So I've seen a number of articles lately by Christians and others who are worried about preparing to survive the end-times Tribulation or Apocalpyse. Some have even asked me "What do you think Christians should do to prepare to survive the Tribulation?". So in this article I will outline several ways that I think people should prepare now for the coming end-times.
1. Believe in Jesus
First of all, the most important thing is to make sure you are in a right relationship with Jesus. There is nothing more important than this. Take some quiet time alone to think about you and God. Imagine you die and you come face to face with Jesus, who asks "Why should I let you into heaven?" What is the first thing that comes into your mind? Is it:
- I go to church sometimes.
- I'm a pretty good person, after all, I haven't killed anyone.
- I volunteer at church or with another charity.
- I try to love my neighbor.
- God is love, right? So he'll forgive me.
- My parents and family are Christian.
Did you think something similar to one of these above questions? If so, it could indicate that you may not really be trusting Jesus for your salvation. The only right answer to the question "why should God let me into heaven" is: Because Jesus Christ died to pay for my sins. If we are trusting anything else for our salvation besides what Jesus did on the cross for us, then we may not really have faith in Jesus.
Some people who are true Christians might think of one of the above answers simply because they have not received clear teaching on this issue. And it is true that I believe God will be more merciful at the final judgement than we may think. But just to be on the safe side, make sure what you are trusting for your salvation is Christ alone and nothing else. There is a saying "nothing in my hand I bring, only to the cross I cling" - illustrating the image of a drowning person clinging to a floating cross in order to live. We cannot cling effectively to the cross if we are trying to hold on to anything else for our salvation. There is nothing we can do to earn our salvation. Faith is not a work. Faith (perhaps better called "trust", according to Martin Luther) is something we do, but only as a response to the Holy Spirit first working in our hearts to help us come to faith. It is like receiving a gift - you don't work for a gift, but you do have to open it. So we don't earn our salvation by having faith, but we do have to exercise faith for it to personally benefit us. So ask yourself again "what am I trusting for my salvation?" - if it is Jesus, then you're good to go.
2. Be at Peace
If you've done step 1 above and are confident that you are in right relationship with Jesus, then don't worry too much about the end times. While reading the news and other end-times prophecy websites can be alarming, there is one fact that can comfort anxious Christians: the Rapture will happen at a time when everything is pretty much business as usual. See Matthew 24:37-39: "When the Son of Man appears, things will be just as they were when Noah lived. People were eating, drinking, and getting married right up to the day that the flood came and Noah went into the big boat. They didn't know anything was happening until the flood came and swept them all away. That is how it will be when the Son of Man appears."(CEV). Luke expands on this and says "Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot - they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all - so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed." (Luke 17:28-29, CEV).
So when Jesus appears for the Rapture, life will be going along pretty much the way it always has - people marrying, buying and selling, partying, celebrating, eating and drinking. But during the Tribulation, life will not be going along normally. The 21 judgements in Revelation get worse and worse, and as I've pointed out in this article, an enormous percentage of the world's population will probably die during the Tribulation. It will not be "business as usual". In the aftermath of disasters such as Hurricane Katrina or the recent earthquake in Nepal, people were not getting married and going about their regular daily lives - everyone was in survival mode. This is what it will be like during the Tribulation, but even worse since the disasters of the Tribulation will be worldwide and there will be no place to hide or escape to.
So I think this is one strong clue that the Rapture will happen when everything in the world is pretty much going along normally. Many doomsday-preppers worry about dramatic events such as an EMP attack on the USA, a solar flare, nuclear war, or deadly pandemics. Any of these events would completely change our world as we know it. This sort of enormous disaster would completely disrupt the USA and many other countries, which would have a huge impact on the world economy and worldwide political stability. Therefore, I do not believe any serious major disaster or war that would completely cripple major countries will happen before the Tribulation. In fact, I think it is more likely that the world chaos and confusion that would naturally follow the Rapture would be the trigger that leads to the world instability which allows for the Antichrist to rise to power and implement his Mark of the Beast economic system.
