Christians, are not going to be judged (recipients of God’s wrath; 1 Thessalonians 5:9) along with the “world” of non-believers. Instead, we receive our primary chastisement now, as day to day sinners; though saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-10). We “pay” for our offenses with the natural consequences of those sins. The Apostle Peter makes it clear that we receive our “judgment”, or refinement from God, now (1 Peter 4:17); non-believers later. The writer to the Hebrews (chapter 12) makes it plain that this time of God’s chastisement, for believers, is God’s time to refine us, to discipline us, in order to “sanctify” us (verse 14) , that we might better share in His holiness (verse 10) as we prepare to meet him.
We Christians live in the grace of God, all our sins are forgiven in Christ (1 John 2:2) we simply need to confess our sins and obey God’s word, moving away from our nature to sin, by the power of God’s spirit (Romans 6…) and allow God to cleanse us from our day to day sins (1 John 1:9) as He “sanctifies” us (Romans 6:19), enabling us to live for Christ in “newness of life” – the Spirit filled, saved life (Romans 6:3-7; Romans 8:1-11). In this way we move toward maturity in Him.
However, some trouble, or difficulties, are not deserved, that is not the direct consequence of sin. Some trials and tribulations are the result of persecution; they are a badge of honor for our faith (Matthew 5:10-16). Sometimes, Christians receive unjust religious retaliation and persecution as nonbelievers push back against our form of faith; which exclusively acknowledges Christ alone and lord and God, Savior of mankind, all other faith options a fraud. That “exclusivity claim” infuriates people and causes some to lash out at us giving us the anguish of rejection and ridicule (2 Thessalonians 1:3-7).
Therefore we Christians need to accept a couple of things. First, we, of all people, need to live in the fear of the Lord and in a sincere state of covenant loyalty and repentance before Him. We need to echo Paul’s words in Philippians 1:21 – “for to me to live is Christ and to die is gain”.
Second we need to recognize that the judgment passages and prophecies to Israel are past, complete, the prophecies of judgment and doom now belong to the lost, the unregenerate and the unrepentant gentile nations. The tribulation period is their time of punishment, their last chance to repent and be saved. It is not primarily for Israel or the Church. It is the out pouring of God’s wrath on rebellious, sinful, mankind (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11).
Third we need to recognize that the judgment of sin for Christians is past too. Those sins and the judgment due were paid for by Christ Jesus, when He died on the cross. Scripture tells us; “He bore our sins in His body, on the cross, that we might be die to sin and live to righteousness for by His wounds you (“we”) were healed… to live in newness of life (1 Peter 2:24; Romans 6:4). The prophet Isaiah tells it this way…
He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.
6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us alto fall on Him…
By oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation, who considered
That He was cut off out of the land of the living
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? Isaiah 53:5, 6 and 8
So, to quote Francis Schaeffer; “how shall we then live”? I recommend 7 things for the Christian – whether you believe you are going into the “Tribulation” or not. I recommend, even with the prospect of a divine escape from trouble, the “Rapture”, that we all live the following way.
- Prepare your heart and mind to experience severe discomfort; rejection, alienation, persecution, misunderstanding, etc. we are “protected” from God’s wrath but not from trial (1 Thessalonians 5:9; Matthew 24:21, 22).
- Purposeful; make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20) and witness to anyone who will listen. There will continue to be gentiles (the elect) who are looking for deliverance and looking to God. It is not “game over” until all whom Christ has called, come to Him (Matthew 24:14, 22). Therefore, we should point them to Christ. Also, be there, in support, of the Jews; bless them (Genesis 12:3) and pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6).
- Preparation; we need to be as a faithful servant (Mathew 24:42-51) looking forward to the Lord’s coming with expectation and working faithfully and diligently on His behalf till He comes; whether it is pre-tribulation in the “Rapture” or afterward, at His second advent. Again, recognize that persecution, trial and even martyrdom are very real possibilities.
- Pain; it will be a grieving time, not a rejoicing time in the years that follow. There will be trials for believers, enemies for Israel, eventual judgment for nonbelievers. This is nothing to joke about. Prepare for pain; prepare your heart, head and home. Make sure you are in the Word, living in the Spirit and united in solid Christian company/fellowship.
- Pray without ceasing (Philippians 4:6, 7). Be steady, resilient, and consistently in prayer that you will make it through with faithfulness, to honor your Lord (Matthew 24:20). Be sober and alert in prayer and ministry living (Luke 21:34-36; 1 Peter 5:6-8).
- Persevere: in the things of the Lord, including right to life, worship, witnessing, helping the needy, seeking truth, justice and hope in a scarred and irreverent world. Seek moderation, generosity, integrity and vigilance too (Matthew 10:22; 24: 13; 2 Timothy 3).
- Protection – pack a backup plan: Have you been watching the news lately? Have you watched Israel under bombardment from Hamas? Did you notice what you didn’t see? They have a national plan for personal protection. Did you notice no one came to their protection? While the bombs were bursting in mid-air, their people executed the plan – they went to shelter. If Israel, as a country and a community, didn’t take care of their people, no one else would. Therefore, they have a well thought through; a regularly practiced, equipped and workable plan for protection – food, water, shelter, medicine, etc.
Did you know that the Federal government of the United States recommends that you too have a family back up plan in case of emergency – in case “they”, the governing authorities, can’t get to you to help? It’s true; read the recommendations of our government on the FEMA website (www.ready.gov). Then I recommend you respond, accordingly. If you aren’t sure whether God’s “Rapture” elevator is going to “take you up” before His “wrath” is poured out on the world, then consider developing a safe community; a safe place for you and your family – as well as other faithful believers. Being prepared is simply an insurance policy to protect what no one else will. There are plenty of sites online that will help you develop a plan for daily shelter, substance, stability and defense in order to give you an edge of safety from common adversaries and enemies to your families’ health and welfare. If you are concerned, turn your anxiety to prayer and protection preparation. You’ll sleep a little better knowing you have a backup plan (Luke 22:35-38).
But most of all; be sure your heart and home are prepared to meet Jesus and to give Him an account of your life and lifestyle (Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:1- 10). That is the best Insurance and Assurance policy of all (John 10:27-30)!
I look forward to hearing from you.