A Time of Terrifying Trouble is Coming Soon
Once before, God judged the entire world for its evil and violence.
“The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil…. Now God saw that the earth had become corrupt and was filled with violence.” (Genesis 6:5 & 11).
Hence, the Great Flood; a cataclysmic global event that eliminated all but eight people and drastically changed the earth’s geological and ecological dynamics.
Subsequently, God made a covenant with Noah: Never again would a flood devastate the earth, destroying all life. Every time we see a rainbow, we are reminded of God’s promise (Genesis 9:8-17).
But the Lord didn’t promise that the earth and mankind would be spared from another global disaster. Just the opposite: Old Testament prophets, New Testament Apostles, and Jesus, himself, warned of the second (and final) apocalypse. In fact, the Apostle Peter cites the Great Flood in the context of this soon-to-come series of one catastrophe after another.
“Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, ‘What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.’
“They deliberately forget that God made the heavens by the word of his command, and he brought the earth out from the water and surrounded it with water. Then he used the water to destroy the ancient world with a mighty flood. And by the same word, the present heavens and earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the day of judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed” (II Peter 3:3-7).
Not since before the Great Flood has there been a global saturation of violence and corruption than we have experienced in the 20th & 21st centuries. There are many examples to support this observation, including but not limited to: (1) Two world-wars that caused the combined deaths of some 90 million people, soldiers and civilians alike. (2) Violent terrorism that has taken hundreds of thousands of innocent lives; plus, widespread abortion has snuffed out the lives of hundreds of millions of babies. (3) Political corruption, financial dishonesty, social upheaval, and moral decay that are off the charts.
Jesus also referred to the global flood of Noah’s time. However, his warning focused on the other feature of the world’s condition just before his return (in two phases: first the Rapture, then his physical return to earth).
Please see Eye of Prophecy article: Messiah’s Return & The Rapture (Same or Separate Events?) Posted 12-3-16.
Said Jesus: “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered the boat. People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes” (Matthew 24:37-39).
Early in that prophetic message to his disciples, Jesus described the incredible devastation (caused by people and by God’s wrath during the Tribulation), including the staggering number of casualties.
“For there will be greater anguish than at any time since the world began. And it will never be so great again. In fact, unless that time of calamity is shortened, not a single person will survive. But it will be shortened for the sake of God’s chosen ones (the Jews and nation of Israel)” (Matthew 24:21-22, parenthesis mine).
Who Will Not Survive the Great Tribulation?
Most of the world’s population will be left behind at the Rapture, and most of those left behind will not make it through the Tribulation.
Please refer to Eye of Prophecy article: Shocking Statistics of the Great Tribulation (6-6-15).
If participating in and even passively supporting the Gog/Magog coalition against Israel (early in the Tribulation) or Antichrist Nero and his ten-nation confederation and all those kings and kingdoms who march on Jerusalem via the Valley of Megiddo (near the end of the Tribulation); they will not be spared from the inconceivable carnage. Many of those who don’t die will wish they had. For example, see Revelation 9:1-12; and that’s only half-way through the Tribulation!
Destruction and death at the hands of men.
Plus, God’s divine judgment when he pours out his wrath on those who: “…did not repent of their murders or their witchcraft or their sexual immorality or their thefts” (Revelation 9:21).
On those, “…who have caused destruction on the earth” (Revelation 11:18).
On Babylon (Rome): “…because she made all the nations of the world drink the wine of her passionate immorality” (Revelation 14:8 & Revelation Chapter 18).
On those who “…shed the blood of your holy people and your prophets…” (Revelation 16:6).
On, “…the rulers of the world (gathered) for battle against the Lord on that great judgment day of God the Almighty” (Revelation 16:14).
On Antichrist and his ten-nation coalition that, “…go to war against the Lamb…” (Revelation 17:14).
On all those who, “…had accepted the mark of the beast and who worshipped his statue…” (Revelation 19:20).
(This last set of three sets of seven judgments will be primarily against Antichrist’s empire)
There will also be friendly casualties such as many of the Tribulation saints murdered for their faith in and testimony for Jesus (Revelation 20:4). And, some innocent children born during the Tribulation as well as other innocent children who…. (Stay tuned and see).
