It’s pretty amazing how wrong we can be about things sometimes.
In 1948, Mary Somerville, a pioneer of radio education broadcasts said “Television won’t last. It’s just a flash in the pan.”
I wish she had told me that three years ago before I shelled out $1000 on a new TV!!
In 1984 the Portland Trail Blazers had the number 1 pick in the NBA draft. Instead of “taking a chance” with a young upstart from the University of North Carolina named Michael Jordan, they decided to go with a “sure thing” – Sam Bowie.
Not too long ago they followed that brilliant move up by passing on Kevin Durant in favor of Greg Oden. He’s still hasn’t played through an entire season.
A few years ago I had the brilliant idea to pass on Chris Johnson in my fantasy football draft in favor of Matt Forte. A year before that I traded Randy Moss at the beginning of the season thinking he was washed up. He then proceeded to set the NFL single season record for touchdown receptions.
I probably shouldn’t play fantasy football, the Portland Trail Blazers definitely should find another team to draft for them, and Harold Camping (along with everyone else) absolutely needs to stay out of the rapture predicting business.
Why, you ask? Is it because his math is flawed?
Is it because he’s been wrong before?
No. (Although, that is a pretty good reason.)
Then it has to be because Jesus said “no man knows the hour”, right?
We all need to stay out of the rapture predicting business because the rapture is never going to happen. Simply put, there is no such thing as the rapture.
When I was in high school I loved bible prophecy. I was convinced that the book of Revelation was a road map to the future and Jack Van Impe was the prophet who could unlock the prophetic map for me. I even had the Jack Van Impe Prophecy Bible, leather bound and color coordinated to let me know what each verse prophesied. I was convinced that the rapture would happen at any moment, so I did my best to
scare let everyone around me know that the end was nigh.
I was shocked every morning when I would wake up only to find myself still in my bed and not standing at the pearly gates. Was my math wrong? Had I missed a color coded clue in my prophecy bible? Surely Jack Van Impe hadn’t misread a sign in the news. So why hadn’t I been raptured already??
This went on for years, all the way up until the point that I entered college.
I was going to be a religion major. So, I decided that I would clear this matter up once and for all with one of my religion professors once I got to school and finally get an accurate date for the rapture.
Not long after I arrived at college I had a meeting with my advisor, a professor in New Testament theology. I thought surely, if anyone understands the signs of the times as well as Jack Van Impe it would be him. So, I spent about 20 minutes or so explaining to him why I knew that the end was nigh and why I was so frustrated that this fact wasn’t the only thing we talked about in class or the only thing my pastor preached about every Sunday morning.
Fortunately for me he was a patient man. It was almost as if he had hear this speech before from someone else. While I hated his response at the time, his words forever changed my perspective on biblical prophecy and the rapture.
He said something like this, “Here’s my problem with Jack Van Impe and guys like him: They are trying to pinpoint places on prophetic map that simply doesn’t exist. Are we living in the last days? Absolutely, but we have been ever since Jesus walked out of the tomb on Easter morning.”
He said more, but to be honest I don’t remember it because I was floored. How dare he say there is no prophetic roadmap?! Had he not read any of the Left Behind books?? It was all there in black and white!
When I finally calmed down I decided to investigate this matter further and attempt to do so with an open mind. It wasn’t an easy process or a short one, but once I reached the end of my prophetic journey I reached one clear and indisputable conclusion: I was wrong.
Here’s how it happened:
I made the same mistake that Mark Driscoll makes. He screams the loudest and only hears others like him screaming that Neo-Calvinism is orthodoxy. So, over time he becomes convinced that this is true, he has it all figured out, and everyone that isn’t a Calvinist is therefore a heretic.
Likewise, I was screaming the loudest that the rapture was imminent and I only surrounded myself with voices that agreed with me. Because of this I was never able to hear a crucial piece of information: not only is the rapture not an orthodox belief (meaning “you believe this or you’re not a Christian”), but it’s not something the church has ever even believed in until the last couple of hundred years.
The truth is most of us in the church are bad at church history. This is a huge problem in a modern world where a single viewpoint can quickly come to dominate the view of the church through television, books, and the internet regardless of whether or not it has any foundation in the tradition of the church. All too often we get swept over by a tsunami of theology that stems from a very small group of people. Everywhere we look people are saying the same thing, so we eventually conform to the mob for fear of drowning and assume they must be correct.
Unfortunately this is almost never the case.
How things are is not necessarily how they have always been. This is true about our misguided hate for evolution and it is true for our rampant support for the rapture.
Here’s a few important things for you to consider: 1)the term “rapture” appears no where in the Bible 2)the idea of a rapture never even appears on the church’s radar until the 18th and 19th centuries, which is ironic because 3)the concept of the church being plucked out of danger before judgement not only doesn’t appear in the book of Revelation or anywhere else in the New Testament, the idea itself is antithetical to the narrative of scripture! Why? Because 4) the Bible is a story about a God who journeys with His people through hard times even when it is God who has unleashed the judgment. He doesn’t pluck them out of danger. See: slavery in Egypt, wandering in the wilderness, exile in Bablyon, Job, oppression under the Romans, persecution of the church, etc. Finally, 5)the notion of the church abandoning the world in its time of need is endemic of an American evangelicalism that is more gnostic than Christian and which focus almost exclusively on the hereafter to the detriment of the here and now.
Simply put, the book of Revelation is not a road map to the future. It is the declaration that Jesus will return, justice will be granted to the oppressed, and all thing will be made new, but it is not attempting to give details on how that will happen. Revelation is a book of worship. It exists to declare the glory, power, and grace of God. It is not a guide to the apocalypse.
I absolutely believe that Jesus will return one day to wipe away every tear from our eyes and make all things new. But that is the second coming, not the rapture. Those are two very, very different things. One allows us to neglect the present world and let it crumble away while we focus on our own eternal glory. The other beckons us to participate in God’s restoration of creation, loving His people and showing them how to live the life God intended until He does return to bring that work of redemption to final completion.
We are living in the last days, but as my professor said so long ago, we have been ever since Jesus walked about of the tomb on Easter morning. So, let us live as if these truly are the last days, not by running around the world telling the world “good luck, we’ll see you later”, but by incarnating the love of God to a world desperately in need of His grace. In doing so, we affirm the truth and hope of the resurrection while showing the world that the return of our Lord is not something to be feared, but something to celebrate.
Grace and peace,