I was sitting in my usual Wednesday night service, listening to an interesting take on servant and master roles in Colossians, when out of nowhere the teaching was taken over by a rather loud, fire-and-brimestone type sermon about the end times. I was slightly taken aback—how do master-servant roles apply to the end of days? Still not too sure about that… I was writing when the pastor randomly busted out with, “And who of YOU are excited to see Jesus at the Rapture?!” (Emphasis not added, if it was up to me, it’d be in all caps and 48p font, but alas I’m just a commentator).
Now, don’t get me wrong. I do believe in an end of days, and I do believe that Jesus will come down eventually to impose judgment. However, this does not mean that I am looking forward to this day. A common desire for Jesus to come sooner rather than later, because that would mean that we are in Heaven with Him while others are left to endure the tribulations that are expected to besiege the earth, fails to realize just what that desire entails. As with much of Christianity today, believers want the awesome and spectacular without the hardship and the trial. If Jesus is to come back, it is fundamentally because we as believers have failed. We have failed to impart Jesus among those around us, our culture fallen so far into sin and debauchery that only Jesus himself may redeem it, and there are so few true Christians left in the world that there is no hope of salvation. Does this sound like something one would want to live through? Everyone I ask tells me that they cannot wait to sit with Jesus and talk about what they have done for the Kingdom of God, but hoping to see the End of Days leads to the idea that there is a great likelihood that it will be less of a pat on the back of a job well done, and more of a holy smack to the face that one has not done enough.
Furthermore, how would you, as a believer, feel if you knew that you were in Heaven reaping all the riches of God and praising Him, while your friends and loved ones that you failed to reach are stuck on earth suffering and dying? Too often we focus on the amazing quality of the Rapture—meeting Jesus and God in the air, praising Him with the angels—we never stop to think about all those people whom we love and care about languishing on earth because they chose not to believe. I don’t know about anyone else, but in the midst of all my praise to God, I cannot help but imagine a great deal of grief and guilt that I am in Heaven while my friends and family are left behind. With only 46% of believers believing that they have a great responsibility to bring others to Christ, it seems entirely likely that many of those whom you care about will remain behind while you experience Heaven for eternity (Barna Research Group). How exactly does that make you feel?
So why do so many Christians today long for the Rapture to happen as soon as possible? Heck, an entire section of the population believed so whole-heartedly that it was going to occur on May 21, 2011 that they sold all of their belongings to pay for billboards proclaiming that date, and when it did not occur, many committed suicide. If the Rapture itself means that we fundamentally failed the mission that Jesus entrusted us to, and that our friends and family members that failed to come to the Lord are going to suffer while we rejoice in Heaven, why do we look forward to it so wholeheartedly? To be completely honest, when someone tells me that they cannot wait for the Rapture, I seriously question their faith. I cannot help it. How could someone be so unashamedly seeking of God’s blessings without also desiring to shoulder His mission? If you can celebrate in Heaven, with the knowledge that those you care about suffer, I seriously question your love for those around you. So then, if you have failed to allow the Spirit to work through you (failing to love your God), and fail to care about the fate of those around you (failing to love your neighbor), why then are you so certain that you will be in Heaven at all? Perhaps, if more Christians honestly asked themselves these questions we’d care less about longing for the Jesus to return by force, and more about truly bringing Christ to the world through us.