A Critical Evaluation of the “Rapture” Doctrine: Part 4
In choosing to be all in for Christ with the willingness to endure whatever that choice entails, one must also faithfully contemplate the full reality of the commensurate preparation necessary to be successful in that endeavor. Relying on intellectual consent, upholding staid religious dogma and adhering to institutional rituals will only lead to spiritual death and the forfeiture of one’s eternal inheritance in Christ. Spiritual prepping is all about a daily following of Christ, a commitment to living out of every word from the mouth of God, practicing surrender and obedience as a way of life, an embracing of the cross as a principle of daily life. Spiritual prepping is all about the transformational life in Christ; it is being conformed to his image and growing up into the full stature in him. Spiritual prepping is one’s adamant declaration, “Here am I, Lord, send me.”
A final delineation with regard to spiritual prepping needs to be made. As with life in general, few things in terms of making spiritual preparations are all black or all white. Most of the time we are operating more in a kind of grey area where matters are seldom perfectly defined and known. This is true because even though we are committed to follow Christ and pursue the full stature life in him, we are still in process spiritually. Being in process simply means we have a committed direction and purpose and are journeying toward an end that reflects the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. We are very much like the New Testament father who brought his demonized son for healing. Jesus said to him, “All things are possible to him who believes.” The father’s heart response was, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” We very often find ourselves in a spiritually quasi-differentiated milieu where our hearts are sincere but our experiential reality is still developing.
As previously noted, one can sincerely affirm trust in the Lord while concomitantly exercising natural precautions such as setting an alarm system and locking one’s home while away. This is the spiritual grey area to which I referred. It doesn’t mean we don’t have faith or trust. It is simply evidence that we have not yet been perfected in Christ. If one is truly in a transformational walk in Christ, that person will be continually called to renounce reliance in all things not in Christ. In this transition, we may encounter disappointment and loss in various areas of our lives as Christ tests our resolve and ultimate commitment. The higher issue here is not in safeguarding some possession but in one’s conformity to Christ. It is a spiritually fatal mistake to shift the goal of one’s relationship with Christ from eternal to temporal concerns. It is a general principle of life that things to be relied on are tested for their strength, integrity, endurance, etc. It is no different in the faith.
It is a paradox in Christian faith that the way up is frequently further down. Too many believers mistakenly assume that their faithfulness will be rewarded through temporal blessings and exception from life’s trying exigencies. Although temporal blessing does indeed follow from one’s relationship with Christ, it is of secondary importance to God as he is principally focused on bringing all believers into spiritual perfection.
Allow me to illustrate from natural examples the above stated paradox—the way up is often further down. Persons finding themselves caught in the open in a tornado situation might naturally look for the nearest shelter hoping for safe haven. However, given the properties and nature of a tornado, the safest egress and shelter is finding the lowest ground available, such as a drainage ditch, creek bed, etc. Hunkering down in the deepest recess possible can be the difference between life and death in such a scenario.
Forest firefighters sometime find themselves trapped by a rapidly moving fire that has reversed its direction threatening to overtake them. Knowing they would be unable to outrun the fire, their survival is in digging individual pits deep enough to get below ground level, and then donning oxygen masks while covering over with fire retardant, reflective blankets. In this posture, they allow the fire to pass completely over them. The way up, the way to life, was first further down.
The US Navy flight school at Pensacola, FL has a device—called the Dilbert Dunker—designed to train future pilots in the proper and life saving technique for escaping from a ditched aircraft at sea which has submerged and turned upside down. Imagine yourself strapped into the cockpit of an aircraft in this configuration upside down in twelve feet of water. Everything in a person at that time is screaming UP! The problem is, there is no up without first going further down. The pilot, having already blown the plane’s canopy, now releases the seatbelt and shoulder harness, grabs the corner of the windshield, and performs a downward rolling motion to extricate himself from cockpit. Once free of the aircraft his natural buoyancy carries him to the surface.
All sincere believers desire to see their character shaped thoroughly in the image of Christ. They want to rise up into his likeness in every regard. True followers are not only interested in their outward behavior reflecting the nature of Christ, but they also want the very thoughts and intents of their hearts conformed to his. In the transformational process, the Holy Spirit exposes the particular facet of one’s faith he intends to transform. Recognizing this, the believer consents to the work willingly embracing that aspect of Jesus’ life he wants to emulate. It is at this very point that many Christians falter since the process of transformation so often means going further down before going up.
The Bible has many different expressions for God’s workmanship in his children. Most of them have to do with admonition, teaching, training, correction, and chastisement. Too many believers are still assessing life situations and conditions in terms of “good thing, bad thing.” There needs to be a shift of focus away from this kind of evaluation toward understanding all things in light of what is eternally edifying and what is eternally debilitating. The key that opens circumstances of whatever nature to become spiritually constructive is in our responses. When we can receive all things as from the hand of God we are free to discover God’s purpose through those circumstances. To do this we must have an absolute trust that God would only allow those things to touch our lives which are for our eternal good. Our initial response to trying circumstances must be to find God in the midst of those circumstances. We learn to ask the questions—where is God, what is he doing, and how am I responding?
Many Christians hold on to a debilitating belief that God would never allow anything untoward or bad to happen to them. They assign all seemingly “bad” circumstances to the Devil. What must be remembered and affirmed is that God is always dealing in eternal values. Temporal circumstances simply make up the milieu within which he exercises his workmanship. Enduring temporal hardship and suffering truly comes to little consideration when the eternal rewards generated through such are honestly contemplated. Consider the following passage…
And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Heb 12:5-11 NKJV).
There are some strong terms used in this passage regarding how Father God deals with his children. Keep in mind that God’s motivation is always unto bringing his children into the full stature life in Christ. He ultimately wants the same relationship with each believer that he has always had with his only begotten Son, Jesus. The word “chasten” in the Greek incorporates all of the following thoughts: the total training and education of children, to be instructed or taught, to castigate with words, to correct by infliction of evil and calamities, always aims toward an increase in virtue. The Greek word for scourge comes from a root meaning whip or scourge. This kind of whip had multiple thongs and was designed to inflict severe punishment. These words convey powerful understanding as to the extent God is willing to go in order to call his children into the fullness of his kingdom.
King David—who experienced significant trials and tribulations throughout his life and reign—demonstrated his mature understanding of discovering God in all things when he uttered the following…
It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn your statutes (Ps 119:71 NKJV).
I know, O Lord, that your judgments are right, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me (Ps 119:75 NKJV).
I would like to highly encourage all readers to seriously consider reading two magnificent works which could significantly and scripturally help in developing a deeper understanding of the providence of God. The first is by Jean-Pierre de Caussade and is entitled The Sacrament of the Present Moment. The original title for this work was, Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence. The second work is Hannah Whitall Smith’s book The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life. A chapter in this work is devoted to the question, “Is God in all things?” We so often stumble in our attempts to make logical sense of our circumstances. We look to discover the “second causes” in our circumstances because we are so prone to bifurcate whatever happens in our lives as either good or bad in nature. In choosing to discover God in the midst of our circumstances we will be positioning ourselves for God’s highest. These authors will help readers move faithfully in this direction.
May everyone reading these words be given the spirit of wisdom and revelation—the eyes of their hearts being enlightened—to know and accept ultimate truth as originated in Jesus Christ and verified in Holy Writ.