RAPTURE -- OR TRIBULATION
By Duncan Long
Today more than a few people are talking about a "New Age" or the end of history as we know it. Often there's talk of the Apocalypse and the Battle of Armageddon. Sometimes there's even mention of the Rapture of Christians and the Great Tribulation which unbelievers will have to endure. We hear about wars and rumors of wars, famine and pestilence.
Some of the people talking about these things seem to have off-the-wall theories based on their own assumptions. Since most of the conjectures are based on prophecy from the Bible, the best way to discover the truth behind what all these people are talking about is to go to the source of most of the theories, the Bible itself.
Much of the speculation about the "end times" comes from interpretations of the last book of the Bible, Revelation. Written by John, one of Jesus' disciples, this book predicts a time of trouble on earth followed by the return to earth and a thousand-year reign by the Jewish Messiah, Christ, in a new kingdom based in Jerusalem.
It's a mistake, however, to view Revelation as the only source of this belief. Much of John's "story" in Revelation is mirrored throughout the Bible; because of this, the belief of an end time with a reigning Messiah is not unique to the Christian faith.
Modern-day Jewish scholars point out that Hebrews from at least the time of Christ (and most likely several thousand years before that) believed that the age of the world was divided into seven "days", with each day being one thousand years long--and the last being a Millennium (partially described by many of the Jewish prophets, including Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel) that would be similar to that predicted in the Christians' Book of Revelation.
Many Jewish and Christian scholars believe the Bible's way of figuring things puts mankind's stay on earth in a time scale of one-thousand-year increments stretching from the time Adam and Eve were thrown out of the Garden of Eden up to a last millennium of history. And according to the ancient Jewish way of figuring things, we will hit the 6,000-year mark somewhere around our year 2000 AD. In other words, we may be on the eve of entering the thousand-year period predicted throughout the Bible. This time is referred to in the Bible as the Day of the Lord.
The idea that we might be approaching such an "End Times" or "Sabbath Day of the Lord", during which the Jewish Messiah reigns for a thousand-year day of rest, can be seen throughout the Old Testament; "the Day of the Lord" or some variation on it appears over three hundred times in the scriptures, making it one of the major themes of the Bible.
The clearest passage supporting the contention that God has divided the history of mankind into seven one- thousand-year "days" is Psalm 90:4 (which scholars believe was written somewhere around one thousand BC). It reads, "...For a thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past."
This same idea seems to have been popular during Jesus' time. The tannaim (a group of Rabbis living before, during, and after the ministry of Jesus) wrote in Sanhedrin 97A and Avodah Zarah 9A that since there were six days of creation, the world would last for six thousand years; the last thousand years would be a Sabbath marking the one thousand years of the Messiah. (Many of today's Jews also believe this and are expecting the arrival of their Messiah very soon for this same reason. Today, visitors to Israel often see huge banners on various homes and buildings proclaiming the imminent arrival of the Messiah.)
Early Christians seem to have accepted this belief, as well. II Peter 3:8 (which most scholars believe was written by the apostle Peter,) says: "But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day."
Irenaeus, an early Church father, wrote in 140 AD, "For in so many days as this world was made, in so many thousand years shall it be concluded... And God brought to a conclusion upon the sixth day the works he made...."
What will announce this seventh thousand-year "day", according to the Bible?
In Matthew 24:3 we see that Jesus' disciples were also curious as to when the Millennium would come. "Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the age?" they asked.
In the following verses record Jesus' reply to them. The things that should first come to pass are false Messiahs and wars and rumors of war. False messiahs have been abundant recently. And a person only needs to look at any newspaper to see news of wars and rumors of wars.
Jesus then tells His disciples (Matthew 24:7-8), "For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be famines and pestilences and earthquakes in various places. All of these are the beginning of sorrows." Again, checking the newspaper will show that such events are occurring now, with wars, famines, and earthquakes often being worse than any previously recorded.
Jesus also predicted the destruction of Jerusalem (which occurred just a few years after Christ's prophecy of the event), as well as telling when the time of the Tribulation was approaching. In Luke 21:24, Jesus said, "And they shall fall by the edge of the sword and shall be led away captive into all nations; and Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled."
After the fall of Jerusalem to the Roman legions in 70 AD, the Jews were scattered into all nations. Only during the last few decades have the Jews regained their homeland and started returning to it. The retaking of Jerusalem by Israel for the first time in almost 2,000 years may also be significant.
