Category Archives: In The News

Is King Charles Truly a Defender of the Faith?

England is an interesting place for religion, with the King or Queen being the head of the Church of England.

Queen Elizabeth was well-known for her deep faith in God in both her public statements, including her eloquent Christmas messages, and in her actions.

Although no one can ever know someone’s true faith that resides within their hearts, the Queen gave the world a glimpse of her faith in Christ.

As the world mourned the passing of this great monarch, her eldest son, Charles, ascended as King Charles III, along with numerous titles that he bequeathed.

Among those titles is “The Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England,” just as his mother and the rulers of England and Great Britain had before him.

Along with this title, Charles released his own statement revealing what this title means to him and for his reign as the new monarch of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Defender of the Faith

This title holds a historical and cultural oath, as seen here in the king’s official statement to faith leaders:

“I am a committed Anglican Christian, and at my Coronation I will take an oath relating to the settlement of the Church of England.   At my Accession, I have already solemnly given — as has every Sovereign over the last 300 years — an Oath which pledges to maintain and preserve the Protestant faith in Scotland.”

In including the oath taken by his forebears, Charles also acknowledged other faiths and religions, along with their right to worship freely within the country and commonwealth.

“It is the duty to protect the diversity of our country, including by protecting the space for Faith itself and its practise through the religions, cultures, traditions and beliefs to which our hearts and minds direct us as individuals.”

No matter what the new King of England personally believes, he clearly understands the significance and importance of religious freedom. He described what many throughout history risked their lives to achieve — the freedom to worship without the threat of persecution.

King Charles’ Personal Faith

In showing love and respect for others and their beliefs, Charles revealed his own personal faith with conviction,

“As a member of the Church of England, my Christian beliefs have love at their very heart. By my most profound convictions, therefore — as well as by my position as Sovereign — I hold myself bound to respect those who follow other spiritual paths, as well as those who seek to live their lives in accordance with secular ideals.”

This statement Charles has presented can be seen in the messages Jesus gave about sharing the good news of his love through his death and resurrection.

There is a lot to unpack in Jesus’ message, especially as we encounter people with other belief systems, including agnosticism and atheism.

1. The Way the Truth and the Life. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Jesus does not mince words here. He clearly states that there is only one way to get to heaven — to be saved.

In Matthew 7, he describes two gates: one is a wide gate with a broad road that he says many people choose to go through but will ultimately lead them to destruction. This is the path other religions and denial of God lead (v. 13).

The second gate is small, and the road is narrow that leads to life, and very few find it. This is the path true Christians take. Life will be hard for us, but eternity with Jesus is worth it (v. 14).

2. The Greatest Commandments. “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).

Just as we choose the narrow road, the greatest commandment is to love God with all of our hearts and souls, and minds.

I believe Jesus added the second greatest commandment to love others as ourselves because he knew that people can become over-zealous for any cause and that the mentality for it can be “at all costs” or “the end justifies the means.”

He does not say that our love for God means hurting or judging others for his sake. Our allegiance to him is not meant to alienate others who do not know the truth or have felt God’s love. This is what Jesus had in mind when he ascended.

3. Go and make disciples. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Once we are saved, we love the Lord our God, and we show that love to others, we are to tell them the truth of what we know and have experienced. I cannot stress enough that it is to be done with love. Not a debate to be won, a set of rules to obey, or a human-constructed behavior to be forced.

This is the outline Charles has laid out in his statement. He stated the truth, his love and heart for Christ and others, and let the truth of the gospel be there if anyone so chooses to listen.

The Importance of Freewill

Although we, as Christians, know that there is only a narrow path, one way, one truth, and one life, we are still called to love others. We are to lovingly share the gospel message.

Whether or not they come to know the Lord with or without our knowledge, God created us all with the freewill to choose. He wants our love freely, without force, judgment, or shame.

How would we feel if someone tried to coerce us to love them, yell at us to love them, shame us into loving them? We wouldn’t. We all desire to be loved by someone because they choose to love us for who we are.

This is what God wants as well. He wants his created images to love him freely because we choose him for all that he has done for us.

So, why, then, is the notion of tolerance so upsetting to some? Why do we hear of coercive measures being used in the name of Christianity?

It should be made explicit that just because evil was done by someone who calls themselves a Christian does not mean they are one or represent who Christ truly is.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23).

However, if those of other beliefs see the kindness and respect given to them by someone who says that they have a love and faith in Christ, then they will see Christ’s love and saving power through just this one association. Charles ends his statement by saying,

“I am determined, as King, to preserve and promote those principles across all communities, and for all beliefs, with all my heart. This conviction was the foundation of everything my beloved mother did for our country, over her years as our Queen. It has been the foundation of my own work as Prince of Wales.  It will continue to be the foundation of all my work as King.”

