May 21, 2011

Rapture Saturday

I can't remember the last time we had such a wacky week  We had so many sex scandals that Thursday morning when I turned the car radio on and found the station was in the middle of a news story, it took me a few seconds to decided if they were talking about the French cad or the Arnold cad. (For the record, it was the French cad, and of course his alleged behavior far exceeds that of a run-of-the-mill sex scandal as he has been accused of criminal behavior.)

Then there was the spectacle of a potential presidential candidate "dropping out" of the race he never officially entered, at a roll-out of a major network's fall television season. Really? Is this where we're going to discuss the important issues confronting our nation? Of course it's not.

By the end of the week, we were all enraptured by talk of the rapture. While I take the promise of Christ's return seriously, I can't help but laugh out loud at the idea that anyone could figure out the hour and day by coming up with just the right mathematical formula. It's not because math was my worst subject. It's that Jesus made it clear that no one knows the hour or the day - not even the Son.

I know that to a lot of people, the very idea of a rapture - of Jesus coming to claim believers and take them up into heaven - is nuts. And perhaps by choosing a word like "rapture" to describe such an event, Christ's followers have encouraged such cynicism.

But despite the fact that the term "rapture" isn't biblical, the concept is. Jesus refers to his coming again and tells his disciples to be prepared. In Matthew he tells them that the day will come when all the nations "will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens of the other." Now we know that Jesus often spoke in figurative terms. If his disciples had realized he was talking about his body when he told them that the temple would be destroyed and he would raise it again in three days, they'd have been hanging out at the tomb following the crucifixion. They would have been actual witness to more than an empty tomb - they would have been waiting in anticipation of watching him walk out of that tomb.

I don't know if Jesus is speaking in literal or figurative terms when he tells what his second coming will look like. I suspect we'll be surprised by the reality, much as we were surprised by the baby in the manger. But I know that whatever it looks like, we won't miss it. And we won't need to worry about anyone's ability to come up with the right math formula to be ready for it.

As for today, it looks like instead of waiting for Jesus to come around dinnertime, I'll be cleaning house. Because tomorrow is another day and I'd like to wake up on clean sheets.


Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 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. Therefore, encourage one another with these words. 
~ I Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NIV)