July 2, 2006

The Apocalyptic Worldview: Part 3

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 9:02 pm

So if the apocalyptic parts of the Bible are difficult to understand for those of us that haven’t spent years studying them, what do the professional theologians and pastors make of them? Let’s take a survey.

First, the Lutherans. A few years ago, Dr. Barbara Rossing, a professor at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, wrote The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation. Apparently, the first sentence in her book is “The rapture is a racket.” Instead, she believes Revelation tells us that:

God hears our cries; Jesus, the Lamb, is a new Moses, and He leads God’s people out of oppression into freedom—which is the new Jerusalem vision of chapters 21 and 22 of Revelation.

Next, the Roman Catholics. Dr. Paul Thigpen, author of The Rapture Trap: A Catholic Response to ‘End Times’ Fever, writes:

So what does the Catholic Church officially teach about the true meaning of all these puzzling symbols, figures, and events [in the book of Revelation]?

The short answer: Not much.

What about the evangelicals? Aren’t they all believers that we are in the end-times? Tony Campolo, author of Speaking My Mind, has said:

I have some problems with the whole Rapture theory, as [my] book suggests.

Two very important points I’d like to make here. First, all of these Christian thinkers believe in the second coming of Christ, and to some extent the prophecies of a tribulation. It’s the belief in the rapture, and that biblical prophecies are coming true in today’s newspapers, with which they disagree.

Secondly, unlike the authors I’ve quoted, my intent here is not to “debunk” the pre-trib pre-millenial interpretation. I’m only trying to demonstrate that it is not the only sincerely Christian interpretation. It isn’t even the majority view of Christians across the world. The world’s Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, mainline Protestants, and even many evangelicals, faithful Christians all, understand the apocalyptic tradition in the Bible differently than the “Left Behind” believers.

Belief in the rapture is a choice. It is one alternative understanding among several, all equally Christian, that one decides to embrace.

I would never dream of criticizing Christians who, understanding the differing apocalyptic theologies and in the good faith of their God-centered religious journey, come to believe in the rapture. (Angel, this means you!) God bless those Christians whose minds are open, but come down on the side of pre-trib pre-millenialism.

But here’s what I’m interested in: the worldview of Christians who have come to view the rapture as a shibboleth: a belief that separates the true believers from the apostates, the pretenders, the social Christians.

In my next post, I’ll start discussing some of the elements of the worldview that is inextricably linked with a belief in the rapture and a rapidly approaching apocalypse.


  1. Well, I think one thing that makes it more confusing is that “The Rapture” is never actually used in the Bible, but from what the Bible says we know that Jesus will come again and the church will be “raptured” (just so we can keep using that word).

    For me, it isn’t about feeling persecuted or oppressed, it is about awaiting a promise. This isn’t it. This isn’t all there is. I could have the best life on this planet and still await the day Jesus returns so I can be with my Savior. And, I would pray for that day because no matter how great my life is, the world is not great. As long as there are hungry children, dying people, war, and pain … this world can never be anything compared to what Jesus promised us.

    I don’t know if we are living in the “End Times” but I think we could be. It could be in my lifetime or the lifetime of my children or grandchildren. Jesus said we would not know the day nor the hour and I believe Him. But, it is like my pastor said a few weeks ago in church … we should LIVE like we are living in the “End Times” and if we truly believed we were … there wouldn’t be a pew empty. 🙂

    Comment by Angel — July 3, 2006 @ 6:56 am

  2. Personally, I think the biggest danger is in using belief in premillennial dispensationalism as an excuse to ignore the problems of our world. I’m not suggesting that all with that worldview ignore the world’s problems, or that all non-dispensationalists are engaged in solving problems. But, when one interprets the scriptures to say that things must continue get worse until whoosh, we’re outta here, it’s easy to think that it is okay for poverty and disease to be on the increase. When, on the other hand, one reads in the scriptures that God hates injustice, it’s more natural to ask, “What can I do to decrease the injustice where I live?”

    And, in a sense, we have been living in the “end times” since Jesus’ time. He came to inaugurate the kingdom of God; it’s our job to continue building it.

    Comment by BruceA — July 5, 2006 @ 10:48 pm

  3. […] So here’s a question: which of these items represents a greater threat to the moral character of our society? Should we be more concerned with a) some marginally talented celebrities displaying their genitalia along with poor judgment and sub-par intelligence, or b) a video game marketed to youth that promotes murdering people that don’t accept their fundamentalist religion, a Christianity that distorts the meaning of Scripture? […]

    Pingback by I am a Christian Too » The Degradation of Society’s Morals — November 28, 2006 @ 10:12 pm

  4. I believe in all of what Jenkins/LaHaye describe in their series. However, I think that too often the “End Times” is used to scare people to convert to Christianity. This is not what the church’s focus should be but rather the love of God and the forgiveness of our sins through Jesus Christ. Jenkins and LaHaye are doing the right thing because the Rapture will eventually occur and people need to understand what will happen to those who do not believe in Christ and accept Him as their Savior. Also, I think many Christians brush this part of the Bible away from them because it is scary and they do not want to believe/accept it. The associate pastor at my church just told my Bible study that the devil is an invention of Christians! We need to accept that the devil exists and do everything in our power to combat him and his forces of evil.

    Comment by Carter — December 5, 2006 @ 2:46 pm

  5. […] I like this particular form because it borrows so heavily from Revelation. It feels like practice for the heavenly kingdom, and every Sunday is supposed to be just that — a foretaste of the feast to come. I also like the phrase “feast of victory”, which of course is referring to communion, but it’s very evocative of my favorite image of the Kingdom: a party. We so often think Revelation is eschatological, foretelling the rapture, the final battle, and Christ’s return. Of course, I believe the rapture is a racket, but worse, it distracts from the incredible portrait of God’s kingdom found in Revelation — a feast, a celebration, a party! The Hymn of Praise is meant to be this kind of joyful praise as practice for an eternity with God. […]

    Pingback by I am a Christian Too » Lutheran Liturgy: Hymn of Praise — February 4, 2007 @ 6:00 pm

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