Chapter 1 Survival Options: Fight, Flight, or Faith
Chapter 2 Fight: A Problem of Biblical Contradictions
Chapter 3 Flight: The Problem of Logistics
Chapter 4 Faith: Models of Those Who Shed Blood for Christ
Chapter 5 Plan B: An Easy Way to Survive
Chapter 6 Faith: What Is It?
Chapter 7 Faith: Does It Have Degrees?
Chapter 8 Faith Versus a Lack of History
Chapter 9 Faith: A Characterization
As the title in the fictional series Left Behind suggests, there were people left behind after the Great Evacuation to face the persecution of Satan and his Antichrist. This book has that audience primarily in mind. It has in mind those who, depending on your view, either will be left behind after the evacuation or who will live through the Great Persecution and be raptured only after the hands of Satan and his Antichrist have resulted in the death of untold millions.
Thus, even if you hold to the pretribulation rapture view, the Great Persecution should concern you! Even if God will remove the first wave of believers before the Great Evacuation (although we think this interpretation gravely incorrect), a second group depicted as “a number which no man could number (Rev. 7:9–12)” will suffer greatly, die, and join the rest of the saints in heaven before the throne of God.
Let’s think about that for a moment. “A number which no man could number” constituting people from every nation, tongue, and language? By any measure, that’s a lot of people! Do these people have no remedy? Are their futures locked? Is physical survivability impossible for them? At the very least, those who believe that God will remove the Church before the Great Persecution ought to be concerned for those who will be left behind.
The timing of the Lord’s parousia is a big deal! If it goes the way we believe, the persecution will be terrible for those who are alive to endure it. There are, however, millions in the body of Christ who believe they will miss this terrible time. If they are wrong, they may unexpectedly find themselves facing the wrath of Satan and his Antichrist. If so, those who anticipated and prepared for this persecution will find little consolation in being right.
There has and will no doubt continue to be much debate concerning who will encounter this unparalleled time. Given the awful consequences, it is imperative that we not leave this matter up in the air. For the last several hundred years, men and women have argued their respective positions. Seen by many conservative evangelicals as the most important event yet to occur for believers alive on earth, the Lord’s parousia holds no small place in their thinking. Judging from the historic success of the Left Behind book series, the unprecedented Y2K fiasco, the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, and the growing world-wide persecution of Christians, many are crying, “Come, Lord Jesus.”
Before the Lord will come, however, it is more than likely that many millions will die at the hands of Satan and his Antichrist. Scripture promises that a final generation of living believers will, one day, be evacuated to heaven in the company of Jesus Christ. This is not our debate. Our debate centers on the timing of this event.
Until twenty years ago, two views dominated the debate among rapturists—pre- and posttribulationism. Each camp is made up of committed followers of Jesus Christ. The late Dr. John F. Walvoord was an advocate of the pretribulation view. Having studied at Dallas Theological Seminary myself and spent time in his company, I can testify to Dr. Walvoord’s love for God and His Word. “A giant of the faith in modern time” was a fitting title for this man of God. That he believed the Church would be taken before Daniel’s final week makes him no less an honorable man.
Dr. Douglas J. Moo, who serves the Lord at Wheaton College, endorses a posttribulation rapture. As Blanchard Professor of New Testament, Dr. Moo has demonstrated an outstanding mind for New Testament exegesis. That Dr. Moo believes Scripture to teach that Christ will return at the end of the Seventieth Week, after the Great Persecution and after the six trumpet and six bowl judgments, makes him no less a committed follower of Christ.
The numbers of faithful followers who hold to each of these positions are many. Given that each view is based on the same passages of Scripture, it is arrogant and illogical to conclude that only one of these positions is absolutely right and the other is absolutely wrong. Logically, it makes more sense that the correct position on the timing of Christ’s return is some combination of the two major views. The question that each position is attempting to answer concerns, not the fact of the rapture, but its timing. Countless hours and gallons of ink have been spent to prove the other position wrong. Scholars continue to search for that one argument that will settle the debate in favor of their respective positions. The result? The discussions have gotten so trivial and the distinctions between words so technical that the average believer cannot follow the arguments.
The price of this continual infighting is a large, uneducated laity convinced that the truth of the matter is beyond their grasp. On the other hand, committed godly men and women support pre- and posttribulationalism with fierce devotion to their positions. For now, the debate is purely esoteric. No real danger exists, for all things continue as before. However, one day there will be a final generation of humanity to experience the climactic events of this present world order. The old adage that end-time events “will all pan out” will not be taken so lightly by that generation.
The question before us is this: Can one conclusively demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that a generation of the Church, the Body of Christ, the bride of Christ, God’s elect, will face the Great Persecution at the hands of Satan and his Antichrist? Each believer must address this question to his satisfaction before addressing the material in this book: whether to fight, to take flight, or to stand in faith is the right strategy for God’s elect.
The passage that holds the key to this debate, in our opinion, is Matthew 24:3–31.1 However, among rapturists, Matthew 24:1–31 finds little agreement regarding its relationship to the issue of timing. The primary reason is the matter of applicability. While we will not go into the applicability of Matthew 24 to the Church here, we have settled these matters, in our thinking, in our book, God’s Elect and the Great Tribulation: An Interpretation of Matthew 24:1–31 and Daniel 9. If there is any doubt in your mind that a future generation of God’s elect will face the persecution of Satan and his Antichrist, God’s Elect and the Great Tribulation is must reading.
1 We recognize that there are those who believe Daniel’s final week is past, yet would maintain a future rapture as we define it. Partial preterists, among whom R. C. Sproul is counted, would argue this position (see The Last Days According to Jesus, R. C. Sproul, for a defense of this position). Our decision to limit this discussion to those who would describe themselves as rapturists in relationship to a yet future fulfillment of Daniel’s final week is biased. We see the question of the applicability of Daniel’s final week to New Testament theology as fact. Therefore, we see those who reject a possible future application of the final week as in error. That said, we do allow for the possibility that fulfillment of the final week may not look exactly as we presently understand it. There may be facts we are yet to understand that will add to our understanding and color our present interpretation of this critical text.