Rapturous or Rapture-less: Who Cares?

Man, I really hated high school. Sometimes I hear people talk about how their high school days were the best days of their lives. Listening to them makes me angry. High school was my prison. With the exception of a very select few I considered all the other inmates hostile. As for the wardens I played their games, obeyed their mandates, and kept my head down. Thus they were largely oblivious to my existence. Toward the tail end of my junior year I have what is for some reason a particularly vivid memory of a third floor classroom. It was hot that day and this particular section of the school had no air conditioning. We sat there sweating profusely as the teacher droned on. For reasons I do not recall it had been a particularly frustrating day and I completely checked out. As I gazed out the window into the haze beyond the baseball field I very clearly remember thinking to myself, “Why can’t Jesus just come back now?” Rapture me. To hell with my high school. One way or another I would be out of there soon anyway.

It’s not something I’m proud of, but it is how I felt and thought about my circumstances back then. (And that's my high school pictured above. Clearly it has not gone anywhere.)

A few years later I was introduced to a simple little book, Creation Regained by Albert M. Wolters. It was assigned for a college class. I did not realize it at the time, in fact I sold the book for a couple bucks to another student at the end of the semester, but it was the first in a series of steps that would revolutionize my thinking. The world and everything in it has been created by God. As such all of it belongs to God, an assertion backed up by Psalm 24:1. This fact led Wolters to a simple conclusion: creation, the whole mess including high school if you can believe it, matters.  

In my last post I mentioned that it is important to get one’s understanding of Jesus’ return straightened out. I did not elaborate upon those reasons because I wanted to make a couple other points. Even though it probably won’t keep some people from being upset with the fact that I do not believe in the rapture, I wanted to make the point that I am far from the "grand poo-bah" of biblical theology. I acknowledge that.  More importantly I wanted to acknowledge that God does what God wants, whether or not we understand, comprehend, or agree. There are bigger fish to fry than whether or not there will actually be a Christian rapture. Predictably this has led several people to ask why I chose to belabor one of the lesser arguments.

As Wolters astutely pointed out in Creation Regained I believe the idea that Christians will be swept up in a rapture, besides being unbiblical, fails to affirm the goodness of God’s creation. Instead it reflects an attitude toward God’s creation similar to that of mine toward high school. To hell with creation. One way or another I will be out of here soon anyway.

But the Bible is not simply a story about God’s desire to reconcile me, you, or bunches of evangelical Christians to himself. The Bible is the record of God’s plan of redemption through which he will “reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven” (Col. 1:20). Certainly the creation bears the consequences of sin. It is “subjected to futility…has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth” (Rom. 8:02-22). God apparently cares about that just as much as he cares about the fact that “we ourselves…groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” through faith in Jesus Christ. The creation, though dreadfully marred, still maintains the goodness with which it was originally endowed in Genesis. Likewise humans, though dreadfully corrupted, still maintain their unique identity as individual creations made in God’s image.

Paul further stated that in Christ one is a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17) not at the end of time when he or she is raptured, but immediately at the moment of faith. If that is the case then why are those faithful new creations left to waste more time on earth? Paul anticipated that question himself. We are left here because we are called to participate in “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18), a ministry which extends to all aspects of life…like your job, your family, your education, and so on.

As I already mentioned, my last post arguing that belief in a Christian rapture is not biblically defensible garnered several comments. One friend remarked that such arguments over “minutiae” distract us from the real work that God has for us to do. I agree to a point. But I also think that studying and understanding the intricacies helps one further define exactly what God’s work really is. It’s not always simply a matter of clearing our schedules in favor of more “church stuff.” More often it is a matter of taking a redemptive approach to the work we already do. For example, I’m disgusted with myself when I reflect on my high school experience. The arrogance with which I regarded my classmates and teachers demonstrated my fundamental failure to grasp the scope of God’s plan of redemption. There was no part of me that was thinking about how I could facilitate renewal by the manner in which I interacted with people, played sports, or engaged in my studies.  Who cared? I was leaving soon anyway. But we are not afforded the luxury of standing huddled in our churches, accepting anyone who would join us but otherwise watching the world crash and burn. That is not what God is about. Rather he is about “making all things new.” For the limited space of days that we have been assigned here we should be about the same thing.