Judgment day is coming! May 21, 2011. The doomsday warning screams across the U.S.A. through hundreds of billboards, posters, and electronic advertisements. According to Harold Camping, sponsor of the ads and founder of Family Radio, all of God’s people will be “raptured” on May 21, 2011. Those left behind will roam the earth until October 21, 2011—when the planet will be completely destroyed.
Camping is not the only one pushing soon-coming end-of-the-world scenarios. In 2009 the movie 2012 took in almost $80 million during its first week as it graphically portrayed the Mayan belief that the world will end on December 21, 2012—the last day of their ancient calendar. Other examples predicting planet-wide doom include Michael Drosnin’s book, The Bible Code; Michael Rathford’s The Nostradamus Code; and The Orion Prophecy, by Patrick Geryl and Gino Ratinckx.
As we look at real world events: tsunamis traveling across the ocean at the speed of jets, earthquakes of epic proportions, real and potential nuclear disasters, the world in political and economic chaos spiraling down in moral decay—even nonreligious people are wondering if something big is on the horizon.
A Clear View
As Seventh-day Adventists, we have a clear eschatology of end-time events, based on the prophecies found in the books of Daniel and Revelation. Further details of those events are outlined in the book The Great Controversy, by Ellen White.
One of those major events is based on Daniel 12:1: “At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book” (ESV).1
The time of trouble—those words often struck terror to my young heart. Growing up in the church, I sometimes heard frightening descriptions of the time of trouble that gave me nightmares for years. Fueling the flames were books such as Now! by Merikay McLeod that painted in vivid detail what the end-times might be like. It was definitely not a time that I looked forward to.
Nevertheless, the Bible clearly identifies a time of trouble as earth’s history draws to a close. How should we, as Seventh-day Adventists, relate to end-time events—and particularly to the “time of trouble”?
Talking about the end of time can be challenging. While we don’t want to be alarmists or date-setters, we do believe that the end is near and that certain cataclysmic events will take place before Christ’s second coming. Based on the three angels’ messages, found in Revelation 14:6-12, we also know that we have an important warning to give to the world.
Interestingly, at the end of the third angel’s message a clarion call is given to those who will be living in the end-times: “Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (verse 12, RSV).2
The Greek word used here for “endurance” is hypomonē, which indicates a “capacity to continue to bear up under difficult circumstances.”3 And we know that one of those “difficult circumstances” will be the time of trouble.
While we know a time of trouble is coming, looking at the details can be intimidating. That is how Jesus’ disciples felt when He tried to prepare them for their own “time of trouble” just ahead: “And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He said this plainly” (Mark 8:31, 32, ESV). But His disciples, with their own preconceived ideas, and fear of the future, refused to listen. “The words which they needed to remember were banished from their minds; and when the time of trial came, it found them unprepared. The death of Jesus as fully destroyed their hopes as if He had not forewarned them” (The Great Controversy, p. 594).
Just as Christ tried to forewarn His disciples of the upcoming storm, He seeks to prepare us for the “time of trouble, such as never was” by giving us a glimpse of the past as well as the future through prophecy.
But sometimes I don’t want to listen. I remember the nightmares of my childhood and don’t want to return to those fear-filled nights. And yet, wouldn’t now be a good time to remember that “when I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things” (1 Cor. 13:11, NLT)?4
It does not take any faith (or maturity) to imagine all the difficulties of the end of time; where faith comes in is to believe that it is possible not only to survive the time of trouble, but that we will come through it praising God! How is this possible? We don’t have to guess. Millions of God’s faithful have already shown the way—from Stephen in the first century to the martyrs of the Middle Ages, to faithful believers in Communist countries imprisoned for their faith, to those in Ethiopia whose churches and homes were burned to the ground just last March.5
So what is the secret of surviving a time of crisis, and more specifically, what can we do to prepare for the “time of trouble, such as never was”?
A Survival Kit
As the world prepares for end-of-time scenarios, survival kits abound. These kits range from the basics of matches, knife, and water to long-range kits featuring oil lamps, guns, and canoes.
But how should we prepare for the time of trouble? By stockpiling canned or freeze-dried food and water? relying on ready-made kits? searching out caves in the mountains?
We are told that “Christians should be preparing for what is soon to break upon the world as an overwhelming surprise, and this preparation they should make by diligently studying the Word of God and striving to conform their lives to its precepts” (Prophets and Kings, p. 626).
I have found that taking time to read God’s Word has quieted my fears and strengthened my soul. In addition, this timeless instructional Book is filled with practical advice for end-time living. Through searching its pages, I have come across 10 items that I want to be sure to include in my end-time survival kit.
End-time Survival Kit Essentials
1Assurance—The first thing I want in my survival kit is the assurance of salvation, and 1 John 5:11, 12 gives clear direction in obtaining this vital necessity: “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (KJV). Do I have Jesus? Have I accepted Him as my Savior? Have I confessed my sins to Him (1 John 1:9) and accepted His forgiveness? Is my conscience clear?
