Sunday, June 11, 2006

Is The World Goiing to an End in December 2012?

     What in the hell is going on with this crazy world?
     Not a moment goes by where we don't read in the newspaper, see on television and hear on the radio, stories about random nut-case shootings, wars, bombings, hurricanes, earthquakes and a myriad of other calamities. More importantly, these events and the pressures of modern life are breaking people down by the millions. Hate, disputes, abnormal behavior among humanity is rampant. Not to mention the ever-increasing use of alcohol and drugs, and the uncontrollable raging hormones people seek to satisfy – even on the Internet.
     No one should be surprised about these painful horrors we are experiencing, especially when they are being stirred by movie makers who solely want to make money off the fears of mankind. Prophecies about these calamities preceding the horrific period called the ‘End Times’ were foretold in the Bible. But the Bible states that "no man" knows the date of the end and no one truly knows if the world actually comes to an end! Scripture do claim that the world will be changed (spiritually and physically restructured), but never annihilated. While the current movie "2012" starring John Cusack paints a horrific picture of what many people are prophetically expecting, there is a period spoken about in the Bible that definitely will ensue before the returrn of Christ that is called the "birth pangs" describing a world experiencing the pain a woman goes through immediately before she has a child.

     This "birth pang" period, as the Bible calls it, does not connote any specific time frame (such as seven years posutlated by many theorists); however true believers throughout history have suffered for their belief in Christ and will continue to suffer greater tribulation at the hands of anti-christian forces, which many believers throughout the whole world are experiencing today. And, unfortunately, they are going to increase more so each day.
     Are these the signs foretold that would precede Armageddon, the so-called ‘end of the world’ as we know it? Many people believe so, especially evangelical Christians. However, many of these Christians have been disillusioned into believing they will not suffer the great tribulations prophesied in the Bible about the End Times. Why? Because they have unwittingly been taught by well-intended pastors and bible teachers that they will be spared the impending horrors spoken about in the Book of Revelations. 
     A large segment of today's church leaders and bible teachers, unwittingly, have proffered a unique theory that basically born again Christians will be secretly snatched up to Heaven anywhere from three and a half to seven years before God pours out His wrath on those who failed to respond to His call for repentance from their sinful ways. They call this seductive theory the Rapture, or the Pre-Tribulation Escape.
     However there is a growing segment of educators, Bible researchers and eschatologists who are challenging this theory. One of these individuals is former radio and television broadcaster, Joe Ortiz, who actually provides specific Bible proof that academically refutes the Pre-Tribulation Rapture theory.
     In his book, The End Times Passover, Joe Ortiz uses a 'word comparison' study of Greek and Hebrew words used in Bible passages to dramatically prove that modern day interpretations of the Bible have, in reality, been reversed by theorists to convey a different meaning than God intended. For example, many pre-tribulation theorists use the scripture in Luke 17:34-37 to support their theory that Christians will be taken to Heaven and unbelievers will be left behind to suffer God's wrath during the so-called Great Tribulation.
     What makes Ortiz' book unique is not just another prophecy book based on the long-running dispenational premillennialistic conjecture that was popularized in the 70's by Hal Lindsey in his million selling book The Late Great Planet Earth, and the most recent Left Behind encantation by Tim Lahaye. No! Joe Ortiz got right down past mixing other prophetic connundrums with pop prophecy and conducted deep etymological studies on certain key words to get their most precise meanings in the Bible that actually disproved their theories. He shows that if person carefully examines the definition of the word taken, they will find that the Greek word is paralambano, which means to seize and to bind, whereas the word for left in the Greek is aphiemi which means, to forgive, do not touch, leave be, leave alone
     In essence, Ortiz shatters the mythology being put forth by Left Behind theorists' like Tim LaHaye, John Hagee, Hal Lindsey, Mike Evans and hundreds more preachers and teachers who promote the non-biblical Pre-Tribulation Rapture to Heaven doctrine. In essence these theorists' interpretation of this scriptural verse; a verse which basically reverses and contradicts the main premise to their pet theory and, in reality, harmonizes more so with the scriptures concerning separating the chaff from the wheat and the goats from the sheep when He returns. This is one of over a hundred similar Bible word comparison examples that The End Times Passover contains that refute a pre-tribulation escape.

     This new book includes irrefutable and biblical proof that Christians will remain on Earth not only during the so-called "Great Tribulation," and that many of them will be persecuted by the prevailing anti-Christians forces, up to and will also be on Earth during the time God pours out His great wrath.
     However, Ortiz' book offers biblical proof that the God’s children of promise, the disciples of Jesus, will be protected during God's wrath-outpouring. God has provided an End Times Passover program for His chosen people, just as he did when He rescued Israel from Egyptian bondage, rescued Noah from the flood, Daniel from the Lions den, and Meschaq, Chadrack and Abednego from the fiery furnace. In Ortiz' book, you will see biblical proof that refutes a pre-tribulation Rapture, including answers to the question of who comprises the true church of God, is the Rapture a special event, and is the Christian church really the bride of Christ?
     Ortiz' new book also provides answers to who (or what) is the true Bride of the Lamb, who are the invited guests at the Great Wedding, what and where is the true Promised Land? In his book he also answers the questions, what is New Jerusalem, what is the Holy City of God, who really accompanies the Jesus when He returns to earth, do Christians immediately go to Heaven when they die, is the Holy Spirit ever removed from the earth, does the church fall away from the faith in the end times, what is true meaning of Temptation, how many times does the Jesus return, will there be a 1000 year millennium on earth or will Jesus reign for an eternity, and can Christians lose their salvation? These topics and more are accurately and biblically detailed to unveil truths many great prophesy teachers and writers have missed…until now!
     Tell your friends! Share it with your pastor, Bible studies teacher, or anyone interested in getting sound biblical proof that there will be no Pre-Tribulation Rapture! We challenge you to read the entire book! For more information, click below or contact your local book store and tell them to order your copy today.
     Will the world end on December 2012?

Find out the truth!

The End Times Passover

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Christians Will Experience Great Tribulation!!

The following are 6 chapters excerpted from the book Why Christians Will Suffer Great Tribulation (The Sequel to The End Times Passover), written by veteran journalist and radio-TV talk show host Joe OrtizThese six chapters contain specific Bible verses that prove, without a doubt, that the disciples of Jesus, God's children of promise, will experience persecutuion as never before known in the history of mankind. Many who are familiar with the Inquistions and the Crusades in medieval times, recognize that the carnage against true believers was one of the most horrendous times in history. Those trying to eradicate who they called heretics (for challenging the state-church) committed acts of torture and death that today are still considered unspeakable. But, what most Christians of today fail to perceive is that equal (and far above) tribulation awaits true believers in Jesus Christ. Many Christians in foreign countries (such as Iraq, China and Indonesia, to name a few) are already suffering tribulations unimaginable.

Most Christians in America believe they will be spared these atrocities because they believe in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture, which supposedly calls for Jesus Christ to rescue them up to Heaven while all hell breaks out here on earth. Get ready, O child of God, and read Bible-based truth as to what really lay in store for today's Christians: 

By Joe Ortiz

Chapter One
Jesus? Why Tribulation?

Yes! Jesus Christ our Lord and our God, currently residing in heaven, definitely has an earth-bound journey. His called out ones are hoping and praying that He will come soon. Yes! A myriad of uninformed or deceived called out ones today are praying they will be caught up to heaven at any moment, primarily to escape the woes predicted throughout the Bible. Unfortunately (for those whose ‘Blessed Hope’ lay solely in a secret escape to heaven), the reality is that the Christian Church will have to remain on earth awaiting His arrival. Not realizing that to spend an eternity, as co-inheritors of the Kingdom of God, and all that it entails, this is our true Blessed Hope. Scripture upon scripture clearly state, that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God, (Acts 14:22, KJV). There will be no secret escape to heaven before The Second Advent. Therefore, and unfortunately, many called out ones will not be prepared to experience great tribulation and the many horrific persecutions from anti-Christian forces prophesied in Revelation 11:7: 13:1, 4, 11, 12, 15, 17, and 18. Many called out ones will fall victim to his terror. Why? What’s the purpose? Jesus? Why tribulation?

In the first fifteen chapters (of our first book, The End Times Passover), the author believes he provided sufficient scripture to prove that God’s called out ones, the ecclesia of Jesus Christ, will remain on earth until He returns at His Second Advent. But why do we have to remain on earth until He returns? What’s the purpose? If a secret escape to heaven before His return appears unlikely, then what purpose is served by having believers remain on earth during this greatest time of sorrow and persecution? Some Christians are probably saying, “Why did I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior only to have to experience pain and tribulation? What good does it do for a non-Christian to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior if they have to go through tribulation?”

Good questions. The author himself was relieved when he came to the Lord on January 5, 1975 and was told that Christians would escape the so-called Great Tribulation and all the horrors described in Revelation. For him, one of the most thrilling aspects of becoming a Christian was the so-called secret escape to heaven. The verse in 1 Thessalonians 5:9, where we are told that, God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, has been a great comfort to him all these years. Also, the verse in Romans (8:1) that says, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” gives him great comfort and assurance concerning his relationship with the Lord and his eternal future with Him. But now it appears that believers (if still alive before The Second Advent) will not only be on earth, but face the strongest possibility of being horribly persecuted, much more so if they stand up and testify to the Lordship of Jesus Christ! What is served for believers to endure such a fearsome trial? Did the Lord say believers had to experience tribulation in order to qualify for salvation? Is there scripture that specifically states that Christians must go through tribulation? Let’s examine first if Jesus himself said we would go through and experience great tribulation.

In the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12), we find the first exhortation to God’s chosen people concerning sorrow and persecution:

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, 3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. 10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you, Matthew 5:1-12, KJV).

The Beatitudes are well known in the Christian community and have brought much comfort to many people throughout the years, especially for the promises that are provided in verse 12. However, later on, in Matthew 10:17-18, Jesus is talking about a future time when His disciples will be punished by various entities for testifying for the Lord:

But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; 18 And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles, (Matthew 10:17-18, KJV).

Then, in verses 21 and 22, possibly one of the most dreaded things that could happen to any one person is the betrayal by brothers, parents and even our very own children, maybe even resulting in our death! What kind of horrific society will we be living in during that period? Even now, the divisiveness that is being felt in today’s society compares little to the familial treachery that lay in store for the believer during this pending time of horror. Everyone who does not believe as we do (in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior) will hate us as never before. We live in a period of time today that sees Christianity as being the evil oppressing philosophy to a humanistic society. What greater trauma and persecutions lay in the future? It’s not necessary to cite examples, one only has to pick up the newspaper, hear on radio and see on television the stories of Christians throughout the world being persecuted for their belief in Jesus Christ. Even in the United States, we see many of the religious liberties that were once the main threads of the tradition fabric of this country, unraveling before our very eyes due to legal and pseudo-moral challenges by secular entities. While Americans are not experiencing physical persecutions for their religious beliefs like many in various Third World and Communist controlled countries, the rapid decline of respect for religious liberty could very well turn into acts of physical persecution toward those who remain adamant in their belief of Jesus Christ. As we have seen in the past few decades, those things that were once called good are now being called bad, and vice verse. But, through this persecution, Jesus’ exhortation to God’s called out ones is to choose between Him and a non-believing society (which can include family members), even if it means being killed!

He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. 39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it, (Matthew 10:37-39, KJV).

Many Christians today see the aforementioned verse (38) and apply it solely to problems being experienced in their homes, communities and businesses. A friend of the author, in response to his concern about his employer’s harsh treatment toward him, jokingly said, “My boss is a real taskmaster, but I just pick up my cross daily.” I smiled back at him and told him to count his blessings because a time is coming when the cross he next picks up might very well be the instrument that will be used for his virtual execution. The author doesn’t believe this verse was meant to be taken solely as a metaphor describing the normal hardships we face daily. But, rather, we need also to receive it as a message that our physical bodies could very well be subjected to much torture and even death at the hands of anti-Christian forces. The cross is not to be viewed solely as a symbol of weight, as if carrying a heavy domestic or financial burden; but it is meant to symbolize exactly what it is, an instrument of death, the same meaning it had for Jesus.

In Matthew 11:29, Jesus specifically asks His disciples to join Him in His sufferings, these being an even better way of living than the way those destined for destruction live out their lives:

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls, (Matthew 11:29, NIV).

In Matthew 16:24-26, Jesus is challenging the sincerity of believers who claim to be willing to leave everything to follow him:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 15 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul, (Matthew 16:24-26, NIV)?

Once again, He tells us that the price for following Him can, and often does, include death. He specifically tells us that if we try to save our own life through our own means (worldly power, money, societal status, etc.), we will lose it; but, if we are willing to lose our life for Him, we will find it!

In Matthew 20:20-23, the disciples (in their egotistical and frail humanness) were primarily concerned about gaining a high place in the coming kingdom. Jesus told them that their positional status therein would be determined by the Father; however, the important message to them was not what would be their role in the Kingdom of God, but the fact that they too would experience death:

Then came to him the mother of Zebedees children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. 21 And he said unto her, what wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. 22 But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. 23 And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father, (Matthew 20:20-23, KJV). [The “drinking’ (PINO in the Greek) of His cup here literally means to “share in the sufferings of Christ,” the same message we find in Mark 10:38, 39.

Unfortunately, it appears that many in Christendom are working very hard to also gain preeminence in the kingdom through ministerial activities that currently bring them much temporal fame, money and status. While the author doesn’t necessarily question their true motives, his spirit tells him that many more Christians who labor (and have labored in preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ) in the remote jungles, mountains and deserts of the world (even unto death) will be receiving greater honor in God’s kingdom, more so than some of today’s much publicized Christian Church leaders. The author believes that when we see Him face-to-face, and rewards are given, many of today’s famous evangelists and “prophecy experts” will be taking a back seat to those unknown soldiers who, by their death, have added others to the kingdom without receiving the acclaim and fame so many seek in modern day Christianity.

In Matthew 23, Jesus, in His address to the teachers of the law and the Pharisees, chided them for their hypocrisy and warned them of their impending condemnation. In verse 34, He reiterates the fact that He is sending them prophets, wise men and teachers and that they will kill and crucify some of them, while flogging and pursuing others from town to town:

“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berakiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the alter 36 I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation, (Matthew 23:33-36, NIV).

This very same message is also seen in Luke 11:49-51. Many readers and critics of this particular message will say that these prophecies by Jesus were fulfilled during the times of the early apostles and have nothing to do with our modern day Christian Church! How terribly sad for them to believe that somehow all in today’s Christian community have acquired some spiritual (or physical) immunity from the events to come, solely by their experiencing a religious (so-called born again) moment of euphoria and adopting (with questioning) a belief in a secret escape to heaven myth. But, as we shall see further in this book, this will not be the case.

Many scholars and theorists have disputed Chapter 24, the famed Mount of Olives discourse, as to its timing, and it is not our intention to present any further arguments pro or con. However, if the scriptures we have presented so far negate a secret escape to heaven, then this entire chapter speaks boldly to the imminent tribulation the Christian Church can expect:

Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to Him to call his attention to its buildings 2 “Do you see all these things?” He asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” 3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the Age?” 4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.8 All these are the beginning of birth pains, (Matthew 24: 1-8, NIV). [Bold and underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]

This group of verses deals specifically with Jesus’ exhortation concerning two events separated by thousands of years, including the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem (which was fulfilled in 70 AD), and then the signs of His coming at of the end of the age. He proceeds to cite the conditions immediately before His return, stating that many “deceivers” will come proclaiming that the Christ has come, that there will be wars and rumors of wars, that nations will rise against nations, kingdoms against kingdoms and there will be increased famines and earthquakes in various places. All these things are likened to the labor pains a woman experiences before giving birth to her child. Then, in the following verses, Jesus reiterates the same persecutions that he cited in Matthew 10:17-18; however, here He also states that during that time, many will turn away from the faith:

Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other. 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of many will grow cold, (Matthew 24:9-12, NIV). [Underline and bold is by the author, solely for emphasis]

Could it be that what is called the Great Apostasy, spoken in context with the immediate increased tribulation period that precedes the anticipated meeting of the Lord in the air, will be so horrific that grounded Christians will turn away from their faith in Jesus Christ? Could the impending horrors at the hand of the man of lawlessness cause such terror and pain that believing Christians will crumble under the beast system and turn away from Christ?

