Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Rapture, Part 2: Failure to Launch

Dear Parish Faithful,

Christ is Risen!

I received some interesting letters made in response to my article on “The Heresy of the Rapture” from yesterday. So, I would like to make a few short comments and then share a text from a good biblical scholar that summarizes the incoherent and non-biblical claims of “rapture theology.” I read a more detailed account of this false prophet’s “recalculation” that now points to an October date for the supposed rapture. He sounded blissfully unapologetic for misleading so many people this past weekend, and perhaps ruining their lives in the process. As often happens in the case of unfulfilled prophecy, a kind of “theological spin” is employed to demonstrate that the prophecy was not really that inaccurate, but needs to be carefully re-interpreted so as to salvage something of the prophet’s reputation and the future of the “movement.” (This is precisely what Jehovah’s Witnesses did after their failed prophecy of the end of the world in 1914). So, we are hearing that some kind of “spiritual judgment” occurred on Saturday, as a preliminary for the rapture that will now occur in October. Basically, we are being told, no further preaching has to be done, for it is now too late for repentance, because the soon-to-be raptured elect and the unfortunate “left-behinds” have already been determined. Whatever the case may be, there is no real purpose on spending any more time on such sheer nonsense.

I did, however, want to share a closing section of a very well-written book by Barbara R. Rossing, entitled The Rapture Exposed – The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation. The author is a professor of New Testament studies at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Her book is a careful study of the New Testament texts that are incorrectly interpreted by rapture theologians, and a an over-all study of biblical prophecy and apocalypticism. Her Epilogue contains the following, under a sub-section entitled “Wrestling With the Bible: A Prophetic Clothesline or a Blessing?”

The Bible is difficult to understand, and apocalyptic passages such as the book of Revelation and Matthew 24-25 are some of the hardest. The temptation is to make up a system to give answers – to create a “prophetic clothesline” and then hang biblical passages on it. But the Bible gives us neither a clothesline nor a timeline nor a system – it gives us a relationship with God! To read the Bible’s hardest passages is like wrestling with God, much like Jacob who wrestled through the night at the river Jabbok. You grapple to make sense of the words, you hold on, you struggle for clarity, you seek to wrest answers for all your questions. What God gives you instead of a system of answers is a blessing, a new name – a living relationship. You are forever changed by the encounter. You have seen the face of God.

We could examine each of the many biblical passages that dispensationalists love to cite. The fact is that not one single biblical passage lays out the dispensationalists’ overarching chronology of Rapture followed by seven years of tribulation followed by Jesus’ return to earth (emphasis added). They have to piece this grand narrative together like stringing clothes on a clothesline. There is no two-stage return of Christ in the Bible, no escapist Rapture from earth for born-again Christians.

Jesus will return – once. Until then, we are always with Jesus and he is with us – Emmanuel. Our life is held in God’s time. And we are called to live in wakefulness, to pray as the final verses of Revelation do, “Amen, come Lord Jesus.”

The Rapture Exposed, p. 186


  1. (This is precisely what Jehovah’s Witnesses did after their failed prophecy of the end of the world in 1914).

    The reason it worked for Jehovah's Witnesses is that world events appeared to bear out their interpretation. The greatest war in history, the first time the whole world was at war simultaneously, shortly followed by the greatest pestilence in history, seemed to correspond with their take on Rev 12:7-12....where the establishment of the Kingdom temporarily results in horrendous conditions on earth.

    but Camping has little more than a spate of lousy weather.

  2. Thank you for your excellent ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN MEDITATIONS blog. I noted your discussion about Margaret MacDonald and would like to mention several articles related to pretrib rapture history that I found on Google, namely, "Pretrib Rapture Diehards" (good little summary of it), "X-Raying Margaret," "Edward Irving is Unnerving," "Pretrib Rapture Politics" and "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty." Since historian Dave MacPherson, who has focused on all this for 40 years, penned these articles, your readers might be interested in his bestselling nonfiction book "The Rapture Plot" (which has the greatest amount of documentation on pretrib rapture beginnings that I know of) which I bought at Armageddon Books online for a very low price. God bless you.


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