Today, Left Behind is officially rebooted and released into the cinematic wild. I’ve covered it a bit on the blog here (though admittedly, it has been more coverage about Nic Cage’s involvement).
I’m sure this movie will reach a large audience and I hope to see it. Mainly because I have a long history with the franchise.
I grew up reading the Left Behind series. In fact, sadly, there was a time when reading the series replaced reading the Bible. Sad confession, I know.
I, like millions and millions of others, was drawn in by the prophecy and Revelation story. The characters…not as much. I always found it interesting that every character became indistinguishable from each other once they became a Christian. So it was the prophetic draw that had me hooked.
So I was a part of the “pre-tribulation rapture” people – the millions of evangelical Christians who believed that Christians would be taken away before the end of the world played out.
And that’s ok to believe that.
HOWEVER (you had to see that coming) there are a few things worth noting about the rapture and end time theology that I’ve learned since those days that I would like to pass along to you.
1. End times theology (also known as eschatology) is an open handed issue. There are certain things we as Christians hold onto tightly and are non-negotiable – the virgin birth, the Trinity, Jesus’ literal death, burial and resurrection, Christ as the only way to the Father. Then there are issues that we hold with an open hand because they aren’t as essential – how to baptize (sprinkle or dunk), musical style in church, what we wear, etc. Add some theology or take some away and you’ll wind up with Calvinism, Reformed, Arminianism, Free Will Theism, etc.
But the important thing is understand that as we discuss end times theology that getting this topic right will neither lead to a person’s salvation just as getting it wrong won’t lead someone to hell so you don’t get to be all heavy handed and judgmental when discussing the issue with someone. So hold your view humbly and respect those who disagree with you.
2. Rapture theology is new. As in mid 20th Century new. It’s also a view held primarily in the Western world.
3. Rapture theology is based off of 1 Thessalonians 4.17 that reads “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”
Where does the word rapture come from? The Latin word for “caught up” in 1 Thess. 4.17.
4. There are other views than the “pre-tribulation” view (i.e. Christians will be raptured and spared a 7 year reign of the anti-Christ before Jesus returns.) including mid and post-tribulation views.
The main thing that turned me away from my pre-trib rapture theology (in addition to seeing that it was a new, Western world created theology) was in the Scriptures itself.
The very idea of the Rapture is that we will be rescued and spared the suffering that is to come. It seems nice and feels nice…but it doesn’t seem consistent with the Bible.
The Israelites were slaves in Egypt for 400 years and would argue they weren’t delivered from or spared any suffering.
The Israelites wandered for 40 years in the desert after finally being delivered from their suffering.
The Israelites were in captivity for 70 years in Babylon and not delivered from suffering.
Jesus promised us “in this life you will have trouble” (John 16.33) so we are not promised to be delivered from suffering.
In the garden before he was crucified Jesus begged to have his suffering taken from him…and it wasn’t. He was crucified and certainly not spared any suffering.
How could we expect it to be any more comfortable for us?
The beauty of it all, is that Jesus promises “But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16.33)
So while I believe the rapture to not be something that saves us from suffering as the Left Behind series suggests, I do believe that it is not an issue that should be divisive among Christians.
Instead, I believe that the bigger story here is that Jesus is coming back and when he does, it will be a moment to truly celebrate!