Some of you might laugh at this picture. It's supposed to be a painting of the moment of the Rapture, the calling of Christ's children home before the Great Tribulation, spoken of in the Book of Revelation. Or so it was taught to me at the church I attended as a teenager.
I remember this painting being on a wall at my church.
I kid you not.
According to Harold Camping, the Rapture is going to occur on Saturday, May 21, 2011. It's all over the news, all over the social media networks, all over the jokes and commentary of many radio networks, and in the conversations of many people I have met in the past few days, some who are into "church things", others who are not.
And the whole thing has me deeply disturbed.
In November of 2001, I was "bounced" out of a church in Harlem, NYC, where Harold Camping was speaking. I guess he didn't like a couple of the questions I asked him during the Q&A session after he spoke. It's kind of a funny story that eventually involved the Lenox Lounge, an Episcopalian priest, and some good scotch...but that is another story for another time.
Back in the late 1970s to early 1980s, my experience at an end-times conference would have been quite different. It certainly would not have ended at a jazz club in Harlem, much less a bar anywhere.
I was in high school and attended a conservative Pentecostal Holiness church. I listened to "conservative Christian radio". I accentuated the teaching I received at church with sermons by people like R. W. Shambach, Lester Sumrall, and J. Vernon McGee.
I still occasionally listen to Dr. J. Vernon McGee's Through the Bible Radio from time to time.
I believed in the Rapture.
And I seriously thought it ought to have occurred by now.
Back then, the big sign of the coming Rapture of the Church was the creation of Israel as a modern nation in 1948. According to my knowledge of the Bible at the time, God would not let the generation that saw this event perish before he would return for his bride. Since a Biblical generation was 40 years and the Rapture was supposed to occur prior to the Great Tribulation, the Rapture had to occur by 1981 and definitely no later than 1988. After that date came and went, the possible target year became 2000-2007, based off 40 years since Western Jerusalem and the Wailing Wall were captured in the 1967 Six Day War.
Don't laugh, it's what I believed.
Of course, I did not believe this stuff "dead seriously" for too many years. By the time I had been in the Army for a couple years, I had a much stronger belief in drinking, smoking weed, dropping acid and getting laid. The Wall became a much more theologically formative movie for me than A Thief in the Night.
But sometimes I still wondered.
And here's a confession for you to ponder...
What if it's TRUE?
What if the Rapture were to occur, regardless of the verbiage and pontifications of so many "wise" theologians? What if God actually "chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise" (I Cor. 1:27)?
I confess that even though I know it is ridiculous, even though only God knows the time, even though I am "properly" seminary-trained, even though I am exposing myself as the laughingstock of the PC(USA), Emergent Village, trans4m, and the Outlaw Preachers...I still wonder.
And, perhaps much more importantly, I wonder about something else. Assuming (and overall, I do think it is quite safe to assume) the Rapture does not occur tomorrow, where will that leave those believers and followers of Christ who are disappointed by this turn of events?
Judging by the jokes and such that I have heard from others and read on Twitter and Facebook (including sadly, a number of my own comments), those who are disappointed by that turn of events will not have very many people or places to turn to.
And once again, the Body of Christ has egg on it's face, whether it's egg from false predictions or egg from false overtones of pastoral care and believers comforting believers.
Thank you, Jeff Selan, for pointing out this hypocrisy in my life with your tweet last night:
So many jokes. So few shout outs for prayer for those that will likely be so confused and alone on 5/22/11 #rapture #OutlawPreachers
So most likely, the above pictured prophecy isn't true. Just like every other prediction from this evening back 2,000 years, whether it's the teachings of John Nelson Darby or the prognostications of William Miller, each time some one or some group has posited the time of Christ's reappearing in the clouds...they have been mistaken.
Shall we, as fellow believers, be even more wrong than they are, by comforting ourselves in a form of petty, false smugness and "informed condescension"? Shall we play a game of "holier than thou I told you so"? Shall we laugh and mock derisively?
Laugh and mock? Isn't that what people did to Jesus when he hung on the cross?
For God's sake and the sake of this world, I hope not.
Let's continue to be sisters and brothers in Christ, comforting and encouraging one another, serving one another, showing preference one to another, esteeming others as better than ourselves. And let us keep awake...
"For you know neither the day nor the hour..." (Matthew 25:13)