ANSWER: My answer is, yes! The rapture of the church will come before the tribulation begins. Those who have trusted in Christ will be dramatically removed from this sin-sick earth before the terrible period of wrath begins. However it is possible that just before, we all may go under the storm clouds of that impending tribulation. Wars in the Middle East and a collapse of the world economic system may come upon us even before the rapture takes place. I am not a date-setter but it does not take a genius to know that the world is moving toward a disastrous moment economically and internationally. Something has to give.
America is fast becoming a debtor nation and is selling its soul to China! Seventy percent or more of our goods are coming from that nation and others! We are no longer a Producing country; we have become a Service providing nation that simply consumes and eats away at itself! Seventy percent of our energy is consumed in Service industries, not in producing manufacturing goods. No nation can survive for long in that kind of economic structure!
The Bible gives us economic principles but they are being ignored by this nation as a whole, but also now, even by Christians. Our young Christian families are financially hocked to the hilt and are deeply in debt to the banks through their credit card payments, and for example, in their stupidity in purchasing a home with a huge mortgage debt hanging over their heads. Few are thinking about the far consequences of their spending habits.
Some credit card interest has jumped to 24%. People are maxing out those cards because they are "conspicuous consumers" who think the good days will last forever. They cannot think beyond the end of the nose! Few are willing to live within their present economic means! Never before has families owed so much debt! We are whistling and laughing all the way to the brink of the financial precipice.
Below are some key principles that come from Scripture. It is outright sin if these principles, which come from the Lord, are ignored!
First, there is nothing wrong with making reasonable investments in order to generate an honest income. Though Christ is speaking about the spiritual responsibility of the Jewish people to proclaim the coming kingdom of God, Christ still gives an important economic principle as found in Matthew 25:14-29. The talent of wealth given to the servants while the master is gone is a case in point. The talent was a measurement of gold or silver entrusted to the servants while the master was away. They were to invest "his possession" in order to "gain" more income (vv. 14-17).
Not all the servants possessed the same economic abilities. Some were given more of the fortune than others but each one was to invest wisely what was entrusted to them. One servant (v. 18) hid "his master's money." He wanted to be seen in a good light. He did not want to be responsible for what the invested talent could do. He was afraid and simply hid away the master's treasure (v. 25). He knew the master wanted him to invest in order to multiply the money (v. 26). He could have put it away in a bank so that it would have at least drawn interest (v. 27). The servant was no longer trustedthe money was "taken away" from him (v. 29).
Americans have always worked and been an investor nation but now we are more and more simply a consumer nation.
The apostle James writes about conspicuous consumption. Spending for spending sake. Spending all you make because you have it to spend! Most are now living selfishly with no regard for the fact that it is God who has given us material blessings. These blessings are not to be squandered! James writes:
You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures (4:3).William Baker writes:
Hard on the heels of James's statement that his readers fail to ask and therefore don't receive (4:2), he adds (v. 3) that even when prayer is offered under these conditions of inner worldliness, the motives are not pure or in faith. Such prayer does not yield answers from God, because the motives are purely selfish. Some people imagine that God is a "celestial Santa Claus," existing solely for their desires. (James & First and Second Peter, Mal Couch & Ed Hindson, gen. eds., AMG)
Americans can now be easily described as materialistic, hedonistic, and terribly self-centered. This is seen in their lack of economic fear. Christians are purchasing homes costing $300,000 or more with little or no down payment. While they think they are making an investment they really are simply renting a house with a long-term payout that is impossible to finish. Actually, it is a social status that drives them and not the issue of a necessity. This gives them the false feeling of being "rich." The mortgage companies allow them into these properties with almost no personal investment. They are saddled with huge interest debt that they could never pay off! "They wants what they want when they wants it!"
The Bible would describe Usury as excessive interest on a loan that goes beyond what is reasonable. It comes from an evil intention to scalp the borrower and keep him indebted to the lender. However the borrower or purchaser is really not a victim. His selfishness and greed drives him to want what he wants without any consideration of the over-the-hill interest he will have to pay.
When the people of Judah had returned to Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity there were those who were loaning them start-up funds at exorbitant interest. In this case the people taking the loans were helpless because of a famine, which is not the situation today. When people today borrow on an expensive house or a high priced car, they know full well they will pay a heavy price for the indebtedness that follows. But they do not look beyond where that indebtedness will take them.
