What Ever Happened to the Rapture?
“A man and wife asleep in bed
She hears a noise and turns her head, he's gone
I wish we'd all be ready
Two men walking up a hill
One disappears and one's left standing still
I wish we'd all been ready
There's no time to change your mind
The Son has come and you've been left behind”
This chilling line comes from a song from 1969 by Larry Norman, titled “I Wish We’d All Been Ready.” The sad reality is that when many today listen to these lyrics, they will not fear, they will not be shaken up. They will laugh.
In fact, the mere mention of the famous “Left Behind” book series is often the subject of jokes and jeers among both non-religious people and Evangelicals. The concept of a rapture is becoming more and more foreign as the coming of Christ becomes more and more imminent.
In a day and age when the church should be more awakened than ever to the signs of the times, churches are sleeping more sound than ever before.
The church largely has forgotten about the rapture, or at least chosen to ignore it.
One quick glance at the world should be evidence enough of the signs that are eerily similar to those which Jesus foretold before his second coming.
Make no mistake, no man knows the day or the hour of Christ’s return (Matthew 24:36). So then why are we trying to decipher it by looking at the signs?
Therein lies the difference, I think, between a reckless understanding of Jesus’s warning to his disciples, and an understanding of discernment. Read Jesus’s own words about his return.
“As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:3–14).
Notice that Jesus does not rebuke the disciples for asking what the signs of his coming will be. Instead, he informs them. Interestingly, the first thing he advises them against is deception.
We live in the era of deceit. In fact, among the major universities and circles of thought, drastic lies are being circulated regarding truth, morality, God, and humanity. Many are buying into the lies of the enemy, unknowingly, because they have no foundation on which to establish a sound worldview. As a result, the so-called “castles” of belief they build in their minds are mere blueprints, but have no real structure.
Were we not warned of this misdirection of belief by the Apostle Paul? He tells Timothy, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3–4).
This is the modern era. Postmodernism is steadily eating away at the minds and hearts of people, and as a result we are much less observant of the signs of the times circulating our world.
Nations rising against nations, wars and rumors of wars, false prophets, lawlessness: this sounds just like an evening of watching the nightly news!
The signs are more prevalent than ever; so why have so many churches abandoned the rapture? That is, why are we not preaching/teaching about it? Should we not be more alert now than ever before? I believe so. And yet, many pastors sneer at the concept of a sermon series focusing on the second coming of Christ, as if the Scriptures do not clearly indicate such an occurrence.
The time is now for the church to stop bowing to the cultural narratives of the day, and instead start bowing before the King of Kings. If we do not speak the truth in a world full of lies, who will? How can we call out false teaching without a grasp of what true, Biblical teaching looks like? How can we call out immorality in our own streets if we no longer hold to a standard of moral authority that is unchanging?
Allow me to revisit the words of Jesus when speaking to the church in Sardis in Revelation 3:
“I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 3:2–6).
Many of us have fallen asleep. We have fallen asleep to the realities of the world and its ruler: the enemy. We have put blinders on to the culture around us, as it is plummeting toward its own destruction.
All the while, Christ is calling us to Wake Up! He is returning soon. Sadly, the topic of a pre tribulation rapture now welcomes angry, hostile remarks from believers who disagree with the view. Why? What has caused such dissension over a secondary theological issue such as this one?
Perhaps this dissension is exactly what the enemy wants within the church. Wounds caused by attacks within the body can distract us from the sickness that penetrates the world outside. Let us not be caught up in foolish arguments (Titus 3:9), but instead remain on the offensive for the sake of the Gospel of Christ.
Even so, the return of Christ is crucial. It brings a sense of urgency to our message. We recognize the fact that there may be little-to-no time at all to get our message out that there is one who will save us from the coming wrath of God, out of his sheer love, grace, and mercy. What a beautiful truth!