In a discussion during discipleship with a man, part of the lesson on eschatology (study of last things), we got onto the topic of "how people will be fooled by the Antichrist during the tribulation period." Here's the thing. A huge best-selling series has been written about it, The Left Behind series. Even many unbelievers in the U. S. know about this view of Christ's return. So if people really do disappear in large numbers, won't people just automatically know that they were Christians, and that this was the rapture? Especially if all of these people really are Christians, a lot of folks would have recognized that, it would seem, and this would be the explanation: they were raptured. So how is it the general population will be fooled enough to give in to the Antichrist, the False Prophet, the Beast?
We do know that people will be fooled. Matthew 24:24, "For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12, "9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." These texts alone tell us a little how people will be fooled.
People will believe a lie. The lie will be backed up by incredible signs and wonders that will validate the Antichrist. He will look uniquely prepared to take the world through a very difficult time. The Antichrist will talk about what people want to hear: "I'll help you survive," "I'm going to make sure you have food and water," "I'm going to protect you from evil terrorists," "I want to make sure your family is secure." The people that make it into this world-wide tribulation period will by a large majority be those who have prioritized physical things, how they feel being really important. They are bound to get sucked into his way. I believe the road for several of the lies about the disappearance of people is already being paved nicely for the Antichrist---X-Files, Roswell, Taken, Abductions, UFOs, People from the Future, Government Cover-ups and Conspiracies. These won't necessarily fool people by themselves, but in conjunction with other more pragmatic reasons, they will serve as an excuse to hold on to. The theory of evolution has been taught in public schools for 75-100 years now, allowing people to entertain the existence of a more advanced species somewhere else in the galaxy.
Alright. All that is fascinating. I'm sure you and I both could add to it. I believe that one of the reasons the disappearance of Christians will be easy to explain away is that far less people will disappear than most people think. Only a small percentage of professing Christians are actually saved. Satan will have a lot easier time convincing people concerning a smaller group missing. What would be my basis for saying that not many Christians will actually be raptured, meet Christ in the clouds when He returns before the tribulation period?
1) We know from Scripture that those entering the narrow gate are few.
Matthew 7:14, "Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."
2) Jesus told us that many people are just false professors.
Matthew 7:21-23, "21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
3) The Lord said that some who receive the Word will not allow it to take root.
Some because of thorny ground, a heart that divides between Jesus and the world system.
Matthew 13:22, "He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful." Someone who puts Jesus on the shelf with his other gods cannot be saved. Those who love the world do not have the love of the Father in them (1 John 2:15-17). Jesus characteristically is first place in the practice of a truly saved person. This person may understand salvation, but things of the world are really what is important to him by how he uses his time. Some because of rocky ground, a shallow intellectual or emotional reception of Christ. Matthew 13:20, 21, "20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; 21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended." Some people just give Jesus a "try," pray a prayer, have a religious experience, or have no more than an acknowledgement that Jesus lived and died and rose again. At one point, someone may just feel sorry for his sin. None of these is enough. This person won't sacrifice for God because he really was never committed to Christ, that is, given up his life for Christ.
4. The Lord Jesus said that anyone who does not repent will perish.
Luke 13:3, "I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." 1 Thessalonians 1:9, "Ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God." If we keep going our own way, we are not and will not be saved. At some point someone must turn from his way to God's way. This is not living a life of sinless perfection. That isn't possible. It is however, not serving God and money, or God and the world, or God and our family.
5. God is not the Father of those who will not separate from false worship and they are not His sons and daughters.
2 Corinthians 6:14-18, "14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." God saved us to worship Him (John 4:23, 24). Worship is recognizing Who God is and giving Him what He wants. If we won't give Him what He has told us He wants in His Word, then we aren't worshipers of His. His sheep will know Him and His voice, and follow Him (John 10:27). Those who don't are not His sheep. Then true believers will separate from those who will not worship the Lord. As Joshua said, "Choose you this day whom ye shall serve" (Josh. 24:15).
The professing Christianity that I see around doesn't look like the Bible. People like to and will say that they are going to heaven when they die. They like thinking that they have their get-out-of-jail-free card and their fire escape plan, so they can go on to do basically what they want to do now. 1 John 2:3, 4 reads, "3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. " These are present tense verbs, so that someone who does know God will keep His commandments as a lifestyle, will live for Him. A whole lot of professing Christians don't characteristically live for Him.
That will be a sad day when all of them are left behind. And like they're deceived today, they'll go right on being deceived by the Antichrist then. It won't be a big disappearing act after all.