Lately I've seen a lot of on-line talk about "The Rapture" and if and when it will happen. I've seen a lot of joking around about it. A lot of name calling and intellectual pride about it. And, I've seen some people genuinely trying to see the other side but not getting anywhere because Twitter and Facebook are horrible places to have such deep discussions. I am not a theologian but I want to give this a try. Hopefully, I can help.
Let me start by identifying my bias and background. I grew up believing in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture. I read some of the Left Behind books, I watched TV shows that offered clues as to when the Rapture would be, I sang "I Wished We'd All Been Ready" as a solo in church and I loved the Rapture Warning bumper stickers.
Then I one day in my early twenties (a.k.a. not long ago) I was sitting around a table of guys who were chatting about the end times. At that moment my world got rocked a bit. My pastor started to explain how he didn't believe in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture. I was floored. Did I need to switch churches? What was his problem? Hadn't he read Left Behind? He talked and explained and I listened along with everyone else but was far from convinced. But as I read more and more of the Bible I started to see his point. Then I read brilliant theologians who agreed that there would not be a Rapture.
I now no longer believe in the Rapture like it is explained in popular Christian culture. Below are some reasons why:
It's a New Idea
What I mean by young, is historically young. Francisco Ribera, a Catholic priest, in 1590 was the first to write anything regarding what we call "The Rapture". In fact, it wasn't until 1827 when John Nelson Darby, a Brethren, popularized the idea amongst some Protestants. Then the idea really took off when William Eugene Blackstone wrote "Jesus is Coming" the 1878 equivalent to "Left Behind". The Cold War then further popularized the idea of "The Rapture" amongst American Protestants. There are many denominations that reject the idea altogether and America is really the only nation in which the idea is taken seriously. And for at least 1,500 years the saints didn't even consider it. And for only 200 years at most has it been a popular idea.
The idea of "The Rapture" seems to be very popular because it involves us not suffering like those who are left behind will. America loves this idea, but much of the Christians in the world cannot accept it because they are already suffering immensely. If God wants to remove us from Earth before the great suffering begins, then why are the Christians in Iraq being massacred?
Jesus said we will suffer and suffer like He did (note when He speaks of the world He means the way the world works not necessarily planet Earth):
"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also." John 15:18-20
"In fact, everyone who want so live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." 2 Timothy 4:12
You don't want to be left behind? Are you sure? Look at the source of the idea of "Man and wife asleep in bed, she hears a noise and turns her head he's gone." as referenced in the song "I Wish We'd All Been Ready".
"'It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed... I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.'
'Where, Lord?' they asked.
He replied, 'Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather." Luke 17:30-37
The ones taken will be dead and the vultures will eat them. The one's left behind are the righteous ones in Jesus' story and the taken ones are punished for their evil. I want to be left behind in this story.
Caught Up in the Clouds
"For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever." 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
Now surely this proves "The Rapture". Well, I think no. Below is a link to a video by one of the finest and most respected New Testament scholars in the world N. T. Wright explaining this passage. Please watch the short video. He explains things very clearly.
N. T. Wright video about this passage
I don't believe in "The Rapture" as it is described in popular Christian culture because it promotes escapism. I think the idea of getting the heck out of here is a damaging one to Christendom. Here is another blog of mine from 2012 that explains this point further.
Bottom line, I don't think "The Rapture" will happen in the way that popular Christian culture, books and movies describes it. But I didn't come to that thinking right away, it took a lot of thought and a lot of digging to come by it. If you believe in "The Rapture" I don't think any less of you. In fact, I hope you're right because I don't want Christians to suffer the way I believe they/we will in the last days. If you don't believe in "The Rapture" quit being so jerkish on-line. Snarky Facebook posts will never be the building blocks of The Kingdom. We can disagree on a lot of things and will disagree on a lot of things until we get to ask Jesus face to face what the answers are. But we must agree on the Gospel and my friends on both sides of "The Rapture" debate do agree on that and the Gospel will bring us together. So, disagree if you must, but do it with understanding, compassion and grace today.