The Tragedy of Rapture Theology

The US writer Joel McDurmon recently wrote on the popular but erroneous doctrine of the

“any day rapture.” A woman responded by email:

Thank you for your article on armageddon type “Christian” teaching. I was made to watch a series of films in high school youth group. The films were on this type of theology. They traumatized me. I lived for years with fear of rapture, because what if I hadn’t gotten my salvation exactly right. Whenever someone was late, I assumed the rapture had happened, and I had been left behind. The fear began even before the movies, because of the teaching of the church. . . .[1]

Many things may be popular in the church at any given time, but that doesn’t make them correct. This is the category that rapture theology falls into.

The notion of the “rapture,” is based on a serious misunderstanding of a Bible passage. I Thessalonians 4:14-18 tells us that

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

The passage is speaking of the end of time. It is not referring to a period anytime soon, because in another place the Bible speaks of a conversation between the Father and the Son:

The Lord says to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for your feet” (Ps.110:1).

The critical word in this passage is “Until…” Jesus Christ has been commanded to sit next to our Heavenly Father, until a certain point in time. What is that?

When all His enemies are made His footstool.

This means that when there are no more enemies to raise their rebellious fists at Jesus Christ, He will return to earth. He is not going to return to earth, while ever the earth is a moral and ethical mess. He came to redeem and change the world, not to return to an ethical dump, which it largely is today. The gospel is “The power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Ro. 1:16).

While there are enemies of God abounding in the world, as there most surely are today, we in the church have work to do, and the 2nd coming is not going to happen immediately. In fact, it may be hundreds or thousands of years away.

The “rapture” is not going to happen soon, because the church has hardly begun to do its work of preaching and teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God to the world. We are most certainly a long way from the end, because there is so much that still needs to be redeemed.

The notion of the rapture is not merely deceptive, it is tragic. It’s tragic because it has tended to draw trusting and naive people away from the centrality of the gospel, and their obedience and faithfulness to Christ. There is much work to be done by Christians in the world, but if our thoughts are tied up in foolish and tragic distractions, that work will not get done.

Regrettably, this serves as a partial explanation for the unwillingness of Christians to address critical issues in the world we live in, for over a century. All of life requires the serious understanding and application of God’s Word.

Does the Bible speak to issues like Law, Marriage/Family, Education, Economics, Welfare, Health, Charity and Defence? Of course it does! The foundations for these subjects are found in the Pentateuch: Genesis to Deuteronomy. And we Christians must be able to make the systematic and logical application of Scripture to all these areas, and much more; that’s our task before God, as His ambassadors.

But we will never be able to if we are utterly distracted by foolish, unfounded notions of the coming of the Lord, which will only serve to draw us away from the serious work of the gospel.

It’s time to develop a far more Biblical eschatology based firmly in Scripture, along with the other Biblical studies absolutely critical to teach the world about the kingdom of God and the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Our Father’s business demands it

[1] Joel McDurmon, ” Finding the Cure for Rapture Theology Trauma,” American Vision website, 19/9/2014.

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