In a recent poll on leftbehind.com, we asked the question "Are you ready for Jesus to return?" Website polls are not statistically valid surveys, but they can be illuminating. Here's how the responses broke down:
Are you ready for Jesus to return?
• I'm anxiously expecting his return = 3812
• I hope he comes during my lifetime, but not yet = 2023
• I need to get ready = 565
• I'm afraid I'll be Left Behind = 639
• I know I'll be left behind, but I don't know what to do = 193
More than 50 percent of respondents said "I'm anxiously expecting his return." Nearly 3 in 10 either had unfinished business or didn't want to end their earthly good times just yet when they said "I hope he comes in my lifetime, but not yet." Under 2 in 10 said either "I need to get ready" or "I'm afraid I'll be left behind." Another small group, about 3 in 100, said "I know I'll be left behind, but I don't know what to do."
We'd like to talk to those of you who don't feel ready or don't know what to do to avoid being left behind. By reading the Left Behind series you'll find examples of people who have decided to put their faith in Christ. You'll also find plenty of teaching from the Bible through characters like Bruce Barnes, Tsion Ben-Judah, and members of the Tribulation Force as they struggle with their own questions.
Right now, though, it might be helpful to review some material from the 21-page booklet "Will I Be Left Behind?" This booklet, available from Tyndale, helps you answer the question, "Are you ready for the moment of truth?"
The booklet starts by answering questions about prophecy and the end times. We'll pick up as it turns to more personal things.
What you need to know
Did you know the Bible is full of prophecies that have already come true? When Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem, he fulfilled a prophecy. The fact that his mother was a virgin fulfilled another prediction. Later when Jesus healed the blind and the crippled and fed the hungry, his actions fulfilled more prophecies. When Jesus died on the Cross, it fulfilled a prophecy. More prophecies were likely fulfilled in 1948 when Israel became an Independent nation and in 1967 when Israel regained control of Jerusalem from Jordan in the Six Day War.
They will be brutally killed by the sword or sent away as captives to all the nations of the world. And Jerusalem will be conquered and tramped down by the Gentiles until the age of the Gentiles comes to an end (Luke 21:24).
As incredible as the Rapture, the Antichrist, the Tribulation, the mark of the beast, and the Millennium sound, they really are going to happen because the Bible says they will! Skeptics will scoff, "No way! How could anybody possibly believe that?! Nobody can prove anything in the Bible is really going to happen." But that's not true. Just as previous prophecies have all been fulfilled, all future prophecies will be fulfilled as well—every single one of them.
Then when those things do happen, just as predicted, the scoffers will whine, "It isn't fair." They'll say they couldn't believe because it was too weird. They'll think they should have had another chance and that the consequences of their choice should be overlooked. But they'll find out, all too late, they've made the biggest mistake imaginable, and will perish as a result.
But you can be saved. God doesn't want anyone to miss out on being a part of his kingdom. He loves you, and he's been waiting for you to accept his love, to accept his Son, Jesus Christ.
Why is God going to do all these things? Why can't the world just remain as it is? Why is Jesus so important—isn't believing in God enough? Why do people need a Savior? Can't everyone just try to be good?
God is good and loves us, right?
The Bible says God is good, but we don't usually think about what that really means. To be truly good like God is something way beyond human experience. God never does anything wrong and always does the right thing. He is always loving, fair, honest, and pure. He knows everything, and he's more powerful than anything else or anyone who ever has or ever will live. This is because God created everything.
So why is God going to do all these things, and why can't things just keep on being as they are? The answer is because God loves his creation, but Satan wants to destroy it. Before Satan became jealous of God he was an incredibly beautiful and important angel. But one day Satan decided he should be worshiped just as God was worshiped—so he betrayed God and became separated from him. He allowed himself to become bitter and resentful. He began to hate God and everything God created.
Satan gets pleasure from hurting God, from hurting humans, and from destroying the beauty of the earth God created for his creatures. Satan decided to destroy human beings because they were created by God. He lied to Adam and Eve and tempted them to disobey God. Satan knew if human beings betrayed God by disobeying him, it would separate them from God, who loved them.
What happens when we betray God?
In the Bible we learn that everyone has become God's enemy by betraying his loving friendship.
