* This is the second of a three part Indian Summer series.
As the sun crept up over the glassy green waters of Mobile Bay on August 5, 1864 ,only the seagulls were unaware that change hovered expectantly in the humid morning haze. Admiral David G. Farragut was leading his flotilla of ships to meet the Confederate Navy in this important Southern port.
The bay entrance was cannily protected by Ft. Gaines to the West and Fort Morgan on the Eastern shore and it’s deep ship channel had been heavily mined with what Confederates called “Torpedoes”. These were low-tech metal containers filled with explosives, chained to a weight and designed to bob just below the surface of the water. The only clear portion of the ship channel placed any passing ships in direct line of the formidable rebel cannons atop the walls of the star shaped fortifications of Fort Morgan.
Hoping to scoot expeditiously through this dangerous gauntlet to meet the real battle with the CSS Tennessee and her sister ships, Farragut placed his four heavily armored ironclads on the Fort Morgan side hoping to shield his more vulnerable wooden craft.
He entered the channel second in line on the inner core. The first ship, met and returned the ferocious cannon fire sending clouds of billowing smoke which soon obscured all visibility. The Ironclad Tecumseh drifted out of line and struck one of the unseen mines. With an ominous muffled boom, eye witnesses reported that The Tecumseh rolled, then immediately tipped nose down and sank with nearly all hands before the propeller blades had even stopped turning. As the haze cleared the other Union ships, shocked at the scene before them, clogged in the gauntlet and began to domino into one another in the ensuing chaos to avoid the mines.
Admiral Farragut, climbed half- way up the rigging of his flagship, lashing himself with a line to the rigging of his wooden-hulled screw sloop, the Hartford, to see over the drifting black-powder smoke. It was from this lofty vantage point that he could see that disaster was looming for his fleet. In order to escape the fire of the duel forts and keep his ships from drifting further into the danger zone he threw his play book overboard and shouted that oft quoted line: “Damn the Torpedoes, Full Speed ahead!” His boldness saved the day and the Battle of Mobile Bay may well have changed the course of the Civil War.
Unlike that unflappable Yankee Admiral, I know many sweet believers that just can’t bring themselves to shift from their current, status quo and comfortable inertia. I don’t totally understand it, beyond basic denial. I hope it is not a case, as we see in Genesis 19, of Lot’s wife who, faced with imminent destruction, looks back with longing to the life she enjoyed in the midst of Sodom, and is turned into a pillar of salt. This is a cautionary tale during our Indian Summer lull and something to always keep at the forefront of our thinking: Lot’s wife was not paying attention to God’s timing. She had planted herself quite comfortably where she ought not to have been, turned a blind eye, along with her family to the blatant goings on around her and then was not obedient to God’s warning messengers. She paid for those decisions with her life.
It is really critical for Christians to remember that this is not our home! There is a reason that we are told not to be conformed to this world.(Romans 12:2) This is no time to slow down, to be politically correct or to be influenced by what others think, but rather to throw caution to the wind, be fully committed and Go Full Speed Ahead!
In my last post, Indian Summer I compared our interest in End Times Prophecy to Fire Prevention. As a teacher and writer of Biblical issues I am smelling the dark curling whisps of smoke and beginning to see those opening salvos that signal it is time to change the battle plan we are accustomed to and become a more effective force before we drift into that unseen mine field. I am growing deeply concerned that there are
pastors and Believers in the pews who profess the veracity of Holy scripture but are seemingly complacently unconcerned and unaware of the shortness of the hour and disapprove or mocking of anyone who suggests that something is about to change. They seem blissfully delighted to have their Heaven Ticket firmly in hand, and to my view don’t seem to feel the burning need to discuss or search out these weighty
prophetic matters or hear anything scary or “negative” in nature. No matter how long you have been a believer or whether you have stood in the pulpit for many years, that attitude is immature, informational avoidance that can only be answered with repentance, prayer and discipleship by more mature spiritual mentors.
Just as those deadly, 19th century Torpedoes bobbing just under the water, made smooth sailing treacherous; I also know many people who avoid the study of End Times prophecy becausethey just can’t see it. They find the topic too big and totally confusing. Possibly after hearing a lifetime of teaching which intimated strongly that the church will never have to go through anything bad, we may have abdicated our burn “to know”. Aren’t we all adverse to unsnarling anything confusing? They, and perhaps you, have been taught, authoritatively, that we will be “raptured” out before anything ugly happens. Another, commonly voiced, sentiment is: “God would never let anything unpleasant happen to his church, his Bride.” Following this line of thought we quickly arrive at the conclusion that: if we won’t even be here to participate in anything foretold in End Times, then why spend valuable time committing to any real meaningful study? Sadly, this line of reasoning is probably more common among pastors and believers than we think; but, it is deeply flawed logic that has us sailing blindly into very dangerous, torpedo- filled waters!
Before we set sail, I want to point out that the opening verses of Revelation states that those who read, hear and keep the things revealed in this final book will be blessed. This is a clear, promised benefit that I do not see in the preamble to any other books of the Bible. Hummm. That incentive doesn’t sound like the Lord wants me to ignore this topic or that it may be too difficult for my little, non-seminary trained brain to understand. I don’t want to offend anyone’s “rock-solid” pre-tribulation hopes so let me just let me posit a few thoughts here before we move on:
Much of the pre-tribulation optimism I have been raised on seems hinged upon 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10. People love to quote,” For God has not appointed us to wrath.” And that is undeniable. However, please read the remainder of the passage. “…but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ who died for us that whether we are living or dead (sleep) we should live together with him.” He is answering specific questions that the Thessalonians had about Christian friends who had already died before “the Day of the Lord”. They were afraid that their folks were going to miss the boat! This is plainly talking about salvation in Jesus vs. ultimate Wrath. Eternal Wrath in hell and not, Tribulation Wrath.
