Imagine you’re a soldier on Omaha Beach, Normandy, France on June 6, 1944. It’s D-Day.
Eight hours into the fighting, you wiped the brains of your best Army buddy off your sleeve after a shell removed the top half of his head. Your thigh aches and oozes blood from the small fragments of a mortar round. When that happened, you have no clue. It’s all adrenaline all the time. Memento mori lurks around every corner. No time to think, just survive.
The stench of sulfur, sweat, and blood assaults your nose. The wails of the dying and injured never cease their howling. And you just walked past a kid—at least he looked like kid, even in his fatigues—who had half his body torn away by machine gun fire, but there he was, still chattering. At least for now. You don’t come come back from an injury like that. You just don’t.
It’s kill or be killed. And too many of your side fell into the latter.
You regroup when the paratroopers drop in later that evening, and as you gaze out over the carnage, you wonder if your side won. Because nothing here resembles victory. Hell couldn’t look this bad. In the end, perhaps everyone lost.
Here and now…
When tribulation comes, it’ll make D-Day feel like a hangnail.
I say that because we are not ready for tribulation. Most of us wouldn’t last through two days of genuine tribulation. The closest we’ve been to tribulation is at family reunions when grandpa talks about the Depression. Oh, and pass the corn on the cob slathered in butter.
I don’t know if we’re headed into tribulation or not. It sure seems like it. Only God knows.
But here’s what I’m certain of: For Christians alive during that tribulation, it’s going to feel like defeat. I don’t say that blithely. We may look around and see nothing but utter chaos, even within our families.
Consider this passage from Daniel 10. The prophet saw a vision and prayed for an interpretation, but one failed to materialize. Finally, many days later, an angel arrives and speaks:
Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come.
This awesome angelic being was thwarted by demonic powers. Only after receiving assistance from an archangel did he manage to break through the line of chthonic assault.
And that was during the good times. Tribulation will see far worse.
For Christians, it will feel as if God has abandoned us because all the benefits we’ve known as believers will be bitterly, and perhaps even successfully, opposed. Life and faith won’t work like they normally do. The foundation won’t feel secure. Madness may strike someone you love. Cruel people might take your children away from you. When the forces of hell fight that last battle, they will not go down without taking out as many of us as they can.
It will look like defeat, folks. It will smell, taste, sound, and feel like it, too.
You’ll hear pollyanna Christians talking about how it will all be better. But it won’t be. And those pollyannas will one by one reject the faith because they built their hope on rainbows and fluffy bunnies instead of the Rock. People you know, even people who pledged allegiance to Christ, will turn on you to save themselves. Your best friend may sell you for a loaf of bread.
Torture. Pestilence. Horror.
Like that soldier on D-Day, you may look out over the day’s savagery and weep, wondering who won. And the answer will be just as elusive.
This is what I’m here to tell you: Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.
Because you’ll be tempted in a million ways to do so. People you love will succumb. People you love may even beg you to give up too.
Don’t do it.
We don’t know what to means to endure here in America 2008. We have no idea. Yet soon enough endurance may be our bread and butter.
He who endures till the end will be saved. We know those words well enough. But have they been burned into our hearts? Remember, the only time when we can truly say that Christ is all we need is when Christ is all we have.
And those days may be upon us very soon.