For all have sinned; all fall short of God's glorious standards (Romans 3:23).
It started in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. God created man and woman, placed them into a paradise he created, and befriended them. They walked in the garden together and visited with God. But when the man and the woman disobeyed God, they became God's enemy.
The very idea of rejecting God and listening to the Devil is a huge betrayal. That is bad news. Ultimately, God's enemies are separated from him forever, and this separation is called hell. Hell is a place forever separated from God's love where the suffering of his enemies is an unending torment.
As human beings we rejected God's laws and have chosen to follow our own desires, believing the lies of Satan rather than the truth we received from God. This betrayal separated us from God, and that is called sin.
Telling lies, cheating, abusing a child, stealing, being intimate with someone else's husband or wife, or killing someone, to mention just a few sins that make it completely impossible for a person to have a friendship with God unless they receive his forgiveness. God has already told us what is sinful and what is not. (See Exodus 20.) God cannot and will not ignore when someone does evil—and make no mistake, doing such things is evil. If God just overlooked it, how could that ever be fair to the one who was lied to, cheated, abused, robbed, who lost his or her mate, or who was murdered? Some people may think it isn't God's businesses if they want to sleep with their girlfriend or boyfriend, but it's wrong whether they agree with God or not.
One day God will heal everything, and suffering will be no more, but first God wants to unify himself with as many people as are willing to have friendship with him.
God offered us friendship with him through Jesus Christ
God placed a knowledge of right from wrong in everyone's mind. That sense you have when you say or do something wrong is your conscience telling you that you have disobeyed God. But what you do with your mistakes is even more important than what you've done wrong. If you hide and deny your mistakes, they won't be forgiven you. But if you acknowledge them and ask God for forgiveness, you will receive it.
The Good News is that Jesus Christ was born, lived a perfect life, and died on the Cross to make it possible for everyone—including you—to have friendship with God. This is why God the Father sent his only Son, Jesus, into the world. Jesus said repeatedly that no one can have a relationship with God unless they first leave behind their old ways and follow him. He is the only way.
Jesus Christ, God's only Son, is both God and man at the same time. Mary was his mother and God was his father. This is a deep mystery, but it is nevertheless true. Because of this, the suffering and death of Jesus were enough to pay the debt of anyone's sin—whatever is needed to make up for everything you've ever said or done wrong. God is so holy that only the death of Jesus, his own perfect Son, could make things right. So great is the power of this enormous act of divine love that no sin is greater than the capacity of this loving gift to cover it. God's very own Son personally invites us to receive forgiveness for our sins and become a part of God's eternal kingdom.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
What you need to do
Each of us must humbly and completely admit our mistakes. Because of our pride, this is extremely difficult but absolutely essential (see 1 John 1:8-9). The apostle Paul said this offer of repentance and the message of the Cross seem foolish to those who are on the road to destruction, but those who are being saved recognize this message as the very power of God.
Confess that you are responsible for your sinful choices. You must ask God yourself to save you from the consequences of your disobedience. You must sincerely want to be in a right relationship with him. You must also be in a right relationship with him. You must also want to live a life of obedience from here on out. That is impossible to do without his help, and he knows this. He never meant for you to try and live a good life without his loving support and friendship. Quietly talk to him, and he will hear you. This is called prayer. If you receive God's gift of Jesus Christ through prayer, God will rejoice just as the father of the prodigal son did. He was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found! If you're not sure how to get started, try something like this:
Father in heaven, I believe that you sent your Son to save me and that Jesus willingly died on the cross for me. I want to become part of your kingdom now and forever, but the things I've done wrong condemn me. I've ignored you. I've been selfish and dishonest and so much more.
I'm truly sorry for all of these things, and I'm asking you to please forgive me. According to your promise I ask you to come into my life, Lord Jesus; and teach me to always obey you from now on. Thank you.
Welcome to the Kingdom!
You have just become a new creation.
What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
You will never be alone again! Please tell us about your experience reading the series and becoming a believer. Find out where a Bible-believing church is in your area that you can join. Help others to understand that God loves them too.
Remember, God doesn't want anyone to be left behind!
All Scripture references are from the New Living Translation.