Speaking of a woman experiencing labor pains, in verses 19 through 21, the Lord commences to describe how it will be during that time, which includes the dreadfulness of this period, so dreadful that the joy women experience during pregnancy, and the blessed experience of nursing a beloved child, will become a living nightmare. Also, many theorists interpret the “flight” to mean that people shouldn’t be on airplanes during this period; however, the word “flight” in the Greek is phuge from pheugo which means to flee. This is mentioned in connection with praying that your fleeing be not in the winter or the Sabbath, which indicates that the beginning of this horror could commence on a Sabbath Day or during a winter period. Verse 22 goes on to say that those days are going to be so horrible, that if they had not been shortened, no one would be able to survive:

How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 20 Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equaled again. 22 if those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time, (Matthew 24:19-25, NIV).

Jesus is telling His disciples that one of the biggest horrors of that period will be great signs and miracles by false prophets and false Christs who will attempt to deceive the chosen ones of God. Many of these signs and miracles will be especially designed to fool even Christians into believing that Jesus has returned; however, the spirit-filled believers will be able to see through the ruse, barely!

These are the things that Jesus said would be experienced by His disciples then, and, Matthew 24, specifically talks about the things His disciples will experience in the future. Then, the horror of all horrors, universal chaos, including the sun being darkened, the moon’s brightness shut, stars falling and a completely devastating realignment of the planets, to the point of total annihilation; such horror that it will even make the most horrendous science fiction movie ever made look like animated cartoons kids watch on television. The minds of those who produce Armageddon-themed science fiction motion pictures are incapable of imagining how truly horrible it will be during this end times period.

The books of Mark (Chapter 13:1-25) and Luke (21:7-36, 17:20-37) speak about this period of time also, but not with the descriptive imagery found in Matthew 24. However, in Mark 8:34-38 and Luke 9:23-24 and 14:26-27, we find a repeat of picking up and carrying our cross, choosing Christ over family and friends, trusting in nothing or no one but Christ, unto death, for the saving of our souls. In Mark 10:39, we see a repeat of Jesus telling us that we also will “drink” the cup (of suffering), and we will also be “baptized” in the same manner He was to be “baptized,” indicating that the disciples will also suffer as He did, (Luke 12:50). In Mark 13:9-13, we also see a repeat of the disciples being handed over to authorities to be flogged and tried. Verse 12 describes again the betrayal by family members resulting in our death. This is graphically described in Luke 12:52-53. The interesting thing about all of these persecutions (so far), is the fact that Jesus Himself sends us (believers) out among the world, allowing us to become exposed to these tribulations:

Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves, (Luke 10:3, NIV).

Not only does Jesus say He sends disciples out among the wolves, Jesus specifically states that His command for us is to “love each other” as He has loved us, by our willingness to lay down our lives for our friends:

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this that one lay down his life for his friends, (John 15:12-13, NIV).

Here Christ is asking the called out ones to make that supreme sacrifice. To be His disciple requires a commitment unheard of these days. In this “Me” oriented society of today, a person would be considered a masochist to adopt such behavior. “Only lunatics, suicidal psychopaths or the mentally deranged would ever consider such a course,” so say today’s psychologists. “Only super-crazed macho, kamikaze-oriented fools ponder such absurdities,” so says the rational man. But this is exactly what Christ asks of those who want to be His disciples. Is there another way to live our lives as Christians? Is Christianity that important that we (believers) must be willing to die in order to enter the kingdom of God? Jesus said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first, (John 15:18, NIV).” He also said, If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also, (vs. 20). He said, They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me, (vs. 21).” In John 16:1, Jesus states: All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. He goes on to say, “They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this; so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you, (John 16:2-5, NIV).

Can you imagine that? Verse 2 states that those who kill us will actually believe that they are offering a service to God!

In answer to the many who still might believe in a secret pre-tribulation escape to heaven, Jesus, while praying to the Father in John 17:15, prays to God for Him not to take us out of the world; but, rather that He protects us from the evil one! What does this protection involve, if not an End Times Passover? How will God do this? We will answer this question in a later chapter that specifically deals with our experiencing “The End Times Passover.” However, as we have read from the four gospels, Jesus Christ specifically answered our questions concerning what the living called out ones on earth will experience during this period of time! But, Jesus, why tribulation? Why should the Christian have to remain on earth during this horrendous time? Why must this be?

As we continue this topic in the next few chapters, the answers to this question will be unveiled through specific examples and corroborating scriptures. As we have done so far, examples and scriptures will be provided to prove that great tribulation (not a secret Rapture to heaven) is in store for God’s called out ones before The Second Advent. However, many of you may become unsettled by the truths contained in God’s words about the purpose of tribulation. In the next few chapters we will be examining the tribulations Paul experienced, and the messages about tribulations spoken directly to the church, which will scripturally prove that it will remain to experience these tribulations and the reasons why. As we close this chapter, the author provides a brief clue to this answer.

The author has always been intrigued by war movies, not relishing them in some macho-seeking excitement, but intrigued especially by those movies that depicted a courageous soldier falling on a live hand grenade, thereby saving the lives of his buddies close by. Was this an act of courage? Was this foolishness? Did this soldier have a suicidal death wish, or was he demonstrating a true sacrificial love for the friends he was protecting? Like Jesus said, Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends, (John 15:13, NIV). What did this soldier know or feel at that exact moment the grenade exploded? Mankind has been searching for answers to the death experience from the very beginning, even to the point of killing people in hopes they could resuscitate their victims to ask them what it was like. What experiential knowledge has the Bible withheld from us about the death experience that mere mortals fail to comprehend? What is it about death that causes us so much fear? We will discuss this further in a later chapter. For now, the central issue is tribulation. If we can accept the fact that great tribulation is definitely in store for the called out ones, more so as the Day of the Lord draws closer, we ask again: “Is tribulation truly necessary? If so, what is its purpose?” Unfortunately, not many people (even Christians) want to know, nor are they ready for the answer:

And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us, (Romans 5:2-5, NIV). [Underline and bold is by the author, solely for emphasis]

Chapter 2
Paul’s Tribulations!

In the four gospels, we briefly touched on what Jesus had to say about the impending persecutions and tribulation that Christians can expect before His return. What do the Book of Acts and the Epistles say about tribulation? They have much to say about this subject matter and, in the Book of Acts, we get a first hand commentary about the tribulations that lay before God’s ecclesia, directly from a called out one who experienced more than his share of persecution for Christ, the apostle Paul.

In Acts, we don’t see any persecution of Christians until we come to Chapter 7. This is one of the author’s all time special chapters in the Bible because, here, the entire recapitulation of Israel’s history, including the promises God made to her, is so eloquently recited by the brave disciple *Stephen. The end of this chapter, where we see Stephen being stoned to death because the Sanhedrin became furious when they heard the truth, has to be a tremendous source of inspiration (and a cause of deep introspection) for all Christians.

*[For those who may have wondered why we chose the great painting by Juan de Juanes of the apostle Stephen being martyred for the book’s front cover, we believe that Stephen (who was the first martyr for Christ) is a perfect example of the dedication and commitment (unto death) that disciples must be prepared to endure in their walk with Christ.]

The author can see in Chapter 7 of Acts a vivid picture of the manner in which many dedicated-to-the-end believers will be conducting themselves in the face of all forms of persecutions and adversity. More importantly, he can also see how Stephen’s spirit-filled discourse was directly responsible for many non-believers coming to faith in Jesus Christ as a result of that incident. Actually, the author believes that Stephen’s last prayer was directly responsible for the eventual conversion of Saul, one of the antagonists among the hostile crowd that stoned him to death. The author believes that God always answers prayer, and that only God Himself knows how He will answer it; but He always makes all things work to the good according to His purpose, (Romans 8:28). Saul, one of the major instigators of the stoning siege of Stephen, went on to become Paul, possibly the greatest apostle that ever lived. Who is to say that the prayer or testimony of Jesus and His Gospel on the lips of a dying person has not been responsible for many non-believers turning to Christ? But the most beautiful part of Chapter 7 is where we see Stephen, in his last dying breath, praying to the Lord to receive his spirit. As he fell to his knees, we see in verse 60 how beautifully similar were the last words to escape from his mouth to Jesus’ last words on the cross: Lord, do not hold this sin against them, (Luke 23:34).

In Chapter 9, we see where it speaks about the conversion of Paul, who is primarily responsible for writing the majority of the epistles to the ecclesia. Paul had much to say about the conduct of the God’s called out ones, as he defined and articulated in great detail the purpose of Christ’s mission, and how the disciples should respond to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He had much to say about the impending trials and persecutions the ecclesia would experience, he being one of its chief victims. Let’s review the verses that allude to Paul’s great trials, persecutions and tribulation.

In Acts 9:15 and 16, the Lord speaks to Ananias about Paul’s mission, which was to include much suffering for upholding the name of Jesus:

But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: 16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake, (Acts 9:15-16, KJV).

In Acts 9:18-31, we begin to see the metamorphosis that Saul went through, preaching in synagogues with such great effectiveness, that plots were devised to silence him (vs. 22, 23); but the apostles (still leery and doubtful about Paul’s purpose and commitment to the Gospel), nevertheless, sheltered him. We don’t see too much of Saul until Chapter 13:9, at which time Saul becomes Paul, after he receives power from on high from the Holy Spirit. Paul and Barnabas proceed to preach the Gospel throughout the land and persecution is stirred up against them (vs. 50) as they moved on to other cities. After preaching the Good News throughout Lystra, Paul experienced a stoning (vs. 19) that would provoke him to make the most profound statement about tribulation that he ever made: that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God, (Acts 14:22, KJV).

The word tribulation in Acts 14:22 is the Greek (in the plural) noun thlipsis (many afflictions), the same word used in the phrase great tribulation in Revelation 7:14, which theorists claim is describing a seven-year time framed season. However, solely by virtue of the adjective great preceding the word tribulation, many theorists have somehow added new meaning to these two words, a phrase which is mentioned only once in the entire Bible. They somehow have concluded a unique meaning for these two words (great tribulation) to engender them as a specific (seven year) period of time, and have now given these two words a proper noun (The Great Tribulation) status; this by inference, of course! It’s as if placing the word “great” before “tribulation” somehow identifies these two words as a special event or a specific (seven year) period of time, a conclusion they base solely on an unproven theory they call “Daniel’s Seventieth Week.”

However, if examined closely, the word great in this verse is the Greek word megas, the same Greek word used to define the intensity of the strong angel’s voice in Revelation 5:2, who is hereby making a most profound proclamation in a loud (megas) voice: “who is worthy to open the book!” It’s also used for the word loud in Revelation 5:12 to describe, “in a loud voice they sang.” The word megas means (according to Vine) “of external form, size, measure.” However, no specific identification is made in the Bible of this great tribulation as being a special season or event unto itself; but, rather, it is merely stating that the degree of tribulation that will ensue immediately before Christ returns will be greatly and mightily intensified. The reader should be made aware that many Bible versions (except for the King James) use the article (the) before great tribulation, in Revelation 7:14, as if it supposedly means the phrase is giving identity to a proper noun describing a special event or day, such as The Feast of Tabernacles, The Sabbath Day or The Passover. The author believes that no article was intended or is required before these two words (great tribulation) because it is not speaking about a specific three and a half to seven year period of tribulation preceding the return of Jesus Christ; although, intensified tribulation as has never been witnessed before will definitely occur immediately before He returns. Nevertheless, to label the intensity of tribulation in a proper noun sense, calling it The Great Tribulation (and infer an event not specifically stated in scripture) is as ludicrous as calling the caught phase of the Lord’s return The Rapture. The word great is not capitalized in this passage (vs. 14), any more than is the Greek adjective harpazo (caught) in 1 Thessalonians. 4:17. When the Bible mentions the Sabbath Day, the Feast of Tabernacles and the Passover, each are identified as specific days or events. Read this verse again, in the King James Version, where the article is not seen before the words great tribulation:

And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, these are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, (Revelation 7:14, KJV). [Bold, underline and italics by the author, solely for emphasis]

Revelation 7:14 is not talking solely about the martyred called out ones who come out of the so-called period theorists call The Great Tribulation; this verse is describing all the members of the ecclesia that have suffered for their belief in Messiah, a myriad who have experienced great tribulation for God throughout history (See all of Hebrews 11)! Are we to believe that only those martyred three and a half to seven years before the Lord returns are the only ones that have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb? Are we to believe that the millions of called out ones who have labored and suffered for God throughout history will be afforded less honor and glory than those who are martyred during the perilous times preceding The Second Advent?

No Bible scholar has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Book of Revelation contains a chronological beginning or ending of any specific seven-year period of time, neither has anyone proven conclusively that the so-called “Daniel’s Seventieth Week” theory (Daniel 9:24-27) is describing a specific seven-year period of tribulation. We have hundreds of theories, but no definitive doctrine has been presented that would pass canonization, as has the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Theorists have attempted to configure various days, weeks and years mentioned in the Book of Daniel to determine a specific timeline for the return of Christ. But they have never been able to justify or validate their theories. No specific timeline has been factually established. Much conjecture, inference and theory has been proffered, but no scriptural substantiation that has passed exegetical muster exists today.

How can theorists propose any specific time frame conclusions as biblical fact (or even try to build a doctrinal foundation for the Daniel’s Seventy Weeks theory) when there exists varying numerical times mention in the Book of Daniel. For example, in Daniel 8:13-14, when Daniel heard from a holy one about how long it would take to see the vision to be fulfilled, the answer was 2,300 evenings and mornings:

Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to him, "How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled—the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, and the surrender of the sanctuary and of the host that will be trampled underfoot?" 14 He said to me, "It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated, (Daniel 8:13-14, NIV).

Then, in Daniel 12:11-13, speaking about the same issues he addresses in Daniel 8:13-14, two different numbers of days (1290 and 1,335) are mentioned:

And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days. 12 Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days. 13 But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days, (Daniel 12:13-14, NIV).

From which sets of numbers above do they build their dispensational time frames concerning a proposed and specific seven years of tribulation? Too many theorists have in vain tried to develop their own Apocalypse time-setting configurations by including various mathematical formulae and combinations of weeks for years, including the sixty-two sevens and seven more weeks (of seven years), with a major Gentile fulfillment Church gap in between (Luke 21:24) another seventh week to occur immediately before The Second Advent - and these other three different numbers (2,300, 1290 and 1,335) of days – solely (and in attempts) to validate a special seven year-long period they call The Great Tribulation that supposedly precedes The Lord’s Parousia. This is dangerous theorizing of which we have been warned not to promote or concern ourselves with, (Acts 1:7-8).

If the author digressed a little, it is only to clarify some points the Lord has quickened in his heart concerning these unsubstantiated theories, which are primarily based solely on the conjecture and inferences made by many theorists who consistently disregard the Lord’s admonitions concerning times and epochs: It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority, (Acts 1:7-8, NIV). The Lord’s exhortation for the evangelical community is, You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, (verse 8). It is therefore incumbent on all disciples to direct all efforts to that great commission and move away from times and epochs that can (and have) become stumbling blocks for many. The Bible specifically states that Christians must go through many hardships (tribulations) to enter the Kingdom of God. Let us all join together for the purpose of strengthening and edifying the ecclesia in preparation for that horrific onslaught that will precede the Lord’s return. Let us not be found titillating our brethren with soothing myths for the purpose of earthly glory, nor attempting to allay fearful hearts and souls from what could very well be the plan almighty God has in store for His called out ones. Let us follow through on the Lord’s exhortation to preach the Good News of God’s salvation and God’s grace, let us take heed of Paul’s message in 2 Timothy 4:2-5:

Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry, (2 Timothy 4:2-5, KJV). [Underline and bold is by the author, solely for emphasis]

As we continue examining Paul’s tribulations, in Acts 15:26 it is said that apostles and elders of the whole church decided to send some men to Antioch to help Paul and Barnabas, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Later in Chapter 16, we see where Paul and Silas were thrown in prison for supposedly causing uproar in regards to Roman law. They were stripped and flogged (vs. 23) publicly and without a trial (vs. 37), even though Paul and Silas were Roman citizens. Paul is eventually released and travels hither and yon, preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ under great peril.

