I want to address something I see going on all around us in society and it is of increasing concern to me. There are many facets to it and my own thoughts keep evolving. I will try an onion skin approach to this. Start out high level and gradually peel away more layers over multiple postings. It’s too much to tackle all at once so bear with me as I develop this. I want to first state the problem before getting into the details.
Our society is more divided than any time since the Civil War. I see different factions and then factions within factions so it’s hard to neatly divide society into two buckets. The Democrat/Republican divide has been with our country since its founding. It’s waxed and waned and what was the Federalist party morphed into the Democratic party but politics has always been with us and always will be. On the plus side, we live in a country that allows different parties and voices and debate. Much better than being in a communist country where there is only one party, one voice, and no debate.
It’s more than just political divides. We increasingly hear about the divide between rich and poor, environmentalists and their opposites, white color versus blue-collar, white people versus everyone else, religious versus non-religious, women against men, and on and on. Most of those aren’t new but might be newly emphasized. I think a lot of the divides became clearer when Donald Trump took office. Trump, in my view, is an interesting character. On one hand, he represents the traditional Republican ideal. Rich, white, business owner, wants small government, wants fewer regulations, whatever is good for business is good for the nation! On the other hand, he also appeals to a lot of regular Americans who don’t own businesses or are wealthy. He appeals to so-called Patriots, Second Amendment advocates, Evangelicals, a wide array of conservatives, even White Supremacists. Despite being raised with a silver spoon, Trump still appeals to a lot of the working class or those tired of politics as usual. He campaigned on a theme of “Make America Great Again” and “Draining the Swamp” and his brashness and irreverence appealed to a lot of people. It almost seemed like the more badly he behaved the more his followers liked him. The little guy could strangely identify with Trump because he was politically incorrect. He shot from the hip and took no pains to pick his words carefully. He invented funnyish but crude names for his opponents. Nervous Nancy (Pelosi), Sleepy Joe (Biden), and so on. That crudeness and irreverence actually won over some people adding to his appeal as not-a-politician.
Trump was also masterful at turning everything into “us” versus “them.” It was the Rebellion versus the Empire in a Lukasoian battle. Trump represented the Rebellion trying to take back America from the Evil Empire represented by Hillary Clinton and the Democrats as well as liberals and socialists and all who would drag America into the swamp. From the start, Trump complained about how the media treated him unfairly and twisted his words (what President hasn’t felt that way at times?). He warned the forces of evil would do anything to remove him from office.
I think this appealed to a segment of the population that were looking for a cause and someone to lead them. They wanted a great crusade and in Trump, they found their bannerman. All the weekend militia groups suddenly had a war to prepare for and a cause to fight for. He gave purpose to disparate groups of people who had in common a disdain for the status quo and a desire to be part of something bigger. Trump wasted no time in attracting such people to his cause and kept them fired up throughout his Presidency with new claims of the evil plans of the left.
Trump also started another way of dividing Americans and that was his invention and use of the term “Fake News.” I don’t know if Trump invented the term but he was certainly the first to use it with such a big platform and media coverage. Any news that didn’t meet Trump’s approval got labeled “fake news” and as such dismissed as dishonest and invented to make him look bad. It wasn’t just news articles that got labeled “fake news” but whole media companies. Soon millions of Americans, mostly Trump followers, were using the term “fake news.” That soon led to a companion term usually abbreviated MSM which stood for Mainstream Media. The implication was that anything produced by the mainstream media was fake news. The mainstream media had it in for Trump and would twist his words, lie, manipulate, and violate journalistic standards all in its vile hatred for him and all he stood for. Trump was sure to also make the connection that the MSM was anti-American. It was controlled by some rich, liberal, elites who did not like someone like Trump coming in exposing the truth, and draining the swamp so they fought back with their corrupt media. It was more Rebellion versus the Empire or one might say, the Empire Strikes Back via the media.
