Still Here! Surviving the End Times - Intro
Why read this?
“So, why should I read this book?” asked a friend who had expressed interest in what I was writing, when I offered him a first draft copy to read. As we ate lunch and talked, his question kept swimming through my head. Yeah, why should anyone want to read this?
As you look around the world at events that are changing our society—sometimes in small increments, sometimes in major upheavals—have you ever wondered what might be in store for you, your family, your friends? Perhaps you were raised in a church that taught that we believers would be whisked away before any really nasty stuff hits the fan. Maybe your church doesn’t talk about the End Times, the period before Christ’s return, at all. What if everything you’ve been taught is only part of the answer, or maybe none of the answer to that question?
This book is intended to make you think, to open your eyes to possible scenarios you’ll never hear from most pulpits, if at all. We humans tend to be creatures of habit and lots of times those ‘habits’ are based on traditions set up long before us, by people who, while having good intentions, couldn’t see in the mirror any more clearly than we can. Some of those traditions may even have been devised with nefarious, self-serving intentions. My hope is that by the time you’ve finished this book, you’ll have a better idea about where much of the thinking about the End Times came from and how those ideas fit with Scripture.
Why is that important for you? We’re admonished by the Lord to stay alert and be prepared for His return. What if you’re prepared for the wrong thing and don’t see the clear signs around you that signal His imminent coming? The Jewish people at Christ’s first advent were like this. Based upon the traditions of the Pharisees and Scribes, they expected a warrior king to free them from Roman rule and set up His eternal kingdom. Instead, Christ came as the ‘suffering servant’ and most missed Him. Will you stand strong in your faith, or will you join the millions who already have fallen or who will fall away from the church in disbelief? If what I present to you in the coming pages helps you to stand strong, then I’ve succeeded in reaching the goal I believe the Lord set before me in writing this book.
This book’s beginnings
To get started, I’d like you to know a bit more about me and my walk with the Lord. While I was raised in a mainline denominational church, I left that church as a teenager. That church, in a Biblical sense, was dead. Our well-educated, and much respected Reverend taught homilies, not the Bible. In hindsight, the power of the Holy Spirit was not behind his sermons. I became agnostic. I went to a fairly liberal (at the time, really liberal now) university, majored in sciences and engineering, took the obligatory class in evolution, and more.
But then, in medical school, something stirred inside me as I studied embryology and physiology. The odds of life and the intricacies of the human body being created by happenstance and evolving over eons of time no longer made sense to me. The mathematical odds of such were astronomical, well beyond what mathematicians consider impossible. The gaps in the theory of evolution made me realize it was still just that, a theory, not fact, as many teach it today.
From that seed, God opened my eyes in a personal way. Several years later, my wife developed a malignant muscle cancer, rhabdomyosarcoma, and the extensive surgeries had restricted the use of her right arm . . . to the point that she couldn’t lift her arm. She could hold things in her right hand, but then had to move it with her left. I helped her with her physical therapy. I knew what she could and could not do with that arm. Our doctors told us she wouldn’t live to see our young children go to school.
At the urging of a friend, she went to a small, charismatic church near the Army post where I was stationed at the time for a Wednesday night service, while I stayed home and watched our young children. The next morning, she related to me that the pastor had called her forward, had told her things that he couldn’t have known, and prayed for her arm. She told me something had happened to her there, and then lifted her arm above her head . . . by herself.
Nothing like a miracle to get your attention.
Oh, and as I write this, she’s helping our daughter with her first child, our fourth grandchild. Our oldest grandchild will graduate high school next year. God is Good! All the time!
I bring this up because, at that point in 1985, I was a complete novice when it came to the Bible. Sure, I remembered the Bible stories that every child in every church was taught. But the real substance of God’s Word had been missing in my life. I soaked it in like a dry sponge taking up spilled wine. And wine was never intended to be spilled.
And over the course of time I learned about the word eschatology—the study of the End Times. That church where God healed my wife was a ‘pre-trib’ church, and I took that teaching as, well, gospel. Over the next 20 years every church we attended taught a pre-tribulation, pre-millennial eschatology—which I’ll discuss shortly for those unfamiliar with the term. I took it as a given that God would airlift His church away from this planet before all those nasty things prophesied in Daniel and Revelation occurred. It would likely be His angel, Scottiel, who would beam us up.
Yet, over those first 20-plus years I also matured as a believer and took seriously the study of the Word for myself, not just what I heard from the pulpit and guest speakers. Unlike so many theology and seminary students who are taught the teachings of past ‘men of God’ and who repeat and build upon those teachings, rather than investigate the Bible for themselves, I had only enough time outside my medical practice to read the Bible, not read book after book on theology. And over time, a few Scriptures stood out that didn’t harmonize with the pre-trib concept. I always came back to one set of verses in particular, in which Jesus Himself told His disciples that:
38 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of God. 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 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:38-39)
Jesus used Noah as His example, but Noah wasn’t taken away from the world to sit out the flood and then brought back when the land was dry. He was protected through the flood. Now, some pre-trib scribes say that Noah was a type for the Jews who would go through the tribulation period, the time of Jacob’s Troubles, and that Enoch was a type for the church which they say will be raptured ahead of the trouble. But Enoch was taken up by God 895 years before the flood, not just before it occurred. And Noah? He was a righteous man, a man favored by God and, by some teachings the ninth priest of the Melchizedek Order. How does he fit as a type for nonbelieving Jews?
The story of Lot gave me similar reservations about a pre-trib rapture. Lot was led out of the city by angelic beings before destruction hit Sodom and Gomorrah. He and his daughters were protected, not removed from the planet to sit out the fireworks. [Now, many might argue that Noah was ‘lifted’ out of the flood and Lot was taken out of the city, but those are weak arguments, in my opinion. Would God leave Noah and his family in the water to protect them? What incredible endurance swimmers they would have been. And what about all the animals? And Lot would have required an ‘atomic bomb shelter’ to have stayed in Sodom. Again, I see these two examples as poor types for a rapture.]