Billions will die during this horrific time. Those who survive will experience a time of unimaginable terror and horror, of appalling conditions not thought possible even during the two world-wars of the 20th century. For one thing, there won’t be enough people or time between the twenty-one plagues to bury or cremate most of the dead, individually. The only way to dispose of the countless bodies is through mass graves and massive bonfires.
Which is another picture of how the world will be judged by fire, not by flood.
For those still alive as the 7-year Great Tribulation nears an end, it will seem like 70 years (a lifetime) to them.
Who Will Be Spared (From the Tribulation Itself)?
The answer is known by virtually all believers; a miraculous event that even some unbelievers have heard and wondered about.
It is found in a spectacular revelation given directly by Jesus to the Apostle Paul. Much like God the Father and Jesus in his Pre-Incarnate appearances in the Old Testament directly spoke to (verbally or through dreams and visions) the prophets and a few others. As opposed to the more common inspiration of God’s Word through the Holy Spirit.
Most likely you know or know of the passage; one I’ve quoted several times in prior articles, as have other scholars, commentators, pastors, and everyday believers from time to time. However, I’m going to include two preceding verses not often quoted with the remarkable event itself.
“And now dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people (unbelievers) who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died” (I Thessalonians 4:13-14, parenthesis mine).
“We tell you this directly from the Lord (emphasis added, affirming that the source of the revelation was from Jesus himself). We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up (Greek word, harpazo, from which we get the term Rapture) in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words” (I Thessalonians 4:15-18, parenthesis mine).
Then, a few verses later in Chapter 5, Paul explains the purpose of the Rapture: “For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us” (I Thessalonians 5:9).
The pouring out of God’s anger is contextually and explicitly referring precisely to the tribulation period when, “…disaster will fall on them (those left behind at the Rapture) as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape” (I Thessalonians 5:3, parenthesis mine).
The Apostle Paul also described the Rapture phase of Messiah’s Second Coming as:
Not only did Jesus convey this astonishing sequence of the Rapture to Paul, it was Jesus while he was still on earth who first spoke about the Rapture—as part of his discourse on the multiple features and signs of his Second Coming, culminating in his physical return to earth. After comparing Noah’s time to the condition of the world in the last days of the end times, Jesus provides this stunning disclosure; one that Paul metaphorically relates to a thief in the night as we just read:
“Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left” (Matthew 24:40-41).
In his gospel, Luke adds one other scenario spoken of by Jesus: “That night two people will be asleep in one bed; one will be taken, the other left” (Luke 17:34).
In these examples, Jesus is NOT referring to his physical return to the earth at the end of the Tribulation. When that happens, everyone will clearly see the signs of his impending return (Matthew 24:29-30). Many will be traumatically shocked but not dramatically surprised, as they were when the Rapture occurred seven years earlier.
Sparing Believers from Judgment … Biblical Precedents
The soon to come Rapture will take place for two distinct purposes: (1) Resurrection from the grave for believers who have died; (2) Removal of living believers, sparing them from the Great Tribulation.
Yet, both sets of believers will be transfigured to our immortal spiritual bodies and whisked away to heaven to be with the Lord forever!
The phenomenal news that born-again believers in Messiah Jesus would be taken from the earth (Rapture) was a mystery that Jesus unveiled to Paul. It answered the question of the Thessalonian Christians (all believers) concerning their loved ones who had died and what would happen to believers still alive when the Day of the Lord began. However, the reality of the (a) Rapture was not itself new, i.e. the catching up to heaven while still alive. The first incident in which someone was taken to heaven without dying was a prototype precedent for reason #2 above.
As found in Genesis 5:21-24, we read of Enoch: “…Then one day he disappeared, because God took him” (Verse 24). Then in the New Testament: “It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying— ‘he disappeared, because God took him’” (Hebrews 11:5, which quotes Genesis 5:24).
Why did the Lord take Enoch in that fashion?
For the same reason that the Lord will take living believers to heaven before the Great Tribulation begins … to exclude Enoch from God’s global judgment (the Flood) which was justifiably necessary because of the world-wide violence and corruption. The same kind of deplorable conditions this woeful world in which we live is experiencing daily—within families, communities, cities, states, nations, and internationally. This magnitude of evil will intensify even more during the Tribulation.
