How should Christians respond to the Antichrist and Violence?
A Review and interaction with Charles Cooper’s book.
The Church in the United States has a wide variety of opinions on the end times. The majority of conservative Christian churches teach that believers (The Church or Body of Christ) will be taken out of the earth and to safety (Pre-Tribulation rapture) before the outpouring of God’s wrath occurs during what is often called the (7 year) tribulation. Those who believe they will be raptured before this terrible time see no need to prepare for a tribulation period. There is a growing movement in the Church though that teaches believers will not be raptured before the Antichrist begins to brutalize and kill Christians.
The first four years of my Christian life I also believed in a Pre-Trib rapture and that the Church would be gone before the time of testing. Later I read a book by Marvin Rosenthal (The Pre-Wrath Rapture) that opened my eyes of understanding an made many prophetic verses make sense to me. The last few years I have felt God’s leading to be prepared for tough times (whether that is the end times tribulation, or other situation such as a natural disaster or terrorism)
Charles Cooper has written a unique book on a topic that is very seldom discussed: What can a Christian do to prepare for entering and experiencing persecution during the tribulation (or "Great Persecution" as Cooper likes to refer to this time). How should a Christian respond to the persecution, difficulty obtaining food, and violence they may well experience? Charles Cooper’s book focuses on how a Christian should prepare for this time of great persecution and respond during it. Cooper’s book has some excellent points at times, but I was very disappointed with many of his arguments (His previous book: "God’s Elect and the Great Tribulation – An Exposition of Matthew 24:1-31 ad Daniel 9," I really enjoyed). I believe many of his arguments are filled with "straw men" and are not carried out to their conclusions. This article will discuss the ideas I agree with and disagree with in each chapter. In my conclusion I will summarize his ideas and then give what I believe to be a better response. My main goal is to help fellow Christians to think through the issues involved in survival, defending others, persecution, and hopefully encourage you to make good choices that will help you to be better prepared.
(Book) Introduction (p. 1-6):
Regardless of when we believe the rapture will occur, there will be believers who will be persecuted and killed (probably millions) by the Antichrist and Satan during the time of persecution (tribulation). The author discusses a little history and the other prevalent views (pre-tribulation and post-tribulation) of the rapture and end times. I agree with him totally that "one day there will be a final generation of humanity to experience the climatic events of this present world order. The old adage that end-time events "will pan out" will not be taken so lightly by that generation" (p.4-5).
On a side note, If the truth turns out to be a pre-trib rapture then I have lost nothing (I’ll be gone and have nothing to worry about). On the other hand, if the pre-trib rapture is wrong and Christians enter the tribulation then I believe most will not be prepared. Many may doubt the Christian faith as a result or suffer needlessly.
The introduction is the only chapter is Cooper’s book that I do not have major misgivings about. While I agree with him in the introduction, I believe the rest of his book will leave Christians ill-prepared for the time of testing that is coming upon the present or a future generation.
Chapter One: Survival Options (Flight, Fight or Faith)
Chapter 1 emphasizes that we need to be prepared "Should our generation be God’s sovereign choice to face it, you need to be prepared."
Cooper lays the foundation in this chapter for what I believe to be the central weakness of his book. Three possibilities are given for how a Christian can respond and prepare for this time of persecution:
- Oscar and Lillian: Oscar decides he must learn to fight to protect his family. He moves his family to Michigan for more training. Oscar plans on conducting "Guerrilla raids" to steal what his family needs during the great tribulation. According to Cooper, Oscar is willing to kill the Innocent to steal what he needs to provide for his family.
- Henry and Eula Lee: Henry and Eula are farmers in Nebraska and are planning on fleeing to an essentially unpopulated region of Canada to escape the persecution. They are going to live off of wild plants and animals instead of bringing any food with them. In essence, he is not really going to prepare a head of time… just flee to the wilderness and hope to survive.