This gave rise to alternative media sites. Some new some previously obscure but if they got Trump’s endorsement then his followers would flock to them as the only source of truth. As long as they backed Trump he gave them his endorsement and no one in the Trump camp bothered to fact-check them. If anyone on “the other side” pointed out errors in their reporting, they got dismissed as MSM plants just out to discredit anything pro-Trump and not to be trusted.
This set the stage for the eventual showdown over the 2020 election. Trump began claiming, early in 2020, that the only way he could lose re-election was if the election was stolen from him. It was not possible that the Democrats could beat him in a fair fight. Despite stating this nearly six months before the election, Trump took no steps to try and ensure the American voting system was safeguarded by working with states to tighten their voting laws and make sure the elections would be fair (not that there was reason to doubt they wouldn’t be). It was common knowledge that due to covid a record number of people would vote via absentee ballot and since those were more likely to be Democratic votes than Republican votes Trump began warning that absentee ballots were the Achilles heel of American elections and the most likely avenue by which the election would be stolen.
As soon as the returns started to indicate Trump might lose a close election, he immediately began to say “I told you so” and thus began months of claims and accusations about a stolen election. He had laid the groundwork for his followers to readily side with him in the claim of election fraud. After all, they reasoned, he told us this would happen! Despite loss after loss in the courts and a failure to prove any fraud had taken place, Trump would not give up or shut up. He took to social media (long his soapbox) and continued to make claims along with his high-profile backers. Eventually, there was so much unsubstantiated information out on social media that, under pressure, the social media giants began to censor posts and eventually Trump himself got kicked off Twitter and Facebook. This was of course unprecedented and controversial. What about the First Amendment and freedom of speech? The events of January 6th only threw gasoline on the fire. The fight turned real and ugly and there was evidence much of the civil disobedience and criminal acts had been planned on social media.
While the debate raged over the election, another debate was brewing and that of covid. On one hand, Trump led the charge on getting emergency vaccines created and made available something he took and still takes, great pride in. At the same time, he often refused to wear a mask, complained that there was too much testing which was making the numbers look bad, and generally came across as anti-vax. More recently, when he has spoken in favor of vaccination, many of his own booed him. He got caught playing politics. He wanted the political capital from having championed the vaccines yet when they proved unpopular among many of his followers, he tried to downplay them and all the time insisted things were not as bad as reported and that covid was no big deal. He did not want his approval ratings to suffer if people thought his leadership had been deficient in responding to covid. Now he is between a rock and a hard place. He laments the lack of credit given to him for the vaccines (and the tens of millions he says were saved by them) yet is faced with a loyal following that tends (thanks in large part to him) to be anti-government and distrusting of anything the government advocates.
In parallel to all this, is a movement within some evangelicals to interpret covid and vaccines along with more government intervention as tools of a secret group of global elites that are working behind the scenes to prepare the world for the One-World government of the coming Antichrist. They see covid as something planned (the “plandemic”) to condition the citizens of the world to accept government mandates and increasing government control over their lives. Mask mandates, closures, and mandatory testing were all tools of these elitists to gain control over us and make it easier for the Antichrist to assume total control when he arrives. Many of the same people believe the vaccines contain substances or technologies that might in time be turned into the Mark of the Beast predicted in the Bible that will be used by the Antichrist to limit those who can buy and sell. Some even went so far as to suggest mRNA vaccines were actually altering our DNA creating transhumans who, lacking genuine human DNA, would not longer be covered by the blood of Christ and would lose all hope of salvation. They feel the signs are all lining up demonstrating that the Tribulation is near and the Antichrist is soon to step on the world stage.
Many of these same people also viewed Trump as God-anointed. A contemporary, mini-savior sent to warn us and make one last-ditch attempt to call America to repentance and a return to being a God-fearing nation. He was our Luke Skywalker come to lead the Rebellion and establish peace in the Empire. Trump’s many shortcomings were forgiven under the umbrella of being a “baby Christian.” The fact that he had a group of Christian advisors and stood up for Israel and Christian rights were proof of his calling. He was our last, best hope before the darkness took over. Naturally, the forces of evil would do anything to discredit and defeat him in this cosmic struggle over good versus evil.
