November 22, 2014

Another Look: Time to Leave Behind the Rapture

Left_Behind_Nicolas_Cage_Movie_1

Note from CM: We’ve talked about a few aspects of eschatology this week. I thought it might be good to re-post this piece that was originally run in May 2011, right before the Harold Camping debacle. As the header art indicates, the subject is bound to be widely discussed again soon, thanks to what I can only assume will be a cinematic debacle, to be released in October. My, how the church gets it wrong sometimes!

• • •

Come on, children
You’re acting like children
Every generation
Thinks it’s the end of the world

- Wilco, “You Never Know”

I had a spiritual awakening as a teenager in a time when prophetic expectations were high. Israel was in her land and engaged in violent confrontations with her antagonistic neighbors. Issues regarding Arab oil and other tensions in the Middle East were becoming more intense. Life in the United States itself was in turmoil. Ongoing civil rights struggles, the Vietnam war, the youth culture of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll, amazing technological achievements such as the Apollo space program, the continuing Cold War, and political intrigue in the White House — all these things and more had believers feeling certain that we were in the last days and that Jesus must certainly be returning soon. Prophetic teachers like Hal Lindsey were having a field day and selling lots and lots of books. Youth groups and outreach events often featured films like A Thief in the Night.

In those days I started following Jesus in a fresh way with my New Scofield Bible in hand, prophetic teaching a major part of the Bible studies I attended and the churches where I worshiped. I wasn’t able to spell “dispensationalism,” but my friends and I believed Jesus was coming back. We sang Larry Norman’s “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” with real feeling.

Soon, it was off to Bible College and full immersion in the theology of C.I. Scofield, Lewis Sperry Chafer, Charles Ryrie, John Walvoord, J. Dwight Pentecost, Alva J. McClain, Renald Showers, and Charles Feinberg. If theology was the “Queen of the Sciences,” then dispensationalist eschatology was her crown, I was taught.

In this light, we were warned that such established and traditional interpretations such as “Covenant Theology” and “Amillennialism” were to be dreaded and viewed as hopelessly inadequate. And God forbid that we should get caught making any “compromises” such as acceptance of a post-tribulation rapture. The Book of Revelation was taught in a purely futurist fashion, and the Bible as a whole was presented almost like a giant puzzle book that, once figured out, provided a detailed prophetic vision of “God’s plan for the ages.” It was as clear as the amazing draftsman-like charts in Clarence Larkin’s Dispensational Truth. Which is to say, it was confusing.

Before I ever began to grasp specific exegetical and theological problems with the dispensational system, I felt uncomfortable with the whole approach. The theological charts and outlines and lists of proof texts bore no resemblance to the form of the text I saw when I opened my Bible. I read stories and poetry as well as prophetic passages that spoke in eloquent imagery and with dramatic symbolism that engaged my imagination as well as my mind. However, I could not detect the same kind of beauty or wonder in the prosaic, mechanical system of theology my professors droned on about. All the magnificent animated three dimensional literature of the Scriptures became flattened, reduced to a blueprint or series of mathematical formulae.

Not only that, but the system seemed to miss (or at least downplay) the most important theological point of all – that Jesus and the story of him told in the Gospels is the pinnacle of God’s plan, the fulfillment of his promises. In essence, dispensationalism denies that. Jesus’ ministry was necessary, but only an interim step in God’s ultimate triumph. The real victory will be won when Christ returns. The church is only a “parenthesis” in God’s plan until he starts to work with Israel again.

The dispensational approach fails to see that Jesus fulfilled the calling and role of Israel. They failed to be the light of the world, but he succeeded. Now in him God is gathering his new creation people, made of up of Jews and Gentiles alike. The Jewish people are called to Christ through the Gospel like everyone else, and though God continues to deal providentially with nations, there is no special divine plan for the nation of Israel. The boundaries of the Promised Land now encompass the entire earth, and soon all the kingdoms of this world will become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.

Not so, say the dispensational teachers. For them the future vision is made up of the Middle East, the nation of Israel, the land of Palestine, the coming Antichrist, a rebuilt temple, the battle of Armageddon, and so on. The event that will trigger it all is the Rapture, when the Church is “caught up” to heaven to be with Christ, spared from the season of trouble that will come on the whole world.

It is only within the entire dispensational system that the teaching of the “Rapture” makes any sense. In fact, you will not find any passage or text in the Bible that unambiguously teaches the pre-tribulation Rapture. It must be inferred from the whole theological package. The reasoning goes like this.

  • God made an eternal covenant with the nation of Israel.
  • As part of that covenant, Jesus came to offer himself to Israel as their King.
  • Israel rejected Jesus, so God set aside Israel for this age and formed the church, which he deals with during this parenthesis in God’s plan known as the Church Age.
  • God’s prophetic clock has stopped until the end of the Church Age, when the church will be removed from earth (via Rapture), and God will restart his plan for Israel.
  • God resumes his work with Israel during the Tribulation period and the prophetic clock starts ticking once more, leading to the Second Coming, the resurrection and the judgment, the millennial kingdom, the final judgment, and the new heavens and new earth.

Dispensationalism asserts that the reason for the Rapture is to bring the Church Age to its conclusion and make way for God to resume his plan for Israel. Deconstruct that reasoning and out goes the Rapture. Without that theological infrastructure, one would be hard pressed to find anything that looks like the Rapture in the teaching of the Bible.

The one passage that people most invoke as a description of the Rapture (“caught up”) is 1Thessalonians 4:13-17, which is Paul’s teaching about Christ’s return (parousia). I won’t take the time to discuss it in detail here, but refer you to an article by N.T. Wright and another piece that includes commentary by Ben Witherington III and others. Both give excellent explanations of the imagery Paul uses in this text. The Apostle is describing Jesus’ return using language from the culture that evoked the visit of a Roman official, something that has been recognized since the days of the early church. For example, here’s a quote from John Chrysostom (349-407) which gives the sense:

For when a king drives into a city, those who are honorable go out to meet him; but the condemned await the judge within. And upon the coming of an affectionate father, his children indeed, and those who are worthy to be his children, are taken out in a chariot, that they may see him and kiss him; but the housekeepers who have offended him remain within. (Homily 8 on 1 Thessalonians)”

As James-Michael Smith says, “Paul is not talking about the mass disappearance of Christians from all over the globe.  He is talking about the final return of Jesus as conquering King and Judge of the Living and Dead.  And he is doing so using the unmistakable vocabulary of Roman Imperial rhetoric, which his Thessalonian readers would’ve immediately recognized.” In other words, the text does not teach a “Rapture” in which the church is removed from the earth, but a triumphant return of a King coming to rule, who is welcomed by those who come out to greet and attend him as he enters his kingdom with acclaim.

There will be one Second Coming, one return, one glorious “appearing” of the Lord Jesus Christ when he comes to consummate his triumphant finished work. It’s time to leave behind puzzle piece theology and read the Bible more carefully as it is given to us, not as we dissect it and put it back together.

In doing so, we will leave teachings like the Rapture far behind.

Comments

  1. I’ll still use the term “rapture” ’cause of the whole “caught up to meet the Lord in the air” concept. But as I keep trying to inform my rapture-minded friends, the Lord isn’t taking us to heaven for seven years while the Antichrist runs amok. Christ is leading an invading army, and we’re just joining the ranks.

    Here’s the nutty thing. I’m a Pentecostal. We’re not Ryrie and Scofield-style Dispensationalists; not even close. (A fair number of us are still “Old Testament under Law, New Testament under grace” small-D dispensationalists, but that’s as far as we go.) We don’t divide history into seven systems of salvation. We don’t believe God needs to turn the miracles back on after the Rapture. In fact, the miracles in the Left Behind books are ridiculous, compared with Pentecostal experiences with true miracles. They’re so obviously written with Hollywood-style CGI adaptations in mind.

