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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Advent and the Rapture

According to the 2005 Baylor Survey found that approximately 50% of Americans believe in the Rapture, which holds that Christians will be gathered together in the air to meet Christ either at his return or seven years prior to his return.  There is even a Rapture Index that tracks world events and is
"designed to measure the type of activity that could act as a precursor to the rapture. You could say the Rapture index is a Dow Jones Industrial Average of end time activity, but... it would be better if you viewed it as prophetic speedometer. The higher the number, the faster we're moving towards the occurrence of pre-tribulation rapture."
Not everyone who believes in Jesus' second coming believes in the Rapture, however.  For example, the 2006 Religion and Public Life Survey found that 79% of Americans believe that Jesus will come again someday, but only 25% believe that this will happen in their lifetime. The age group this is most likely to believe that Jesus will come again in their lifetime are Americans between the age of 35-44 (31%). The least likely group are those 65 and over (22%).

Such things came to mind this morning during worship as I listened to this year's Lectionary readings for the First Sunday of Advent, in particular the passage from the Gospel of Matthew (24:36-44):
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,[a] but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left.  Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left."
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him" (New International Version).
What are those of us Christians who don't believe that Jesus will come in our lifetimes (a majority of Americans) or not at all (a small minority) to do with passages such as this? What are we to do, for the matter, with the season of Advent, which traditionally calls on Christians to prepare for Jesus' Second Coming?

I don't know if there is an easy answer to that question, but I think that this morning's passage from Isaiah (2:1-5) provides a clue:
This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:
In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. 
Many peoples will come and say,
         “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the temple of the God of Jacob.
              He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.”
         The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
              He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.
         They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
              Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD (New International Version)
Isaiah, I believe, is not only holding out a hope for a better future, he's also calling on his listeners (i.e., the descendants of Jacob), to live that future now (i.e., to walk in the light of the LORD) and not wait until God brings such a world about.  

I am almost certain that Isaiah's vision of the future informed Jesus' notion of the Kingdom of God and would argue that Jesus' vision of how the world should be (and not how it is) should inform how those of us who are Christians should live our lives today. And that, I believe, is how we can approach the season of Advent -- recognizing that the Kingdom of God, God's hope for our world, is calling to us to live in the present as if God's future has already arrived.

2 comments:

  1. The Rapture Index (Mad Theology)
    by Dave MacPherson

    The "Index" (as in Todd Strandberg's "Rapture Index") lists 45 "precursors" which are earthly events reportedly acting as signposts pointing to the rapture and showing how close it is.
    Here's the mad theology: the Rapture Index's pre-rapture "precursors" include even "The Antichrist" and "The Mark of the Beast" which, in Todd's view, occur AFTER the rapture! What's more, all of his "precursors" are on earth AFTER the point in time for a "pretribulation" rapture, are actually fulfilled DURING Todd's seven-year tribulation period, and in fact point to ONLY the (posttribulation) Second Coming to earth and not to any sort of "pretribulation" coming of Christ - a concept that NO organized church and NO official theology ever taught before 1830!
    Todd even believes in pretribulationism's "signless" rapture - which adjective is believable if Tricky Todd can convince us that "precursors" can never be "signs"!
    See Google and type in "Deceiving and Being Deceived" (one of my earliest internet articles) to see why the claims for Pseudo-Ephraem and Morgan Edwards (as "pre-1830 pretrib teachers") are totally groundless.
    Also Google "Famous Rapture Watchers," "Thomas Ice (Bloopers)," "Walvoord Melts Ice," "Edward Irving is Unnerving," "Pretrib Rapture Diehards," "Open Letter to Todd Strandberg," "Wily Jeffrey," "Pretrib Rapture - Hidden Facts," "Pretrib Rapture Secrecy," "Pretrib Hypocrisy," "Appendix F: Thou Shalt Not Steal," "Thieves' Marketing," and "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty."
    Be sure to obtain my bestselling nonfiction book "The Rapture Plot" (available at Armageddon Books online) if you would like to see 300 pages of the most detailed and most accurate history of the 180-year-old pretrib rapture view.

    [saw the preceding while netting]

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