A Rapturing of the Rapture (Theology matters)
The Rapturing of the Rapture (Theology matters)
It seems the rapture has been raptured, and that is a good thing. If you have no idea what I am talking about,you were spared the spread of a relatively new (early 19 century) teaching, which most Christian churches did not espouse. “The rapture,” a belief that Jesus would return and take his followers away in order to escape the great tribulation, was derived from and propelled, in part, by a single Greek word found in 2 Thes. 4:16-17. It was a frequent topic of conversation in the 60’s, 70’ and 80’s and gained prominence again with the Left Behind series (sixteen books and three movies written from 1995-2007).
The rapture gave people hope, encouraged them to share their faith and frighten people into heaven. But it also provided a framework to justify escapism, isolation and non-involvement in the world. It altered the interpretation of Jesus’ words, “in the world but not of the world,” as validation of escapism and prompted a disregard for the world, except as a place to share the gospel–a gospel that had become quite small–a privatized, me-and-Jesus faith. Issues and concerns of justice were viewed as unimportant, outside the scope of the gospel. Christians who cared about injustice and supported a justice faith were dismissed, often labeled as democrats, socialists, communists—whoever was the perceived enemy at the time. The fallout from this teaching continues to this day, with name calling by those who hold to the personal salvation/individualized faith gospel, vilifying Christians who are involved in social justice issues.
The hope of the rapture produced a callousness to the plight of the world, a passive indifference to the suffering and injustice in the world. The hope it offered was not a biblical hope, a hope that moves toward a future where justice is realized and love wins. The biblical hope then boomerangs back to the present, empowering and sustaining those in the kingdom whom Jesus describes as salt and light, catalytic change agents partnering with God in the coming of the kingdom — God’s will being done here on earth as it is in heaven. No, the hope it offered was one of escaping from, leaving this world, and it’s problems behind.
Jesus calls us to be in the world and not of the world. Our hope is not in escaping the pain and suffering of this world, but one that empowers and compels us to be a peacemaking, non-anxious presence, hungering and thirsting after justice, sowing seeds of love, grace, mercy and forgiveness in the world through good works that proclaim God’s truth to the world. The capability to be in the world alongside others, entering their suffering and tragedy, incarnating a different vision, embodies a hope that transcends tragedy and proclaims that this is not the end of the story, your life, or the world. Living Jesus means love wins!
How does your faith inform and shape your prayers for and interactions with others, your involvement in your community, state, country, the world? If someone looked at your life, would they see your faith more as a privatized faith that allows you to escape from the world, or would they see a faith that is actively engaged with the world, working toward God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven? Where do you see yourself being a catalytic change agent, salt and light partnering with God to bring greater fullness of the kingdom of God to this earth God has given us to tend?
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