It is Sunday morning. You wake up, ready to conquer the world. You wait for the usual sounds of the world to flood your senses but the world is noticeably quiet.
The house is so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Even the neighbour’s chicken is quiet at a time when it would be adding to the cacophony of early morning human activity.
You check your phone to see the time and you find that you didn’t wake up too early or too late. In fact, everyone should be awake. There should be some sort of activity or noise at least. Your 6 year old baby brother or sister should be complaining loudly about have to take a bath. There should be some clanging in the kitchen. There should be sign of human life.
Then you remember that sermon you heard last Sunday. About the rapture. About how one day the faithful of the Lord will be taken and the evil will be left behind. You start to think that you were left behind. That you are not the righteous of the Lord. You start to panic. And while you’re panicking, you hear your brother or sister making noise and your heart slows down. You were not left behind. Everyone else was having a slow morning. You are relieved.
The rapture gospel simply put is this: Jesus will first return before the period of tribulation begins. He will call into the clouds those who have been saved. Then after this, the tribulation period that will last for seven years. Then, Jesus will come back again for the final judgement. There are many different versions of the rapture and it’s difficult to summarize all of them but this is the overarching principle of it. It is important to note that only Pentecostal churches believe in the rapture; Catholics I’ve met discount the idea completely.
The very first time I heard about the rapture, I was afraid. I was afraid every minute of every day that I wouldn’t be going up to heaven with my fellow Christians. And because of that fear, I started to perform Christianity, instead of actually being Christian. I became proficient in the language of Christianese because of the anxiety.
In 2017, Twitter gave this anxiety a name; they called it Rapture Anxiety. A fear of being left behind. And for many Christians, this anxiety doesn’t allow them to enjoy their faith. To enjoy the relationship they have with Christ. To fully become what God intends them to be. Coming away from that fear is hard. I’m still getting over that fear myself.
What I have understood of Christ’s love for me is that it casts out all fear. And the best I can do is to live everyday, doing the best I can, loving God and loving my neighbour. Those are the two greatest commandments after all. I don’t know if the rapture will happen today or tomorrow. But I refuse to worry about it. Theoretically, it’s more likely that I will be hit by a bus before I can be caught up in the clouds.
Every few years, someone comes up with a date based on a some calculation or sign in the stars. William Miller predicted that the rapture would happen in 1843, it didn’t. Harold Camping said publicly that the world would end on May 21st 2011. May 21st 2011 was a quiet day. And then there was the 2012 prediction. The 2000 prediction. And the Jehovah’s Witness prediction that judgement day would be in 1914. Of course, these all didn’t happen.
I can’t speak for everyone but I believe that this obsession with the rapture can’t be good for the body of Christ. There are certain individuals that can’t wait for the rapture to happen. They actively seek it out. They pray for it. They predict when it will happen, forgetting that even Christ doesn’t know the date of His Second Coming. How can a mere human know?
I titled this blog post, the escapist gospel of the rapture because for some people, that’s what it has become. An escape. Waiting and waiting and looking for signs in the stars has stopped us from living in the moment. It has stopped us from living in our community and sharing Christ’s love with everyone.
This gospel has had us folding our hands and not reaching out to those that need the most help. We are so busy performing the act of Christianity instead of being Christians in order to secure a seat in heaven. It has separated us from the people that Christ told us to disciple. We are so busy spreading fear with this gospel that so many people have rejected Christianity because of it.
The truth is, I don’t know if I believe in the rapture. There is so much conflicting information about it, even after all the research I did. The word, rapture, means ecstatic joy. I’d like to view Christ’s Second Coming as a joyful event. But the current way it’s being taught inspires fear. And fear inspires performance.
It’s like the parable of the talents. Rapture-obsessed Christians are becoming like that servant that dug a hole and hid the talent, waiting for the Master to come back. Christians are called to change the world they are in for the better. They are called to use the talents.
I think the rapture gospel has made it so that they don’t have to try. They don’t have to do anything, just look to the sky and wait. After all, they are going to heaven. And Earth is the ghetto. Earth is the ghetto. But it’s a ghetto you’re called to influence and improve. Bring God’s Kingdom down by doing what God asked you to do: Love Him, love your neighbour. Don’t sit and wait for Him to come back.