- William and Gracie (the only ones walking by faith): William believes that God has already decided who is going to live and who is going to die: "Since God is sovereign and knows all things, William believes He has decreed the destiny of all believers…. He believes that God’s will shall be done and the future of Satan and his Antichrist is set." According to Cooper, William and Gracies response is the only correct response: to build their faith.
This chapter is so biased in its representation it is difficult to know where to start.
There are two main errors in the authors presentation that I believe distort the rest of his presentations throughout the book. The two main areas disagree with are:
- He constructs very poor ‘straw-men’ representations that are easily shown to be unbiblical for the first two views (fight and flight). His purposefully choses the worst (and unbiblical) examples he can of both views to contrast to his preferred view.
- He places a distinct boundary between each view so that there is no overlap possible (IE. the first two groups are exercise no faith, while only the "faith" view is walking in faith).
I have read a dozen books, dozens of articles, and hundreds of posts on "survival" websites over the last several years and none (not one!) would recommend that believers follow the examples that Cooper gives of those "Fighting" or "Fleeing." For example:
- Fight (Oscar and Lillian): None would recommend a policy of stealing from and killing others to provide for their families. One of the main points of Survival web sites (Christian or not) is to help teach folks how to prepare by storing food, supplies and other essentials so that the needs of their families can be provided for WITHOUT having to take from others. Cooper takes a view that nobody holds, and tries to portray that as the norm which is a distortion of reality.
- Flight (Henry and Eula): None would recommend fleeing to an unpopulated area with no preparations, supplies, or housing. I do not believe anyone really thinks someone could survive in Canada in the middle of the winter with no supplies, shelter, or preparations.
Cooper, in an effort to support his views on ‘faith’ creates two examples that are inaccurate and extreme from the start. The author could have emphasized the importance of faith during the great persecution without creating these distorted stories.
This brings me to what I believe may be the greatest weakness of this chapter: Faith is ONLY being exercised by William and Gracie. In Cooper’s view, it is not possible to prepare for the great persecution by stocking up on extra food and supplies… only by "building their faith." Nobody in Coopers view could exercise faith AND chose to defend their families. Nobody in Coopers view could exercise faith AND store extra supplies, food, clothing and other essentials (which parenthetically would come in handy in other situations such as a natural disaster or terrorism). Here is a practical example from my life: A couple of nights ago the temperature here in Nebraska was -20 degrees (actual temperature before windchill). I chose to prepare previously by purchasing a kerosene heater in case the heat or electricity were to go out. Was that a lack of faith on my part or prudent planning?
It has been my experience that many Christians are exercising their faith BY preparing for bad times. They understand bad times may be coming and so they are choosing to prepare to provide for their families and for the needs of those who may not have prepared properly. The Bible says that Faith without works is dead. If someone truly believes the Bible is true, can they not prepare? If I say I believe the end times are coming but choose to do nothing, is that true faith? Joseph (in the Old Testament) was instructed by God to prepare for a coming time of famine. Was he walking in faith by storing up food (which saved himself, his family, and many others) or should he instead have taken Coopers admonishment that "God’s Will shall be done" and "God has decreed the destiny of all believers" (so just build your faith and the rest will work itself out as God intends).
Who will people listen to during the great persecution: those who have developed their faith AND prepared (and as a result are able to feed and help others) or William who focused on ‘building his faith’ but did nothing to prepare? In the end I believe those who have built their faith and prepared for the end times will be the ones who end up feeding and taking care of people like William who knew the truth about the end times but did nothing to prepare for their needs (food, preps, protection).
Chapter Two: Fight
Cooper deals with the issue of self-defense (fighting back) in chapter 2. The author believes that a Christian should never fight back or attempt to defend themselves against the Antichrist. Cooper uses several verses in the chapter that are more general in nature than just the tribulation time period. He teaches that "anyone who attempts to stay alive by killing others will himself be killed…Violence as a means of protection or retribution…. will produce an effect opposite that desired by those who engage in such activity (p.14). Why should they not defend themselves? Because "Behind the Lord’s injunction is the recognition that God’s sovereign will shall be done." (p.14). In essence he is saying that if it is God’s will that you die a horrible, terrible death, it will happen so why fight it?