We all have a great responsibility as Jesus calls us the light of the world (Matthew 5:24). Many people will see us before they read the Bible.

So, may we be the reason they want to dig deeper into finding the truth and love of Christ.

Pregnancy Center CEO Accuses Police of Covering Up Firebombing

The CEO of a pro-life pregnancy center severely damaged in an activist firebombing earlier this year is accusing police in upstate New York of withholding evidence of the crime.

Rev. Jim Harden, CEO of CompassCare, which saw its medical office in Amherst, just outside Buffalo, attacked on June 7, released a statement Tuesday alleging police have failed to return video footage of the attack.

In response, attorneys for CompassCare filed a special proceeding in the Supreme Court of New York in Erie County to compel the Amherst Police Department to return the footage, according to the statement from CompassCare.

Following the attack in June, CompassCare released the footage to police after the organization could not make a copy of the original video “due to catastrophic damage” from the firebombing.

Since then, the organization said police denied several requests to view the footage.

No public reports have been issued, nor have any arrests been made since the bombing.

Saying, “Our patience with the Amherst Police and FBI to make an arrest is at an end,” Harden accused police of withholding criminal evidence. 

“The Amherst Police are withholding evidence, barring CompassCare and its attorneys from taking appropriate legal action that justice may be done and the violence can stop,” he said.

According to CompassCare, police failed to return the footage after an attorney sent a letter requesting the property by Aug. 19.

When an attorney reached out to Amherst Town Attorney Stanley Sliwa earlier this month, CompassCare said Sliwa “relayed the Amherst Police department’s obstinance.”

Sliwa, who represents the Town of Amherst and the Amherst police, told a local Buffalo-area news outlet the reason they have not returned the footage is that “we’re still investigating it. 

“We don’t want to disseminate the tape to anyone at this time because we don’t want it to get out, what we’re doing and who we’re looking at,” Sliwa told ABC affiliate WKBW.

When asked why police hadn’t returned the footage, Silwa told The Epoch Times he is concerned the information could provoke more violence. Silwa vowed that the video could be released once the investigation is complete. 

“You’re aware of all the nut jobs out there with guns and AK-47s, bombing and killing people because they have certain political views,” Sliwa was quoted as saying.

The Christian Post’s request for comment from Sliwa and APD was not returned as of Friday afternoon.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturnedRoe v. Wade in June, dozens of attacks have targeted pregnancy centers, churches and other pro-life organizations. But Harden points out a single arrest has yet to be made in those attacks.

By contrast, Harden added, a suspect was arrested in just four days in an FBI investigation into an attack on a Planned Parenthood facility in Michigan. 

“If four days are enough for federal law enforcement to arrest a perpetrator of attempted arson against a Planned Parenthoodabortion clinic, 105 days ought to have been enough to locate arsonists causing a half-million dollars in damage to CompassCare’s pro-life medical office in Buffalo,” said Harden.

Describing CompassCare as “a Christ-centered agency dedicated to empowering women to erase the need for abortion by transforming their fear into confidence because everyone is made in the image of God,” Harden told CP in August that he credits the swift reopening of the facility to the “generosity of the people of God.”

While the firebombing undoubtedly caused CompassCare hardship, Harden said it opened up new opportunities for growth.

“We’re able to engage … additional partners to help us kind of realize our plans that we’ve been developing since 2018,” he said, pointing to the addition of a global telehealth partner called Let’s Talk Interactive operating in 79 countries and 50 states.

How do you get Teens Passionate About Christianity?

If you have children or grandchildren, this is the most important article you’ll read this week.

We’ve all seen it before. That inattentive expression in the eyes of our teens (or pre-teens) when someone starts talking about God or Christianity. Maybe it’s subtle, maybe it’s more pronounced, but we recognize it: our kids are often be distracted, unengaged or apathetic when it comes to spiritual issues.

My coauthor, Sean McDowell, and I have talked to a lot of parents in our roles as Christian educators, youth pastors, and speakers. We’re parents as well, and we understand that the biggest challenge to “theism” may not actually be “atheism.” Instead, the biggest threat to the future of the Church may be “apatheism.”

If you’re investing in the lives of young people, you’ve probably experienced the paralysis of apathy. As a youth pastor, I almost always had someone in my group who appeared disinterested. It’s difficult to teach the truth to young people when they aren’t really listening. But that didn’t stop me. Because I loved my students, I wanted them to become passionate believers. Here are three things I learned that helped me ignite a passion in my students and kids:

Model Passion

Our young people know when we’re excited about seeing a movie, attending a sporting event, or going to our favorite restaurant. These opportunities are eagerly anticipated and relatively rare. For many of us, however, our experience as Christians is little more than regular church attendance. Perhaps that’s why our spiritual lives seem routine and less exciting to our kids. If we can passionately move toward a Christian life of intellectual, emotional, and experiential abundance, our kids just may adopt our excitement.

