More nourishing morsels to munch in this repost from T.E. Hanna, which is apposite in view of my previous post’s reference to apostasy. If you’re unsure of that connection, check the insights Holy Spirit gave to Apostle Paul on the return of Jesus, as outlined in his two, brief letters to the Thessalonian church (here).
I like his following title’s pun as it refers to the popular Left Behind stories by Tim La Haye. The premise for the whole series was based upon the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, the concept of which, in my opinion, seems to be a particularly American fad. So I greatly appreciate T.E.’s unwrapping of the subject and helpful answers to good questions raised by readers, especially the inclusion of the parable of wheat and tares in the whole scenario.
So enjoy and be mightily blessed…
This month marks the two year anniversary of Harold Camping’s prediction of when the rapture was to take place. In preparation for that great ascension into the sky, countless numbers of people quit their jobs, sold everything they had, and took to the streets to proclaim the coming day of Christ. The date was set for October 21, 2011, and they wanted to sound the trumpet so that nobody was “left behind”.
On October 22, they woke up to find themselves and their families left destitute, without any savings or means of income, with their shoes still treading the soil of our world. The rapture had not taken place.
Harold Camping was not the first to predict the date of the rapture. In fact, October 21 was not even his first prediction. He had predicted it to happen earlier that same year, on May 21, and before that he had declared September 6, 1994 to be the correct date. Before Camping, there were multiple predictions for 1993, allowing for a seven year tribulation before the glorious appearing in the year 2000. Prior to this, Edgar Whisenant had issued predictions for 1988, 1989, 1992 and 1995. Chuck Smith had predicted 1981, while the Jehovah’s Witnesses predicted 1914, 1918, and 1925.
Perhaps the most impactful prediction, however, was issued by the Baptist preacher William Miller and further popularized by the preaching of Samuel Snow. While Miller asserted 1844 as the year in which Christ would return to rapture His church, Snow narrowed the date to October 22. Much like Camping, the result of this popular prophecy led to a movement whereby his ever-growing following yielded all of their earthly possessions and sat waiting with joyous expectation for the heavens to rend and the Messiah to summon His beloved. So great was the cry that arose on the day to follow that October 22, 1844 became lodged within the annals of Christian history known only as the Great Disappointment.
As best as I can tell, the Great Disappointment was the first prediction of the rapture in Christian history, which is (on the surface at least) a strange event for a faith previously spanning a full 1800 years of history. Even more strange is how common subsequent predictions became. One would expect that, given the mystical history of Christianity, we would see proclamations of the impending rapture long before the nineteenth century. One would expect this, to be sure, until one began to study the doctrine itself. Then, the strange lack of prophetic utterance suddenly makes sense.
Before the nineteenth century, the doctrine of the rapture simply did not exist.
What Lies Behind The Rapture
The church has always looked forward with eager anticipation towards the return of Christ. Christian eschatology has long held that the world would come to be judged, the old things would pass away, the Kingdom of God would manifest in its fullness, and we would celebrate our eternal presence in the midst of the new heavens and the new earth. Heaven would come down as the New Jerusalem, and all things would be made right once more. This has always been a singular event.
Not until the 19th century did we see the return of the King split into two events. At this point, a theologian by the name of John Darby theorized that there were actually two occurrences foretold in scripture: the day of Christ, and the day of the Lord. The former consisted of Christ’s return to gather up His faithful; the latter referred to Christ’s return to judge the world. For the first time in Christian history, Jesus was taught to return not once, but twice.
Another theologian by the name of C. I. Scofield grabbed hold of this idea and ran with it. Around this time, Scofield published the first publicly available “study bible” in history. This consisted of a bible translation with explanatory notes in the bottom half of the printed book, and it became immensely popular. The resulting “Scofield’s Bible” quickly spread throughout the Christian culture, and with it came the rise of Dispensationalism. Dispensationalism not only gave us the doctrine of the rapture, it gave us a new view on our world as well.
What The Rapture Has Left Behind
The appearance of the rapture, within Dispensationalist theology, is foreshadowed by the continuing collapse of our world into sin and destruction. The closer we come to that glorious summoning, the darker and more corrupt our world will get. It is within this understanding that we often refer to “the signs of the times”, usually followed by pointing to some great ethical violation that our culture lauds as virtue. Dispensationalism places the human experience in the midst of a worldly trajectory towards oblivion, identifying ourselves as a remnant of God’s people who are clinging fast to the cross in the hope of persisting until the reinforcements arrive.
In contrast to this, the overarching narrative of scripture does not speak of God abandoning His creation to ever-deepening destruction. The trajectory of scripture is a positive one, one that speaks of a God who is intimately involved with His children, whose Spirit still broods over the waters as He did in the opening pages of Genesis. This is a God who enters into the fullness of the human experience in the incarnation, who proclaims a Kingdom of God that is at hand, who sends forth His children to be emissaries that bring restoration and healing to a world that is suffering and broken. This is about a world that is continuing to get better, not worse.
This is what the rapture ultimately leaves behind: that we are active participants in God’s manifesting Kingdom, agents of mercy who are called into His work and through whom the world is being transformed. This is the image we see in John’s Revelation; not that our world is swallowed up in darkness so that God creates it anew, but that the New Jerusalem descends into our midst, that the Kingdom of God is overthrowing the enemy’s earthly rule, that the glorious creation which He so lovingly fashioned in the opening pages of scripture is one that He is at work restoring.
Yes, there will come the day when the trumpet shall sound and Christ shall judge the living and the dead, separating us into our chosen kingdoms. Yes, we will still face trial and strife and tribulation as we live out our lives in the brokenness of our world. Yes, the King will return for His citizens.
But the glorious hope to which we cling is not a distant one, it is immediate. It impacts our lives in this moment. We are not simply holding fast to the anchor of our soul and waiting for our lives to run out or for Christ to return. The Kingdom is coming, even now, even here. Our hope is for this world, and it leaps from here into eternity.
Many thanks TE for such an excellent, succinct summary which puts the unorthodox pre-trib rapture into its proper perspective.
I strongly recommend the ensuing interesting discussion on Of Dust and Kings – click on link and scroll to foot of TE’s original post.
More in-depth consideration may be found on Your True Christian Journey in::