THE RAPTURE DEBATE

 

This article is not about whether you believe in the rapture or not.  This article is to ask some questions that all believers in Christ should ask themselves.  I expect some controversy and zealous proponents from each side of the aisle to converge on this issue.

I want my readers to understand my perspective first…not my opinions…simply my perspective.  I attended a Christian school in my youth from about the 5th grade up until the 11th grade.  I have been bombarded by “end of times” prophecy since I was old enough to ride a bike.  From Hal Lindsey’s “The Late Great Planet Earth” that in my opinion got the proverbial ball rolling in modern times (that I can remember) to present day pastors and preachers;  the message has been preached, modified, theologically expounded upon, and put through the ringer for a very long time.  When I was in the 8th grade, I spent one small year of my life in a Seventh Day Adventist church-school.  They used mathematics, Scripture, and algorithms to predict the rapture. They were wrong.  Everyone who has ever predicted or indicated a “soon to pass” gathering of the body of Christ in the clouds has been not only wrong…but embarrassingly so.

When I reached my mid-twenties, I had all but lost the love affair with the thought of Jesus coming back and removing Christians from the earth.   After you hear the church cry “Wolf!” too many times, it just loses its effect after a while.  Recently, I have been involved in a non-denominational church that I really felt comfortable in…inevitably, here it comes again!  I am now officially on the sidelines and out of the debate, BUT I do have something that the Lord has put on my heart and He just won’t let go.  I wish I could sit here and tell you that I have the answers, but alas, I would be a fool for saying so.  I’m not saying that I believe in the rapture or that I don’t believe in the rapture (I am in a wait and see mode).  What I have are legitimate questions that are rhetorical in some ways and practical wisdom in other ways.  Take this with an open mind and know that I want to put the emphasis on your faith…not on mine.  I’m not “selling” anything here.

The controversy is as heated as ever:  there are men of God that I admire and know that they are doing God’s work; however, some of them completely disagree with each other on the existence, the Scriptural validity, or the timing of said rapture.  How can these men disagree so vehemently?  I will tell them at least this much:  “STICK TO WHAT YOU KNOW”…the rapture (or the timing of the second coming) does not fall into the category of what is known…It says as much in the Bible!  We know there are seasons for everything, and when the harvest is finished, God will do what He will do in His own time.  Any Christian knows that God’s timing is “quirky” to say the least.  He always does things in a way to insure there is no question or controversy as to Who did it.  So let’s all agree, for argument’s sake, that we are all ignorant of the specifics of said rapture or whether it exists or not…just for a moment.  I’m not asking you to change your mind or change your perspective on this subject; I’m simply  asking you to suspend your “system” for a minute only long enough to answer one burning question.

The Question:  Knowing what we know about God, by what He has shared with us through Scripture and how He manifests Himself to us in our individual, personal relationships with Him…knowing what we know about God, what type of church or “body of Christ” or “bride” does God expect to receive to Himself?  In other words, what does a church ready for rapture look like?  What does a bride look like right before her wedding?  Are we what we were commanded to be?  Are we unified as a body as Paul teaches?  Are we united in love as is the primary ingredient of the church?

I’m sure some think that Jesus will come and save the day.  Really?  Forgive me for my frankness, and I don’t want to be disrespectful to my Lord.  We all know that eventually our King does return (if you believe what the New Testament says) and does save the day, but I thought He said that we would do greater works than He.  If we are to reach the world with the gospel and make disciples, then what type of disciples?  Methodist disciples, Baptist disciples, Presbyterian disciples, or maybe rapture disciples…If we are to take the “Good News” to the ends of the earth, then what is that good news?  Should that message be one of love or one of religion?  If we have not taken Christ’s love to the ends of the earth, then we haven’t taken the gospel to the ends of the earth.  But some of us can’t even take the gospel of our Savior down our own streets.  Are we so bogged down in doctrine, that we miss the whole point?

Personally, I don’t see much love in the church as a whole…but I do see men (and some women) shooting arrows of the worst kind at each other!  Don’t get me wrong, there are many Spirit-filled, loving churches and they are precious to our Lord; but, they are isolated as of this present time and could really use some help!  I actually heard one famous preacher say of another famous preacher, “His doctrine is straight from Satan himself!”  Is our King supposed to come down from heaven and have an intervention for these jack-wagons?  Seriously, my beloved believers, who honestly thinks that the church is primed and ready and confident for His return?  The responsibility squarely lies on my and your shoulders…as individuals.  Don’t think this doesn’t apply to you!  For Paul tells us that if part of the body suffers, then we all suffer.  If you think that the body of Christ is sitting on the brink of delivery, then I’m afraid I cannot agree with you…I won’t disagree with you…but everything I know personally about God says something is terribly wrong!