My sons still remember the energy they observed around our dinner table when our friends would come over and talk enthusiastically about theology or apologetics. These memories are far clearer than any experience they had at church. Let your passion for God overflow in front of your kids. “The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher” (Luke 6:40 NIV). Become the kind of teacher, leader, or parent your young believers can model.

Remove Obstacles

Sometimes there are obstacles that stand between us and the passionate Christians we could become. If left unaddressed, these obstacles can be paralyzing. There are two we must remove if we want to ignite a passion for God.

Personal Sin: Hidden sin is often the root cause of apathy. It’s hard to be passionate about God if you feel like hiding from Him based on the sin in your life. All of us struggle with our sin nature, and young people are no different. As unconfessed sin increases in our lives, so does apathy: “Because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). When you encounter apathy, consider the possibility that sin may lie at its core. Examine your own life and encourage the young people you lead to examine theirs as well.

Misplaced Priorities: As a youth pastor in Southern California, I often felt like I was competing with an ever-growing collection of alternative activities. Many of my students missed opportunities to grow and learn as part of our group because their families prioritized club sports or other activities. It’s not hard to understand how this might happen, given their value and worth, combined with the pressure to compete. But if we want to develop a passion for God, we must rein in the passions that distract us from God. It all comes down to our priorities.

Ask Two “Whys” for Every “What”

Finally, this simple, overarching strategy can help ignite a fire and direct it to the truth of Christianity. I call this approach: “Two Whys for Every What.” As pastors, parents, and educators, we’ve all explained what is true to our young people. What do we believe about God? What are the claims of Christianity? What does the Bible teach about important moral issues? Most of us have engaged these topics at church, home, or school. But simple propositions about the nature of God or the claims of Christianity may or may not ignite a fire in our young people.

That’s why I suggest taking two additional steps. For every what you offer the young people in your life, be sure to add two whys. First, why is the claim you’re making true? When teaching about the nature of God, for example, it’s tempting to default to “because the Bible says so” when a young person asks us to defend a claim. But take the time to explain the philosophical or evidential support beyond the teaching of the Bible. Young people want to know why we believe what we believe. If we want them to get excited, we need to help them see that the Christian worldview is reasonable and evidentially true.

Next, help young people understand why any of this should matter to them. Once we’ve described what is true and why it’s supported by the evidence, take the time to explain why they should care in the first place. How does this truth impact their lives? How does it change the way they view themselves or the world around them? How does this truth guide or protect them?

This simple approach—two whys for every what—can change the way we preach, teach, or counsel the young people in our lives.

Anti-Christian Country Called Out by 70 Global Orgs

A coalition of 33 organizations and 35 individuals are asking the U.S. State Department to redesignate Nigeria as a “country of particular concern.”

According to The Christian Post, the group sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, asking him to identify the country as one that has “engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.” The letter also asks that the U.S. appoint a special envoy to “investigate the situation and make recommendations in consultation with local representatives.”

“The CPC designation and Special Envoy are vital to recognizing the gravity of the religious freedom violations occurring in the country and the government’s unwillingness to control the problems, as well as its contributions to the problems,” the letter states.

Human rights activists have long said Nigeria’s Christian farming communities in the Middle Belt are often attacked by Muslim ethnic herders.

Christians also face persecution and discrimination from Boko Haram and the Islamic State. In northern Nigeria, millions have reportedly had to flee their homes because of the ongoing threats of violence.

In late 2021, the State Department pulled Nigeria from its annual list of countries of “particular concern.” Previously, it had been added in 2020.

ADF International, a division of the religious liberty advocacy organization Alliance Defending Freedom, spearheaded the effort. Other organizations that supported the letter include the Family Research Council, International Christian Concern, the American Humanist Association, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the Hudson Institute, the Anglican Persecuted Church Network, In Defense of Christians, the Religious Freedom Institute and Jubilee Campaign USA.

Others who signed the letter included former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback and former U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), who spearheaded the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 that created the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

How Nature Proves God

In the summer of 2022, England recorded some of its hottest days, peaking at 104 F (40 C). We are not prepared for or used to such heat in this country, and it endured for about eight weeks.

Our beautiful countryside was absolutely parched towards the end of the exceptionally dry spell, drier than I have ever known.

The grass lay flattened like scorched dry straw, and trees hung limp and dusty. Rivers dried up, sleep was hard to find at night, and tempers were frazzled.

Then finally rain, five hours of heavy fall. It was glorious. My walk in the park that morning was wonderful. Everything smelled fresh after the rain, and there was a sense of renewal and new beginnings.

After just a few days, bright blades of grass started to appear strikingly against the drab, seemingly dead lawn. After four or five days, patches of dazzling green shone through. A third of the lawn was ablaze within a week with brilliant emerald-green life.

