Children are always listening.
A few weeks ago I was sitting in my living room having a discussion with someone about end-times theology – specifically whether or not Believers would be present during the Tribulation period described in Daniel, Matthew and the Revelation. I was making an argument that we would. I’m not going to debate that subject here. What you need to know is that while I was having this discussion, my nine year old son, Samuel, was sitting nearby playing with his toys. Later that day, he asked me a question:
Dad, if God loves us, why will He let us go through that?
His question hit me like a punch in the stomach. Sure, I had all of my theological arguments ready to go. But at that moment, looking into the eyes of my son, those arguments seemed to fall very short. Theological principles mean little when you’re trying to explain to your own child why a God of love would let His children suffer through the difficulties that we read in Matthew 24 and the Revelation. All I could do was take a step back and say, “I don’t know.”
This isn’t the right book for us to try to debate the rapture. It doesn’t matter if you believe that the Church will be caught up before, during, or after the Tribulation. It’s still a fact that God’s children are suffering all around the world. Religious persecution is rising at alarming rates.
Earlier, we looked at the effect of persecution on the Believers in China. I’m reminded of a story told by Corrie ten Boom. Corrie was a young Believer living in Amsterdam during the Holocaust. Her family risked their lives to rescue many Jews from the Nazis. Eventually, she and her family were captured and sent to the concentration camps. Only she survived.
Corrie would go on to have a tremendous teaching ministry as she challenged Believers to stand in faith during persecution. In 1974, she wrote a letter where she told this story:
I have been in countries where the saints are already suffering terrible persecution. In China, the Christians were told, ‘Don’t worry, before the tribulation comes you will be translated – raptured.’ Then came a terrible persecution. Millions of Christians were tortured to death. Later I heard a Bishop from China say, sadly, “We have failed. We should have made the people strong for persecution rather than telling them Jesus would come first. Tell the people how to be strong in times of persecution, how to stand when the tribulation comes – to stand and not faint.”1
Don’t get hung up on the rapture question. Again, that isn’t the point of this. What I’m trying to get across to you is that Believers all around the world are already going through their own, personal tribulation. Your position on the timing of the rapture doesn’t change this. So, the question my son asked still needs to be answered: why?
“I don’t know” is not enough when we consider the answer to such an important question. I couldn’t leave my son wondering why His Heavenly Father would let him suffer. So, I began to seek the answer.
It always amazes me how things come full circle. The journey that I’ve been on for the past two years began as I sat in an ancient grove at the foot of the Mount of Olives reading Matthew 26. I would never have thought that the answer to my son’s question would lead me back to this same passage, and an even deeper understanding of my Messiah’s choice in the Garden of Gethsemane.
“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me…”
Have you ever wondered how hard it was for the Father to remain silent as His Son asked Him if there was any other way to redeem mankind? As I sat in the Garden of Gethsemane on that Saturday morning two years ago, this was the question that gripped me. Think about it: the Father announced the soon arrival of His Son by sending an angel to Mary and Joseph. On the night of His birth, a host of angels burst into our reality proclaiming “For unto you is born this day in the City of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”2 At the start of Jesus’ ministry, the heavens parted as this proud Father proclaimed, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”3 And the Father again made this statement as Jesus was transfigured on the mountain.4 Now in Gethsemane, when His Son needed Him the most, the Father was silent.
As I sat in that garden reading Jesus’ plea, I wept at the realization that the Father loved me so much, that He would allow His Son to suffer in ways that no man had ever suffered before or since, that I might be saved.
The Father’s love for you and me was the reason that Jesus had to go to the Cross.
Jesus’ decision was just as powerful. Because He is the Son of God, He was totally aware of the events that would play out over the next 24 hours. He could have refused. I think we know this on a certain level, but have we taken the time to really grasp this? He could have said “no.” Let’s leave out all of the theological back and forth of the “Trinity” and the Father and the Son being One. As a man, Jesus – God’s Son – had every opportunity and right to reject the suffering that He was facing. Still, His love for the Father, and for us, caused Him to go boldly to the cross. We were saved because of His willingness to allow God to use His suffering to redeem mankind.
Jesus was obedient:
…yet not as I will, but as You will.5
Jesus was faithful to do His Father’s work:
…I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent me.6
Jesus’ compassion for us compelled Him:
Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them…7
And the result was that the Father redeemed mankind through Jesus.
This reminds me of the most famous verse in the Bible:
For God so loved the world, that He have His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.9
As I studied and prayed, asking God to give me the answer to my son’s question, the Holy Spirit finally showed me that the Father isn’t asking us to do anything that He didn’t ask His own Son to do. And the reason that He allows us to suffer and face tribulation, is the same.
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.10
Remember how we saw that the Father has chosen to work through us? That we are called to be His servants, faithful to do His work in His absence?
The answer to the question of “why”, is that the Father loves each of us so much that He must leave us here on this earth to share His love until everyone who will be saved, is saved. Even if that means we might go through terrible suffering.
This is why we must hear and obey Him. We must be faithful to do His work. We must have compassion for others.
Obedience. Faithfulness. Compassion. Until the last soul is saved.
 Corrie ten Boom, “A Letter of Warning from Corrie Ten Boom,” 1974  Luke 2:10 KJV  Matthew 3:17  Matthew 17:5  Matthew 26:39  John 5:30b  Matthew 9:36a  Luke 23:46 NLT  John 3:16  2 Peter 3:9