Jerusalem is more than just an "old capitol city" to the Jews; it was also the center of their religion, since the temple of the Lord had been built there. Thus, Jerusalem was the center of both the ancient Jewish government and the people's religion, making its restoration to the Jews a significant event for most Israelis. Some Christians believe this recent change in ownership of Jerusalem from non-Jewish to Jewish hands brought an end to the 2,000-year "Times of the Gentiles."
This event was also hinted at when Jesus told His disciples about what to expect before His second coming. Generally, the nation of Israel is represented as a fig tree in the Bible and Jerusalem was Israel's capital city. Thus, when Jesus tells the disciples a parable about a fig tree while explaining about His return to earth to create His Millennial kingdom, this is significant.
The passage appears in several of the gospels, including Matthew 24:32-34, where Jesus gives a hint of what the time scale may be following the return of Jerusalem to Israeli ownership. "Now learn a parable of the fig tree: When its branch is yet tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So likewise you, when you shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled."
This passage appears to say that within one generation's time from the return of Jerusalem to Israel, Jesus could return to create His earthly kingdom. Jerusalem returned to Israeli hands at the last of the sixth millennium (following the exile from Eden) and it was taken back in what has become known as the "Six Day War". This also seems significant since the numeral "6" is the Hebrew number symbolic of mankind.
While not all Christians that believe we're near the end times see the taking of Jerusalem by Israel as a significant event (some maintain the Temple must be rebuilt in the city before the clock starts ticking toward the Day of the Lord), for many, the changeover of ownership of Jerusalem in 1967 initiates a "countdown" toward the Day of the Lord.
How long a countdown?
According to one interpretation of the Bible, one generation (40 years, Bible time) is the most time that will pass after Jerusalem returns to Israeli hands before the Day of the Lord comes. That means 2007 would be the latest date for the initiation of the Tribulation. And it might be sooner, since a generation was the outside amount of time before this was to come to pass. (And, as we'll see later, it might be considerably sooner than this.)
Of course, some Christian scholars are quick to point out that after telling the parable of the fig tree, Jesus then added, "However, no one not even the angels in heaven, nor I myself, knows the day or hour when these things will happen; only the Father knows." (Mark 13:32). Jesus leaves open the possibility that those living in the generation leading to the return of the Lord could be aware of the fact of its approaching. He only says that no one will know the day or the hour. Would Christ tell His followers how to determine the approach of His return if it were impossible for the knowledge to be used? Many doubt that He would.
The kicker to the not-knowing-the-day-or-the-hour argument is that historians not only don't know the day or the hour we're in, no one even knows what year it really is. The reason for this is that errors were made during the Middle Ages with the calendar; in the process we're no longer sure just exactly what the actual year is.
The best "benchmark" that historians have is the date of the death of King Herod ("the Great" or "the Butcher", depending on your historical perspective). Herod was a blood-thirsty ruler installed by the Romans who killed some of his sons, a "favorite" wife, and thousands of innocents, including babies, thereby leaving a notable impression with historians as well as writers of his time. No less than Augustus Caesar went on record about Herod, noting that since the Hebrew leader observed the Mosaic law and didn't kill pigs to eat, a pig was safer in his household than were his sons.
Josephus, a Jewish historian who lived during the first century AD, noted in his accounts that Herod became ill following his final act of impiety toward the Jewish priests, during an eclipse of the moon, and died soon after. This eclipse appears to be the one that occurred on March 13 in the Julian calendar year of 4710. If so, this would place his death at 4 BC (although some historians think the actual date of his death is more likely 6 BC).
Since the Biblical account of Jesus' birth shows He was born before Herod's death, that means that our current calendar date is most likely behind four to six years (depending on which group of historians you accept as being more likely). This means that somewhere between 1994 and 1998 may be the actual calendar year of 2000 AD. In other words, the new millennium may be coming several years sooner than the calendar indicates--assuming everyone's calculations and guesstimates, including those of the ancient scholars, are all correct (perhaps an overly generous assumption).
Other wildcards to contend with include exactly when the new millennium begins. In theory, a millennium doesn't begin until 2001 (since the year 2000 is the end of the previous millennium). And adding to the confusion is the fact that ancient Hebrews figured a child's age from the date of conception, not from his day of birth.
