Caught up with Jesus, yet?

The_Late,_Great_Planet_Earth_coverHal Lindsay’s book The Late Great Planet Earth was first published in 1970 the same year I received Jesus as Lord. It was about 10 years later I finally read the book whereupon I was gripped by tribulation-mania and the possibility of being caught up at any moment in the rapture with Jesus. How well I remember deliberating whether to renew my subscription to the Wittenburg Door Magazine for 1 or 2 years. If the rapture were imminent, renewing for 2 years would be a waste of money, so I renewed for just 1 year.

It’s a silly story, but the fact is Hal Lindsey’s book and others like it, have sewn much yeast into the body of Christ. Christians fixated on the impending rise of the antichrist, the tribulation and the rapture have been rendered ineffective in the present by constantly fixing their eyes on a future escape from reality. Instead of living and rejoicing in our Savior who is here even NOW and who said “the kingdom of God is WITHIN you” (Luke 17:21), they await a future encounter with Jesus.

What an utterly useless way to live!

Don’t worry about tomorrow. It will take care of itself. You have enough to worry about today. Matthew 6:34

In the years since I read the Late Great Planet Earth, I have come to believe that born-again and spirit-filled believers are already caught-up with Christ in Spirit. The Bible teaches that “the old is gone, the new has come”. We are no longer “of the world”, we are “citizens of heaven” and “seated with Christ in heavenly places”. The Bible clearly describes a spiritual reality for us that is not evident in our physical existence. So as far as this world and heaven are concerned, as one who is born-again and spirit-filled, I’m caught up in a sort of limbo; I’m neither fully here (my spirit resides there), nor am I fully there (my body resides here). Perhaps it is best said that being fully caught up with Christ (spirit and body) is a lifelong process where the final step is physical death.

A number of years ago, I talked with a dear old friend about the book of Revelation who made several thought provoking observations. Among them, he said it’s absurd to claim the first century church, who lived through the fall of Jerusalem and were severely persecuted, crucified, ordered to worship Caesar or be fed to the lions, had NOT in fact suffered through years of ‘tribulation’. Such is a dim and myopic view of Revelation that fixes the tribulation at some future date.

The reality is, EVERY believer who truly follows the Lord and submits to the cross of Christ, experiences tribulation. The spirit of antichrist didn’t just crucify Christ the one time; antichrist has been crucifying the incarnate Christ in believers again and again and again, in vain attempt to eradicate Christ’s presence from this world. In this way, the world sees the Lamb of God lifted up again and again and again.

There is a way in which un-regenerate religious people recognize that we are ‘lifted up’ with Christ. Years ago, there was a woman who often tried to recruit me for doing religious works. She once phoned and tried to coerce me into joining a new prayer group saying “you’re a spiritual man and you owe it to the community.” I was put off by her guilt-tripping and manipulation and asked: “since you recognize my gift for prayer, tell me, may I pray in tongues in your prayer group?” She literally barked “NO!”

The Holy Spirit took over and with a voice like thunder demanded to know “by what spirit to you oppress the Holy Spirit?” She was shaken and began to stutter, finally blurting out “I, I don’t know!” After fumbling for words, she recomposed herself and resumed arm twisting and manipulation, saying finally “you need to come down to our level”.

I realize that probably sounds self exalting. But on the spiritual level, you have someone who is born again and spirit filled talking with someone who isn’t (1 Corinthians 2:14). Spiritually, I am crucified with Christ and in some way she recognized I have been lifted up with Christ, hence pleading with me to come down from being lifted up.

There were those who pleaded with Jesus to come down when He had been lifted-up.

Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. (Matthew 27:38-42 ESV)

The spirit of antichrist opposes Christ. He does not want Christ to be lifted up (exalted). In this world, antichrist exalts himself and those who serve him. By lifting Christ up in crucifixion the first time, I’m certain antichrist hoped to remove Christ’s presence from the earth. Yet in lifting Him up, every believer has become “crucified with Christ” and raised up to life in Him; the world has become a veritable “house of mirrors” where antichrist now sees not one, but countless images of Christ, reflected and magnified in believers the world over. Still antichrist persists in his madness, demanding believers “come down from the cross” or persecuting them unto death. And thus the world has been in tribulation since the time of Christ.

The problem with future tribulation theology, is that it takes a temporal approach to the Revelation story as a single future physical event, rather than an ongoing spiritual reality, unfolding individually in the lives of believers and working toward an eventual culmination on the day of the Lord. Sadly, that theology has been cause for countless believers to squander their inheritance in the present, for the promise of future kingdom living.

It’s been 45 years since the Late Great Planet Earth was published. Forty-five (45) years that believers have watched the clouds for Jesus imminent return! Isn’t it time we started walking in our inheritance and doing the good works Jesus has appointed us to (Ephesians 2:10)?

It is worth repeating:

Don’t worry about tomorrow. It will take care of itself. You have enough to worry about today. Matthew 6:34

Better that Jesus should find us working when He returns, rather than cloud-watching while the world goes to hell in a hand-basket.