What about the rapture?

Since I haven’t heard any mention of this in the forum so far, I thought I would bring it up and see what people have to say about it.

I confess the rapture is not something of which I am enthusiastic about (which doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the “Left Behind” series as I enjoy many other religious sci-fi flicks). I am not a big fan of eschatology in general. Frankly, it seems to me that eschatology causes more trouble than it is worth, leading groups off in strange directions like the Jehovah Witnesses. So whatever the truth of any of this stuff may be, too much focus upon this element of Christianity isn’t very helpful for the living of our lives or the welfare of the world. As far as Christian beliefs go it ranks right next to the virgin birth in importance to me – one which I could discard quite easily. Though it seems to me that the case for this one in the Bible is stronger.

1 Thessalonians 4: 15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; 17 then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord.

But if this isn’t a favorite topic of mine, then why bring it up? Well as a few people may have gathered, 1 Corinthians 15 is a favorite of mine which I seem to harp upon frequently and the latter part of it shares enough of the same language to suggest that it too is referring to the rapture.

1 Corinthians 15: 51 Lo! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 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. 53 For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality,

Here Paul seems to be saying that at that same event he describes in 1 Thessalonians, those who are raptured will be instantly transformed from the physical natural body we have now to the imperishable spiritual body like that of resurrected Jesus. However, not being one who tends to see things described in the Bible as magical/supernatural events, I am strongly tempted to interpret this passage as an event where a large number of people have their physical bodies vaporized by atomic bombs or a large meteor impact leaving only the spiritual body which can indeed leave this world to be with Jesus.

The Rapture is arguably the most misunderstood idea in the Bible. It’s often used to take advantage of the impressionable and sell them books, etc. Nobody seems to catch on that a new Rapture is scheduled every 5 years or so! It would be hilarious if it didn’t have its tragic elements.

As for me, I go with simply “He [Jesus] will come again in glory, and His kingdom will have no end”

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Difficult area. I tend to go more with Wright’s interpretation:


At one time I said that I had no eschatological position. But then it was pointed out to me that this is essentially impossible and I had to agree, even if my position does not consist of very much. So I guess the following are the basic principles of my position.

  1. There is nothing wrong with the Earth and known universe except for man.
  2. Changing what is wrong with man is the only change needed to bring about a new Earth and a new Heaven.
  3. God already made it quite clear that He will not have anything to do with a destruction of the Earth again after the flood. But this doesn’t rule out the possibility that we might do that ourselves. And then there is the laws of nature running their course which will eventually destroy the Earth also in a few billion years.
  4. I don’t see how “destroying the wicked” and especially Jesus coming back to rule the Earth Himself will solve anything – not unless it is in conjunction with a fundamental change in human beings themselves. But maybe that is a change which has already begun and is ongoing.
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A list of past failed predictions has been collected on Wikipedia-

Perhaps the real issue is we don’t understand the apocalyptic genre?


Then you should read Wright’s Surprised by Hope. And start listening to Andrew Peterson songs.

In one sense, I agree. During my teens and early 20s, the entirety of my “spiritual” reading was apologetics and dispensational end-times garbage (i.e., the “rapture,” the millennial reign of Christ, and such), and I can honestly say that all of it contributed nothing to my spiritual growth.

It was many years before I bothered with eschatology again, but I very much agree with Richard Middleton’s approach in A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology. He has a lot of material on his blog, as well. A good short introduction to his approach is here:

The 5 Misconceptions are:
1. That Christians will live in heaven forever.
2. That the earth will be destroyed in the judgment when Jesus returns.
3. That the new heavens and new earth will be a replacement cosmos.
4. That the new heavens and new earth will consist of a never-ending worship service.
5. That the way we live now doesn’t affect the afterlife (and vice versa).

On point #5, Middleton has this to say, "(T)he Bible portrays the world to come as the renewal of the earth, involving the restoration of our human calling as God’s image. So our lives now are practice for the world to come… As I have been putting it of late: Ethics is lived eschatology ( A New Heaven and a New Earth , p. 24).

"If we live selfishly, ignoring the needs of our human neighbors—including our neighbors around the globe—then we contradict the Bible’s vision of an international community of redeemed people as “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Revelation 7:9).

"If we pursue our consumption of goods and resources without caring for the needs of our fragile planet (which is our home) and for the other species who share this world with us, we do not bear witness to the God who so loves this world that he gave his only Son to redeem it (John 3:16).

"The link between our present lives and the expected future is evident in Peter’s challenge for us to live holy and godly lives now because of the coming judgment, which will result in the new heavens and new earth (2 Peter 3:10-12). He even suggests that we can, somehow, impact the timing of the eschaton, as we “look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (2 Peter 3:12).

“If we took seriously the biblical vision of God’s love for his creation—including his desire to redeem and renew it—this could impact everything we do on earth. Then we would show by our actions that we are truly the image of God, following in the path of Christ, our Lord.”