That’s the outer layer of the onion. Before I peel back more layers let me make a few disclaimers and explanations. I am a Christian and do believe in a coming Rapture (pre-tribulation), a Tribulation, the Second Coming of Christ, His Millennial Kingdom, and the reality of the Antichrist. I don’t’ claim to know who the Antichrist will be if he’s alive today, or how soon his appearance will be. I am not personally convinced the pandemic was planned or that the vaccines will “become the Mark of the Beast.” I am not generally in favor of vaccine mandates. I could be wrong about any or all of that. My concern, as I will go on to demonstrate, is that there is a lot of misinformation flying about, and a lot of people who have quit thinking critically and blindly believe whatever they hear if it’s according to their predisposition or the “side” they are on. I believe truth matters and the ends don’t justify the means. Regardless of how I might personally feel about something, if I encounter information I have reason to believe is false, I will say so whether that favors my personal position or goes against it. I want to be persuaded by the facts, not assumptions or speculation. I have already caught a lot of flack for this. On some Christian forums, I have been blasted for critiquing information that is popular on those sites. Almost never do the attacks point out a flaw in my case (not that I am right about everything or flawless), but rather I get attacked simply because I dared to question something they hold to be true and thus make myself their enemy and a tool of Satan. So many people have quit thinking! They just want to find their camp, pitch their tent, and charge! The facts be damned! While there is a spiritual war going on, we are not to blindly charge, unless it is clear from Scripture those are our orders. You are not a traitor if you question things. Did not the Apostle Paul commend the believers in Berea for checking him out by Scripture?
As for Trump and politics, I believe this. Politics is not our salvation and Trump is not our savior (not saying he claims to be). I have Christian friends who are upset if I even question something Trump said or did. I am not anti-Trump. I did not vote for Hillary. That’s not my point. The Bible tells us the root problem is the heart of man. All evil thoughts and actions begin in our hearts. The sins of this nation are due to the sinful hearts of its people. Unless hearts change, the nation will remain the same or grow worse. No President, court, or congress can save this nation. Hearts must be saved by the Gospel. While we should stand up to evil and advocate for good, our marching orders from Jesus were to fulfill the Great Commission. Jesus and the Apostles lived under the corrupt and cruel Roman Empire. Never did they advocate overthrowing the empire, or trying to get a Christian Emperor selected. They pretty much stayed silent on politics only charging us to obey the governing authorities set over us. Many Jews were stumbled by Jesus not, at that time, establishing His earthly kingdom. Surely their Messiah would kick the Romans out and put Israel back at the head of nations! Yet Jesus did not come, at that time, to establish a political kingdom. He came to change hearts and deliver us from the power of sin and death. The day will come when Christ will return in glory and will establish his earthly, physical kingdom. That is at His Second Coming.
I see three primary things for us to be busy about today as believers. First, we should love the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds, soul, and strength, Second, we should love our neighbor as ourselves. Third, we should fulfill the Great Commission by proclaiming the Gospel and making disciples. Those three things never change. It doesn’t matter if the Rapture is tomorrow, next year, or a thousand years off. Until heaven and hell are full of their inhabitants, we are to spread the Gospel. I think there is a danger in getting too caught up in trying to discern when the Lord will return and where we are in prophesy. After Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples were still looking up at the sky when an angel appeared to them to remind them that Jesus will return in the same way but for now, they had work to do! I question if my own time is well spent commenting on these things but I fear many believers are getting sidetracked by politics, covid, prophecy, etc. I also see it dividing Christians between those “in the know” and those who are blind. It is in the hope of addressing those problems that I write.
One of the greatest passages in Scripture concerning the End of Times (or the End Times) is found in Mathew 24. In this passage, Jesus responds to a question asked in private by His disciples. Before answering, he moves them to the Mount of Olives and thus His answer has come to be known as the Olivet Discourse.