So I do not expect any major world-changing apocalyptic event to occur before the Rapture. I have read several end-times scholars suggest that God is supernaturally sustaining and upholding world order until the Rapture happens, because if he were not, the global economy would have collapsed by now, nuclear war would have happened, and pandemics such as Ebola would be running rampant. God's sustaining and providential hand keeps the world from spinning out of control until He decides it is time for the Tribulation. So breathe easy, and don't worry about wild speculation, conspiracy theories, or what you hear on the news. God is restraining evil in the world (see 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7) so that it cannot get so far out of control that it threatens His plans.
3. Look Forward to the Rapture
The Rapture is what Christians should be looking for, not the start of the Tribulation, the rise of the Antichrist. or the Mark of the Beast. When God says it is time, Jesus will come for all Christians, resurrect the dead and transform those still alive, and take us all to heaven with him. The most consistent view of the Rapture shows that it must happen before the Tribulation occurs, not half-way in and not at the end. While world developments may point toward the coming Tribulation, this only means the Rapture will happen even sooner. The hope of the coming Rapture is encouraging and comforting (1 Thess. 4:18).
While God will allow the Tribulation saints to be conquered by the Antichrist (Rev. 13:7), the Church will not experience total defeat before the Rapture (Matt 16:18). Therefore, the Tribulation saints (those who believe in Jesus after the Rapture) are not part of the Church. The Church began at Pentecost, and is finished at the Rapture, which occurs when the full number of the gentiles has come in to the Church and God turns his attention back to Israel (Romans 11:25). In fact, the word "church" is never mentioned even once between Revelation chapters 4 and 22. Revelation 4:1 could be interpreted as a reference to the Rapture, as the idea of a door open in heaven, the voice of a trumpet, and being transported to heaven match closely with the description of the Rapture in 1 Corinthians 15:52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16. You can see many more reasons why the Rapture has to happen before the Tribulation in my article here.
There is even more evidence that Christians should not fear God's wrath. During the Tribulation God will pour out his wrath on an unrepentant and rebellious world (see Rev. 6:16-17, 11:18, 15:1, 16:1, 19:15). Yet the Bible clearly says Christians will never experience God's wrath, either in the Tribulation or in the final Great White Throne judgement:
- "God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess. 5:9, NIV).
- "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life" (John 5:24, NIV)
- "They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead - Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.(1 Thess. 1:9-10, NIV)
- "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus"(Rom 8:1, NIV)
- "Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!"(Romans 5:9)
- "Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth."(Rev. 3:10). Note this is a promise to be kept "from" (or "out of", in the original Greek) the hour of trial. So we won't even be on Earth during the time of the Tribulation!
Christians will face Jesus for judgement, but it will be at the Bema seat of Christ. A Bema seat was a place in the ancient Roman world where the judge of a sports contest would declare who was the winner, and give out rewards. In 2 Timothy 4:6-8, Paul compares his work to running a race which wins him a crown (the word for crown is"stephanos", which in Greek refers to a crown that was given out to a victor of an athletic contest in Roman times ). Therefore, Christians are only judged to determine how many heavenly rewards we deserve (see 2 Cor. 5:10, 1 Cor. 3:10-15). The worst thing that might happen is that we never earn any rewards, yet we will still be given eternal life in heaven (1 Cor. 3:15).
4. Fulfill the Great Commission
The best use of your time left here on Earth is not preparing to survive the Tribulation. As we have seen already, Christians will not be here during the Tribulation because we will be Raptured to heaven, and no end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it disaster will happen before the Rapture. So then you might ask, what should we do?