    Yet the LaHaye and Hagee timeline-based teachings are so common among us, it’s bonkers. They honestly don’t believe me when I try to explain how it all comes from a 19th-century belief system created to provide a “biblical” defense for cessationism, and a contrary theological position to the supernatural character of the Second Great Awakening.

    I’m pretty sure it’s because the Boomers all saw the Thief in the Night movies, and never investigated the End Times further. We get to escape the Great Tribulation? Glory hallelujah.

    Plus it fits so well with the right-wing worldview of a world falling apart, despite overwhelming evidence of less crime, less poverty, better living conditions, more freedom, and the like.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > They honestly don’t believe me when I try to explain how it all comes from a 19th-century
      > belief system created to provide a “biblical” defense for cessationism

      Ditto. I have never once seen in discussion/debate of this issue any movement at all. It is the kind of construct that cannot be effectively assailed using intellectual means. So much cultural heritage is wound up in it, it is under-girded by the very image of American-Good-Family-Sucess, the Chapham model of society as dirty and the good family as haven [I do not really accept it as “right wing”, there are lots of kinds of “right wing”, although it certainly overlaps with common American modes of “right wing”].

      People who fall out of it, at least all the ones I have known, fell out of it on their own. Mostly it seems by exhaustion or disillusionment, it seems to take that to illuminate the barreneness of that system.

      > timeline-based teachings are so common among us, it’s bonkers

      They are retained even by many who have dropped all other trappings of ‘religiosisty’. Standing next to an otherwise completely unfranchised secular person in a hotel lobby when news of some middle-east disaster comes on the TV, and hearing them make a matter-of-fact statement about the coming apocalypse…. it is a jarring [and revealing] experience. And something like that happens with uncomfortable regularity.

      I’m not sure what anyone can `do` about this nonsense; other than wait for it to burn out [and it seems it will suffer badly with the passing of the boomers].

    • You’re a Pentecostal and not a dispensationalist? You’ve broke the cardinal law to never question the truths about dispensational doctrine. Next you will be telling me tongues are not the initial sign of the baptism in the Holy Spirit! You are soon to find yourself in the deepest part of hell reserved only for heretical Pentecostals.

    • Can Pentecostalism exist without dispensationalism? Near as I can tell, nearly anything charismatic really relies on a “latter rain” understanding of the end times. It looks like it could only have existed post-Darby.

      • I think KW is right: it may actually be the complete inverse. I can see how dispensationalism may have grown in popularity as a counter-reaction to the spread of Pentecostalism. …and you’ll notice how dispensationalism only takes root in non-sacramental churches, because we already had a robust pneumatology that could compete.

        I could be wrong about Pentecostal doctrine, but I do believe they aren’t into any sort of “latter rain” justification, generally speaking, but rather, insist that the spiritual gifts, as they understand them, have been operating for 2000 years, even if they were largely neglected for many of them.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          …and you’ll notice how dispensationalism only takes root in non-sacramental churches, because we already had a robust pneumatology that could compete.

          By “non-sacramental churches”, you mean “Christian(TM) without any adjectives”?
          AKA the Nondenominational Denomination?
          AKA only the Real True Church as opposed to all those Apostate False Churches?
          AKA “Calvary Chapel or Fundamental Baptist with the labels painted over”?

          Because Disply, YEC, Wretched Urgency Witnessing, N Degrees of Separation, and Rapture End Time Prophecy seem to be near-universal in those Independent Splinter Churches.

      • The Latter Rain movement was the result of trying to reconcile early Pentecostalism with the popular Dispensationalist view. “No no; we’re still Dispensationalists; but this is a newly-revealed sub-dispensation of the Church Age, right before the End Times!” Which the Dispensationalists don’t buy, ’cause the canon closed after the Scofield Reference Bible was printed.

        Yeah, there are some of us who take the Latter Rain view. Mostly ’cause they grew up with it. But those of us who studied Christian history in college know God never turned off the miracles. Like Miguel said, they were just neglected. But not largely. Largely by various Protestant groups, but not so much the rest of Christendom. Catholics have always been big on miracles. But if you’re anti-Catholic (and unfortunately, some of us are), you’re not gonna be so happy with their testimony.

        • Neglected is one way of putting it. Only existing in heretical cults that had many perverted ideas that just so happened to have the gifts is another way of putting it.

          Forgive me, I’ve been burned badly by charismatics, and it’s a sensitive subject.

          • So you want to burn us back. I getcha.

            As much as I can apologize for them, I do. We have a lot of idiots in our movement, who don’t realize that the gifts of the Spirit, absent the fruit of the Spirit, is crap.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            “Stupidity is like hydrogen; it’s the basic building block of the Universe.”
            — Frank Zappa

    • “the supernatural character of the Second Great Awakening”

      Disagree on this part, as there wasn’t anything great about that second awakening. Rather lots of destruction in it’s wake…we’d have been better off without it.

      • Yes and no. Obviously the heirs of this revivalism see it as a grassroots explosion of their recently codified traditions, and to the extent that it introduced many to Christ, this is a good thing. I don’t think the numbers we get are very fair, many of the “converts” of this religion, like all mass events, were repeat converts, had a fairly strong Christian background anyways, or were poached from other Christian traditions. So the net spiritual gain? Some I’m sure, but impossible to know for certain.

        And generally speaking, what may have been gained is easily lost by the faith-destroying false teachings that Finney and the like propagated.

        • We should do a “Lost History” series on IM, connect some dots, offer some critical appraisal…

          Like Second Great Awakening leading to that weird cult in Maine that influenced the guy who influenced Simpson (?) who led Azuza Street that birthed pentecostalism…

          I’m forgetting the names but it’s a legit connection.

          • To say nothing of the various quasi-Christian cult movements that came out of places like the burned-over district during that time.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Back when Upstate New York was the Weird Religion capital of the US.

            Kind of like California is now.

    • I am coming to regard Revelation as being a failed prophecy. Nice description/example of how the early Christians read and understood the Old Testament and Christ, basically relevant exhortations for Christians today, but a failed prophecy nevertheless (at least re: Christ’s many-times-repeated-therein “I am coming soon”s). Hence its predictive value for future events past the 1st century should be taken with a grain of salt, if at all.

      • I’m not willing to regard Revelation as a lost prophecy, if properly understood, but 99% of interpretations definitely are.

        • Not lost… failed. In a sense “false” re: Christ’s “soon” return.

          • “lost” as in “failed”…lol, it takes several hours for the coffee to kick in for me. I swear I’ve had a pot of decaf…

      • And I regard the bulk of Revelation to be telling us what life is like in the here and now, not the far off or even near future. This comes from a couple schools of thought.

        One source, oddly, are the 19th and early 20th century commentators who took everything about the Beast of Revelation to be true of Roman Catholocism. The other was Darby/Scofieldism which was more general, but no less condemnatory of “false” Christianity (with the presumption that theirs was the “true” Christianity). What was interesting was that so many widely divergent interpretations fit with the Biblical prophecy. As I began to look at apocalypticism throughout Christian history, it is fairly clear that there never is a time in the history of western Christianity when Revelation wasn’t being “fulfilled” in the minds of contemporary writers.

        My initial impulse was to smugly assume that they all had it wrong, but our generation was finally the one to get it right. But then I asked myself the question, “But what if everyone up to this point also got it right, at least as far as they understood it?” Since then, I’ve come to the conclusion that the book of Revelation was not written for the “End Times Saints” but it was written for all of us in the here and now because we, in the here and now (wherever that here and now happens to be) are “End Times Saints.”

        If you look at Revelation as a stylized symbolic description of the enduring conflict between the forces of good and evil, it makes a lot more sense than just a future far-off book. It also has a cyclic structure that tells the same story over a number of different ways (anyone ever read Cloud Atlas?) emphasizing different points depending on the story.

        Try reading it that way and see where it gets you.

        rick

        • That makes sense, as Revelation was originally written to encourage the early church by opening up for them an eschatological understanding of their sufferings.

