Bathwater and Babies, Diamonds in the Dirt

Monday, May 17, 2021

Bathwater & Babies – Audio Version

Thanks to Horrible Hal (Hal Lindsey, that is, whom I honestly do not regard as highly horrible) — thanks to Horrible Hal and other End-Times Enthusiasts, no one takes the idea of the Rapture seriously any more. Okay, yes, that is a wee bit of an overstatement. But as overstatements go, it holds true more often than not. Practically speaking, the rejection of the Rapture is a widespread reality that must serve as any theologian’s operational assumption within contemporary Anglo-American Christian Academia. And the same assumption also applies at most self-respecting, liturgically-formal churches. As a doctrinal and eschatological scenario, the Rapture is widely regarded as rather ridiculous, even embarrassing. Nowadays, the Rapture is usually held in derision by those who are convinced they know better.  

But I do believe in the Rapture. When Rapture-skeptics realize that I do in fact believe the Rapture will occur, they usually respond with comments like, “So… do you mean you seriously believe in the Rapture? As in, the sudden disappearance of all true Christians, past and present, from around the globe, upward from Planet Earth? Beam me up, Jesus! Seriously? You do know the word rapture doesn’t even appear in the Bible, right? You really ought to go read what N.T. Wright has to say about that.”

And yada, yada. The (usually polite) ridicule just featured is what the Rapture skeptics will often rehash.   

And as I quietly endure the skeptics’ very predictable, polite ridicule, babies jettisoned along with their bathwater come to mind, as do diamonds discarded with dirt. To the dismissive (and potentially smug) skeptics who still might be reading or listening to this, I want to request that you hear me out. Please consider the Rapture again, and try to set any knee-jerk prejudice aside. Please do not immediately reject what might in fact be a valuable interpretive insight just because it has been poorly packaged. Just because the Rapture has often been misrepresented over the last 50 years does not mean it should be rejected without careful scriptural study. I mean, as a kind of parallel, just because zombie movies often make the resurrection look like a freakish scenario does not mean that we should dispense with the doctrine of the resurrection. Similarly, just because the Rapture has been portrayed poorly in low-budget movies does not mean it ought to be discarded. The truly important thing to consider is whether Scripture teaches it will happen.

To repeat and rephrase somewhat, the really important issue is whether Scripture presents the Rapture as a future event that will occur. 

So please grab your Bibles, ye studious People of the Book. If you will, look up Revelation Chapter 15. Read it and re-read it. You might not recognize it at first as the thorough-going Rapture passage that it is.

1 Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished.

2 And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. 3 And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,

“Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty!

Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!

4 Who will not fear you, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy.

All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

5 After this I looked, and the sanctuary of the tent of witness in heaven was opened, 6 and out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues, clothed in pure, bright linen, with golden sashes around their chests. 7 And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever, 8 and the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished.

Revelation 15:1-8 ESV

At the risk of being harsh, I have a few questions for you. When was the last time you heard a sermon about this passage? When was the last time you heard anything coherent taught about this particular passage? If you yourself were asked to interpret this passage in its narrative context, how would you do? Could you present it coherently, or would you and your listeners walk away completely confused? 

These probing questions I do ask because I am willing to bet that the vast majority of skeptics who ridicule the Rapture cannot make much sense of this passage in its broader context, that is, immediately after the events of Chapter Fourteen, and immediately before the Seven Bowls of Wrath are dispensed. However, please realize that these eight verses make perfect sense to those who take the Rapture of the Church seriously. With the Rapture in mind and in place, this passage is completely coherent within the overall contextual flow of the Book of Revelation. It is like a puzzle piece that fits exactly where it ought. And that clean, orderly coherence should give y’all pause, especially because alternate explanations are almost always messy and incoherent.

Please allow me to interpret and explain this passage.

Those who have conquered the Beast, and its image, and the number of its name — who are they, exactly? Most interpreters would agree that these conquerers are true Christians, Faithful Witnesses for Christ. And while that interpretation is not wrong, it is not precise enough. Yes, these are Christ’s Faithful Witnesses, true enough. But more exactly, they are all the Faithful Witnesses who have persevered and thus prevailed through to a particular point in Church History — to its final terminus, to the end of the present age or era. The Beast, its Image, and the Number of its Name (referred to hereafter as the Notorious BINN) will not appear in their final, ultimate, and most fearsome manifestations until the end of this era. Therefore, the Faithful Witnesses who persevere and who thereby manage to conquer the Notorious BINN must necessarily include all of those who live through (and perhaps die during) the very end of this current era. 