The oak, beech, ash, and sycamore trees had all been limp and dusty and quickly sprang into life again with plumped-up, shiny, vivid green leaves and sparkling berries and fruits.

Watching the transformation over a short time from dry, dead, and dull — to hope, life, and glory was quite magical.

How Creation Reveals God

It stirred up something in me to do with how, through Jesus, we can all be renewed and brought back to life. I felt that it echoed the life-giving power of the gospel teachings.

This, in turn, made me think of how the natural world reflects the very essence of God’s character. So, I would like to share some more ways I find God revealing himself in the natural world.

1. Orderly God. I have always marveled at the cyclical nature of God’s creation, with no beginning or end. We can see this in the larger picture of the whole universe with the individual galaxies, right down to our own galaxy and the planets revolving around the sun. Then we have the regular patterns of the times, season — night, and day.

The life-giving water cycle evaporates up from the seas and into the clouds; then returns in the rain, running down into the streams, and rivers, back into the sea again, which flows back and forth with the moon’s pull.

We can also observe the cyclical nature of God in all his creatures. Based on a similar framework of bones, respiratory systems, and organs, we are all conceived, born, grow into adults, reproduce (if called to), and eventually age and die.

2. Beautiful God. All of creation is suffused in God’s beauty, revealing His character and nature. From the celestial wonder of the sky, both day and night; the majesty of the mountains and valleys; the abundant variety of life in the seas and rivers; to the beauty of the forests, woodlands, fields, and flowers — all can be gazed on in awe.

All God’s creatures embody their own beauty as a mark of the Creator, and we humans, made in the image of God, carry our own unique beauty, which can be transmitted by love in action.

3. Tenacious God. Nothing is too large or too small in God’s creation to demonstrate his character. Have you ever wondered how a small flower seeded itself in the crack of a pavement in a city centre or how tiny ants form armies that work together in great precision to preserve their colonies?

These are examples of how God is always close to us, even when the natural world is not obvious. God is tenacious in his longing to reach each of us with the majesty of His creation wherever we might be.

4. Loving God. God is love, and he imbues a spark of that love within the soul of each newborn baby. In an ideal world, love is automatically shared within families and communities to glorify the nature of God.

Today though, as we live in a fallen world, we must also rely on the lessons of Jesus to demonstrate perfect love and pass it on through our words and actions.

5. Powerful and providential God. This can be a hard lesson to accept as God has the power to bring forth both blessings and disasters through the natural world.

The Psalmist said, “The Lord does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths”(Psalm 135:6).

Seeing God in Creation

We were not born into a static world but one of many God-created movements. At times, this involves collisions and explosions. Because of this, our homes and communities are subject to earthquakes and water, wind, and fire. Also, diseases like the recent global pandemic can ravage countries, communities, and economies.

However, nature also reflects God’s providence and healing power. For example, when a tree loses a limb in a storm, it immediately starts the healing process by attempting to seal the wound, as with humans when we see a cut in our skin miraculously repair itself within a short space of time.

Many of our medicines are derived from plant life, and health specialists increasingly recognize the physical and psychological benefits of spending time in nature, such as in forests and woodlands, by seas and rivers, and the Alps are particularly well-known for their health benefits. Nature mirrors the healing power of Jesus, whose teachings restore broken hearts and souls in time and for all eternity.

What Does This Mean?

We can see God’s loving and redemptive character reflected in so many different ways throughout nature.

Our Creator used words throughout the six days of creation to bring forth the various elements of our world. Then when he created humankind on the sixth day, he said, “Let us make mankind in our image,” this included the power of speech — a gift reserved for humans only.

Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground — everything that has the breath of life in it — I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning — the sixth day (Genesis 1:29-31).

Today, God allows himself to be revealed to others through our conversations, and we can create or crush the reality of another by voicing our thoughts.

The wonderful thing is that if we choose to use gentle, inspired voices of comfort and encouragement, we can bring hope to parched souls desperate for hope — like the rain that saturated and revived the barren English countryside so quickly this summer.

So let us, in the small orbits of our lives, use beautiful, encouraging, and kind expressions of hope to shine a light on the orderliness, beauty, tenacity, power, and love of God’s person as he reveals himself to us throughout the natural world.

Let us tell out the hope, to those whose souls are sapped, of a joyful everlasting life offered to all through the work and life of the son of God the Creator, Jesus.

Why is America Ignoring Attacks on Christians?

President Joe Biden recently called on Americans to speak out against racism, extremism, and “hate-fueled violence” at a White House summit, but he failed to recognize churches and pro-life centers that have endured dozens of hate-based attacks in recent months. 

The “United We Stand” summit last week gathered experts, survivors, and leaders who vowed to “increase community understanding and reporting of hate crimes.”

