By Todd Strandberg

Sucker's Bet

I'm very keen to read ever-negative email sent to Rapture Ready. Reading all the letters that disagree with the site helps me better understand why people have trouble with the end-time message. I use this information to help me refine the advice we offer to the public.

At the heart of many emails is content I identify as the "Sucker's Bet." The people who send us these messages view us "Doomsday Christians" as wasting our lives by endlessly waiting for a Lord who is never coming. They base their opinion on the idea that Jesus hasn't come in 2000 years, so this complete lack of activity should prove that He is not coming at all.

Some of these people bet they will have the satisfaction of watching me squander my life on a meaningless quest. But I'm not sure where they see the payoff. If I outlive them, there is no payoff. If they outlive me, some other Christian will carry on the bet. The only wager I see is their hope that Jesus doesn't come back and bring their carefree existence to a premature end.

What is a "Sucker's Bet"? It's a gamble that someone makes based on a false view of the odds. Someone believes he has a higher likelihood of winning than he actually does. In most cases, the sucker does not realize he is being put at a disadvantage. It's not until these people come up shorthanded that they realize they run afoul of the rules of logical thinking.

Games of Chance

The genesis of deception begins with the failure to understand that the world is filled with people who are constantly scheming ways to deceive us. A wise person uses critical thinking to assess all questionable situations. I can think of three popular games of chance that perfectly illustrate that things are not always what they appear to be.

Milk Bottle Toss -- If you have ever been to a carnival, you may have seen the "milk bottle toss." The game may have other names, but it usually involves trying to use three or four beanbags to knock down six small metal bottles that are stacked in a pyramid. What makes this a sucker's bet is the fact that the three bottles on the bottom of the pyramid are much heavier than the ones on top. While the three lighter-weight bottles on the top row can be easily knocked over, toppling those on the bottom requires a direct hit.

"Let's Make a Deal" -- Back in the late 1970s, several TV game shows offered people the chance of winning big prizes through a random selection. In one of these setups, a contestant was told to chose from five boxes, with one containing the top prize and the others containing prizes of lesser value. After the person made his or her selection, the host would often open three of the remaining boxes, giving the impression that the contestant now had a 50/50 chance of being a big winner. Because the host knew which box contained the keys to the shiny new Buick, the contestant's chances were still only 20 percent. If the host offered him $5,000 to pass on the opportunity to win the car, the wise choice would be to take the money and run.

The Claw -- Another "Sucker's Bet" is the claw vending machine you might see at a mall or at the entrance of a supermarket. The game features prizes--usually plush toys such as teddy bears--heaped inside a clear case. The player puts coins into the machine, activating a joystick that controls the claw for a short time. The catch is that the player can move the claw back, forth, and sideways--but not up or down. As popular as the machines are, they are commonly considered to be rigged. In many cases, the claw lacks the mechanical strength to extract a prize. Inside these one-hooked-bandits is a control box that controls the grip strength and "pay-out" odds. A survey by a British group found that a typical machine is set to offer only a reasonable chance every fourth try. Having played one of these games before, I've noticed my chances were comparable with what they would be if I were blindfolded.

Know the End-Time Odds

I believe people who scoff at prophecy are making a "Sucker's Bet" because they fail to realize that prophecy is in an advanced state of fulfillment. Most of these people make assumptions about end-time prophecy without even studying the evidence.

For centuries we've had general signs that pointed to man's prophetic destiny. While atheists promise a utopian society, the reality is that we are moving closer to the type of self-destruction the Bible warned about.

All bets should have been off when, in 1948, Israel became a nation. The Bible predicted its rebirth, and for several centuries it seemed impossible that this would happen. On several occasions, the Jews almost never had the chance to regather as a nation. Hitler came very close to wiping out any hope of a future Israel.

The critics need to realize that the Bible was correct about the Jews. It didn't predict the Moabites would be reformed as a nation. Of all the thousands of civilizations that existed, Israel is the only nation that has come back from the dead. When the Romans destroyed the State of Israel in 70 AD, I don't think any observer would have been willing to wager that people would be back.

The odds of improbability don't just stop at Israel. Bible prophecy predicted a number of other events that are in the advanced stages of coming true. The Word of God warned that China would rise to be a world power; it foretold of Europe forming a single government; it said the world would someday have a global integrated financial market; and it predicted the diplomatic struggle we see today over who should control Jerusalem.

Jesus said something that makes it all the more risky to bet against prophecy. In Matthew 24:34, He told us, "This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." There is no consensus on how long "this generation" would last, but because many key prophetic events are in the late stages of development, it would be logical to place us close to the end of that generation.

Betting Against Yourself

Ironically, the Bible prophesies that one of the signs of the end-times is people making "Sucker's Bets." The more these people mock, the more they are pushing the prophetic clock closer to doomsday

. "Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with {their} mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming? Forever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation'" (2 Pet. 3:3-4).

In a way, these folks are placing bets against themselves. They may verbalize their opposition, but all their chips are on helping to fulfill prophecy. If the end-time message is false, there should be no need for any great concern.

When I respond to people, I reply to the real issue they are secretly addressing. People usually write me because they are bothered by events that confirm Bible prophecy. I point out to them that prophetic fulfillment is the real reason they're mad at me, and I warn them by saying, "If my luck with the end-time signs doesn�t run out soon, yours will."