In light of the fact that it is May 21th and no-one has been raptured and we are still here, I thought it appropriate to share a few thoughts on this whole rapture idea that people have fallen in love with.
Right down to the present day, this new apocalyptic is spread in the United States through Bible institutes and prophecy conferences and end-of-the-world announcements in all the major newspapers. Its theology resembles the early prophetic theology of the kingdom, but its function is the precise opposite. The messianism there finds its correspondence in the apocalyptic here. The historical involvement in resistance there is paralleled here by the apocalyptic flight from the world.
– Jürgen Moltmann in The Coming of God p.159
And from a more recent Anglican theologian/scholar whom I am quite passionate about.
When Paul speaks of ‘meeting’ the Lord ‘in the air,’ the point is precisely not–as in the popular rapture theology–that the saved believers would then stay up in the air somewhere, away from earth. The point is that, having gone out to meet their returning Lord, they will escort him royally into [God’s] domain, that is, back to the place they have come from.
– N. T. Wright in Surprised by Hope p.133
It seems to me that as our view of salvation has narrowed from being invited back into the partnership with God for the creative and reconciliatory work in the cosmos to a simple salvation from sin (which it also and always has been) we lost so much. Instead of being excited about our opportunity to bring hope, love, and restoration to people and a planet in desperate need of such care and attention we find many western Christians hoping for a quick exit from reality with little desire for meaningful engagement with those around them beyond the scope of evangelism.
I don’t believe that God has never left our reality, or our world and He continues to be our hope. Jesus didn’t come and sacrifice himself so that one day in the future all that he died to reclaim would be destroyed, but that one day God’s passion for the cosmos could be realized through a complete transformation of the very world and matter that we experience. It is this new type of creation that Jesus continues to embody ever since he was raised from the dead, he was the first, and all of the cosmos will follow.
Jesus still is going to return and it will be a day to anticipate with much hope. That the plan and hope for the cosmos will continue to unfold, a perfect justice for the oppressed, and a healing of the systems, structures and cosmos.
Yet this reality is already breaking through into the world. God is breaking through creation and we can, if we choose, be a part of this transformation. This is my passion and the reason I have chosen to respond to the call on my life to be a pastor. It isn’t only to introduce people to the living God, but also to introduce them to the God who has never stopped being present in the hurt and pain of the world.