“The idea of America is it guarantees that everyone – everyone is treated with dignity and equality.  An idea that ensures an inclusive, multi-racial democracy. An idea that we give no safe harbor – none – to hate,” Biden said.

At the summit, the president announced plans to kickstart several initiatives to build bridges and foster unity.

“We have to stand united against hate-fueled violence – because it’s real, and you know it better than anyone – to affirm that an attack on one group of us is literally an attack on all of us,” Biden said. 

“This venom and violence cannot be the story of our time,” he added.

And although the president acknowledged communities that were the victims of violence such as the Buffalo community, where 10 Black people were gunned down by a self-avowed racist, and Idaho’s LGBT community, and Pittsburgh’s Jewish community, where a gunman killed 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue, he ignored recent attacks on churches and pro-life centers where lives have been threatened and buildings have been vandalized and firebombed.

Early last week, authorities investigated a likely arson attack that destroyed the historic Victory Baptist Church in South Los Angeles.

In August, a Mississippi church built in 1884 went up in flames in the middle of the night destroying its entire building. Fire investigators say they are still looking into the cause of the fire.

In July, a fire destroyed a large portion of a 250-year-old church in San Gabriel, CA. Authorities were investigating the cause of that fire.

Pro-life centers and institutions have been on the receiving end of violent attacks that began after the leak of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in June – a decision that overturned Roe v. Wade. 

Centers across America have had buildings defaced and vandalized with property destroyed. Volunteer workers at these facilities have been threatened with messages like “if abortion’s not safe neither are you.”

As CBN News has reported, the FBI has said it’s investigating these cases, but federal and state officials have remained silent, refusing to condemn the attacks.

A recent report by the Religious Freedom Institute found that a key motivating factor behind these attacks is a “social environment” where it is “permissive.”

“Law enforcement’s posture in preventing or investigating attacks is often passive, especially at the federal level,” read the report. “Some state or local office-holders have failed to express immediate condemnation of such attacks or have themselves introduced deeply troubling rhetoric into the public discourse.”

The report, which analyzes the disturbing rise of attacks on pregnancy centers, finds “pro-life congregations and organizations will be at elevated risk of ongoing targeted violence for the remainder of 2022 and into 2023.”

“It is imperative that pro-life congregations and organizations, and responsible media outlets, take the current threat environment seriously,” the report states, “and that government authorities act decisively to prevent, investigate, and prosecute criminal attacks against these institutions.”

And according to Biden, silence is complicity. 

“All forms of hate fueled by violence have no place in America,” Biden said. “Failure to call it out is complicity.  My dad would say, ‘If you’re silent, it’s complicity.’  We can’t remain silent.”

But this pro-choice president has remained completely silent. 

Will You Go Through the Tribulation?

One of the most critical areas today in prophecy has to do with the understanding of tribulation. The New Testament speaks of “tribulation,” also “great tribulation,” and the debate hinges on whether the church (true believers) will or will not go through it. Robert P. Lightner speaks of “at least four different views of the church’s relation to the tribulation: the church to be raptured before the tribulation begins, the church to go through the tribulation, the church to go through the first half of the tribulation, and the prewrath rapture of the church” (only the first three have any major followings). How is it possible to decide among such varying viewpoints? Surely the issue is an important one, and interpretations vary a great deal on this. Let me make some suggestions to help.

The Rapture

First, some comments about the rapture of the church. The place in Scripture that most clearly teaches a rapture is 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17. The final words are:

“The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord.”

“Caught up” in one early Latin translation is rapiemur, from which we derive the English word “rapture.” So the rapture refers in this context to that moment when believers will be caught up, along with the dead in Christ, to a glorious meeting with the Lord in His triumphal descent. Paul also in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 speaks of the same event, saying:

“We shall not all sleep [i.e., die], but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.”

However, the teaching here relates not so much to meeting the Lord as to the fact that our bodies (dead and alive) will be changed in this great future event.

Rapture and Tribulation

Second, nothing is said in either passage directly about the relation of the rapture to tribulation. However, the implication in 1 Thessalonians 4 is that no tribulation follows the rapture. For rather than saying something like, “So shall we be delivered from tribulation,” the text thereafter reads,

“so shall we always be with the Lord.”

Thus it is hard to sustain from this passage a pretribulation rapture of the church (similarly from 1 Cor. 15), or, for that matter, a posttribulation rapture when no tribulation is mentioned before (note both passages carefully). “Pretrib” would seem on the basis of 1 Thessalonians especially to be ruled out; “posttrib” would have to be found elsewhere.

Third, we need also to examine the word “tribulation.” In the Greek it is thlipsis, translated as “tribulation” or “affliction” (sometimes “distress”). Returning to 1 Thessalonians, we observe that Paul writes in chapter 3 that

“we sent Timothy … to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith: That no man should be moved by these afflictions [the Greek word is a form of thlipsis, hence “tribulations”]: for you yourselves know we are appointed thereunto. For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know” (vv. 2-4 kjv).