Just before this, as recorded in Mathew 24, Jesus is speaking about the End of Times which prompts His disciples to ask him:
24 Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. 2 And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”
3 Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
Before we can examine Jesus’ answer, we first need to understand the Jewish, Old Testament expectations regarding the coming of the Messiah. To the Jewish minds of the time, they expected that when their Messiah came, He would at that time overcome His enemies, free the Jews, and set up His kingdom on earth. Despite the OT prophesizing two comings of the Messiah, once to die and resurrect and once to bring about the End of the Times, they saw those events as all happening in a short period of time with no major interlude. The did not understand the prophecies about the church age nor the Rapture. They only understood one event left to happen. That was the mindset of the disciples.
We know, with the further clarification of the NT, that Jesus is going to return two more times. First, He will return secretly in an event we call the Rapture. Secret in the sense that while the whole world will see the effects of the Rapture, they won’t see Jesus. He will await His children in the clouds and take them to heaven leaving those on earth confused and bewildered wondering how so many people suddenly disappeared. The Rapture is not what Scripture calls the Second Coming.
The Second Coming occurs at the end of the seven-year Tribulation period. This is when Christ returns triumphantly and tramples His enemies and sets up His Millennial Kingdom. This is the coming of the Messiah the Jews expected but without understanding of the Rapture and the Tribulation. If Jesus was the Messiah, then they expected Him to overthrown the Romans and all Israel’s enemies and reign from Jerusalem. It was with this expectation that the disciples asked Jesus what would be the signs of His Second Coming.
That the Messiah first had to suffer and die at the hands of sinners, was foretold by the OT prophets but was missed by the Jews. They could not imagine their Messiah being killed by the like of Roman soldiers. They did not understand that their sacrifices in the Temple could never pay the price for their sin. A perfect sacrifice had to be made and only the Messiah, the Son of God, could make it. They were also blinded by their pride. They were God’s people! The nation of Israel. God’s elect. They looked down upon all others as Gentiles who had no part in the plans of the Messiah. Again, the OT foretold that God had other people who He would also call His children and that there would be a Church Age in which God gathered His children from among the Gentiles and some Jews. The height of the Jews expectations for Jesus occurred during His triumphal entrance into Jerusalem just one week before His death. They lined the roads and threw down their cloaks and palm branches celebrating their Messiah. When Jesus did not, at that time overcome Israel’s enemies, they bitterly rejected Jesus as just another false Messiah. A pretender who must be in league with Satan to have performed the miracles He did. As great as their joy had been in seeing Him as their Messiah, so great was their subsequent hatred for Him when He did not fulfill their expectations.
If we were to look at a timeline it might look like this:
3 BC 30 AD Rapture Tribulation Second Coming Mill. Kingdom New HE
3 BC – the birth of Christ. We think 0 AD, but due to flaws in the calendars back then it was likely more like 3 BC
30 AD – death of Jesus
X – where we are now prophetically though not implying, we are half way to the Rapture
Rapture – when Jesus comes secretly for His church
Tribulation – a 7-year period of events following the Rapture and leading up to the Second Coming
Mill. Kingdom – a 1000-year reign of Christ on earth known as the Millennial Kingdom
New HE – the new heavens and the new earth after God destroys the old in intense heat
NOTE: The distances on the timeline are not to scale.
On our timeline, the events described in the Olivet Discourse occur during the 7-year Tribulation period. There are parallel events found in Revelation that go into more details about the events of the Tribulation.
One thing that has been greatly misunderstood is Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew 24:32-35:
32 “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So you also, when you see all these things, know that [e]it is near—at the doors! 34 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.
Jesus made clear to His disciples that “no one knows the hour or the day (Matthew 24:35)” of His Second coming. In these verses Jesus says that we can see the signs of His return approaching even though we won’t know the hour or the day.
