9 “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. 10 “At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 11 “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. 12 “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. 13 “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. 14 “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.
There are mixed views about how the world will end and what will happen to believers when it does. Some say that those who currently believe will be raptured before the tribulation and others think that we all will have to endure it together before the rapture. I just saw the Left Behind movie and it is interesting that they were quoting Matthew 24. As we read today’s passage, it seems to me that Jesus is pretty clear on the timeline of events. Verses 1-8 described the signs of when the end is beginning: wars, famines, and destruction all over the world.
Remember that Jesus is talking to His current followers as He explains this process. His disciples asked, “how will we know that the time has come?” He is responding in this passage. You will be persecuted and killed and hated. You will begin to fall from the faith and betray one another. You will be misled by false prophets and some will become disenchanted because of how horrible the world around you appears. If you maintain your hope, you will be saved. Once you preach the Gospel to all the ends of the earth, then it will be over.
It does not say, “all of you who believe will be sucked up into the sky to watch the world destroy itself.” We would certainly prefer that storyline and that’s why I think it is easy for us to twist the scripture into saying that. We read from 1 Thessalonians 4 and then inject it into a timeline that satisfies our concern of being caught in the midst of the great tribulation:
16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.
Some might say we are already in the tribulation and this very much could be true. Those events listed above can be witnessed in today’s body of believers. But you know what I have learned? It doesn’t matter. Yes, biblical prophecies are important, don’t misunderstand me, but when we focus so much on deciphering prophetic texts and trying to match them up with current events, we can very easily get tied up in the “what’s to come” and miss the “what is here in front of us today”. Instead of trying to figure out if the end is near or hear, we should be working towards making sure the tribulation ends. I believe the futuristic prophecies laid out in the bible weren’t so much to satisfy our curiosity but to forewarn us so that we know what will happen. Jesus told us that there will be wars, disasters, false prophets, and much persecution. But He also left with us a word of hope, that all things will be made new and one day He will come to restore all things. Our reading of these prophecies should sound like an evangelistic call. These things will come to an end and He will return once “the gospel of the kingdom is preached to the whole world as a testimony to all the nations.” Let us not sit stagnant waiting for Him to return but pave the way for His arrival!
So while we wish we didn’t have to endure the tribulation and that our faith wouldn’t have to be tested through such a fiery ordeal, know that the struggle is worth the reward. We read what it is in Revelation 20:
3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” 5 And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” 6 Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. 7 “He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.
Now, there are many books and hundreds of hours that have been dedicated and written on this subject and I won’t presume to prove them all wrong by writing a one-page blog post. It doesn’t really matter what I think and it doesn’t matter what you think. What matters is if we trust God to care for us, even while we are being persecuted. Jesus says that if we stand firm in the faith, we will have nothing to worry about. It doesn’t matter if we are raptured before, after, or during the tribulation. What matters is our relationship with Him and working to draw others closer to Him.