A lot of Christians today believe in a literal rapture before the judgment of the world. However, these beliefs come from literal interpretations of several scripture passages. In this sermon, Greg takes a look at these passages and offers a different take on how to interpret them.
Rapture theology has a lot of interesting things to consider. This theology says that Christians will be suctioned into the air one day. This leaving of the Christians will come right before God judges creation. This theology is especially attractive during times of apocalyptic fever, because it reflects a way for people to escape the way the world. But, this theology doesn’t hold up when we understand the languages that it was originally written.
Idioms are sayings in a language that are not to be taken literally. For instance, we say it rains “cats and dogs” outside. This means that it’s raining a lot, but there are no dogs and cats falling from the sky. The biblical text works the same way. There are some sayings in the original Hebrew and Greek that are idioms and are not to be taken literally. And rapture theology takes them literally. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
1 Thessalonians 4 says that there will be a loud trumpet blast, Jesus will come riding on the clouds, and that Christians will be caught up in the clouds with Jesus. In rapture thinking, this means that there will be a literal trumpet blast and then we’ll all fly up into the sky with Jesus to be taken from this Earth. In the book of Revelation, a trumpet calls always precedes a divine judgment, but it also meant a call for people to come to the presence of God. Riding on the clouds was used to express God coming in glory and power, especially to bring judgment. But, we don’t see God ever riding on literal clouds when these judgments happened in the OT (see Isaiah 19:1, Jeremiah 4:13, and Psalm 18:9-11). In these, God’s judgments came against the people, but it wasn’t a literal cloud riding phenomenon. The idea conveyed is that God will return with divine power to reclaim this Earth, and not that we’ll be literally taken into the sky.
Luke 17:34-35 says that on that night, two people will be in bed and one will be taken and the other one will be left. In rapture thinking, this means that people will be taken away and some will be left behind, which is where the book series got its name. But, if one looks closely at the next verse, Jesus is saying that the one taken away will be killed, not saved. This was probably referring to the Roman occupation in 66-70 AD when Rome attacked suddenly. And the same holds true for Matthew 24:36-41.
Mark 13 is another passage that has been interpreted to be about the end of the world. It says there will be wars and rumors of wars, famines and earthquakes. In rapture theology, it is used to describe the time before the Rapture. So, people are always seeing signs of the impending rapture with every new rumor of war. In addition, Jesus says during this time that the sun will be darkened and the stars will fall from the sky. But, as we see, this is another idiom signifying that something catastrophic would happen but not a literal falling of the stars or blotting out of the sun. Rather, it signified the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, and this was a celestial catastrophe to the Jewish people and their faith.
In the end, the evidence for the rapture is a little thin. People have translated the idioms of the ancient languages literally and have created a theology out of that translation. It’s possible that a literal rapture may happen. However, it’s also possible that no rapture will happen and all of the things written about the end of the world have been misinterpreted for some time. However, throughout it all, Jesus makes very clear that we’re to live a self-sacrificial life of love and not worry about the future date of his return.
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