by Alf Cengia
So you want to be Left Behind? You see no value in the escapist rapture? Warning: there may be the occasional sarcasm and axe grinding ahead.
The Left Behind books created by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins drew no small criticism from bloggers when they first came out. While there was criticism of Jenkins’ popular style of writing, the real offense was the pretribulational rapture.
LaHaye quickly became the whipping boy of non-pretrib premil bloggers. Previously it was Hal Lindsey. One popular blogger emailed LaHaye with a bunch of “gotcha” questions – and followed up with his own book. If I had a dollar for every protest email sent to pretrib teacher I’d be a wealthy man.
Over the past few weeks I’ve come across several online essays attacking dispensationalism via the Left Behind series. One popular blogger wrote of: “Two painfully obvious reasons why the rapture must be Left Behind.” Another gent said he wanted to be Left Behind.
The “painfully obvious reasons” were 1) that Scripture allegedly doesn’t teach it and 2) because the church never taught it for the first 1800 years of its existence…” William Watson’s Dispensationalism Before Darby has refuted this point. But it’s a consistent go-to argument.
We’re told that 1Thess 4:13-18 has as much to do with the rapture as a telephone book has with finding a good steak recipe. I guess they must be reading a paraphrase version. They claim that no biblical scholar of esteem has ever interpreted the passage as proof of the rapture. N T Wright’s “Farewell to the Rapture” is appealed to.
N. T. Wright is clearly an esteemed scholar. He even has the hermeneutical skills to re-interpret Genesis and keep Theistic-Evolution folk at BioLogos happy. Notably, he’s also a supersessionist who doesn’t see a prophetic future for national Israel:
“Jesus…refused to give up the symbolic language of the kingdom, but filled it with such a new content that, as we have seen, he powerfully subverted Jewish expectations.”
I have to wonder what God thinks of Wright’s symbolism theories (Lev 26:44-45; Isaiah 60:10-12, 20-21; Jer 31:31-37). Did Jesus really subvert these promises? See Barry Horner’s Future Israel for more on this topic.
Finally Wright – unlike “literalistic fundies” – has a low view of biblical inerrancy. So excuse me if I take his scholastic opinion on future Israel or the rapture with small grain of salt.
But here’s the kicker. The writers of this ministry website call themselves Christian Free Thinkers. They are a community of believers who feel they’ve been lied to by the traditional church. Would that be the same church which didn’t teach the rapture all those years?
Ironically, they claim man’s view of God is constantly evolving. Their goal isn’t to replace the church’s “errant views” with their own absolute views but to expose man’s pitiful attempts to turn God into an airtight belief system.
We apparently need to break out of our boxes to see God, the world and each other without a heavy-handed bias. Of course that bias would be teachings about sin, hell, homosexuality, the Atonement and God’s wrath. God’s wrath is a big no-no with these folk.
This sort on Free Thinking Christian ministry is gaining popularity. But “free thinking” is an oxymoron in many cases. When you dig further, you find little original material. Many of these “original” ideas have been derived from heretics (Marcion, Girard etc).
For example, Jürgen Moltmann is quoted as saying that a God who raptures Christian flight crews so that the plane crashes and kills thousands of people isn’t a God we can trust. He calls that God “a wicked idol of a pathological contempt of the world.”
One wonders what Moltmann thinks of God’s wrath against the Egyptians, the Canaanites, Noah’s flood etc. Is that God a wicked idol of imaginative OT writers? Moltmann also happens to be a go-to person for postmodern Emergent Leader Tony Jones. His progressive views on homosexuality (and other ideas) are attractive to “free thinking” Christians.
Another rapture critic says he wants to be Left Behind because he believes those swept away in Noah’s flood are the ones punished by God. It’s quite refreshing that someone still believes in Noah’s flood. Would that event have been God’s wrath?
However he doesn’t think we should take the book of Revelation literally. He cites Michael J. Gorman’s Reading Revelation Responsibly. Gorman thinks one must use a “contextually sensitive reading” (historical and literary genre etc). You know the deal…the horrible stuff may have already happened or is symbolic of something else.
There must be some special “decoder ring” available to esteemed scholars like Wright and Gorman. It’s not available to the average reader, so one must refer to their books to get the gist of what the Bible “really teaches.” Don’t trust a Hal Lindsey or a Tim LaHaye. They aren’t esteemed and don’t own decoder rings.
Frankly, I see more creativity in some of these scholastic commentaries on prophecy and the book of Revelation than in the fictional characters of the Left Behind series.
We’re routinely told that the rapture teaching is escapism. I wish I had a dollar for every time…well, you get the drift. If I see a train coming my way I might consider getting off the tracks. How about you?
It’s easy to put on a heroic front about something one denies will ever occur. Imagine a conversation between two people standing by a sea shore. One person spots a Tsunami heading towards them and warns the second person. He is casually informed by the disinterested other that the rising of the waves is just a “metaphor.”
Decoder rings were never handed out to the disciples. They were looking for a literal Messiah and were expected to believe what they read in the OT. The Bible predicted Jewish persecution throughout history and that Israel would be harassed by other nations (Deut 28:64-65; Zech 14:2-5, 16).
Isn’t that what we’re seeing in Europe and the Middle East? Or is that just a metaphor
We’re just not on the same literal page as these creative folk. We believe the warnings about a future tribulation period as found in books such as Daniel, Joel, Zechariah, the Olivet Discourse and Revelation should be taken seriously. They don’t.
For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 1Th 5:2-3
It seems to me that critics have a harder time explaining how Scripture allegedly supports their case. But I especially like the simplicity of the following verse:
Because you have kept my command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Rev 3:10
So you want to be Left Behind? Have yourself some fun with that plan. Personally, I can’t wait to be with the Lord. And I take comfort in the knowledge that He can return for His church at any time.
Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 1Jo 3:2