While in Ephesus, Paul once again reaffirms the perils that face him, but in Chapter 20: 23, 24, he declares his need to persevere:

Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. 24 But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God, (Acts 20:23, 24, KJV) [Bold and underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]

Paul, knowing that he would soon be leaving them to continue his evangelistic mission, warns the Ephesians to also be on guard from those who distort the truth, an act that in and of itself should be viewed as a form of suffering:

Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. 29 For I know this that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears, (Acts 20:28-31, KJV). [Underline and bold is by the author, solely for emphasis]

The words, draw away disciples after them, is an issue that deserves an entire book. The author personally has witnessed and experienced this sad phenomenon in the various congregations he has attended or been involved with. He has witnessed many instances where the pastor of a church has been literally sabotaged by upstart and ersatz leaders in their respective congregations, posturing themselves as being more biblically informed or more charismatic than the leadership God placed in their midst. True, many of those leaders probably faltered in their respective mission for one reason or another. But leaders of an assembly can come together in prayer and biblical wisdom to make such determinations.

The author’s biggest concerns regarding today’s churches, however, is that too many congregations place too much emphasis on fund raising, using electronic wizardry and secular promotion tactics to increase their coffers and respective ministries, rather than praying for the wisdom of God to open their journey doors to accomplish His will. Unfortunately, the electronic church has pried away parishioners from their local congregations with a myriad of secular-style activities such as programs involving Wall Street-oriented methods to increase wealth, secular-oriented game shows, health and muscle-building programs, cartoon shows, soap operas, Christian-oriented rock concerts, grandiose musicals and other theatrical productions that must have the Lord both crying and laughing at the same time. While these activities are not necessarily sinful in and of themselves, the preoccupation to entertain and comfort the Christian has taken a back seat to sound biblical exhortation. The moneychangers in the temple are alive and doing very well in today’s Christian Church!

Even many of today’s sermons, by well-intended preachers, are more geared to helping their parishioners solve their everyday problems of marital relationships, parenting and self-esteem issues. While the Bible provides much wisdom for church leaders to use in dealing with their respective flocks on these matters, modern day Christian leaders spend more time on soothing and comforting their parishioners, rather than preparing them for the imminent return of Jesus Christ (not to secretly catch them up to heaven, but) to judge the world!

Where are the truly committed called out ones that once gathered together for prayer and study, seeking to help the poor and needy, conducting neighborhood and home visitations of the infirm, orphans and elderly, bringing with them both tangible and spiritual sustenance? Where are the Jeremiahs, Ezekiel’s and Isaiah’s of centuries past? Where are the prophets of yesteryear, those who prophesied the impending judgment that is in store for those who ignore God’s warning to repent; those, who, sadly, are resting too comfortably in their hope for a secret escape to heaven? They are probably at home, switching their radio and television channels back and forth to the popular evangelist of the hour, not realizing that the perils that precede the Day of the Lord are closer than ever before!

Unlike today’s church, Paul was determined to preach the word regardless of the perils that he knew awaited him in Jerusalem. In Acts, Chapter 21, after hearing that the Jews were plotting to hand him over to the Gentiles, Paul responded thusly:

Then Paul answered, “What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 14 And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, “The will of the Lord be done, (Acts 21:13, 14, KJV)” – [Bold and underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]

It has been said by several Pre-Tribulation expositors that anyone who believes the Christian Church will remain on earth during increased times of persecution before the Lord returns, supposedly view themselves as “super macho” Christians. If those of us who have seen the light concerning the End (no Pre-Tribulation secret escape to heaven) Times reality, should we be insulted for wanting to emulate Christ, or even Paul? If this also were the Lord’s will, as it states above that it is, do we really have any choice in the matter? Machismo has nothing to do with realizing the impending persecutions the Christian Church will experience before the Lord’s return.

Nevertheless, Paul was once again arrested:

When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the Province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, 28 shouting, “Men of Israel, help us. This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against our people and our and this place.” 29 (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple area.) 30 The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut. 31 While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul, (Acts 21:27-32, NIV). [Underline and bold is by the author, solely for emphasis]

Later on, we see the Jews conspiring to kill him (Acts 23:12-21); however, Paul was assisted by the commander of the Roman troops to get a fair hearing from the governor after many legal battles concerning the jurisdiction of where (and by whom) Paul would be tried. He was finally afforded the opportunity (Gr. topos, condition, license, room, opportunity) to present his case before King Agrippa. After Paul presented his case to Agrippa, and almost persuaded him to become a Christian (Acts 26:28), he was finally released. This aspect of Paul’s persecution is a perfect example of why called out ones will remain on earth and experience great tribulation immediately before the Lord’s return. The author believes that the possible Christianization of kings and rulers (and many other people, as well) during this period will come about as a result of the spirit-filled testimonies coming from the called out ones during that period of increased tribulation.

The remainder of Acts is filled with stories concerning the tribulations that Paul and the apostles endured as the ecclesia was flourishing by virtue of the newly gained power from the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. They experienced storms, shipwrecks, death plots, snake attacks and other tribulations too numerous to mention.

As the Book of Acts comes to a close, regardless of the persecutions he experienced, Paul is last seen in his own rented house greeting all who come to see him and, Boldly, and without hindrance, he preached the Kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ, (Acts 28:31, NIV). It appears that during this time of peace, Paul took some time out and wrote the letters to the Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians and all other churches.

The author in this chapter focused primarily on Paul’s experiences in the Book of Acts, dwelling more so on his personal tribulations rather than the subject matter and the wisdom contained in the words he preached. It was (and is) important to this work that we read the accounts of Paul’s trials and tribulations, because what follows next, is going to be a book-by-book description of not only the tribulations Paul endured, but also those he says the Christian Church will experience in the times of great and mighty persecutions. And Paul should know best, he lived (and died) through them!

Chapter 3
Messages of Tribulation to the Churches

Paul’s history of experiencing persecution obviously gave him deeper spiritual insights into the plan God has in store for those who “pick up the cross and follow Him.” The Book of Romans, like the four synoptic Gospels and the Book of Acts, speaks very clearly about the expected trials that the Christian Church will endure until The Second Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Whereas Paul’s message is primarily directed to the Roman community, and contains in the first four chapters the consequences of wrath for the unbeliever, Paul also tells the called out ones the purpose behind suffering great tribulation:

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us, (Romans 5:2-5, KJV).

The Greek word for experience is dokime, which (according to W. E. Vine) means (a) "the process of proving;" it is rendered "experiment" in 2 Cor. 9:13, AV, RV, "the proving (of you);" in 2 Cor. 8:2, AV, "trial," RV, "proof;" (b) "the effect of proving, approval, approvedness," RV, "probation," Rom. 5:4 (twice), for AV, "experience;" AV and RV, "proof" in 2 Cor. 2:9; 13:3; Phil. 2:22. See EXPERIENCE, PROOF. Cp. dokimos, "approved," dokimazo, "to prove, approve;" see APPROVE. (W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Thomas Nelson Publishers, page 392)

In these verses, Paul points out a few of the reasons why Christian Church must suffer great tribulation; however, this particular aspect will be discussed in greater detail in a future chapter. In Romans 6, though, Paul once again reminds the Christian Church that suffering is to be associated with its union to Christ, because through His death, our resurrection is also guaranteed. Our being united with Christ therefore makes us heirs to all that He inherits, which also includes sharing the same sufferings he endured:

And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together, (Romans 8:17, KJV).

The fact that Paul tells us that we will never be separated from Christ, regardless of the persecutions to come, also confirms that these persecutions are part of God’s overall plan:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, (Romans 8:35-39, KJV).

It is obvious from these verses (especially vs. 36) that, as followers of Christ, facing death as sheep before the slaughter is an expected reality. This is just a small part of the anticipated persecutions that await the called out ones, now and in future times. Once again, Paul reminds the ecclesia that not only will there be persecution at the hands of unbelievers, he plainly states that the brethren will not need to arm and defend themselves from these persecutions; but, rather, they need to be prepared to volunteer their bodies for the Lord’s service:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service, (Romans 12:1, KJV).

Paul goes on to say that no matter what types of persecution lay ahead for the called out ones, they must be prepared to go all the way with their commitment to Christ, regardless of the cost:

For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's, (Romans 14:8, KJV).

As Paul concludes his letter to the Romans, he gives the Christian Church a hint that part of the persecutions will include doctrinal divisiveness among the Christian community. While some may not view differences in doctrine as a form of persecution, to be denied the truth about what God truly is saying through His word, is to deny a fellow servant – especially new converts - all the tools of the faith needed to endure the impending tribulations to come:

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.18 for they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple, (Romans 16:17-18, KJV).

This divisiveness (for many) will unfortunately be more sorrowful than death itself. Earlier, it was noted that many of the Christian’s very own relatives will turn on them (Matthew 10:21); but, even these betrayals compare little to the treachery that will come upon many Christians at the hands of their fellow church members who are supposedly the true relatives of God, (Luke 8:21). We will deal with this aspect in greater detail in the chapter regarding the Apostasy.

In Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, we see him reiterating the fate of Christians who “pick up their cross” for the word of Jesus:

For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men, (1 Corinthians 4:9, KJV).

Here we see a picture of the accepted realities befalling an apostle during the times of Paul, Barnabas, et al. Theorists would state that the persecution and tribulations mentioned so far pertained solely to those ordained apostles during that era. It is true that to become an apostle one had to meet the apostolic criteria set forth in Acts 1:21-26 (specifically chosen by Christ, who knows a man’s true heart). However, the Lord has been choosing apostles since he first chose the original twelve, and continues to do so daily. Paul specifically states that all who are members of the body of Christ, which includes individuals with many different areas of ministry and church responsibility (1 Corinthians. 12:12-30), whether they are apostles or not, will suffer together: If one part suffers, every part suffers with it, (1 Corinthians 12:26, NIV).

In 2 Corinthians, the apostle Paul continues to convey his message concerning sufferings and persecutions, albeit he assures the Christian that the Lord’s comfort will be in abundance during those times of great affliction:

For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows, (2 Corinthians 1:5, NIV).

Paul goes on to say that the expected distresses of life, and even the possibility of death, have a specific purpose:

If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. 8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. 9 Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead, (2 Corinthians 1:6-9, NIV).

In these verses, we see Paul emphasizing (from his past experiences) that the sufferings are purposely allowed by God to bring us to the point where we depend on nothing else but Him for deliverance. Paul gives the Christian a perfect example of why God allows this persecution in his “jars of clay” analogy:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that His life may be revealed in our mortal body, (2 Corinthians 4: 7-11, NIV).

Once again, Paul is providing the Christian not only with words of comfort for those who fear death, but a beautiful example of how these persecutions (including death) will reveal Christ in us. It will also cause more and more people to participate, at all costs, and give more generously in support of those ministries that are doing the will of God, thereby gaining Him more glory. Paul cites a specific example in 2 Corinthians 8:1-4 of how this type of suffering by the churches in Macedonia produced great results:

And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints, (2 Corinthians 8:1-4, NIV).

In Chapter 11 of 2 Corinthians, Paul proceeds to boast about the sufferings he has endured for preaching the gospel. In this, he is telling Christians that not only will they suffer for the sake of Jesus, but that they ought to take pride in this, to the point of even becoming fanatical about the expected sufferings:

To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that! What anyone else dares to boast about – I am speaking as a fool – I also dare to boast about. 22 Are they Hebrew? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 25 three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked, (2 Corinthians 11:21-27, NIV).

The psychology community would consider it sheer folly these days to express Paul’s sentiments about suffering for Christ, because it knows not, nor can it understand the things that Christians (through the power of the Holy Spirit) realize and accept about trials and tribulations. Practitioners of (especially modern-day) psychology don’t realize that as the Christian surrenders all claims to worldly (and emotional) strength, then (and only then) can the power of God begin its work. Paul knew this well and so beautifully states this in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10:

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong, (2 Corinthians 12:7-10, NIV). [Bold and underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]

Many theorists have attempted to identify specifically what was that “thorn” in the flesh that plagued Paul; however, it appears that what is a “thorn” to one person can be something entirely different to another. Only the individual Christian and the Lord truly know what specific maladaptive traits or inherent weaknesses might exist within each of us that rob us from being able to walk a guilt-free lifestyle.

However, in these verses we may see a deeper insight into the thorn issue, which can very well allude to the dangerous issue of pride. This is revealed in the Biblical fact that Paul was the only human being who was caught up to the third heaven and heard inexpressible words that were virtually unspeakable that no man is permitted to tell another human being. Who truly knows what Paul heard? Whatever it was, he is the only person in recorded history to be caught up (he didn’t know if in the spirit or in the body) and returned to earth. Such an experience could cause anyone to become conceited and to boast and exalt themselves above others. It appears, therefore, that the buffeting from Satan could well have been a diabolical effort to make Paul boastfully reveal the words he heard, things that God probably did not want anyone to know yet. Nevertheless, this heavenly knowledge could very well make anyone believe himself to be extra special.

This aspect is also an important reminder that needs to be brought into greater focus to the ecclesia and many of its leaders. Many evangelists, bible scholars, commentators and even novice students of God’s word have been given deep insights to God’s overall redemption plan and message to mankind. Many modern day prophets have indeed been responsible for turning many to Christ, and they have even received many accolades and gained great fame in the church and even in the secular arena. Many, however, have also been victim to great attacks from Satan, because the closer one gets to God the more they will be persecuted. Therefore, it is crucial to remember that these messages of wisdom come from God and not from the messenger’s intellect. Too many great men and woman of God have been mightily used by Him to deliver His messages and thereafter find them basking and languishing in their temporal fame and glory, to the point of becoming ineffective in the long haul of their ministerial journey. The Bible gives us many examples of those whom God gave great strength and wisdom to fulfill His purpose, such as Samson and Solomon, only to see them falter at the end of their careers.

Therefore, the message from Paul is a great reminder that although many receive great wisdom from God, this wisdom must be handled carefully and judiciously, always remembering that it is God who is to receive the glory, rather than the messenger. In these verses, Paul delights in his persecutions, focusing more on these than any glory for himself. Paul recognized that no good thing comes from him, and whatever idiosyncratic millstones (such as arrogance, ego, haughtiness, conceit) he may have carried in his heart and mind, he exalted in these persecutions in the realization that his true strength came from submission to God’s will and grace, rather than through any perceived strength or intellect of his own. These afflictions are allowed by God as a reminder that the Lord’s “grace is sufficient” because in (our) weakness His “power is made perfect.”

It is interesting to note that Paul, in his epistle to the church at Galatia, dwelled not much on persecution, per se. However, he warned that the maintenance of the gospel requires the Christian be imminently aware of those who will distort the word of God through vain preaching:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the * gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a *gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned, (Galatians 1:6-9, NIV). [Underline and bold is by the author, solely for emphasis]

*And what is the Gospel? The Gospel is that by Jesus’ propitiatory sacrifice at Calvary, God provided all mankind the opportunity to share in the grace and inheritance promised to His chosen people. This Gospel was made plain and evident directly to the person He promised it to, Abraham: The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you, (Galatians 3:8, Genesis 12:3; Acts 3:25, Acts 4:3-16; Romans 4:16, NIV). [Underline is by the author]

The spirit-filled Christian knows too well that in these latter days there will be an increase of false teachers and so-called prophets, twisting and distorting the true Gospel to suit their needs, which thereby will be denying the glory to God. As the author of 1 John so eloquently states, even now many antichrists have come, (1 John 1:18, 19). The amazing thing about this prophetic utterance is that in today’s world, a myriad of sects and so-called religious groups are found to be preaching not only a humanistic gospel, but, also, many are openly advocating satanically induced theologies. If the Gospel or doctrines they preach are not the true Gospel of God, then obviously they are satanically inspired! The unfortunate reality of this increasing phenomenon is that many of these proponents originated from your basic orthodox groups that originally professed a belief in the true Gospel. It is one thing to suffer for professing the Christian faith (in its truest sense), but the worst persecution that Christians are becoming exposed to and seduced by (and acquiesce to) is a doctrine that distorts the gospel. Too many well intended evangelists preach a gospel that glorifies persons, groups or dogma, rather than one that clearly proclaims that All nations will be blessed through you (Abraham), by virtue of the atoning works on Calvary by Jesus Christ! This Gospel (that God would justify the Gentiles by faith) was an announcement and a promise of glad tidings beforehand, prior to the crucifixion and before the Lord’s resurrection.