This quote helps explain why I think eschatology is necessary, even though I confess that reading about it is often like pulling teeth these days and so I often avoid it. I think I’m going through similar stages to you, since I grew up with such a heavy dose of the dispensationalist Left Behind hoopla, that I just don’t have any interest in reading from one more person who thinks they’ve got it all figured out, especially if it involves preaching about hellfire and brimstone.

But I’ve realized that one’s view of eschatology will affect other aspects of their Christian faith – there’s a big difference in worldview between someone who believes that any moment Christians will be raptured away and this whole earth will be destroyed, and someone who sees a vision of redemption even in the temporal, physical things.

I can see the difference in the way my views are shifting, and so it’s really something I should take up reading about again. Looks like I’ve got some good recommendations in this thread!


The thing about the Rapture is that it already happened… Last week, in fact. It took two people. Everybody still here is so screwed. That’s probably why no memo was sent about the Rapture happening. :yum:



Are they supposed to change my mind or are they sympathetic to this sentiment?

P.S. I am listening to “Is He Worthy?” as I write this.

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Well, NT Wright is not a rapture guy. He says the “caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” is an image from Bible times where the loyal citizens would go out to meet a victorious ruler returning to his home kingdom and escort him back home. So the idea isn’t the we are raptured out of earth, but that heaven comes down to earth and all is set right under Jesus’ rule. He’d say that we live in an inaugurated but contested kingdom, and eschatology is about spreading the authority of that kingdom to all the places on earth where it is still contested, a mission that will be culminated in Christ’s return when every knee shall bow.

Andrew Peterson wrote a lot of his later songs very influenced by N. T. Wright’s writing on eschatology. I used to think much like you that eschatology was an obsession of weird people who liked to make charts and speculate about which world leader would be a good anti-Christ candidate. But now (post Surprised by Hope) I think of eschatology in a much different light, as something central to our hope and calling, as people waiting for Christ’s lordship to be fully realized.


Yeah I saw that about “caught up in the clouds.” I had been introduced to Wright before and my reaction is mixed. I agree on a lot but not about everything. As for Peterson’s songs, I just finished listening to “Silence of God,” “Matthew Begats,” “Faith to be Strong,” and now starting “After the last Tear Falls.” My dislike isn’t just for the usual answers in eschatology, rather it is this whole idea that the future is written already to which I am fundamentally opposed.

I quite agree with regards to 2-5, but the objection to #1 sounds like reincarnation which I do not agree with at all, not even in the Christianized version of this happening once to return us to a post-apocalyptic Jesus ruled kingdom. The physical universe serves a good purpose as the womb in which our spirit is conceived and grows but then it is time to be born and there is no point in going back into the womb. Going back to the other thread “Would any scientific discovery make you lose your faith,” this contradicts reason number 1 why I believe in any of this religious stuff at all. I cannot believe that this mathematical space-time structure is the sum total of what we are – it looks more like a representation in a computer game to me. I can well believe that the laws of nature are necessary for our free will and development but not for our eternal existence as if we were so fundamentally different from God and the angels that our existence depends on a bunch of mathematical equations. And as big as the universe may be, our imaginations are so infinitely bigger than the physical universe, it just isn’t enough for an eternal life – not for me.

Though… perhaps one of the problems is that traditional views of heaven have been even smaller, i.e. less imaginative than the reality of the physical universe.

I would consider “After the Last Tear Falls” and “He is Worthy” to be songs about eschatology. Would you?

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At some level there must be a rapture (as opposed to a Left-Behind Rapture with a capital R.) That is, if by rapture you mean believers who will transition from the present state to the eternal state without tasting death. Because when Christ does return to end history-- some believers will be alive and not in the ground. They will, at least for this meaning of the word, be raptured.


As is Joy To the World (not the Three Dog Night version). It is played as a Christmas song but it is a postmillennial 2nd advent hymn. (I’ve heard the Three Dog Night version has a lost stanza that begins with “Isaiah was a wombat, was a good friend of mine,”)


must be the third verse that we never sing.

I also have two blog posts explicitly on the rapture.


Not reincarnation, but resurrection to a “spiritual body,” which you’ve struggled mightily to explain elsewhere. Whatever the spiritual aspect is, Paul still looked forward to some sort of embodied existence in the kingdom.

Also, I’m not sure how you fit the following ideas together:

If the resurrection changes what is wrong with mankind, and if that is the only thing wrong with the earth or the known universe, then the physical universe still serves its good purpose in the consummation. As well, the melding of spiritual and physical existence in the resurrection body introduces the “new” aspect, which as yet we can only guess at.

And one of the authors, @JRM, just peeked into the discussion. Ask all your saved-up, best questions now! :grinning:

We read Wright’s Surprised by Hope in our theology class. Great book.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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