Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Millennials: Is the "Rapture" wanton escapism?

WARNING MILLENNIAL READERS: this is a LONG article. For those who were born between the years 1982 and 2004, please scroll to the bottom for the abridged version, where I have edited out the interesting stories, relevant quotes, scripture references, and supportive facts. All that is left is my opinion. You are then invited to comment with your opinion.

Okay, I'm kidding; although you are welcome to simply read my conclusion if you want to. I know that not all Millenials suffer from Facebook induced ADD. My little sister explains to me that she just has so much daily media intake that she wisely has to limit each item of consumption. That makes sense. In which case, I sincerely apologize for the length of the article, but I could not do justice to the subject in a shorter format.
I am, after all, a Gen-X-er, (having missed the Millennial cut-off date by one year), and susequently lack the skill of brevity. If I ever attempt to become a published author, I will be hiring a Millennial to do my editing.


Millennials: Is the "Rapture" doctrine Wanton Escapism?

The doctrine of the "Rapture" has taken a few hard knocks lately in popular Christian culture, especially among the young adult crowd going by the demographical classification of "Millennials."  What with the cheese factor of the undying Left Behind series and the wanton hysterics of the Harold Camping rapture prediction for May 21, 2011, (or was it October 23? I forget), not a few of us are a bit weary of the end times drama.  Millennials are outright done with it.

In an era of unprecedented consumerism, very nearly mirroring the excesses of the Capitol District in Hunger Games, young adults today are seeking social change, with the virtues of authenticity, kindness, and justice resurfacing as major themes in the Millennial culture. The next generation seeks to be responsible with our environment, not trashing it for the sake of capital gain. They seek to end worldwide injustices, like sex trafficking and starvation, and on the local levels, they seek to combat social and educational issues such as bullying and illiteracy.

As a Gen-X-er, I sincerely applaud their efforts. The world is a mess and we can do something about it. None of us want our kids to inherit a dystopian world, and if we can play a role in preventing disaster, we, as entrusted by God with this planet, should. Jesus didn't leave us here just to sing in the choir.

Now enter the pre-tribulational rapture doctrine. Like an bull in a china closet, it seems to be the most awkward doctrine of the day, causing clashes and breakage all over the place. At the word, "rapture," Millennials everywhere try not to visibly cringe. What is it about the rapture that gets Millennial Christian's hackles up?

Well, lets begin with what it's not. In the past, debates about theological differences over the correct interpretation of scriptural passages has taken centre stage. This was and still is largely a Gen-X or Boomer* issue. We tend to like to intellectually argue our own personal interpretation of scripture, with our theological standing already pretty well settled in our minds. And for us, it's all about doctrine. Millennials, however, are pretty good about dialoguing over controversial issues and agreeing to disagree agreeably. Doctrine is not usually the issue.
No, for Millenials, the problem is a social one. Many young adults today view the "rapture" doctrine as a blatant and shameful form of wanton escapism.

I mean, what could be more un-Christian than a just "use this world, and GO!" attitude, shamelessly trashing the planet, neglecting the poor, and then not looking back or caring who is "Left Behind" to face the music? Seriously wrong attitude on an epic scale. The "pre-tribulational rapture" doctrine, as such, seems to embody the height of human incompassion: make a mess and then leave. Every waitress knows what I'm talking about. One word: Selfish.
What about the Great Commission? What about the lost? We are called to be lights, shining brightly in the darkness, leading others to the Light of world, Jesus our Saviour. We are His ambassadors to this world. Our behaviour should reflect such a high and honourable calling.

What place is there in the church, then, for a doctrine that spawns social irresponsibility and self-centred blindness? None, obviously. But here is where I turn the article on it's head. But you already knew I would do that, right?

I believe in the rapture, and in fact, fervently look forward it.

Yes. I am an unashamed, smiling, "the end is near" sign holding, fanatic. Okay, I've never held a sign, but I believe what those apocolyptic signs have to say! The world is headed for a dystopian future... but for only for a few years. There are no mazes. Or hunger games. But there will be war, famine, earthquakes and other environmental disasters, severe persecution and martyrdom, demons out in the open, and God's outpouring of wrath on God-haters.
At the end of that crazy time, Jesus comes back and sets up Utopia on the earth, so basically, I view the future as both terrifying and glorious, in turn.
Okay, I know some of you are irked right now. Others have already quit reading. Why on earth do I joyfully believe this, considering how inexcusably insensitive it sounds to do so, when the world today needs so much help and the world then will need it even more?  How can a doctrine that highlights an escape from destruction play into the compassion of Christ for the world?  What marriage could possibly occur between "pre-tribulational rapturism" and a present day missional lifestyle? A really, really good one.

