The Rapture– Really?!


Great. Another opportunity for Christians to be portrayed as lunatic nut jobs obsessed with the damnation of others.

Today, May 21st, 2011, is said to be the day of the Rapture by Harold Camping, a Christian radio broadcaster. Some people are taking this so seriously that they are packed and ready to go on the up elevator at 6 P.M. Pacific tonight. Skeptics and cynics are partying like it’s the end of the world to mock them.

It’s ugly. I really don’t like how people on both sides are taking this as an opportunity to focus on themselves. The Gospel is about reaching outward, not inward. And people who trumpet their passion for equality, liberty, and fairness are lambasting the Christian faith.

So who’s right? Is the Rapture, as Stephen Hawking might suggest, a ridiculous fairy tale that only the intellectually destitute would believe in? Is it like when Pericles the chimp returns to earth in a spaceship in Planet of the Apes? Or could it actually make sense? At times like this, we should go directly to the source for clarification:

But the exact day and hour? No one knows that, not even heaven’s angels, not even the Son. Only the Father. So keep a sharp lookout, for you don’t know the timetable. It’s like a man who takes a trip, leaving home and putting his servants in charge, each assigned a task, and commanding the gatekeeper to stand watch. So, stay at your post, watching. You have no idea when the homeowner is returning, whether evening, midnight, cockcrow, or morning. You don’t want him showing up unannounced, with you asleep on the job. I say it to you, and I’m saying it to all: Stay at your post. Keep watch.
-Yeshua of Nazareth, Mark 13:32-37, The Message

Could it be today? Sure. The Bible definitely gives us some timeframes and signs to look out for, so it’s not completely whacked out to suggest that Jesus could be physically visiting the third rock from the sun soon. I’d actually say we’re very close to that given the parameters of Bible prophecy and current events. But to presume that we can nail down the exact hour of such an occurrence is something we shouldn’t waste time on. If this is something we believe in, we should focus on staying ready and sharing our hope with others. We’re all human enough to lose our place in line.

This is a good time to remind people that Christianity is not meant to be an exclusive country club. I’ve had major issues with the “Christian beliefs” of those who try to convert people by battering them with garbage bags full of holier-than-thou, self-righteous legalism. Once I realized that if a behavior is not Christ-like, it’s not Christian, then I knew to disregard any superfluous man-made trimmings. Jesus is who He says He is, not who others make Him into. He is grace and truth. He is warm and inviting. He builds you up into who He made you to be rather than tearing you down to fit into a cold little mold of anonymous, miserable servitude.

It makes me sad that Christianity has been so decked out with rituals, regulations, and rules that people don’t want anything to do with it. Some people just hate the faith anyway, as evidenced by the martyrdom of Christians in Africa and Iran just this week. I feel strongly that if people understood what a personal interest Jesus has in them, and how He wants to use them to lift up others, they would be more open to accepting Him as well as what He’s said. Unfortunately the people who believe everything He said, not just some things He said, are in the minority.

Many people believe in God the Father, or angels, or Jesus as a benevolent teacher, but the concept of the Rapture is just too far out for them. The number of emails flying around in cyberspace about special prayers, guardian angels, saints, and how much God loves you is astounding. From that it’s clear that it is easy to believe in the light, fluffy stuff. But to trouble oneself by thinking about the deeper matters of the same God seems taboo, and even alien, to some.

Augustine said that if you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself. There is a tendency in American society to pick and choose what we want to believe in. To interweave elements of different faiths into one’s belief system is considered hip and enlightened. Jesus, Buddha, and Bob Marley are treated as BFFs. People who claim to value all faiths equally forget that they are valuing their own, all-inclusive belief system, above others’.

It has become radical to believe “straight Bible” even though our legal system and morality is remarkably similar to the values expressed in the Manufacturer’s Handbook. C.S. Lewis said that, “…human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it.” He’s right. Why do we care about how we behave, or what we eat, or who we hang out with? If there’s really nothing beyond this life, no hope beyond this world, then why don’t we spend our lives beating other people up and taking their ice cream?

