During the end times, we are going to witness the Holy Spirit striking the world with devastating miracles. His pattern of attack will be impossible to predict. His targets will constantly vary, and His methods of destruction will range from the familiar and logical to the physically impossible. Fires, diseases, earthquakes, storms—these are things we’re used to hearing about. Turning live people into inanimate statues, turning buildings into dust, evaporating entire cities into nothingness—these things defy the laws of physics. With devastation of such magnitude happening all around us, the loss of human life is going to be staggering. When a city is losing whole blocks at a time, a thorough examination of rubble becomes impossible, and that results in a lot of uncertainty about who is dead and who is alive. If your wife goes missing and you know she was shopping in the general vicinity of stores which are now engulfed in flames, you’ll have no way of knowing if she is dead or alive. When hospitals and emergency shelters are overrun with panicking people, trying to keep track of names is going to become impossible to do. We make our soldiers wear dog tags for quick identification because we know we are putting them in life threatening situations. But regular citizens don’t go around with some durable metal tag that clearly states their name and date of birth. Most women carry their ID in purses which they can be easily separated from. Children have no identification on them. The whole situation is going to be a royal mess.
Scores of Christians are going to die during the end times—this is one of those facts that we need to understand so that we can adjust our expectations accordingly. If you go into this period expecting God to shelter the Church from His destructive miracles like He sheltered the Hebrew slaves in Egypt, you’re going to end up seriously disillusioned. God isn’t going to protect us from death, but He isn’t going to kill us at random, nor should we be reading anger into His actions. When the Holy Spirit splits open some city street and knocks a bunch of people into some deep crack in the earth, does it mean He finds them all annoying? Not hardly. If there are serious Christians in the mix, He is very pleased with them and taking them on to their glorious reward.
It is vital that we understand the Divine perspective of death: it is either a great punishment or a glorious reward. God delights in bringing His children to Heaven. When He kills Christians, He is giving them a great gift, not punishing them. When we see God taking souls on to the reward that we’re all longing for, and then we turn around and accuse Him of being some coldhearted creep, what kind of sense does this make? Certainly the pain of our personal loss is real, but we mustn’t lose sight of the wonderful thing God has done for our loved ones who we know are saved.
Now when it comes to those who we love who we know are not saved, well, there’s no way to pretend this is a happy situation. If they don’t get over themselves and do some serious submitting to their Creators, they are going to Hell. But here again, we need to remember that God loves people far more than we do. When we see God making someone’s death a long, drawn out process, we need to recognize that He has good reasons for doing so. Many people are going to get saved in the last moments of life thanks to the fact that the Holy Spirit will make those last moments such a horror story. When you’re lying awake beneath a pile of rubble and your logical mind figures out that the chances of you getting rescued are non-existent, you are highly motivated to turn your mind onto the things that really matter. We need to be guarded against judging God’s methods as cruel and merciless. There is nothing more merciful than God giving some defiant little twerp a few extra moments to get into a right place with Him. There’s nothing more gracious than God being willing to receive us up to the very last second. God is never the bad guy in these scenarios. What He demands of us is so pathetically simple that there is absolutely no justification for us willfully defying Him. There can be no sympathy for souls who end up in Hell, but there is also no way that you are going to know exactly who those souls are, because God intentionally blocks you from hearing the exchanges that go on between Him and a soul in the final moments of life. When it comes to the unsaved, the best we can do is hope that they turned to God at the last moment. If they didn’t, our loyalty needs to be with God, not with those who hate Him. God finds it extremely offensive when His people talk like He is wrong to ever avenge Himself on those who scorn His grace (see The Enemies of God).
Now this is a lesson about preparing for the end times, so why are we talking so much about death and carnage? Well, whenever God tells us the future in advance, it is always for the purpose of helping us stay in alignment with Him. When God tells us about negative future events, His goal is not to scare us, but to reduce fear by helping us set realistic expectations about what’s coming and to help us become receptive to some important lessons He wants to teach us. Always when God speaks, He will lead us away from fear, not heap anxiety onto our heads. It is an inescapable fact that God has some very terrifying events planned for your near future, but this does not mean that you personally have to be paralyzed with fear when those events come. God would much rather see you anchored in the peace and confidence that comes from having a strong grip on His truth. He can get you there, and He will get you there if you are willing to learn. Being willing to learn means not burying your head in the sand whenever God brings up a topic that upsets you. Instead, you want to take an attitude of, “Okay, God, this sounds like scary stuff, but I know if You’re bringing it up, You want to lead me away from fear, so show me how to get there.”