          I personally think it’s both/and. Revelation foretells the immediate turmoil to come in the church (the destruction of Jerusalem and surrounding events), it speaks to the church here and now in the midst of trials and persecutions, and it also prophecies the final return of Christ.

          Perhaps Christians in America, who broadly speaking live in great prosperity and experience very little persecution, have felt compelled to systematize and explain the book of Revelation as a step-by-step description of the end times because, outside of an immediate context of persecution and suffering, the text interpreted as prophecy of the present (rather than prophecy of the future) makes little sense to them.

  2. Maybe I’m wrong, but I have a suspicion that many otherwise theologically well-informed people simply accept the doctrine of a pre-tribulation rapture without any inkling of the dispensationalist theology surrounding it. It seems that the idea of the rapture has become so engrained in American evangelicalism (in non-reformed circles, that is) that people are unable to get rid of it even though they would probably be shocked if they realized its theological background and implications.

    • Jacob C says:

      Dispensationalism is so much of the landscape. It is almost a test of “orthodoxy” to believe all of the convoluted Rapture mess. What really galls me are the teachers who claim to read the Bible “literally” all the while they are making up numerology tricks to twist verses to predict the future. I have tried to discuss it with people – most people who were brought up on dispensationalism have a hard time imagining you believe in the Second Coming or if you are a Christian if you reject the dispensationalist system. They might be aware that some churches don’t teach about the Rapture, but all that means to them is those churches don’t believe the Bible and those people aren’t “saved.”

      Have you ever tried to discuss hermeneutics or how the early Christians would have read Revelation (not that I’m an expert – I’m not). You are are having a nice discussion with a dispensationalist. You are talking about how to interpret the Old Testament in light of the New, and exegesis vs. eisegesis. Your victim is bored with that – he is thinking about some “Bible code” book he just read and he asks you if the war in East Plodova is a sign of the Antichrist. You say that to the best of your knowledge, East Plodova is not in the Bible. Your friend, now exasperated, asks how you can be a Christian if you don’t believe in the Second Coming. The discussion deteriorates from there…

      • Tell me about it! I have been a victim of that argument, making the “rapture” a test of orthodoxy. It permeates that movie “A Thief in the Night,” who has a villain, a liberal pastor, who denies the Rapture and the Virgin Birth of Christ in the same breath, as to deny one is to deny the other. I knew somebody who found out that I had read my Bible, and now no longer believed the secret rapture doctrine, and told his friends “He doesn’t believe in the RAPTURE!” in the same tone of voice as one who denied the Trinity or some important doctrine.

        I was cornered by these two, they were trying to set me straight, and I was caught by the irrelevancy of their arguments. If they believed half of what they were saying, they wouldn’t be wasting their time trying to ‘set me straight,’ they would be out evangelizing like there was no tomorrow, as the rapture could happen any minute!

        Anyway, one person comments that the secret rapture doctrine is so secret, it was totally unknown before the 19th century! The same century that saw the rise of several cults and aberrant movements.

        A good book, though out of print now, is “Backgrounds to Dispensationalism” by Clarence Bass. It gives the background of this movement, and it isn’t pretty.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Anyway, one person comments that the secret rapture doctrine is so secret, it was totally unknown before the 19th century!

          Yet when I pointed that out on a Yahoogroup (including how many of the details came from a young girl’s visions that sounded like Trance Channelling), I got turned into a pile of rocks.

          The same century that saw the rise of several cults and aberrant movements.

          The Spiritualists, the Mormons, the Seventh-day Adventists, the Koreshians (The World Is Hollow And We Live On The Inside)…

          And those are just the groups that survived to the present; how many of them died out a couple years after their founding? (Or after their Founding Prophet died?)

        • “Anyway, one person comments that the secret rapture doctrine is so secret, it was totally unknown before the 19th century! The same century that saw the rise of several cults and aberrant movements.”

          Don’t ever bring history into a theological argument, lol. Things start to unravel fast. And if you start tracing those cults and aberrant movements to where they are at today…well, you’ll be stepping on toes and insulting people’s childhoods and grandparents and traditions and whatnot.

          Maybe in two hundred years it’ll be ok to critique, lol.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Don’t ever bring history into a theological argument, lol. Things start to unravel fast.

            Because these One True Way splinter churches have the same concept of church history as the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses:
            1) The New Testament as a mythological Time of the Apostles, completely divorced from everything else. The Perfect Golden Age of mythology.
            2) And this Perfect New Testament Church went off the rails into Total Apostasy and Romish Popery somewhere between the death of the last Real Apostle and Constantine.
            3) And all was Apostate False Church — until Our Founder was led by God to bring the Church back to what it had been originally. Because SCRIPTURE!
            4) Whether Our Founder is Joseph Smith, Charles Taze Russel, Ellen G White, John Nelson Darby, Scofield, Finney, Mahaney, Gothard, Driscoll, or Reverend Apostle Joe Soap.
            5) Sun Myung Moon is also on this spectrum, though kind of off the high end.

        • Marc, your book is available online, new and used, in the $20 range. When I looked it up the subtitle caught my eye as: “Its Historical Genesis and Ecclesiastical Imp.” Wow, I thought, there’s a new and direct approach. Turns out that the church imp was short for implications. I still like the idea.

          In harmony with others, I came to find the movement to be based on fear and escapism, perhaps a good definition of antichristian.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Anyway, one person comments that the secret rapture doctrine is so secret, it was totally unknown before the 19th century!

          Isn’t the Greek for “secret” or “hidden” “OCCULT”?

          As in THE OCCULT = hidden magical/spiritual knowledge/ability only for a select few in the know?

          As in GNOSTIC = “He Who KNOWS Things” (especially secret/occult magical/spiritual things)?

          And ILLUMINATI as the Inner Ring of Those Who KNOW These Things?

      • ” most people who were brought up on dispensationalism have a hard time imagining you believe in the Second Coming or if you are a Christian if you reject the dispensationalist system”

        Yup, I’ve run into this a lot. People get angry too.

        • Rick Ro. says:

          Yep. Same as “you don’t speak in tongues” or “you don’t believe in full water immersion baptisms” or “you don’t believe whatever man-made theological doctrine that I believe is TRUTH”.

          Save us, Jesus…

  3. Faulty O-Ring says:

    Really, the only difference between this and Time Cube is the number of believers.

    The Nicholas Cage movie might still be amusing, though. (I prefer the first Omen.)

  4. K.W., Jacob –

    Between Hal Lindsey, the Scofield (and MacArthur) Study Bibles, and the Left Behind book deluge, it’s hard to find any church – at least, any church that does not repeatedly and explicitly refute the Rapture from the pulpit – where a sizable percentage of the laity (if not a majority) don’t take it as a given. Non-denominational, Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist – I’ve seen it all over the place. And it fits the American “easy way out” cultural bias like a glove…

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      It is quite easy to find such a church – the Catholic church has built a lot of them, you won’t find much – if any – rapture there.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Until I got into the Post-Evangelical Wilderness, I didn’t hear anything except Rapture, Rapture, Rapture, Antichrist, Antichrist, Antichrist, DON’T TAKE THE MARK! Same with Altar Calls and YEC/Flood Geology. NOTHING ELSE EXISTED.

      I lost 10-15 years of my life to The Gospel According to Hal Lindsay (AKA Pin-the-Tail-on-The-Antichrist).

      “A lot of Christians are more interested in The Antichrist than they are in Christ.”
      — J Vernon Magee

      • I remember once when a coworker asked me if 8’d read a particular Hal Lindsay book…can’t remember which…it WAS a long time ago…in the late 70’s or very early 80’s. I replied that I didn’t read “science fiction!” missing the irony, he said, “This isn’t Science fiction, this is about what’s going to happen in the end of the world.” I repeated, Like I said, I don’t read “science fiction”. He sais…”No, No…this is all about “the rapture “….to which I replied “well, I don’t believe in any “RUPTURE”. the conversation deteriorated from there, and was soon abandoned….he found it incomprehensible that a “fellow believer” could hold a different view than what he had been taught!

