Sunday, January 11, 2009
Whenever anyone mentions the word Rapture most Americans think about Tim LaHaye's Left Behind book series. I have yet to read them (my wife has read most of them) but they are on my mile long book list. The most common and widely held doctrinal view (there are several) on the Rapture is the Pre-Tribulation Rapture where Jesus secretly takes all the true believers to Heaven before all Hell breaks loose and then comes back once more for the Second Coming. I was born and raised a 7th-Day Adventist so I was taught Post-Tribulation rapture where the true believers are taken up at, not secretly before, the Second Coming. The theology of the Rapture is based on a handful of verses and has appeared within the last 200 years but even then it has taken main stage in today's churches. But why? What is it about the Rapture that makes it so captivating? If you are a Protestant (or at least a Christian) you are safe as long as you're prepared. But what if I don't believe in the Rapture? Will lack of right doctrinal belief keep a Christian from being caught up with his fellow believers? What about those that lived and died before John Nelson Darby and others at the end of the 19th century who popularized the doctrine? Will believing in the right doctrine guarantee you a ticket on the Rapture train?
There are hundreds (if not thousands) of varying doctrines and beliefs within Christianity that the idea of just one (or a handful) holding the Truth Stick leaves Heaven looking like a K-mart parking lot. And if that's not bad enough what if one denomination has most but not all of the beliefs needed to enter Heaven? There would be bajillions of doctrinal combinations making it impossible to receive eternal life by right belief. I understand that Christian salvation is a gift from God and that both faith and works is needed to truly be Saved. I'm only suggesting that belief in man-made doctrines constructed from Man's interpretation of the scripture can provide for some interesting theology. So if right belief is not needed to be Raptured and God will rapture those He deems righteous anyway then what's the purpose of being Rapture Ready? Can Christians do anything to be prepared?
The Parable of the 10 Virgins (Matthew 25) is often used to illustrate the need to be prepared for the Rapture. Ten young virgins awaited the arrival of the bridegroom for a wedding. They waited all night for him to arrive and as midnight approached their lamps began to die out. Five of the virgins were wise enough to bring extra oil with them while the other five were foolish enough not to so they hurried to purchase more at the market. While the foolish virgins were out the bridegroom arrived and by the time the five had returned the door had been shut. They begged and pleaded to be let in but the bridegroom said he did not know them.
The focus of the parable are the lamps representing the human spirit and the oil the Holy Spirit within. Those that had kept in tune with God and kept the Holy Spirit within even through the darkest times were prepared for the arrival of the bridegroom. Those that had lost their way and had slowly let that spirit fade out were left out in the cold. Now you can't buy a fresh jar of spirituality at your local K-Mart but one can only refuel your spirit through time spent in prayer/meditation, deeds of kindness, living daily in the spirit of love taught by Jesus. This takes time and cannot be done in one day like children rushing to squeeze in as many good deeds as possible before Christmas.
Even though I'm not a Christian and I don't believe in the Rapture doesn't mean I shouldn't keep my spiritual lamp filled. I do find peace in prayer, living daily in the spirit of love, and doing acts of kindness even though I don't do these as often as I would like. I am not refueling my spirit for a reward like eternity in paradise but I believe my reward is in the act itself. If I can spare food to feed those with hunger then why shouldn't I? I have been blessed many times over. I own material goods in my home that could possibly feed a small family in a third world country for years. I might be overestimating the value of my possessions but at least I have them. And if I can spare them why not? Why do I feel the need to keep books I've already read, watch a TV that airs nothing but reruns and reality shows, and decorate my house with pointless decorations. What does it cost me to act lovingly to my fellow man? If you and I disagree on a political or religious belief why should I strike you, hate you, or even kill you? It does not hurt me if you are of a different faith, color of skin, sexual orientation, or political view. We also both have equal access to God and our own spirituality. I choose to pray because it connects and allows me time with my Creator as a father bonds with his son. And during that time I attain peace.
So if someone were to ask me if I'm saved, if I'm ready for the Rapture I can not explain to them my spiritual journey no more than I can explain why I love my wife and kids. I can only show that person the love for my family, God, and fellow man through my daily walk.