I speak to Bible-believing Christians here; please forgive me out of expediency for not directly quoting Bible verses.  I will assume that most who read this are well aware of the Scriptures pertaining to the body of Christ and all the parables that deal with being prepared for a return.   I would prefer for each person to examine the Word themselves in light of my crazy question.  Let’s get some answers, because until we clear this matter up, the church could continue to decline into the cesspool of adultery with the world and its system of understanding.

The church teeters on the edge of becoming so carnal minded that no one would recognize it in the future.  I am confident that if Paul or Peter or Stephen could come down here and speak to us, it would not be pretty!  Can you imagine Paul’s Letter to the “God Hates Fags” Church? (In case you don’t know, this is a real thing…you can’t make this stuff up; and for the love of Pete, don’t give them the pleasure of you visiting their website)  Remember, we are known by our love!  Was the beginning of the church in Jerusalem the “glory days” of the church?  Has the power of the church devolved into what I see today?  Do we think that Jesus established a church just to watch it wither away into something unrecognizable?  What is the loving approach to this question?  I am going to take you there…are you ready to have your box of beliefs blown all to Hades?  Are you brave enough to take accountability for what I’m about to present?  I hope so because bravery, courage, and hope rest in the balance of your heart and mind.  I am going to invade your privacy in the most personal of ways!

Whether you believe in the rapture or not is beside the point for my discussion.  The Bible tells us what is most important:  love, love, love, and more love.  Now, out of love comes everything else…not vice versus!  If we can’t get the order correct, then the rest is plainly vanity; for if we don’t function out of love, then we must be functioning out of a system that is not of God.  It starts with God’s love for us; it progresses to God making a plan or way of salvation for us, out of His love.  Jesus came here teaching love.  Jesus gave us an example of how to love.  Jesus tells us to go and make disciples of the world…disciples of love.  Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, Paul teaches us that without love, the gifts from the Holy Spirit are meaningless.  Straight out of Christ’s mouth He PLAINLY says to love the Lord your God with all of your being (heart, soul, mind, strength) and your neighbor as yourself.  The New Testament tells us that love covers “a multitude of sins”.  Getting the picture?  It is all about love.  Period.  If you don’t believe me, then you must not have gotten the memo!  How do we achieve this love?  By desiring nothing more than God’s love.  In my humble opinion, the only pure desire in this life is the desire to be loved by God. If you can’t feel God’s love (part of the evidence of things not seen), then you have not been set free…sorry…just stating facts here.  His love is discovered and found by the power and the enlightening of the Holy Spirit.  To not have audience with the Holy Spirit is to not be a functioning Christian…for Scripture tells us that the“seal” of a Christian is the presence of the Holy Spirit.  I didn’t say it; don’t shoot the messenger.  Jesus told us that we will seek Him and not find Him, BUT He also said that He would pray the Father to send the Holy Spirit to all who believe in His name.  In fact, He actually said that we are lucky that He goes away so that the Spirit could come in His stead until the end of the age!  Jesus said the Holy Spirit would be our guide and remind us of who He is and manifest Christ to us…So, how do we learn to love?  From God Himself…that’s a promise.  Period.  End of discussion.  We do not know how to love correctly…we have to be taught.  Are you with me so far?  I know it’s painful; think of how I feel!  I think part of humility is the deep understanding that nothing good comes from us except by the grace of the Lord; you can never take credit for even loving another because that love was deposited there by Someone else…we just pass it along.  So unworthy; yet so blessed.

Next on the list:  we are to put others before ourselves.  But why?  The reason for this is that serving others (effectively loving others) is an outward expression of divine love.  Love is the fruit of a Christian life…not a 3000 member church, not an awesome family, not financial success, not anything else but love.  Now out of that love, as stated earlier, come all forms of blessings including the list above.  But love is the fruit…first and foremost.  If you do not know love, then you are not His.  Jesus didn’t come to earth to keep business as usual; He was a reformer.  So if we cannot express love to other Christians and other denominations, what makes us think that we can love the “unlovable”.  If you can’t express love for a Baptist or a Methodist, how on earth are you going to express love to a child molester, a drug dealer, or a murderer?  If we cannot unify under love of other Christians, then we certainly can’t love the unrepentant.  But there are some out there that think they can “hate on” other denominations that they don’t agree with and the next minute reach out to a poor person in need.  Don’t you get it!!!  We are the ones in need!!!  You and I are supposed to be one in Christ’s love; if we can’t love “ourselves”(as a body), then it is impossible to “love others”.  Are we not standing on a precarious ledge here?  It’s like the person who loves animals more than humans:  we love the unsaved more than the saved…are you kidding me?  We are close to being absolute fools here; especially if we point our fingers at someone else who professes Christ’s name and judge them not a Christian.  Really?  Who made you or me an expert on the phrase “all who call upon my name will be saved”.  Ponder that one for a minute…Oh, but…Yeah, but…simplicity, my friend…lose the “but”!  God said Himself:  VENGEANCE IS MINE.