I believe these verses are misunderstood because many Christians think Jesus is talking about the Rapture here or the Rapture and all that follows. I don’t believe that is the case. The wars, the rumors of war, the famines and earthquakes, are all things taking place during the Tribulation. These are not events occurring before the Rapture. I have seen lists Christians have created showing how the number of major earthquakes per year has been on the rise. The same with famines and they see these as signs that the Lord’s return is approaching. While there have always been earthquakes, famines, and wars, Jesus is talking about a very specific set of those events taking place in a very specific context.
For one thing, mankind has only been keeping records of these things for a couple of hundred years. We have no idea how these events over the past two hundred years compares to the preceding thousands of years. For all we know, history might be full of periods of increase followed by periods of decrease. We cannot assume that any uptick in modern times is unprecedented. Secondly, we don’t know to what degree these things will increase leading up to the Lord’s Second Coming. For all we know, what Jesus is describing is daily major earthquakes in different parts of the world. We are seeing nothing like that today.
Jesus is describing cataclysmic events unparalleled in human history. Apocalyptic events. The recent upward trend in earthquakes we are seeing are nowhere near that scale.
Jesus describes these events like birth pangs (Matthew 24:8). A woman normally does not know when labor is going to begin. If her water breaks or labor is induced, she will have some idea. As she approaches her due date, she knows it will happen soon but she does not know the hour or the day. One minute she might feel fine and the next contractions have started. Once started they can progress steadily, start and stop, or progress rapidly. At some point they progress rapidly culminating in the birth of the baby. Jesus’ analogy of these apocalyptic events to a woman’s labor is describing the rapid progression that immediately precedes birth. Once those contractions start, a woman knows the time is short. So it will be during the Tribulation. The wars and famines and earthquakes will come on suddenly and fearfully. The inhabitants of the earth will feel like the earth is being rent in two under them. The earth will seem to be rapidly dying in a cataclysmic way. That is a level of natural disasters humanity has never seen.
By contrast, Scripture describes the Rapture peacefully.
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep [k]in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive [l]and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a [m]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 [n]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. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
Theologians hold to the doctrine of Imminence. This means that there remains NO events that need to take place before the Rapture. Christ could come at any moment. There does not need to be an increase in earthquakes or famines or civil unrest. Life on earth can appear to be perfectly normal. Sometimes contemporary Christians make assumptions based on technological progress. I can recall hearing “experts” talk about the ability to put electric chips in people over 30 years ago. At that time, many believers were convinced a microchip would be the Mark of the Beast described in Revelation. It seemed like a natural fit. If such technology exists, they reason, it’s use as the Mark of the Beast must be fast approaching and before that can occur, the Rapture must occur. According to the doctrine of Imminency, Christ’s return for the Rapture could have taken place anytime from 33 AD to today. Microchips have existed for less than a century. The Rapture has not been waiting until technology invents a way to make distributing and recognizing the Mark an easy thing. Scripture does not tell us what form the mark will take. Just something on the forehead or back of the hand. That could just as easily be a tattoo as a microchip. For us to think the Rapture must be approaching because we have implantable microchips, or microdots, and a global pandemic to provide a perfect opportunity to distribute the Mark, does not mean the Rapture is approaching! The conditions for the inauguration of the Mark of the Beast have existed since 33 AD. Scripture also never teaches that technology will be used or that the first time such technology exists it will be used. Tattoos could have been used as the Mark of the Beast and tattoos have been around for thousands of years. The fact that we have such technology and have a world-wide pandemic tells us absolutely nothing about the timing of the Rapture. That is man reading things into Scripture and making assumptions that cannot be supported from the text.
