Tribulation – the Future
The greatest danger Christians will face in the days ahead will be spiritual deception for which it is crucial we be prepared. But first we will look at the trends from the visible sources which we can be expected to continue unabated.
In China Christians are experiencing an unprecedented wave of persecution from Chinese authorities, motivated by it seems a renewed fervour to foster national harmony and compliance to the the goals of atheistic socialism. Over 200 million CCTVs and sophisticated facial recognition technology are being used as part of the so called “Social Credit” scheme which ranks individual Chinese citizens according to their trustworthiness. Those who are deemed “unstable elements” (especially those Christians who belong to China’s house churches) will find life very difficult – unable to travel, obtain credit and many more things we in the ‘free’ West take for granted.
In September 2017, the Chinese government announced new draft measures to control online religious activity that will ban the live streaming of church services, requiring organisations publishing religious information online to obtain a licence. The regulations also prohibit foreign pastors from preaching online. Earlier this month, authorities shut down one of the largest unofficial churches in Beijing – such congregations are known as “house churches” – after church leaders had refused to allow government authorities to install CCTV cameras inside the building. Christian leaders have witnessed a pattern of increased pressure since new religion regulations came into force in February 2018. (from “China’s church leaders take a brave stand for freedom of religion” BarnabasFund.org August 2018).
For more on the recent persecution in China see Asia Harvest’s report.
There is no indication puritanical and militant Islam will diminish, in fact the opposite. Though there are other voices from within Islamic communities which seem to offer hopes of peaceful co-existence with religious minorities, they are not the ones who are making an impact. Much could be said on this subject and many have already drawn attention to the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism. I am not ‘Islamophobic’ but have soberly examined this for over 20 years. It is true the majority of Muslims do not subscribe to the methods of the fundamentalists, but many do sympathise with their goals. As I stated before, Muslims are not our enemy. It is the ideology which governs them that is the cause of persecution.
We can expect Islam to have greater impact in Western countries, especially in Europe with more immigration from Islamic counties and higher birth rates. Two books I’d recommend are 1. The Challenge of Islam to the Church and its Mission by Patrick Sookhdeo and 2. David Pawson’s The Challenge of Islam To Christians. You can hear audio or view video of David Pawson’s talks upon which this book was based. Most importantly he reveals how Christians should respond: through demonstrating the three qualities that make Christianity unique: reality, relationship and righteousness.
As stated previously, the Judaeo-Christian foundations upon which Western society was based is rapidly being eroded and replaced by secular humanism with its moral and cultural relativism. For that reason we can expect Christians to increasingly be marginalised from society as governments pass legislation that conforms to the moral and cultural relativism. Christianity can no longer expect to be the preferred or favoured religion. We should expect that increasingly we will find ourselves in conflict with government legislation – and even in court. Yet we should not fear for it will be an opportunity to witness for Christ as he said:
“But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them. The gospel must first be preached to all the nations. When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit” (Mark 13:9-11).
Spiritual deception will present the greatest testing for it is not so readily identified or expected and much of it will come from within the professing Christian church. Jesus, Paul, Peter and Jude all warn of spiritual deception within the church.
Spiritual deception will mark the end-time and only those who trust Christ and His word will persevere and remain true. The final deception will be so convincing to many such that we will not be able to trust what we see or hear, our own wisdom or feelings. We must have implicit trust in what Jesus said, walking by faith not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). He specifically warned of this time:
See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ’I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.
For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect (Matthew 24:4-5 and 24).
And Paul likewise warns us of the coming deception:
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons (1 Timothy 4:1).
… the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness ( 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12).
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
Peter warns of false teachers within the Church:
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgement from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep (2 Peter 2:1-3)
And Jude likewise warns of false teachers:
For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ (Jude 4).
While deception and false teaching has occurred throughout Church history it will reach a zenith in the end-time. It will be marked by two developments:
1. the revealing and rule of a man referred to by various titles – the Antichrist, the man of lawlessness, the son of destruction and the beast.
He will come in through great deception, smooth and appealing words, political skill and be seen by most as the answer to a troubled world. But Christians have been forewarned in the Bible of his coming and how he can be identified.
2. an apostate church referred to as ‘Babylon the great’ (Rev 17:5) which will persecute the true followers of Christ.
Deception will occur within the professing Christian church and in that respect will be one of the most difficult to deal with because we will have to contend with those who profess to be our brothers and sisters. Note that both Peter and Jude say that false teachers will creep in unnoticed and secretly introduce destructive heresies. Paul says such teachers will seek their own glory and tell people what they want to hear, things which are pleasing to their own desires. Therefore more than ever we need to be aware and prepared. This is why it is essential we not just have a Bible but to know and memorise it so the Holy Spirit can bring to our remembrance the words which will destroy deception. The common feature of false teaching is the mixing of truth with error. Only those who know God’s word and listen to the Holy Spirit will discern the error.