Even if a person knew the right year and were positive of the day, figuring the hour gets pretty tricky, too. Jewish tradition starts a day at sunset of the previous day. But in today's world, "sunset" is an ongoing thing. Would the Day of the Lord start in Israel and gradually work its way around the world? Could we get an advance warning it was on its way by tuning to CNN?
Quite literally, only God knows.
This bit of speculation and history out of the way, what's so frightening about the Day of the Lord? Isn't it supposed to be a time of peace?
In fact, most of this seventh Biblical millennial "day" is painted as a time of peace and prosperity, according to much of both the Old and New Testaments, including the book of Revelation; Jewish as well as Christian scholars are pretty much in agreement on this. The catch is that the seven-year period introducing the Day of the Lord is described as a "troubled birth".
As such, the time according to biblical prophecies is slated to be a judgment period for the nations of the earth and will be marked by natural, manmade, and supernatural disasters unlike any seen before.
In Mark 13:19-20, Jesus told His disciples, "For the misery of those days will be such as never was since the beginning of God's creation until now, neither ever will be. And unless the Lord had shortened those days, not a human being would survive; but because of the elect whom He has chosen, He has shortened the days." It is only because of God's shortening of the period that any living person can survive this time.
We're living in a time of grace when God doesn't punish nations for their sins. But that will change during the Tribulation, which will be the counterpart to Noah's flood, only this time around the job is to be done with fire, wind, and earthquakes--with plagues, pestilence, and war thrown in for good measure. (Chapters 6-20 in the book of Revelation give the full details of these terrors; the biblical picture of the Tribulation is not pretty.)
So if many Christians believe we're approaching the Day of the Lord's Tribulation period, why aren't they stocking up on supplies to get through these bad times?
The reason is another bit of theology known as the "Rapture".
Some critics of those who believe in the Rapture like to point out that the word "Rapture" isn't biblical. But that's not completely right.
The Apostle Paul wrote in First Thessalonians 4:16-17, "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; then we who 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."
This passage in which the living Christians are "caught up" or snatched into the air is the basis of the concept of the "rapture". The Greek word used in the original letter Paul wrote is harpuzo, which means "caught away". Translated into Latin, this word becomes raptiere; anglicized, the word "rapture" is born. A roundabout lineage, but a Biblical concept, if not a Biblical term.
Study of a similar passage that Paul wrote in First Corinthians 15:51-52 sheds more light on this: "Behold, I show you a mystery: We shall not all sleep [die], but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised..." This passage is critical for discovering when the Rapture (i.e., the taking of living Christians to heaven along with the resurrected dead Christians) occurs. Note that Paul writes it occurs with "the last trumpet".
This may seem a bit vague. After all, there's no way of telling when the last trumpet on earth will be blown. Or is that what he's talking about?
Scholars familiar with Jewish traditions come to the rescue here. The "last trumpet" is, to the Hebrews (and was to early Christians also), a key phrase with added meaning because there's a specific Hebrew holiday when a horn, called "the last trumpet", is blown.
This "last trumpet" isn't metallic; rather it's a ram's horn known as the "shofar". Blown during the religious festival of Rosh HaShanah (also known as Yom Teruah or the Feast of Trumpets), it marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year. But why is the trumpet announcing the first day of a new year called the last trumpet rather than the first?
The reason is that Rosh HaShanah is also the day when Jewish tradition maintains that the dead will be raised to life. So among many Jewish and Christian scholars, there's a belief that the blowing of the shofar, the last trumpet, on Rosh HaShanah will one day signal the raising of those trusting in the Messiah and thereby announce the beginning of the Day of the Lord.
Once the last trumpet is recognized as being the shofar blown at Rosh HaShanah, this means that we have a good idea of what time of the year the Rapture will occur: It occurs on or about Rosh HaShanah (generally in the last of August or first of September by Western calendars, which differ from the Hebrew calendar that is based on lunar months).
Thus, on Rosh HaShanah, the "last trumpet" will sound, the dead will be resurrected, and the living Christians will rise into the clouds with them to meet Jesus "in the air", according to Paul. From there they go to heaven where, according to both the Old and New Testament, the seven-year "marriage" ceremony between the Lamb of God (Christ) and His bride (the Christian Church) will begin.
Exactly when in relationship to the time of Tribulation will the Rapture occur? Many Bible scholars believe that this time occurs just before the Day of the Lord, immediately before the time of Tribulation, backing up their contentions with a number of Bible verses throughout the scripture. Among these are I Thessalonians 5:9, "For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ." In other words, Christians, through the grace, kindness, and mercy of Christ, will be spared from the time of wrath--the Tribulation.
