In an earlier blog article this month, I mentioned having a theological discussion with my sister. One of the direct questions she asked me was, “Do you believe in the Rapture?”
If she had asked me that question 60 years ago in 1955, which was the year I graduated from high school and the year after I started preaching, I most probably would have answered Yes without hesitation. But now I had to say, “No, I do not believe there will be a literal Rapture.”
My sister, just as some other family members and friends who hold to a fairly literal interpretation of the Bible, likely thinks her unchanging view of the Bible and theology means she is upholding “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3).
The Rapture is considered very important by conservative Christians—and not believing in the Rapture is considered a serious matter. In his bestselling book “Four Blood Moons” (2013), John Hagee declares that “false prophets are now teaching there will be no Rapture of the church” (p. 76).
Hagee (b. 1940) also gives this grave warning: “If you are deceived into believing there is no Rapture, prepare to stand in line to get your personal tattoo from the Antichrist” (p. 79).
And then a little later, Hagee, who is the founder and senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, asserts, “Satan hates the Rapture teaching and has his deluded disciples saying there will be no Rapture” (p. 83).
There is not space in a 600-word article to explain all the reasons why I no longer affirm a literal Rapture. But the linking of Rapture theology to current world affairs is one reason for not only denying the Rapture as taught by Hagee and many others but for also seeing it as a dangerous teaching.
Back as far as 2010 Hagee was calling for the U.S. to join with Israel in a preemptive nuclear strike against Iran. Long a fervent supporter of Israel, he currently is a strong backer of recently re-elected Prime Minister Netanyahu and opposed to the President’s stance toward Israel—and toward Iran.
Although he didn’t say so in those exact words, back in February one website posted this headline about Hagee’s position: “God Will Destroy America Because Of How Obama Treats Netanyahu.”
So, all of the talk about the Rapture and other aspects of the “end times,” often gets entangled with current political issues. Christians who believe in the Rapture and think that the apocalypse is near are most likely to support conservative politicians who support the nation of Israel and are hawkish toward Iran.
Christians (like me) who do not believe in a literal Rapture and do not think that the end times are necessarily near are likely to sympathize with the Palestinians, considered to be unjustly treated, and to think that negotiating with all countries as being superior to use of military force.
Further, although the “Left Behind” series of books have been highly popular, I am among the many Christians who see the mass holocaust portrayed in those novels as highly troubling.
So, there are significant differences in the thinking of Christians who believe in the Rapture (and related doctrines) and those who don’t. But even among those who disagree, those differences can be talked about in a civil manner.
Theological discussions rarely change minds, but they help clarify one’s own position. Thus, I appreciate my sister’s question—and I am thankful that in spite of our disagreement, we still have a warm, cordial relationship.