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          I know the drill:
          “It isn’t HEATHEN Sci-Fi, It’s HISTORY WRITTEN IN ADVANCE! BY GOD HIMSELF!”

          • Yup! Sadly, he never grasped my deliberate choice of words…ie; science fiction, RUPTURE, etc, or what I was really inferring regarding his interpretations. When ANY of us are challenged in any aspect of out belief system, it takes a long time, and painful honesty,
            And, yes, courage….to alter what we’ve formerly believed to be true.

      • Rick Ro. says:

        That J. Vernon Magee quote is a keeper. Thanks for that, HUG.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      I wouldn’t be shocked to discover that some of this has leaked into some Lutheran churches. The big Lutheran church in my town doesn’t allow alcohol at church functions (presumably except for Communion, but I’m not absolutely sure of this). This tells me that they have pretty much gone off the rails, so far as Biblical Christianity is concerned. I would be shocked to hear the Rapture being preached there, but not to find that some, perhaps many, members tacitly accept the doctrine.

      That being said, I have never actually heard such a discussion in a Lutheran church. To the extent that the Rapture is mentioned at all, it is likely to be treated humorously, as in “Does anyone know where Fred is?” “Maybe he’s in the bathroom, or Raptured.”

      • Robert F says:

        In the Episcopal and Lutheran churches where I’ve spent most of my adult churchgoing time, I’ve never heard a discussion about the Rapture among the laity, nor have I heard it brought up in the context of studies or forums. I’ve never found much End Times literature in the libraries either, and those are usually overseen by laity.

        • Cedric Klein says:

          Ironically, while I had seen the first three Thief In The Night movies in different evangelical churches, I only saw the full series in the early 1980’s in the local Episcopal Church back when it hosted the interchurch Charismatic group. Of course, over the past 30 years, most of the charismatics & evangelicals in that Episcopal Church have been long gone, and it would probably never get a showing there today.

  5. “Rapture” is what I experience when the Giants win the World Series. ;)

    • Then Chaplain Mike will need to find an even better word when the Cubs finally win. Maybe whatever “Rapture” is in the original NT Greek…

    • Packer fans have a similar experience when we win the Superbowl. It’s like the Year of Jubilee.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        Excuse me? The Packers have won thirteen NFL championships: more than any other franchise. Even if we restrict the discussion to the Superbowl era, their four victories puts them tied for fourth place, behind the Steelers, Cowboys, and 49ers. Sorry, but you lack standing to claim the “perennial loser” position..

  6. T.S.Gay says:

    What does it mean for the bride of Christ to make herself ready? I went to a local meeting to hear Zola Levitt talk about the preparation of a Jewish woman for marriage, but honestly didn’t get much from it. I can’t help but believe that she will do so, and be given fine linen to wear on that day. All before the supper, that I also can’t help but believe will be a reality( with the shock of who participates). But in the aftermath today of so much
    not by works, I wish someone would talk about the church making herself ready- I mean it implies some work to be done. And what work compared to what has been up until now?

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      Yep. However the Grace-vs-Law drummers will do their best to drown out any substantive conversation. Sad, really. Because Works are not burdensome, they are beautiful. Art is Works, Love is Works, Charity is Works, Kindness is Works. A religion without works is a bunch of people hanging out together until they get bored with not doing anything.

      > And what work compared to what has been up until now?

      Yes, and no. The Church has done many many brave and beautiful things, and continues to do so.

      • works of love (what the orthodox call synergy) are not the same as works of the law. luther conflated the two. even before i was orthodox, it drove me nuts to have discussions about works since more than one complex idea was wrapped up in one simple word. it also leads to anti-nomainism.

        great quote adam: A religion without works is a bunch of people hanging out together until they get bored with not doing anything.

        • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

          A great deal of Lutherans would disagree with you very strongly. Only someone who has not read Luther’s catechism could say that, honestly.

  7. “And He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His Kingdom will have no end”
    – Nicene Creed

    This clause was inserted to rebuke chilism, the belief that Christ would set up His kingdom for a literal thousand years. The universal witness of Early Church seems to have taken issue with dispensationalism and thought it important enough to speak out again it.

    • yes! when i have told my evangelical friends this, they are stunned! even ones who don’t believe in the rapture/tribulation/etc

    • Of course, that Niceno-Constantinopolitan clause conflicts with 1 Corinthians 15:25-28. I believe the authors were aware of that, but chose to include it anyway to combat Arianism, I believe.

      • Dana Ames says:

        It doesn’t conflict if taken with the preceding clause – “He ascended into the heavens and sits at the right hand of the Father” – with its implication that he is already reigning.

        Dana

        • It conflicts with the idea that his reign will indeed come to an end at some point.

          • Dana Ames says:

            “…and his kingdom shall have no end.”

            It’s all of a piece. Christ came into his Kingdom on the cross and by means of conquering death through the Resurrection. He is reigning now, and will continue to do so forever. As a Protestant, I never believed that Christ’s kingdom would “come to an end at some point.” I did think it might be “hidden” for a time, but it was always there, to be revealed in its fullness at his second coming. And I hung out with Dispensationalists for a few years, trusting that people who studied the bible so much had to understand it better than I did… I was young and impressionable (gullible)… and after a few years I began to see how illogical and convoluted Disp’ism is, and ill-equipped to help me follow Christ in my everyday life. I was out of it before my mid-20s.

            I know some don’t apprehend the implications of the Ascension, but the line that connects Incarnation with Announcement of the Kingdom, Cross/Resurrection, Ascension, Sending of the Spirit and eventual return is something I came to understand some time before I entered EO. (Thank you D. Willard and N.T. Wright.)

            Dana

          • flatrocker says:

            But EricW,
            Read the text in its fullness to the end. If we embrace the non-modal Trinity, Jesus will be made subject to Himself. What has ended is integral to what is begun. The end is in unison with the beginning and its harmony transcends time. The reign is the same reign and it shall have no end.

            Oh just great – another one of those mysteries that confounds the linearity of time.

            Unless of course you’re a modalist or a Jehovah Witness. Then it’s so much less confounding that way.
            .

          • Hard to imagine Christ’s reign coming to an end.

            1 Cor 15:25:28 talks about Christ’s submission of the entire world before the Father and the cessation of His redemptive activity, as all of His enemies will have been put down and creation fully redeemed. This is Christ’s own work, which He assumed at His incarnation. This passage is not about Christ’s reign coming to an end, or the Kingdom (the Church) ceasing.

          • The examples in BDAG (below) of the Greek construction suggest to me it means that Christ will reign until – but then His reign will end. It seems anachronistic to me to bring up issues of modalism vs. trinitarianism re: this passage.
            Ac 7:18; Lk 21:24; Ro 11:25; 1 Cor 11:26; 15:25; Gal 3:19; Gal 3:19 v.l.; Rv 2:25.;Hb 3:13.
            So I think there remains a conflict between the Creed and this verse.

          • These commentators, too, seem to view it as denoting the end of the Son’s reign. To the extent that Christ’s Kingdom is God’s Kingdom, there will of course be no end to it, as the Creed states (and see Isaiah 9:6-7). But ISTM that 1 Cor 15.28 is saying that it will be God the Father ruling, not the Son, and hence it will be God’s Kingdom, not the Son’s Kingdom, which is somewhat contra the Creed (again, likely or possibly added due to trying to counter Arianism).

            (Greek characters/words removed) Conzelmann: 28* Paul makes a rhetorical play on “to subject.” During the messianic age (the present) Christ accordingly exercises the sovereignty of God in a specific area. When this commission has been fulfilled (“then,” in an emphatic position) God once more rules alone and directly; for then there is no more struggle, but only pure sovereignty. Remarkable, and in Paul unique, is the emphatic, absolute use of “the Son” (Mk 13:32*; Mt 11:27*; John passim); is this an aftereffect of the phrase “to God the Father”? “that,” denotes, as often in the New Testament, the attained end. The final standing of God is defined in a phrase which in itself has a mystic sound: “all in all.”112 Paul knows and uses phrases of this kind also elsewhere;113 in his context, however, the sense is no longer mystic. He does not say that God and the All (and there-with also the believers) are identical, but that God once more directly exercises his total sovereignty.114 Here it makes little difference whether “in all,” is understood as neuter (which is more in keeping with what we must suppose to be the language of a formula) or masculine. The neuter is to be preferred from the very fact of the preceding….