If I had to pick one word to describe Cooper’s position, it would be pacifism. Cooper takes a strong pacifist position that a believer should never use any kind of force to defend themselves. What is Cooper’s position on defending the helpless and other ‘third parties’? Cooper I believe conveniently does not discuss the obligation of Christians to defend the fatherless, widows, downtrodden and others in need of help. There are several places I disagree with what Cooper teaches in this chapter.
- I disagree with Cooper’s fatalistic view of God’s sovereignty. It seems to be the authors view that since God is sovereign, future events are set so why try to change things ("… God’s sovereign will shall be done."). Let’s apply his idea to other areas in the Christian life: Prayer – why pray since God is sovereign and future events are set? Evangelism – Why evangelize since God is sovereign and knows who will and will not be saved? Why provide help (food, clothing) to the homeless since God is sovereign and can provide all of their needs? Yes I believe God is sovereign, but I also believe that He has chosen to use our prayers and actions to bring about His plan.
- Cooper conveniently skips over any idea that we as Christians should stand against evil. This could be on a national level or a more ‘personal’ level. National level: Should the Christians in Germany have stood against Hitler to protect the Jews? Should the Christians have refused to do anything to help protect the Innocent? If some German soldiers were in the process of lining up and killing little children should they have done everything in their power to stop it? On a personal level, if someone were to break into your house and said they were going to rape and kill your wife and young daughter would you just step aside or would you grab what ever you could to use as a weapon to stop the attack on your family?
- Most of the verses used by Cooper to defend his pacifist views in the first 2/3rds of the chapter are dealing with Christians being persecuted. I see a big distinction between being persecuted (insulted, called names, made fun of) and a situation where an individual is going to lose his or her life if nothing is done. Cooper also makes no distinction between self-defense, and defending a 3rd party. Cooper says (discussing 1 Pet. 4) "Ultimately, none of his readers are to suffer "as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler. These four terms significantly limit the activities of those not resolved to suffer as good soldiers of Christ." I believe the Bible makes a distinction between a murderer (set on killing the Innocent) and one who is forced to kill to protect another. The Bible is full of examples where God encourages Israel to stop the evil around them (by force and resulting in the death of the evil doers). Were the American soldiers that stood against (and killed) the German soldiers who were led by Hitler doing wrong? I do not believe so. Is the Police officer who is forced to shoot and kill an armed suspect to protect the innocent a murderer? If you are forced to use force to protect your child from an intruder are you a murderer? I don’t believe so. Yes God has asked us to ‘turn the other cheek’ to insults, and persecution, but He has not asked us to ‘turn the other cheek’ of a helpless victim! Should we just step out of the way and let the evil person have his way? The author may claim that he is only addressing the "great persecution." I disagree: the verses he uses and ideas he is teaching (if they are biblical) should be applied to our lives now. It is my view that Cooper has allowed his extreme pacifism to blind him to Scriptures that might moderate his views. I would agree though that a Christian should only use force as a last resort (after all other means have been exhausted to resolve the situation). When applied to personal situations, it should not be used in offensive situations, but limited to the defense of self and others.
Chapter Three: Flight
The author believes that it will be "next to impossible" to hide from Satan and the Antichrist. Almost the entire chapter is devoted to the reasons Cooper believes Christians will not be able to hide from the Antichrist. Why would a Christian want to hide from the Antichrist? Cooper states "Naturally, the primary reason for this thinking is self-preservation." The author appears to take as fact that the main reason a family might want to hide from the Antichrist is self-preservation (which seems to be the wrong reason from Coopers perspective).
- I disagree with Cooper unstated belief that trying to keep yourself and (importantly your family) from being raped, tortured, and finally killed by the Antichrist is somehow selfish or not walking in faith. The closest we can come to such an evil and corrupt government would be Hitlers Germany. Many Jews were able to escape and hide from Hitler (though many millions did not). I think any of us during WWII would have encouraged (and helped) people to escape and hide from evil grasp of Hitler and his followers.
