I’m sure by now you’ve heard the news: the Rapture is scheduled for May 21, 2011, at 6:00 pm. Apparently, a massive earthquake will start the grand event, beginning in Fiji and New Zealand at the scheduled time. It is not clear then if the Rapture will happen in America or in Fiji on May 21st, because May 21st in America at 6:00 p.m. is actually May 22nd in Fiji. Minor detail though.
According to the leader of this movement, Harold Camping, only “true believers” will be saved in the Rapture, and of the seven billion people worldwide, there won’t be enough left alive to bury the dead, starting on this date. Apparently Camping believes that the Rapture will begin a series of catastrophic events that will culminate in the end of the world and Judgment Day on October 21, 2011.
In all this bad news, there are some brighter moments. For one, if you should happen to be raptured away, there is an organization that will care for your beloved pets left behind. Eternal Earth-Bound Pets USA (tag line: The next best thing to pet salvation in a Post Rapture World) are a group of dedicated and loving atheists who will rescue and take care of your pets for only $125 for the first pet and $20 for each additional pet.
The idea of a “secret rapture” was first introduced in 1738 by Philip Doddridge but didn’t become a popular teaching until the 1800s when, according to Wikipedia, it was taught by John Darby and Matthew Henry, two Bible scholars. It’s called a “secret rapture” for a reason. Apparently it was even a secret to the writer’s of the NT because they never used the word “rapture.” But thanks to the popular Left Behind series, as well as movies like, A Thief in the Night, many people today know exactly what the Rapture is, who it is for, and have developed terrifying fears of being left to face the antichrist in an apocalyptic nightmare on earth.
I’ll be the first to admit, our world is in pretty bad shape. Some economic forecasters say we may be headed toward financial collapse worldwide, as well as catastrophic famine. I don’t mean to undermine such grievous impending doom and I think there’s definitely merit to it in light of the world economic situation. However, I’d like to also state that I no longer believe in a Rapture, as was ingrained in me to believe since I was a kid, and I think this Rapture Theology is very off-base and damaging to the cause of Christianity.
Why no rapture? The entire teaching is built solely upon a couple of vague passages in the New Testament, namely 1 Thessalonians 4:17 and Matthew 24:40–41, both of which can easily be debunked and which contradict many other passages that give a different, clearer picture of the start of the next phase of the Kingdom taking place on a renewed, glorious earth full of uncorrupted justice and a new order of love and light shining on all mankind.
The Rapture theory is a serious undermining of what God is up to on earth, suggesting that we all abandon project and leave most of God’s creation to complete, unresolved destruction. This is completely counter to God’s clear theme throughout the Bible of the “restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21).
Though I don’t have time to develop such a lengthy teaching in this post, let me just conclude by saying that I don’t think we are going off to heaven, I think we bring heaven here (see Isaiah 65). Having said that, I definitely believe in a resurrection—a reviving and renewing process whereby people are changed into imperishable, glorious versions of themselves. Sort of like a [your name] 2.0.
As to the impending Rapture, I’m pretty sure I’m still going to be right here come May 22. My cats seem pretty relieved about that too! And hey, if I’m wrong, you can have my car…as long as you take care of my cats.