            Calvin (1960: 327) comments, “Of course we acknowledge that God is the Ruler, but His rule is actualized in the man Christ. But Christ will then hand back the Kingdom which He has received, so that we may cleave completely to God.”

            Barrett: The Son has been entrusted with a mission on behalf of his Father, whose sovereignty has been challenged, and at least to some extent usurped by rebellious powers. It is for him to reclaim this sovereignty by overcoming the powers, overthrowing his enemies, and recovering the submission of creation as a whole. This mission he will in due course execute, death being the last adversary to hold out, and when it is completed he will hand the government of the universe back to his Father…. It is not the absorption of Christ and mankind, with consequent loss of distinct being, into God; but rather the unchallenged reign of God alone, in his pure goodness.

            It may all be semantics… or maybe not.

          • flatrocker says:

            And Jesus retires to a nice place in the country, enjoying a good game of backgammon on the front porch. And every once in a while, in the cool and quiet of the late evening, he whistfully recalls how people used to stop by and visit :)

    • I’d be interested to know what people think of the rapture question from a hymnology study, of pre-20th century hymns.

      I grew up in an old-fashioned congregational church and never heard about the rapture until I was in my 20s, already a believer, and only then did I get hooked on Hal Lindsay and others.

      The hymn “It Is Well With My Soul,” for example, says, “The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend.” That’s exciting enough without millions disappearing. But the hymn was written when most were still post-millennialists whether they knew it or not.

      Here’s a blog piece I wrote a couple of years ago:
      http://fromoffshore.wordpress.com/2012/07/22/it-is-well-with-my-soul/

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I grew up in an old-fashioned congregational church and never heard about the rapture until I was in my 20s, already a believer, and only then did I get hooked on Hal Lindsay and others.

        I grew up completely outside any church (raised an agnostic/atheist kid genius by non-practicing parents) and got introduced by a one-two-three punch of Jack Chick’s “This Was Your Life”, Jack Chick’s “The Beast”, and Hal Lindsay’s “Late Great Planet Earth”. Never mind the Garner Ted Armstrong’s “Plain Truth” at the local library and JWs shoving “Watchtowers” under our door.

        “What a long strange trip it’s been…”
        — The Grateful Dead

  8. There is NO work to be done…where God is concerned. For the relationship with God to be intact. That God may find us acceptable.

    Now…where are neighbors are concerned, there is plenty of work to be done.

    The only people that I saw hanging out together doing nothing were the “Occupy…” people.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Then you either came after the Seventies, were in another part of the country where there were no “Real True Christians”, or dodged the blaster bolts like Threepio in the boarding scene in the original Star Wars.

      Actually, they weren’t “hanging out doing nothing” so much as sealing themselves off from “The World” to avoid contamination that might cause them to be Left Behind, going out only for “Soul-Winning” prosletyzing sallies to get some more Souls (not people) into the Rapture lifeboat. And like intense fanboys everywhere, jobs and lives would get in the way of Saving Souls. No time or energy into anything other than Devotions, Prayer, and Soul-Winning because It’s All Gonna Burn(TM).

      And when The World Ends Tomorrow and It’s All Gonna Burn, don’t expect anyone to make future plans or dare great things. “It’s All Gonna Burn — any minute now… any minute now… any minute now…”

      And on the REAL extreme fringe, you get the Rapture Ready attitude of this one commenter who got banned from IMonk many years ago: “And I will be laughing as the world burns.”

      This has all been hashed out before at IMonk. Here’s one of the best essays on the subject:
      http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/thoughts-on-hell-house-an-evangelicalism-eager-to-leave

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Comment of mine from that Hell House thread:

        Armageddon is not a spectator sport, with catered box seats for the season ticket-holders. The prophets called it “That Great and TERRIBLE Day.” If any of these glib End Time Prophecy types actually HAD a genuine vision of The End, I doubt they’d be grinning with glee — more likely they’d go silent with their hand over their mouth like Job and his know-it-all counselors.

    • there is plenty of work to be done, steve. if one does not pray, attend services, and maintain union with God via the sacraments, God will not remain with him. salvation is a life time of struggle against the passions and maintaining a union with God, not a magic prayer.

      i don’t know if you’re married or not, but would there be a warm relationship between a husband and wife if both parties did not work at it?

      works of the law and works of love are vastly different things. the reformation missed that.

      • Jesus and Paul missed it too: Mt 22:37-40, Mk 12:31, Rm 13:8-10, Gal 5:14.

      • But FWIW, the vast majority of my Evangelical friends would have absolutely no problem with what you just said. So in many respects, the Reformation is over. Only they don’t have sacraments, so they are only worse off than before.

      • Mr S….thank you for an eloquent definition of a “works-based salvation”.
        Every single aspect described, in which your ‘salvation’ depends…is based on your OWN efforts.

        As to ‘marriage’, well, I’ve been married….sometimes during happier times…and sometimes less so….BUT your analogy breaks down right there. WHAT marriage would have a “warm relationship”…IF the husband constantly reiterated that any of a thousand infractions would, barring true “repentance, penance, and reparations”….result in divorce….not just temporal…but ETERNAL?

        Can you please tell me just which “works of love” are NOT “works of the law”.

        • Faith includes works. Faith is not mental agreement: that is a modern redefinition of faith. There is no such thing as faith without works.

        • Miguel, you are proving my point elsewhere — works of love and works of the law are not the same. Luthier conflated works of the Jewish law with works of love and obedience. It was the very reason he hated James so much.

          • The Lutheran understanding of faith and works is not really the same as the attitude I think you are trying to criticize. Lutherans believe that justification is by grace, through faith, and that works do not contribute to justification at all. However, Lutherans do teach that good works are necessary. There is an important distinction to be made between the statements, “good works are necessary for salvation” and simply, “good works are necessary.” Lutherans affirm the latter but not the former. This is because, although we confess that justification in no way depends upon human works or effort of any kind, we also understand faith, by its very nature, as being something that produces works. Sanctification is distinct from justification but not entirely divorced from it, for sanctification is the fruit of justification.

          • Lutherans today, who maintain that distinction, have absolutely no trouble with the epistle of James. I don’t see how I’m illustrating your point at all: Jesus and Paul clearly said that love is the fulfillment of the law, and to love your neighbor as yourself is the summary of the law. Of course, when we say law, we are referring more closely to eternal moral principles more than ceremonial observances. Rightly distinguishing between what is right and wrong is the domain of this law. Love is always right. The good works of faith are none other than the selfless love shown to neighbor that Christ modeled. This fulfills the law.

          • If one has to be told to ‘do a work’, then it is wrecked before it starts. Although, it may be of benefit to the one receiving it.

            “We did this, that and the other thing in your name Lord”

            “Get lost…I don’t even know who you are.”

  9. There were two things that changed my mind about dispensationalism: 1.) Kim Riddlebarger’s lecture series on Amillenialism which was like an exegetical 2×4 which he used to smash the dispensational model to splinters, and 2.) the realization that believers don’t escape suffering in this world. I came to the conclusion that the idea of a “Rapture” is just escapism and not Biblical belief.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      What Hal Lindsay did was slap a Christianese coat of paint on the Cold War pessimism of Inevitable Global Thermonuclear War (It’s All Over But the Screaming) and add a miraculous Escape Route. It’s All Over but the Screaming, but Say the Magic Words (and Really Really Mean Them) and God will beam you up before anything bad can personally happen to you. Any minute now… Any minute now… Any minute now…

      • As extreme as this caricature may sound to those who didn’t live through it, it is nonetheless very accurate. Scary to think, but you just don’t see it when you’re caught up in it. Once you get away, you begin to wonder how you could have been such a sucker.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          You can tell what a culture’s BIG worries are by looking at their Dystopias and Armageddon scenarios.

