Who Will Be Left Behind?
“Not everyone who says to Me, “˜Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, “˜Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, “˜I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'” “” Matthew 7:21″“23 (NASB)
Life is rarely predictable. When Moriel published my recent article, “Is the Rapture Really Taking As Many As You Think?“, I mentally braced myself for what I anticipated to be an email avalanche of negative responses mostly having to do with eschatology for such things as the timing of the Rapture or the nature of the Tribulation. I never anticipated that there would be a response expressing the assertion that I was fostering some kind of spiritual elitism, that I was proposing that only those who “have it all together” will leave the “have-not’s” behind. The term that I used repeatedly throughout the article was “the faithful”, so I am fascinated that this scriptural term is associated by so many with some kind of spiritually snobby elite group of people. But putting aside for a moment that such visceral reaction clouded the plain truth of what was actually written, I think the worthy question behind all the emotion is, “How can you possibly know who is going to be left behind?” For the same foundational reason I provided in the previous article: it will be the same ones who were “left behind” at Jesus’ First Coming.
I am not advocating personal judgment of anyone, but asserting that through the application of Scripture we can discern the inevitable destination of the spiritual movements and trends of our time. Scripture provides parameters which enable us to see in advance where a particular path will terminate. For instance, Matthew 21-22 presents three signs of the Messiah which were given to Israel followed by three parables. Here we are provided a picture of those who claimed to be God’s people, claiming to serve God and even looking for God’s Messiah, and yet not only “miss” Him, they actually come to reject and work against Him. Is this a one-time spiritual anomaly, or is this being experienced yet again in these Last Days? They are the forerunners of those who claim some kind of affiliation with God but who will ultimately be “left behind”. When it comes to Israel, Paul specifically states that we are supposed to learn from their mistakes.
Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. “” 1 Corinthians 10:11 (NASB)
Again, it is worth re-stating that so much of Scripture in general, and the ministry of Christ’s First Coming specifically, is directed to those who claim some kind of affiliation or affinity for God but who fall considerably short by God’s standards. There is a mission field I prefer to call “the church” with a little “c” in recognition of an institution to which people spiritually inclined draw together. As it has been famously stated, going to church does not make someone a Christian any more than visiting a bakery makes them a doughnut. Why will many of those left behind be regular members of a church? For the same reason so many were “left behind” the first time.
In Matthew 21:1-11 we have the account of what most Bible publishers famously label “The Triumphal Entry”. In a much more detailed explanation given by Jacob Prasch titled, “Palm Sunday: Give Us Prosperity Now“ (which I highly recommend), the fact of the matter is that the people were celebrating the arrival of the “Conquering King” instead of the “Suffering Servant”. At the Passover they were supposed to sing these Scriptures accompanied by the waving of their hands, an acknowledgment of the Passover Lamb addressing the issue of sin as accomplished in Christ’s First Coming, or what Hebrew scholars called the “Suffering Servant” in the character of Joseph. Instead, they are singing these verses while waving palm branches, the very thing they were only supposed to do during the Feast of Booths, a picture of the Messiah’s Millennial Reign as exemplified by the “Conquering King” in the character of David. (Another good teaching on this topic is “One Messiah, Two Comings“.)
Haven’t you ever wondered why, after what they said and did at the Triumphal Entry, Jesus would afterward state”¦
“For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, “˜Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ “” Matthew 23:39 (NASB)
Why does Jesus reject their “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord“ at the Triumphal Entry in Matthew 21:9 and later state that He will not return until they say the same thing they seem to have already said? Because they were not acknowledging the Messiah as “your King”¦coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey“ but desiring a Messiah on their own terms. They did not want the “Suffering Servant” meek and gentle to come and die for their sin, they wanted the “Conquering King” to overthrow the Romans and establish His kingdom on earth.
The reason a lot of people inside the institutional walls of the church today will be left behind is the same reason why so many were “left behind” at His First Coming: they only want Christ on their own terms, not His. So many of the spiritual movements which are at the forefront of defining what takes place in churches today redefine Christ in their own terms. Things such as Purpose Driven and Emergent Church practices use Christian jargon and settings to look and sound “Christian” but fall far short of being scriptural. The “Jesus” they promote is not the “Jesus” of Scripture. What happens when congregants are no longer challenged to live a crucified life? No one can attain to the benefits of the Messiah’s Second Coming if they have not first and foremost submitted to the work of the cross at His First Coming. There is no benefit of the “Conquering King” for those trying to skip past the “Suffering Servant”.
And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And He said to them, “It is written, “˜My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a robbers’ den.” “” Matthew 21:12″“13 (NASB)
So instead of turning one way and going to the Fortress Antonio to overthrow the Romans and establish His earthly kingdom, what does the Messiah do instead? He turns the opposite way and goes to clean out the Temple.