Remember too that the “signs” of the season Jesus spoke of only apply to His Second Coming NOT to the Rapture. There are no signs required before the Rapture can occur. God does not require a gradual increase in earthquakes to then really cause terror and panic. Like the contractions of labor, they can come on in a hurry when the time appointed for them is reached. In the beginning of the Tribulation, the world will think their problems have been solved. They will look to the Antichrist as a savior. They will rejoice in peace and safety. It is only after the Abomination of Desolation occurs that the Antichrist shows his true colors and the world suddenly realizes it is in the grip of a Satanic leader.
What might lead the world to look to the Antichrist to begin with? We aren’t told except that he will initially appear to be a dynamic world leader who can unite humanity and solve the world’s problems. With the church having been raptured and the restraint of the Holy Spirit removed, the Antichrist will be able to easily deceive the world. While speculation on my part, I can envision that a world-wide Rapture would throw the world into chaos. Imagine millions (maybe a billion or more) people suddenly and for no obvious reason disappearing. Imagine cars crashing without drivers, planes suddenly without pilots, teachers, bankers, and all manner of humanity gone in an instant. That would be more than enough to throw the world into overnight panic and bewilderment. What just happened??? Where did these people go? Was this an alien abduction or some secret world-wide government kidnapping? How could people just disappear into thin air? No arrests or rounding up of people. Just vanishing. People will be in shock and panic. What better circumstances for a charismatic world leader who has the answers? What bigger crisis could there be from which the world will willingly submit to such a man’s leadership. It’s not going to be just explaining what happened but replacing or reorganizing society to do without the leadership and efforts of so many of the earth’s citizens.
In my opinion, this misunderstanding of the unfolding of the End Times has led to endless speculation by many attempting to fit together world events like pieces in a puzzle thinking they can anticipate the Rapture. We can’t. The signs of the season, so to speak, only apply to the Second Coming. Some will say that it’s important for us to know so we can warn others before it’s too late. Has not that been our job since Jesus gave the Great Commission before He returned to heaven? Since the Rapture could have occurred any time after that, the concern that time is running out has always been there or should have been. Why is it suddenly important to think you know the Rapture is approaching? The church, the body of Christ, should always be preaching the Good News and warning the world that the time of judgment is approaching. Not only might the Rapture happen tonight but you could have a heart attack or an aneurism and die tonight. The best time to believe is always now! We are not promised tomorrow. We don’t need to see the “signs of the season” with respect to the Rapture for us to feel a sense of urgency as the people we are witnessing to could have their opportunity ended at any moment. Those signs were given of Christ’s Second Coming which will occur after the Rapture. Scripture teaches that there will be believers saved during the Tribulation. The descriptions of those events are given for their encouragement not ours. We won’t be here.
Rather than scouring current world events to try and fit more pieces into the puzzle, we should be doing God’s work and fulfilling the Great Commission. The world needs Christ and without Him our warnings of the End approaching will fall on deaf ears. You might suppose that while those words won’t be headed now, they might come back to them later after they are saved. Perhaps. Trust God to encourage and enlighten them after they believe should they believe after the Rapture. God knows how to keep His own. If you believe as I do that you cannot lose your salvation (providing you truly have it) then no post-Rapture saint is going to lose their salvation if they don’t know everything there is to know about the events of the Tribulation. God will keep them. Our job today is to bear witness to them and pray for them asking God to add them to His Kingdom. We can get so caught up in speculations about the fulfillment of prophecy. It is of little profit.
We tend to treat the Rapture, the Tribulation, and the Second Coming of the Lord as one blob. Granted, they all happen over a 7-year period so time-wise they are closely related however if you are a saint today your vision of prophecy approaching may not extend beyond the Rapture. The rest of the picture won’t be in view until after the Rapture occurs in which case you will be watching events unfold from heaven. Those alive but unbelieving before the Rapture (but who will live past it) wont’ comprehend these events or put stock in them. Our fixation on the events of the Tribulation and the Second Coming seems misplaced. Not that God would have us be ignorant of them but I don’t see evidence of the Apostle’s spending much time warning non-believers about the events of the Tribulation. Their focus was not on politics or End Times prophecy but simply the Gospel of Jesus Christ.