Now death has a very divisive effect on human relationships. Countless marriages have been ripped apart by the death of child. Many of us have lost friends who retreated from the world in the wake of losing someone they were very bonded to. Just as we react to loss by shutting down on each other, we often shut down on God as well. This is a trap we want to avoid falling into during the end times. How do we do this? By inviting the Holy Spirit to work with us now in releasing those we love into His hands.
All life is God’s property. When we hear ourselves saying things like my kids, my family, and my friends, it’s easy to forget that the people we love on earth really don’t belong to us. We are each on individual journeys with God. Your three glorious Creators are the only Ones you can count on to never leave you. Your relationships with Them are the only relationships which will never end. Every other relationship in your life is designed to be a temporary season. As a general rule, children outlive their parents, one spouse dies years before another, friendships are short-lived, and siblings go their separate ways as adults. God uses new relationships to end current ones. The man who gets married stops hanging out with his single buddies. The woman who gets pregnant for the first time wants to move on to a crowd of new mothers and she stops calling her friends who don’t have kids. God intentionally weaves people in and out of your life for the purpose of strengthening your personal relationship with Him.
As far as God is concerned, your life has always been about you and Him. But if we are honest, many of us don’t think like this. Instead of seeing our earthly lives as an opportunity to establish a firm foundation with God, we tend to view this life as being primarily about fostering relationships with other people. This is why we become so crippled when God takes those relationships away from us: because we have built our identity, hopes, and happiness on our connection with people instead of building these things on our relationship with God.
As a Christian, you are God’s dearly loved child. You are not someone He forgets to notice while He’s busy managing the lives of the other seven billion people on this planet. You have always been special to Him and He is focused on you 24/7. Your life is not some sequence of random events, it is a very carefully orchestrated series of experiences which God is continuously adding to with a specific purpose in mind. God wants you. Not because He needs you or because He feels incomplete without you, but because He loves you. God didn’t have to make you—He chose to because He wanted to. You are His very good idea come to life. As a creature who is incapable of creating something from nothing, you just can’t grasp the thrill that it was for God to bring you into existence. Everything about you was something He put in you. He chose your preferences, your personality, and your looks. He chose the pitch of your voice, the pattern of your laugh, the length of your fingers and toes. You are God’s intricate masterpiece in whom He sees endless beauty. God does not lump you in with the rest of humanity—He sees you as a unique individual who was designed to relate to Him in your own special way. You matter to God. You won’t see the day that He forgets about you, looks away from you, or finds your concerns to be trivial things. With the Creator of all things so personally interested in you and so intimately involved in your life, do you need to be freaking out about the end times? Certainly not. You need to see this as a new, exciting chapter of your personal journey with God—one which has the potential to draw you much closer to Him if you’re willing to let Him guide you through it.
Life is about you and God. This is something that you want to keep a firm grip on in the end times. But now suppose that somewhere in the midst of the drama, God takes the life of someone you really care about? What if it’s your child or spouse or sibling or parent or friend who gets buried in the rubble or killed by a plague or turned into a pillar of dust and blown away by the wind? How are you going to respond to God? Are you going to turn away from Him? Are you going to shut down on Him or accuse Him of being your enemy? Are you going to decide that He’s left you or that He can’t be counted on? Can you see how these kinds of reactions will cause problems between you and Him? Life is about you and God. If you start pushing Him away, what are you going to be embracing in His place? Self-pity? Hate? Other things and people who are guaranteed not to last?