The people of Judah cried out "We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards, and our houses that we might get grain because of the famine" (Neh. 5:3). To those who were cheating their Jewish brothers with inflated interest and usury, Nehemiah said, "What you are doing is no good" (v. 9). An awareness of their sin and their stupidity finally hit them. They cried, "Please, let us leave off this usury" (v. 10). Nehemiah had added, "You are exacting usury, each from his brother!" (v. 7).
With 24% interest on some credit card debt, the American banking industry is greedy and sinning against borrowers, but borrowers are also sinning, being driven by their foolishness and desire for materialism and things. Wisdom and common sense are thrown out the window. People are setting themselves up to be cheated on while they are being driven by a false sense of self-entitlement. If everything we do is theological then to make such gross bad decisions is a spiritual problem, and those who participate in this evil are sinful not simply "victims." A consequences will follow and a judgment will fall on this or any nation that turns its back on God's laws of what is right and what is wrong!
Proverbs 28:8 puts it this way: "He who increases his wealth by interest and usury, gathers it for him who is gracious to the poor." In other words, when others are cheated by inflated loans, someone else will benefit. The cheater will finally lose everything! Our wealth and means will be passed on to someone who needs it. God has a way of taking away what we have earned if it is accumulated by crooked means.
Save Rather Than Spend
When I was growing up banks wanted to work with savers not spenders! Our historic American economy grew because of wise investments and thrift. Now our economy is run by our spending. If we do not spend, we will go into a recession. Something is wrong with this picture!
No nation can operate for long on such convoluted economic principles. Proverbs 30:25 gives the principle of savings because bad times will someday come at one time or another. The Proverb verse reads: "The ants are not a strong folk, but they prepare their food in the summer." In other words we should save for lean timestimes of economic failure that we may not presently see on the horizon. If there are no savings there is no hedging on times of depression or recession that may come our way. The author of Proverbs, Solomon, says that these little ants "are exceedingly wise" (v. 24b).
The major reason for the misuse of money is greed. We want what we want! We are thus restless souls who do not find comfort and peace with God or with others but instead, we need possessions to bring satisfaction. Our "self-esteem" then is determined by our affluence! In Jeremiah 8 we find out what Israel was like before the Babylonian invasion. What is said seems very much like America today.
The people refused to repent, turn away from their apostasy, and return to the Lord (vv. 4-5). No one spoke what was right (v. 6) and the Law was not with them (v. 8). They were no longer wise and the Word of the Lord was no longer considered (v. 9). Everyone was greedy for gain (v. 10), there were no longer any grapes on the vine, no figs on the tree (v. 13). The people had sinned against the Lord (v. 14) and they had waited for peace, but no good came (v. 15). Plenty and prosperity came and went but there was no salvation (v. 20). There was no balm in Gilead (v. 22).
Even for believers there will be a price to pay for lack of economic wisdom. Every child of God needs to do a check list to see if his economic house is in order. Frivolous debts need to be paid down. Monthly outflow needs to be checked. Down-sizing one's home and ongoing expenses may need to be corrected. Reasonable savings must be put in place. An offering to the Lord must not be neglected. A budget needs to be implemented for those who may have a tendency to over spend. Spending more that one makes must be stopped.
Again, it must be remembered, how we handle our resources given to us by the Lord is ultimately a theological and spiritual issue. How we live reflects on what we believe about the Lord and about life. In the next few years every child of God must be prepared for the possibility of a terrible depression. To not be so prepared would show a lack of foresight and Godly wisdom!
Some years ago I spoke on the issues I wrote about above. A year later a young couple came to me and said, "Dr. Couch, we were furious when you taught on money and spending a year ago but we began to pray about it. We were $20,000 in debt to credit cards. We went on an economic diet! We bought less food and stopped buying expensive brands of canned goods. We cut our expenses to the bone and got out of debt within the last year. Thank you for what you said even though it was not popular to talk on those issues."
Pastors, you need to teach on this subject no matter how people may be offended. They need to hear the truth!
Thanks for asking.
Dr. Mal Couch
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