What about the rapture?

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.

Right! A physical (as in bodily) resurrection to a spiritual body rather than a physical (as in natural) body. Where the physical/natural body made of the stuff of the Earth is perishable and weak because it is subject to the laws of nature from which its existence derived, so a meteor from the sky and poof it is nothing but hot gasses. While the spiritual body made of the stuff of Heaven is imperishable and powerful because it is not subject to the laws of nature (not a part of the mathematical space-time relationships of the physical universe), so a meteor from the sky has no impact on it whatsoever. But the implication of this is that interaction with the things of the Earth while conceivable, is extremely difficult and far from the natural course of events. The miracle of the resurrection was not the fact that Jesus had a spiritual body, for He always had spiritual life and never lost it. The real miracle was that the disciples could see and interact with Him. For Jesus to stick around even for the short time He was there, was not a natural thing at all.

So your suggestion that we would all live on the Earth with spiritual bodies doesn’t really make any sense, in more ways than one. The limitations of the laws of nature exist for a reason just like the walls of womb in which a fetus grows. Blow those limitations away and it no longer serve its proper purpose.

In other words, physical death is not a result of the fall but a natural part of life and not something we should expect to change, except in our perception to being seen as a second birth into the greater life of the spirit.

I don’t believe in any such melding. Either you abide by the laws of nature and it is physical, or you do not abide by the laws of nature and it is spiritual. There is no in-between.

Unless of course we go extinct before then - then we’ll all be in the ground :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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While many hold different views of that Paul is saying in this (and I personally go for the pre-tribulation rapture dispensational premillennial concept of the end times but I’m not a huge times table nut job or really Christian Zionist) regardless of how we try to understand it Paul is simply telling the Christians of Thessalonica that the dead will precede the living and this was told to them because many were afraid that Christian loved ones who had died before them will get left behind when the Blessed Hope took place. This is the main issue in which Paul is saying.

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Of course, “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 15:50).

Interaction between the spiritual and the physical is not just conceivable, it is required. God is spirit. If we say that the spiritual cannot interact with the physical, then we shut God out of the physical universe and make it impossible for him even to be the Creator, since that it is the ultimate example of Spirit interacting with matter. The only example of a resurrected, spiritual body is Jesus, and since the disciples did see and interact with him, even sharing several meals with him, we can conclude that the spiritual body, though not subject to the laws of nature, is capable of interacting with the physical world. Beyond that, I’m not sure how much more can be said.

I think we are talking past one another a little bit here. I am assuming that the physical universe, the earth, and animal/plant life will continue to exist in the “renewal of all things.” The limitations of the laws of nature will no longer apply to resurrected humanity, but they will still be in operation for the rest of the universe.

Yes, “melding” was not the best choice of words.

The possibility is required for theism as opposed to Deism, yes. But it is quite apparent that interactions are far from easy or frequent. We do not have spiritual beings running around all the time in plain sight and the vast majority of things happen by the operation of natural law. Nor is the dualism conception of a spirit operating bodies like puppets supported by the scientific evidence. Quantum physics leaves causality open for such interaction but is a very small window – this is not much of an obstacle for an omniscient God, but your suggestion that people come back and live on the Earth in spiritual bodies is a different matter. That is not only unbelievable but like I said it would disrupt the very purpose of the physical world.

Exactly! The only example is when the spiritual body in question happened to be God Himself. It only demonstrates that this interaction is possible not that it is normal, natural, or to be expected.

I assume that the physical universe will continue to exist, because I assume that its function as a womb for the conception and growth of the spirit of new children will continue.

Correct. Resurrected humanity will no longer be a part of the mathematical space-time structure which is the physical universe, that is what it means to be spiritual. The structure and limitations of natural law are no longer needed by them or a part of what they are.

True. But I always appreciated Pascal’s approach to this question:

If there never had been any appearance of God, this eternal deprivation would have been equivocal, and might have as well corresponded with the absence of all divinity, as with the unworthiness of men to know Him; but His occasional, though not continual, appearances remove the ambiguity, If He appeared once, He exists always; and thus we cannot but conclude both that there is a God, and that men are unworthy of Him.

I don’t agree with dualism. Humans are a complex unity. Referring you to Middleton again, but he substantially describes my view in his blog post:

Here are the opening paragraphs, for those who don’t want to read the article:

"Many Christians throughout history have thought that the “soul” was an immaterial part of the person, and of more importance than the body. Moreover, the “soul” has often been regarded as the immortal or eternal part of the person.

"We have now come to understand that this view of the “soul” ultimately goes back to Plato. In Plato’s anthropological dualism, the human person is constituted by body (partaking of mortality, change, and impermanence) and soul (the higher, eternal part of the person; in some sense, the true person). Plato understood soul ( psyche ) as essentially mind and regarded it as divine (he called it “the god within”).

"Plato’s anthropological dualism (the split in the human person) corresponded to his broader ontological dualism (the split in the nature of reality). He thought that the finite, changeable realm of physical existence, along with sense perception and bodily desires, was manifestly inferior to the divine, immaterial realm of rational intelligibility (the “Forms” or “Ideas”), which existed eternally and without change.

"In contrast to the Platonic view is the Old Testament vision of a good creation; God made the cosmos (including materiality) and pronounced it “very good” (Gen 1:31).

“Likewise, the Old Testament understanding of nephesh (the Hebrew word typically translated “soul”) is very different from Plato’s idea of the soul. It’s core meaning is simply organic life (the semantic range of the term includes other uses, but this is basic). This core meaning shows up in Genesis 2:7, where God creates the first man to be a “living soul” (that is, a living organism).”

Not really. What is the purpose of the physical world? No offense, but you always come across as absolutely certain about some things that are questionable, and that you, yourself, might change your opinion about if more information came available. I suggest holding your opinions with just a shred more humility. This is just a discussion, nothing more.

That statement is only based upon your present experience of the world. The “world to come” undoubtedly exceeds our imaginations, as Isaiah said, “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind” (Is. 65:17). Paul said essentially the same in Eph. 3:20-21: " Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen."

Possibly, but that’s just speculation, so let’s recognize it as such, not state it as if it were dogma.

“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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