Practical Preparation for the End Times
So Many Views!
Equally sincere, conservative, Bible-believing scholars draw different conclusions about what the Bible teaches about the end times.
There are premillennialists who can be separated into “pretribulationalists,” “posttribulationalists,” and “midtribulationalists.” Others describe themselves as “pre-wrath premillenialists.” There are also “postmillennialists” and “amillennialists.” There are Preterists.
For the record, we are posttribulationalists. To learn why, you may wish to read these other articles...
Just being aware that there are so many different positions regarding the end times can be overwhelming to many Christians. That is why some smile and say, “I’m a panmillennialist. I just think everything will ‘pan out’ in the end.” Of course, this is a "cop out." God is pleased when we dig into His Word and try to find answers!
Is There a Practical Difference?
There is an important question that must not be overlooked: Are there any practical differences among these various views, or are the differences all theoretical?
In fact, there may be one very significant practical difference. And even if we don’t feel confident about which end time view is correct, wisdom dictates that we should make it a point to be prepared for more than one possibility.
For example, suppose you were planning to be away for a few days on a church retreat, which included a special meal on the last evening. As you are packing, one friend tells you that the meal is meant to be a “dress up” evening, with everyone wearing more formal clothing. Another friend says, “No, you don’t need to worry about it. It will be very casual.” Perhaps your friends even get into an argument over the issue. One says he heard the pastor say it would be dress-up, another says he heard the person responsible for planning the retreat say that it would be casual. You would probably decide to be prepared for either possibility. Just in case.
In the same way, there is wisdom in preparing for more than one end time scenario.
What if He Came Today?
There are many Christians who believe that the Lord could come at any moment. All of us should realize that there is no doubt that we could die at any moment. Certainly every Christian should live in such a way that he or she is prepared, at any moment, to meet God. Even if our personal view of the end times is that there are still prophecies to be fulfilled before Jesus returns, we all should be keenly aware that people die suddenly and unexpectedly every day from automobile accidents, heart attacks, etc.
It is very foolish for any believer to refuse to believe that he or she could enter eternity this very day!
However, we should also be keenly aware that the Lord Jesus Christ is already with us wherever we go and whatever we do. So we should learn to live our lives in constant awareness of His presence. Ultimately, it should make no difference in our decisions to do right or wrong—in our ethical and moral decisions—whether we leave behind our physical bodies today or many years from now. Those who are apparently motivated to live right only by the belief that Jesus could return today, have a seriously defective view of God. The truth is, we are just as genuinely in His presence now as we would be if we had just died or if Jesus had just returned.
What if Persecution Comes First?
On the other hand, there are many Christians who believe that before Jesus returns the world will experience the rise of the antichrist and a great worldwide persecution of the church. If these students of the Scriptures happen to be correct, we would do well to be prepared for that possibility. And this preparation can be a bit more complex.
Actually, there are many Christians in the world today who are experiencing fiery persecution. Throughout the history of the church, there have been many believers who have been tortured and martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ. So even if a Christian believes in the imminent return of Christ, he or she would do well to realize that before Jesus comes, there could be a time of persecution of the church in his or her part of the world as well.
What kind of preparation can be made? Here are some questions that may help.
Am I prepared to die for Christ?
Am I prepared to be persecuted and even tortured for Christ?
Am I prepared for my children or loved ones to suffer and die for Christ?
Are they prepared for such a possibility?
If God wanted me to serve Him in my physical body for a time after the rise of the antichrist, would I be prepared to survive without swearing allegiance to the antichrist (taking his “mark”)?
During times of relative peace and security for the church, it is possible for Christians to become so unaccustomed to persecution that they may become useless to the Lord during the time of fiery trial. Christians can even adopt a “head-in-the-sand” mentally of denying the possibility of any tough times for themselves personally. If times of persecution come our way, we should be so mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically prepared that we can be used of the Lord to be a strong witness for Him until He calls us home.
There are several aspects to that preparation.
The biggest part of spiritual preparation involves memorizing and meditating on the parts of God’s Word that He gave us specifically to help us through times of persecution and trial. When these passages from God’s Word become an intimate part of your being, the Holy Spirit can bring them to your mind during the time of most intense need. Many believers have left this world in a great testimony of victory because God’s Word was engraved in their hearts and minds.
You can find many Scriptures that will help you become spiritually prepared for fiery trials at: http://www.aboundingjoy.com/fiery-fs.html
A big part of mental and emotional preparation involves accepting the reality of the possibility of persecution and martyrdom. Many Christians don’t want to think about such things. They see such thinking as “negative” and “pessimistic.” If you point out that such things have happened (and are happening) to their Christian brothers and sisters in other places, they may say, “Well, it won’t happen here.” And, by God’s grace, so far it may not have happened. But it would be wise for every Christian to think about the possibility of upcoming fiery trials, and ask himself, “What would I do or say if I (or a loved one) were threatened with physical harm or death if I did not renounce Jesus Christ?”
Of course, the truth is that however severe any time of trial might be, it is temporary! Soon it will be over and we will be together with the Lord forever. It would be very foolish to assume that some temporary, fleeting escape from pain would be better than an eternity with Him!
We need to arm ourselves, and our loved ones, with the confidence that, by His grace, God will certainly enable us to endure any trial we may have to face during this lifetime.
There are a few things we can do that will help us be physically prepared for a time of persecution.
For example, if a situation arises in which you are told that you cannot buy or sell anything to anybody unless you first swear an allegiance to someone other than the Lord Jesus Christ, then, obviously, as a Christian, you might quickly run out of food and perhaps heat and light and even water unless you had previously prepared by making some other provisions. It is not too difficult to imagine situations where genuine followers of Jesus Christ would not be allowed to be a part of the “system.”
Of course, running out of the necessities of life could be a time of great trial for Christians. And persecutions of this kind could be the way God plans for us to leave this physical world.
However, He may have warned us of these possibilities so that many of His children can be prepared to survive, at least for a time, in order to help nonbelievers come to Christ and to help other suffering believers to be firm and steadfast to the end.
It might be very wise for us to spend some time thinking about what physical preparations He might want us to make in order to be most useful to Him during times of great persecution.
Could it Happen?
Of course, it may be that none of these things happen during our lifetimes. We may have the privilege of growing old in a society where there are doctors and hospitals and pain medication and plenty to eat until God calls us home one night in our sleep in our old age. But we are certainly not guaranteed that it will be like that. And we know from history (and current events) that it is certainly not like that for all Christians.
Many, many Christians, from earliest times until the present time, have suffered horribly under the oppression of antichristian leaders. It has happened before. It is happening now. And it could certainly be a part of our own personal future before we go to be with the Lord.
Wisdom says, “Be Prepared!”
For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. (1 Thessalonians 5: 3-6)
And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. (Luke 21:34-35)
Steve Hall, 2004
If you would like to do some Bible study to see why I personally believe the church should be prepared to suffer in a time of worldwide persecution by the antichrist, you are invited to read or print the following articles.
Posttribulationalism (Longer study)
Summary of Scriptural Evidence for Posttibulationalism (Brief Study)