In the Book of Ephesians, most of Paul’s message concerns the spiritual blessings found in Christ, being made alive and one in Christ, Paul’s administration of God’s grace, our need to live as children of the light, being imitators of God (that of loving one another as Christ loved and gave Himself for the ecclesia), the proper relationship between wives and husbands, children and parents and, most importantly, putting on the armor of God to combat “against the devil’s schemes.” This particular group of scriptures (Ephesians 6:10-18) will receive greater attention in a later chapter.

In Philippians, Paul continues to boast about him being chained for Christ (Philippians 1:12-14), and its positive results. After much boasting and rejoicing about his tribulations, Paul reminds the Christian that to believe in Christ includes the sharing in His suffering:

For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, (Philippians1:29, NIV). [Bold and underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]
In Chapter 2, Paul is found exhorting Christians that their attitude should be exactly as Christ’s, one of total submission to the will of God:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross, (Philippians 2:6-8, NIV). [Bold and underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]

Probably the most puzzling, but yet ignored, verse in the Bible is verse 12:

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, (Philippians 2:12, NIV). [Bold is by the author, solely for emphasis]

The Greek word for work is the verb kategazomai, which literally means “to achieve, effect by toil and to free from strife and vain glory.” This “work out your own salvation” obviously does not refer to the obtaining of salvation by works. But, rather, as a Christian, it is our responsibility to exercise our faith by doing the works that God requires, as seen in James, Chapter 2, which is a condition for believers chosen by God: You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone, (vs. 24), for As the body without spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead, (James 2:26, NIV).

There has been, and still exists today, a large group within the Christian community that believes in the doctrine of “once saved, always saved;” however, it appears from scripture that many of today’s professing Christians will “rebel” and “fall away” during times of persecution (See Luke 8:11-14). [More on the “Apostasy” will be discussed in a later chapter]

Further, in Ephesians, Paul makes a statement that goes contrary to contemporary human thought (and more so within the Psychology community) concerning his desire to not only share in the same sufferings that Christ experienced, but also to look death squarely in the face, knowing full well that he will be resurrected when Christ returns:

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead, (Philippians 3:10, 11, NIV).

In the book of Colossians, Paul’s message includes the Christian’s need for constant thanksgiving and prayer, the supremacy of Christ, more about Paul’s labor for the ecclesia, warnings about hollow and deceptive philosophy, rules for holy living, rules for Christian households and other instructions. The author mentions here that Paul’s exhortation concerning a wife’s responsibility toward her husband and vice verse might not be considered within the realm of persecution; however, much of the social ills confronting modern society can be directly linked to the breakdown of the family structure. This subject alone is worth writing about in great detail; however, let us suffice by stating that as the family unit goes, so goes the basic foundation for the successful Christian community. The old adage that “The family that prays together, stays together” still holds true today, and will be needed much more so as the times of great distress approaches:

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged, (Colossians 3:18-21, NIV).

Chapter 4
The Time Of Trials Will Increase!

As we venture further through the epistles for scripture regarding the tribulations that called out ones can expect before the return of the Lord, we see the apostle Paul offering encouragement to the ecclesia at Thessalonica, concerning the fate of those who die in Christ and those who remain waiting for the Lord’s return. His message, however, continues to remind the ecclesia that persecutions are not only on the increase, but called out ones are destined to experience them until the Lord returns. Paul is telling the Thessalonians that even during those trials, a time when even He, Timothy and Silas needed as much help as possible, they nevertheless sent one of their most able disciples to strengthen and encourage the Thessalonians, who also were enduring hardship:

So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. 2 We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, 3 so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. 4 In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. 5 For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless, (1 Thessalonians 3:1-5, NIV).

In 2 Thessalonians, we not only see Paul boasting about his trials, but we see him boasting about their faithfulness amid the persecutions that they themselves (the Thessalonians) are experiencing:

Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring, (2 Thessalonians 1:4, NIV).

In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, we see the famous exhortation from Paul concerning their redemption, which specifically states that it will not come about until first the apostasy (believers falling away from their faith in God) and the man of lawlessness is revealed, in accordance with Satan’s authority. That period of intensified tribulation will include some of the most horrific persecutions imaginable at the hands of the satanically inspired Beast (or antichrist).

Throughout the book of 1 Timothy, we see Paul touching on several issues, which includes warnings to the ecclesia to be aware of more persecutions (which will include false teachers), and the Lord’s grace to Paul and instructions on worship, overseers and deacons. In the book of 1 Timothy 4:1-3, we see specific warnings to God’s called out ones that, in the later times, some believers will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits:

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created, to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth, (1 Timothy 4:1-3, NIV).

In 2 Timothy, Paul continues to exhort the called out ones to be faithful and bold in ministering to others, and not to be ashamed about testifying about the Lord Jesus, which will include suffering:

So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, (2 Timothy 1:8, 9, NIV).

In Chapter 2, Paul’s exhortation implies hardship is inevitable, as is expected from one who is a soldier of Christ Jesus:

Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs – he wants to please his commanding officer, (2 Timothy 2:3, 4, NIV).

In 2 Timothy, Chapter 3, verses 10 through 12, we see Paul sharing about his way of life, where he makes one of the most profound statements ever concerning the true Christian life:

You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings--what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, (2 Timothy 3:10-12, NIV).

Once again, we go back to the beginning of our discussion of tribulation in Chapter 16, where we asked the proverbial question: “Why did I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior if I have to experience pain and persecution? What good does it do for a non-Christian to accept Christ if they have to go through tribulation?” Based on 2 Timothy 3:12, wanting to live a godly life will result in persecution. For many in the Christian Church (or society in general) this doesn’t make any sense at all. If you try to live a godly life, you will be persecuted. If you live an ungodly life, you may enjoy the momentary pleasures of sin, but you will eventually pay the price. Some would say it’s kind of like being caught between a rock and a hard place.

However, those called out ones of Christ know the true answer. Being a Christian is not about gaining worldly power, riches, fame and all the other creature comforts that the ungodly live for. Many evangelists spend much time preaching prosperity messages that a prayer formula exists within God’s word that riches can be gained by righteous living, and many such cases can be documented that those of faith did achieve great wealth. However, as we turn the corner on history and enter the end times, the word of God requires the ecclesia to prepare itself for the imminent return of Christ, where great tribulations are definitely in store for called out ones in the near future. Creature comforts will matter little during those horrific times. While millions will continue to pursue (and depend on) worldly possessions and pleasure, their actions will indirectly affect the ecclesia. Therefore, the called out ones need be ready and willing to lay aside everything (material possessions, jobs, friends, and even family) and pick up their crosses and follow Him. Paul tells us what it’s going to be like in those days, which will include a spiritual malaise which (to a great degree) already exists at this precise moment:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. 6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7 always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men oppose the truth – men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. 9 But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone, (2 Timothy 3:1-9, NIV).

Although Paul here is talking about the Godlessness that will be prevalent in the last days, Christians can be assured that by virtue of this type of behavior by their unbelieving (and some believing) friends, neighbors and family members, the truly committed called out ones will be affected (and persecuted) by its spillover into their lives. If just one of our unbelieving loved ones manifests these behavior traits (lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient, etc.), you can be assured that much sorrow will be experienced by the ecclesia as a result of these activities, regardless of its non-participatory stance. Sorrowfully, many, who today proclaim they are Christian, once they see the financial pressures and other horrors begin to mount, will fall away and seek worldly solutions to their problems, denying God’s help and wisdom, and they will even turn against their fellow Christian brothers and sisters. As verse 5 clearly states, they will be having a form of godliness but denying its power. We see these things happening increasingly so on a daily basis. Many professing Christians (and some churches and charitable Christian organizations, as well) are falling apart under financial and political pressures and scandals they never experienced before. Many profess the name of God and Christ, yet have no faith in God to provide for them and their respective missions. Many of these faithless and frustrated leaders have lost sight of their mission and waste much time and energy bickering over titles, territorial authority and petty financial issues. Many even deride and curse their brethren Christian workers who seek to live by faith and trust in God to provide the resources to accomplish their respective tasks. Human hearts are turning colder and colder toward each other, as we speak:

At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, (Matthew 24:10-12, NIV).
Unfortunately, even as the dedicated and committed Christian holds firm, to either rebuke or provide Godly instruction to these rebellious factions, they will be met with force, insults, hostility, legal maneuvers, physical abuse and other increased forms of retaliation, which will result in great persecutions, some resulting in death. This is why Paul exhorts the called out ones to preach the true word of God (as challenging and frightening as it may seem for many, including fellow Christians) while it can still be received:

Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season, correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry, (2 Timothy 4:2-5, NIV). [Bold and underline by the author, solely for emphasis]

As he begins to close his second letter to Timothy, Paul knows that his death is soon at hand; although weary, tired, exhausted, in much pain from years of beatings, floggings, and many other sorrows. Knowing and expecting to be executed soon by his persecutors, he is at peace, knowing the mission Christ gave him of evangelizing the gospel has been completed. He knows his reward will be given to him on that glorious day (not any sooner than) when Christ appears; but, yet he continues to exhort his fellow servants in the Lord about the rewards they will also receive, on that great day, as He promised:

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing, (2 Timothy 4:6-8, NIV). [The Greek word for poured is spendo, which literally means and is used of one whose blood is poured out in a violent death for the cause of God. Bold and underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]

In Titus, the apostle Paul is seen exhorting the Christian concerning the criteria for appointing elders, the negative aspects about Cretans, the teaching of sound doctrine to women and young men; about slaves being subject to their masters and the famous passage (Titus 2:13, NIV) about the blessed Hope, which is “The glorious appearing of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Paul also reminds the Christian about being subjected to rulers and authorities, avoiding foolish controversies about the Law and the warnings that should be given to divisive people. However, no mention is made of any specific suffering or tribulation in the Book of Titus. The same is true of the Book of Philemon, where Paul communicates about prayer and thanksgiving and his request that his disciple Onesimus be cared for.

In the Book of Hebrews, a litany of scriptures address the “new covenant” that was fulfilled by Jesus’ death on the cross, and how all who believe (including Jew and Gentile alike) have been made one in Christ. However, a group of scriptures that weighs tremendously on the whole concept of this book is found in Hebrews 2:14 and 15, and it should be read at this point:
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death, (Hebrews 2:14, 15, NIV). [We will be discussing these two verses at great length in a future chapter, but since we are citing scriptures that make reference to persecutions, sufferings and tribulation, the author felt it would be profitable for called out ones to read these now. Underline and bold by author, solely for emphasis]

As we move forward concerning the expected tribulations that called out ones will experience, we now examine the Book of Hebrews. The author of Hebrews first mentions the subject of persecution in Chapter 11:24 as he discusses the tribulations that Old Testament called out ones experienced due to their faith, in particular, Moses the Law Giver:

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward, (Hebrews 11:24-26, NIV). [Underline and bold is by the author, solely for emphasis]

The author of Hebrews goes on to graphically describe some of the atrocities that the called out ones, God’s ecclesia, have suffered for their faith in Messiah throughout history:

Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37 They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated – 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground, (Hebrews 11:35-38, NIV). [Bold and underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]

The author of Hebrews concludes Chapter 11 by stating that these believers, although suffering much for their faith in the Messiah, entered not into the Promised Land, because God had a better plan:

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40 God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect, (Hebrews 11:39, 40, NIV). [Bold and underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]

In Chapter 12, the author of Hebrews cites a unique verse indicating that the called out ones potentially will suffer (to the point of shedding blood), and he commences to tell the ecclesia one of the reasons why:

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lords’ discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone He accepts as a son.” 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8 If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it, (Hebrews 12:4-11, NIV). [Underline and bold is by the author, solely for emphasis]

The author has provided a small clue in these scriptures to reveal partly why Christians (during that intensified period of tribulation) will more than likely experience greater persecutions before the Lord returns. But, once again, this will be discussed in greater detail in another chapter. Nevertheless, it appears that the author of Hebrews is making some very boldly inspired statements concerning the suffering and hardship that awaits the ecclesia, even more so than exists today. He confirms this fact in Hebrews 13:13, which reaffirms the statements he had made before concerning the Christian’s sharing in the same sufferings that Jesus, Himself, bore:

Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. 14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the City that is to come, (Hebrews 13:13, 14, NIV). [Underline, bold by the author, solely for emphasis]

In the Book of James, it immediately continues where the book of Hebrews left off, concerning the trials and tribulations that are (and will increasingly continue) befalling the Christian:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, (James 1:2, NIV).

Once again, the same attitude that Paul had (one of rejoicing in his suffering) is identical to James’. James goes on to say, in great detail (as had Paul) what purpose these trials will eventuate:

Because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything, (James 1:3, 4, NIV). [Underline and bold is by the author, solely for emphasis]

The entire Book of James, for that matter, deals specifically with the enduring of trials and tribulations; but, more importantly, he explains the results. These also will be discussed in greater detail.

In 1 Peter, the author picks up where James left off and discusses in great detail the results of suffering. In 1 Peter, we see the author exhorting the Christian to not be found retaliating during these sufferings because there not only is a special purpose for them, he specifically states that the Christian was called for this very same purpose:

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow his steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 23 When they hurled their insults at him, He did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly, (1 Peter 2:21-23, NIV). [Underline and bold is by the author, solely for emphasis]

Once again, we will allow a sneak preview of why this suffering must occur as the author again reiterates that our attitude should be just like that of Jesus, be willing to face death as He did:

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin, (1 Peter 4:1 NIV). [Bold and underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]

In the following verse, we see Peter specifically telling the Christian that this suffering to come should not catch us by surprise:

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you, (1 Peter 4:12, NIV).

Once again, we remind the reader that this entire chapter has been devoted to citing those scriptures that specifically point out that the truly committed Christian must (and will) suffer for the name of Jesus Christ.

In 2 Peter, the author doesn’t dwell too much on the suffering aspect, but does exhort Christians to ensure (their) election by adding to their faith those qualities (goodness, knowledge of the word of God, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love) to prevent blindness and the forgetting that we have been cleansed from sin. As James said, As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead, (James 2:26, NIV).

Much of 2 Peter also deals with the judgments due to those that do not believe in Jesus, and the warnings to those that “scoff” as the Lord tarries. 2 Peter ends by once again exhorting the Christian to continue living holy and godly lives, being found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him until The Second Advent.

In the Book of 1 John, it discusses the word of life, walking in the light, warnings about antichrists (which are many and even now dwell amid the Christian community), believers being called the Children of God, and the love that we must have for one another. John does find place to remind the Christian that the world (non-believers) will hate us:

Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you, (1 John 3:13, NIV).

In verse 16, the author makes probably the most astounding statement about sacrificial death in the entire Bible, as he describes the true definition of the word love!

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers, (1 John 3:16, NIV). [Bold and underline by the author, solely for emphasis]

It is interesting to note that another similar verse in the Bible is also numbered 3:16, which probably describes the very same message as it applied to Jesus:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life, (John 3:16, KJV).