Since this chapter (3) precedes the next (4) on the rapture, and also declares that we are “appointed” to tribulation, even to “suffer” the same, it would seem apparent that tribulation precedes the rapture to come.

Let us also note some words of Jesus. In Matthew 24, Jesus tells His disciples,

“They will deliver you up to tribulation [thlipsin], and put you to death” (v. 9);

and this is said prior to the statement that

“many will fall away … most men’s love will grow cold … this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world” (vv. 10-14).

Clearly, tribulation here precedes the return of Christ and the rapture of the church. Another memorable statement of Jesus is found in John 16:33:

“In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Tribulation has been and will be the lot of all who truly follow Christ.

Great Tribulation

Some interpreters, however, argue that although all Christians go through some tribulation, there is yet a “great tribulation” to come that true believers will not have to endure. Let us examine the expression “great tribulation” which occurs first in Matthew 24:21

“Then there will be great tribulation [thlipsis megale], such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.”

Here tribulation seems to refer to what will happen to the world at large (note the following verse “if those days had not been shortened, no human being would be saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened”). In any case, this “great tribulation” is also prior to the return of Christ and the rapture. For, further on, in Matthew 24, Jesus says,

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light…and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven…and he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call [recall 1 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians about the trumpet], and they will gather the elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (vv. 29-31).

These last words clearly relate to the rapture (here depicted as the gathering of “the elect”), and unmistakably refer to an occurrence after “great tribulation.” Surely there is no pretribulation rapture here.

The other place where the expression “great tribulation” is utilized is in Revelation, chapter 7. John, beholding “a great multitude” (v. 9) of white robed people praising God around His throne and before the Lamb, is told:

“These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (v. 14).

But “out of” surely does not mean to be removed from; rather these believers have endured “the great tribulation” and have now come out of it, praising God and the Lamb. Here again “great tribulation” seems to refer to what happens upon the whole earth (see the opening words of Rev. 7) and the protection of believers, rather than their escape, during this time. Chapter 7 earlier describes the sealing of 144,000 “servants of our God” (vv. 3-4) before “the great tribulation” begins. These believers rather than escaping out of tribulation by way of rapture were sealed by God for their protection while going through it. Moreover, all of this happens prior to the return of Christ, which is not actually described until chapter 19.

I should add that many pretribulationists view the church as already having been raptured before any of the events, including tribulation in Revelation 6-19, occur. Some take the words addressed to John in Revelation 4:1, “Come up hither” as referring to the rapture either actually or symbolically, and then add that since the word “church” does not appear until Revelation 22:16, the church, true believers, has been raptured or translated prior to the terrible events described in Revelation 6-19.** This, however, is a critical misinterpretation: the words to John in Revelation 4 “Come up hither” have nothing to do either actually or symbolically with the rapture of the church; and, although the word “church” does not appear in these intervening chapters, believers are definitely on the earth. Many times, for example, the word “saints” occurs, along with such words as

“Here is a call for the endurance of the saints” (14:12; cf. 13:10).

Tribulation and Believers

Based on the biblical testimony, there will not be a pretribulational rapture of the church (nor a midtribulational for that matter). This is very important to emphasize. For whether the tribulation is what all Christians are called upon to endure to the very end, or a great tribulation occurring worldwide, the Lord will see His people through whatever happens. There will be much persecution, to be sure, even martyrdom ahead (Jesus promised that), and many coming judgments on the world (from which true believers will be protected). Whichever way, there will be tribulation until the day Christ returns in glory.

I am afraid too many today are being lulled into thinking that when things get really bad, we as believers will be suddenly snatched out of it all (“the great snatch,” the rapture is sometimes called). This is indeed poor preparation for what is yet to happen and a serious misreading of the prophetic message. We will go through whatever tribulation may yet come, and in the midst of it and on the other side, give God all the glory!

This, I believe, is prophecy by the Book.

Is There Demonic Content in Pop Culture?

Michael Youssef, bestselling author and cultural anthropologist, doesn’t want to give folks the wrong impression.

“I am not an End Time preacher,” the 73-year-old Egyptian-American pastor told The Christian Post during an interview Tuesday.

Instead, said Youssef, his new book, Is The End Near?, which walks Christians through Jesus’ depictions of the biblical end times in the Gospel of Matthew, is merely pointing out what many have already chronicled, namely, the rise in demonic content in popular culture and an increase in the frequency of global catastrophes.

Popular shows like TV’s “Lucifer” and “Little Demon,” said Youssef, underscore a common theme of acceptance and humanization of the biblical Antichrist figure referenced in the book of Revelation.

