Should Christians Prepare for the Antichrist?

Should Christians prepare for the Antichrist? If the answer is in the affirmative, what does that preparation look like? I’ve asked this question on numerous occasions.

Losing your soul to pretrib

One argument goes something like this: When the Antichrist arrives first, pretribbers will confuse his persecution with God’s wrath and subsequently believe they’ve been left behind after the rapture. They’ll become spiritually vulnerable to take the Mark of the Beast. Throwaway snippets like this remind me of superficial Memes I see on social media.

The position imagines people will think the rapture has occurred when there hasn’t been evidence of it. It presumes that poor pretribulationists will be so confused by persecution they’ll succumb to the Antichrist’s deception. Presumably, they are spiritually weak and are either prophetically obstinate, or ignorant of it,

So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?” And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. (Rev 13:4-6; see also Rev 13:16-17)

The irony is that I’ve seen so much discussion and hysteria in prophecy circles regarding the Mark of the Beast and vaccinations.

A stern warning against imminence…

“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign….”

Another posttribber warns that non-pretribs will dismiss posttrib signs of Christ’s return because they’re not looking for them and “This is a salvation issue!” Pretribbers can potentially lose their faith and, consequently, their salvation because they’re not “watching.”

Moreover, Jesus apparently warned against imminence in Matt 24:48-51. Why? – Because He commanded the disciples to watch and pray (Olivet Discourse etc). Therefore if we’re not looking for the prophetic signs, we won’t be prepared (like the servant in the parable). Hence, imminent thinking is dangerous.

This innovative approach is tantamount to circular reasoning. And it betrays a bias.

We can read our Bibles, understand the warnings and signs, and still keep an imminent mindset. If I’m still alive when the Antichrist comes, I’ll know pretribulationism was incorrect. It’s not that difficult.

See more on the Matt 24 parable. See: What does it mean to watch and pray? And see Spurgeon on the Imminent Mindset.

How to prepare

Death is always imminent. It may well come before the rapture. Persecution and martyrdom have always been around in varying degrees. How did Christians historically prepare for them? Is our salvation so tenuous that it depends on our view of whether the Antichrist precedes Christ’s coming for His church?

Let me suggest that a posttrib mindset, on its own, is no preparation at all. It places emphasis on someone buttressing their own assurance by subscribing to a particular eschatological viewpoint. It is dangerously misleading and arrogantly judgmental of those who differ.

Preparation has nothing to do with keeping watch of future “signs of Christ’s coming” or “signs of the Antichrist.” It is about our present position in, and attitude to, our Lord Jesus Christ. Eschatology was given for our edification and hope, but our eyes ought to be constantly on Christ.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Phil 1:6; see Rom 8:38-39)

John Murray wrote,

If we prize our life (that is our natural life) more than Christ’s honor and will compromise his truth and glory rather than part with life, then we are not Christ’s. (O Death, Where is Thy Sting?, 181)

John MacArthur,

When Jesus told His listeners to take up their crosses, it meant only one thing. It meant willingly facing the possibility of death for His sake. (Hard to Believe, 135)

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matt 10:28)

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Phil 1:21)

Maranatha!

Further reading: God is Faithful to Preserve His Own

Alf Cengia bio


Alf Cengia has a keen interest in politics (especially the Middle East), is a collector of books and dabbles in weight training. He is stepfather to Michelle, Sammy’s chief walker and his wife’s favorite coffee maker. He blogs at Zeteo316 and Thoughts on Eschatology.

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There are 21 Comments

T Howard's picture

Maybe it's just me, but I'm having a hard time understanding what Alf is saying in this article.

Regarding imminence, I believe Ladd was right when he described the imminent return of the Lord not as being any-moment soon but as being expected.

Regarding pre-trib salvation issues, I've never heard that. However, I do believe that a pre-trib position can lead to a belief that suffering and persecution are abnormal for believers to experience (particularly believers in the west).

Larry's picture

Moderator

I do believe that a pre-trib position can lead to a belief that suffering and persecution are abnormal for believers to experience (particularly believers in the west).

How so?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

This might help clarify: there's a long-raging controversy among pre-millennialists as to whether Christians are taken up from the earth before the judgment events described in Revelation and Daniel, aka the Tribulation. So you have the pre-tribulation view and the post-tribulation view. Alf is mostly pushing back on two criticisms of  the pretribulation view made by some post-tribulationists.:

  • Because of their pre-trib views, pre-tribbers are going to fall pray to the deceptions of the Antichrist
  • Beause of their pre-trib view, pre-tribbers are not preparing properly for future events: and post-tribbers are properly preparing.

On Larry's question: I can't really speak for Alf on that point, but probably the connection he has in mind is a theology of suffering/theology of judgment problem that sees the true Christian life as one of blessing in exchange for obedience. So the pre-trib rapture is part of the reasoning that God doesn't let His own suffer.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

M. Osborne's picture

I am not pre-trib.

