Don’t worry…you have not been left behind…

Lately with all of the “end times” discussion surrounding the current pandemic, a topic continues to emerge in the religious community. That topic is a little thing called the “rapture.” For those of you that may have just tuned in, the rapture is a religious idea that comes from a certain translation of Biblical prophecy. According to those that believe in the rapture, there is to be a great “tribulation” on Earth. However, Christians will be saved from this difficult time when Jesus comes back and removes them from the planet. This idea of the rapture has spawned many strange religious ideas over the last couple of centuries. Most people are not aware that it was not a widely accepted concept until the 1800’s. A man name John Darby, who was a pastor in a group called the Plymouth Brethren was the first to really interpret scripture to include the rapture. Typically people don’t know who Darby even was, but they do know the man who was influenced by him…one C.I. Scofield. Scofield was the creator of the Scofield reference system for the Bible which is still widely used today. Scofield was so impressed in Darby’s ideas that he included the concepts in his own work. Eventually, the Scofield model became extraordinarily popular in the United States and with it, the concept of the Rapture. From this concept, books have been written, movies have been made, and many preachers have led people to getting saved by making a person fear being “left behind.” The problem is that there is little scriptural evidence to back it up. As a matter of fact, the word “rapture” does not appear in the Bible at all. It is taken from the Latin word “rapare” which means to seize, snatch, or take away. The popularly cited passage thought to support the concept is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 and reads as follows:

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever.” (NRSV, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17)

This passage is most often referred to in order to support the idea of the rapture. However, this was not Paul’s purpose in writing the text. Paul was addressing concerns among the Christians in Thessalonica about what would happen to their loved ones who died before Christ’s return. This passage is Paul’s offering of affirmation and comfort for them. Ironically enough, what started out as words of comfort to a concerned people have been twisted into a grossly misinterpreted and twisted into a doctrine that when tested holds little weight. I totally understand why people are drawn to this belief. I mean, who wouldn’t want to avoid pain and difficulty. That is the problem with Biblical prophecy. People interpret things through their lens often towards their desired outcome. Often those people are selling something or have another motive in their work. In concerning the challenging events that we and others have been through and are going through, we would do much better to cultivate a faith that is strong enough to help us through the storms to come rather than teach a doctrine that amounts to little more than religious escapism. People have been trying to predict the end of the world and the return of Jesus for over 2,000 years now. No one has been right yet. We are still here. The world has not ended yet. Why not focus on our growth and impact on the world around us in this present moment that we have rather than worrying about things that we cannot control? True faith is about acceptance in the absence of facts. We do not have to have everything figured out. Faith does not give us a parachute out of difficulty, but rather it helps us and those around us thrive in the midst of the difficulty. This prevents us from being so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good….and just in case you were wondering…don’t worry…you have not been left behind.-

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