days, this is how the Lord himself went on to prophesy of what will happen to his followers:
“Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you; and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.
“And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
“And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.
“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall grow cold.
“But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”
The danger of not understanding the timing of the rapture is not merely that people might be left ignorant of interesting prophecies, but that they could easily become offended if the Lord does not deliver them at the time they had expected (e.g., before any of the bad things begin to happen). If your confidence in the future rests in an instantaneous escape via the rapture, then your faith may soon be broken by the alarming reality of the Antichrist’s rise to power. When the Evil One suddenly comes on the scene, the falseness of the pre-trib rapture position will hit home like a ton of bricks. Jesus predicted that Christians at the end will be so embittered by being left to experience the Antichrist’s reign that they will betray one another just to survive—even to the point of seeing their former brothers and sisters in the Lord being put to death!
Some people will be so surprised and shocked that the Lord did not deliver them from the persecutions of the final seven years that many of them will actually turn their back on God and decide to follow Satan’s man. Do not underestimate the temptation to obtain the Mark of the Beast. This desire will be much greater than most Christians can imagine, and many will be caught unprepared to survive without being able to buy or sell. Imagine this situation: take the Mark and you can have food and shelter and the world will treat you well; refuse the Mark and you will have nothing—no safety or security for as long as you are in this world. If you combine this temptation with the natural aversion to persecution and hardship, it won’t be so surprising to see many believers fall away. The fact is, if you’re not spiritually and physically prepared to resist the deception of the coming one-world government, then you may easily fall prey to the desire for short-term gain. This is exactly what the Lord warned about. Remember, in another instance Jesus said, “whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Matt. 16:25).
Notice, Jesus also states in the verses quoted above that only those believers who endure to the end will be saved. The end means exactly what it says—in other words you can’t have anything come after it. We know that the end of this age will be marked by the coming of Christ, so only at that point will the Lord rescue his people and avenge the unrighteous deaths of his martyrs. As a consequence, only those people who remain faithful to him, either to the point of their own deaths or until the very end of the age, will be raptured and saved from the wrath of God. This is exactly why Paul told Christians that they should be careful not to be deceived concerning the timing of this event (2 Thess. 2:1-3).
Being a follower of Christ in the Last Days will be difficult enough, even without having misinformation cloud true Biblical prophecy. Those who teach anything other than the plain truth of the Bible run the risk of leading many of God’s people straight into a false hope, which will soon explode right in their faces. If Christians would simply believe the simple teachings of Jesus and his prophets and heed their warnings concerning the end of the age, then nothing could possibly take us by surprise. The importance of knowing when these events will occur is truly just as critical as knowing what will occur. Only with a complete knowledge of what’s going to happen followed by a realization that all of us may have to go through the coming time of trouble can we hope to overcome the world and survive with our faith intact and guarantee our eternal destiny. With this mindset we must now take the prophecies serious enough to actually apply them to our lives.
Next: The Characteristics of Christ’s Return and the Rapture