I gather from the article that perhaps some non-pre-tribbers have leveled charges against pre-tribbers that if pre-tribbers naively believe that they'll never have to reckon with the mark of the beast and the anti-christ, that they'll miss them when they really come and get swept along.

This is simply not a problem inherent in a responsible pre-trib position. And further, Jesus said something like "if it were possible this would deceive the very elect," implying that in the final analysis, God's elect will not be deceived.

God is not going to let His people go simply because they made some errors in their interpretation of prophecy, nor will the mark of the beast be some kind of subtle "gotcha!" test (bar codes, vaccines). In my reading of Scripture pre-tribbers are incorrect, but it's an enormous leap to say that this--in and of itself--is going to affect their relationship with Christ and their fundamental loyalties.

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

M. Osborne's picture

Aaron wrote:

On Larry's question: I can't really speak for Alf on that point, but probably the connection he has in mind is a theology of suffering/theology of judgment problem that sees the true Christian life as one of blessing in exchange for obedience. So the pre-trib rapture is part of the reasoning that God doesn't let His own suffer.

The pre-tribbers I remember interacting with are pretty clear that God's people are exempt from His wrath as expressed in the tribulation, and not exempt from suffering and persecution in general.

I suppose that people with rosy no-suffering theology could wrongly incorporate pre-trib thinking into this outlook...but I just don't see it as being inherent.

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

dgszweda's picture

I struggle to find one instance in Scripture where someone fully understand the details of prophecy when it was given at the time.  Even the disciples after spending 3 years with Christ were struggling with the OT prophecy and the sayings of Christ.  Our ability to resist the devil, the Antichrist, the mark of the beat is less rooted in us trying to avoid a detail in prophecy (i.e. Mark of the Beast), and more to do with the strength of our Christian walk.  If our sights are on Christ, we are rooted in Scripture and prayer and we seek to live a holy life, that will do more to help us avoid something in prophecy than us trying to interpret the times and overlay it with our misunderstanding of prophecy to somehow carve out actions that are pleasing to God.

T Howard's picture

Larry wrote:

I do believe that a pre-trib position can lead to a belief that suffering and persecution are abnormal for believers to experience (particularly believers in the west).

How so?

There is a general misunderstanding about persecution and suffering that has infected the American church, particularly those who hold to pre-trib eschatology. Perhaps it's more an American phenomenon than a pre-trib phenomenon.

M. Osborne's picture

T. Howard, I'd be interested to hear what correlations have been observed.

Not denying the rampant misunderstandings about suffering, but in my church context in Philly, people's misunderstanding seems to stem either from prosperity-gospel theology or some weird notion that you can believe your way out of difficulties through positive / attractional thinking of some kind (like a christianized version).

 

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

Larry's picture

Moderator

There is a general misunderstanding about persecution and suffering that has infected the American church, particularly those who hold to pre-trib eschatology. Perhaps it's more an American phenomenon than a pre-trib phenomenon.

And what do you think that misunderstanding is?

T Howard's picture

Larry wrote:

There is a general misunderstanding about persecution and suffering that has infected the American church, particularly those who hold to pre-trib eschatology. Perhaps it's more an American phenomenon than a pre-trib phenomenon.

And what do you think that misunderstanding is?

That God will rapture and rescue the church from experiencing significant persecution and suffering, because the tribulation is when that occurs.

Larry's picture

Moderator

That God will rapture and rescue the church from experiencing significant persecution and suffering, because the tribulation is when that occurs.

That may not be a misunderstanding if "significant" is related to the tribulational judgments in Scripture. The pre-trib position does not deny the possibility of suffering and persecution, even significant suffering and persecution. What it denies is that the Tribulation judgments are going to be experienced by the church.

I wonder here if idea of this being American is more due to understanding our political system. The church should not be suffering or persecuted in our political system. That doesn't have to do with theology; it is has to do with our consitution and system of government. It is easy to conflate those two. I am a pretribulationist because I think it makes the most sense of Scripture and I think that the American system of government prevents (or at least should prevent) persecution and suffering by the church. But the latter has nothing to do with the former and my guess is that most pretribulationists would be similar to me in that. 

T Howard's picture

Larry wrote:

That God will rapture and rescue the church from experiencing significant persecution and suffering, because the tribulation is when that occurs.

That may not be a misunderstanding if "significant" is related to the tribulational judgments in Scripture. The pre-trib position does not deny the possibility of suffering and persecution, even significant suffering and persecution. What it denies is that the Tribulation judgments are going to be experienced by the church.

I wonder here if idea of this being American is more due to understanding our political system. The church should not be suffering or persecuted in our political system. That doesn't have to do with theology; it is has to do with our consitution and system of government. It is easy to conflate those two. I am a pretribulationist because I think it makes the most sense of Scripture and I think that the American system of government prevents (or at least should prevent) persecution and suffering by the church. But the latter has nothing to do with the former and my guess is that most pretribulationists would be similar to me in that. 

Larry, I'm post-trib. I am prepared to see all hell break loose before Christ returns. I believe, like Ladd, that God will protect the church during the tribulation much like he protected Israel in Egypt. That being said, I find American Christians very quick to label inconvenience as persecution and suffering. They haven't seen anything yet. The whole controversy of face masks and vaccines is a case in point.

