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The thrust of Crown & Sickle Ministries is the proclamation of the imminent return of Jesus for His church.� Many issues are addressed in these pages, at prophecy conferences and in those series of meetings held at churches, but make no mistake about it — the driving message is the imminent return of Jesus which is commonly called the rapture.� As you might imagine this dominant theme creates a strong basis for evangelism and rededication.� But, at the same time it causes people to think about those who might not be ready when it happens.�
At times the most heart-felt questions from audiences are not voiced in the occasional Q&A sessions some churches like to have following the presentations, but at the door as people leave.� From time to time people will draw close and almost whisper their questions in an attempt to hide their concerns from those around them.� And among those questions the most distressing have to do with their unsaved family members.� Quite simply they want to know who will be left behind so they can see if those they love the most will “make it or not”.
I cannot answer that specifically, for I do not know such things.� However, I do know what God has said about some of those who will be left behind.� This we shall consider briefly.
Heaven or hell will not be gained by accident
The first thing people must understand is that no one will be saved or lost by accident.� No person will find himself being caught-up in the rapture and wonder how he got there.� Likewise, none will pass from this life through death and wonder how he got to Hades (there is currently no one in hell — Revelation 20:10-15 ) or heaven.� The only exceptions to this are those innocent due to childhood or mental incapacity; there should never be any undue concern regarding the eternal destiny of the blameless (Deuteronomy 1:39 ; Mark 10:14 ).
I believe the best situation is Christian homes where children are taught the truth from birth via words and example.� At the same time, though, if this kind of spiritual environment is haphazard, or if it commands a lower priority than academics, sports, secular achievement, etc., a very serious danger might present itself, and that is the danger of “family” faith.��� That is, a child might be taught the truth, but in such a casual way that it is never connected with individual sin and accountability.� In short it never becomes his or her own truth.� They “become Christians” at a certain age because it is traditionally expected of them.� They might take the attitude that it is, “now time to walk the aisle, make a profession of faith, be immersed…”� In those circumstances the Holy Spirit has little to do with conviction.� In reality it becomes religious protocol instead of a contrite sinner humbling himself before a just, holy and gracious God.
Those who expect to be wafted up to eternal bliss at the rapture or at death in some sort of heavenly up-draft because they were “raised in a religious family” might be surprised.� Jesus had some very strong words about the impotence of such man-made religion.� Though many preachers and congregants alike tend to ignore them, yet their import will resound throughout hell’s eternity: “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven…” (Matthew 7:21 ).� For those people salvation is wrapped up in family or the upscale, entertainment-inclined church they attend, or who they are around town or what great religious things they do for all to see.
The good ole boy syndrome
When I was a teenager I knew of a preacher who was almost attacked after a funeral by family members of the deceased because he did not preach their loved one into heaven.�� He did not say bad things about him; he just did not punch his ticket to heaven.� And the reason was the deceased was a spiritual reprobate.� But, says the family, he provided for his wife and kids, did not get drunk, worked steadily, helped at the volunteer fire department, would give someone the shirt off his back, etc.� The preacher clearly understood the man might have done all that, but there was one thing he had not done, and that was to make Jesus both Lord and Master of his life.
I have preached funerals of people I had never seen, either alive or even while in the casket.� You see, usually when a family has no real biblical convictions just any old preacher will do for a funeral— as long as everyone is assured the dead man is saved.� Funny how eternity receives no thought until funeral arrangements have to be made.� When survivors are asked about the dead man’s life it is a sure bet they will tell about what a good man he was with detailed examples of his kindness and love for his family.� But, it won’t work, for if heaven was for good ole boys then Jesus was beaten to a bloody pulp, nailed to a Roman cross and forsaken by His Father for nothing.
God says every human is rotten to their core, their hearts are evil, their Adamic natures are in control, their righteousness is like dirty rags before His face, they have no redeeming spiritual value, they are treacherous, vain and obsessed with self.� In short, there is none righteous (Romans 3:10 ).� However, such divine condemnation does not stroke the human ego and salve the human conscience.� We inherently do not like to be told these things.� That is why emergent, self-esteem preachers like those in Garden Grove, CA and Houston, TX never talk about sin and human depravity.� They prefer to singularly emphasize God’s goodness as though that is the sole facet of His character.
In modern religion the test is no longer biblical, but psychological and philosophical, thus most everyone is qualified to “make it to heaven” because, after all, “He was a good ole boy…”� Interesting that God gives no such accolade to any man, much less does He accept it as a ticket for the rapture.
