Friday, May 20, 2011

Why I Am Rapture Ready

If you are reading this post after May 21 then you didn't make the cut.  Either that or the world did not end as Harold Camping and the grassroots movement he organized predicted.

I hate to say it, but I have been through this before.  I was in college the last time the end of the world was so certain.  I was part of a dorm study group and two of the fellows in that group were arguing with one another about the impending end of the world.  They were roommates and the disbeliever asked the believer if he could have all of his books after he was raptured.

Then there was Y2K.  Alright, maybe that wasn't strictly a rapture prediction.  More about the collapse of society - which is probably happening, just not overnight.

Frequent prophecies of the end of the world delivered with absolute certainty drove my interest in determining how someone else could divine the secrets of eschatology.  I marveled at the "new math" that transformed the Bible into a train-schedule for the end of time.  None of it ever made sense to me.  Well, that's not true.  What actually happened was a a huge headache after reading three sentences of the "Daniel and Revelation"-laden tracts - and why are they always printed in such tiny fonts!

To my everlasting benefit (get it?) I discovered a film called "A Thief in the Night," which is the same thing as the more popular "Left Behind" film.  The only differences are production values and hairstyles.  Cinematic narrative makes perfect sense to me.  Forget the numbers, no one really understands them anyway.  The names and dates change, but the basic narrative of the end of days according to the rapture scenario does not change significantly.  Thanks to "A Thief in the Night" (aka "The Partridge Family Goes to Hell") that I was able to understand the rapture narrative like a sci-fi movie instead of a math quiz.  I couldn't compete when math was the game, but now I was in my element and my narrative kung fu is strong.  I dismantled the logic of the post-rapture world like a cheap radio and discovered that if their rules apply I had two options and I was good either way.

So best case scenario if the rapture occurs: I am out of here and in heaven and all is well.  Apparently there isn't much I can do to insure that this happens except trust Jesus, which I certainly hope I have done.  (Seriously, I hope I have put my trust in him for more that a one way ticket to heaven, but that's another article okay).

Worst case scenario is getting left behind.  Now here's where it gets interesting.  There's a lot of effort has been put into maintaining the world post-rapture.  There are atheists who will care for the pets of raptured pet-owners.  There's even a handy post-rapture survival guide that suggests storing up on canned goods, guns, and gold.  This sort of survival makes sense if we devolve into a Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome scenario, but none of this matters if you are left behind.  I really am surprised that I understand the narrative and philosophy of the post-rapture world better than those who genuinely believe it.  In the post-rapture world the rules seem to have changed.  There's no grace.  You either stand with God or you die with the devil.  Why is this so hard?  The Anti-Christ is going to follow a fairly specific script and lead everyone down the garden path to destruction.  Even though no one knows who this Anti-Christ is, he is going to do specific things that ought to be noticeable.  Like what?  Oh, rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.  At least that is how the story goes in nearly every version of the post-rapture tale.

Here's why I say I am rapture ready even if I get left behind: It's just too easy.  I'm not going to waste time trying to survive on canned goods and hoard gold.  Why bother?  All I have to do is march down to the "one world government headquarters" and refuse to get stamped with the "mark of the beast."  When they ask me why I start preaching the gospel and call out the Anti-Christ as a liar.  Heck, I will challenge him to an arm-wrestling match (I think I can take him too).  Now if I understand the new rules of post-rapture land, this is going to get me killed.  Well?  Apparently life isn't worth living after the rapture so there's nothing to lose.

Now I have to show my cards and let you know, good reader, that I am not convinced that there will even be a rapture.  I do think that God has a plan for the world that eventually ends with the restoration of all things.  I am very hopeful of this.  But the rapture does not fit into that plan.  The wretched world of the post-rapture earth is probably nothing more than a fearful image to convince the non-committed to accept Jesus as their personal savior.  In other words, the details of that horrid post-apocalyptic zombie land have become so developed when really it was just meant to get people to make up their mind today.  And this is where I think we begin to see the difference between following Christ and fearing hell.  In the world today people live in real situations that are far worse than anything imagined in the Left Behind books.  Sure, it scares a middle class American or European to know that water will be contaminated and disease is rampant.  I wonder how much that frightens the people in nations where this is an everyday occurrence?  I wonder how much it frightened the martyrs who gave their lives in devotion to Christ?  Hell may be frightening, but less so when you walk through it with the one who overcame it.