“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
“Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 24:44).
“For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).
James and Peter and John also taught that the Lord’s coming is at hand.
“Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door” (Jam. 5:9).
“But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer” (1 Pet. 4:7).
“Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand” (Rev. 1:3).
In contrast, consider the following heretical statements against the imminent return of Christ:
Tony Campolo hates dispensationalism and rejects the doctrine of Christ’s imminent return. He calls it “a weird little form of fundamentalism.” Speaking at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s annual meeting in June 2003, Campolo said: “That whole sense of the rapture, which may occur at any moment, is used as a device to oppose engagement with the principalities, the powers, the political and economic structures of our age” (“Opposition to women preachers evidence of demonic influence,” Baptist Press, June 27, 2003).
Brian McLaren mocks the “fundamentalist expectations” of a literal second coming of Christ with its attendant judgments on the world and assumes that the world will go on like it is for hundreds of thousands of years (A Generous Orthodoxy, p. 305). He calls the literal, imminent return of Christ “pop-Evangelical eschatology” (Generous Orthodoxy, p. 267) and the “eschatology of abandonment” (interview with Planet Preterist, Jan. 30, 2005, http://planetpreterist.com/news-2774.html). McLaren says that the book of Revelation is not a “book about the distant future” but is “a way of talking about the challenges of the immediate present” (The Secret Message of Jesus, 2007, p. 176).
Mark Driscoll mocks the idea of a Rapture for believers and a one-world government with an Anti-christ who makes people wear a mark to buy, sell or trade (Confessions of a Reformissional, pp. 49-50). He adds that this kind of end-time “mission” is not a message from Jesus but rather one “concocted from a cunning Serpent” (“Mark Driscoll Rejects McLaren but Embraces Contemplative,” Jan. 11, 2008, http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/index.php?p=931&more=1&c=1). Driscoll mocks the imminent Rapture. He claims that the Rapture doctrine is evidence of the sickness of American Christians and mocks those who have the goal of leaving “this trailer park of a planet before God’s tornado touches down on all the sinners” (The Radical Reformission, p. 78). He libelously calls dispensationalists “nutty, Christian, end-times-prophecy Kaczynskis” (p. 165). [Ted Kaczynski was the “Unabomber” terrorist who murdered three people and maimed 23 others in his 18-year-long campaign against modern technology.]
Dan Kimball describes how that he rejected dispensational theology and the doctrine of an imminent Rapture and moved to his current position that “the kingdom of God is here, now” (Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches, pp. 87-90, 102).
Ed Stetzer says it is wrong to worry about whether the Rapture is imminent. “When the disciples had an inordinate interest in the end times, much like we do today in North America among evangelicals, Jesus said, ‘Do not get focused on that’” (Breaking the Missional Code, p. 40). Stetzer is referring to Acts 1:6-8. Jesus was not talking about the timing of the Rapture but about the coming of the kingdom of God. The disciples were expecting the kingdom to be set up immediately, but Jesus told them to focus rather on preaching the gospel and leave the coming of the kingdom to Him. This passage corrects the emerging church doctrine that we are building the kingdom of God in the world today, but it does not support the idea that we shouldn’t be concerned about the imminent return of Christ.
The rejection of the imminent Rapture is not a light matter.
As we have seen, Christ, Paul, James, and Peter taught that the return of Christ is imminent and is to be expected at any time (Mat. 24:44; Phil. 4:5; Jam. 5:8-9; 1 Pet. 4:7). The early Christians lived in expectation of Christ’s return and the literal fulfillment of the prophecies (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).
The doctrine of a pre-tribulational Rapture is a great motivator for purifying one’s personal Christian life.
It encourages the believer in trials and persecutions (1 Thessalonians 4:17-18). It keeps the church’s focus on the Great Commission (Mat. 28:18-20; Mk 16:15; Lk. 24:44-48; Acts 1:8). It teaches us that preaching the gospel, winning people to Christ, and establishing churches as the pillar and ground of the truth is the most urgent matter. D.L. Moody had it right when he said: “I look upon this world as a wrecked vessel. God has given me a lifeboat and said to me, ‘Moody, save all you can.’” The imminent Rapture motivates us to be busy in the Lord’s work (1 Cor. 15:58), to live obedient lives (1 Jn. 3:1-3; 1 Th. 5:4-7), and to separate from evil (Tit. 2:13-14).
How many conservative evangelicals and conservative Southern Baptists have torn down the idol of the hatred toward the biblical Rapture and removed the high places where this heresy has spread?
Related report: “The Fundamental Doctrine of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture.”
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