Because people lived to be hundreds of years old before the flood (albeit no one made it to 1,000 years of age), it’s conceivable that Enoch would have been alive just before the Flood struck. But even if he wouldn’t have been around, he was spared decades of unbridled wickedness that was increasing exponentially to the time the rains began.
So, too, was Elijah transported to heaven without dying but not as a prototype of the Rapture, as was Enoch. Rather, Elijah was taken in preparation for his return in his earthly body to Jerusalem during the Great Tribulation, for the express purpose of doing battle (alongside Moses) with the Antichrist and the False Prophet. See Eye of Prophecy article: Moses & Elijah vs Antichrist & The False Prophet (Posted 2-10-18).
However, both Elijah and Moses will be raptured after their spectacular service to God and dramatic defense of Jerusalem. Their sudden transportation to heaven will vividly depict and convincingly demonstrate to the world how and why believers, both dead and alive, were taken earlier from the earth.
Moses and Elijah will be killed by the Antichrist (Nero) 3 ½ years after they begin their mighty ministry on earth during the Tribulation.
Then we read what happens next: “But after three and a half days, God breathed life into them, and they stood up! Terror struck all who were staring at them. Then a loud voice from heaven called to the two prophets, ‘Come up here!’ And they rose to heaven in a cloud as their enemies watched” (Revelation 11:11-12).
Take that Mr. Six Hundred and sixty-six!
Noah & His Family / Lot & His Family
Although not raptured as such, both Noah and Lot (and their respective families) were taken out of harm’s way before God’s judgment. The Flood was obviously massive in scope. The extent of God’s wrath on Sodom and Gomorrah was regionalized, but still extensive (there were five cities destroyed), as no one survived in those towns. Nevertheless, both Noah and Lot were evacuated and relocated directly by the hand of God. Noah through God’s divine architectural blueprint of the Ark, and Lot by God’s angels.
The massive retribution (ten plagues) against Pharaoh and Egypt was another example of God protecting his people without removing them completely from the earth or even the region.
Each of these people and the cataclysmic events from which they were shielded illustrate God’s protection of his people from judgment on an epic scale. With, however, Enoch the representative forerunner (1st world-wide judgment) of believers taken at the Rapture (2nd global judgment).
God Loves the Little Children!
“For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16).
In addition to the most well-known verse in the New Testament, if not the entire Bible (virtually all Christians and even some unbelievers would be able to finish the verse above), there are numerous passages in the Bible that speak of God’s love for Israel and for all people. First, for them to be forgiven and saved; then for believers, Jew and Gentile alike, to experience God’s love during their lifetime and throughout eternity.
Such as: “…I am writing to all who have been called by God the Father, who loves you and keeps you safe in the care of Jesus Christ. May God give you more and more mercy, peace, and love” (Jude 1:1-2).
Scripture is also clear that children are exceptionally precious to our triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us that children are both a gift and a blessing to their parents. They are to be loved, nourished, and protected. Accordingly, God will be particularly harsh on those who (deliberately) harm children … physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Said Jesus: “But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).
Our faith (as adults or teenagers) in God and His Son’s substitutionary death for our sins on the cross must be childlike … complete trust in and dependence on God’s plan and means for salvation and living the Christian life.
Combining these two principles of caring for children and childlike faith, Jesus said: “…Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it” (Luke 18:16-17).
In fact, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is so simple that a child can understand (enough) and be redeemed.
*On a personal note, I was born-again at the age of eight. I recall believing with my whole child’s heart that only Jesus could save me from my sins (of course children at some point know they’ve done wrong). And, though I don’t remember the exact words, I said so aloud.
What About Children and the Rapture? Will Some Children Be Left Behind?
When it comes to their children, even some Christian parents prefer not to think about the Rapture, let alone talk about it. Although they realize the Rapture is a wonderfully good thing; when it comes to everyday life, the Rapture seems too unsettling, too uncertain, too disruptive, too … whatever. And, unfortunately, many pastors/teachers in the Church consistently avoid teaching on end times prophecy. It’s bewildering, maybe even unnerving. Which, however, begs the rhetorical question that many ask themselves despite the plain answer. Is Biblical prophecy (which constitutes 1/3 of the Bible) all that important?