By the way, and very importantly, please do notice that I do not mean to exclude any of the Faithful Witnesses who died in the centuries and decades before the final days — not at all. Instead, I simply mean to include those who have lived through (and those who may die during) the final tumultuous period of time. The Faithful who prevail over the Notorious BINN include all the faithful throughout the entirety of the age. Chapter Fifteen depicts all the Faithful Saints, from the beginning to the utter end of the Church Age.      

Notice where these conquering Saints are said to be standing. They are standing beside the Sea of Glass, otherwise and alternatively known as the Crystal Sea. And where, pray tell, is the Crystal Sea? If I am not mistaken, the Crystal Sea is not on Earth, but is up there in Heaven. Yep, according to Revelation 4:6, the Crystal Sea is situated before the very Throne of God, up in Heaven. (This matters because those who deny the Rapture will often claim that after Christ’s Second Coming his Saints do not go to up heaven, but instead stay on Earth.) So, based on Revelation 15, is it safe to assume that all the conquering Saints have somehow made their way up to Heaven? Personally, I am altogether willing to assume just that. The Saints got there somehow. In Revelation 15:2 all the Faithful, Conquering Saints throughout the entire Church Age are seen standing beside the Sea of Crystal in Heaven. Rapture skeptics need to explain how this is true.

Okay then, exactly how did those conquering Saints get up there to Heaven? 

They either made it up to Heaven through Death or through the Rapture. As far as I can tell, the Bible offers human beings no alternative means of transport to Heaven. Death or Resurrected Rapture — those are the only two viable transit options to Heaven. And be very careful before you easily opt for Death as their sole means of transit. In 1 Thessalonians 4:17 Paul claims that some very blessed Christians will escape death altogether. Those Christians will be physically transformed in an instant (for that, see 1 Corinthians 15:51-52), and will meet the Lord Jesus in the air. I would like to suggest that from their meeting place in the air they will (or hopefully, we will) continue to ascend to Heaven, where they/we will find ourselves besides the Sea of Crystal, before the Throne of God. While we are there, absent from Earth, the Seven Bowls of Wrath will be poured out upon the unrepentant upon the Earth. And notice that exact sequential scenario follows the narrative flow of Revelation Chapters 14, 15, and 16, neatly, cleanly, and coherently. Uh huh, it really does.        

If this is the correct contextual interpretation of Revelation 15, then the Resurrected Rapture can and should be understood as one and the same as the Eschatological Exodus. That simply means that just as the Children of Israel were once delivered from Egypt by means of the Miraculous Parting of the Red Sea, so the the Church of God will be instantaneously delivered from out of the fiefdoms of this world by means of a miraculous Parting of the Time-Space Fabric. The Eschatological Exodus is the Resurrected Rapture of the Church; and its immediate aftermath is the scene presented in Revelation Chapter 15.

When the roll is called up yonder, will you be there? I do hope to see you beside the Sea of Crystal in Heaven someday, perhaps even someday soon.

Crass Literalism

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Crass Literalism – Audio Version

Within the last week, one of my readers asked me to cover the thirteenth chapter of Mark. If I am not mistaken, I think that reader wants me to interact with what the Right Reverend N.T. Wright has written about Mark Chapter 13. This, then, is that. 

Since the Right Reverend Wright wrote in an academic manner for his fellow scholars and for seminarians, I might slip back into egghead mode here. If I do, one or two reasons explain the slippage: Reason One – They trained us to write in a particular, peculiar way until it became an ingrained habit. Reason Two – I am striving for clean, concise precision. If you dislike academic jargon and despise seminary-speak, this might not be the blog post for you. But if you’re even moderately tolerant of seminary-speak, please do read/listen on. 

Basically, N.T. Wright claims that Mark Chapter 13 is not about Jesus’ Second Coming, but instead about the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD/CE. You heard (or read) that right.  

