The anticipation of the rapture
When I was young, I attended a church with my grandmother. I was generally happy to go, but to a young boy, the services were long and confusing. For me, the reward came at the end with the opportunity to receive a small card with a Bible verse and a picture of Jesus. To my recollection, never did the word 'rapture' appear during the sermon or on those small cards. Certainly, I had an awareness of God’s plans to perfect the earth once again, but I came to learn that there were churches in the world that were leaving out a lot of detail between now and then.
It seems that interest in the rapture not only rises and falls with age, but also often parallels how we are feeling at any given time. When life is good, we tend to push the rapture out of our mind. When things aren’t going so well, we often long for it. I’m sure God has heard it all: “I don’t want the rapture to happen until I meet my partner and we can marry; I don’t want the rapture to happen until I can see my children grow up; I don’t want the rapture to happen until I get that car I wanted; I don’t want the rapture to happen until I get that house I wanted; I don’t want the rapture to happen until…..” But when we age, it seems the opposite becomes true. “I don’t want to face the pain of death so I really want the rapture to happen”, we often say. Yes, it seems we either don’t want the rapture to occur because we will lose the cherished experiences of this life or we do want the rapture to happen so that we don’t experience suffering and death.
The mere mention of the word “rapture” elicits a strong response both inside and outside the church. Many pastors do not believe in the rapture of the church and therefore do not teach it. In fact, many go so far as to ridicule those who do. Outside the church, the main detractors often appear in the media. On 27 September 2022, CNN ran an article by AJ Willingham entitled “For some Christians, ‘rapture anxiety’ can take a lifetime to heal”. In the article, reference is made to a person named “Ajoy”. She was raised in an evangelical church in America but is now one of a growing network of “exvangelicals” who have removed themselves from what they now view as the damaging beliefs of some evangelical and Baptist Churches, the rapture being one of them.
Some have gone so far as to form a support group for people who have had traumatic religious experiences and one of the most recounted experiences is something the article refers to as “rapture anxiety”. According to Darren Slade, the president and CEO of the Global Centre for Religious Research, rapture anxiety “is a real thing” and “a chronic problem”. He continues, “This is a new area of study, but in general, our research has revealed that religious trauma leads to an increase of anxiety, depression, paranoia and even some OCD-like behaviours: ‘I need to say this prayer of salvation so many times,’ ‘I need to confess my sins so often.’”. “Now imagine,” he continues, “You are taught that at any minute, you could be left here on Earth. What does that do to the teenager who just had premarital sex, or even simply took the Lord’s name in vain.” Might I say at this point that Mr Slade evidently misunderstands the theology of imputed righteousness and the forgiveness afforded through Christ for those who have accepted His free gift of salvation. Those who are "left behind" are unredeemed sinners, not those who have been redeemed through the shed blood of Christ.
Many others who recount their experiences growing up in Bible-believing churches often speak with bitterness about their pastors who had taught on the doctrine of the rapture. Some say they were tricked into watching violent rapture-themed movies while others say they cried themselves to sleep thinking about people and pets who would be left behind when the end finally came. Of course, to add to the confusion, we have sadly had many over the years who have attempted to put a date on the rapture, leaving many in a state of confusion and anger when Jesus did not return.
Often, to support their argument against a pre-tribulation rapture, scholars and lay people alike will argue that the word “rapture” does not appear in the Bible. Of course it doesn’t – the Bible was not written in English! But the Greek word “harpazo” certainly appears. The term “rapture” is derived from “rapturo”, a Latin translation of the Greek term. 1 Thessalonians 4:17: Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up [note: harpazo] together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. The word “harpazo” means: to seize, to snatch away and to claim for oneself. In other words, Christ will snatch His bride from this earth.
In essence, what we are seeing today is exactly what we would expect from the enemy. He is taking the things of God and turning them upside down. The rapture should not bring fear to the believer, it should bring hope. Titus 2:13: looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ. Only the enemy could take the beautiful doctrine of the rapture and turn it into a tool of fear for believers. In fact, for the believer, the rapture shouldn’t bring anxiety, it should relieve anxiety.
Furthermore, did you realise that if you are not excitedly looking for the Lord’s appearing, the enemy is robbing you of an eternal reward? When crowns are handed out by Jesus at the Bema Seat, the Scriptures record one in particular which is awarded to those who love the Lord’s appearing. 2 Timothy 4:8 says this: Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
To the younger and older members of God’s family who are already citizens of heaven: make Bible prophecy a big part of your plans for the future. God’s powerful promises will bring your earthly plans into focus with a heavenly perspective, and you will begin to understand that leaving this earth doesn’t mean loss – it means reward.