A coincidence? Possibly, but His (God’s) omniscient nature, which includes creating the world’s numbering system, the stars above and many other unknown facets that encompass this universe, which have not been fully revealed, yet stand ready to unveil the complete and unfathomable glory of God! [There are several books available that the author would recommend to the serious student of God’s revelations concerning these topics (stars and numbers), which include E. W. Bullinger’s Number in Scripture and Witness To The Stars]

In the Books of 2 John and 3 John, not much mention is made about suffering and tribulation; although in 2 John, the author does warn the ecclesia to be wary of losing what they have worked for. This should be of obvious concern to those who break off their connection to God, thereby incurring the imminent wrath to come.

In the Book of Jude, the main comments here are reserved for the unbelieving angelic beings that are presently bound for judgment on the Great Day, as examples of the fate due to those that believe not. However, the Book of Jude does exhort the called out ones to believe that the Lord is coming, and to be wary of “scoffers’ who will try to divide them away from the truth.

This particular chapter of our book, once again, has been specifically devoted to reacquaint the reader with the many verses that deal with the subject of suffering, hardship, persecution and tribulations that Christians will experience for holding to the testimony of Jesus Christ. Theorists and scoffers will respond by saying that these instances of affliction were solely accomplished in the persons of Paul and the other apostles in the early days of the Christian Movement. Some will say that these afflictions are not to be taken literally, that they merely represent the emotional and psychological trauma being experienced in this fast-paced society we live in. Some would even say that the words spoken of by Christ when He said “pick up your cross and follow me” are merely symbolic of what society today calls “everyday problems.” However, we intentionally cited all the passages that deal with suffering, affliction, hardship, persecution and tribulation for two special reasons. Number one, throughout all the books the author has read about the so-called Rapture, whether Pre-Trib, Mid-Trib or Post-Trib, very few have touched on the subject of the sufferings that Christians are destined for. Obviously, if a secret escape to heaven is what theorists believe scripture teaches, then not a single Christian has to worry about facing great tribulation before the Lord returns. However, it almost seems as if they (theorists) feared to tread on these heretofore mentioned subjects in fear of or at the expense of losing an audience that wishes not to be presented a doctrine that calls for these impending horrors; or, that to take such an unpopular position would be cause for expulsion from their respective position in the church community (See John 12:42). Or is it possible that theorists find it more profitable (financially and status wise) to avoid the subject of great tribulation, altogether?

The author is reminded of an incident he had with a pastor of a local church he attended for a short duration. When he showed him the evidence the author has presented in this book, he agreed with all of it, but told the author he couldn’t afford to share this with his congregation, solely in fear these truths would frighten his parishioners to the point they would flee his church.

As the author has stated throughout this book, the possibility of the Christian Church experiencing great tribulation is not a very popular position to take. However, and this is the second reason, if by chance, theorists, especially Pre-Trib and Mid-Trib advocates are wrong, and the Christian Church is not “caught up” to heaven before the Lord returns, it is crucial and essential that the Christian community be spiritually and emotionally prepared for that possibility, rather than resting solely on grace to deliver it from the persecutions that it is destined to experience. True! Christians are saved by grace (unmerited favor), and true, the called out ones are chosen from the very basic foundations of the world. However, to assume that this “grace” and “election” provides for the Christian some form of physical immunity from “great tribulation” by the soon-to-come wrath of the satanically imbued Beast, could possibly be the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on today’s Christian community. Unfortunately, the author might add, these unproven “Left Behind” Rapture doctrines are being preached by some of the most renowned and well-meaning scholars and evangelists the world has ever known.

This position (that the author takes) is an obvious minority point of view. But if the soothing Pre-Tribulation Rapture view is wrong, then what unexpected trials loom on the horizon for the Christian, especially those new babes in Christ? What incentive or motivation is being provided for those who have chosen rather to coast through their Christian experience by anticipating a secret pre-tribulation escape to heaven? How prepared for tribulation would those Christians be? Those who ignorantly say, “I have no need to fear tribulation, because Jesus is going to deliver me from this earth to heaven at any moment!”

The author will never forget when he came to Jesus on January 5, 1975. Later that year, a well-known scholar of prophesy set a Rapture date for early September of that same year, which caused many (including the author) to anxiously look up for an “any moment” removal from earth to heaven. The author spent that entire day on his knees, praying and singing Psalms to the Lord, looking up towards the clouds to see if he would be able to catch a mere glimpse of the Lord’s appearing. The author was in tears throughout the whole day, praying as hard as he could in an effort to more secure his being Raptured at His appearing. The author even called his pastor three or four times throughout the day to see if he was still at home, figuring that if he was still there, the Rapture had not come yet. The author’s family had become frightened by his actions, for a while, and then they became angry with him for yelling at them to also kneel and pray. Later their anger turned to laughter, seeing how ridiculous he must have appeared to them. But yet, he silently kept on praying and watching. The Rapture never came. Many years later, he prayerfully and quietly sat at his typewriter, with Bible, concordances and Greek and Hebrew dictionaries in hand, allowing the Holy Spirit to guide him through God’s word to reveal His truth, through an in-depth study. As he read and studied God’s word, as he dug deep through the Greek and Hebrew translations, God’s truth took on a more meaningful experience for the author, one that removed fear and doubts as to whether he will have to experience the greatly intensified times of tribulation spoken in God’s word. Whether the author is still alive or not before that appointed time, the love of Jesus, being ministered to him by His Holy Spirit, tells him that he has nothing to fear, regardless!

Dear reader, please go back and read those scriptures about persecution, trials, suffering and those especially that talk about the times of increasing tribulation. Read them again and again, and then ask the Holy Spirit to reveal it to your heart if these were not meant for you and me and all of God’s ecclesia.

Once again, this book has not been written by this author to bring fear to the Christian, but rather to put the word of God in perspective. The author believes this perspective is truth, a truth that also assures him that whether he is alive on this earth or not, when tribulation begins to increase with greater intensity, God’s word has assured him that he will be protected and rescued through God’s End-Times Passover!

Chapter 5
Tribulations in Revelation

Before we begin our examination of tribulation mentioned in the Book of Revelation, it must be mutually agreed by the reader and the writer whether this apocalyptic message from Jesus Christ Himself is meant solely for the Christian or, as some theorists purport, it is meant solely for the Jews and/or the genetic descendants of the 12 tribes of Israel. Let’s see if there exists any clues in the first few verses that will help us to make that determination.

At the beginning of the Book of Revelation, Chapter 1, verse 1, we see,

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him (John), to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John. [Parenthesis and underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]

Who are the servants Jesus speaks of in this verse? Are these servants the Jews who currently live in the Palestinian region we know today as the Jewish State of Israel, as many theorists contend? Are the messages contained within this great and awesome book intended solely for the descendants of the twelve tribes of genetic Israel? Is this message intended solely for the so-called Christian Church, as other theorists claim? Or is this message intended for all of God’s people of promise, the ecclesia? To find this answer, let’s do a brief research on the word servants and bondservants.

The Greek word for bondservant (same word for servant) is doulos which literally means to be someone’s slave or “in bondage.” Let’s see exactly what W. E. Vine has to say:
A. “DOULOS, an adjective, signifying ‘in bondage,’ Rom. 6:19 (neuter plural, agreeing with melee, members), is used as a noun, and as the most common and general word for “servant,” frequently indicating subjection without the idea of bondage, it is used
(a) of natural conditions, e.g., Matt. 8:9; 1 Cor. 7:21, 22 (1st part); Eph. 6:5; Col. 4:1; 1 Tim.6:1, frequently in the four Gospels; (b) metaphorically of spiritually, moral and ethical conditions: servants (1) of God, e.g., Acts 16:17; Tit. 1:1; 1 Pet. 2:16; Rev. 7:3; 15:3; the perfect example being Christ Himself, Phil. 2:7; (2) of Christ, e.g., Rom. 1:1; 1 Cor. 7:22 (2nd part); Gal. 1:10; Eph. 6:6; Phil. 1:1; Col. 4:12; Jas. 1:1; 2 Pet. 1:1; Jude 1; (3) of sin, John 8:34 (R.V., “bond-servants”); Rom. 6:17, 20; (4) of corruption, 2 Pet. 2:19 (R.V., “bondservants’); cp. the verb douloo.
B. SUNDOULOS, a fellow servant, is used (a) of natural conditions, Matt. 18:28, 29, 31, 33; 24:49; (b) of servants of the same Divine Lord, Col. 1:7; 4:7; Rev. 6:11; of angels, Rev. 19:10, 22:9.

The verb DOULOO means to enslave, to bring into bondage (akin to A, No. 1), e.g., 1 Cor. 9:19, R.V., “I brought (myself) under bondage (to all),” A.V., “I made myself servant,” denotes in the Passive Voice, to be brought into bondage, to become a slave or servant, rendered ‘ye became servants (of righteousness)” in Rom. 6:18; “being…become servants (to God,” ver. 22. See BONDAGE, 8., No.2.” (W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary Of Biblical Words, Thomas Nelson Publishers, pages 1019, 1020)

Doulous is the same Greek word that is used to define the “slaves” in the parable of the king who sent out his servants to call those who had been invited to the famed wedding feast found in Matthew 22:1-14. It is the same word used of Paul and his fellow apostles in Acts 16:17, Titus 1:1; 1Peter 2:16, but not necessarily the same word used to describe a fellow-servant (sundoulous) of natural conditions (Matthew 18:28). But yet, it has the same meaning that describes Jesus, Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant (doulos), being made in human likeness, (Philippians 2:6,7, NIV). [Parenthesis and underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]

According to the above interpretations, it appears that the Book of Revelation is truly intended for those who are Christ’s slaves, servants, chosen, elect, etc., in particular, those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, those who are one of more in a collective group of believers known as true members of God’s ecclesia. The author is quite certain that most scholars (except dispensationalists), and the majority of those claiming to be born again believers, wholeheartedly agree with and accept the fact that the Book of Revelation was written to God’s ecclesia, for the purpose of prophesying what takes place before, during and after the Lord returns at His second advent.

Revelation, this great, awesome book, at times extremely difficult to understand by many, has been studied, written about, preached about, revered, purged, deleted, added to, stomped on and cast to and fro these many centuries since its original writing. Many Bible scholars, and novice theologians, too, have postulated a myriad of theories and conclusions to its messages. Thousands of books, articles and many other materials have been written about the Book of Revelation, that currently fill thousands of libraries, churches and homes throughout the world, all containing varying interpretations. But, yet, it is not reported that anyone has deciphered and discerned this great book to the degree it can be viewed by mankind with any specific conclusion that would pass canonical muster. But yet, many people (scholars, theologians, Bible students, preachers, evangelists, scientists and even some self-proclaimed prophets, many on the internet, especially) make claim they know the answers to what exactly the entire book entails, and have even formulated specific time frames to the prophecies contained therein.

How arrogant and egotistically perverse for any one person (or persons) to make claim to understanding Revelation in its totality, much less even understanding it in general. Yet, many theories abound, many in recent times, by theorists who conveniently interpret and use certain portions of the Book of Revelation as biblical evidence it contains conclusive proof the Christian Church will be secretly caught up to heaven anywhere from three and a half to seven years before The Second Advent. Let’s examine some of those myths and conclusions many make about the Book of Revelation, and maybe we can glean some information and wisdom from this great book that will provide greater clarification.

First of all, after exhaustively reading and studying the Book of Revelation for over twenty five years, as well as the works of many other (old and recent) authors who have written about the Apocalypse, the author has concluded that it is not a chronologically time frame developed or presented work, as many theorists claim. This should be obvious even to the novice student of the Bible. For example, in Chapter 15, we see in verse 1, seven angels who had seven plagues, which are the last, because in them the wrath of God are finished, (Revelation 15:1, NASB). Hal Lindsey, in his book The Rapture, states that this verse is definitive proof that in Chapter 15, the seven plagues are over. Yet, in the 16th, 17th and 18th chapters of Revelation we see a variety of plagues and wrath mentioned. We also see in Chapter 21, verse 9, where John still sees one of the seven angels who has the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues, came and spoke with John to show him the bride, the wife of the Lamb. If Mr. Lindsey concludes that the seven plagues are over in Chapter 15, why is it that we see the seven bowls still full of the last plagues in Chapter 21, verse 9? This is just one of many such examples of the skewing and twisting of scripture by theorists to pad their secret pre-tribulation escape to heaven theories.

If examined carefully, from a chronological perspective, we can see (by virtue of the symbol-laden manner that Revelation is presented) that it is not laid out in any historically dated or sequential fashion; but, rather, what we can see is that the Apocalypse is a series of visions that have been presented to John. Nothing in this book is presented in any dated fashion, as if Chapter 1 represents the beginning of a specific time period and Chapter 2 continues that time chronology all the way to Chapter 22. There is, however, a beginning and an end to it. In the beginning, we see the author (the Lord Jesus Christ) addressing John and stating specifically to whom He is addressing these great messages. If we may, let’s momentarily jump over to several verses in the last Chapter (22:10-17), where we see John being addressed by an angel, a fellow servant, who tells John to not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near (vs. 10). Let’s read this group of scriptures carefully, then we will ask a very important question:

Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. 11 Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.” 12 “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. 14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the City. 15 Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. 16 I, Jesus have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” 17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whomever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life, (Revelation 22:10-17, NIV). [Bold and underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]

In verses 10 and 11, we see the angel speaking to John about not sealing the words of the prophecy of the book and telling John to let people continue in their ways. In verses 12 and 13, the angel is no longer speaking to John but we do see a parenthetical exhortation directly from the Lord concerning the Christian’s reward and the Lord’s reiteration of His true nature. Then in verse 14 and 15, we see Jesus continuing an obvious spiritual exhortation concerning the washing of our robes, and about those who never will be allowed access to the “Tree of Life.” In verse 16, we see another exhortation from Jesus confirming that it is He who has sent His “angel to testify to you (John and all believers) these things for the churches.” This clearly states that from the beginning to the end of this great book, Revelation is intended to be read, adhered to and believed upon by the totality of the ecclesia, which is comprised of all believers! This also clearly indicates that the some of the messages paint pictures of events past and many that have not yet been fulfilled! Considering that the Book of Revelation was written about two thousand years ago, and that obviously the ecclesia has not been caught up to have that meeting in the air with Jesus Christ, there is no way that we could currently see the church in heaven, even if were to concede that it were the Bride of the Lamb. This fact brings up a very important and extremely interesting aspect in a verse of scripture cited so far, which is found in verse 17. Let’s read it again:

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. (Revelation 22:17, NIV). [Bold is by the author, solely for emphasis]

This scripture should be of extreme importance to Pre-Tribulation escape theorists, in particular, those who advocate the theory that the Christian Church will be caught up before the so-called Great Tribulation and goes to heaven to be with the Lord to participate (supposedly as the bride) in the great wedding mentioned in Revelation 19:7, 8. If we are to accept their theory that the Christian Church already has escaped the tribulation because the word “church” is not mentioned after Chapter 3:22, as Lindsey, Walvoord, et al claim, how can they conclude that the Christian Church is seen as the Bride in Revelation 22: 17.? If the exhortation in this particular verse is spoken in context as part of John’s concluding narrative, which (at the time John wrote Revelation) was an exhortation to the ecclesia currently on earth, how can theorists explain the Bride being mentioned in Revelation 22:17? More importantly, if the warning by the angel (at this juncture) to John is a message intended for the Christian Church, why is it we see in verse 17 the spirit and the bride (supposedly the church) extolling this “Come” exhortation to the bondservants, whom we now know are none other than God’s ecclesia? Are theorists telling us that at this juncture (when John was writing down the visions of the Book of Revelation) that the Christian Church (supposedly the bride) was already in heaven?

