Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Great Snatching Away

Is it really going to happen?

I’m writing a dark, young adult, post-apocalypse, dystopian, speculative fiction story. Yeah, one of those. I thought maybe when I finished my third book about a transhuman, I’d be ready to settle down and write something nice. You know, for the general Christian women’s readership. But then along came this teenager living in fear of a truck that comes at night and makes people disappear, and I had to write her story. It’s not a full-length novel, only about 12,000 words, so I won’t spend too much time with the girl. Unless her story doesn’t end with this novelette, which is a possibility. One thing I learned from the transhuman is that the story isn’t over until it’s over.

But for now the plan is to move on after my brief encounter with a girl named Rae. What makes her story different from the adventures of dystopian heroines like Katniss (Hunger Games) or Tris (Divergent) is the reason for the apocalypse. It’s found in Scripture, analyzed by theology, dreaded by some, and hoped for by others. But mostly, to the greater population, it’s just an unbelievable prophetic event that the Christians talk about. Here are some varying opinions about the rapture of the Church:

It’s not a real thing because the Bible doesn’t contain the word “rapture.”
It’s real, but only good Christians will get raptured. Bad ones will have to suffer the tribulation.
It will happen before the tribulation begins.
It will happen in the middle of the tribulation.
It will happen at the end of the tribulation.
Every child under the age of accountability will get raptured.
Planes, trains, and automobiles will crash, derail, and run off cliffs when operators are raptured.
Clothes the believers were wearing when the rapture occurs will be left neatly folded.
The Holy Spirit will be removed from the earth.

Some of these speculations are just that—speculation. Some might be products of imagination. I can’t fault that since I’m one of those people who makes up stuff. But I hope to never confuse a good story with the truth. Some of these conditions of the rapture, I wouldn’t touch with a forty-foot theological pole.

That said, a basic understanding of the rapture of the Church should not be missed. The Greek word harpaz√≥ is why we must consider the rapture. It means to snatch away, or to be taken away in an instant. The word became “rapture” in the Vulgate, which was the main Bible for the medieval church until the time of the Reformation. So the word has been in Scripture, translated from the original text, for a long time.

The rapture is a future event foretold in prophecy. All kinds of people interpret the prophecy of the Bible in all kinds of ways. Here are two verses that, to most redeemed believers, offer the great hope of the rapture:

I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” I Corinthians 15:50-54

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a
word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will
rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.  I Thessalonians 4:13-18

The message is that something is going to happen, at some point, specifically for the Church alone. Here’s a verse telling about the Second Coming:

Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. Matthew 24:29-30

The two events have similarities—they are both events in the return of Christ. But they’re different. One is a surprise. Even though the angel is shouting and the trumpet is blowing, it must be a quiet, instant occurrence that only believers will experience. Afterward, there will most certainly be some 
mess for the rest of the population to clean up. People will have questions. And the world will never be the same.

But in this millisecond Christ won’t set His feet on the ground. He’ll come for His own and be gone in a flash. Until Part Two of the return. The next time isn’t so low-key. Everybody will see Him. He’ll defeat the Antichrist and end the tribulation. No secret. No surprise.

Between these two events, will any be saved? I’ve often wondered at the statement that the Holy Spirit is “removed” at the rapture. How is the omnipresent God not present… anywhere? I know, now I’ve taken out my forty-foot pole. But believers followed Christ before the Holy Spirit came down at Pentecost. It’s not that the Spirit wasn’t there—He just hadn’t been “poured out” on the Church. In other instances in Scripture, He is poured out. Salvation wouldn’t occur during the tribulation if the Holy Spirit was gone for good, and the Bible indicates some will be saved. It won’t be easy though, and most of them won’t live through the awful times.

As for the pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib argument, it’s a distraction to the Gospel. If you read my blog last week, then you know I consider the growing persecution of Christians to be a very different matter than the wrath of God. I might have to face persecution, but the wrath of God brings me no fear. I’m covered by the blood of Christ, and my stance on the rapture’s timing should be clear. But I won’t give the argument much voice. While we Christians are fighting over when we’re going up, somebody might get left behind.

One other interpretation I’ll poke my pole at: Only good Christians get raptured. I hope that’s not true. I’m not sure I know any good Christians. The only thing good about Christians is our Great Redeemer. And He won’t leave us.

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