In response, I will sing my usual refrain: Wright is right in what he affirms and wrong in what he denies. Yes, Wright is right when he claims that Mark Chapter 13 is about the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD/CE. Wright is quite wrong when he claims that Mark 13 is not about Jesus’ Second Coming. Wright unnecessarily forces a false dilemma on his readers. We do not need to choose between the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD/CE on one hand, and the Second Coming of Jesus on the other. Mark 13 speaks to both and links both. Highly important point.

Some of my readers/listeners might wonder if I portray Wright’s position fairly and accurately. Yes, I believe I do portray it accurately. However, if you want substantiation and if you want to double-check my claims for yourselves, you can locate what he says in his book Jesus and the Victory of God, (hereafter abbreviated as J&VoG) Chapter 8, Section 4, beginning on page 339 in my copy from 1996. You will need to wade through several pages of material, though, to get what I give you in my brief summary above. 

Again, Wright forces a false dilemma. And a lot of people fall for it. Wright argues persuasively that Mark Chapter 13 is about the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD/CE, because it is in fact about that destruction of Jerusalem. But it is also about Jesus’ Second Coming. Verses 24-27 ought to erase any doubt as to whether Christ’s Second Coming is also in focus. It is. Here are verses 24-27:

24 “But in those days, after that tribulation: The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not shed its light; 25 the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 He will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

Wright insists that these four verses are entirely metaphorical. He points out that they contain imagery from the Old Testament. And they do. But the implication is that they must not be understood literally, at all. He spends several pages explaining that verse 26 does not mean that Jesus will someday visibly descend from heaven, but rather has already ascended to heaven in vindication, because the word translated as coming can mean either coming or going in the original Koine Greek (refer to J&VoG, Chapter 8, Section 4, Subsection v The Vindication of the Son of Man, pages 360-365). Wright wants his readers to conclude that Mark 13 is solely focused on the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD/CE. It is a “crass literalism” to perceive a “physical collapse of the time-space world” (p. 361) in these verses. 

Is it really a crass literalism to perceive the Second Coming in these verses? Is it a crass literalism to perceive the Rapture in these verses? I ask because verses 26 and 27 read like the Second Coming and Rapture to me.

In Wright’s defense, someone might point out that these verses must be metaphorical because we know enough about astronomy to know that the stars will not literally fall from the sky. Plus, verse 25 says that “the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” What does that even mean? It sure sounds metaphorical. Maybe Wright is right here?

Hang on, though. Such a line of reasoning says more about our contemporary assumptions of what must be literal than about how the original hearers would have heard it. The language of these verses evoke vivid phenomenological imagery. We can visualize a sunset, and still know that really it is not setting because the Earth is actually rotating. But we call it a sunset all the same, because that’s what we see. Likewise, we can visualize stars falling from the sky and imagine curious disruptions to the normal order of the heavens. In a way, this is all quasi-literal language, because it is how it would appear phenomenologically. It would see, sound, and feel as Scripture describes. So though it is not necessarily scientifically literal, it could very well be phenomenologically literal. And significantly, it also can be metaphorical. We don’t necessarily have to choose one way or the other.     

But I have an even more pointed reply to Wright; and that is this: Other passages of Scripture do portray Jesus descending in a second coming, and very literally so. In Acts 1:11 two men dressed in white robes (presumably angels) ask the skyward-gazing apostles a question. They inquire, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Uh huh. 

That’s as literal as can be, N.T. That ain’t metaphorical, at all. Jesus literally ascended upward into the sky. And someday he will descend from the sky. And that we call the Second Coming.

Notice that I am using another passage of Scripture to interpret Mark 13. Is that a legitimate move on my part? Yes, it is. It is legit because of the nature of Scripture. You get pieces of information from here and pieces of information from there on the same topic. Both Mark 13 and Acts 1:11 speak to Jesus’ coming and going, or going away and coming again. You can begin to get a feel for eschatology — for what will happen — when you pull the pieces of information together. Jesus will literally descend from the sky. That is how it will appear to us.

That all said, you can learn a lot of valuable information from N.T. Wright about the Bible. He is right when he says that Mark 13 references the destruction of Jerusalem. He is also (partially) right when he says that the destruction of Jerusalem vindicated Jesus, because Jesus predicted it would happen.

My issue with N.T. Wright is that he forces unnecessary choices on his readers. He misses prophetic parallels, echoes, and patterns, and insists instead on this or that. He puts his readers in a false dilemma. 

