Matthew 24: 9-13 (NIV)
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
In the first eight verses of Matthew chapter 24, Jesus has spoken about false teachers, wars and rumors of wars, famines and earthquakes. He referred to these things as the “beginning of birth pains” (Mt. 24:8). Now beginning in verse 9, you can begin to feel the intensity increasing in regards to various trials and world conditions that followers of Christ will face. It is clear from Matthew’s Gospel that those who believe and profess Christ as their Lord and Savior will face persecution and will be hated by everyone (all nations, Mt. 24:9).
At the end of verse 9, Jesus says, “…and you will be hated by all nations because of me.” Jesus is unmistakably telling us that there will come a time when the world will hate you because you are a Christian. Could that ever happen? Well, it’s happening today throughout the world and here in our own country. There is a growing sentiment of aversion, or even hostility, to the Christian message. The world that we live in tells us that we must be tolerant of the views of others. However, when it comes to expressing our God given biblical beliefs as a Christian, we are called judgmental, intolerant, unaccepting of others, ignorant, and the list could go on and on.
Remember from Mt. 24:8, Jesus talked about how wars, famines, and earthquakes would be the beginning of birth pains. Now in verse 9, it appears that the contractions of birth pains are becoming more intense. When worldwide persecution against Christians begins to occur, the end will be near.
Some additional signs that Jesus reveals are the “increase of wickedness” and the “love of most will grow cold” (Mt. 24:12). There will be a turning away from the faith by many. Betrayal and hatred will take the place of faith in Christ. A general increase of wickedness will prevail over the entire world and Christians will be hated by “all nations” (Mt. 24:9).
The question most on my mind is, “Will the church be around to experience this terrible time?” This of course brings to light another question that Christians struggle with: “Will there be a rapture of the church and if so will it occur before, during, or after this time of tribulation?” I will write about the rapture of the church in greater detail in a later post, but for now let me just state what I believe.
The word “rapture” comes from the Latin term rapturo and it essentially means to be “caught up.” The word “rapture” is not found in the Bible, but I believe it is what Paul spoke of in his first letter to the Thessalonians. “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). According to Paul, this will be a public event.
I believe that the church age believers will be spared the time of tribulation that is to come upon the earth. There are others who believe that the church will be on earth during the time of tribulation but I do not believe that to be the case. The scripture that I use for the basis of my belief, that the church will be spared this terrible time, is found in the words of Jesus from Revelation 3:10: “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.” I believe that the church will be raptured, or taken away, before the time of tribulation begins. And I also believe this to be a public, not a secretive, event.
As I have stated repeatedly, Jesus did not give us these signs of the end of the age so that we could predict when he would return. We are given these signs so that we will be ready when Jesus does return. Since Jesus could return at any time, will you be ready to “meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17) and to be with him forever?