In Revelation 3:10, Christ tells the church at Philadelphia, "Because you have kept the word of my patience, I also will keep you from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." Most scholars believe that each of the seven historic churches mentioned in the opening chapters of Revelation are also symbolic of the Church throughout history, since the first ones mentioned correspond to early church history. If so, the church at Philadelphia is also symbolic of the Church during the time leading up to the Tribulation. Thus, Christ is telling His Church that it will be spared the troubles coming to the earth.
Furthermore, the Church as such doesn't appear on earth during the Tribulation described in Revelation; instead there are saints (followers of Christ) mentioned in heaven. And those in heaven have their "crowns", suggesting that Christ's followers have been raptured and rewarded for their works. (More about these crowns in a moment); in Revelation 4:4, after John is swept into heaven in his vision, he sees, "Surrounding the throne there were twenty-four thrones with twenty-four elders sitting on them, clad in white robes and with golden crowns on their heads."
The idea that the resurrection of the dead occurs before the Tribulation is reflected in Jewish tradition, as well. Rosh HaShanah, the customary time of the resurrection, is followed in just a little over a week by another festival known as Yom Kippur, which features the Feast of Atonement. This time has historically been viewed as a time of affliction. In other words, the "season" representing the resurrection comes before the time of tribulation.
Many Bible historians feel there's more than a casual relationship between events related to the Messiah and the seven traditional Jewish festivals. This is in part because the four spring festivals can be directly related to Jesus' earthly ministry, with the detail in which Christ fulfilled the events portrayed in each of these festivals being nothing short of miraculous.
The Pesach (Passover), for example, commemorates the freedom of Israel from slavery. During this feast a lamb without spot or blemish is slain. At the opening of this festival Jesus followed the same route over which the Passover lamb had just been led, and the crowds joyously cried "Hosanna" and "Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord", phrases traditionally reserved for the event of the lamb's passing or the coming of a king into Jerusalem.
According to Jewish practices, the Passover lamb was kept tethered in the Temple for four days for the people to ascertain its perfection; following His entry into Jerusalem, Jesus taught in the Temple courtyard for four days, facing the hardest questions the Pharisees and Sadducees could devise. When the Passover lamb was bound to the temple altar, Jesus was being nailed to the cross. The lamb waited for six hours, tied to the altar, before it was slain; Jesus hung on the cross for six hours.
The High Priest, according to traditional practices, slew the lamb and said, "It is finished."; Christ on the cross screamed this phrase at the end of His death agony.
The next festival, the Hag haMatzah (Festival of Unleavened Bread), comes hard on the heels of the Passover, beginning at the same time that Jesus was buried following His death. In this feast, the "seder" (a piece of matzah bread) is broken and one half wrapped in linen- -just as Christ's broken body was prepared in linen burial cloth. Traditionally, the children in a Jewish family celebrating this feast watch where the seder is hidden and "steal" it, holding it for "ransom" from their father--symbolic of how Christ paid the ransom for mankind's sins.
The next spring festival, the Firstfruits of the Barley Harvest, celebrates the time the Israelites went down into the parted Red Sea (representing death) and came out the other side still alive (representing Christ's resurrection); the fourth festival is the Shavuot (Feast of Weeks or Pentecost) which celebrates the giving of the word of the law to the Israelites and corresponds to the gift of the Holy Spirit to Christian believers on the day of that feast following Christ's ascension into heaven.
If the four spring festivals represent Christ's first coming, and Rosh HaSanah, the first fall festival, represents the raising of believers from the grave and the Rapture of Christ's church before His return, then the final two fall festivals may provide clues to the next events in history.
The season leading up to the three fall festivals is known as teshuvah, meaning "return" or "repentance." The days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are considered a time of atonment; the reward for good or bad deeds comes on Yom Kippur, which is symbolic of Christ's return to Earth to fight the Battle of Armageddon and establish His Millennial kingdom. The last festival, the Feast of Tabernacles (also known as Sukkot or the Feast of Booths), traditionally has been a time of peace when God has cared for His people. Thus, many see this festival as being symbolic of the Millennial reign of Christ on earth following the Tribulation.
What other evidence is there that the Rapture will come before the Tribulation ushering in the Day of the Lord?
