Avoiding Death is not Eternal Life
In the '60s, I heard a message by Billy Graham that gave me hope to bypass death. The only problem with such a hope is that it makes a poor foundation for living the Christian life according to Christ's calling.
"And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.' Matthew 16:18.
After Peter button-holed Jesus and told Jesus He would never be killed as He said He would, Jesus rebuked Satan, knowing from where that idea came. The devil tried to throw God's plan on its head, which he has been doing ever since. Therefore, Jesus went on to teach true discipleship. "If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross (A means of death), and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it" Matthew 16:24, 25.
Wanting to avoid the evil this world may do to us is natural, but our Christian calling. "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in this same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you" Matthew 5:11, 12.
Only one relatively small group of people will experience being called up to Christ upon His return. 'For the Lord, Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who remain, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air...' 1 Corinthians 4:16-18. The comfort to which Paul refers is not being cast into the Lake of Fire.
The sequence of end-time events
Two of the seven churches are faithful and persecuted.
The great falling away of the nominal Church
The revealing of the antiChrist
The new world order
Persecutions and martyrdom
Israel is restored and protected
The saints raptured
The marriage of the Lamb
The wrath of God, the earthquake, Armageddon
The unsaved who have not taken the mark enter the kingdom
There are none left behind. We are clearly told from the following verses that the martyrs of Revelation are honored and come from the great tribulation, not the wrath of God. The wrath of God is both the shaking and transforming of the earth at the very last part of the tribulation, hell, and the lake of fire.
"And he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason, they are before the throne of God, and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. They will no longer hunger nor thirst, nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any scorching heat..." Revelation 7:14-16.
Consider the wrath of God as the hardening of men's hearts in sin. 'He that believeth on the Son has everlasting life: and he that believes not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him" John 3:36. Consequences experienced in this life are the wrath of God. In this life, consequential wrath is always mixed with a loving wake-up call about the wrath to come, which will be eternal. The ultimate wrath of God is always eternal. The wrath by which God shakes the entire earth at the end of the tribulation is not the ultimate wrath of God, which is reserved for the Lake of Fire.
In conclusion, some want to use this verse as proof of a pre-trib rapture. "Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that [hour] which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth" Revelation 3:10.
"Keep" téreó in Greek is to watch over, to guard, properly, maintain (preserve); (figuratively) spiritually guard (watch), keep intact, to attend to carefully, take care of, and observe or reserve. Nowhere is this word ever used to mean remove. The term used means that despite the persecution and the vial evil perpetrated upon the people of God, they will be kept intact and unharmed SPIRITUALLY.
In the previous phrase, kept or Tereo is the same word used in "...kept the word of My perseverance...". Does that mean removal from persevering? Really!