- How does doing nothing but (‘in faith’) waiting for the evil followers of the Antichrist to come take away your children indicate you are walking in faith?
- Almost all of Coopers argument is based up the ‘fact’ that no one will be able to hide because of satellites and other technology. His argument assumes several things that may or may not be true when the Antichrist finally arrives on the scene: First he must assume that ‘somehow’ the Antichrist will be able to track many millions of people with the few satellites we have. Second he assumes that the USA will still be a world power (he is assuming it seems that our technology and government will not have been taken down by a nuclear attack, terrorism, or just a gradual disintegration and fall of the nation because of sin. Does he really believe that the Antichrist is going to reposition and attempt to track a small group of Christians in the middle of no place when there are so many millions of Christians that can be easily captured in more populated areas. IF these satellites are so accurate.. why have we not caught Osama? Why are there hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens coming across the border illegally every year? If the USA is still in control of its satellites, if the Antichrist controls the USA (which could be argued), If faith is so important as Cooper says it is, why should we not believe that God can protect his people by hiding his people for these satellites or causing them to malfunction?
The authors whole argument (mainly that the technology is so advanced and powerful) seems to be based on faulty thinking. There just aren’t enough satellites and technology to track all of these Christians. The author believes that those who attempt to protect their families are not walking in faith. This division in Coopers thinking between Flight, Fight , or Faith is a weak and unrealistic division. Someone who prepares, plans, gets ready for a time of persecution can be walking in and exercising just as much faith as the person who does not prepare, plan, or get ready for persecution.
Chapter Four: Faith
"Since the Great Persecution has God’s sanction in that He will allow it, fighting or fleeing will prove poor options to sustain one’s life. The biblically mandated option is faith." (p.39).
The proper course of action according to Cooper is to ‘build their faith’ (and not attempt to do any planning or preparation that might help a Christian and their family to survive a time of testing.
I agree with the author that it is vital that Christians build their faith. I agree that having a strong, vibrant, and growing faith and trust in God is more important than the preparations and planning that Christians might do as the end times draw closer.
I disagree though that a strong faith is opposed to preparation and planning for the possible coming persecution. Cooper appears to believe that any kind of preparation or planning shows a lack of trust in God. Later in the book (p.184) he seems to indicate that planning/preparing shows a lack of total dependency on God. He gives as examples of planning and preparing several things that can lead to or show a lack of complete trust in God: buy health insurance, life insurance, home insurance, Social Security, and other things. Let’s just look at life insurance. I love and trust God. I believe I will have a long life, but it is possible that I may die tonight or tomorrow. I have two young children who would suffer greatly if I died (not just from losing a parent but my salary). Without my providing for them (through life insurance) they would very rarely be able to see their mom (who would have to work significantly more hours). A Christian who is not planning and preparing for their families future I believe is exercising presumption and not faith. Cooper’s conception of faith seems to have a lot in common with the "faith teachers."
At one point in my life when I was a young Christian I read and believed much of what the ‘faith teachers’ said about faith. While they might not tell you to not see a doctor, the underlying idea was that it was OK to see a doctor if your faith was ‘weak.’ I remember at one point I developed an ear infection. I was in the Army at the time and worked in an Army hospital. I could have seen a doctor at any time. Instead I believed that God was going to heal my infection through faith. After almost a week of the infection was so bad I could not lay my head on my pillow to sleep. God helped me to see that while He could have healed me instantly, He also could use medicine and other means to bring healing. Faith has many facets to it.