No matter which way we look at it, this world will end. Science and mathematics, the language of creation, speak to that. Even if you don’t believe in God, there is no denying that this world and our species cannot exist forever in this form. The laws of physics say that time will eventually stop. If that bothers you at all, perhaps it is because there is a part of you that was made to transcend the finite and savor something so delicious that we cannot comprehend it until we get there.

Arthur Conan Doyle asked, “What can we know? What are we all? Poor silly half-brained things peering out at the infinite, with the aspirations of angels and the instincts of beasts.” Many great minds have acknowledged our hybrid nature. We sense that we are more than a bag of water. We find ourselves longing for things we do not understand. We are part flesh, part spirit, a paradox that pits our instincts against our intellects, our deeds against our desires.

While some believe that we are products of a statistically baffling cosmic crap shoot—and it is their right to believe that—others believe that we were created for a reason, with a unique purpose laid out for each of our journeys. This makes our life in the here and now meaningful. Christians believe that God has created a gateway to the next step of existence through belief in His Son, so what they do in this life determines their station in the next. That continuation of life isn’t bound by time, and what is time anyway but, as Charles Caleb Colton put it, a black and narrow isthmus between two eternities?

So far millions of people don’t have a problem with what I’m saying. Where it gets weird for them is when I start talking about where this world is going. We have taken a planet rich with beauty and life and trashed it with our selfish ambition. It sickens me to see what we’ve done to creation and to each other through the abuse of free will. There are dark forces at work, evils that rob others of their innocence, dignity, and security.

So doesn’t it seem logical, given how mankind’s destruction of its own species and our environment is reaching a fever pitch, that the Creator would spare the people committed to Him from the worst of it? What kind of god would create something so magnificent and then give his children no ejection seat when it all starts coming apart on an unprecedented scale?

Thus we arrive at the concept that makes millions cringe: the Rapture. To some it seems so unfair, so elitist, that a chosen few could be miraculously sheltered by the Creator. Many Christians don’t believe it. They believe that God had the power to create the universe, but somehow it’s beyond His ability to orchestrate a rescue operation for those who wish to participate. Really? Given what He says is going to happen to those who believe in Him—and is already happening to Christians worldwide—you’d think Christians would be more accepting of the Creator of natural law doing something in defiance of it.

So people believe in God. They may even believe that Jesus is the Son of God. But when Jesus says, “hey, I’m not going to leave you high and dry when the crap hits the fan,” that’s just too much. So… how do you believe in Jesus but act like He was eating magic mushrooms when He talked about the Rapture? Because I believe in Him, I believe what He said about removing His people for a time, and then coming back later to earth later to make everything right. Honestly, I can think of a lot of beliefs far more radical and illogical than this, beliefs that pervade our society and are largely accepted as normal.

So yes, I believe in the Rapture. I believe in the God of the Bible, therefore I believe in Jesus, therefore I believe what Jesus said. To me it’s that simple, and no matter how deeply I delve into opposing viewpoints and the logic of it, I still believe it. As someone who studies the horrific evils that human beings inflict on each other, I’m thankful that there is a hope beyond this world. Any time I question the validity of Jesus’ words, I remember what Lewis said, that it is ironic to argue against the very power that makes us able to argue at all—it’s like cutting off the branch we are sitting on.

The Left Behind books did a fantastic job of explaining predicted events surrounding the Rapture in plain English. They address the skepticism that clings to the very suggestion of it in an understanding and thought-provoking way. Oh groan… you say, it’s that Kirk Cameron stuff. Please separate Kirk Cameron from those books. He was an actor in the movie versions, not one of the authors. While I respect his passion, I have some issues with his witnessing style.

