Over the weekend the "Left Behind" movie opened in theaters across the country, sparking a discussion among some author friends about the theology of the Rapture. Since the movie is based on Scripture and though it is more an end-times thriller than biblical fiction, I thought I would share my views of the Rapture here. I have believed in a pre-tribulation Rapture since childhood. (That is the belief that Christians will escape the wrath of God before He unleashes His fury against evil in the world.) My dad longed to live to see the Rapture. He didn't. But he did graduate to heaven and gets to see Jesus every day now. So I'm sure in hindsight, he isn't sorry he missed what he thought he wanted.
I've studied Revelation - read it many times. Read different points of view on the teaching of the Rapture, whether it happens before, during, after or not at all in relation to what the Bible calls the tribulation. But even after all of the study I've done, I don't come close to being a scholar on the subject. About the only biblical area where I might hang my hat on "expertise" is King David's life or maybe other characters in the Bible whose stories I've studied and written.
But even then, I am certain that one day when I meet these people and spend eternity getting to know them, they're going to tell me that I got it wrong.
And that's the trouble with so many things in Scripture. Many things, those in that "gray" area, are open to interpretation and debate. The truth is, even commentaries that I reference in my research don't agree on every point. That is especially true of end times theology.
The way I see it, it doesn't matter to me whether someone believes in the Rapture or not, whether they are pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib, perterist, or something else. The theology that matters most to me is truth. Do we, do I, walk in truth?
And how can we know what is true? A pressing question Pilate asked Jesus before he allowed him to be crucified.
And in all of my searching of Scripture, in all of my life experiences, in my questions and doubts, I find that truth is bound up in faith. Faith that says I believe God loves me. I believe what He says about sin and death and life and heaven and hell and my need of a Savior. I believe because of grace and that faith gives me hope for the future - whether I am raptured as my dad and I both hoped to be or whether I face eternity through the passage of death - someday I will leave this life, one way or the other. Like my dad, I am ready to meet Jesus and I don't think I will care once I meet Him how I got there.
I do think there is a misconception among some Christians - and I was one of them - regarding the teaching of the Rapture of the Church. When I was young, I thought of it as an escape. Kind of a "get out of persecution card" because I feared persecution. (I daresay we might all agree on that one.) But the Bible tells us that all who live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (Not my favorite verse.) The Rapture wasn't a made-up teaching to escape that. I believe there is room for the teaching, while at the same time living above the fear. Light in a dark world, if you will.
The Rapture, as shown in the "Left Behind" movie isn't about persecution nearly as much as it is about the coming wrath of God on the evil in the world. (The movie doesn't show all that, but the books do.)
And to be clear, we need to realize that there is a distinct difference between persecution and wrath. Persecution separates/isolates us from man. Wrath against sin and evil separates us from God.
The only reason I don't fear wrath is because of Jesus. And I shouldn't fear persecution if I take to heart what King David once said, "Whom then shall I fear? What can man do to me?" Jesus took it a step further when He said, "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell."
The movie was good, especially at opening the door to conversations about these things. Whether there is a Rapture or not, Jesus is coming again. I still hold out hope that I might live to "meet the Lord in the air" at the Rapture (a word not found in the Bible but a concept that is).
But I also think when it comes to these teachings that are not distinctly clear, when interpretations could differ, where they do not affect our faith in what Jesus came here to do, then it helps to remember than none of us understands God perfectly nor can we interpret His Word without some degree of error.
But we can study, and we can seek Him. And He will be found by us if we seek Him with all of our hearts.