No. I am not a Left Behind Book Series hater! (I own and enjoyed the entire book series).
No. This is not a publicity stunt intended to get you to go see the Nicholas Cage movie. (I was on line at the theaters a few days ago getting ready to see it, but made the mistake of running it past Rotten Tomatoes. Then I followed that demotivator up by asking a friend who saw it (and who enjoys Christian movies) what he thought. In his words, "It was like sitting through a 2-hour exposition!" So I saw “Mazerunner” instead.)
While I've lost some level of interest in seeing the movie, my interest in the theme of the movie has however been piqued by recent articles popping up on different blogs attempting to debunk the rapture. One writer expressed a tepid version of that sentiment in the subtitle of his blog post, “Our rapture obsession [might be] taking a toll.”
Sure. I can agree with that. I’ve known Christians who spent more time studying eschatological maps/charts of end time signs and were more excited about the recent blood moon eclipse, (and its implications for the end times) than they were about actually loving and serving their neighbor.
Yeah. We suck. But let’s be clear on one thing. Fanaticism and a really bad movie are not legitimate grounds for disbelieving a Biblical teaching.
I’ll say more on it in a moment and explain why followers of Jesus Christ have every reason to hope in the rapture. But before that, let me lay out a few things I humbly agree with in all the writings and articles I’ve read.
- True. The word “rapture” is not written in the Bible, but neither is the word “Trinity”, yet we believe in the doctrine of God in three persons.
- I agree with those who assert that our overemphasis on being evacuated before disaster hits the world has made some of us calloused towards the very people we're called to serve and love. (I repeat, we suck.)
- Though I wouldn't counsel you to get all dooms-day-prepper on your neighbors, I am in agreement that the return of Jesus Christ is imminent (though every generation has thought it would happen in their time).
- I agree also that the hourglass of history is nearing its end and and humanity will take an awful turn for the worse.
- Yes. A day of judgment is coming when God will settle all accounts.
- And lastly, I am in full agreement with him when he says, "We need to hold to our eschatological views with humility while respecting those with whom we disagree."
So yeah. I'm with you on all those points. If we’re still on the same page then, HERE ARE MY REASONS FOR WHY YOU SHOULD STILL HOPE IN THE RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH. (The term rapture describes a supernatural event that will physically unite every Christian on earth with Jesus Christ in the sky, in a single moment.
(Sermon Resource: "The Evacuation Plan")
First off, I should establish that the rapture itself is best understood in the context of a future period in history when earth (and its inhabitants) will experience severe turmoil that no period in history (past or future) has ever known. I speak of a period the Bible describes as, “The Tribulation.” Though Christ Himself made it known that we should expect a certain amount of general tribulation in our day (John 16:33), the period I speak of refers to a definite block of time still ahead in our future (Matthew 24:29-35) filled with a series of cosmic disturbances, natural disasters, demonic attacks, and heavy persecution that the whole world will experience. Basically, the worst-case scenario (Revelation 6-19).
It’s prior to this tumultuous period in history that the apostle Paul inserts what we understand to be "The Rapture", with these two key verses, (1 Corinthians 15:51-54 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). One argument I’ve heard against this divine evacuation plan is that God is a God who journeys with His people through hard times, rather than pluck them out of the danger.
Fair enough. Yes it’s true that this has been the case on several occasions in the scriptures. But I should also point out that rapture-like occurrences have a Biblical precedence.
- In Genesis 5:24, and later in Hebrews 11:5, we are introduced to a man named Enoch, whom the scripture say, “…By faith, was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.” Enoch is our first example of what it looked like to be raptured.
- In 2 kings 2:11, the prophet Elijah, at the end of his ministry and in the middle of a conversation, was instantly and suddenly taken up to heaven by God in a whirlwind of chariots of fire. So he never saw death either.
- The apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:2, speaks of suddenly being caught up into the heavens where he was shown visions of paradise.
- In the book of Revelation 4, the apostle John, while he was in prayer and in exile on the island of Patmos, suddenly found himself being called up into heaven and shown visions of the end times.
- And lastly, Jesus Himself in the book of Acts 1:10-11, after His resurrection, was physically taken up into the clouds and into heaven in the presence of onlookers.
All that to say, there is Biblical precedence for God whisking away His people in the face of impending disaster, (though there are differences in the manner it actually happens). Aside of those examples, the scriptures assure us in 1 Thessalonians 5:9 that, “..God did not appoint us (His church) to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ…” Further more, in a personal letter to the Philadelphia Church, Jesus tells them that, "Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth." (Revelation 3:10). The hour of trial spoken of here is clearly a reference to a later period in history when every inhabitant on earth will experience great distress, (The Tribulation). Christ however, reassures His Church that they will be kept safely from it, (yes yes, I'm familiar with the arguments behind the meaning of the words, "keep you from").
Okay, let me pause here for a moment. We can do this dance on and on with you pointing out other passages that seem to suggest a different timeline for the rapture. You might be a mid-tribulationist, post-tribulationist, no-tribulationist, or an angry-tribulationist. You might even try to force an argument that it is an irrelevant teaching because no one in the church has ever even believed in the rapture until the last 200 years or so (which, if true, still doesn't make the doctrine untrue, but I'll respect your right to have your views).
But can we at least agree that the main issue bugging many folks is the way Christians have responded to the notion of the rapture in recent history? I’ve seen the late night prophecy teachers with their gigantic charts and maps, and I’ve observed how an over-emphasis on being whisked away has left some of us calloused towards people in our lives far from God. But here's the fact of that matter is that a Christ-centered understanding of the rapture doesn't cause followers of Jesus Christ to retreat to the safe confines of their Christian circles. Rather, it serves as a clarion call to urgently and lovingly BE the hands and feet of Jesus Christ to a world desperately in need of Jesus Christ.
So, rather than a dismissive attitude that says, “Oh well, good luck with the antichrist and Armageddon!”, how about we stop knocking on the rapture and adopt the attitude of Paul, who Himself looked forward to the rapture, but also wrote, “…brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.” 2 Thessalonians 3:1
Can I get an amen?
Husband. Dad. Pastor. Nigerian American. Storyteller. Aspiring Prayer Warrior. Steak Lover. Follower of Jesus Christ reminding you that God the Father still loves you.