Unless the rapture only included about four people, I’m going to assume that it didn’t happen. I know, I know, some of you are shocked. Your calculator said the same thing that Harold Camping’s calculator did. I could crack a blonde joke, but that might get me in trouble. We can just all agree that math is hard.
What have we learned?
Well, if history is any measure … probably not much. I remember the first time (within my lifetime) that this whole Jesus is coming back in 5 minutes and 31 seconds occurred. Then the book was called 88 Reasons Why Jesus is coming Back in 1988 and lots of people were all in a dither about Jesus knocking on the Rapture door. The dithering was not limited to the Christian superzealous fringe as I had the opportunity to learn.
I made the unfortunate miscalculation of laughing riotously when my good friend’s mother offered the book up for discussion. We will call her Petunia. Petunia was respectable in almost every area of her life. Successful, married to a good man, a house full of great kids, loved horses, puppies and kitties, and she was a pillar in her local upper middle class Virginia church. She handed me the book (purchased from her church book store). I thought it was a joke. Well, it was, but not one that Petunia thought was funny. What followed was three days of argument, consternation, evangelization, and recrimination.
By Sunday, Petunia—when it became apparent that my rapture to tribulation views were not at all in alignment with her interpretive “authority” and she had exhausted most every other intellectual manipulation—was reduced to tears, on her knees, beseeching God for my salvation in a roomful of people. She gave me a book by J. Dwight Pentecost, a full systematic dispensationalist Pre-Tribulation theology. It was her counterargument by proxy. She was positive that this book represented what the bible “clearly” teaches. My soul was in danger if I didn’t escape my deception. She tried to make me promise that I would read it, but even back then I didn’t make such commitments. And I’ve never accepted that evil demonic hordes could compel me to believe something independent of my own volition. To my amazement, Petunia was one of many that I encountered through 1988 who was utterly convinced of the Bible’s “clear” teaching of Jesus’ return during that year.
The reality is, this won’t be the last time we hear such a proclamation. Maybe Harold Camping will be relegated to the dustbin of absurdity, but probably not. I suspect he has already crafted a rationale that will justify the error. But if not him, someone soon will take another whack at all things Rapture, seeking to scare the bejeebers out of the world and into the Kingdom. Whatever “blessed hope” the rapture represents, as an evangelistic tool, it represents an open manipulation of people’s fears.
Let me wax brainy for a minute. To understand the tides of human history, it is important to grasp these two concepts.
- Man abhors chaos.
- Man needs a coherent body of ideas to govern his actions.
When man cannot find a coherent body of ideas to explain the chaos, he tends to toss his hands in the air and his brain into the grand end zone of life: the Rapture is the ultimate Hail Mary.
Most of the Biblical “end times signs” are sufficiently pervasive throughout the world and common enough to local cultures that they can be seen in most any nation. And those signs that are not local and obvious, man becomes creative with rumors and portents to fill in the blanks so that their life qualifies. So, in pretty much every age, some Christians somewhere have thought they were living in the last days. All men live in some form of social pandemonium and national turmoil. This chaotic existence grates on their bones driving man to collective despair. When nothing makes sense, Man will suffer most any indignity to find something that orders the chaos. So, when the indignity does not seem to be serving a purpose, he is inclined to just check out. It looks like the game clock is ticking down, so let’s blow this popsicle stand. Jesus is coming back NOW!