Humiliation

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Humiliation – Audio Version

If you are reading this to see how I will attempt to refute the Right Reverend N.T. Wright on the question and reality of the Rapture, please feel free to skip past the historical stuff about Antiochus Epiphanes that follows immediately hereafter, interesting though it may be. However, you will be skipping some valuable information.

King Antiochus IV Epiphanes was a bad guy, a very, very bad guy. From a biblical perspective, Antiochus Epiphanes was one of the absolute worst bad guys ever. He was really, really bad. I wrote about the Greek Monarch Antiochus Epiphanes in a previous post entitled Damnational Geographic and explained why he was so bad. But I did not include an important historical anecdote about Antiochus in that post which I will include now. Antiochus only went totally bad after someone forced him to make a hard unequivocal humiliating choice. Antiochus was forced to decide something significant, and decide it immediately, publicly. He was literally put on the spot, right then and there, in front of his underlings. Only after he was forced to make that very humiliating decision did King Antiochus IV Epiphanes become one of the absolute worst bad guys ever. So exactly what happened? Here I will let brittanica.com tell the tale:

In Eleusis, a suburb of Alexandria, the Roman ambassador Gaius Popillius Lænas, presented Antiochus with the ultimatum that he evacuate Egypt and Cyprus immediately. Antiochus, taken by surprise, asked for time to consider. Popillius, however, drew a circle in the earth around the king with his walking stick and demanded an unequivocal answer before Antiochus left the circle. Dismayed by this public humiliation, the king quickly agreed to comply. Roman intervention had reestablished the status quo. By being allowed to retain southern Syria, to which Egypt had laid claim, Antiochus was able to preserve the territorial integrity of his realm.

A Roman ambassador drew a circle in the sand and in so doing forced Antiochus IV to decide whether or not to withdraw his forces from Egypt and Cyprus. Antiochus knew he could not defeat the militarily superior Romans, so he conceded to Ambassador Gaius Popillius’s demands. Then in his humiliated fury, King Antiochus turned in a raging rampage against the less-than loyal Jews who lived in the territory that he still held. His humiliation turned proud Antiochus into a seething, vengeful tyrant. The Jews would bear the brunt of his fury.

Why share all this information about Antiochus? I am figuratively attempting to get two birds with one stone. As for the first bird, I want to remind my readers and listeners of who Antiochus IV Epiphanes was, because he is a historical prototype of the Antichrist. As for the second bird, this account of Popillius humiliating Antiochus is originally where we get the idiom “to draw a line in the sand” and its variants. Popillius literally drew a circular line in the sand and in so doing forced Antiochus to make an unequivocal decision.

Sometimes lines must be drawn. Sometimes decisions must be forced on the reluctant.

There are things you have to believe. And then there are things that you do not have to believe. There are times we must draw hard and fast lines, and firmly insist that any equivocators make up their minds to be in or out of those lines. And then there are times when lines should not be drawn distinctly — or drawn at all.

Somewhere over Arizona, I believe.

Now I will address the Rapture, and my disagreement with N.T. Wright. Christians do not need to draw hard and fast lines on the question of the Rapture. It is not an essential matter. Fellow Christians will probably disagree with me after what I argue here, no matter how well I argue. But whatever. It is not an essential matter.

That said, I will argue it all the same. If someone were to ask me, “But since you admit that it is not essential, what does it matter?” I would respond with, “In my opinion, the Rapture matters because it makes Eschatology more coherent.” At which point, my hypothetical questioner might completely lose interest and check out, because I dropped an unfamiliar seminary word. “What does eschatology even mean?” N.T. Wright would be familiar with that word, though. He understands it from every direction. 

Let me try again: The Rapture matters because it will help you understand certain sections of the Bible better. I hope I made myself more understandable that time. N.T. Wright would disagree with that claim, though. On his blog, NTWrightPage.com, you can find a brief post entitled Farewell to the Rapture. I encourage you to go read it for yourselves. It is always best to let someone in question speak for himself or herself. And N.T. Wright speaks for himself ably.

He was in a hurry when he signed my book.

