The Beginning of the End

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Has the Tribulation started?  If the White Horseman represents deception then it’s very possible. We’ve seen a disturbing increase in violence and murder at a personal level: therefore it seems as if the Red Horseman could already be at work, too.

The third Horseman is the black one, which represents famine. There are many parts of the world where famine is already a concern; especially in Africa.  If the Tribulation has started, it’s very possible that famine is the next great trial mankind will be facing.

Honeybees are dying and scientists can’t figure out why. Losing the honeybees has been of considerable concern, because it affects crops and vegetation of all kinds. A strange bacteria is killing off the citrus trees in Florida, and people wonder if the citrus industry in that state will survive at all. The avocado industries in both Florida and California may be destroyed due to bugs, fungus and drought. Banana industry in Central America is threatened by fungus that is traveling through the plantations. These diseases can’t be treated by any known means, and there is very real possibility that these food production industries will be wiped out.

It’s amazing how quickly food sources can be completely destroyed, and reminds us that we ARE dependent on the mercy of God for even our daily bread.

We shouldn’t jump to conclusions. But, Jesus did expect us to monitor the signs of the times. So remember to look at the big picture: keep your eyes and ears open. Be willing to understand what is going on in the world. We have a tendency to pull back, retreat and hide from all the bad news, but God expects us to have courage to understand the time we live in.

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Philadelphia & Laodicea

Revelation chapters 1, 2 and 3 describe Seven Churches and give a prophecy for each one. The Seven Churches actually existed when John the Apostle wrote the book of Revelation. But the prophecy also seems to predict seven stages of Christian church history, starting with the time of Christ until the end of the world. The prophecy to the Seven Churches could also be a description of seven types of Christians, with warnings and blessings for each.

If we are truly in the End Times, then we should pay attention to what God says about Philadelphia and Laodicea (the last two churches in the list); because Philadelphia and Laodicea could be about us!

God was pleased with the church of Philadelphia and gave them some wonderful promises, including the promise that they would be spared the Tribulation:

Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. Revelation 3:10 NIV

But Laodicea (the last of the 7 Churches) was frustrating to God and he didn’t know what to do with them! The Laodiceans were well off; they had some money. And as a result, they were materialistic and selfish. They were very short on compassion: they didn’t even notice the needs around them. The Laodiceans weren’t able to hear God speaking to them. Jesus actually begged them to listen up!

It is significant that God did not give the Laodiceans the same promise He gave to Philadelphia: Jesus did not promise to spare Laodiceans from end times disasters.

If we want God’s care in troubled times – and especially in these End Times – then we need to be serious about our walk with God. We can’t put off obedience any longer. Procrastination isn’t going to do us any good. It’s now or never.

Before he died in 2009, Rev. David Wilkerson preached a sermon titled, “A Call to Anguish.” He pleads with Christians to bear God’s heart, passion, and burden within our lives. Dave Wilkerson was deeply concerned about the condition of the Christian Church at large. You can find his message on YouTube; it is well worth listening to. I believe it is a message for the Church of Laodicea.

Will Christians be Spared?

Most Christians believe there will be a Rapture of the Church, and the Bible is clear on this: there will definitely be an event when the saints are caught up to be with Christ in the air. But the big question is when the Rapture will occur. There has always been debate about whether the Rapture happens before the Tribulation, in the middle of the Tribulation, or at the end.  And maybe the Rapture doesn’t happen during the Tribulation at all.

We should never declare beforehand how a prophecy will be fulfilled, because it never turns out as we expect.  We could make a long list of people who have made this mistake, even though the Bible specifically warns against such predictions.

But God does want us to know about the Rapture, and there’s no doubt that Christians look forward to that moment when it happens.

In Thessalonians, the Bible says that the Rapture will happen after the Resurrection of the Dead.

