Jesus returns, the righteous dead are raised, and along with the righteous living they all are “caught up” to meet the Saviour in the air. This is great news for true believers!
But what about those who are not “caught up,” those who are left behind? Popular teaching says they will have a second chance during a “seven-year Tribulation,” an idea heavily promoted in the wildly popular Left Behind novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. Though those books have sold by the millions, the important question for us should be, Is that theology truly biblical?
Immediately after Paul describes true believers being “caught up,” he then declares, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night. For when they shall say Peace and Safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them … and they shall not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3). Thus, according to Paul, those who are not “caught up” will reap “sudden destruction” and “not escape.”
Does this sound like ‘the second chance’ so graphically depicted in Left Behind novels and films? Hardly.
It gets worse. How widespread is this “sudden destruction”? Jesus Himself explained it: “As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed” (Luke 17:26 -30, italics added).
In Noah’s day, all who refused to enter the ark were left behind, destroyed in the deluge. In Lot’s day, everyone except Lot and his family were consumed by falling fire. Jesus Christ said, “Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.”
Other texts make it clear that when Jesus returns, those left behind will be destroyed, not given another chance during some hypothetical “seven-year Tribulation” (which, by the way, is nowhere specifically referred to in the Bible). Here are just a few texts describing the global desolation that follows Jesus’ return.
2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 – When Jesus returns in flaming fire, the lost will be destroyed.
Revelation 16:17-18 – At Armageddon, cities crumble around the world.
Revelation 6:14; 16:20 – Every island sinks, and all the mountains disappear.
Jeremiah 4:23-26 – Planet Earth is totally devastated, with “no man” left alive.
Jeremiah 25:30-33 – Those slain by the Lord lie dead, unburied, all around the world.
Revelation 19:17-18, 21 – The birds eat the flesh of every human being worldwide.
These verses teach that those not “caught up” when Christ returns will be destroyed, and the destruction will encompass all the earth, as it did during Noah’s flood. Jesus Himself taught this. “The flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the son of man be” (Matthew 24:39).