Let me pause briefly to say, in love, that this is not a Salvation issue. While I have heard a lot of heated discussion in my day on various “Rapture” theories or End Times topics, they are all in agreement and centered around the common belief that Jesus is coming back for His Believers. It is the exact timing of this event that seems to get folks riled up. Prophecy can be hazy and timing can be tricky to sort out in some of these instances. We are cautioned numerous times not to be deceived and to be overcomers to the end. Which confirms that navigating these times may prove a bit tricky. I am studying it all and keeping my options open as events unfold. That said, lets move on:
First, no matter what your position is on Rapture timing, please note that a lot of very serious stuff happens in Matthew 24, the books of Daniel and Revelations before the final seven years begins or any “wrath of God” stuff begins to happen. There is a huge difference between wrath of anti-christ, wrath of Satan, and wrath of man as opposed to the Wrath of God. It’s an important distinction.
Look at Nazi Germany. Plenty of nasty wrath going on there, but it was not Wrath of God. And while Hitler may have had the demonic spirit of antichrist he was not THE antichrist and that time was not the “Great Tribulation”.
Even the most casual observer must admit that right this very minute, Christians all over the world are being murdered, imprisoned without trial, and severely persecuted. In my home state of Texas, the Houston Mayor had the audacity within the past few weeks to subpoena Christian pastors to submit sermons that may have mentioned her name or the topic of homosexuality, or same sex marriage! Thankfully, in the face of unified outrage, these subpoenas were officially rescinded just yesterday, but a horrified chill of foreshadowing shot down my spine that this could even be a fleeting thought in our America. Equally startling, in the heart of America’s Bible Belt , just a few weeks ago in Moore,
Oklahoma, 54 year old grandmother, Colleen Hufford, was beheaded by a knife-wielding Islamic convert. I don’t know for sure, but I’m going to step out on a limb and surmise that Hufford had probably, in no uncertain terms, told this Muslim guy at the canning factory, that she was a Christian and had heard enough jibber-jabber about his false religion. News reports stated that he had just been fired for aggressively advertising his violent pro-Islamic beliefs. I don’t think it a stretch to connect some dots and deduce that he believed she was the root of his troubles. And, while I believe we are getting closer all the time, this is not yet the Great Tribulation.
Christianity began as Jesus gave himself up to be crucified. Very shortly thereafter, terrible, prolonged satanically- fueled persecution followed. And, while it was awful, it is definitively not labeled, nor considered, ” Great Tribulation”. We were never promised a walk in the park. We were however, promised forgiveness and eternal life and tremendous blessings and supernatural, Holy Spirit power to get the job done for as long as we are living on earth.
It was serious and extended religious persecution that drove many of my ancestors out of Europe to American shores in the 1600’s. Do we believe that we, the rather lazy, 21st Century church, are entitled to some sort of Heavenly immunity against tribulation that those earlier Godly Christians, such as the First Church in Rome or Jerusalem, and later the Huguenots or Puritans were not extended?
Back to our friends in Jerusalem: their intense persecution resulted in a wholesale launch of grounded, well-taught folks spreading out all over the known world. This reaped the additional benefit of having those believers long gone from Jerusalem before the prophesied destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. by Titus described in Matt 24:2. Like many Scriptures, this prophecy carried a dual meaning. Jesus was foretelling not only the destruction of Herod’s Temple but also his resurrection after 3 days. I believe that is why we see in Acts 2:44-45 the Jerusalem church ( and only there) selling all their property and living communally. They knew that their time in Jerusalem was short.
Those Christians paid attention to prophecy. Perhaps with more words of knowledge than we have in the text, they rightly deduced that the only way that that big ol’ temple could be torn down completely would be in wartime. By honoring and acting on Jesus’ prophecy, they and their families were spared starvation during the siege or subsequent Roman slavery and the Gospel of Jesus Christ flourished all over the world. It would behoove us to take a page from their spiritual awareness.
If you have been taught or absorbed by ” implication” that, by virtue of your Christianity, you have been vaccinated against trouble of any kind, then, respectfully, you, your Pastor, Sunday School teacher, or parents were in error and there isn’t a history student in the bunch. I honestly don’t know what we will have to go through prior to the rapture.
We do see in Old Testament Bible stories exhibiting “God’s Wrath”, such as the story of Noah, that God always provided a distinct warning, a time of grace for a change of heart, and a way of protection to carry His remnant through that wrath. When Moses was calling down all sorts of Plagues in Egypt, the area of “Goshen” where the Hebrew slaves lived, was totally plague free, they had lights when the rest of the nation was in complete darkness and their first born children and animals didn’t die. I am optimistic but prepared to trust God however he has planned our future.
Nobody ever wants it, however, it seems that pressure and persecution always produces strong, focused and vibrant growth amongst Christians. In addition to forgiveness and salvation, we were also promised the Holy Spirit. It is with His specific gifts not only, to build one another up in the body of Christ; but also, to visually show those who have no clue about the Lord, that we represent and carry the authoritative Credit Card of our powerful and amazing God! Persecution seems to be the spiritual bootcamp that whips flabby Believers into shape and creates an atmosphere where we have no choice but to remain totally dependent on the Lord. It is in this intense atmosphere where we hone our proficiency with our God-given Armor and vital spiritual weaponry and are not reliant in any way upon our own puny efforts.
With the full working- knowledge of End Times Prophecy, and knowing that we serve the Lord of Hosts; We must be prepared to climb higher in the rigging so that we can see with fresh vision. Then be prepared to dive boldly into those treacherous waters for whatever battle lies before us, fully armed and ready for anything! Damn the Torpedoes-Full Speed Ahead!