When I came back to faith in my early 20s, I began attending a Pentecostal church. This church was extremely interested in the end-times, especially the rapture.
This is not just my impression. At one point, while I was in seminary, I looked into getting credentialed with that denomination. One of the requirements was to draw out a timeline that explained when each of the events would take place, specifically the rapture in relation to the Great Tribulation.
Going back to my church experience, it was drilled into us that the rapture could take place at any time. At the end of the morning service, when the pastor would remind us to come to the evening service, it was always with the caveat that the rapture could very well take place that afternoon.
I no longer attend that church or am part of that denomination (both have moved away from that emphasis anyway), but I still regularly hear about predictions for the rapture.
I suppose I should explain what I mean by “the rapture.” Those who believe in the rapture are speaking of a secret second coming of Jesus that takes place before his official and public second coming. The latter arrival to bring final judgment on the earth, but the prior arrival is to rescue the church to protect them from the Great Tribulation and the work of the antichrist.
Part of the inspiration for this is from this passage:
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
While rapture theology was drilled into me during my 20s, it is no longer a part of my belief system. But what about that passage? Does that not require us to be watching for an eminent rapture?
The problem is that 1 Thessalonians 4 and the other passages that are used are actually speaking about a very specific event: the resurrection. Not the resurrection of Jesus, although that is related, but the resurrection of believers.
The resurrection is said to happen when Jesus returns. There is no mention of a secret rescue to protect Christians from tribulation. In fact, the promise of the New Testament is that Christians will face tribulation.
The doctrine of the rapture is only from the 19th century. The historical position of the Church has been a belief in the resurrection of believers.
But then should we be watching for that? Sure. Christians should be ready of the return of Jesus at any time. But we should definitely not be predicting it. If someone claims to have discovered the formula to calculate Jesus’ return, go the other way.
We should seek to be faith to God at all times. The truth is that our mortal lives are fragile and we could be facing God at any time. The point is not to be afraid but to invest in our relationship with God at all times.
People will continue to believe in and protect the rapture, but we should focus on what the Bible says.
If you are interested in this, you might like this series of videos that I have been working on looking at the Book of Revelation.