The Passover custom, even still practiced today, is to remove all leaven from one’s house. It is worthwhile to study all the scriptural uses of “leaven” because so much of the time it is merely said, “’Leaven’ means “˜yeast’ which is what makes the dough rise”. Well, yes, but throughout Scripture “leaven” is repeatedly equated with two very specific things: sin and false doctrine. It is important to note exactly where Jesus begins to address the issue where sin and false doctrine reside: in God’s House. This is another pattern provided throughout the whole of Scripture, that judgment always begins with God’s House first.
Jesus repeatedly addressed the central issue of sin in the course of his 3-1/2 year ministry. When it came to those rejecting Him in His own day, He specifically pointed to their refusal to first address the issue of personal sin.
When all the people and the tax collectors heard this, they acknowledged God’s justice, having been baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John. “” Luke 7:29″“30 (NASB)
Lest we forget, it all started with “a baptism of repentance“. (Mk. 1:4; Lk. 3:3) What is the result of a Purpose Driven theology which discourages talking about sin much less addressing it? What is the result of the incorporation of Emergent and New Age notions that there are “many” paths to God and basically there is enough “good” in most people to see them to heaven? It will be the same result today as it was then: those who refuse to deal with sin and false doctrine will be “left behind”. Just because the ostrich has its head in the ground does not mean the truck will not run over it. Denying the importance or even existence of sin will not save from the inevitable consequences of sin. This is all a variation of the old bumper sticker, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven”. Those within the walls of the church who are ‚ “taken” are distinguished from those “left behind” not because they are “perfect” or “have it all together”, but because they are the ones who have accepted Christ on His terms and are actively dealing with the issue of sin and false doctrine instead of ignoring it.
Now in the morning, when He was returning to the city, He became hungry. Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it, “No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.” And at once the fig tree withered. “” Matthew 21:18″“19 (NASB)
Finally in Matthew we come to the third sign, the cursing of the fig tree. This is also a very deep topic in and of itself, so we will concentrate on what is most relevant to this discussion. One of the many meanings to be gleaned from this sign, particularly where it involves being a sign to Israel, is as a picture of those having an outward “show of religion” expressed by a fruit tree with all leaves and no actual fruit. It is an illustration of what happens to those who can, to a certain degree, look exactly as one would expect but fails the scriptural test of bearing fruit to prove it. This is best understood in light of Jesus’ related teaching in Luke 13:6-10 of the parable indicating God gave Israel repeated opportunities to bear fruit but failed and thus they would reap the consequences.
Do you think it possible that there are regular church members who might look like all the other “trees” but upon closer inspection are barren of fruit by scriptural standards? And if we cannot know in advance who might be “left behind” according to this unit of measure, then why does Jesus instruct”¦
“So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.” “” Matthew 7:17″“20 (NASB)
Where Israel is concerned, these three signs revealed her true character at Christ’s First Coming:
- Their rejection of Him as the “Suffering Servant” (at what we wrongly label “The Triumphal Entry”) revealed Israel’s blindness; they would not accept Him on His terms but only their own.
- His final work in the Temple revealed Israel’s inward corruption.
- His cursing of the fig tree revealed Israel’s outward fruitlessness.
These were not people who had never heard of God or His Word or the promise of His Son to come, but were in fact people claiming this precise heritage and knowledge. And yet they were “left behind” for the very same reasons the pews will not be as empty as many envision when the great “snatching away” comes.
Take a walk through many of the “Christian” bookstores. They are filled with the materials which reflect what is taking place in the mainstream of not just what is called “Christianity” but even “Evangelicism”. It is Scripture which makes the case that they are actually spiritually blind, inwardly spiritually corrupt, and outwardly spiritually fruitless. It is not “perfect” people who will be taken, but those making a good-faith attempt to see things scripturally, to live a crucified live dealing with sin, and striving to produce “fruits in keeping with repentance“. (Lk. 3:8) I do not claim to be a prophet and neither do I claim some special knowledge as to who is going and who is not; it is Scripture which tells us in the here and now the ultimate destination of those committed to Purpose Driven, Emergent practices, New Age influences, and the other myriad false doctrines of our over-leavened times.
How do I know many more than is generally expected are going to be “left behind”? Because what happened the first time is happening again. It occurred in the days of Noah, in the days of Lot, was repeated many times during the times of the judges, kings, and prophets in Old Testament History, and once again at Christ’s First Coming. As Christ describes it in the character of “birth pangs“ (Mt. 24:8), the fulfillment of biblical prophecy is actually patterns which come with ever greater frequency and intensity until a final, ultimate fulfillment. The surprisingly larger than expected number of those “left behind” will be in the same character of those who have historically always been “left behind”, but on an ever greater scale. After all, Christ’s earthly ministry basically only spanned a single nation ““ the earthly institution of the “church” of these End Times extends to far greater numbers.
This is why I so fervently encourage that within the walls of the institutional church the same message be preached as to the unsaved, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel“. (Mk. 1:15) What those within the walls of the church need to hear and put into practice is so small and concise that no bookstore could be financially sustained by selling it. And since no bookstore is going to give it to them, the “faithful” ““ those still striving to see and live and bear fruit scripturally ““ are the only ones who are left to preach it.