In II Thessalonians 2:1-2, Paul wrote, "Now we beg of you, brothers, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our meeting together with Him, not to allow your minds to be readily unsettled or disturbed, either by spirit, or by message, or by letter allegedly from us, as if the day of the Lord had arrived." In other words, don't let anyone or anything convince you that the Day of the Lord has arrived because we haven't yet experienced the "meeting together with Him."
In the next verse, II Thessalonians 2:3, Paul tells the Christians how they can know the Day of the Lord has not taken place. "Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come, except there come the apostasy first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition."
For years scholars assumed that the "apostasy" Paul wrote about in this verse meant a falling away from the faith by believers. But several modern scholars believe the root verb, aphistemi, is better translated in this passage as a "departure" or "disappearance"--just as it is in eleven out of the fourteen times it appears elsewhere in the New Testament. When the word is recognized as meaning the sudden disappearance or departure of the believers to a different place, then it's easy to see how this verse connects to the two preceding it. In fact, it appears that Paul was speaking in this passage of the Rapture, the sudden departure of believers from the earth.
When this verse is seen in this light, we realize that the early Christians are being told that the resurrection couldn't have taken place for the simple fact that the departure (Rapture) hasn't happened yet. And, until the Rapture occurs, the Antichrist, the "man of sin... the son of perdition", can't come into power, either. And the Antichrist is a key figure of the Tribulation, working against God's will and making war against both the Jews as well as people who become Christians after the Rapture has occurred.
In Revelation 4:1-2 there's another indication that the Rapture occurs before the Tribulation. John writes, "...I looked and behold, a door was opened in heaven; and the first voice that I heard was, as it were, a trumpet talking with me; which said, 'Come up here and I will show thee things which must be hereafter.' And immediately I was in the Spirit and, behold, a throne was set in heaven and one sat on the throne."
Many believe that this "trumpet talking" is the last trumpet and that not only John but all the Christians on earth go into heaven at this time, answering the command to, "Come up here." If this is true, then this places the Church in heaven before the plagues and destruction that follow during the Tribulation, as outlined in Revelation.
Like most other prophecy, this "great escape" is mirrored elsewhere in the scripture. Noah was sealed on the ark before his civilization was destroyed by flooding. Likewise, Lot, Abraham's nephew, is led out of Sodom and Gomorrah before the twin cities are destroyed by God; appearing to Abraham, God said He wouldn't destroy the area if there were any righteous people in it. Only after Lot and his family had left the cities were they destroyed.
All of this brings home an important point: Christians won't go through the Tribulation. The hardships of the Tribulation ushering in the Day of the Lord will be missed by those who are the true and faithful followers of the Messiah, who will be raptured into heaven. But on earth, the horrors of the Tribulation will take place, commencing after the Rapture of Christ's church.
This stands to reason; the Christians are gone, along with the indwelling Holy Spirit of God and the prayers of righteous people. Abruptly, mankind is on its own. Mankind has never done too well, even with the Holy Spirit on earth; now things will become a real mess, a time of horrible evil and terrible punishment for wrongdoers. This condition will continue for the seven years of tribulation.
The only Christians who'll have to endure the suffering and persecutions of evil men and diabolical governments during the seven years of the Tribulation will be those who become Christians after the Rapture, as well as Jews who accept Jesus as the Messiah during this time. These two groups will go through the time of Tribulation with the rest of mankind, although some scholars maintain that these followers of the true Messiah will be spared from some of the suffering brought about by God--but not the persecutions of the Antichrist. For the book of Revelation tells us that many Christians will die at the hands of wicked people during these seven years.
It's important to note that the belief in the pre- Tribulation Rapture and the seven-year marriage preparations in heaven are buttressed by much more than just the few brief passages noted above; in fact almost all of the Bible, including historical, poetical, and prophetic sections, can be interpreted to support this theological theory. (For a detailed look at this view from both the Christian as well as the Jewish vantage point, see Rosh HaShanah and the Messianic Kingdom to Come, by Joseph Good. The book is available from Hatikva Ministries, P O Box E, Nederland, Texas, 77627 USA for $11 plus shipping and handling.)
Not just anyone will be headed for heaven when the Rapture comes. Simply going to church once in a while or paying lip service to being a Christian isn't enough. People must have made Christ the Lord of their lives, making Him the overriding center of things. And they must have asked Him to forgive them of their sins and wrongdoings, letting Christ pay the price for their sins with His death on the cross.
