Given the publicity and internet talk of the last week, this seems as good a time as any to make a post about what in Christian circles is generally referred to as End Times.
Like the vast majority of people, the rapture prediction of Harold Camping did not have me fooled at all. Even as a rapture believing, literal thinking, fundamentalist; I would not have accepted that any person could know in advance the date of Jesus coming again, or any rapture event. After all, the Bible does say that no man can know the date. Plus the clues that Mr Camping followed to get that date, apparently exactly 7000 years after Noah’s Flood, are dubious to say the least.
Thinking back to my childhood and the literal indoctrination I received at mission school inZambia, I remember a surprising amount of End Time teaching. We were taught to live as though Christ would come again tomorrow and to live in expectation that we would live to see that day. The rapture scenario was assumed to be true, though biblical doctrine of it is a tad dubious.
On more than one occasion the assertion that we were ‘living in End Times’ was made. Despite my young age, this wasn’t so much scary, as exciting; imagine the privilege of being of one the glorious few who would actually get to witness the second coming with their own eyes rather than the more common, being raised from the dead!
Why the fear?
I read with great interest this post and the associated links; http://secularwings.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/what-happens-may-22/. Zoe touched on a subject that had not previously occurred to me. That Christians would fear judgement day. For me, confident from a young age in my assured salvation, judgement day was something to anticipate not fear. It was the day of reckoning for those who denied Christ, but for those to accept him, there was certain salvation and everlasting joy. Our sins would not be a barrier to salvation, so long as we still have the Holy Spirit in our lives, which I did from the day that I knelt down and prayed the prayer of conversion.
I certainly don’t want to mock or belittle anyone who had a fear of the day of Christ’s coming again. I guess our reaction depends on how we were taught. I was taught that being perfect and sinless was not a criteria, being saved was. The concept of having to account for our actions to a Holy King was taught but not swelled on, the emphasis was that those who denied Jesus would be the ones who had much to fear. Hence my confusion that Christians would be concerned about that day; yet it appears that many are, or have been.
Personally I put this down to confused teaching rather than Christians of uncertain foundation. If the preaching and teaching on the subject is such that it leaves Christians in fear of their eternal soul, then something is very wrong.
But what of the dubious theology behind the rapture?
I am not aware that any church I have regularly attended as an adult has had a minister or pastor who accepted the rapture as a viable biblical prophesies. Internet searches on the subject seem to indicate that our Christian cousins in theUSare far more pro the rapture than mainstream Christianity is in theUK. In fact I remember one very well liked pastor going out of his way to condemn the theology behind the Left Behind series of books.
Now I have to make it clear that I am by no means an expert on the book of Revelations and I certainly have no credentials that entitle me to talk with authority on the subject.
When one considers the End Times prophecies that are taken from the Bible, especially the last book; the reality of a rapture and prolonged period of judgement before Christ’s eventual return on bodily form, seems highly suspect. Its not at all like the first chapter of Genesis, where a literal reading leaves one in little doubt over what supposedly happened.
End Time theology and prophesy requires much interpretation and reading what different people say reveals a vast array of differences. About the only certainty is that no one can no for sure; which leave the previously mentioned Harold Camping in the unenviable position of being mocked and ridiculed by Atheists and Christians alike.
Personally, I was taught that the second coming and the rising up of all Christians into heaven was a single event, yet many seem to interpret them as two distinct events, the Rapture and the Glorious Appearing, each separated by varying amounts of time, depending on who you read.
Leave the End Times alone
If there is anything to learn from the sordid mess; its that prophesy and teaching on End Times should be left well alone.
Yet, that seems to be impossible; like a cloud of insects around a porch light on a dark night, Christians and crackpots seem incapable of avoiding the subject and each time the result is the same.
- PR Breakdown of the “Rapture” (strategicallycommunicating.wordpress.com)
- Apocalypse Not: Harold Camping wrong – again – about ‘The Rapture’ – CSMonitor.com (mbcalyn.wordpress.com)