“Little Demon,” a Disney-owned animated program, features a woman who is impregnated by Satan and gives birth to an Antichrist daughter. The show contains nudity, violence, and witchcraft.

The series has earned warnings from pastors and condemnation from groups like One Million Moms, which said the “show makes light of hell and the dangers of the demonic realm.” 

Youssef called such programming content an example of how secular media plays a “major role” in practicing a form of indoctrination when it comes to truth-telling.

“So many so-called journalists are saying that objectivity is really a passe among journalists and broadcasters, that there ought to be no objectivity,” he said. “So they’re already  sanctifying and praising subjectivity, so that when the Antichrist comes, they’re all going to be ready. … The media is playing a major role in all of that.”

“If anybody had doubts about that, the last six years should have cured us of that doubt.”

He compared the current state of the media to the high-profile push for mass vaccinations during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You see the sheep. We’ve got a sheep mentality,” he said. “When I see the preparation in the hearts of people … ‘Oh yeah, yeah, the Antichrist is good for us just like the vaccine is good for us.'”

He then clarified, “I’m not against vaccines, but I’m just saying, we’ve all got to fall in line. Not all, of course, because some of us are going to stand up and say, ‘Absolutely not.’”

The global COVID shutdowns, such as the harsh restrictions implemented in Australia, where Youssef lived and was ordained, “taught us how easily and how quickly some authoritarian power rises in democracies,” the pastor said.

“As authoritarian regimes are rising even in Western democracies, you see this is Satan’s way of preparing the world for the Antichrist,” he added.

Youssef’s book focuses on six signs explicitly mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 24 and 25,  which include the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman army in 70 AD and the time just before Jesus’ return.

While he acknowledges the world has always had earthquakes, famines and storms, Yousseff said the difference is that now “they’re coming faster and faster.”

Using his expertise as a trained anthropologist, Youssef said after studying those passages, he “became convinced that what Jesus is talking about, those days before the return of the Son of Man, are the days we’re living in.”

“Now, have these things happened before? Sure,” he added. “But the image that our Lord gives us of labor pains, of a pregnant woman … is that when the labor pains start coming in close intervals, you better get ready for the big event.”

He said one of those signs mentioned in the Bible is a great “falling away” from the faith mentioned in Matthew 24:10 — a trend Youssef believes to be currently underway. 

Youssef pointed to a study from last October which found up to 70% of Evangelicals believe there are many ways to God, rather than exclusively through faith in His Son, just as Jesus said in John 14:6.

“[Jesus is] not talking about the world falling away, because the world doesn’t know Him,” said Youssef. “This is the falling away of Christians, of people who claim to be believers.” 

Youssef, who has authored over 50 books and whose programs are broadcast in 28 languages worldwide, said apostasy — a total desertion of or departure from one’s faith — is underway not just in America but in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and other Western countries.

But even as more Christians stay home on Sundays, Youssef said thousands of Muslims are coming to Christ in the Arabic world, where Youssef reaches up to 195 million homes with his Arabic TV station, The Kingdom SAT.

“That is an indication to me the Lord is gathering His elect,” Youssef said. “He’s bringing his faithful ones together in preparation of His return.”

Youssef hopes the book will stir pastors and other church leaders to prepare their people for some potentially hard times ahead — even persecution.

“We need to train people how to be faithful in the midst of difficulties,” he said. “Here in America, this is new to us. As much as we should resist it … we should also be prepared as the onslaught comes; how are we going to stand?” 

Survey Reveals When Christianity Will Become Minority Religion

Christianity has remained at the forefront of the nation’s political and social conversations for centuries — but new research shows that could be changing. 

A new report by Pew Research Center and the General Social Survey published on Tuesday found that the large numbers of people in the U.S who practice Christianity are declining. The religion’s demographic has been dwindling since the 1990s, the report said, as many adults transition to an identity of atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular.” 

In the early ’90s, about 90% of people in the U.S. identified as Christians, the report said. In 2020, Christians accounted for about 64% of the U.S. population, including children. Meanwhile, those who are not affiliated with a religion has grown from 16% in 2007 to 30% in 2020, according to the research. All other religions, including Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism, accounted for about 6% in 2020. 

Pew and GSS paired up to analyze how those numbers could change if the Christian decline accelerates or stops, and how other demographic trends, including migration and rates of birth and death, would influence the outcomes. The researchers only looked at religious identity, rather than religious beliefs and practices. 

Four potential scenarios were considered: a stable rate of people moving in and out of Christianity; an increasing share of Christians leaving their religion as a decreasing number of people with no religious affiliation switching in; the same as the former but with no more than 50% of Christians switching their identity; and a scenario in which no person changes their religion.

“Depending on the future of religious switching, people who identify as atheist, agnostic or ‘nothing in particular’ could become America’s largest (non)religious group within our lifetime,” Pew researcher Stephanie Kramer tweeted.