The answer is easy - keep fulfilling the Great Commission. This is what Jesus told his disciples to do just before he ascended to heaven: "Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to do everything I have told you." (Matthew 28:19-20, NIV). In fact, we may be able to speed up Jesus' return by telling more people about the gospel. Paul says that God is waiting for the full number of the Gentiles to come in to the church before the Rapture (Rom.11:25), and then God will turn his attention back to Israel during the Tribulation. No one knows how many Christians God is waiting for, but each person who becomes a Christian is bringing us closer to that number.
So use your remaining time on Earth here well. Jesus could return any day now - there is nothing that has to happen before the Rapture can take place. What if we only have a week left? How much bolder would you be when witnessing to friends and family about their need for salvation? It is only fear of the future and possible negative consequences in this life that holds us back from telling everyone we know about Jesus. But if we don't know how much time we have (after all, we may die tomorrow), we should make the best use of it we can, even if we risk looking silly.For inspiration, check out the movie The Ark. In this movie, Noah tries to warn people about the coming flood and tries to convince them to come with him on the Ark, but the people (and even Noah's family at first) think Noah is crazy for building a boat in the desert and laugh at him. But Noah is proved right when the flood happens just as God said it would. Warning your friends and family about the coming Tribulation and how to escape it through trusting Jesus and being Raptured is just as important as Noah warning the world about the flood. It takes a lot of faith to risk looking silly, but Like Ezekiel, we must warn people about the coming judgement, or we may be partly responsible for their demise (Ezekiel 33: 1-6). Yet if we tell others, and they reject our message or reject us, then it is their own fault.
5. Occupy Until He Comes
We still have work to do on Earth until the Rapture happens. In Luke 19:11-27 Jesus tells the parable of a rich prince who gives different amounts of money to his servants, and tells them to invest it wisely while he is out of town. The King James version gives the command "Occupy until I come" (Luke 19:13). So use your time, talents, money, and abilities the best you can to spread the gospel, help others, and serve the church. We are all gifted with something, no matter how small - even giving a cup of cold water to someone in Jesus' name earns a heavenly reward (Matthew 10:42, Mark 9:41). Spend your time on what is truly valuable, not things that are temporary and will one day be burned up (1 Corinthians 3:12-13), and focus on earning rewards in heaven that will never rust, decay, or be stolen (Matthew 6:19-20). We only get this one short life to earn all the rewards we will ever have in heaven, so make it count!
The idea of "occupying" reminds me of a group of soldiers trying to hold a fort. Their job is to "occupy" the fort for as long as they can, until the airlift comes to rescue them. They may come under fire, and their job might get more and more difficult as their numbers dwindle and the enemy grows stronger. But they can't give up - they've been ordered to hold the fort at all costs, and that is what they will do. Christians are called to "hold the fort" until God decides it's time to Rapture us out of this fallen world, and has guaranteed that we will not be completely defeated until then (Matt. 16:18). In the book of Revelation, Jesus tells Christians "I am coming soon. So hold firmly to what you have, and no one will take away the crown that you will be given as your reward." (Rev. 3:11, CEV). So how do we hold firm to our crowns? Here are some ideas:
- keep witnessing/preaching the gospel to anyone you can, in ways that will be well-received.
- keep doing good works to help others and serve the church.
- keep standing up for truth, justice, and Godly morals, even if people insult you for it
- pray for our governments and leaders to govern well (1 Tim. 2:1-4).
- consider becoming politically active to try to slow down our countries' and communities' downward slide into immorality and godlessness.
- keep reading your Bible, praying, and staying close to God.
- keep resisting temptation to sin and work on becoming more like Christ.
- keep going to church (Hebrews 10:25).
- keep encouraging other Christians to do the same.
