The Rapture: Who Is Left Behind?
A completely different world is coming—one that, for a time, will not contain a single, genuine, Bible-believing Christian.
The event that removes them is called the Rapture of the church. It is a snatching away of those who have been redeemed. The event that will befall the planet when they are gone is called the Great Tribulation. Jesus described the Tribulation as a time of evil and trouble “such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Mt. 24:21). Nothing will compare to it.
In that day, Satan will use everything he can, including technology, to consolidate his power through the Antichrist in an attempt to overthrow God.
Today Bible-believing Christians stand in his way. But after the Rapture, they will be gone. For 2,000 years, since Pentecost (Shavuot) in Acts 2, the world has not known a day when the Holy Spirit has not indwelled true believers in Jesus Christ. Even in Old Testament days, the Holy Spirit came upon people for service. King David begged God, “Do not take Your Holy Spirit from me” (Ps. 51:11); and the prophet Isaiah spoke of grieving the Holy Spirit (Isa. 63:10).
For millennia the Holy Spirit has restrained evil, enabled people to understand Scripture, and guided believers to a closer walk with God. The Rapture will change everything. The Holy Spirit will no longer restrain (2 Th. 2:7); and God will place the world into the vicious, cruel, satanic hands of the Antichrist.
Although everyone left behind will be an unbeliever, not everyone will react to the new world order in the same way:
(1) The Demonically Directed. These people will follow the Antichrist gladly and worship him as God. They probably will exhibit the characteristics of 2 Timothy 3:1–5:
In the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.
Not only will these people refuse to do what is right, they will revel in doing what is wrong, caring about nobody but themselves. Unfortunately, this is the course the world is taking now:
The coming of the lawless one [the Antichrist] is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved (2 Th. 2:9–10).
The truth will be available, but the demonically directed will abhor it, refusing to hear it or believe it. Even today it is possible to see how easily people reject truth.
In 2008 Ben Stein—an American actor, lawyer, political and economic commentator, and presidential speechwriter—coauthored and hosted the movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. The film challenges the theory of evolution, discusses academia’s attempts to denigrate people who lean toward creationism, and reveals the link between Darwinism and Nazism. Expelled even shows how diehard evolutionist Richard Dawkins, who despises the very idea of God, has no answer for how life began.
Yet there is no evidence the movie changed the minds of evolutionists. They choose to believe humans evolved from monkeys and that life erupted from a “big bang” whose origin they cannot explain. They “did not receive the love of the truth” (2 Th. 2:10). Refusing to glorify God, they glorify men and manmade theories that fly in the face of Scripture. “Professing to be wise, they became fools” (Rom. 1:22).
During the Tribulation, such people will refuse to “repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or the sexual immorality or their thefts” (Rev. 9:20–21).
Their reward will be delusion: “And for this reason God will send them a strong delusion, that they should believe the lie” (2 Th. 2:11). These people will welcome the mark of the Beast and seal their fate in the Lake of Fire. (See “Worshiping the Techno Gods,”)
(2) The Divinely Destined. As the seven-year Tribulation unfolds, millions on Earth will die. Yet God will supernaturally preserve 144,000 Jewish people, 12,000 from every tribe, to ensure Israel’s survival despite Satan’s best efforts to destroy it:
Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed (Rev. 7:2–4).
The battle between God and Satan will intensify. Satan will control the Antichrist, who initially will seem to protect Israel. Then the Antichrist will demand the world worship him because Satan craves worship and will stop at nothing to obtain it. Fiercely monotheistic, the Jewish people will refuse. Then the Antichrist will reveal his true colors and persecute them mercilessly.
The 144,000 Jewish people who are sealed are divinely destined to survive the Tribulation and enter the Messianic Kingdom as part of the group spoken of by the prophet Zechariah: “Then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn” (Zech. 12:10).
(3) The Duly Delivered. As events unfold, the process of salvation begins again. Revelation 6:9 speaks of “the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.”
Some people left behind at the Rapture will come to faith in Christ. Perhaps they will get hold of Bibles and read them. Or perhaps they will remember a godly parent or spouse who shared the gospel with them. There are many possibilities. Whatever the case, these people will become believers during the Tribulation. They are the duly and supernaturally delivered by God’s amazing grace.
Yet it will not be easy for them to follow God. Many will be martyred: “They cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’” (v. 10). God tells them to rest awhile “until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed” (v. 11).
In that day, believing in Christ will cost people everything, including their lives.
Scripture places these martyrs “under the altar” (v. 9). They receive white robes, meaning they take up corporeal space and are not merely disembodied souls.
As great as the evil will be in that day, God’s love will be greater. Although people will blaspheme Him, reject Him, and revile Him, He still will provide the truth that can save them:
Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth––to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people––saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water” (14:6–7).
In the midst of judging the world for its evil, God still will give individuals an opportunity to be saved. The best time to be saved, however, is now. Not only does salvation guarantee that you will escape the Great Tribulation in the future, but it gives you an opportunity to live for God and have Him as a part of your life today.