If you were to distill everything down, basically N.T. Wright and I disagree about one primary passage of scripture, just one crucial verse: 1 Thessalonians 4:17. It is well worth remembering that, because what someone believes about that one verse will likely determine what he or she concludes about the Rapture. I am going to argue that 1 Thessalonians 4:17 can and should be read literally. N.T. Wright argues that it is metaphorical. In his own words, here is what Wright says:

Paul’s mixed metaphors of trumpets blowing and the living being snatched into heaven to meet the Lord are not to be understood as literal truth, as the Left Behind series suggests, but as a vivid and biblically allusive description of the great transformation of the present world of which he speaks elsewhere.

Therein is the difference. I say it is literal; N.T. Wright says it is not. So who should you to believe and why? Me. Me. Me. Choose me. But that is not the most convincing argument. It might help if you had a better idea of why N.T. Wright does not like a literal interpretation of the Rapture. It has everything to do with his… wait for it… eschatology, his understanding of the End Times. N.T. Wright works within a particular scheme of how history will unfold. He has a hypothetical understanding of the future. That is called his eschatology. For anyone who takes the Bible seriously, eschatology is unavoidable simply because the Bible talks about future events.

Now we turn to the key passage itself. In 1 Thessalonians 4 Paul seems to be describing a future scenario in which Jesus descends from heaven, resulting in the resurrection of the dead (the dead in Christ — Christians who have died) and the ascent of all the faithful to meet Christ in the air. Notice that I skipped a few details; I only did so for the sake of keeping my focus on what I consider to be the three essentials. Essential # 1 – Christ Jesus himself descends from heaven. Essential # 2 – The dead in Christ are resurrected. Essential # 3 – All the faithful ascend (or are caught up) and meet Christ in the air. 

Essential # 3 is what many call the Rapture. And it is extremely controversial. A whole lot of Christians join N.T. Wright in pushing back here with the claim, “Well, that is not literal.” But curiously, they will not argue against the literal-ness of Essentials # 1 and #2. Please do not miss that. Those who reject the Rapture usually know better than to argue against a literal descent of Jesus (because that is taught very clearly in the New Testament); and they know better than to argue against a literal resurrection of dead saints (because, same reason). Nevertheless, they will argue against a literal ascent of all the faithful. That, or they will say that any such ascent must immediately turn into a descent as soon as the Meeting with Jesus in the Air occurs. 

But why? Why take Essentials #1 and #2 literally, but not Essential #3? Well, one reason why some dispense with or modify Essential #3 is because it has an embarrassing, humiliating recent history, a humiliating history which N.T. Wright himself references with the derisive words “as the Left Behind series suggests.” Over the last fifty years, eschatology, aka the End Times, has become a pop-culture fixation. And Rapture-talk has been a frequent source of embarrassment for Christians, time and again. That is one primary reason why N.T. Wright and his devotees want to bid farewell to the Rapture. Understandably so. 

But in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 does Paul present a literal Rapture or not? Historical humiliation aside, a literal reading of the verse makes perfect sense, and is simple and straightforward. The real problem is not with a literal reading of 1 Thessalonians 4:17, but with literal readings of other eschatological verses and passages, as we shall see in forthcoming posts. Sometimes a literal understanding of a biblical passage is the best understanding; but sometimes it is emphatically not. TBC.

Inoculated Against

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Inoculated Against – Audio Version
Are you immune to certain ideas?

Thirty years ago, I asked a young defense attorney if he had ever won an acquittal for a defendant he knew without doubt to be guilty. He gave me an easy yes, and explained that he had prepared a believable but bogus line of defense, a misleading argument that the jury had naively fallen for. As a result, his guilty-as-sin client was wrongly ruled innocent and walked off as free as can be. The attorney had won his case; but justice was not served. Justice did not have its way that day. To my befuddled bewilderment, the young defense attorney was upfront about what happened, and yet completely unbothered. He felt no need to justify what he had done. He took a matter-of-fact and nonchalant attitude about it all. I probably should not have been as surprised as I was. Like the hoodwinked jury, I was rather naïve.

If I had to squeeze a somewhat positive takeaway from my bewildering conversation with the young attorney, it would be this: Well-presented arguments matter, matter a lot.  

Regrettably, a wrong-headed and yet well-presented argument can win out against a better argument presented poorly. Falsehood can have its way if it is presented more persuasively than truth. Truth ought to prevail, to be sure and absolutely so. But how it is presented might matter quite a bit more, at least in the short term.

