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Mark of the Beast (Part 1): Who Will Be Left Behind?

Updated: Nov 18


A friend of mine started reading "Left Behind," but she was forced to put the books away after anxiety crept in. I discerned her fear was due to uncertainty about the future and a lack of biblical knowledge (she agreed with my assessment). I recommended a few encouraging verses and assured her that reading Scripture is the only way to build confidence in the last days.

"Get wisdom; develop good judgment...Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do!"

- Proverbs 4:5, 7


RAPTURE THEOLOGY

If you've never heard the phrase "left behind,"* or you're unfamiliar with the premise of the "Left Behind" series - it is one interpretation of how the Antichrist will rise and the world will end. According to some Bible scholars, a mass disappearance of Christians (an event called the "rapture") will trigger a 7-year Tribulation that leads to the Second Coming. A popular verse among certain believers is 1 Thessalonians 5:9, which says, "God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through Jesus Christ." Note that wrath (anger in punishment) and tribulation (affliction, trials, persecution) are not synonymous or interchangeable in Scripture.


How bad will the 7-year Tribulation be for Christians? Consider persecution in the days of Emperor Nero, Hitler's Germany, modern-day North Korea, or radical Islamic countries. All these combined do not compare to what believers will suffer in those final hours. The apocalypse guarantees hell on earth and the only options will be to take the mark, starve to death, or be tortured and killed. Servants of the Antichrist will celebrate as martyrs are publicly executed and their dead bodies lie in the streets. No funerals, no graves. (I'm summarizing a portion of what's written in Revelation, by the way.)


Rapture theology is widely favored and accepted because it offers an escape. Yet, the Church of Jesus Christ has experienced tribulation for 2,000 years and it will intensify as the end draws near. Everyone who chooses to live a godly life will experience some form of persecution (2 Tim. 3:12). Jesus said, "If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you," (Jn. 15:20). So, where did we get the idea that a generation will be exempt? I did some digging and discovered the word "rapture" is neither Hebrew nor Greek, so it doesn't appear anywhere in Scripture. End times prophecy is a bit different from the Christian films we watch or sermons we hear. Ultimately, I believe everyone should simply resolve to live ready (Mk. 13:32-37; Rev. 16:15). __________________

*Christians use "left behind" to mean those who won't be counted in the sudden vanishing of believers before the 7-year Tribulation. However, the Bible does not teach a pre-, mid-, or post-tribulation "rapture" of the Church. Old and New Testament prophecies can be interpreted to support or discredit all theological points of view. "And since you don't know when that time will come, be on guard! Stay alert!" (Mk. 13:33).


LUKEWARM, COMPROMISED & BACKSLIDERS

I will spare you all the theories on "eternal security" (a.k.a. once saved always saved). I loathe those discussions because questions of assurance generally come from two categories of people: 1) those who want to argue over unrelated verses they've arranged to support their position; and 2) those who want to know how much sin they can get away with and still make heaven. The answer is none. Jesus shed blood on the cross for the complete removal of our sins, thus the Holy Spirit will not dwell in spiritually unclean people (Rom. 8; Gal. 5). Those who say they are in Christ should live as He did (1 Jn. 2:6).

Throughout Scripture, I've noticed that "lukewarm", "compromised," and "backslider" never seem to describe sinners or nonbelievers. The lukewarm in Revelation 3:15-16 refers to a church; the compromised in 1 Corinthians 5 are believers (see vv. 9-13); the backslider in James 5:19 is among the brethren; the one in 1 John 5:16-17 - who commits sin leading to death, and no one has a burden to pray for them - is called a brother. Of course, scholars and theologians have given us an unnecessary number of interpretations (and denominations) for these verses. I'm not defending or disputing any churchy doctrines but issuing a warning. If one starts out strong, then abuses the grace of God and drifts back to the world - this one is not secure. The Bible is clear that those living in sin and immorality when the Lord returns will not enter His kingdom.


Following Christ requires a level of discipline many believers don't aspire to in daily life. Scripture instructs us to study, fast, pray, and work to produce fruit that confirms we are indeed born again. This isn't accomplished solely by professing our beliefs but must also be evident in how we live (2 Tim. 2:15; Jas. 1:22-25, 2:14-26; 2 Pet. 1:1-11). If falling away posed no eternal threat or danger, why would Jesus, apostle Paul, and the author of Hebrews repeatedly exhort us to remain in Him, abide in the word, continue in the faith, and finish the race?


WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Everything I've said up to this point lays a foundation for those who will take the mark of the beast. Those who deny Christ and those who abandon the faith will be looking for a "savior" when the economy fails and violent chaos completely overtakes societies. The Antichrist will offer solutions, perform miracles, run a global peace campaign, and speak soothing words to the masses. People will no longer be sensible but desperately wicked and hypnotized by strong delusions. Nothing will stop them from pledging allegiance to the one who can alleviate their misery.


Have you considered what it will take to purge this planet of darkness, to see the kingdom of God manifest? What Scripture predicts will come to pass, whether good or evil. It's important to read and to pray God's will on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:10). There's not enough space and time here for an in-depth discussion on Revelation. I recommend reading the text in its entirety - first to know what it says, again to memorize the details, and then continually to gain understanding. End times prophecy will blow your mind and put the fear of God in you for sure.


Lastly, heaven and hell are the only destinations available to us when we die. There's no purgatory, no escaping into "nothingness," no ascending to higher realms of "consciousness." There are many ways to enter hell (Matt. 7:13-14), but only One Way to enter heaven (Jn. 14:6). If this sounds like fire-and-brimstone teaching, I'm okay with that. It's still Bible, it's still true. I encourage every unsaved person to put faith in Christ for salvation today. I call every lukewarm, compromised, backslidden believer to repentance. There's plenty of room at the cross...but we're running out of time.

 

Read: Mark of the Beast, Part II

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