Coopers view of Faith seems to be only reactive and not proactive. His book emphasizes (over and over again) the importance of faith and building your faith, but stops there. He discusses faith in the context of how you will react when being killed by the Antichrist. His book lacks the proactive element: how the believer should allow his faith to influence what can be done now to prepare or plan for persecution. When faith is discussed and demonstrated in the Bible, there almost always is some action or behavior associated with it. Noah believed God and built an Ark. Abraham believed God and left his home country. Joseph believed God and stored 7 years of food to save the lives of thousands of people. James 1:22 says "But prove yourselves doers of the Word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves." Please explain to me (if you have read Coopers book) how we are to put our faith into action… how we are to be doers of the word? The author repeatedly gives emphasizes that we are to build our faith so that when it comes time to die, we will be good witnesses. Is that the only reason to build our faith?
- A Christian who has prepared and planned will have food and supplies to help the unprepared. Those who ‘built their faith’ but did not prepare or plan will be begging for food from others. Which will be more likely to reach the lost around them for Christ?
- A Christian who prayerfully has decided to use force to protect his family may have to explain his actions to his family after killing an intruder. A Christian who has decided to stand by while his family is raped and murdered will have to explain to others why the life of the robber was more important than his families.
Chapter Six To Nine: The Nature and Character of Faith
"Faith cannot and need not be increased in increments…" (p.141). "… the issue is never a matter of the size of one’s faith, but whether one has faith at all." (p.141). If you have any faith, you have all the faith you need to ‘survive’ the great tribulation. Faith does not need to ‘incrementally’ grow. By gaining more knowledge on a specific topic, the more a Christians faith will grow.
"We believe it is patently clear that "great faith" and "little faith" do not differ as to whether one has incrementally increased his faith about a truth or proposition. Rather, these terms have to do with whether one has the doctrinal sophistication to handle the circumstances that arise. "Great faith" means a person knows what truths or convictions to bring to bear on a particular situation."(p.160). "Great faith has everything to do with knowledge and very little to do with the size of one’s faith as a metaphysical reality. Education makes faith great and not some effort to turn mustard seeds into avocado seeds." (p.161). "Great faith" is composed of multiple truths from God’s Word and ways brought to bear on a particular situation or circumstance;" (p. 187).
I found many, many things I disagreed with the author on in the first half of the book. I had initially believed that I would at least agree with him on the meaning and basics of faith. Even here though I found I had to read several passages multiple times in order to make sure I really understood what he was saying. The author does not believe faith grows. Faith is fixed. What grows according to the author (and what makes for a ‘great faith’ is having knowledge. The author seems to believe that the key to great faith is having more knowledge and then knowing what to choices to make in specific situations. In internal change and maturing does not seem to be a part of his teachings. Here are some disturbing examples of his teachings:
A Christian who is suffering terribly for Christ in a foreign country but who is standing firm for Christ and winning multitudes to God may not have as ‘great a faith’ as a non-believing biblical scholar at a secular university. Using Cooper’s own teachings, ‘great faith’ is not dependent upon internal growth and change, but having more knowledge. I believe a person can have have a lot of knowledge, but that does not equal having great faith. If having more knowledge somehow equaled having ‘greater faith’, then Christians in the USA would have ‘greater faith’ than Christians in places where they are dying daily for their faith.
At this point I have decided to not review the rest of Cooper’s book. While there are others teachings I disagree with him on, I think you are able to understand why I am not able to recommend this book to anyone.
If this were a book on the millennium or some other minor topic I likely would not feel so strongly about it. I believe though that this is a dangerous book that may lead many Christians work at gaining "knowledge" and studying books on doctrine (which are not necessarily a bad thing) at the expense of preparing, planning, and getting ready for the terrible times ahead.
After coming to believe in the Pre-Wrath view of the rapture I was able to see how many who believe in the Pre-Trib rapture may enter the great tribulation unprepared (both spiritually and physically). This book encourages believers to not prepare or plan. God has given the opportunity for believers to get ready for the coming persecution. Many may choose to "sit on their hands" and do nothing to prepare. These believers may end up begging for food, and in the end, being fed by those who took God at His word and prepared for that terrible time.
Knowledge is good, Faith is good, but we must have an outworking of our faith in our actions and preparations.
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