All life is God’s property. What God creates, God gets to destroy anytime He wants. To stay in alignment with God on the subject of death, we need to remember that He is the King. The King does not run His decisions past us for our approval, nor does He alter what He’s going to do in order to suit our human preferences. We can’t get anywhere with God when we keep trying to lead and dominate Him. It is not our place to tell God what He can and can’t do with the souls that He has made. To stay in alignment with God, we must to be willing to let go of our loved ones. Talking to their photographs after they’re dead and gone is only going to hamper our own growth. Now letting go doesn’t mean we don’t grieve. Grieving is important. If God takes our kids away from us, we’re going to be crying a lot of tears and feeling some serious heartache. But when the waves of grief come, are we allowing God to comfort us or are we giving Him the cold shoulder?
During the end times, you’re going to see a lot of people getting entrenched in an unhealthy obsession with death. Many will be so desperate to reconnect with their loved ones that they will call on the aid of mediums to channel the spirits of their dead loved ones to them. The psychic industry will be booming as all kinds of demon led men and women come forward to “help” those who are grieving. Demons will be manufacturing ghosts that look and sound just like those who were reported as dead or missing. For many, life will stop the moment they lose their loved ones and they will refuse to accept that God has taken back what was His to begin with. You don’t want to go down any of these roads.
Life is about you and God. Your relationship with Him is what counts—everything and everyone else must be viewed as expendable. Now maybe God isn’t planning to take your nearest and dearest away from you, but with such mass carnage coming, it’s very unrealistic to think you won’t lose someone who you feel very bonded to. So how do you get into a place where you can release those who God takes away from you without throwing up obstacles between you and Him? Mental imagery is very helpful here. Get alone with God and picture Him standing in front of you with a warm smile on His face. Reflect on the fact that He loves you, and that He is for you in life. Reflect on the fact that every experience He brings into your life is ultimately about strengthening your relationship with Him. Then ask the Holy Spirit to bring to mind the people who you would have the hardest time letting go of. As He brings those people to mind, choose an object that can symbolize that person to you—something small, like a flower or a diamond. Take time to focus on each person individually and see yourself holding the object that symbolizes them in your hand, then hand that object to God who is standing in front of you. Watch Him take that soul into His hands and see yourself taking your hands away. This exercise is about practicing submission to God and embracing a priority system that honors Him. God comes first. We must be willing to fully release His property when He calls on us to do so. We do not own anything down here—everything belongs to God.
Now suppose you have a daughter who you love deeply. Clearly the thought of losing her is not very pleasant. It’s much easier to ignore a message like this and say, “I’ll take my chances and deal with loss only when I have to.” But no, this is a foolish response. If you don’t want to face the idea of losing your kid now, do you think it’s going to suddenly become easier when God actually takes her from you? We need to choose the route of maturity here and realize that the reason we find the thought of losing our loved ones so threatening is that we have grown too dependent on them. We also need to realize that God is very jealous by nature, and that His jealousy doesn’t evaporate just because we don’t want to deal with it. Some of us have turned our children into gods. We obsess over them. We revolve our lives around them. We tell ourselves that we could never live without them. How do we think God feels when we speak of other humans this way? How would you like it if you gave your son a new car and he grew to love the car more than you? Or suppose you introduced two of your friends to each other and they became so obsessed with each other that they began acting like you didn’t even exist? This is the way God’s kids treat Him all the time and He hates it. He gives a Christian couple the child they’ve been praying for and soon they’re totally obsessed with the baby and never talking to God anymore except to tell Him to bless them. Or He leads a single woman to the husband she’s been longing for and she totally cuts God out of her life as she obsesses over some mortal.
When we take the time to put ourselves in God’s place, we see our human relationships in a whole different light. God died for us. God pursued us. God is providing for us and guiding us 24/7. Are we even giving Him the time of day or is it all about our precious humans?
God is understandably fed up with being treated like the third wheel in our human relationships. He’s tired of watching us break our necks to please mere mortals while we act like pleasing Him is some tedious chore. During the end times, His exasperation with our misplaced loyalty is going to be a driving factor in who He chooses to kill. Decide now that you are going to be a refreshing change to the general trend by fully releasing the humans God takes from your life and reminding yourself that He is the only One you could never live without. Life is about God. Ask the Holy Spirit to change your perspective of any humans who He feels you’ve become too dependent on.
Understanding Idolatry: The Problem & the Cure