The first three chapters are the beginning of the Revelation narrative, prior to John’s deliverance of the letters to the seven churches, and prior to the beginning of John’s visions, which don’t begin until Chapter 4. The ending of the Revelation narrative is found to continue again at Revelation 22:8, where John states that he is “the one who heard and saw these things (vs. 8).” From verse 8 to verse 21, John is not experiencing visions anymore; he is now providing the concluding narrative of the accounts of all the visions he saw. In his final message (vs. 10-21), John is not documenting the end of history of the world, as if all these things had already come to pass, he is now concluding the narrative of the Book of Revelation (including several exhortations by Jesus in verses 12, 13, 15); and the conclusion of this narrative includes a message from the spirit and the bride to the ecclesia, which say “Come.” If this narrative includes and sees the spirit and the bride (which theorists postulate is the church) exhorting the Christian bondservants to “come,” how can theorists conclude that the Christian Church is the Bride of the Lamb? Are theorists claiming that part of the Christian Church (as the Bride) was already in heaven when the angel gave John the visions, and was then extolling them the message to come and partake the water of life for those who thirst (who are members of the church) to “Come?” The verse immediately before this profound statement (And the spirit and the Bride say come) clearly tells us to whom this message is intended for:

I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.17 And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely, Revelation 22:16-17, KJV). [Bold and underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]

Once again, if the message contained in the Book of Revelation is intended for the bondservants (another name for those who comprise the ecclesia), and the Christian Church is supposed to be seen by theorists in the book only through Chapter 3, and then raptured between the end of Chapter 3 and before the beginning of Chapter 5, how can the Bride (supposedly the Christian Church) already be seen (supposedly in heaven) alongside the Spirit in verse 17 of Chapter 22, urging the Christian Church to “Come”? How can we see the ecclesia (supposedly the Bride) being spoken of in this verse, which is the ending part of John’s narrative in the Book of Revelation?

Also, for those who claim that the Christian Church is the City of God, how can this city (supposedly the church) be viewed as being in heaven and at the same time called out ones are on earth looking for a city that is to come down from heaven (Hebrews 13:14)? As we stated before, the Bride of the Lamb is not the Christian Church, but rather, it is the Holy City of God, New Jerusalem, the present dwelling of God, which will descend when He returns, as it is so beautifully stated in Hebrews 13:14:

For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the City that is to come, (Hebrews 13:14, NIV). [Bold and underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]

If the wrath, plagues, vials and all the other horrors prophesied in the Book of Revelation (after Chapter 3) are painting only a picture of punishment due solely for the unsaved, and, as theorists contend, will also include a special wrath program for Jacob’s descendants and/or unrepentant Jews, those members of the tribe of Judah from the genetic Israel nation, then Christians should rip Revelation out of the Bible and toss it to the wind. Why would they need to read it if it didn’t pertain to them? If, however, the totality of Revelation is intended for the called out ones, who are in fact joint heirs in the promises made to faith-believing Israel, it is then the most important message of our day, one that should quicken our hearts not to fear, but to rejoice in the knowledge that God will not only rescue His “bondservants,” but protect them from the wrath that will rain on all of those who rejected His gift of salvation. If a pre-tribulation escape to heaven appears remote or unlikely, the called out ones need not be saddened; rather, they should be rejoicing as did Paul, Peter, Stephen and the millions of other bondservants who “ran the good race” and brought many more lost souls to the fold with an attitude of boldness!

The totality of the Book of Revelation, as stated earlier, is an awesome array of symbolic clusters that provide much insight to past, present and the future, and of tribulation, judgments and visions of God’s wrath. Unfortunately, too many scholars and theorists (in vain attempts) have tried to pinpoint times and dates, persons and places and events with little success in consistency and continuity. Since there is no mutually agreed doctrine concerning the book of Revelation by the totality of Christendom, it is safe to conclude that no one person (or doctrinal camp) has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt as to when, where, how and what exactly is going to happen. Conversely, there is one continuously resounding theme that is extolled throughout the Bible concerning times and epochs: Therefore keep watch, because you do not know what day your Lord will come, (Matthew 24:42, NIV). Yet, very reassuring, in 1 Thessalonians 5, the called out ones are reminded that they will not be caught off guard regardless of what happens, especially concerning the Day of the Lord:

Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, (1 Thessalonians. 5:1-9, NIV). [Bold and underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]

It is at this point that we feel required to reiterate the difference between God’s wrath and the so-called period of great tribulation. Theorists contend that the phrase great tribulation mentioned in Matthew 24:21, 29 and Revelation 7:14 will include all of God’s wrath (vials, bowls, etc.) predicted throughout the Book of Revelation; therefore, if the church is not appointed to wrath, it therefore must mean it has been caught up to heaven to escape this so-called seven year ordeal. Theorists contend that the entire seven-year duration that supposedly encompasses the so-called Great Tribulation will be filled with God’s entire wrath, a wrath they also call the great tribulation.

Let’s examine these two words closely. First of all, the word wrath (according to Webster) means 1: strong vengeful anger or indignation 2: retributory punishment for an offense or a crime: divine chastisement. Secondly, the word tribulation (according to Webster) means: distress or suffering resulting from oppression or persecution; also: a trying experience.

Therefore, if we are to understand clearly the words used in the Bible, when God begins to punish the unjust, the Bible does not use the word tribulation to describe His indignation, it uses the word wrath. Rightly written, when God pours out His wrath on the unjust, He will not be oppressing or persecuting, or even trying (testing) the unrepentant. No! He will be punishing them with a strong and vengeful anger. When the man of lawlessness is trying to beat down the ecclesia, he is obviously bent on oppressing and persecuting the called out ones, who will be totally distressed and in a great state of suffering. In other words, God pours out vengeful wrath on the unjust for their disobedience, but the son of perdition oppresses and persecutes the called out ones solely because they are God’s ecclesia! Therefore, to interchangeably use both words wrath and tribulation (as if they meant the same thing) when speaking about the so-called Great Tribulation, is definite proof that theorists carelessly and erroneously use the words of God to conveniently promote their mythologies. Not only do they promote their secret tribulation escape to heaven mythologies from a foolish exegetical perspective, but also deviate from a sound grammatical perspective.

In verse 9 of 1 Thessalonians 5, it specifically states: For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. If we are to believe that God’s wrath (the various plagues, vials, bowls and trumpets mentioned throughout the Book of Revelation) should be interpreted to mean the same thing as the tribulations that the ecclesia is destined to experience, then we Christians (especially theorists) have failed to interpret God’s wrath (and words) correctly. Verse 9 specifically states that we are not destined for wrath; however, throughout the Bible, a myriad of scriptures state that Christians will experience great tribulation. The various plagues, vials, bowls and trumpet judgments are not (nor ever were) intended for God’s called out ones, but rather, for the unbeliever.

Theorists keep pounding and pounding their bully pulpit beliefs that there will be a seven year period of wrath called The Great Tribulation, and they envision all of the plagues, vials, bowl judgments they see throughout the entire book of Revelation as being prevalent throughout that so-called Great Tribulation period. They base this seven year period on their interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27, which ostensibly predicts that the Beast will strike a covenant for seven years with the geopolitical leadership of national Israel (whom they identify solely as the Jews from the Jewish State of Israel), then (after three and a half years of peace and safety) the Beast (or antichrist) breaks the covenant and begins to wreak havoc solely on Jews for three and a half years before Jesus returns at The Second Advent. They believe that since this seven year period is designed solely to punish the Jews for turning their back on God, then there is no way the Christian Church can be seen on earth during those seven years, therefore it will have been caught up to heaven, participating in a great wedding, while all hell breaks loose here on earth. Sadly, theorists deny God’s glory by not believing He has the power to protect His preaching ecclesia even if there was a full seven-year period of wrath, (See 2 Peter 2:9).

Nonetheless, there is no scriptural evidence whatsoever that the ecclesia, God’s called out ones, will be removed from earth immediately before the man of lawlessness commences to war against the called out ones of God. On the contrary, as the author believes he has presented sufficient scripture to negate this premise, God’s ecclesia will remain on earth, gloriously preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, while experiencing the intensified persecutions by the man of lawlessness and his anti-Christian forces, until The Second Advent!

If the scriptures clearly state the called out ones will remain on earth during this horrific period, theorists somehow can’t get their stories straight concerning this matter, because they keep pounding their pulpits incessantly that the ecclesia is already in heaven before the so-called Great Tribulation. Yet, in Revelation 7:14 they see (and identify) a group of saints arrayed in white robes who supposedly came out of that so-called Great (seven year) Tribulation period. On one hand they claim these saints in 7:14 were raptured to heaven (that’s how they came out of great tribulation) and on the other hand they confuse their adherents when they continue their mythologies by stating these tribulation saints spoken of in Revelation 7:14 are those Jews (or other gentiles who didn’t make it in the Rapture), but rather were converted to Christ during the so-called Great (seven year) Tribulation. Theorists can’t have it both ways. Either the saints (and all called out ones are saints) in Revelation 7:14 are on earth during their so-called Great Tribulation period, or they are in heaven. Actually, they are wrong on both counts. The mention of saints in 7:14 is not picturing a scene in heaven solely because these saints are before the throne of God. Most certainly they serve Him day and night before His throne and in His temple; but this service is an earthly scene because they are serving Him who is dwelling among them on earth. What we see in Revelation 7:14 is identical to what we see in Matthew 25:31-34, which is clear proof that it’s an earthly scene:

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left, (Matthew 25:31-34, KJV). [Bold and underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]

This is an earthly scene, not a heavenly one. Theorists insist this is a heavenly scene primarily because it is quoted in the Book of Revelation. As we demonstrated in Chapter 13 (A Thousand Years) regarding Revelation 20:4, we explained who John truly saw seated on the throne, and it was not the souls of those who were beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus, and because of the word of God, and did not worship the beast. What we saw was Christ sitting on His throne and judgment was given to him!

Revelation 20:4 speaks solely about the vindication of these souls who have been martyred throughout history, not their resurrection. Those we see in Revelation 7:14 are the totality of all the risen saints, after The Resurrection, standing before the throne of God. This is an earthly scene. Revelation 7:14 is speaking about the entirety of called out ones who throughout history also experienced great tribulation at the hands of antichristian forces. This is proven by the fact mentioned in a preceding verse in this Chapter, verse 9:

After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands, (Revelation 7:9, KJV). [Bold and underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]

Who comprises this great multitude, which no man could number of all nations and kindreds and people and tongues, who stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands, that are mentioned in Revelation 7:9? Are they only those who repented due to God’s wrath during the so-called Great Tribulation? It surely is not talking about the 144,000, which are identified in verses 3 to 8 as coming from the twelve tribes of Israel. This great multitude in verse 9 is identified as coming from every nation, tribe, people and language, and it is a throng so large no man could number. Verse 14 answers the question:

And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, these are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, (Revelation 7:14, KJV). [Bold and underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]

Revelation 7:14, does not state that those who washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb came out of The Great Tribulation, but out of great tribulation. There is no article before great tribulation in this verse. The saints in 7:14 are not a select portion of God’s ecclesia in heaven that supposedly were Raptured seven years before the Lord returns to earth. Nor are they a select group of the ecclesia that came out of great tribulation (implying a departure to heaven after death) immediately before or during the so-called Great Tribulation. Revelation 7:14 is painting a picture of all of the righteous saints that have died throughout history! It includes those who will be alive and awaiting the Parousia of Christ, who will be changed (along with those who sleep in Christ) and caught together to have a meeting in the air with the Lord, to escort Him back to earth, and will be standing before His glorious throne on earth! Those in white garments (in Revelation 7:14) are all of those who throughout history have suffered and endured great persecutions for their belief in a coming savior. Regardless of the persecutions or tribulations these called out ones experienced throughout history, they placed their faith and trust in their Messiah! This particular vision John the revelator saw is a picturing all of God’s children, who throughout history died and or suffered for (and in) their faith of their savior. This speaks of the redeemed throughout history who are now standing before the throne of their Messiah, Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God!

Verse 17 (of Revelation 7) clearly states that these (in white robes) will be led to springs of living waters, the very same “living waters” we see in Revelation 21:6 (the spring of the water of life) and in Ezekiel 47:1-9, which provides the fruit (which) will serve for food and their leaves for healing. This is the same “fruit” spoken of in Revelation 22:2, of which “the water of life” in verse 1 provides irrigation to the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. This is talking about the Holy City of God and the Tree of Life described in Revelation 22:19, that warns that anyone who adds anything to this book will lose their share: And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book, (Vs. 19). This is the same Holy City of God we see that comes down to earth at The Second Advent, as spoken in Revelation 22:1-3. This is an earthly scene, not one in heaven!

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.” They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God, (Revelation 21:1-3, NIV).

As we presented in Chapter 15 (Jesus Christ Is Our Lord And Our God), the same picture painted in Ezekiel, Chapters 40 through 48, is not one of a restored Jewish geopolitical nation called Israel in the Palestinian region in the Middle East, as theorists postulate. This is the prophetic picture of the true Promised Land, the New Holy City of Jerusalem! The new home of all the called out ones, spending an eternity with God! The following two chapters in Ezekiel describe the apportionment of territories to faith-believing Israel in the true Promised Land, New Jerusalem, the soon-to-come earth-based dwelling of God. And we know this to be the truth because God will be dwelling with mankind on earth. He will be there with us:

This is the land you are to allot as an inheritance to the tribes of Israel, and these will be their portions," declares the Sovereign LORD. 30 "These will be the exits of the City: Beginning on the north side, which is 4,500 cubits long, 31 the gates of the city will be named after the tribes of Israel. The three gates on the north side will be the gate of Reuben, the gate of Judah and the gate of Levi. 32 "On the east side, which is 4,500 cubits long, will be three gates: the gate of Joseph, the gate of Benjamin and the gate of Dan. 33 "On the south side, which measures 4,500 cubits, will be three gates: the gate of Simeon, the gate of Issachar and the gate of Zebulun. 34 "On the west side, which is 4,500 cubits long, will be three gates: the gate of Gad, the gate of Asher and the gate of Naphtali.35 "The distance all around will be 18,000 cubits. “And the name of the city from that time on will be: THE LORD IS THERE,” (Ezekiel 48:29-35, NIV). [Bold, caps and underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]

Once again, if read in context of what the Old Testament prophecies portray, what we are seeing in Ezekiel 37 through 48 is a picture of The Resurrection and the beginning of the eternal reign of Jesus Christ on earth. This is not a picture of a country restored solely for Jews by Jesus (before His return) in the Middle East community of Palestine, today being called the Jewish State of Israel. God did not set His sanctuary in the State of Israel in 1948! God does not have His tabernacle there! These chapters in Ezekiel describe in detail exactly what is seen fulfilled in the last two chapters of Revelation. Therefore, what we are seeing in Chapter 7 of Revelation is not a gathering of a select group of (Great Tribulation) martyrs before the throne of God in heaven, but rather, it’s a gathering of all of the called out ones throughout history (who washed their garments and made them white in the blood of the Lamb), who now are before the throne of God in the New Jerusalem, the Holy City of God, right here on earth:

Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them, they will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away, (Revelation 21:3, 4 NIV). [Underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]

Nowhere in Chapter 7 is it mentioned that this scene occurs in heaven. What we are seeing here is but one of the visions that John saw, but nowhere does John imply that this scenario should be viewed in heaven. Even if we were to place this vision in a chronological order (which we don’t believe is the case), the preceding vision that John had seen involved the sealing of the 144,000, which is an obvious earthly scene: Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the servants of our God, (Revelation 7:3, NIV). These white-robed called out ones are not the Raptured Christian Church or tribulation saints in heaven, but rather, they are all of God’s children from throughout history (who by faith trusted in the returning Messiah) and who are standing before His glorious throne, on earth!

In this group is included a myriad of called out ones who were martyred throughout history and those who are immediately martyred preceding the Lord’s return. The martyrs did not die due to God’s wrath, but rather, they “overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death, (Revelation 12:11, NIV). These also are not Jews who were converted to Jesus by virtue of God inflicting a vengeful wrath; these represent a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, (Revelation 7:9, NIV). This numberless throng includes all of those who died believing in the Messiah before He arrived (the first time) in the person of Jesus Christ, all of those who died after Jesus was resurrected and ascended to heaven, and it will include all of the called out ones who will be martyred during the reign of the man of lawlessness. When Revelation 7:14 says that “These are they who have come out of great tribulation (there is no article before great tribulation), it is not speaking about a specific group of people (supposedly only Jews or tribulation saints) who were so severely tormented by God’s wrath (until they repented) during a seven-year period of tribulation, as theorists claim. But, rather, they are those who throughout all of history (including those who did experience martyrdom for believing in the Messiah) who washed their robes white by believing in the Lamb of God, who paid for their sins by the shedding of His blood, and by the word of their testimony.