Why is that, though? The simple reason why the presentation of an arguable claim can matter as much as the truthfulness of its content is because people are often naïve and gullible. Yes, that was a wordy sentence. Sorry. But think it through. How something is presented can matter as much or even more than whether it is true; and that it is because people are gullible.     

Most people will buy a lousy idea if it is spun persuasively enough, and if others they respect fall for it. Consider that an important axiom that you can pocket and revisit. Know as well that it explains a massive amount of foolishness that routinely plays out around you. A lot of people have been inoculated against the truth because they have heard persuasive or pervasive lies. That was well-worded, so I will repeat it: A lot of people have been inoculated against the truth because they have heard persuasive or pervasive lies. Yes, I ought to give you some examples. And yes, I need to explain why I am pointing this out to you.  

As for why I am pointing this out to you, I intend to argue against a first-rate and very influential theologian, whom I will refer to as the Right Reverend. I hope to persuade you that the Right Reverend is quite wrong on something quite big. He once presented a persuasive correction of a controversial biblical doctrine known as the Rapture. And his persuasive correction has become pervasive. Succinctly stated, the Right Reverend says there will be no Rapture. But I mean to correct his correction. Although the Right Reverend is right about a lot, here he is wrong. There will be a Rapture. It is a doctrine that can be established biblically. And we are supposed to expect it. 

But before I get into the nitty-gritty of my arguments for the Rapture, I want to talk about the influence of the Right Reverend. Over a dozen years ago, I went to a local church where a very popular young pastor referred pejoratively to the Rapture as “Evacuation Theology.” The very popular young pastor insisted that God has no intentions of evacuating us Christians out of the world, but instead intends to return to this world and make Heaven and Earth one — one habitation for God and the Redeemed of Humanity. 

Fancy Phrase here: The very popular young pastor was right in what he affirmed, but wrong in what he denied. And that is another important axiom to pocket: A lot of pundits are right in what they affirm and wrong in what they deny. How was he right? The popular young pastor was right when he affirmed that God intends to return (Christ) to this world and make Heaven and Earth one habitation for Himself and the Redeemed of Humanity. True, that. But the popular young pastor was wrong when he denied that God will evacuate the Church. On the contrary, according to scripture God will evacuate the Church, albeit for just a little while. 

The message I heard from the popular young pastor had the fingerprints of the Right Reverend. It is very, very likely that the popular young pastor came to his disparaging views of the Rapture — “Evacuation Theology” — either directly or indirectly from the Right Reverend. If I had to bet, I would bet that the popular young pastor read the voluminous and eloquent writings of the Right Reverend in seminary, just like me. Indeed, the Right Reverend is prolific, and one of today’s best-selling Christian writers. The Right Reverend’s name is N.T. Wright, more casually known as Tom Wright. He is a brilliant and important writer. But he is wrong about the Rapture. I need to do more than assert that, though. I need to explain why Wright is wrong and I am right. Did you catch the pun there? 

Allow me to make a caveat here, though: I hardly think of N.T. Wright as a dangerous heretic. Much to the contrary, I think of N.T. Wright as a profoundly important, orthodox interpreter and theologian. He deserves his status as one of the most important living Christian thinkers. But the Right Reverend Wright does get this one very important point very wrong. 

Since Jesus warned his listeners to be vigilant and ready for the eventuality of his appearance and the rapture/the evacuation that will accompany his appearance, it matters much that we affirm its reality (see Luke 17:20-37, which will be one of my key scriptural references). Jesus urged his followers to be ready upon his appearance to immediately and absolutely abandon everything near and dear. Like Noah’s family and Lot’s family — evacuees, in both cases — his followers need to be ready and willing to leave when the time comes. Jesus puts the onus on his followers to be ready, watchful, and willing to leave when the time comes and he appears. This all makes sense if the rapture involves an urgent angelic summons of those who are ready to go. However, it does not make sense if there is no rapture.

But beating N.T. Wright in a debate about the reality of the Rapture will take a lot more than just a few sloppy paragraphs. I have a negative task and a positive task in front of me. The negative task is to debunk his frankly persuasive arguments. The positive task is to more firmly establish my own arguments. Honestly, I might not convince my readers and listeners. But I am going to try, if only because I really do believe the rapture will happen, and could happen relatively soon. For now, though, I just want my readers to be introduced to what the issue is and whom I arguing against.