We’re reminded by these stories that God will care for His people during the time of trouble, not by snatching them out of the world, but by surrounding them with His divine presence and protection during that time.
It was late when I returned home to my brother’s house where I was living. My friend, Teresa, and I had gone to a baseball game at a nearby air force base.
I’d felt a twinge of guilt when I agreed to go with Teresa because it meant that I’d miss the Wednesday evening prayer meeting at church. I always attended prayer meeting with my brother, David, and his wife, Loretta.
Approaching the house, I could see lights on and the front door wide open. David and Loretta must still be up, I thought as I closed the screen door behind me. Finding no one in the living room or the kitchen, I made my way toward the lighted bedroom. Peeking inside, I found that their bedroom was also empty. David’s shoes were on the floor.
That’s odd! I thought, wondering where he and Loretta could be. Returning to the dining room, I noticed a Bible on the table, open to the Gospel of Matthew. The words jumped out at me as I read:
“Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. “
Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (24:40–44).
Scanning further down the page, I then read, “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ ” (25:6).
They’ve been raptured!
Fearfully I lifted my head to look at the clock on the wall. It was midnight! A horrible feeling of dread washed over me.
“The rapture has happened,” I whispered.
“And I’ve been left behind! Why, oh why did I let Teresa talk me into going to the game instead of church,” I wailed from the depths of my heart.
A tiny ray of hope remained. Perhaps it’s all a bizarre coincidence.
Fearing the worst, I hurried next door to the duplex where Jim door to the duplex where Jim Carol lived. They attended the same church David and Loretta did. Their apartment was dark and quiet. Desperately I pounded on the door. By this time I was sobbing and must have been quite a sight when Jim, in his pajamas, opened the door.
“Holly, what’s the matter?” he exclaimed with a look of concern and bewilderment on his face.
In my confusion I hesitated, unsure just what to say. After all, maybe he and Carol had somehow been left behind too!
Just as I was struggling to gather my thoughts, I noticed David and Loretta strolling hand in hand, barefoot, toward the house. After a few moments of relieved explanation, we all agreed that none of us had been left behind after all!
* * * *
As bizarre as this story may sound, it is a true story. A lot of spiritual water has passed under the bridge since that night more than thirty years ago when I was an infant Christian.
When I was 19, my sister and I hitchhiked from Washington State to Florida. During that trip, a relative invited us to give our lives to God. The Holy Spirit touched my heart in a powerful way, filling me with a deep love for God and dramatically transforming my worldly lifestyle.
Even though I’d attended church off and on while I was growing up, I knew essentially nothing about the Bible. That same trip led me to David and Loretta’s home, where I was nurtured in a community of believers. It was just what I needed as I adopted a totally new way of life.
I remember the first time I heard about “the rapture”—God whisking His people out of the world before the great tribulation that was to precede Jesus’ return. I had a nagging sense that something wasn’t right with the theory, but after hearing it over and over from the pulpit and in religious discussions, I began to believe that it must be true.
It wasn’t until several years later, while attending an evangelistic series with my husband shortly after we were married, that many of my nagging questions were answered.
Through Bible study, the beautiful picture of God’s love and wisdom became much clearer to me. Through the years since then, I’ve noticed many things in the Bible that point to a much different scenario than what I feared on that fateful night in David and Loretta’s house.
Protection, not evacuation
Consider Jesus’ prayer on behalf of His disciples: “ ‘My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one’ ” (John 17:15). Indeed, keeping His people “in the world” is exactly what we see God doing over and over
again in the Old Testament.
When God announced the destruction of the world by a flood, He didn’t take Noah and his family out of the world. He protected them in an ark.
The children of Israel saw the devastating plagues that fell on Egypt, but God shielded them from the last seven.
God didn’t take Daniel’s three friends out of the fiery furnace. He sent His son to be with them in the furnace. He didn’t take Daniel out of the lions’ den. He sent His angel to shut the lions’ mouths.
These well-known stories were written “as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). We’re reminded by these stories that God will care for His people during the time of trouble, not by snatching them out of the world, but by surrounding them with His divine presence and protection during that time.
Psalm 91 has been a source of courage for me: “A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. If you make the Most High your dwelling—even the Lord, who is my refuge—then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent”
In Matthew 24, the very chapter that brought such fear to my heart that night many years ago, I found these words: “ ‘Then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened’ ” (Matthew 24:21, 22).
So rather than taking His children out of the world before tribulation, the Bible shows us that, for their sakes, God will cut the time short.
When Satan challenged God about Job, God allowed Satan to take away all his possessions, and eventually, even his health. This story vibrates with the same themes of testing and trial that we see in Revelation 13: The beast power will compel the people of
this world to serve him, even to the point of taking away all their economic support and finally threatening them with death. But Job’s courageous loyalty to God amidst intense suffering vindicated God’s character.
The same will be true of God’s people during the world’s final tribulation. During that fearful time, God’s people will be an example to the heavenly beings even as Job was in his time. Satan will bring out everything he has against the people of God to induce them to worship him through the image of the beast, but God’s people will be faithful to His Word and will shine as silver and gold that has been purified by fire.
Love for God causes me to cry out, “Lord, please let me be one of those who can by Your grace stand in that fearful hour in a way that will bring glory to Your name!”