          Nuclear War, Communist Takeover, Right-wing Takeover, Ozone Hole, Religious Dictatorship Takeover, AIDS Pandemic, Global Warming…

  10. David Cornwell says:

    What Eeyore says up above “American “easy way out” cultural bias like a glove…” is very true. We have pop theology in this country that is held together by simplistic, yet fantastic theories, sentimentalism, a heaven that is “up there” somewhere, civil religion that extols American exceptionalism, entertaining worship, the profit motif, and McDonaldized churches.

    The churches have failed to teach truth with real meat to its people. We have substituted junk theology, pablum intellectual fare, and political arm waving for the real thing. Of course, like anything else, this is a generalization with many exceptions.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I’ve been following Slacktivist’s page-by-page analysis/snark of Left Behind for some years (I think he’s up to Volume 3 of 22). And RubyTea over at Heathen Critique has been doing the same with Christianese best-sellers and Christploitation movies (including some real doozies and train wrecks) for a while.

      And a couple years ago, after a Slacktivist thread about LB and fanservice, I had a epiphany:

      Left Behind and Atlas Shrugged are the same story, just pitched to different audience with different fanservice. Atlas Shrugged is Left Behind for Brights; Left Behind is Atlas Shrugged for Born-Agains. To wit:

      1) Initial Situation — Persecution of the Righteous (i.e. Those Just Like You, Dear Reader)

      The Righteous (Those Just Like You, Dear Reader, whether Producers or Born-Agains) are outnumbered and oppressed by the Unrighteous (whether Moochers or Heathens). Even though the Righteous are those which actually make things go. (Producing all the stuff the Moochers mooch or being the Remnant whose existence holds off God’s Wrath.) And the Unrighteous are just parasites on the Righteous’s Righteousness while oppressing the Righteous (Just like they do to You, Dear Reader).

      2) Escape Fantasy (Rapture)

      A Messiah figure (Christ or John Galt) spirits away the Righteous (Those Just Like You, Dear Reader) to a hidden safe Paradist (Heaven or Galt’s Gulch) where they can wait out the coming Armageddon in safety and comfort.

      3) Revenge Fantasy (Armageddon)

      Without the Righteous (Those Just Like You, Dear Reader), the world and everything in it melts down into destruction. Whether there are no more Producers for the Moochers to leech from (what happens to Parasites when there are no Hosts left?), or now that the Righteous (Those Just Like You, Dear Reader) are Raptured away there’s nothing stopping God from opening a can of whoop-ass on the Unrighteous who are Left Behind. While the Righteous watch from their safe refuge (As You Will, Dear Reader).

      4) End Situation — Exaltation of the Righteous

      Once the Unrighteous have been taken down never to rise again, the Messiah figure returns from his hidden refuge taking the Righteous (Those Just Like You, Dear Reader) to inherit the world which should have been theirs in the first place. And Everything is Perfect. Fade to black.

      • Christploitation!

        I’m going to go down the internet rabbit hole, aren’t i.

        Did anyone else see Something Awful’s 4 part “The End of God” (?) series they used to have before they took it down? The trailer is still up I believe. Excellent series of just clips from Christploitation and other church films, no need to edit, no need to manipulate, the material on it’s own is just utter silliness.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          I didn’t coin the term. Some Bad Movie site did, describing the Christian movies of a certain preacher named Estus Pirkle (filmed by somebody they called “The Ed Wood of Christploitaiton flicks”):
          * The Believer’s Heaven (complete with singing midgets)
          * The Burning Hell
          * If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horsemen Do?

        • Correction – Everything is Terrible, NOT Something Awful. Two totally different if overlapping things.

      • So this means Bioshock takes place in heaven?

      • Cedric Klein says:

        Actually when I read Atlas Shrugged in the early 1980s, after spending my teen years immersed in Hal Lindsey’s books, I realized the same thing & wondered if Ayn had any exposure at all to Rapturist theology. Unlikely but not impossible, say if she decided to amuse herself during her Hollywood years by going to see Aimee Semple MacPherson in action.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          I see it as a similar Apocalyptic scenario pitched to different audiences.

  11. If this movie is correct (I watched the whole thing when it was briefly available for free online) that the SDA church is the fastest-growing denomination in the U.S., then the numbers of people craving and adopting a legalistic, end-times-prophecy-return-of-Christ mindset (dispensationalism on steroids, judging by their flyers for their end-times conferences) will not be diminishing any time soon:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03hVnSH65v4

    FYI, it was while watching this movie and seeing the sequence where the stadium speaker was discussing the distinctives and mission of SDAists that I again began to seriously doubt the conventional Evangelical belief in the return/second-coming of Christ.

    • Are you sure that is just an “Evangelical” belief? I’m pretty sure that is a universal belief of all Trinitarian Christianity.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I read an SDA End Time Prophecy book (title “What Jesus Said”) in my teens. The SDA has a completely-different End Times Choreography than the Rapture Ready crowd, but the same view of church history and using the same proof texts.

        All I can say about the SDA End Times checklist is it’s unique. You can’t mistake it for anyone else’s.

      • IIRC, he was emphasizing the “soon-coming return of Jesus Christ.” Which is why they’re called “Adventists,” of course. And I realized (again) that I do not believe Jesus is returning anytime soon – certainly not in the “He could come any day now!” sense that the SDA speaker and Rapturists act and talk and teach like they believe.

        I realized when he said it that if you were to ask me when Jesus is coming back, I’d probably answer: “Possibly never. Certainly not today, and probably not in your or my lifetime, or for a long time afterwards.”

        • As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter whether Jesus could return any day now, ’cause I could just as easily die at any time, and the net result as far as I’m concerned would be about the same. Always be ready, never freak out.

          I’d be interested in knowing how you can be so certain that any particular day is not a possibility. I suppose if “no man knows the hour or the day,” then it is safe to say that so long as somebody is predicting a particular date, it won’t be on that day. Of course, then the silly corollary to that would be that the best way to guarantee Jesus will never come back is to predict it every day.

          • I cannot of course be certain, but the longer He delays and the more I read (including the Scriptures) and learn, I become more convinced that His coming is not happening anytime soon. So rather than feeling that The Day approaches with each passing day, each passing day seems to push That Day even further into the future.

  12. About a year before first believing in Christ someone handed me a copy of Hal Lindsey’s “the Late, Great Planet Earth.” I read it with great enthusiasm and seriously pondered if it could be true that Christ’s return (to “rapture” the church) was imminent. And although at the time I did not care much for “preachy protestants,” it got me to thinkin’

    So, a year later, late 1974, I knew Jesus as I had not known Him before. I consider this to be my conversion experience. I joined an association of churches rooted in the Plymouth Brethren. In case you’re not familiar with the BP, this was the movement that John Darby started in the early part of the 19th century and, not surprisingly, highly–no, make that “exclusively”–dispensationalist.

    In 1981 I poured all of my savings into purchasing A/V equipment to promote the gospel (or my narrow view of it back then, at any rate) by way of promoting the rapture and the coming tribulation. The equipment included two slide projectors, a digital dissolve unit (bet most of you have no idea what that is), mounting rack, TEAC 4-channel reel-to-reel tape recorder, dbx noise reduction unit (ibid), mixer, amplifier, screen, and so on. I used to buy slide film in 100′ rolls and developed it myself (E6, not Kodachrome). I also gathered slides from local TV news sources, primarily those having to do with the issues in the Middle East. I mention all this to let you know how serious I was about promoting this stuff.

