Thursday, June 26, 2008


I like simple. I like things that I can figure out in virtually no time at all. Let me explain what I mean. Even though I'm in my thirties, and arguably part of a tech savy generation, I'm not all that up to speed on the latest and greatest of gadgets these days. For instance, I can barely use my phone. It has hundreds of things it supposedly does but all I use it for (and all I'm interested in using it for) is as a phone. Yes, I want my phone to act as a phone and that's it!

And I think this idea of simplicity is at the heart of what has made both Apple and Google so successful. A music player (Ipod) that I (the non-savy tech person) can actually figure out. Likewise, Google has made a name for itself based on offering simple and easy to use tools. Just the other day I was trying to create a survey for some church-related matters and I looked into a couple of programs that allow this sort of thing. While I didn't spend forever on it, I couldn't figure out either of them. I quickly googled google (yes, you can do that) to find out if they had any such service only to find out they did! I wasn't holding out much hope, though, but I was pleasantly surprised that in Google Documents they offer a nice little feature that allows you to survey and receive feedback on a spreadsheet. Even better, I was able to figure this out in no time at all. Simple. I like simple and I'm almost certain that we've made things way too complicated sometimes for our own good.

As I think about the church, it's mission and focus, I wonder if we couldn't learn a little something about simplicity (See Thomas Rainer's book Simple Church). Have we made things so tough and so complicated that people are left scratching their heads?

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Rapture of Matthew 24

Now we come to probably the most famous text thought to loudly proclaim this idea of the rapture- Matthew 24:36-43. Has the one "taken" been raptured and the other one "left" been left behind? Upon closer inspection and with a correct historical reading of this text, my belief is otherwise. In 24:37, Matthew states that as it was in Noah's days, so it will be when the Son of Man returns. So, what happened in Noah's days? The ones who were taken were swept away by God's judgment in the great flood. These were the wicked. The ones "left behind" were left behind floating on top of the water, free from judgment. These were the righteous.

So, being taken in Matthew, and in this context, is to be taken for judgment. It has absolutely nothing to do with a pretribulation rapture. In fact, as Ben Witherington puts it: "the ones who are left behind after judgment comes are fortunate and are wiping their brows" out of relief.

My hope is that this helps by convincing and convicting you that there is no rapture nor is there a need to be rapture ready. One of the gravest and potentially harmful errors of this theology is that there is the potential of a second chance. This second chance theology gives one the impression that upon being left behind, one still has a chance to get things right before the final and ultimate second coming of Christ. Unfortunately, for those of us living our lives in a hedonistic sort of way and banking on such a "second chance," I'm sad to say that such a time will never come.

I'll talk more about this second coming in the days ahead, but for now, know that you can't start living the life God wants you to live soon enough.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Rapture Revealed

Interestingly, just got in the mail a couple of days ago a little pamphlet about the rapture and how such a theology is riddled with errors. Anyway, I'll pick up where I left off the other day and explain to you where the notion of the rapture came from.

The notion of the rapture didn't exist in Christian history before roughly 1820 when a teenage girl in Glasgow, Scotland apparently had a vision that described a rapture of sorts. A minister upon hearing this story, none other than John Darby, took the girl seriously and then subsequently developed his rapture theology that has become the basis for the dispensationalism so well known today.

In one particular text in Revelation that is often thought to refer to the rapture, a closer look and recognition of what kind of literature one is reading reveals something else. Rev. 4:1-2 says: "After this I looked and a door was open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said: 'Come up here and I will show you what must take place after this,' And at once I was in the Spirit and there before me was a throne." What John of Patmos is describing here is not his personal trip to heaven but instead an apocalyptic vision. Remember, the book of Revelation is apocalyptic in nature and must be read through such a lens. The language used here is typical of all apocalyptic literature. John doesn't really make a trip into the heavens but remains on Patmos where in the Spirit he has a visionary experience where he sees some pretty interesting things.

Tomorrow, we take this a step further and look at my personal favorite rapture text, Matthew 24:36-43, which speaks of two standing in a field with one taken and the other left.

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Are You Rapture Ready (Part 2)

Let's look at some specifics regarding what I posted yesterday. First off, this book was written for first-century Christians in Asia Minor first and foremost. They were the audience and therefore, when we interpet the book of Revelation, we need to know that whatever the text could not have possibly meant for them back then and there, it cannot possibly mean now. For example, as Ben Witherington points out, if no first-century Christian could have understood a coded reference to a particular late Western bad guy named Osama bin Laden in the reference to Mr. 666, then neither should we. What it meant then, to the original audience in the first century, it still means today. While it's meaning hasn't changed, the application of the meaning may change. I like what Witherington says here, so I'll quote him in full:

"To suggest that the original audiences of this document who lived in that culture, spoke Greek, and read apocalyptic prophecy, couldn't possibly have made sense of this material, but modern persons with no historical, linguistic, or rhetorical training or knowledge can, is the height of arrogance."

I'll end this post with one final point that I'll elaborate on further tomorrow. What the book of Revelation does not say anything about is a Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the faithful. In fact, the message the book of Revelation conveys to its audience is to prepare to suffer, even to the point of death. This is a far cry from the escape clause that serves as the backbone of any rapture theology and should further remind us that maybe we should leave behind any notion of being left behind.

As a side note, the book of Revelation was so puzzling to both Calvin and Wesley that they regarded it as too complex to write a whole lot about it and still writers in our time think they've uncovered some code or key that unlocks the ancient mystery that is the Book of Revelation.

This is taking longer to explain than I first thought but I'd rather keep the posts short. Until tomorrow...

Monday, June 09, 2008

Are You Rapture Ready?

Admittedly, early in my walk as a Christian I was in the process of readying myself for the eschatological (end times) phenomena known as the rapture. I was reading the Left Behind books and studying everything else that Timothy Lahaye and Jack Van Impe had to offer on the subject. Somewhere along the line, though, I began to wise up and see that any theology of the rapture is largely a gross misinterpretation of the biblical texts used to support such a view.

One of the keys to gaining an overall understanding of the Bible is to know what kind of literature you are reading. The bible is made up of several kinds of literature and written to a multitude of different audiences. In addition to the ancient biographies (Matt, Mark and John) and the ancient historical monographs (luke-Acts), we have several letters and sermons that look like letters in the New Testament. Lastly, we have exactly one book of prophecy in the New Testament - the book of Revelation. As Ben Witherington points out, this is no "ordinary, garden variety prophecy like we find in Amos or Micah or Obadiah. Rather, it is apocalyptic prophecy that can be traced back to Zechariah, Daniel and Ezekial-visionary prophecy by its very nature." As such, this book requires a special sort of reading to get at the heart of its true meaning and the message it hopes to convey.

I'll say more about this in my next post, pointing out the various errors that have been made and continue to be made to support the notion of the rapture.