In the first part, we talked a bit about the importance of going back to basics in our churches, in order to eliminate the current doctrinal disagreements and start fresh. We identified 3 main pillars of Protestant theology, and pointed out that this is the main message of the Bible. If the Protestant Christians all agree on these three main doctrines, then there is indeed hope for working together to spread the message to the whole world.
We must, absolutely must, take the message of salvation to every man and woman on this earth. Jesus’ second coming depends upon this action. The reason why this is so, is because people cannot make an informed choice unless they know all sides of the argument. Before His second coming, there will be a falling away (2 Thess 2:3), and the man of sin will be revealed, again. At this point, the people of the world will have to choose between God and the man of sin.
We cannot make that decision unless we know the character of God. We are all sinners (Romans 3:23), we cannot fix ourselves, but Jesus has already paid the price for our sins. All we have to do is accept His sacrifice. The character of God is such that He would die, so that we don’t have to. The best analogy I can conceive is that of a parent loving their child so much, that they sacrifice everything in order for that child to be safe, free, and happy.
Aside: I have recently had a conversation about hell with someone on an internet forum. From that conversation, I came under the impression that some Christians view God as a vengeful, vindictive being who can’t wait to punish us for our sins. I was treated with passage after passage from the Bible that hell will be like a 24/7, eternal, ongoing punishment for those who dared defy God. I’m a simpleton, and I like to take my teachings from Jesus directly. Whenever I come across a passage in the Bible that seemingly contradicts what Jesus said, I put Jesus’ teachings first.
Jesus says that at the end of this world, after the millennium, everyone who fought against God and His people is cast into the lake of fire and that this is the second death. This is my yardstick to determine what exactly will happen in those days.
Q: Is death eternal?
A: Yes, of course it is.
Q: When you die, do you rise up, and die all over again, for eternity?
A: No, you only die once. In the case of those who fight God, they die twice (first death and second death). In either case, the second death is eternal.
Q: Do you serve a vindictive God or a loving God?
A: I serve a loving God, not one who punishes the husband in front of the wife, the son in front of the father, or the mother in front of the daughter, for ever and ever and ever.
What kind of doctrine is that of a God who behaves like a petulant child burning ants with a magnifying glass? It lessens the character of God, therefore it is a doctrine of devils.
Even in judgment, God is loving. His punishments are just, but He will not torture sinners for all eternity, in full view of the saved. I believe that all Protestant Christians need to agree on this point. We need to view God from this lens of reluctant discipliner, like a parent. This would go a long way to make a distinctions between the people of God, and the people of the one who revels in punishing others (see the book of Job).
Let’s move back on track now, to the gospel going out to the world. Once this is done, the people of the world must make a choice. The Christian church will act as a catalyst in this situation, and there will be no more fence-sitters (thank you to Mike Manea for this wonderful analysis). Once we all know where we stand, the people of God will be persecuted, even unto death.
This particular doctrine varies between denominations. Some people believe that the church will be taken out of the world before the tribulations begin. I firmly believe that will not be the case. Christians must endure persecution. We must be tested to ensure that we truly believe what we preach (Isaiah 48:10). Hypocrisy must be weeded out of the church in the last days. This is harsh, but it is in line with the character of God. Another note here is that I believe that this is the cutoff for any further repentance. In other words, if people have not chosen God by this point, they will not choose God at any future time, so repentance is no longer available. This is actually good news for Christians, because it means Jesus is very close.
After persecution, we will have plagues, but they will not touch the church, nor the individuals in the church. Many of those who are against God will die, and just as many will curse God. This time will be quite short, for the benefit of the church. It won’t be easy to live through all this as a Christian. In fact, it will be quite traumatic. Jesus said that the days will be cut short, else no one would survive (Matthew 24:22). For the sake of the elect, those days will be shortened.
At last, after much suffering, persecution, and trauma, REJOICE, for Jesus comes in glory, and every eye shall see him. He comes with His angels, to gather up His people, and we will meet him in the sky. The dead in Christ (the deceased believers) will rise first, then those of us who are alive will be gathered up, just as a mother hen gathers up her chicks. Thank God that we know this will happen. Thank God that we are given this great instruction manual that tells us the conditions we need to watch.
In part 3, we will step back in time a bit and talk about the mark of the beast, and a bit more about the topics discussed in this post, such as the close of probation.
May God bless you and keep you in His fold, strong in faith, slow to anger, wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.