Paul wrote in Romans 3:23 that "...all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." Then in Romans 6:23, he told us what the penalty for this sin is: "For the wages of sin is death..."
Fortunately, Christ has paid the penalty for our sin. Romans 5:8-9 tells us that "...God proves His own love for us by Christ's dying for us when we were still sinners. Now then, as we have been declared righteous by His blood, how much surer is it that we shall be saved by Him from God's wrath." Likewise, in Romans 3:23-24, we read, "...for all have sinned and fall short of God's moral excellence. We are justified freely by His grace through the ransom that Christ Jesus provided."
Acts 16:26-31 outlines the question everyone should ask. In this passage, a Roman jailer asked his prisoner, Paul, "What must I do to be saved?"
Paul answered, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved..."
The confession of sins and asking of forgiveness is simple. It only takes a decision to change and a short prayer asking for forgiveness. In First John 5:11-12, we read, "And this is the record, that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that has the Son has life and he that does not have the Son of God has not life."
If you haven't made this decision and the time of Tribulation really is approaching, then you may suffer horribly through it. "Everyone talking about heaven ain't going there," is an old gospel song that will unfortunately be true for those who fail to accept Christ as their Lord. Don't put off asking for forgiveness and making Jesus your Lord if you haven't already.
If you are already a Christian, then there are other things to consider. In the book of Revelation (4:4), Christians cast their crowns at the feet of Christ.
What are these crowns?
The Bible doesn't have a lot to say about these crowns, but study of the scripture shows that, while salvation is a free gift from God, brought about by the death of Christ on the cross, crowns are rewarded to those who do good works with no thought about their own rewards, but rather in order to further the will of God in spreading the message about Christ.
In First Corinthians 3:14, for example, Paul writes about the "reward" that believers will receive for work that has survived God's purging fires; in Matthew 10:42, Jesus speaks of the "reward" given to those who simply give a cup of cold water to a believer. In I Corinthians 9:25, Paul tells what one of these prizes is: an incorruptible crown.
Later, in II Timothy 4:8, Paul goes on to say that, "...there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day and... unto all them also that love His appearing." Christ Himself admonishes His followers (in Revelation 3:11), "I am coming soon. Hold fast to what you have so that no one may rob you of your crown." Later, in Revelation 22:12, He says, "Behold, I am coming soon and My reward is with Me, to render to each according to his doings."
Exactly what a Christian can do to earn his crown is hard to say; doing God's will and work is tricky business and man's ideas about what is important have been terribly warped by our culture. But it's a cinch that watching lots of TV, avoiding thinking about salvation, and generally taking the philosophy of "eat, drink, and be merry" won't do the trick.
It's an unfortunate fact that many Christians squander much of their time, failing to do little to further the kingdom of God or even to help their friends and neighbors avoid the wrath of the Tribulation, as well as the judgment that will follow it. Those who aren't Christians will be judged at the end of the Day of the Lord according to their works on earth; those found wanting, according to Revelation 20:15, will be "cast into the lake of fire" for an eternal second death.
Unfortunately, many Christians will go through the Rapture and enter the peaceful setting of the post- Tribulation earth in sorrow--most likely because of their failure to help friends, family, and acquaintances avoid the wrath of God and take advantage of Christ's free gift of eternal life. How sorrowful it will be when those in heaven realize how far short they came in doing the right things with their lives. In Revelation 21:4, we see that one of Christ's gestures to His followers only at the end of the Millennium is to "...wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying...."
If you are already a Christian and confident that you're going to heaven, will you be proud when you get there? Have you been using your time here on earth to do God's work or simply to have a good time? What are you doing to earn your reward and crown?
If this article has moved you to take action to earn a crown and tell others of the wrath they may face, perhaps your first step can be to make a photocopy or computer file copy of this article and share it with a friend or load it onto a local BBS. (Although this article is copyrighted, you are hereby granted the right to copy this piece in its entirety to share it with other people.)
Don't put off becoming a Christian or, if you're already a Christian, of working to tell others about their chance to be a joyful part of the coming Millennium. It may be later than we think; the blowing of that last trumpet may be very, very near.
Copyright © 1996 by Duncan Long. Readers are encouraged to share this article with others; duplication of this article may be done freely, provided all copying and distribution of this article is done in its entirety and includes this notice.