But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that fall asleep; that ye sorrow not, even as the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that are fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we that are alive, that are left unto the coming of the Lord, shall in no wise precede them that are fallen asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. Thessalonians 4:13-17 ASV

And in another passage, the Bible states that the Resurrection of the Dead will happen in two stages during the Millennium. The Millenium is the 1000 year reign of Christ upon the earth, which comes after the Tribulation:

“I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection.” Revelation 20:4-6 ASV

So these scripture passages tell us that the dead will be resurrected in two stages: at the beginning of the Millennial reign of Christ, and at the end of it. Then the Rapture will happen.

If the Rapture happens at the end of the Millennial reign of Christ, that’s not good news for those of us who are hoping for an easy out during the Tribulation.

Purpose for the Rapture

Perhaps we have misunderstood the very purpose for the Rapture? According to scripture, the Rapture event is not for escaping the Tribulation: it is for the purpose of gathering together all the saints. Both the dead and the living will be gathered together and then (at last) we shall ever be with the Lord Jesus in the place he has prepared for us.

Jesus gave another reason for believing in the Rapture:

But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.  Matthew 24:36-44

Jesus was giving a strong warning against spiritual lethargy. From these verses we are told to always be prepared and ready. Jesus’ parable of the ten virgins reinforces this. Five women were not ready; their spiritual flame had gone out and there was no time to fix the situation. Either we are ready in that split-second when the Rapture happens, or we are not.

Some people say there is room in the scriptures for two Rapture events: one during the Tribulation and one at the end of the Millennium. I sincerely hope they are right! God can do things however He wants to do them. I’m truly hoping for pre-Tribulation Rapture, but I’m not convinced it’s going to be that easy. We should consider another possible scenario: that Christians will die during the years of Tribulation, and that is how we will be rescued from the worst of it.

Rapture is one way out; death might be another. Either way, it’s not our choice to make. We have no power in these matters. God has firmly told us that we can’t predict the time of the Rapture any more than we can predict the return of Jesus Christ. All we need to know is that Jesus will never leave us nor forsake us: we can rejoice in His promises to us.

… for himself has said, I will never fail thee, neither will I ever forsake thee. Hebrews 13:5

… and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Hebrews 28:20

Blessed are the Dead

The horrors brought on by the Four Horsemen are only the beginning of the End: after that the Tribulation cranks up to intolerable levels and suffering will take over the entire world. Eventually the full measure of God’s wrath will be poured out on the earth. Who wants to be here on this planet for that?

As the Tribulation becomes unbearable, God has this to say:

And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.
Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” Revelation 14:13 ESV

At this point in the Tribulation, God declares that it will be a blessing for Christians to die. The Holy Spirit agrees with that, and puts His blessing on it too. What a profound conversation! It is not often that the Holy Spirit speaks so directly in the Word of God: so we need to listen.

The Green Horseman

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The Green Horseman (also known as the Pale Horseman) is the last of the Four Horseman to appear. Revelation says that multitudes of people will die during this time.

I think we need to understand how God views death. From a human perspective, it’s a dreadful thing to die. Death can be painful. Death means separation from loved ones. Dead bodies are unlovely and unpleasant: they must be buried as soon as possible. Death is horrible in every way.

But God has very little interest in preserving sinful flesh: he is interested in preserving soul and spirit. For God, it is a relief to bring his saints home to himself. It is a joy for God when he can welcome us into his Presence. And, it is a relief for us when we shed the burden of our sinful human condition and enter into the joy of the Lord!

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. Psalm 116:15 KJV

Calamities & Disasters

Look around… look at the world we live in! Thousands and thousands of people are dying because of natural calamities, unprecedented flooding, monster storms and cyclones, horrifying violence, wars, accidents, diseases and pestilence. Those unfortunate people were probably hoping and praying for a miraculous exit out of the situation, but they did not escape death.

If we are truly moving into the early stages of the Tribulation, it may be helpful to understand: those who die are possibly being spared from even worse to come.

Even if there is a Rapture event during the Tribulation (and I would be grateful for it), we still need to have God’s perspective on the calamities going on around us! As Christians, we know that death is not an end: it is the beginning of our true Life that Jesus promised us. Perhaps those who die are the ones who are blessed the most. 

The important thing is to be spiritually prepared to meet God, because I could be next, and so could you.