Also (and extremely important), are we to believe that there is a difference between those who were martyred for Christ throughout history and those who will be martyred during the so-called times of great tribulation that will ensue immediately before He returns? Are we to believe that those who have been martyred throughout history, such as the prophets and patriarchs, and Paul, Stephen, Peter, et al, did not wash their robes white in the blood of the lamb? Only those martyred during the so-called seven-year Great Tribulation period receive white garments?

Theorists make claim this throne scene in Revelation 7:14 surely could not include those martyred throughout history before Jesus paid the price for sin at Calvary, claiming redemption was not fulfilled before this time. Who is Jesus Christ, if not the Messiah foretold by all the prophets from Abraham up to John the Baptist? The entire Old Testament is filled with prophecies of the coming Messiah. All faith believers, from Job, Abraham to Moses to David and all the prophets knew and foretold about the coming Messiah, resurrection glory, and the true Promised Land, which is the Holy City of God! The entire Chapter of Hebrews 11, especially, speaks about the faithful who were seeking a better country, a heavenly city that was to come, which would be fulfilled through Messiah. Certainly, most of national Israel failed to recognize what the prophets of old were prophesying about; most did not recognize their anticipated Messiah in their midst in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the same Messiah that the great faith-believing cloud of witnesses (in Hebrews 11) was placing their faith in.

Once again, there is no article seen before the words great tribulation in either Revelation 7:14 and Matthew 24:21. Therefore, theorist cannot postulate that this is speaking about a specific (seven year) period of time, immediately before the Lord’s return. Revelation 7:4 speaks about all of those who washed their robes white in the blood of the Lamb, throughout history! Before the Lord returns, tribulation will increase like never before, especially based on the fact that Satan will be loosed for a short season. Knowing that his time is short, he will give his power to the man of lawlessness to persecute and kill as many of God’s called out ones as he can, in one last desperate attempt to thwart God’s plan of rescuing those whose faith and trust lay in their Messiah!

Does this not tell us that many called out ones have been placing their lives on the line throughout history for the Messiah, and that many more will indeed be martyred for believing in the Christ, as times of tribulation will continue to intensify immediately before The Second Advent? Does this not also tell us that many Christians, who find themselves fearful and squeamish about the possibility that they also may be martyred for Christ, have reasons to question the degree of their commitment to Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God? Have we truly committed ourselves to the reality that (in the very near future) we may be faced with the possibility and the occasion of having to choose between life and death, for Christ? Unfortunately, a great throng of Christians are basing their ‘blessed hope’ solely on a soothing secret pre-tribulation escape to heaven doctrine that speaks only about being rescued from intensified persecutions at the hands of the great man of lawlessness before Christ returns. If, by even the remotest chance, the secret pre-tribulation Rapture theory is not a scriptural fact, what will these worrisome Christians do? Are they spiritually, emotionally and physically prepared to stand up and be counted? Or will they, like the apostle Peter did, deny Christ once, twice, maybe even three times? Will they crumble under the pressure of having to make such a major decision in an effort to avoid such great tribulation? Are you prepared to surrender all, even your life, for Christ?

What Church Escapes Tribulation?
The author would like state, at this point, that it appears that the seven churches mentioned in the Book of Revelation are symbolic composites of the differing personalities, doctrinal precepts and ecumenical diversities that have been evident in and continue to portray the Christian community throughout history. There probably exists a greater and deeper meaning in the letters of exhortation to these respective churches. Nevertheless, the messages contained therein surely can be applied to any existing congregation that professes an allegiance to God. But, suffice it to say, the author will merely share the initial messages he gleaned from reading them.

Since we don’t see at this juncture of Revelation the churches being removed yet, the only logical conclusion we can make is that the following exhortations are intended for members of God’s ecclesia, the called out ones of Jesus Christ, regardless of their respective denominations. If each of these seven churches represents a specific congregation of the past, now existing or that will be present during the period of great distress, the Christian community then is presently at a loss for discerning which specific denominations are to receive the messages that are contained in the first three chapters. The author will make no attempts to identify which named church can be compared to any existing denomination. Many churches today make claim that theirs is the Church of Philadelphia (the one that escapes “the hour of trial”); however, it is yet to be proven that any such denomination is walking in the total holiness, purity and courage that God requires of it or as the apostles strived for. Nevertheless, the author believes these profound messages of exhortation to these seven churches are applicable to any denomination that claims to be part of the body of Christ.

In the letter to the angel of the church in Ephesus, we see a group that has worked hard, persevered and tolerated not the wicked men who claimed to be apostles. They endured hardships for the name of Jesus and did not grow weary. However, they have forsaken their first love, which was that youthful newfound love for God that required no reward. Just being in love with Him was sufficient (See Jeremiah 2:2); and, with the increase of lawlessness, men’s hearts grew cold, (See Matthew 24:12). The warning here is that failure to repent will result in the removal of their Lampstand. By the way, the word “Lampstand” here means “one of the seven Churches” (Revelation 1:20).

In the letter to the angel of the church in Smyrna, we see the Lord exhorting this group that there are some members who cling to legalistic customs (they say they are Jews and are not) which the Lord sees as originating from satanic influences. To the true believer (those who are being afflicted and are impoverished), Jesus reminds them that they are rich, in the sense that they belong to Him. But nevertheless, He continues to offer them assurance, although the devil will put some of them in prison to test them, suffer persecution and even death. But, Jesus reminds them that being faithful, even to the point of death, will result in those called out ones receiving the crown of life.

To the angel of the church of Pergamum, the Lord acknowledges that although the called out ones are in the world (which is ruled by Satan, the prince of the power of the air), they are holding true to the name of Jesus in the face of death. Yet the Lord also knows that some in this congregation still hold to certain forms of idolatry and customs that go contrary to the nature of Christ. His exhortation (to him who overcomes) is to continue to hold on and they will receive some of the hidden manna. W. E. Vine says, “the hidden manna is promised as one of the rewards of the overcomer (Revelation 2:17); it is suggestive of the moral excellence of Christ in His life on earth, hid from the eyes of men, by whom He was ‘despised and rejected’ the path of the overcomer is a reflex of His life.” However, “the hidden manna” appears to signify more of an aid to the ecclesia during times of tribulation. George Eldon Ladd, in his, A Commentary of the Revelation of John, cites verses from Exodus 16:32-34 that paint a possible explanation of the preserving aspect of manna for Israel:

Hidden manna: Probably John’s thought is drawn to the manna because of the allusion to Balaam in whose time Israel was being fed with manna. Hebrew tradition held that a pot of manna was preserved in the ark (Exod. 16:32-34; Heb. 9:4), and when the temple was destroyed, Jeremiah (11 Macc. 2:4ff.) or an angel (Apoc. Baruch 6:5-10) rescued the ark with the manna, and they were miraculously preserved until the messianic times, when the manna would become once again food for God’s people. John uses the idea metaphorically to indicate admission of the messianic feast, which is elsewhere called the marriage supper of the Lamb (19:9). The manna is referred to as hidden, perhaps because it was hidden in a pot of gold and ‘laid up before God” (Exod. 16:23); or else because it is thought of as hidden now in the presence of God but destined to be revealed in the messianic age. (George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary of the Revelation of John, Eerdmans, Pub. Co. Grand Rapids, MI 1972)

More importantly, the hidden manna is a perfect picture of how Jesus Christ will provide preservation during perilous times, Him being “the bread of life.” In Revelation 23, the redeemed are seen eating from the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, but no mention of manna is made, much less “hidden manna.” Therefore it could make sense to identify the “hidden manna” mentioned to the church in Pergamum as the living Word of Christ, through and in the person of the Holy Spirit. While the unbelieving world is fraught with fear as to how it will survive, and making them prime candidates to receive the mark of the Beast, the called out ones will not need to acquiesce to the mark because the Lord will provide the ecclesia with both a spiritual and tangible sustenance through “the hidden manna.”

It could very well be that during this time of great crisis and persecution, the need for food will not be a factor for the called out ones, but merely the word of God will suffice. The author believes that one of God’s words provide for us confirmation concerning this aspect. E. W. Bullinger presents a revelatory fact about this heavenly bread, in his book, Number In Scripture. In his studies, concerning the cardinal number 1, he states that words which are mentioned only once in the Bible convey a more profound meaning than those mentioned twice, three times, etc. One of those words mentioned only once in the Bible, he says, is the word daily (Gr. epiousios, coming upon us), which is found in the Lord’s Prayer. He says when we pray “gives us this day our daily bread,” the word daily is not conveying our request for God to provide us our daily nourishment of food (which comes from the earth), which He already provides on a daily basis; but, rather, it conveys the receiving of the word of God (from above) on a daily basis:

We must expect this peculiar word of the Lord Jesus to have such a fullness in it that no one English word is able to express it. It qualifies the word “bread.” It is this bread, which is espiousios, i.e., coming upon us. It is not the bread which perisheth, but the heavenly bread which cometh down from heaven (John vi.32, 33), even Jesus the living Word of God. For “man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.” In other words, it is not the bread which cometh up from the earth which we ask our Father in this prayer, but it is the bread which cometh down from heaven, even Christ, the living word, and the scriptures, the written Word. By these alone, we truly live.” (E. W. Bullinger, Number In Scripture, page 76). [Italics by Bullinger; bold and underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]

Therefore, being in constant communion with (the word of) God, as walking in the spirit with the Lord at all times, appears will be the most important key to ensure that which will sustain the called out ones during the approaching times of great tribulation the ecclesia will face before The Second Advent. God provides great insights to His words, especially to the persons who diligently seek the deeper things of God.

Those who overcome (Gr. nikao, which means “mightiest prevail”) will also receive a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it. Ladd states that in the ancient world, white stones had a variety of uses, one signifying acquittal by jury (the black stone signifying condemnation) and the other usage was as a ticket of admission to a public festival, which here could be symbolizing admission to the messianic feast, which we believe the Bible clearly states will be held on earth.

To the angel of the church of Thyatira, the Lord acknowledges that this type of congregation is preserving in deeds, love, faith and service (that you are now doing more than you did at first); however, He says that a tolerance still exists for false religiosity and immoral customs. Those who still abide by these ways will suffer loss of children, but the Lord exhorts those who do not engage in these teachings, but remain in faith to Him, will not have to endure some of the impending trials. He exhorts the true believers to hold on to what they have (their faith solely in Jesus) until He comes. Those that abide in Him, and do His will until the end, will be given authority over the nations.

To the angel of the church in Sardis, the Lord is seen admonishing this congregation for its complacency. He rebukes them to “wake up!” This church is symbolic of many in the Christian community who weekly clock in for an hour or two and are content with the minimal involvement they feel is required to maintain their church membership status. But the Lord here exhorts these so-called church members to strengthen what little remains of their faith in God, and do the works He has ordained. He says that if they don’t wake up, His coming will catch them by surprise as the thief does to those who know not what time he comes. Yet, the Lord acknowledges that a few people have not soiled their garments, and these will walk with Him because they overcome the trials and tribulations during this awesome period. The Lord says he will never erase those names from the Book of Life because they have proven worthy during the time of trial.

To the angel in the church of Philadelphia, the Lord acknowledges this congregation as being faithful to the name of Jesus, even though their outward strength has dwindled from the persecutions. These are the called out ones who have endured patiently throughout their existence, keeping the command of the Lord. He tells them that they will not be victimized by the “hour of trial” that is going to come on the whole world for testing. He exhorts them to continue to hold on to what they have (faith in the Lord Jesus Christ) so no one will take their due reward, the crown of life. To those that overcome, the Lord will write on them the name of God and the name of His City, New Jerusalem, making them pillars in the Temple of God. Here we see the Lord “sealing” the true believers and granting them residency in New Jerusalem, which is coming down from heaven, from where God will forever more dwell with mankind on earth (Hebrews 13:14).

It is interesting to note that in the Lord’s message to the Church of Philadelphia, which is on earth, Jesus is promising this church that those who overcome He will write on them the name of God and the name of the city of His God, the New Jerusalem, which is coming down from heaven. Here, Jesus is telling these church (of Philadelphia) members that,

Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name, (Revelation 3:12, KJV).

Are we to believe that Jesus is telling these overcomers that they have to wait 1000 years later before they are made a pillar in the Holy City of God, as theorists interpret Revelation 20:4 and Revelation 21:1-3? Moreover, if the name of the city of my God, which is New Jerusalem, is written on the overcomers (which are obviously members of the ecclesia), and if New Jerusalem is the bride (which theorists claim is the church) isn’t it odd that the name of the Bride is written on members of the church?

To the angel in the church of Laodicea, we see the Lord admonishing this congregation for their lackadaisical attitude toward Jesus, claiming to be rich in material wealth and not having any need for the saving grace of Jesus. The Lord here is showing this congregation that, without Christ, God sees a person as being wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. The Lord sees that these who have confidence in material goods are neither hot nor cold in their relationship with Him; therefore, He will spew them out of His mouth. But yet, the Lord counsels them that if they will buy gold refined in the fire, white garments to cover their nakedness and salve to put on their eyes to see, they can become rich in Christ. The salve as the oil representing the Holy Spirit, the white garments representing the salvation provided by Christ through His shed blood, and the refined gold a reminder that we need not fear the assaying trials called out ones will go through, a symbolic sign of the purification process that the ecclesia is going through, and will more so during the increasing times of tribulation. This is an evident eventuality, as we see in verse 19, where the Lord is telling the called out ones that His rebukes and disciplining action are a result of His love.

So far, we have avoided the subject of purification and purging because it will be covered in greater detail later on; however, we are spiritually quickened to provide a brief clue to this aspect of God’s overall redemption plan. In 1 Peter 4:1, we read:

Therefore, since Christ suffered in His body, arm yourselves also with this same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God, (1 Peter 4:1, NIV). [Bold and underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]

This verse becomes even more meaningful during the times of increasing tribulation, as we will see later on. At this juncture (in our search for scripture that addresses tribulation of the ecclesia), we will momentarily leave the Book of Revelation. However, in a future chapter, we will examine this book in greater detail to help identify scripture that definitely sees the church (or believers) experiencing great tribulation from the Satanically-empowered Beast before The Second Advent of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Our God. We will concede to theorists that the word “church” is not seen in the remaining chapters of Revelation; although, in Revelation 22:16, we see a parenthetical exhortation from Jesus once again stating that the entire book of Revelation is a testimony for the churches:

I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star, (Revelation 22:16, NIV).

This basically concludes our search through the New Testament for scripture that addresses trials and tribulations that clearly identify the ecclesia as recipient. As long and laboriously as it has been to read these chapters concerning the topic of “tribulation,” we felt it was necessary to cite these tribulation-related passages (very few theorists expound on this subject) to remind the called out ones that although a secret pre-tribulation escape to heaven is a favored doctrine, should the remotest possibility that the secret Rapture-to-heaven of the ecclesia will not be in store for believers, the reader cannot complain that the word of God did not forewarn His called out ones that “…. we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God, (Acts 14:22, KJV).”

Chapter 6
The Purpose for Tribulation!

In the last few chapters, we covered extensively those scriptural passages that deal with tribulation, trials, persecutions, etc., for the purpose of familiarizing our reader to a subject that many theorists choose to avoid while they build their secret pre-tribulation escape to heaven scenarios. Obviously they fail to address the subject of tribulation because it is their contention that the Christian Church will not experience persecution, in their staunch belief it will be removed from earth to heaven during the so-called Great Tribulation, therefore why even bother. But, God’s word clearly tells us that we must experience much tribulation to enter the Kingdom of God.