The trick is to do these things in a Christ-like way. It doesn't help unbelievers take Christians seriously if we do these things but with a hostile, angry, judgemental, or hypocritical attitude. We represent Christ to the world by being loving toward our enemies, praying for those who persecute us, turning the other cheek, even being willing to die for our faith if necessary. It is our loving attitude that will draw others to Christ through our actions. It doesn't help the cause of Christ if we make the headlines for protesting gay people's funerals, taking over government buildings, causing a stir by refusing to sign gay wedding permits, refusing to provide flowers for gay weddings, killing abortion doctors, or being hateful towards people of other religions. This only makes the world think we are narrow-minded bigots full of hatred and pride. So while we have the right to follow our consciences on issues we face in our culture, we must do it sensitively, with wisdom, humility, gentleness, self-control, and love.
6. Prepare, But Within Reason
There is nothing wrong with wanting to be prepared for potential local disasters. In fact, it is wise and prudent to do so. So preparing for reasonable, possible potential disasters is smart. Make sure your family will be taken care of for a reasonable period of time, like say a week or two, and if you can, store a little extra so you can be generous and share with others who didn't think to prepare. But it is a waste of money and time to try to prepare to survive all seven years of the Tribulation by building underground survival shelters, stocking up on ammunition and weapons, and hoarding food and supplies. I would rather spend my money now on things that will earn me eternal heavenly rewards (such as supporting missionaries, feeding the homeless, etc.), rather than spending it on survival supplies that can be stolen, get broken, or expire. Even if you had the most fabulous survival bunker, there is no guarantee you would make it there before dying, or that someone else wouldn't have found it first and taken all your things. Much better to give away your money to the poor and earn heavenly rewards which will never rust or be stolen (Matt 19:21, Mark 10:21, Luke 12:33, Luke 18:22).
The Tribulation will be a terrible time to be alive, worse than any other period of history (Matthew 24:21-22). So it will be worse than the Black Plague, worse than World War 2, worse than the 30 Years War, worse than the Mongol invasions of Europe or the Viking sack of Rome, worse than even Noah's flood! Do you really want to stay alive during this time? Or would it be better to die a quick death, spare yourself the suffering, and arrive in heaven to fall into Jesus' embrace to have him wipe away all your tears, never to experience suffering ever again? I know what I would prefer. C.S. Lewis compared this life to only the first page of a story that goes on forever and gets better and better . So I don't fear death. Even if all the pre-Tribulation Rapture-believing Christians are wrong, and Christians do spend some period of time in the Tribulation, I would rather die earlier on instead of delaying death by trying to survive without the Mark of the Beast, running from the Antichrist, dodging all the disasters and judgements, and seeing some (if not most) of my friends and family die.
So go ahead - look up local guidelines on how much water is recommended to store in case your water is off for a few days. Store some food that doesn't go bad easily in case there is a shortage at the local store for some reason. Hide a little cash around in case of a local power failure which prevents you from using an ATM or credit cards. Pack an emergency backpack with critical supplies and backups of important documents in case you have to flee your home suddenly (such as the people in the recent Fort McMurray forest-fire disaster had to do). Have some batteries, an emergency radio, a flashlight, and some candles around in case of a power outage for a few days. Put some emergency supplies in your car in case it breaks down in the middle of nowhere, like a pair of good walking shoes, some blankets, etc. What you will need depends on where you live, and what your local climate is like. Researching some survivalist or prepper websites can give you some great ideas of the sort of things that are useful to have around in case of emergencies. But be reasonable and responsible in how much money and time you spend doing this, as our hope is not in material things but in Jesus Christ, who saves us from the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:10).
I hope this article has been encouraging and comforting to any Christians who are worried about where they see the world is headed. Remember the saying "it is always darkest before the dawn" - as things get darker and darker, this is when we are to look up, for our salvation draws near (Matt. 24:33, Mark 13:29, Luke 21:31, Rom 13:11). Ironically, the worse things get here, the more hopeful we should become. Fear about the future may also make our friends and family more open to hearing about Jesus. So take whatever opportunities you get to tell them of the hope you have in Christ which helps you be peaceful and confident even in fearful and uncertain times.
 Bible Hub, "4735. Stephanos"
 C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle, on the final page of the book.