Right now it’s 6pm on Saturday in California. There’s a possibility that I’m no longer in my home state however, as the rapture was to come on Saturday May 21st, 2011 at 6 o’clock in each time zone. If this is indeed the case, what follows is a letter to all of you who were “left behind.”
In the Bible we have clarity about why anyone gets “left behind” on the earth. The reason that you are in the world is to reflect the realities of God’s kingdom. Jesus prayed in the sixth chapter of Matthew: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
To truly live out that God-sized-vision takes utter dependence on the Creator who invites you into a movement that is bigger than you. The key to all of this is faith in the midst of the chaos you now face. For those of you who were “left behind,” you’re probably struggling to find even one ounce of faith that circumstances can actually get better. You may even feel like a failure to God. You’re also worried about being stuck in a world of violence, poverty, corruption, the unknown, and of… tribulation.
Because of God’s goodness, even in the midst of great tribulation there’s still hope. God’s invitation to you is to partner with others who yet remain on earth to form a “Tribulation Force” – a kingdom of God coalition. As a resistance movement, you will be charged with gathering up a remnant of Jesus followers to confront this day of evil that is upon creation. The signs of this evil day are clear: famine, preventable disease, war, promiscuity, gluttony, imbalances of power, slave labor, and a lack of basic resources like clean water.
And when these signs of evil are great, the resistance movement must humbly endure and attempt to undo the work of the “Beast” who will receive power from the “Dragon.” You have been left with a purpose. Just because you weren’t taken up into heaven (even if you thought you would be), it doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. God did not give up on you, even if you feel like giving up on God. Hope remains.
I assure, however, that in the days to come you are going to face grave temptation. Instead of resisting the anti-Kingdom, the convenient thing to do will be to choose compromise. The empire of the Beast and Dragon will be hell-bent on luring you into allegiance. They’ll offer comfort, financial stability, peace, pleasure, and security, all the while inviting you to take on their “mark of loyalty.” “The mark” will be subtle yet clear: emblems of empire, status, wealth, health, and a civil religion. The Beast will attempt to co-opt your imagination so that the only kind of world you know is one where turning the blind eye to injustice is normative. Do not be marked out by anything other than your baptism into the counter-cultural movement of new creation!
New creation. Now there’s a thought. If you’re “left behind” in the brokenness of the old creation, what would happen if your Tribulation Force used this tribulation moment to become an agent for God’s good world as you anticipate the “glorious appearing” of Jesus? For all of those who have been “left behind” hope is not lost because between now and when Christ comes to establish his Kingdom come on the earth, YOU carry forward the message of God! A day is coming soon when there will be “no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things [will] pass away” (Rev. 21.4). On that day, the creation will be “liberated from its bondage to decay” (Rom 8 ) and God will be “all in all” (1 Cor 15.28). YOU have the opportunity to choose the way of Jesus, to subvert the kingdom of darkness, so that the world may know of God’s love and peace.
So, on this day of confusion, chaos, pain, and evil; may all of you who were “left behind” find incomprehensible joy in the reality of God’s invitation into mission. You’ve been left with a calling – to be hope. Now do not confuse this hope as a means of escape from the days of tribulation. You will endure the “groaning” of creation. You will feel the pain of the world. You will have moments when you want to give up and find an evacuation plan… but don’t lose heart and abandon the mission. For if you remain faithful, at the “glorious appearing” of Christ, both you and the part of this world that you influenced for God’s Kingdom will discover the finality of new creation.
Being “left behind” might in fact be the greatest opportunity YOU have ever been given. YOU have been given a second chance to join in God’s redemptive story! Go, resist the Beast and his empire… flee from compromise… and live in light of the emerging new creation as you help usher in the reign of the world’s true King!
 In Revelation the “Beast” most likely represents the Roman Empire as a whole and the Emperor in particular. By extension it may be appropriate to ask: Who is acting like the Beast in our day?
 The “Dragon” represents Satan and the kingdom of darkness.
*** Just to be clear, my linking to Left Behind is not an endorsement of dispensational theology. I hope you caught on to that 😉