I struggled with the idea that believers might have to go through the tribulation. Had I missed something about the pre-trib concept? Was there an explanation that I hadn’t heard or read that would let me harmonize the above verses with a pre-trib rapture? I couldn’t find one, so I started to look at post-tribulation teachings—that we would be caught up in the air with Christ upon His physical return to the earth. And yet, that, too, didn’t fit many of the Scriptures I’d read. Plus, would He really take us off the planet only to turn around and follow Him back? Didn’t make sense to me.
In reality, as I read more, I came to see that both the pre-trib and post-trib teachings had concepts that were Biblically supported, and yet, also concepts that could not be supported. Somehow, I simply couldn’t see God doing that, telling us to expect something His Word only half supported, or maybe didn’t support at all. There had to be something else with better scriptural support.
That’s when I discovered the pre-wrath rapture concept. To some, this is a recent teaching, and yet, when you begin to understand it, you start to see as you read the Bible that it might have been how the early church understood it. The early church was under persecution by the Jews as well as by Rome. They faced what they saw as the tribulation every day, but knew that God’s wrath was still to come. They expected Christ to return as soon as the Gospel was preached to every nation. To Paul, that meant preaching the Gospel in Spain, the farthest point of the known world, and possibly why he so desperately wanted to go to Spain (Tarshish). His doing so would clear the way for Christ to return. So, in a way, today’s proponents of pre-wrath teaching believe they have only ‘rediscovered’ what the early church had accepted.
I was well along this road of questioning, seeking clarity, when God also led me on an in-depth study of His name: Jehovah Machaçeh, the Lord our refuge. I began to see that our understanding of God’s names: Jehovah Rapha, the Lord who heals; Jehovah Jireh, the Lord will provide; and others had a tie-in to surviving this prophesied period of tribulation. Other aspects of Scripture and prophecy also began to fall into place, but more on that as we go along.
The more I studied, the more I realized how little we really understood about the End Times. The Bible teaches us what to anticipate—which today’s church seems to ignore while it continues working its programs, expecting to be raptured away. What if that, a rapture, is not the case?
The heart of this book is different, with a focus on the coming apostasy and surviving the wrath of Satan during the time of tribulation. Yet, I feel I need to cover the main teachings on eschatology and the rapture, even if briefly. After all, if you don’t believe you’re going to face tribulation, why would you care about surviving it?
Curiously, I’ve also come to realize that in coming to know the Lord in the ’80s, I was part of that Hal Lindsey-Late, Great Planet Earth generation when teachings on the rapture were at their peak. Books were written. Movies, mostly cheesy ones, were made. No one wanted to be Left Behind. However, for many younger believers today, the concept of the rapture is a foreign one. Perhaps that’s the Holy Spirit swinging the pendulum back toward the middle.
Please understand, this has been, in some ways, a most difficult book for me to write. For those of you who have read my works, you know me as an author of suspense and thrillers. It’s one thing to make up a story and create characters and plot. To delve into the Bible and write about something that will affect every believer is definitely a much bigger challenge. I never envisioned myself as a Bible ‘teacher.’ After all, a teacher is judged doubly according to the Word. So, it was with some, no, make that great, fear and trepidation that I took on this project. Only because of God’s grace, and at the urging of the Holy Spirit, did I pursue this.
This might also be a difficult book for many of you to read. It’s likely to take you out of your comfort zone, particularly if, like me, you’re part of that Hal Lindsey generation. There’s a great chance it will run afoul of your current understanding of the End Times. Roughly 90% of self-described Christians in the U.S. espouse a pre-tribulation viewpoint on the ‘rapture,’ the ‘snatching away’ of the church. And why not? Who wants to go through rough times and have their faith tested like it has never been before?
The incredible popularity of the Left Behind series, by Jerry B. Jenkins and the late Tim LaHaye, was a testimony to that desire to be taken away before Satan wreaks incredible havoc on the world. The success of that series, as well as the number of films and other books on the rapture, bears witness to that fact.
There’s another reason this book will hit some of you hard. Those of us in the developed Western world have the most to lose during that time called ‘the Tribulation.’ Many believers in third-world nations are already facing these trials.
I am convinced that the reason the Holy Spirit has been prompting me to write this book is the concern I share that the church is not prepared for what’s to come. I found book after book on the various beliefs about the timing of the rapture, if indeed a rapture is even to take place. But I found little to nothing about being ready to face what we are assured lies ahead, tribulation and a great falling away—both foretold by Jesus Himself.
In short, this book will talk about the coming time of turmoil, the great apostasy that will occur within the church, and the testing of the church. Quite frankly, I’d love to avoid that, as I’m sure you would. I keep thinking that if I’m wrong and the church is removed before the bad stuff hits the fan, fantastic. But if I’m not, the church is in for a rude awakening. It might well be that the great falling away of believers will occur because people become disillusioned and believe it all a lie, as the church enters the tribulation. After all, they’d been taught that they wouldn’t have to endure the wrath of Satan. And suddenly they’re facing it, whether that’s at the hands of a literal Antichrist or not. And if that teaching was wrong, all of Christianity must be, too. Right? Well, no.
Instead, the church needs—you need—to be prepared. I hope, in some way, that this book helps you and your family to make those preparations by building your faith. Yes, this book talks of doom and gloom, but it also unveils a different perspective of our Blessed Hope and Christ’s desire to protect you through this time.
So, let’s dig in like true Bereans, “examining the Scriptures . . . to see if these things are so.” (Acts 17:11) I hope I’ve not scared you off already.