In all of the scenarios, even if nobody switches their religious affiliation in the coming decades, the number of religiously unaffiliated people is hypothesized to approach or exceed the number of Christians by 2070, the report found. 

None of the models considers Christianity numbers increasing, researchers said, as they are based on “dynamics currently shaping the religious landscape.” Dramatic events, such as armed conflicts, social movements, or rising authoritarianism could trigger social and religious upheavals, they added.

A scenario of steady switching – which would mostly happen among young people between the ages of 15 and 29 – could result in Christians losing their majority ranking in 2070, although the demographic would still be the largest U.S. religious group. 

“If switching among young Americans continued at recent rates, Christians would decline as a share of the population by a few percentage points per decade, dipping below 50% by 2060,” the report says. 

A decade later, in 2070, Christians would make up 46% of the U.S. as the number of those who are secular rises to 41%, researchers said. 

If leaving Christianity becomes more popular, but no more than 50% of the demographic leaves the institution, the religion would again lose its rank as the majority – and as the largest group – at 39%. Instead, those who who do not identify with a religion would become the largest religious group, accounting for 48% of those in the U.S. 

The report found that if the number of Christians disaffiliate by the time they turn 30 rises with every generation, and there is no limit imposed to how many people would leave, Christianity would lose its majority status by 2045 – in 23 years. In 2070, 52% of people in the U.S. would have no religious affiliation, while just 35% would be Christian under this scenario. 

There’s only one scenario in which Christians would retain their religious majority through 2070 – one in which no person changes their religion after 2020. 

“But even in that hypothetical situation, the religious makeup of the U.S. population would continue to shift gradually,” the report says, “primarily as a result of Christians being older than other groups, on average, and the unaffiliated being younger, with a larger share of their population of childbearing age.” 

If that happens, Christianity would decline by 10% by 2070. But as Pew noted, this situation “is not realistic.” 

“Switching has not ended and there is no reason to think it will come to an abrupt stop,” researchers said. “…Still, if fewer future young adults switch from Christianity to no affiliation, or if movement in the opposite direction increases, the future religious landscape might resemble the results of this projection.” 

The most likely scenario to occur, if recent generational trends continue, researchers said, is No. 2 – when Christianity declines but at a cap of no more than 50% leaving. 

Numerous Christians Thrown Off Boat and Drowned

September 9, 2022 (Morning Star News) – Muslim extremists killed five Christian workers by throwing them off a boat into central Uganda’s Lake Kyoga on Aug. 10, sources said.

The evangelists from End Time Word Ministry church were traveling from Nakasongola District to Apac District on a commercial transport boat with plans to plant a church in the Aduku area, a Christian survivor of the attack told Morning Star News.

The survivor, Amos Kyakulaga, a deacon at a church in Namutumba who was acting as a guide, said the five evangelists began proclaiming Christ to a group of 10 Muslims in Islamic attire aboard the boat.

“On our way, Tonny Ankunda started preaching to the people on the boat, which resulted in a huge argument between Muslims and the missionaries concerning the sonship of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Kyakulaga told Morning Star News.

He said one of the Muslims, identified only as Bashir, began threatening the Christians, saying, “If you continue insisting that Jesus is the Son of God, then Allah will kill all of you.”

Citing Scripture, the evangelists continued affirming the Sonship of Christ and, according to Kyakulaga, Bashir told them, “We are giving you one last minute to stop your blasphemy and to convert by confessing the shahada (Islamic creed), or else your lives are at risk.”

When the five evangelists refused to renounce Christ, the Muslims seized them and pushed them off the boat one by one, Kyakulaga said. While the lake is only 4 to 5.7 meters deep, they were 200 meters from shore, and all five Christians drowned.

The 10 Muslims aboard were in agreement that the Christians should be killed, and neither they nor the boat’s pilot did anything to intervene, Kyakulaga said.

The Muslims asked him if he was one of the missionaries, sparing him when he said he was not part of the church-planting team, he said. When the boat docked, he took a motorcycle to the church in Aduku that had invited them, where an elder obtained help from local officials and a fishing group to find and remove the bodies from the lake.

Morning Star News has obtained photos of the bodies of the five victims: Ankunda, 44; Peter Agaba, 28; Juliet Ashaba, 39; Johnson Karungi, 27; and Julius Lweere, 52.

Police have contacted officials in Nakasongola District and leaders of the sending church of the Christians, a church source in Aduku said.

Along with Bashir, two other suspects were identified as Jamil Budde and Juma of Nakasongola.

The attack was the latest of many instances of persecution of Christians in Uganda that Morning Star News has documented.

Uganda’s constitution and other laws provide for religious freedom, including the right to propagate one’s faith and convert from one faith to another. Muslims make up no more than 12 percent of Uganda’s population, with high concentrations in eastern areas of the country.