The UFO Deception
In ‘Tribulation – Today‘ the potential danger of the UFO deception was examined. We can expect that this deception will continue and grow as the end draws near.
This quote from UFO: End-Time Delusion by David Lewis is noteworthy:
“For Satan to succeed in the last days, he must work a deception so subtle and so powerful that it will overwhelm the human race both with its rationality and attraction.” “An offer by visitors from an advanced civilisation on another planet for assistance to a perishing human race confronted with war, crime, violence, pollution, global warming, genocide, and a host of other ills that man’s rebellion have produced will seem irresistible. That the mainstream scientific community is taking the UFO question seriously, as evidenced by the heavy-funded, government sponsored SETI programs, demonstrates that we must look at the subject in a very serious light. Any person who is well-grounded in the Bible and takes the word of God as the ultimate basis of truth will not be prone to fall for the end-time delusion. The apostle Paul contrasts those who accept the Bible with those who reject it: “They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thess. 2:10-14; NIV).”
Could Satan stage a counterfeit second coming of Christ by an apparent UFO visitation to usher in the final deception? Jesus warned that there would be a time during the Great Tribulation when it will be said Christ has come:
Then if anyone says to you,’Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ’There He is,’ do not believe him. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance. So if they say to you, ’Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or, ’Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them. For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be (Matthew 24:23-27).
Jesus forewarns us that his coming will not occur in secret, at a certain place on Earth, but visibly all over the world – as lightning shines from east to west. This is why we need to know and remember all that Jesus taught us lest we be deceived through ignorance and false teachers.
The Moves To Create Global Unity and One Faith
The aftermath of two world wars saw a concerted effort to bring about global unity and peace between nations. The League of Nations, established in 1920 was followed by the United Nations in 1945. 1948 saw the formation of the World Council of Churches whose goal was initially to establish cooperation and unity amongst the many Christian churches and denominations. More recently it has moved towards ‘dialogue’ with other faiths such as Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism so as to foster understanding and common beliefs. 1948 also saw the commencement of the building of the United Nations headquarters in New York.
True and False Unity
In the previous section the rationale for unity among the numerous Christian churches and denominations, while seemingly an honourable goal, through what is known as the ecumenical movement, needed some important questions to be considered:
1 .What is a Christian, who is my brother and what is the Church?
2. What do we mean by unity and most importantly what is the unity that Jesus wants to see and how is it to be achieved.
3. Is unity to be achieved at the cost of compromising the truth?
While the goal of the ecumenical movement is to see unity among Christian churches there is another movement to see dialogue and unity among the different religions of the world – the idea being that ‘all roads lead to God’. Christians therefore, to remain faithful to Christ – who is the way, the truth and the life and through whom all must come to God the Father (John 14:6) must be on guard against efforts to syncretise the different faiths (through inter-faith dialogue), appealing though it may seem for the sake of peace. It can be expected that efforts to bring together the three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, will intensify as the end-time draws closer.
The Bible even speaks of a time when the nations will say “Peace and safety…”:
For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labour pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief (1 Thessalonians 5:2-4).
Christ will come after a time of peace in the world, achieved through a deceptive unity, but great tribulation for those who are faithful to Christ.
A Final Great Revival?
Will there be a final great world-wide revival before the the great tribulation and the return of Christ? While there is no specific scriptures which state such many believe that there will be. By revival we mean a great out-pouring of the Holy Spirit which will purify and empower Christians to fulfil the great commission in taking the gospel to every nation (ethnic group). Should God, in his grace do so, it may yet happen during a time of great persecution for Christians, as has happened in countries like China.
In the end time we can expect a time of great spiritual darkness, when it may even seem that all is lost and God has forsaken us. These are some of the scriptures which speak of this time:
Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved (Matthew 24:9-13).
For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short (Matthew 24:21-22).
It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him (Revelation 13:7).
I kept looking, and that horn was waging war with the saints and overpowering them.
He will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time (Daniel 7:21 and 25).
We can see that in those final days (limited by God to three and a half years) the people of God, the saints, will be overcome – not spiritually, but physically. This time parallels the time when Jesus was on the cross, when darkness fell over the land for three hours and he called out in anguish “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?“
However this should not be a time to fear but rather have great hope and faith for:
1. We have been told and forewarned that this would happen. This is why it is crucial we have a good knowledge of the Bible – while we still have one. The time may come (and has in other countries) when the Bible will become a banned or restricted book.
2. That soon, suddenly Jesus will come, as a thief in the night, in glory. As Luke records Jesus’ words: “But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” ( Luke 21:28)
It is of utmost importance that we prepare for such a time so our faith will remain strong and that we not fear, whether it comes in our life-time or not. That is the subject of the next section.