What the Lord’s Prayer says about a Christian:

Have you ever noticed that when Jesus is teaching His disciples how to pray, that the words “me” and “I” are conspicuously missing?  “Give us”, “Forgive us”, “Lead us”.  How much different would this prayer be if we replaced the “us” with “me”.  A dangerous change to be sure; for, within this simple prayer is a profound implication:  this is a “we” thing and not a “me” thing.  I’m not discounting the personal relationship with the Lord.  That is primary (for we will never know how to love without time with our God, one-on-one), but right after this is love for the community that we live in…mainly, our neighbor.  If God is to transform us by our spending time with Him, then we will be transformed into a person of love.  Did I mention love yet?  I’m your neighbor, Joel Osteen is your neighbor, Pastor Hagee is your neighbor, Jerry Falwell is your neighbor, the homeless person in your hometown is your neighbor, and the members of the “God Hates Fags” church are your neighbors, all the preachers that irritate us with Christian “info-mercials” are our neighbors, all the people we live with are all our neighbors!  Did Jesus differentiate between clean and unclean as to whom He would minister?  If you could, you might ask Mother Teresa what she knows to be our neighbors.  The “least of these” are all our neighbors.  God feeds us as individuals for one reason and one reason only:  for His Glory!  Jesus came here to establish the church of the redeemed, the church of love, the church of salvation to men, the church of the One True God…that is God’s glory…not yours and mine!  So our purpose, as defined by God Himself, is to lift Him up and He will draw people to Him. We can’t lift Him up if we are too busy lifting ourselves up or our denomination up or the possibility of rapture up, or anything else above the Man who gives everything for everyone who hears His voice.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to get in the way of Christ’s love for another.  I want people to hear Jesus…not me.  So I must live through the power given us, namely the Holy Spirit.  But the power of the Holy Spirit is not to be packaged up for a “high” or sold as an experience for young seekers; the power of the Holy Spirit is for the purpose of Jesus and Him alone!  Can’t we just get out-of-the-way of ourselves?

Lastly, I want to throw one other notion under the bus:  There is one type of person that Jesus simply could not tolerate.  Oh, He could tolerate any type of sinner (adulteress, liars, cheats, deviants, you name it); but He just couldn’t tolerate the “holier than thou’s” of the world.  The religious type that burden men with things that they themselves will not be burdened with; the type that argue about tittles of the law and the ins-and-outs of a holy life; the type that think themselves holy by their own effort; the type that think they know it all!  How much more obvious could Jesus be?  The Sadducees and the Pharisees disagreed about the existence or non-existence of the resurrection (life after death); that was their beef with each other.  In the midst of arguing with each other and their personal agendas, they forgot what Isaiah 58 plainly proclaimed (this is worth reading for yourself…again, especially in this light).  In their effort to be presentable to God (without success), they totally forgot about love!  Sound familiar?  Surely, I’m not the only one who sees this.  We can’t be so consumed in doctrine and denominations and differences that we forget that the only way to live is in love.  I believe there is a place for denominations; just as there is a place for different departments in a large corporation.  But, if the departments of the company are not cooperating, then the whole company is screwed!  You may not like the human resources department, but without them your job is useless.  How does the guy in accounting know anything about how the fire alarm circuitry of the building works?  Forgive the rudimentary metaphor:  Our CEO is Jesus; we are the departments, or “parts” of the body, if we don’t function together in love (our business mission-statement) then we all know that “a divided house cannot stand”.  So, is the issue of rapture or no rapture or timing of said rapture really that important?  What should be important is that we look like the beloved desire of our Savior.  We need to clothe ourselves in the gown of love, to wear the veil of humility, and be beautiful to behold in our strength of unity…as one magnificent prize!  I guarantee you that what He pictures as beautiful is probably not what we think of as beautiful:  I think the gown of love will be soiled with dirt from hard work, I think the veil of humility will be in honor of spilled blood for His name’s sake, and I think the strength that will be beautiful to behold will be us holding each others’ dirty, calloused hands and drying each others’ tears.  Then maybe…just maybe, our King will claim what is His.

Just a thought.

If you want to respond, I really would like you to…think about it and  be honest…no rush, as I’m sure this may be a new concept to most Christians.  God bless you all!

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