After reading all of these verses concerning tribulation, the reader is probably tossing hands in the air and hopelessly lamenting, “Why become a Christian? Who needs all that suffering?” Life is bad enough as it is, why program us to a belief system that includes having to accept the fact that horrors loom before those that believe in Jesus Christ?” Agreed! There is much validity in those questions, if viewed solely from a secular or humanist perspective. True! Why become a Christian if the only thing immediately in store is trials and tribulations, persecutions from non-believers, which may include family, friends, fellow church members and neighbors, and the distinct possibility that we might even end up having to die for the cause? “Besides,” say many Christians, “I thought that once I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I wasn’t going to have to suffer any longer as I did in the past, but rather, as a new Born Again believer, the next thing in store for me is an any-moment Rapture to heaven to be with Jesus Christ, at least for a 7-year period of time before He returns back to reign on earth!”

These questions and comments are valid, if a secret pre-tribulation escape to heaven is what the Bible clearly teaches. But if a pre-tribulation escape is not in store for the called out ones, then what purpose is served by the ecclesia having to experience great tribulation?

Let’s read two significant verses in the Bible to help us set the tone for this chapter. First, in John 3:16, Jesus is telling Nicodemus (and all mankind, too) that, For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life, (NIV). This one verse encapsulates the totality of God’s purpose for mankind and the manner in which He accomplished His reunification program for His creation.

Most Christians know the basic history of Adam and Eve, their fall in the Garden of Eden, their separation from God and the chronology thereafter. We then see in the Old Testament where God chose a special person (the Hebrew Abraham) and a group of people (Israel) as His entity to reveal Himself and to fellowship with His creation once again, as He had with Adam and Eve. But many of the chosen descendants of Abraham rebelled against the laws and rulers He had provided for their own protection, and heeded not His words sent forth through His prophets. But yet (by virtue of His omniscient nature), God had a plan of reunification with His called out ones from the very beginning of time, knowing full well that redemption would be needed. He chose to step down from His majestic abode in heaven and took the form of man, offering Himself (in the person of Jesus of Nazareth) as a propitiatory sacrifice to pay for the sins of the world. All He asks is that, by faith, we should believe in the person of Jesus Christ so as to not perish, but have eternal life and fellowship with the Creator of all things.

Throughout history, God continues to reach out to mankind to accept this gift of salvation, but His creation continues to rebel, thinking of themselves as gods, rather than accepting this precious gift. The natural man, skeptical and not understanding the things of God, laments: “If man is fallen, why doesn’t God simply wave His Almighty hand and remove all evil and restore His creation to Himself. Why doesn’t God simply speak (as He did when all things were created) and bring in everlasting peace?” The answer is found in 2 Peter 3:9, the second significant verse, which reads:

The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance, (2 Peter 3:9, NIV). [Bold and underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]

True! Those who have already come to the Lord by faith know and understand the reality of the Gospel. They know that the only way anyone can become reconciled to God is by faith, and by believing that Jesus Christ paid the price for their fallen state. But millions have yet to see (or accept) this reality. Even more so, as the Day of the Lord approaches, mankind in general and even many of those called out ones (who should be trusting in Jesus for all things) are being seduced by power, money, prestige, greed, lust and the satisfying of self, rather than seeking meaning for the true purpose of life. Rather than seeking reunification and fellowship with God (which was His original plan and purpose for mankind), humanity has charted its own course, one of self-destruction:

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ 29 Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone – an image made by man’s design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead, (Acts 17:24-31, NIV). [Underline and bold is by the author, solely for emphasis]

Two important verses in this group of scriptures to note of their importance include verses 27 and 31. Verse 27 states that God established times and places so men would seek Him, and perhaps reach out and find Him, even though He is not far from each one of us. Verse 31 states that God has set a day when He will judge the world with true justice in the person of Jesus Christ, and He has proven this to all mankind by raising Jesus Christ from the dead.

Here is the purpose of life! God has allowed mankind to follow in its own footsteps, if for no other reason than to prove to it that without a personal relationship with God it is doomed to fail the human experience! Throughout the Bible, we see God forever exhorting mankind to return to Him; but yet, there is continued rebellion. But as we have seen, God does not give up on His creation, but continues to draw it back to Him through the agency of the Holy Spirit, and those who now believe. The most important task of those that now believe is to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God so no one shall perish. But as we can see by the Book of Revelation, many will not turn to God regardless of the sanctifying power of the word of God, nor will they turn back from the results of the horrific atrocities that will befall unbelievers when God’s wrath is poured out.

“But,” the Christian says, “If I believe now, and I’m doing the work of a true Christian, is it also necessary for me to endure tribulation?” “Of course not,” say theorists. “God is not a cruel God. He will Rapture you to heaven for seven years and spare you from all these things.” Unfortunately, many Christians (and their leaders) still do not understand God’s ways. Unfortunately, this escapist mentality is extremely prevalent in the evangelical community because theorists have expounded on it for so long, and so often, that they fail to see what God truly has in store for His ecclesia. Unfortunately, the Christian (leadership) of today has lost sight of what God wants to accomplish with His called out ones during the intensified period of tribulation that will precede The Second Advent. Although it appears that God will accomplish many more tasks during and through the remainder of history, one of those tasks will be to bring many more people to His Kingdom before He pours out His wrath, and He will accomplish this goal by using His called out ones like never before.

How? Let’s go back to the time (in Acts 26:1-29) when Paul was incarcerated and was brought before King Agrippa, which paints (through one of Paul’s ordeals) a perfect example of Christian testimony that resulted in people coming to repentance and receiving salvation. The author is including the entire chapter in order that the reader may experience one of the greatest testimonies and sermons (along with Stephen’s in Acts Chapter 7) of all time:

Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” So Paul motioned with his hand and began his defense: 2 “King Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate to stand before you today as I make my defense against all the accusations of the Jews, 3 and especially so because you are well acquainted with all the Jewish customs and controversies. Therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently. 4 The Jews all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem. 5 they have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that according to the strictest sect of our religion, I lived as a Pharisee. 6 And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our fathers that I am on trial today. 7 This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. O king, it is because of this hope that the Jews are accusing me. 8 Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead? 9 I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 and that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my obsession against them, I even sent to foreign cities to persecute them. 12 On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 About noon, O king, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around my companions and me. 14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It’s hard for you to kick against goads.’ 15 Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. 16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ 19 So, then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from Heaven. 20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. 21 That is why the Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. 22 But I have had God’s help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen – 23 that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles.” 24 At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.” 25 “I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. 26 the king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the Prophets? I know you do.” 28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” 29 Paul replied, “Short time or long – I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains, (Acts 26:1-29, NIV). [Underline and bold is by the author, solely for emphasis]

The author believes with all his heart that when tribulations become more intense than they are now, a myriad of Christians will be brought before various officials and other governmental authorities throughout the world. Like Paul our declarations of faith before these governing bodies will be similar testimonies that will have the very same results: bring more people to the knowledge of God’s saving grace before the Lord’s return! For those theorists who contend there will be a secret pre-tribulation escape to heaven, seven years before Christ returns, this last phase of history would then make any preaching of the gospel a virtual impossibility. Theorists who see only semi-converted Jews or genetic Israelites as being those persecuted, tortured, thrown in prisons, or even killed during the end times, miss one of God’s greatest displays of witnessing and testimony that God’s ecclesia could possibly be involved with. Let’s read again what is stated in Matthew 24:

Then you will be handed over to the persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false Prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come, (Matthew 24:9-14, NIV).

This is the same message that we find in Mark’s account of tribulation at the hands of the antichristian forces. However, in Mark’s account, we read about the beautiful power that the Holy Spirit will display through the Christian at that time:

You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit, (Mark 13:9-11, NIV).

This intensified period of tribulation immediately before The Second Advent will see some of the boldest evangelizing ever seen in the history of mankind. Matthew 24:14 clearly states, and this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come! Theorists, who merely see Jews as finally being converted through tribulation and or God’s wrath during this period of time, miss the point. The tribulation at the hands of antichristian forces is not God’s punishment or wrath for past transgressions. It is an opportunity for called out ones to make one final stand for Jesus, resulting in many unbelievers turning to God before the Lord’s return. The great “testing” to come about during this period is not to see who can withstand the most pain-until-you-repent; but, rather, this testing through persecution will be to see who will remain faithful to Jesus and the power of His word to bring as many more people to the Kingdom of God before His return. The man of lawlessness will be keenly (and diabolically) aware of this effort by called out ones. Henceforth, he will pull out all stops to silence the ecclesia. Satan, knowing that his time is short, will do everything in his power to destroy Christians throughout the world. The fact that the Christian will be boldly preaching the gospel during this intensified period of tribulation is proof that the Holy Spirit could not possibly be seen as being removed before this period of time. This intensified tribulation will result in one of the most glorious manifestations of the power of the Holy Spirit that has ever been seen. Even though scripture (in Daniel 12:7) records that the power (the missionary undertaking) of God’s holy people will eventually be shattered, shortly before the Lord’s return, the intended works of the Holy Spirit through the saints (Daniel 12:3) will result in millions of people converting to Jesus Christ. Many of these called out ones will be martyred, but many also will be alive to see The Second Advent of Jesus Christ. Here then we have one of the main purposes for not seeing the Christian Church removed before The Second Advent.

It boggles the mind to see how theorists can argue for the removal of the Christian Church (and the Holy Spirit as well), and then see people heretofore uncommitted to Jesus Christ, all of a sudden turning to the Lord due to persecutions from the Beast (and or God’s wrath) and then suddenly proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. If anything, it appears that those who have trusted and depended on their wealth and material goods (rather than God) will be more inclined to bow before the man of lawlessness when pressure is applied to them. If unbelievers have suddenly noticed that a myriad of Christians have been secretly Raptured from the face of the earth along with the Holy Spirit, the author is inclined to believe that their loyalty and allegiance will be more to the Beast system than to Jesus Christ. But yet, those true believers who patiently endure these trials will obviously be so convinced that Jesus will eventually rescue them, that they will joyously stand up for their savior under any circumstances. There will be many who will say they believe, and actually will call themselves Christian at that time (See Daniel 11:34), but will not have the power of the Holy Spirit working in them. In John 12:42, we see a perfect example of those who profess to believe in the Lord; however, they still cling to those things that they feel will bring them the security and the glory they seek for themselves:

Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved praise from men more than praise from God, (John 12:42, 43, NIV). [Bold and underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]

Matthew 24:9-14 and Mark 13:9-11 are portions of scriptures that are echoed in Luke 12:4, 5 and Luke 21:12-19; however, in Luke 21:12-19, we specifically see that called out ones will not experience these end-time tribulations as punishment from God, but rather, to be witnesses to the unsaved:

But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13 This will result in your being witnesses to them. 14 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17 All men will hate you because of me. 18 By standing firm you will save yourselves, (Luke 21:12-19, NIV). [Bold and underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]

In verse 15, we see once again the power of the Holy Spirit working as never before, providing the called out ones with words and wisdom that none of their adversaries will be able to resist. Even though this experience will be reason for great sorrow (especially in the knowledge that some friends, family, and even fellow church members will betray us), the Lord exhorts us not to worry beforehand because not a hair on our head will perish, even though some of us may have to die.

What a glorious period that will be. Not necessarily to experience death, but, if one has to face death, the author can envision no greater honor than to stand up and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, to be found faithful to Jesus, to face death squarely in the eye and say “O Death, where is thy sting?” Then, to look at our Savior’s face and have Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” as He hands us our stephanos, the martyr’s crown of life! What great glory for God! To realize that, like Stephen, our death might possibly result in another person’s salvation has to be the ultimate Christian experience:

While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them, (Acts 7:59, 60, NIV). [Bold and underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]

In verse 60, we see where Stephen, in his last dying breath, was praying for God to forgive his enemies, a prayer the author believes God honored. Here we see a glorious picture of the disciple Stephen, preaching the word of God to the Sanhedrin, unto death, looking up to heaven and surrendering his God-breathed, life-giving spirit back to the Lord. The Greek word for crown is stephanos, and the author believes the word of God states that those who witness for the Lord in that period of time will receive a greater reward. Is this willingness to die for the Lord’s glory being a “super macho Christian” as brother Hal Lindsey states? If so, then that is what the author is. If wanting to serve Jesus with such zeal and fervor is wrong, then the author stands convicted. If being a member of God’s ecclesia means that the called out one has to shrink back from the face of death, then all that Christ performed on the cross has gone for naught.

In Revelation 12:11, it describes a loud voice in heaven speaking about those who were willing to give up their lives to preach the gospel of Christ. This is not describing solely those who will be martyred during the end times. It describes those who throughout history overcame the accusatory powers of Satan and times of great tribulation through the blood of the Lamb:

They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death, (Revelation 12:11, NIV). [Bold and underlines is by the author, solely for emphasis]

Back in Philippians 3:10, we see a clue from Paul’s attitude toward death that should be the attitude of all Christians:

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead, (Philippians. 3:10, 11, NIV). [Bold and underlines is by the author, solely for emphasis]

Was Paul being a “super macho Christian?” If so, then the author finds no shame whatsoever in being identified with Paul, Stephen, Peter and all the other called out ones who laid their lives down so others can have eternal life.

As the author concludes this important chapter, please indulge him to share a very personal message. On many occasions, one of the sermons that the author preached in various churches during his brief ministry as an evangelist, he used an extremely graphic example of how he saw himself drowning in a pool of filth before coming to Christ. He described a gory scenario that included them picturing a giant vat filled with decaying dead animals, mixed amongst rotten meat, mingled with live venomous spiders, scorpions and snakes, all floating atop a pool of bodily waste material, generating the most odoriferous stench imaginable. He used this graphic example in order for the audience to get a more profound picture of how decrepit the author felt about himself before turning to the Lord. He told his audiences how he once was down in the bottom of that vat, bound by alcohol, drugs, and illicit sex, almost to the point of suicide because he could not see any way out of the devil’s trap. But, after it was explained to him that Jesus Himself became sin in order for all of us to have eternal life, when he finally turned his life over to Christ, he told his audiences that he could actually see Jesus Christ diving head first into the vat, becoming all of its content, just so the author could be set free. This was the only way the author could make his audience see and feel how the author felt as he turned his life over to Jesus. Make a mental picture of this scenario. Picture Jesus diving head first into that abysmal stench. Not only becoming all of the individual filth you have personally committed throughout your entire life, but also becoming the putridity of all of mankind’s combined sins throughout history. This thought simply boggles the mind. But, yet, that’s exactly what Christ did. He willingly leaped head first into humanity’s vat of sin, not only drowning in it, but also becoming the despicability of humanity’s waste.

The author has often wondered why Jesus Christ cried out, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me, (Matthew 27:46)? Was it because the physical pain was too much for him to endure? Maybe that was a part of it. Death by crucifixion is known to be one of the most painful and heinous ways to kill a person. However, the author believes in his heart that the agony and despair Jesus Christ felt from God at that moment was due primarily because our sinless Lord was not only experiencing the sting of sin, feeling the horror and the anguish of the sins of all mankind consuming his entire human persona, He was also experiencing a separation from God for the very first time!

No Mr. Lindsey, we aren’t talking “super macho Christian” here. We’re talking about being eternally grateful for salvation. Eternally grateful for being rescued before the author experienced a physical and senseless death no one would wish on his worst enemy. Not only did Jesus Christ rescue the author from dying a disgraceful death, alone and separated apart from friends and loved ones, He actually brought the author back from among the physically dying and spiritually dead and into new life. How God could have such grace and mercy to not only restore this former decrepit soul back to life, but to even choose him to do this work (writing this book) is a mystery that will remain unsolved by this author until he sees Him face to face.

Therefore, being eternally grateful for this salvation, if the Lord tells the author that “not a hair on his head will perish,” knowing that he will soon be spending an eternity with his savior, then dying a physical death for Jesus, as He was willing to die for the author and all of mankind, is not a thing to fear:

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death, (Hebrews 2:14, 15, NIV).


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