Perhaps this is a key. Maybe one little sentence tells us much of what we need to know. The key to what, you may ask? The falling away of the church into apostasy.
We know that after years of solid faith, the church began a leftward slant. That devolved into a downhill slope. It resulted in a liberal interpretation of Scripture that questioned just about everything regarding its legitimacy. Today we have whole denominations pretending they’re Christian, whereas they are anything but that given their beliefs. Churches on the entire political spectrum have taken up the banner of the world, following its dictates and not the commands of God. It’s a sad state of affairs, but foretold in Scripture. The Lord showed His prophets this would happen, yet the church, through its various institutions of learning, i.e. seminaries and Bible colleges, ignored this truth. These schools turned out pastors who disregarded many Biblical passages because they “weren’t relevant,” they were simply “too hard,” or these church leaders were fearful that hearing certain declarations of God might drive away large donors. In other words, they weren’t faithful to the entire Word of God as Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…
Obviously, in the minds of all these “men of God,” this wasn’t true. There were portions of God’s Word that they had no use for. And what is this? It should come as no surprise: it’s Bible prophecy.
The prophetic Word has always been inconvenient. Israel viewed it as such when the prophets declared her need to reject the allure of pagan gods and the immoral practices they advocated. But, as the Bible tells us, Israel was a stiff-necked people. They would do what they would do and not let anyone, even their God, tell them it was wrong, and that they would regret their poor choices.
In the Church Age, we’ve not been any different. We’ve picked and chosen Scripture passages we liked and ignored those we didn’t. How wonderful it is to have a God of love! It’s not so great that this God is also a righteous judge of sin. Better to ignore those passages that warn of its consequences.
In all these warnings there is a future that comes with them. It’s disturbing, and since we don’t want to turn off people who might be seeking the Lord, it’s better not to discuss such things. We can attract so many more seekers by telling them that God has a wonderful plan for their lives. He wants to bless everyone regardless of who they are and what they do. No one has to change because that’s hard, and conveying that message might hurt people’s feelings, which would cause them to leave the church and stop their donations. We simply can’t have that. And so it goes.
The church has become the world, a place to have preconceived notions reinforced, where God’s truth no longer matters.
What is it that has turned people sour on God through the ages? It’s future foretellings which warn that the present path people are taking is fraught with danger. In other words, again, it’s Bible prophecy.
Could this be the reason Paul includes this one little admonition in his letter in 1 Thessalonians 5:20?
Do not despise prophecies…
It’s the despising of prophecy that has led to incorrect interpretations of Scripture regarding whether or not there is a pre-Tribulation Rapture of the church. Perhaps this idea was too outlandish. Maybe people didn’t like that a small segment of believers would be whisked away from earth, while those who didn’t practice righteousness as God commanded would be left behind. The idea certainly became a stumbling block for many, as they convinced themselves it was too deep and mysterious to pursue. Then, of course, there’s the issue about money. If believers actually thought Jesus might return soon, what was the point of giving to the church and the work of the Kingdom?
But here’s what it always comes down to: God does intend to punish the earth in righteous judgment. And, Pauls assures us in 1 Thessalonians 5:9 (just as he did in 1 Thessalonians 1:10):
For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ…
The implication here – just as it’s explicitly declared elsewhere – is that we must be in Christ to be “worthy” of His deliverance from this world that will soon suffer much for its unbelief.
This is no small thing. It’s also why Paul repeats himself in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (like he also said 1 Thessalonians 4:18):
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
The prophecy of the coming of the Lord before the Tribulation is both warning and encouragement. Without conviction of the pre-Trib Rapture in the hearts of believers, I maintain that they are, by and large, more fearful and less joyful. After all, if you have no hope of deliverance from the horrible things happening in the world and expect to go through the even worse period of the Tribulation, wouldn’t that depress you?
But, the dire future for believers that they must endure the most horrible time ever in the history of the planet isn’t what God’s Word promises.
I, for one, am grateful that He has said that very soon we’ll be out of here. That brings me peace and joy in anticipation of this marvelous event.