For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard… (Hebrews 2:2,3 NASB, emphasis mine).
You have just read one of the most thought-arresting passages in the New Testament.� The author is writing as a Christian to Christians, and uses the personal, plural pronoun “we” with the context having to do with Christians drifting away from the truth due to a careless attitude (Greek: ameleo).� If words and context have any meaning at all this should get our attention.� This verse forms the nexus of the warnings soundly issued to his Christian readers in chapters 3,4,6, etc.
Nobody knows for sure who wrote Hebrews, but one thing is certain:� he rightly divides the word of God so there is no misunderstanding of what the Holy Spirit was saying through his pen.� He does not speak of those who reject their great salvation, but those who neglect it.� How does a Christian neglect his salvation?� I would like to have seen the author go into greater detail with a neat list of things he had in mind, but he did not.� The Holy Spirit chose to leave it as it was knowing we should have the maturity to figure out the simple things and make the applications.� It is sufficient to say, however, the warnings cited above are adequate for removing any excuse for negligence anybody might offer.
Does this take away from the security of the believer?� Perish the thought (John 10:28,29 ; 1 John 5:13 )!� The Holy Spirit does not have in mind here those who might lose their salvation as one might accidently lose his wallet.� Nor does He have in mind those who might be forcibly removed from God’s hand against their will.� Neither is possible.� However, He clearly and strongly warns about Christians being careless with their salvation to the point where they “fall away from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12 ) as a result of their own choices.� Though we tend to recoil at such a thought and offer humanly-inspired arguments otherwise, the fact is it is as� simple as that.� There is no unusual Greek nuance in the translation of ameleo into neglect that could lead to any other conclusion; it means exactly what it says in English.
The a-religious (they accept no religion)
Yes, the wicked among us will certainly be left behind.� Everybody is quick to say the Hitlers, Stalins, Edi Amins, Arafats, Ahmadinejads and other such notables will not make it.� If any in that crowd is religious at all it is a perverted style of Christianity (Hitler), or paganism in such forms as Islam (Arafat and Ahmadinejad).� Some are fully hateful of any form of religion no matter the variety (Stalin).� These are the ones easily identified and condemned by those who like to measure their own religious standing by such comparisons.� Alongside Robert Mugabe or Kim Jong-il just about any junk-yard dog can look like an angel.� But, these men could not care less about being left behind.� They do not accept biblical precepts and are totally oblivious to spiritual matters.
These people are not to be confused with others who call themselves atheists who simply disavow the existence of God.� Rather, they reject God and His word out of hand and are unconcerned about Him even if He might exist.� And here is where things can get sticky.
Recently a friend asked me about the best way to approach someone they know who is in that group.� That person is intellectually brilliant, leans heavily upon their doctoral degrees, and feels no need for God and the Bible.� This person believes God and His truth are spiritual drugs the common people must have to anesthetize them when facing the realities of life.� Though law-abiding and moral this person sees religion as Marx saw it; that is, as the opium of the people.� Marx said religion was for oppressed people who live life through illusions.� The fact of the matter is until that person, and multitudes like them, chooses to allow the Holy Spirit’s conviction to soften their hearts they will never be reached.� You see, it is all about the heart, not the intellect.�
At the taking out of the church the God-rejecting intellectually elite will be left behind with only their self-declared intellectual brilliance to answer their intellectually-inspired questions.� And, just as they have always allowed their own intellectual faculties to explain away their need of a Savior, so shall they invite those same intellectual faculties to lie to their mortal consciences about this great and humanly unexplainable Divinely-inspired disappearance.
Who shall be left behind?� Every one who believes they have a better way of living, dying and preparing for the eternal existence of their souls than the plan God has given us.� What shall be their condition?� A hell on earth with pain, suffering, depression and a sense of futility that cannot be imagined by any human being.� Being left behind will be a mind-shaking experience for everyone on earth.� However, for those who have loved-ones taken up in the rapture, who have at least some understanding of the truth and who will know what has happened the event will be a horror too great to imagine.� Their grief will be unprecedented.
These are not pleasant things to think about, yet they must be addressed because they are on the immediate horizon.� Jeremiah wept for his people who rejected the truth, and Amos thundered against those who did the same.� Sometimes I think Christians respond only with weeping.� Maybe it is time to ratchet things up to the thunder level.�� DLM