    The show, called “Birth Pains” (taken from 1 Thessalonians 5.3), lasted for about 45 minutes and included some Christian rock music (e.g., “Eve of Destruction” by Barry McGuire–the one he performed later after he became a Christian artist, not the original one he sang with the New Christy Minstrels).

    My “rationale” for why the rapture was near was taken primarily from Matthew 24.7 and Luke 21.10-11 to include:

    1. nation will rise against nation,
    2. kingdom against kingdom,
    3. famines,
    4. earthquakes.
    5. plagues,
    6. terrors, and
    7. great signs from heaven.

    For each of those seven “signs” I showed slides from news sources (e.g., AP, UPI) to “prove” once and for all that the end was near and would enfold exactly as the Bible said it would. And, oh yeah, I was so pleased with myself that the number of “signs” came up to seven; it just added to the veracity of it all!

    Well, it was a good show, very entertaining (if I say so myself), and I even got a couple of “decisions for Christ” from it. But then I got tired of it, dropped it, mostly having lost interest in the subject. And in time I came to considered the whole notion of dispensationalism to be bad theology/eschatology and outright nonsense.

    But not so with most Evangelicals. Dispensationalism is not just some eschatolological perspective to many on equal par with preterism and historicism, they consider it to be joined to the gospel as though the rapture and the cross were conjoined twins. And yes, I blame myself for contributing to that.

    In 2010 one of my co-pastors taught that he no longer believed in dispensationalism and now favored preterism/amillennialism. The upshot was that another one of our co-pastors left along with 25% of our congregation, some even denouncing us heretics and anti-Semites.

    And that’s when it dawned on me that there are serious issues with Evangelicalism that need to be addressed. You might say that it was about this time four years go that I ventured out into the wilderness for the first time.

    • Raises a question…is a “I just want to avoid the Tribulation” conversion valid?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Valid or not, it was REAL common in the days of “Scare ‘Em Into The Kingdom” End Time Prophecy preaching.

      • Whether it is valid, it certainly is silly. I don’t see how the tribulation could be more scary than hell.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Well, some of these guys had a version of Heaven that was just as scary. As in tossup over whether Heaven or Hell is worse. (This was NOT a selling point.)

    • The late 70s/80s really did a number on the church, didn’t it. Churches were slow to adapt the internet, but that VHS boom was something.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Thanks for sharing your story, CC. Interesting to hear a viewpoint from one so steeped in it at one time.

    • Wow. What a story! I’m sure the church split was painful at the time.

      • The most painful part was seeing people you had known, loved and ministered to for years, whose children you saw grow up from infants in some cases, just leave and think of you as a Jew-hating heretic.

        And here’s a common denominator I noticed… The less people know about the foundations of the Christian faith the more likely they are to think that dispensationalism (or whatever the “ism” is) is a central doctrine of the faith. Some of these folks would tolerate someone denying the Trinity but not the tribulation, or perhaps minimizing the resurrection, but not the rapture.

        Sad.

        • Anti-Semite? Jew-hating heretic?

          Why?

          Because you believe that there is one way for both Jews and Gentiles?
          Because you believe in the New Covenant, not the New/Old Covenant?
          Because you believe in Paul’s Gospel as he explains in Galatians?
          Because you read and study the Bible and church history?

          smh

  13. I’m still recovering from the first Left Behind and Kirk Cameron’s acting! I can’t believe we watched in a Cru Bible study group. (Eagle shakes and shivers….)

    I wonder if seeing Nicholas Cage’s acting in this is going to cause me to review movies like National Treasure and The Rock (though any movie with Sean Connery is always a plus!)

    We’ll see!

    Hope you had a good vacation CM, and are rested and refreshed!

    • Eagle! Good to see you again. Loved your post on Wartburg Watch, looking forward to the rest!

    • Randy Thompson says:

      I suspect “Left Behind” will make as much sense as “National Treasure.”

      • At least “National Treasure” was intended to be fiction.

      • Why not combine the two? Cage and his team of investigators — including an aged Bible scholar, a beauriful young skeptic (who gets converted during the course of the film), and a former Navy Seal with a “Kill’em all, let God sort them out” T-shirt — uncover the “original” Scoffield Bible with special notes and clues in the margins. They then use this Bible as a kind of map to guide them to the Seven Seals — basically seven lost relics from Christian antiquity — with each discovery bringing about the disasters prophesied in Revelations. All the while, they’re being chased by agents of the AntiChrist, who seek to keep the seals from being “opened.”
        Of course, all this would have to be set “after” the Rapture — cause everyone knows Jesus doesn’t start opening the seals until He’s already beamed His church up to safety.

        • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

          I would totally watch that movie. Better yet, maybe that can be the next Indiana Jones plot…

      • Faulty O-Ring says:

        Cage, like Brendan Fraser, makes something like two films a year, rain or shine. As a rule, their films are mediocre, low-aiming fare. By now both men must have become reconciled to this, and are just in it for the money.

        • Rick Ro. says:

          At one time, I think both actors were “good”, but yes…now they both appear to be “schlepping it.”

          • It’s a cry for help, really.

          • When you’re starring opposite Sean Connery you’re doing well. Cage has gone downhill….this rapture movie proves it. I just wish rapture theology would disappear.

            It’s lazy theology. Why focus on loving and sserving others; or dealing with personal issues if you believe you’re going to be zapped and fly a way? (Rolls eyes)

        • A few weeks ago, my 20-something son showed me a YouTube compilation video of movie scenes where Nicholas Cage is WAY over-emoting. It was one of the funniest things I’d watched in some time. I am sure we can look forward to much more of this in the LB film. Just search on “Nicholas Cage screaming” or something like that on YouTube and you’ll find it.

          • Cedric Klein says:

            Even tho I did like Ghost Rider (haven’t seen GR II), I’m still having trouble forgiving Cage for his defiling of The Wicker Man.

  14. Randy Thompson says:

    Hal Lindsey’s second coming speculations and the theology behind it provoked the first theological thinking I ever did when I was young. Having heard him speak at a conference a year or two before his book came out, .I was intrigued by the whole package, which was new to me at the time. Having hard Lindsey’s spiel, I got out my Bible and went looking for it, and couldn’t find anything close to what he taught. I was then advised that I needed to consult a more scholarly opinion, so I picked up a book by Dwight Pentecost and read it. Again, I could find nothing clearly stated in Scripture that confirmed what he said. I came to see that this dispensational speculation was just that, a cut-and-paste job that used Bible passages out of context and strung them together in a deceptively convincing manner.

    In an odd way, dispenational theology is done in much the same way as Roman Catholic theology. Dispensationalism is a human tradition that informs how one must read the Bible. Catholics have done a lot of thinking about the place and role of tradition. Dispensationalists have not, because they deny there’s any place for it, even though their theology is just that, a human tradition.

    Because this is folk religion, without much historical consciousness, it will have a long shelf-life. Each new fundamentalist generation will continue to think it’s the last one.

    The whole idea of the “rapture” is so very wrong-headed, especially in light of the cross. I”m struck by Paul’s words in Romans 8. God is “for us” because He “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us” (Romans 8:31-32). As witnesses to the crucified Messiah, God gives us up too, so that like Paul, we too might suffer for the sake of others, thereby “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Colossians 1:24, and see also 2 Cor. 1:3-8). The Rapture, at its heart, is the very American denial of death and desire for comfort. God wins the spiritual war without blood, sweat, and tears.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Because this is folk religion, without much historical consciousness, it will have a long shelf-life. Each new fundamentalist generation will continue to think it’s the last one.

      What was an epiphany for me was reading End Time Prophecy books from PREVIOUS “last generations” citing long-forgotten events as FULFILLMENTS and PROOFS. “THIS IS IT!”

  15. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Some time ago, Chaplain Mike speculated that the Age of Reason and Industrial Revolution caused a paradigm shift in views towards the Bible. To where the Bible became nothing more than a Spiritual Engineering Handbook of Fact, Fact, Fact. And Revelation became nothing more than a Checklist of End Time Prophecy events — Check, Check, Check.