2Knowledge—I want a good store of knowledge in my survival kit, but pursuing knowledge can be risky—as exemplified by our first parents when they pursued a knowledge of both good and evil! (see Gen. 3:4). Here’s the kind of knowledge I want in my kit: (a) to know “the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3, KJV; see also Prov. 2:1-5); (b) to know God’s plan for my life—“ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope’ ” (Jer. 29:11, NLT);
(c) to know what the future holds—as revealed through Bible prophecy and explained in further detail in The Great Controversy. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29, ESV).
3Discernment—along with knowledge I must include discernment so that I am able to choose between good and bad, right and wrong. The gift of discernment is found in God’s Word. “To know wisdom and instruction, to discern the sayings of understanding, to receive instruction in wise behavior, righteousness, justice and equity; to give prudence to the naive, to the youth knowledge and discretion” (Prov. 1:2-4, NASB).6 If I am tempted to rely on my own judgment, Proverbs 16:25 points out how dangerous that can be!
4A Strong Prayer Life—Prayer is a wonderfully portable item that can be taken anywhere and used at any time. It is a privilege that I want to use so often that it easily fits into my survival kit. “Prayer unites us with one another and with God. Prayer brings Jesus to our side, and gives to the fainting, perplexed soul new strength to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil. Prayer turns aside the attacks of Satan” (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 250). As we contemplate how to pray, it is important to look at what Jesus said about prayer—the Gospels are filled with His teachings on prayer as well as His example found in Matthew 6:9-13. This instruction can safeguard our souls from Satan’s end-time counterfeits. “Give heed to the voice of my cry, my King and my God, for to You I will pray. My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up” (Ps. 5:2, 3, NKJV).7
5Faith—This item is what makes the load light. “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see” (Heb. 11:1, NLT). Since I can never have too much faith, I want to practice strengthening it now in two main ways: (a) by memorizing faith-building scriptures, because “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17, NKJV); (b) by learning to trust God each day through the various experiences that come my way, and not giving up when difficulties arise (see Phil. 3:12-15).
6Courage—Courage is faith in action. Fueled by faith, knowledge, and prayer, courage is what will carry me through whatever lies ahead. “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” (Deut. 31:6, ESV). Reading about those who have been courageous for their faith is another way to build courage. However, I must remember that courage comes when it is most needed. “We are not to have the courage and fortitude of martyrs of old until brought into the position they were in.
. . . Should there be a return of persecution there would be grace given to arouse every energy of the soul to show a true heroism” (Our High Calling, p. 125).
7Good Health—Having good physical and emotional health will be a priceless asset in the survival kit. As recent scientific studies have shown, practicing a healthy diet and lifestyle has many life-long benefits, and as Seventh-day Adventists, we have been aware of these powerful principles for a long time. The challenge is to practice those principles now. For more information, visit the Adventist Wellness and Health Information site at HealthyLifeInfo.com. “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 2, NASB).
—If I do not have love in my survival kit, then “I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1, NASB). Jesus spoke a lot about love—“Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you and pray for them which despitefully use you” (Matt. 5:49, KJV)—and it is His love that I must have in my heart if I am going to survive to the end. By loving others and caring about their eternal welfare, I can set aside my own selfish worries and desires and seek to serve them in a way that will lead them to Jesus. Love “does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; [it] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (1 Cor. 13:5-8, NASB).
9A Song in My Heart—No survival kit would be complete without music. Throughout history, music has played an important role in motivating people—either for good or for evil. That’s why I want to be filling my mind with melodies that lift my heart to God, and words that fill my mind with hope and courage. The Bible itself is filled with songs and poetry, and many wonderful promises are put to music: “The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation” (Ex. 15:2, KJV); “I will sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!” (verse 1, NKJV).
10Nothing (that can be taken away)— After a list of nine items, it may seem strange to have nothing at the end of the list. But this, too, is important to include. Unlike the above items, other things—houses, vehicles, personal possessions, friends, loved ones—can all be taken away. That’s why none of these things (or people) can be put into my survival kit. I can’t even put my own life into the survival kit, because it is not mine to save. Jesus said, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 10:37-39, ESV).
A Way of Life
The truth is, we don’t know exactly when Jesus will come (see Matt. 24:36). However, whether we are packing a kit to survive the end-times, or simply wanting a closer walk with God, these 10 principles can lead the way for an awesome journey.
1 Scriptures quotations marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
2 Bible texts credited to RSV are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright ©1946, 1952, 1971, by Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. Used by permission.
3 Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, eds., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, 2nd ed. (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989), vol. 1, sec. 25.174.
4 Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
6 Scripture quotations marked NASB are from the New American Standard Bible, copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
7 Texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Gina Wahlen is an interim assistant editor at Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines. She holds an M.A. in religious communication and is eager to pack her survival kit now. She is married to Clinton Wahlen, and they have two wonderful teens—Daniel, 19, and Heather, 13. This article was published May 19, 2011.