Dear Left Behind
Dear Left Behind,
A famous author once made an unusual pact with a friend: they both agreed that whoever died first would come back to haunt the other, if at all possible. In this way, they thought, they would prove or disprove the existence of an afterlife.
This letter to you feels a little like that for me-as though I'm writing from beyond the grave, to prove a point.
Oh, I'm not dead-as I write this, I'm perfectly alive and well, on the 21st of July, 2000. But it is possible that at some point, you might be reading this after I'm gone...and I might not have died. Paul referred to this as a "mystery":
1 Cor. 15:51-52 Behold, I tell you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
Many, many people have tried to imagine what life must be like at this moment, in which millions have vanished and millions more are panicked, confused, and beginning to listen more closely to the words of a man who claims very persuasively that he can lead the world out of this mess. It is your privilege to be in a position to judge how accurate our human predictions were. You'll probably encounter quite a few of them on the web. One thing I'm pretty confident about is that you're feeling this is all very unreal right now; that your life must seem like a movie.
Would you believe me if I told you that your life from this point on has a script? And that what's more, I can show you where to find it?
Clear aside, for the moment, all the things people are saying about what you're going through--all the rumors about what's actually happening on the set of the film. We're going to get a look at that script: the book of Revelation. If you've peeked into it before and thought it was all ancient history or incomprehensible symbolism, prepare for a shock, because it's all going to start becoming very clear and very relevant.
First of all, what happened was that the true believers were raptured out of the world before judgment. We knew it would happen, because of the verses I already mentioned in First Corinthians, and also because God promised us he would not appoint his people to the wrath that the world will soon undergo:
1Th 5:9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.
We even suspected it was pretty close, although the Producer never told us precisely when production would start:
Mar 13:32 But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.
Our biggest clue was that Israel had come back into existence, after 2,000 years of Jewish dispersion. This was predicted by Ezekiel, in chapter 37, verse 12:
Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus says the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.
We also saw a revival of the countries that were in the Roman Empire, in the European Union. The man we've come to refer to as the Antichrist-the Bible calls him the "man of lawlessness"-will come to lead this group of nations. We also noticed, with growing amazement, that the world was getting closer to how things were in the days of Noah (as described in Matthew 24:37-38)--right before he escaped judgment in the ark.
Escape: funny word. In English, the word comes from the act of a criminal who, after being caught by the police, wiggles out of his cape in order to run away (he es-capes). In conjunction with the Bible, it's God's people who do the escaping: Abraham and Lot from Sodom & Gomorrah, Noah from the flood, Daniel from the lions, Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego from the furnace...I could go on. The Bible tells us to ask to be "counted worthy" to escape like this: (Luk 21:36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.). But really, we're no less criminals than the man who wiggles away from the police. It's because of Jesus' perfect sacrifice that we can "escape" sin at all.
So just what did we escape?
Returning to the film metaphor: the action takes place over 7 years-this the last "week" of years described by Daniel "to seal up prophecy":
Dan 9:24 Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.
During this week, the "man of lawlessness" will rule. Undoubtedly, you now know who this is, or soon will. During this time, the events of Revelation will occur. Some think that the worst won't occur until 3 1/2 years in, when the Antichrist stops daily sacrifices at the temple and sets himself up as God. So do not be fooled if you don't see a lot of bad stuff at first.
Why would you be fooled? Well, the Bible says your chances are great :
Mar 13:22 For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.
But it is absolutely essential that you not worship the Antichrist and take his mark! You'll learn what it is when you see it: you won't be able to buy or sell without it, and a whole lot of people will be accepting it, as though it's nothing more than an AmEx card, but they'll end up with a debt they can't get out of with a declaration of bankruptcy:
Rev 13:16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: Rev 13:17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
This is very important. This is the part of the movie where some doofus in the audience annoys everyone around him by yelling at the teenager in the slasher flick NOT TO OPEN THE DOOR! Reading this now, I'm as mystified as to why people might take this mark as I am when I watch Scream, and Neve Campbell lets herself be led upstairs by the killer.
Nonetheless, things will not be easy for a while if you refuse the mark. Do you wonder why God might allow things to become so bad for you? Remember that tribulation is judgment. To escape it, you must distrust the world and trust God.
Even life not under the Tribulation was hard. One false move could always cause tragic consequences: answer a question wrong, you fail a class. Slip on the breaks, your car is totaled. Build a house in the wrong place, a tornado strikes.
Take the mark, you lose your soul. It's so important that you understand this that God said it very clearly:
Rev 16:2 And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image.
Rev 14:9-11 And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receives the mark of his name.
Think about it. I am one person who took the Bible at face value, and I have watched with amazement as it all played out. Read it, and see if history doesn't begin to unfold around you precisely as predicted. You won't have to stretch to make things fit, as with the "prophesies" of Nostradamus. You won't have to ignore half or more, as with the psychics.
There are two possible endings to this film. You missed the first escape, but God loves you enough to give you another chance--He's coming back at the end of the Tribulation, and you can be with Him if you just follow his instructions. No resumes required, no auditions, no call backs. It's an open call, all extras needed. Just show up and sign the contract. C.S. Lewis said once, that life is like a play and none of us know when the final curtain will be rung down after the last act. But know you do. You know a lot. Everything in Revelation will be played out-- nothing will be left on the cutting room floor. And at the end, awards will be given to those players who faithfully followed the Director.
I hope one day to see you in heaven. You'll be a hero of sorts, you know. I'll want to hear how you made the difficult choice and how you resisted the Antichrist. And all the extraordinary things you witness, as prophecy unfolds.