Although that question is addressed in several Eye of Prophecy articles, I’ll refer you to one of my older articles: Value of Prophecy (Published 8-29-13).
Before we scrutinize Biblical precedents addressing the differences of opinion as to whether all children still at the age of innocence will be taken in the Rapture or not, let me say this: I am sensitive to these thoughts and views about the end times. To relate to those, who, when it comes to their children, are apprehensive about not only the Rapture, but the entire scenario of the last days of this age.
It’s just that sometimes we forget God’s magnificent promises in the Bible (every prophecy is essentially a promise from the Lord). Whether a prophetic promise is good or bad does not depend on one’s point of view. Rather, upon a person’s position in Christ or outside of Christ … saved or unsaved.
Such as Scripture’s declaration to believers (a promise combined with praise): “Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20, NASB).
When applied to the Rapture and everlasting life it means that our home and relationships (for example, with our children) in heaven will far surpass even the best of times we have on this planet, more than we can possibly imagine. So, it’s okay mom and dad and kids. At the Rapture, during the Millennium, and throughout Eternity we will fully realize: We’ve never had it so good.
The Prevailing Premise
In the Christian community, the mainstream assumption is as follows: ALL children who haven’t reached the age of accountability will be taken in the Rapture. Alongside of everyone else who has already accepted Christ as their personal Savior.
This rationale can best be summarized as a deduction, based mostly on sentiment; one that is the most appealing. It’s one that any Christian, including me, would prefer. We would not want innocent children exposed to the dreadful things that will take place during the Great Tribulation, even the children of unbelievers. We would hope that they would be spared from the wrath of God’s judgments; and, of course, from the evil that will flood the earth (pun intended), compliments of Satan and his man of lawlessness.
Whereas, on this side of the Rapture, we do not know for sure; I believe there are persuasive precedents in Scripture that present compelling evidence to consider the alternative:
Not ALL children (at the age of innocence) will be taken when the Rapture occurs.
In fact, there is an up-side to children of unbelievers being left behind. Your immediate reaction might be: “How could there be any good from leaving “innocent” children behind at the Rapture?” The answer lies in Scripture (where else)! We’ll get to that passage, shortly.
First, let’s refer to the two Biblical events cited earlier; however, this time we’ll examine them in the immediate context of the question posed in the title of this week’s article.
The Great Flood
Here, I’d like to quote Avram Levitt—one of the main characters in my first book entitled O Israel! … the end is the beginning for those left behind (Published 2007). The setting of this novel is just prior to and a period up to about one year after the Rapture.
In the last of seven emails, Avram explains why some children were NOT taken in the Rapture. He alludes to the Great Flood as it relates to—in precedent and principle—the Rapture:
“Scripture is clear as to the purpose of this calamity: to deal with the irreversible wickedness and depravity of man. But this judgment also gave mankind another chance to acknowledge and serve his Creator. Noah and his family were spared to repopulate the earth. What is the relevance of this example to the question of the children? The significance is that the children were not spared” (Pages 340-341; italics in today’s article for emphasis).
In searching online, you’ll find varied estimations of the earth’s population at the time of Noah’s flood. Anywhere from a few hundred million to several billion, perhaps even as many people as in today’s world. Although I lean toward the lower range, it’s evident that there were many children under the age of accountability. None of them were in the ark.
Sodom & Gomorrah (As indicated earlier, five cities and their inhabitants were obliterated)
As with Noah and his family, only Lot (his wife instantly died when she disobeyed the angel’s command not to look back) and his family (two daughters) were taken out of harm’s way. Because God knows the end from the beginning, he knew the increased wickedness of these cities was inevitable, perpetual, and irreversible. Including the children who would grow up to be as or even more wicked than their parents. Same thing with Noah’s flood.
(Hold tight to the Lord; Press on with hope; Don’t look back)
Which leads to a solemn but reasonable conclusion in the form of a question:
If God did not spare innocent children from the Great Flood or from the utter destruction of Sodom and surrounding cities, is there any reason why at least some children wouldn’t or shouldn’t be left behind at the Rapture and, thereby, go through part or all the Tribulation?