No matter whose calendar we look at—the Christians’, the Egyptians’, the Mayans’, the Jewish calendar, and so on—it is clear that we are coming to a crossroads. Geologically, morally, spiritually—in every way our world is in upheaval and we are on the brink of major change. The Bible is a roadmap to the sequence of events that come next, and it hasn’t been wrong so far. Everyone has to choose which side they’re on and knowing where you stand the moment you shed this skin is nothing to take lightly.

What you choose to believe about the state and fate of our world is up to you. I’m just suggesting that if you believe in a Creator, it’s not silly or ludicrous to believe that the Creator could also provide safety for you. He has unlimited resources, after all.

Ultimately, my point is this: no matter how close to an end or a new beginning we are, keep living life and blossoming into someone who can be a pillar for others on this journey. Don’t run into your closet, pack your suitcase, and tell everyone else to go to hell while your clique runs out to the street corner to wait for your ride.

Who knows how many wounded souls you’ll trample on the way to secure your spot on the 6 P.M. bus.

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The world might stop in ten minutes; meanwhile, we are to go on doing our duty. The great thing is to be found at one’s post as a child of God, living each day as though it were our last, but planning as though our world might last a hundred years. -C.S. Lewis

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©2011 H. Hiatt/wildninja.wordpress.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninja.wordpress.com.

4 thoughts on “The Rapture– Really?!

  1. Heidi, you’ve done a fabulous job of articulating your thoughts and the thoughts of many Christians on this topic. Jesus is coming back. . .He said He would come, and He tells us to be ready. Thanks for your measured, reasoned response to the recent media carnival.

    This quote from your article is worth the reading of the whole thing: “So doesn’t it seem logical, given how mankind’s destruction of its own species and our environment is reaching a fever pitch, that the Creator would spare the people committed to Him from the worst of it?”

    The best part is that he includes anyone who is willing to turn to Him.

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    1. Joan, you’re right on. Your last sentence is actually something I should have included and didn’t. Excellent point, and thank you for the positive thoughts. I love reading your articles because they are so very positive!

      Like

  2. A great article, very informative and (although the day of reckoning has now surpassed) I was of the opinion that it was a pile of trash.
    After all – Jay Sean doesn’t believe it is going to happen until 2012 – and he knows everything!! (For those who do not understand this reference…:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PX7cnOzW034 )

    In all seriousness though, I have my own theory on the end of the world….I believe the Mayan’s were correct – as were the Egyptians…
    These ancient cultures predicted both World War I and World War II as well as other major events – down to the exact year! So I do not think you can discount their ideas. And they do not predict the end of the world, they predict a ‘major, catastrophic incident’ on 12/12/12. I believe this to be in Europe, an Ice Age. With the way the weather has been over the past few winters, snowy periods have increased from 2 weeks in length 5 years ago to between 3 and 4 months the winter we just had.
    And in the US, you will be devastated by a supervolcano which is slap bang centre of North America in Yellowstone National Park. It has the power to blow North America apart and shroud the world in darkness (is it just me or are fire, explosions and darkness all associated with the end of the world….) – plus the supervolcano is due to erupt. Look no further for an explanation I say!

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    1. Alex, I know that you know your history and appreciate the input. I like hearing different viewpoints and appreciate people taking the time to read mine. Christians have a hope beyond anything that can happen in this world, a certainty that it’ll all turn out okay– no matter what.

      For that reason, when we talk about the end of the world, that may be poor terminology. The world will undergo unprecedented chaos, but that’s not the literal end of the world for everyone. The Manufacturer’s Handbook says that Jesus will come back and reign for a thousand years– here, on this earth. The whole concept of a new heaven and new earth don’t happen until later, and that’s for another blog post… it’s another concept many people shy away from.

      The Mayan, Egyptian, Jewish, and Aztec takes on this are FASCINATING. I love studying the mathematics and similarities of those timetables. Even with all the groovy math, though, I stick to the “no man knows the day or the hour” premise, just that we know when it’s getting close.

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