don’t be left behind

Why can’t I write a short post? (note to self: muse on that later)

There is a proliferation of websites out in cyberspace having to do with End Times scenarios. Exploring them is an absolutely fascinating way to waste hours and hours on the web -not that I’ve done that personally; I have just read about people who have. I’m just saying. But if you are one of those people who do, you can learn things you had never heard in seminary such as the idea that the Nephilim in Genesis 6 are really space aliens (cue X-Files music) and their return will signal the beginning of the end (if you’re pre-trib, that is, so if you’re not perhaps the aliens are waiting for the tribulation to begin and then they’ll make their entrance according to the correct theological scenario). Anyway, hence, (cool word, hence) all the crop circles and UFO sightings of late.

The websites that seem to take everything most seriously are the pre-trib sites of course, because they are making sure that no-one gets Left Behind. Pre-trib means that one holds the position that the rapture of the church by Jesus will occur before the 7 year tribulation, sparing God’s people any nasty encounters with the Anti-Christ. Except for the Sudan, apparently, where all the cruelties of hell are readily and presently experienced.

One site is Rapture Ready. It’s actually not a bad site (if you buy their position) but they will not answer my the question about what Jesus will do with those Christians who are not pre-tribbers. For example, after Jesus comes and collects the pre-tribbers will he say to the staunchly post-tribbers, “Well ok, you’ll have to wait then – I’ll come back and pick you up according to the time table of your eschatological stance?”  To their credit, the Rapture Ready folks have a page dedicated to those who find themselves Left Behind for any reason (who will also no doubt be seriously bummed when they figure it out), and they do not say, “We told you so, bwa ha ha ha ha haaaaaaa.”

It all brings to mind the comforting old song we sang back in the days when we had to walk to youth group (before 20 passenger vans), barefoot through the snow, uphill both ways. You may remember that hopeful old ditty: “I Wish We’d All Been Ready”.

Two men walking up a hill, one is disappears and one’s left standing still, I wish we’d all been ready. There’s no time to change your mind, how could you have been so blind, the Father spoke, the demons dined, the Son has come, and you’ve been left behind.

Ahh, Memories. I invited Jesus into my heart at least 4 times because of that song.

There are other views of the timing of the rapture of course. There is a mid-trib stance (the rapture occurs 3 and ½ years into the tribulation), post-trib (you have to go all the way through it) and then there’s the preterists who are so over it. Technically, I suppose there could be other possibilities but these are some of the ones that we have determined God can do, so far. We’ll keep him informed. But it’s very telling that all of these views seem to reflect the very human dualistic mindset that loves to compare and divide and cast out.

Through what lens do we read end times and rapture texts? One theologian who truly calls us back to a hopeful stance again is NT Wright. (I confess I have strayed from my seminary training – moving from dispensationalist teachings to reformed theology and now Wright. Lewis Sperry Chafer would roll over in his grave – if he were still in it.)

NT says, “Paul’s mixed metaphors of trumpets blowing and the living being snatched into heaven to meet the Lord are not to be understood as literal truth, as the Left Behind series suggests, but as a vivid and biblically allusive description of the great transformation of the present world of which he speaks elsewhere.” And, “ Paul conjures up images of an emperor visiting a colony or province.  The citizens go out to meet him in open country and then escort him into the city.  Paul’s image of the people “meeting the Lord in the air” should be read with the assumption that the people will immediately turn around and lead the Lord back to the newly remade world.” (See http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_BR_Farewell_Rapture.htm)

I think this begins to call us back to who we truly are meant to be though it’s hard not to want an escape plan. Many who “look for the Lord’s coming” are simply wanting to flee the painful circumstances of their lives. That is understandable. But perhaps it is time that we, the Church start to get earnest about spiritual formation and so help our people to enter into a deeper knowing of God (Hebrew – heart knowing). We must seek a true intimacy that burns away the dualistic mindset and helps us receive the lives we have been given within the transformative and loving presence of God. Perhaps then we can be shaped into people who could actually tolerate and celebrate heaven – a place of knowing and being known, where “I’m right and you’re wrong” has no relevance and the first are last anyway (seriously, try to even imagine that) and where the hospitality of God is beautifully evident at his startlingly inclusive banquet table.

I think we find ourselves closer to that as we refuse to merely escape and seek to return to our true selves: the Church who is characterized by oneness, love, and service, and who is truly the Body of Christ – broken and given for the world. The Church who, enraptured by her Beloved, turns back around in every present moment and offers him to the world for whom he gave his life to renew. The Church, whose passion is the Kingdom and the spreading of the gospel that is truly good news for all. Otherwise, we might find that we, the Church, are truly “left behind”.

(Note: The picture above from http://www.allhatnocattle.net. Used by permission)

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  • Michelle
    Reply

    And then there are those of us raised Congregationalist, who had NEVER HEARD of the tribulation, or the rapture, until we moved to the South in our 20’s. Huh. Me? I don’t worry about it. It’s SO not my job! The Lord knows where and when and what He’s going to do with me, so I just don’t sweat it.

  • ellenharoutunian
    Reply

    I will add that to the list of possible readings of the end times texts. 🙂

  • Karey Swan
    Reply

    I used to be in all those mentioned tribulation groups throughout my Christian journey. I’m now in the ‘Pan-trip’ group, figuring it’s going to all pan out in the end. I’ve read NT Wright’s newest book, and am pretty much ‘there’.

    You posted this blog on Jesus’ Transfiguration Day. If the disciples couldn’t ‘get it’, how can we be so arrogant to think we’ve got it ‘figured out’.

  • Karey Swan
    Reply

    That’s ‘Pan-Trib’.

  • ellenharoutunian
    Reply

    Heehee I got it – it sounds so very “Karey”! 🙂 How cool about Transfiguration day! We do tend to try to put everything that is beyond our comprehension into convenient tabernacles – a way to contain and explain mystery, I suppose. Hey I’m impressed that you visited *every* group! *hugs*

  • Clara
    Reply

    Readers might enjoy Googling or Yahooing “Pretrib Rapture Diehards” to find out how, where, and when the you-know-which-major-deviation-from-what-had-always-been-believed took place. Other riveting Google stuff includes “The Rapture Index (Mad Theology),” “Thomas Ice (Bloopers),” and “Deceiving and Being Deceived” (especially the last half). I hope I haven’t upset anyone with this truckload of historical facts. Lord bless. Clara

  • ellenharoutunian
    Reply

    :::giggles::: Interesting sites! I am glad you caught my “tongue-in-cheek” mindset and that I’m not trying to diss anyone, rather, I am hoping that we can move beyond the religion of certainty to a place of genuine conversations with each other – in faith, hope and love. Thanks for visiting! Come again. 🙂

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