*Note: Only God knows when a child has passed the age of innocence and reached the point of accountability. Some suggest the age of 6, 7, or 8; others say 12 or 13. For example: in Jewish culture a boy or girl becomes a man or woman at the age of 13, after their Bar Mitzvah … Bat Mitzvah (for girls).
Why do I propose that not all children still at the age of innocence will be taken at the Rapture? Saying it another way: Why would only some of the children be left behind at the Rapture?
Whose children, are they?
A Thought-Provoking Passage, Principle, & Precedent Applicable to the Rapture
Let’s look at the passage alluded to earlier that I believe contains the answer. It is a lengthy explanative text primarily concerning married couples in which one spouse is a believer and the other is an unbeliever; however, I’ll quote just two verses:
“For the Christian wife brings holiness to her marriage, and the Christian husband brings holiness to his marriage. Otherwise, your children would not be holy, but now they are holy…. Don’t you wives realize that your husband might be saved because of you! And don’t you husbands realize that your wives might be saved because of you?” (I Corinthians 7:14 & 16, emphasis added).
The Greek word translated holiness (holy) in English does not mean perfection. Instead, like the Old Testament Hebrew word as applied to people, it means set aside for a specific purpose.
The Apostle Paul is telling us that when a wife or a husband, or (by implication and by the same principle) when a child is saved, there’s a strong possibility that one or more unsaved members of that family will also come to Christ for their (personal) salvation.
This holiness is the influence transferred from the Christian family member to unbelieving members.
Both Noah’s and Lot’s children were taken out of harm’s way before the floodwaters covered the earth and before the fire/brimstone destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Though Noah’s three sons and Lot’s two daughters were grown, they were still Noah’s and Lot’s children. In God’s eyes they were innocent, because of their right standing with God (based on their personal choice to trust God), which was a result of Noah’s and Lot’s righteous influence.
So, too, will the innocent children of those adult believers (even if only one parent is saved) be caught up in the Rapture with their parent or parents. But ALL children of unsaved adults left behind will also remain on the earth. Yet, I’m convinced that God will use these children to help influence, if not persuade parents (if they have any love or concern for their children) to turn to Christ during the most terrible time on earth that has ever been or ever will be again.
One more quote from Avram Levitt writing to the unsaved (from O Israel! page 342 … in italics):
Do you love your child? Do you care about your own soul? Are you willing to yield to the false messiah and thereby forfeit eternal life with the true and living God and his Messiah?
Then Avram quoted this passage:
Things to Ponder
All children will go to heaven if they are still at the age of innocence when they die, including those left behind at the Rapture who may perish during the Tribulation.
The Bible is exceedingly clear that salvation and eternal life is only possible by choosing (at whatever age someone is capable of that choice) to believe and receive Messiah Jesus as Lord and Savior. Conversely, eternal separation from God for those who do not believe.
Consequently, Baptism and good works are a result of Biblical salvation, not the means. Which is why infant baptism is a waste of time. Moreover, it’s downright dangerous; as is any religion or cult that requires baptism as a means of redemption and then membership to maintain a good standing in that organization. It gives the child (anyone) a false sense of (eternal) security.
“For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe (a conscious choice from the heart and mind) that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood…” (Romans 3:25, parenthesis mine).
Aside from knowing how people, especially children, die “before their time” (disease, famine, war, natural disasters, murder, accidents) we often ask, Why?
I’m not making this observation based merely on generalities; nor based on a detached abstract attempt to commiserate with those who have lost children. On a personal level, I lost a six-week old child to crib death years ago. It hurts deeply. I wanted him to live and watch him grow up as my son. However, one day I will rejoice to see him again in heaven, without concern all these years whether he would have accepted Jesus as his personal Savior.
Ultimately, the individual reasons (particularly the timing of the death) are known only to God. With, however, one overriding explanation as clearly found in Scripture. Not only are all the ills of this world caused by the innumerable wrong things we think, say, and do; so is the ultimate consequence, thereof.
“For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23a). Beginning with separation of spirit from body when we die physically and culminating in eternal separation from God (second death) for those who have not been made right with God.
But thank God for his Mercy and his Grace through the gift of his precious Son, Messiah Jesus, there is one sure hope.
“…but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23b).