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Thoughts on a Recent Failed Rapture Prediction

Please note – this is a reprint of an article originally published on October 8, 2013, with a few minor changes.

Family Radio founder Harold Camping had made a prediction that an event known as the rapture would occur on May 21, 2011, with the actual end of the world happening on October 21, 2011. The only Christians that Camping and his followers believed would be saved were those who removed themselves from the Church and formed fellowships based on his teachings. [Note: Camping died in 2013].

Rapture doctrine involves Christians being taken into heaven prior to a tribulation period, seven years in most beliefs, that precedes the end of the world. The rapture is an often-debated doctrine that was widely taught by John Nelson Darby, a former Anglican and founder of the Plymouth Brethren, in 1827. Similar beliefs were expressed in the writings of Puritans Cotton and Increase Mather (17th century) and Edward Irving (1827), a former Presbyterian partially responsible for the founding of the Catholic Apostolic Church. The doctrine of the rapture, along with dispensationalism, a belief in seven different dispensations or “Church Ages”, is promoted in the Scofield Reference Bible published in 1917.

One of the problems with Camping’s prediction was date-setting, something which Jesus very clearly taught against (Matthew 24:23-28). In fact, those who attempt to figure out the timing of the Second Coming are dismissed by Jesus as false teachers. There is nothing in the Bible that implies that date-setting is appropriate at any time in the Church’s history.

Another troublesome belief associated with Camping was that Christians are to leave the Church. There is no scriptural teaching that asserts that Christians must leave the Church in order to be saved. In fact, Christians are encouraged to continue meeting together and offering encouragement to each other. (Hebrew 10:19-25) Those who had forsaken the Church were looked to as an example of what NOT to do.

Jesus stated that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church (Matthew 16:17-19). It isn’t reasonable to take a position that the Church essentially fell into apostasy and re-emerged with the dawn of dispensationalism, as some adherents assert. Why would God have permitted millions of Christians to have been so deceived and possibly lost for over a thousand years?

Nothing in the Bible attempts to separate the taking of the Church from Jesus’ glorious appearing. Traditions that do attempt to divide up these events have no basis. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, the coming of Christ and the taking of the Church are described as a single event. First, the dead are raised in glorified bodies and then those who are alive are taken to heaven along with the faithful departed. To split up these events into intervals that may occur months or years later is to read something into the passage that simply isn’t there.

The early Church had to contend with false teachers who taught that the resurrection had already occurred. It’s very likely that these false teachings had led to a lot of confusion. This is addressed in 2 Timothy 2:14-19. Also worth noting is that none of the early Christian creeds still in use, such as the Apostles’ Creed, Nicene Creed and Athansian Creed, use language that separates the general resurrection event from the Second Coming.

Religion has always been a contentious topic, and many people simply prefer not to address tough issues. Some clergy and teachers are hesitant to criticize rapture beliefs out of fear of being offensive. However, I think we all need to ask ourselves if maybe we’re creating a larger stumbling block for those who are unsure about end-times beliefs by our silence.

None of us has all the answers. We may find when we do get to heaven that we were wrong about a lot of things. We do know this: Christ will come again, and nobody but God knows the time. We should be ready at all times in any case, regardless of what current popular theology is.



July 20, 2014 - Posted by | Theology | , , , , ,

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