    “When you point at something with your finger, the dog sniffs your finger. To a dog, a finger is a finger and that is that.”
    — C.S.Lewis

    “HIs mind is made of wheels and metal.”
    — Treebeard re Saruman

    • Love the Lewis quote.
      And I suspect that the average person’s capacity for abstract thought has declined considerably over the past several decades. The locusts from the bottomless pit are Apache helicopters — the messenger Angels are Christian broadcasting through satellites — and the AntiChrist is going to miraculously recover from a gunshot wound to the head. And literary devices like symbolism and metaphor and poetic imagery — those are all devices of the devil to lead people away from the simple truth and promote doublemindedness. You certainly won’t find pinko liberal stuff like that in God’s Word — unless, of course, you fill in the symbolic blank with the papacy or new age philosophy or the current president or the latest Mid-East conflict.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        The locusts from the bottomless pit are Apache helicopters…

        Apache helicopter gunships armed with chemical weapons and piloted by long-haired bearded hippies, remember. (“It’s Prophesied! It’s Prophesied!”)

        And don’t forget all the plagues of Revelation being Nuclear Weapons effects, Fallout contamination, Nuclear Ozone Layer Destruction, and Nuclear Winter. (“It’s Prophesied! It’s Prophesied!”)

        …the messenger Angels are Christian broadcasting through satellites…

        Let me guess the source of that one… TBN?

  16. John M. says:

    Thank you for the clear, concise teaching on this topic.

  17. Rick Ro. says:

    A high school group from a Christian high school visited our church a couple of months back and I ended up chatting with their bus driver. I couldn’t believe how quickly the conversation turned from “how are you doing, how are the kids doing” to his “what do you make of all the signs of wars and rumors of wars and who do you think the antichrist is and we are definitely in the end of times, don’t ya think?”

    I tried to make a few points about not needing to worry about such things and move the conversation toward other spiritual matters (AKA Jesus), but to no avail. That was 10 minutes of my life I’ll never have back.

  18. And heaven forbid you should examine that passage in thessalonians IN CONTEXT…and point out that the context is all about some in the church worrying about loved ones who were by now deceased, and thinking that because they obviously won’t be physically present when Jesus returned, that they’ll miss out on the ‘resurrection’ and the passage merely reassures the church that far from missing out, they will actually PRECEDE those still alive at Christ’s triumphal return!

  19. Has anybody noticed that the prophecy books, from Lindsey and on, little is said about Jesus, they’re focused on the Antichrist. Who he is, where he comes from, what he does, etc. Of course this leads to the popular game of “Pin the tail on the Antichrist!” People like Henry Kissinger, Ronald Reagan, (His name, Ronald Wilson Reagan has six letters each!) Mikhail Gorbachev, Barack Obama, and the list goes on and on.

    And finding the mark of the beast in strange places, like the UPC codes on merchandise and several others. Remember “The Beast,” which was supposed to be a three-story computer in Brussels, Belgium, which was supposed to contain information on everybody on earth, and preparing to implement THE MARK?

    They seem to think we’re not supposed to focus on Christ, but on the antichrist, and the hysteria goes on!

    • Maybe that’s because focusing on the antichrist is just easier and a lot less challenging than focusing on Jesus. With the antichrist, all you have to do is dress him up in whatever you view as evil or threatening or anything outside the bounds of your belief system. He’s the tyrant, apostate, heritic, and bogyman all rolled up into one.
      Jesus — as he is presented through his actions and teachings in the gospels — is lot less likely to dutifully perform according to the script we write for Him.

  20. What’s funny about all this discussion is that yesterday I got a call from a cousin I haven’t heard from for probably about 20 years. He was calling to thank me for something I sent him 20 years ago which he just found while cleaning out his house.

    He is one of the few other believers in my extended family. So he told me that he had gotten saved decades ago from reading Hal Lindsey’s book and being convinced that the events happening were as the book said. He started talking about what was happening in Israel now and all the signs, etc., and how the Rapture is probably pretty close.

    He then asked me if I believed in the Rapture. I told him no.

    *crickets*

    After he recovered, he said that maybe that could be a discussion for another time. :D

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Sounds like your cousin’s running a Left Behind Fever of 103 or so.

      I had to cut off most contact with my old college roomie after he caught a bad case of Left Behind Fever after the 2006 elections. I’ve been afraid to resume contact with him since the 2008 elections — If the 2006 Footmen tired him, what did the 2008 Horsemen do? (Especially when you add in the “Obamanation of Desolation” in the White House…) I have to avoid cases of Left Behind Fever to preserve my remaining sanity.

      • Cedric Klein says:

        “If the 2006 Footmen tired him, what did the 2008 Horsemen do?”

        You just won the thread.

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  22. People keep talking about the signs of the End Times. The Cubs keep not winning the World Series. Seriously, we’re safe, people.

  23. I was once on the periphery of Rapture theology, but luckily I escaped its deadly event horizon so I survived to tell the tale. How’s that for an exciting intro? I was raised a Lutheran but as a young adult started going to a Baptist church with some friends. The whole Rapture stuff – I never heard of it before and it was confusing. A friend even gave me a Scofield Bible, I started reading the notes in it and it kind of made sense. But I felt uneasy because some of the predicting the future stuff sounded like things I had heard Seventh Day Adventists and J. Witnesses say.

    What really got to me was back in – was it 1984? – the planets were supposed to align and this would cause earthquakes and bring on the end of the world. Every one in church was excited about it – this could be it, and bring on the Rapture! I doubted this because I had been involved in astronomy since I was a young child. I knew that just because most of the planets were in the same general direction, it would not have enough of an extra gravitational effect on the earth to do anything. I remember supermarket tabloids with headlines, quoting astrologers who said the planet alignment was a bad omen, and I was alarmed that in a Baptist church people were talking about, what I suddenly began to see as a Christianized version of astrology. A few years later the 88 reasons for the Rapture booklet came out and I saw it as just a book of numerology. So I started to see the whole system as a mixture of Christianity, astrology, and numerology. I gradually stopped going to church, and seldom went to any type of church for a number of years.

    Years later, I decided to try church again but it would be back to Lutheranism, or perhaps Anglicanism or maybe – this would be a bit of a stretch – Rome. In my studies I also learned that the Rapture theology was a recent invention and it was not originally a part of Baptist theology. I also think that the Baptists who are of a more Calvinist persuasion have resisted Rapture theology – it seems like the Rapture is mostly used as a tool for decision theology. At least that is the impression I get.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Jupiter Effect Rapture Scare, 1981.

      The only one I remember from 1984 was some local big-name preacher in San Diego (megachurch?) prophesying(TM) a Major Earthquake in SoCal during the 1984 Olympics. Claimed very detailed visions/revelations of it, including one of a tsunami going inland up Mission Valley as far as the 805 interchange (plausible as the landforms around there WOULD tend to concentrate a tsunami coming in off the Pacific).

      I was listening to a good-quality Christian radio talk show at the time (Rich Buhler’s “Talk from the Heart”), and the Friday before the predicted (weekend) date, not only did he have to field a LOT of “Weird Calls”. Including:

      * One who invoked the Full Moon as an earthquake trigger — “Rumor Rich”s answer to that was “I could have told you it was the full moon just from the calls we’ve been getting today” — then went all Astrology.
      * One who got past the screeners with a bogus subject and immediately started preaching about The Big One until Rumor Rich cut him off — “God Will Hold You Accountable!” “I’m willing to take that chance.”
      * And to most of them, Rumor Rich had a stock answer: “Call me back Monday and we can talk it over then.”

      Well, that weekend the Olympics ended. No earthquake.

      Come Monday, Talk from the Heart was on the air as usual. NOBODY from Friday called back. Instead, the big-name preacher who Predicted the Earthquake was incommunicado/in hiding and the most common phone-in was the verse from Leviticus(?) about stoning false prophets to death. (Come to think of it, I’d be hiding too after hearing those phone-ins…)