By and large, American Christians aren't prepared to handle the real suffering and persecution that's coming, and I believe that is a result of their eschatology.

josh p's picture

I'm pretrib because I think that's what the Bible teaches. I have heard several non-pretrib people claim that pretrib folks just can't see God making His people suffer. The entire Old Testament, New Testament, and church history records God's people suffering. In the thousands of hours of pretrib sermons/literature I've ingested, I have yet to hear someone actually say it. It borders on a straw man argument from my perspective. It would be like saying that non-pretrib folks believe Christians are going through the tribulation because they are masochists. No reality there. 

Larry's picture

Moderator

I'm post-trib.

Not for long Biggrin ...

On a serious note, it may well be that "American Christians very quick to label inconvenience as persecution and suffering" and that "They haven't seen anything yet." But that has nothing to do with the issue at hand . Pre or post trib can only be answered by the Scripture, as I am sure you agree. Pursing the issue of preparation for suffering is not productive, IMO.

RajeshG's picture

josh p wrote:

I'm pretrib because I think that's what the Bible teaches. I have heard several non-pretrib people claim that pretrib folks just can't see God making His people suffer. The entire Old Testament, New Testament, and church history records God's people suffering. 

I believe that Scripture abundantly supports the pretrib. position. Concerning suffering, not only does Scripture record God's people suffering, but also it explicitly tells us that "we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).

T Howard's picture

Brothers, I agree the Scriptures demonstrate and communicate that God's people will experience suffering, persecution, and even death for the sake of Christ.

However, American Christians seem to view suffering and persecution as abnormal. I maintain that some of that is culturally derived from living in a relatively free society, but most evangelical Christians are also pre-trib (from what I've read) and some of that is also derived from a theology that teaches God will rescue them from the earth before things really get bad. I understand pre-trib advocates wouldn't frame it this way, but that is how it is commonly understood.

I do wonder how people's faith will be shaken (not lost!) after hearing all their life that they won't experience the tribulation. The way I look at it, I will live my life so that regardless of rapture timing, I will not be caught unaware. Pre-trib brothers, will you and your people be caught unaware should the church go through the tribulation? 

Bert Perry's picture

I've got to admit that I've always struggled with the notion that the rapture of the Church comes before the Tribulation because the New Testament tells us so much about how Christians will suffer for their faith.  I do not know precisely whether the Church will go through the Tribulation, or whether there will be a time of "tribulation opening act", but either way, I've believed for decades that Christians ought to consider and prepare for the deprivations that will occur in such days.  

This is especially the case when I consider the reality that one of the most dangerous things I see in the church is the habit of assuming that things must be according to the model we're used to, whether it's what the pastor learned in Bible college, or whether it's simply the micro-culture of that particular church.  At one level, that's a huge recipe for difficulty when difficulty arises, because that micro-culture can be a way of easily identifying the church.  Sometimes it's necessary---Scripture ought to impact our culture--but sometimes, it's just needless cultural baggage.

But even if we do not face serious difficulty, I'd argue the substitution of "our model" for the story the Scriptures tell can lock us into models of ministry that simply don't work in our local cultures.  So I would argue that a good look at how Christians have dealt with persecution over the centuries can give us the opportunity to learn new ways of reaching out to the world.  In China and elsewhere, it's house churches.  In the old Soviet Union, it's secret meetings in the forest and such.  In many places, preaching lasts many hours because the congregants either don't know how to read, or don't have their own copies of the Bible.

So we ought to get ready for trouble, even if it never comes, because there is such tremendous upside in reaching the world when we do.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Larry's picture

Moderator

 American Christians seem to view suffering and persecution as abnormal. 

I agree, but this is not theology. It is civics. The American system of government has privileged religion by constitution and law. And so yes, in our system, suffering and persecution is abnormal. And what's more, it is (or should be) illegal and unconstitutional. Which goes back to my original point. If you conflate the concerns, I think you misattribute the reasons and issues. 

One can be pre-trib and see suffering and persecution as completely common even up to the point of death for the gospel. 

T Howard's picture

Larry wrote:

 American Christians seem to view suffering and persecution as abnormal. 

I agree, but this is not theology. It is civics.

As I've stated above, I don't believe it's either/or but both/and.

KD Merrill's picture

Apparently, I've been under the mistaken impression that the Tribulation is a time during which God will pour out His judgment and wrath on the earth.  It appears that some believe that the focus of the Tribulation will be persecution.  

T Howard's picture

KD Merrill wrote:

Apparently, I've been under the mistaken impression that the Tribulation is a time during which God will pour out His judgment and wrath on the earth.  It appears that some believe that the focus of the Tribulation will be persecution.  

According to Scripture, it appears that the tribulation will be a time of suffering / persecution of believers initiated by the antichrist as well as a time when God himself pours out judgment and wrath on the earth. So, it's both/and nor either/or.

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