Saturday, May 7, 2011

Choosing to be Left Behind: Betraying the "Rapture"

Can I opt out of the "rapture"?

What part of Jesus' life and message teaches escapism over servanthood? I remember something he said about salt and light. How can I flavor my world if I'm not present? How can I offer light if it is under a heavenly bushel? Can a true follower of Jesus really want to escape rather than serve?

I grew up as a pretribulation/premillenialist in the "rapture" generation: the 70's. On New Year's Eve 1969, my dad preached that we wouldn't see New Year's Eve 1979 because of the immenency of the rapture. We stocked dried food in the basement in the event we might have to endure part of the tribulation before being whisked away by our gracious Savior. Hmmmm.

TheRapture it the theological (not as "biblical" as some might think!) doctrine(?) that Jesus will return to rescue true believers from the onslaught of chaos and mayhem which we in the evangelical community termed the Great Tribulation. I remember living in fear of missing the rapture. I feared that my most recent bad thought, a failure to read my Bible that day, or generally be neglectful would cause the rapture's lightening to flash from the east to the west and I'd be left to face unparalleled suffering at worst or martyrdom at best.

As I have matured in my faith over the years, I began to question the validity of this eschatological interpretation of the Bible. I was amazed to learn in college that there could be at least 5 different eschatological possibilities and all of them could find biblical support! What?

The mustard seed of real faith founded on the message of God grows into a mature tree- something far different in appearance and function than the seed that spawned it. If our involvement in the culture of God is likened to this by Jesus, than our understanding of the present and future world should also evolve into an accurate reflection of God's likeness and interests- like the moon accurately reflects the sun's powerful light.

That's why I want to betray what I have been taught about the Rapture and opt out. As I think about this, I wonder why every believer in Jesus and citizen of God's transcendent culture wouldn't want to do the same? What good is it for the world that God loved so much that he gave it His Son  if those who bear the Son's image are no longer present to love it like God does? We don't have to look far in the Scripture or in ourselves to know that God doesn't seek to hate and destroy but to love and give life. The Rapture so defined ushers in destruction for those left behind while those who allegedly have practiced the correct spiritual magic enjoy the blissfullness of God's presence- perhaps and presumably around some grand heavenly dinner table with the Lamb. Can you imagine? Throwing back new wine with other escapees lauding the glories of God's love by allowing the raptured to know nothing of the horrors other God-loved humans are suffering back on poor planet Earth! This doesn't sound like the God I know and love- or the God who knows and loves me.

I betray this eschatalogical escapism! I find it ungodly and selfish- two distinctly counter-intuitive qualitites in God's culture. If the rapture is true, then I'd like to give my place to someone else and choose to stay behind, not so I can "enjoy" earthly living some more, but so that I can love others in God's name- others who will no doubt need to be loved like God has loved me. Isn't that message more powerful to those who will be left behind? Have those who qualified to miss the Rapture through ignorance or rebellion created a new category that is outside of God's love?

Nothing in the Bible reveals God as one who abandons. Quite to the contrary, God is incarnational- both in the world spatially and in humans individually. If I want to love God and others (the two things that Jesus said defined the best qualities that humans can demonstrate), then I would want to remain incarnational as well. It's natural to the DNA I possess by new birth. I choose to love the unloved (abandoned?) rather than being raptured and saving my own skin.

If the rapture is true, then theoretically I'll die as a martyr. I still prefer martydom (greek "testifying") at the hands of those who are loved yet abandoned to escaping with the "saints" not because I relish the possibility of a torturous death, but because my faith demands it.

I betray the theology of the Rapture so I can better represent the God I beleve to be true.

The reality of the Rapture should change nothing about how a follower of Jesus lives and loves. In fact, I find myself with a new sense of freedom from both a bad theology and the people who espouse it.

1 comment:

  1. I like your ideas about a more loving and present God. Thank you for sharing. I wonder if you have checked out the preterist view of scripture? It seems like it might interest and inspire you. It's positively impacted me in a number of ways you describe. An explanation is here: