In the 1998 movie “The Thin Red Line”, there was a memorable scene in which a group of Marines was standing on the deck of troop transport ship that was part of a convoy on its way to the invasion of Guadalcanal during World War Two. They were standing by the rail looking out over the ocean at the other ships in the convoy when one of the Marines leaned out a little too far and fell overboard. At first, his buddies laughed it up as they taunted him and made fun of him for falling into the water. But as the movie’s narrator explained, everyone fell silent as it dawned on them that the Navy was not going to bring the entire convoy to a halt just to rescue one man. As the scene ends, his buddies are very somber. They’re not saying a word. We last see the Marine treading water, yelling for help. His voice gradually fades away and the scene fades to black as he becomes just a dot in the ocean while the ship sails on. That Marine’s fate was sealed the moment he hit the water. He would be left behind to die alone in the ocean as the convoy continued on to Guadalcanal to fulfill its mission.
It’s a terrible thing to be left behind. As Paul explained to the Thessalonians, “The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.” A day is coming when Jesus will come and gather His church. We’ll be taken out of the world. But for those who are not in Christ, an awful fate awaits them. Just like that Marine in the movie, they’ll be left behind.
Like I said, it’s a terrible thing to be left behind, and when it comes to what happens after the rapture of the church, terrible is putting it mildly. The seven year period that follows the rapture will be the worst the world has ever known. The book of Revelation calls it the Great Tribulation. As Jesus described it in Matthew 24, it will be a time of increased wickedness. It will be a time of unprecedented evil on earth and it will bring judgment from God unlike anything the world has ever seen. I’ve heard it preached that it will be a time of hell on earth and for the majority of those left behind, hell will be their final destination.
I had a man tell me once that he wasn’t afraid of hell. “The way I figure it,” he said with a grin on his face, “All the drug dealers and prostitutes will be there. It will be a never ending party!” Folks, hell is not going to be a party. Hell will be a place of eternal torment and suffering for everyone who rejects Jesus Christ. It’s a terrible thing to be left behind and as bad as that will be, it’ll be even worse to be left out. That’s what awaits everyone who denies Jesus Christ. They will be left out of the Kingdom of Heaven on the day of judgment. They will be left out……forever. The Bible plainly says that no sinful thing can enter Heaven. Jesus paid our sin debt at the cross. But anyone who rejects God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ must pay that debt themselves. Believe me when I say there will be no parties in hell.
Isaiah 55 verses 6 and 7 tell us:
Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
While that passage is a reminder of the mercy of God, it also tells us that God’s patience, though great, is not infinite. The day is coming when believers will be taken up to Heaven. Unbelievers will be left behind, and God will not be near as He is now.
Up till now, I’ve said nothing of those who will accept Christ during the Tribulation. Many will come to Christ then, but they will still have to suffer through that terrible time. Ultimately, they will be rewarded when Christ sets up His kingdom on earth. That will happen, but this is my main point: No one knows when Jesus will return. It could happen at any moment. There are no more prophecies left to be fulfilled before He comes. The rapture IS the next event on the prophetic calendar, as I’ve heard it stated. I don’t want any of my friends or family members to be left behind if Jesus should call us out of the world in our lifetime. Neither should you. It’s a terrible thing to be left behind. It will be even worse knowing that it didn’t have to be that way.
All praise, glory, and honor to Jesus Christ our Lord!