This is the time of the year when our Bible themes and readings often dwell on the two major comings of Christ—his first coming and his second.
But beware. People always seem to be predicting the end of the world. The Seventh Day Adventists thought it would take place in 1844. The Jehovah’s Witnesses believed it would happen in 1914. And then there was the man named Harold Camping, who was convinced the world would disappear just a few years ago.
A current belief that often seems to go along with such theories is usually entitled “The Rapture.”
What’s that, you’ve never heard of the Rapture?
The Rapture is the idea that one day—nobody knows when—millions of people throughout the world will suddenly go missing. They will have been sucked up into heaven, while the people of the rest of the world will be ushered into chaos.
The idea was made popular in the 1970s by a writer named Hal Lindsey (‘The Late Great Planet Earth,’ etc.) and more recently by Jim Jenkins and Tim LaHaye in their ‘Left Behind’ fictional books and films.
But where did the idea of the Rapture originate? The belief was started by a man named John Nelson Darby in 1830. Before that date nobody had thought of it or told of the Rapture as a matter of faith.
Darby was the founder of the Plymouth Brethren, a sect which openly acknowledges that Darby was the first to introduce the Rapture doctrine.
Here are three reasons the Rapture doctrine should be avoided:
(1) It is not a part of the Bible, nor is it a part of Church teaching. One solitary verse in Thessalonians has been misunderstood.
(2) The Rapture takes the beautiful gift of God’s good earth and turns it into a temporary, soon-to-be-avoided place that we just can’t wait to escape. The world can seem a scary place, and to make sense of it some people try to find an easy way out.
(3) The idea of the Rapture is based on fear, even upon having a suicidal wish. The early Christians expressed their hope by saying: “Come, Lord Jesus, come,” but the Rapture followers essentially say: “Beam us up, Scotty! Get us out of this mess!”
People can be stampeded by fear. The USA contains a great many fundamentalists, and statistics show that a startling 41 per cent of Americans now believe in a literal Rapture.