Carpe Dium.

Carpe Dium. And for those who don't speak fluent Latin: Seize the Day!
Not knowing the day or hour in which Jesus might return has fuelled, in my life, the most urgent drive to live each day to the fullest for the Kingdom of God. My pre-tribulational rapture motto: "Seize the day; there might not be another!"

The rapture is not about escape; it is about urgency.

I want to make a difference while there is still time. I don't want to waste my life climbing a corporate ladder or seeking financial stability. I'm not going throw away endless hours watching stupid videos on social media. It could all be over in a instant, and what then would I have to show for having lived on this planet?
The imminency aspect of the rapture causes me to prioritize and focus. If Jesus is coming soon, do I want to be entertaining myself to sleep, or do I want to be pouring out my life for the Kingdom of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ?
The attitude some Christians in the Pre-Trib camp have is deplorable, but equally disturbing are those on the other side who are so intent on "remodelling" this world, "taking back" the culture for Christ, and trying to solve humanity's time-old troubles, that they have ceased to look up at all. The New Testament is replete with admonitions to watch and wait for His return, eagerly waiting for Him, and stories of those who lost site of His coming altogether.

You see, the rapture is not just about urgency, it is about Jesus!

Movieguide writer Ben Kayser wrote, in his article, "Dear Christians, Please Don't Leave Us Behind" (a telling title),"most Christians today are not praying to leave this world behind." Friends, that is a problem. Our home is in heaven and when we cease to long to be there with Christ in person, we have lost our first love. Are we busy about the work of the "kingdom," but not really wanting to hang out with the King? Yes, He is present with us in Spirit, but come on! Don't you want to see him face to face? He's real!
The apostles knew their loss when He went back to heaven, and they looked forward to His return every. day. of their lives. King David said, "As for me, I will see His face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in His likeness." He knew what he was looking forward to. Mary, not Martha was commended by Jesus. Yes, we are to serve; but sitting at His feet, just loving and listening to His words is better. I didn't say it. Jesus did.

Oh, and by the way, if we were here when all hell breaks loose (aka "the tribulation"- extreme worldwide dystopia with the antichrist, etc), we wouldn't be the height of usefulness. Anyone who is a believer in Jesus will be singled out to be executed. Either way, rapture or beheading, we miss the mess. Now is our time to make a difference.

So here is the short conclusion for those of you who scrolled down here first, in point format:
  • The rapture doctrine has been negatively impacted in popular culture by a series of hokey novels and movies, as well as by false alarms given by rapture-date-predicting Christians.
  • Millennial Christians are more interested in changing our world into a better place then in hoping to escape from it when things get their worst. 
  • I agree with the Millennials on social change, but still believe in the rapture. Why?
  • The rapture is not about escaping disaster on earth; it is about being with Jesus! Hooray!
  • Believing in the rapture does not tend one towards social irresponsibility, but rather creates a sense of urgency to be about the work of the Kingdom of God here on earth right now
  • Carpe Dium for Christ!!!
  • Jesus will set up His kingdom on Earth one day and will solve all the problems we spend our whole lives trying to fix. Stop stressing and enjoy Jesus today.

So, here's where I'm at. I want to be with Jesus.  I also want to keep giving my life to the work of the Kingdom here on earth. Paul said, "To live is Christ and to die is gain." He couldn't decide which one he would prefer. He concluded that he would rather be in Heaven, but knew he was useful on earth.
If we have the same mindset as Paul, might not we make as big a difference in our world today as he did in his? When Paul came to town, riots happened, churches were started, people were healed and delivered, and as one detractor hysterically informed his superior, "Here are the men who have turned the world upside down!" Considering it was facing the wrong way up to start, this could only be a positive thing.

With our hearts beating for heaven, may our hands be busy here on earth.  Maranatha! Carpe Dium!

Note: The current contention about the rapture is not primarily doctrinal; it's social. But if you should have a question about the credibility of the doctrine from scripture or church history, I would be happy to write a short follow-up article. I went through a crisis of doctrine about seven years ago and researched it intensely with a completely open mind. I was honestly surprised to find myself back in the pre-tribulational rapture camp. I don't know all the answers, but I've become certain about a few things, and that Jesus is coming back at some point for His church, is one of them. I'd be happy to explain why and give you some links to more info for your own research.

*those born in the post WWII "baby boom" lasting from the mid forties to the mid sixties.

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