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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 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Issue of “Praying” to the Dead

A recent online exchange started with someone making a statement that they don’t understand why some people “pray to” the dead, as, in their belief, “the dead know nothing.” What’s the most effective way to respond to these claims?

First, part of this is a conflict between the original meaning of the word pray and what it means now. Originally, pray meant to ask, rather than referring to an act of worship.  We ask our brothers and sisters in Christ who are still alive to pray for us. However, we are not worshiping them by asking them to pray for us. Worship of anyone or anything other than God is simply wrong for Christians to engage in.

How, then, does this situation apply to the departed? Part of the belief in a completely unconscious state of the dead comes from Ecclesiastes 9:4-10. Back in the time of King Solomon, when this passage was probably composed, most Jews didn’t believe in any sort of life after death. To this day, Judaism as a whole is neutral on this subject, with opinions on the state of the dead varying. However, a belief in the total anhilation of the soul at death is incompatible with traditional Christian belief (see Hebrews 12:22-24, Matthew 22:29-33). The faithful departed are much more alive than any of us here on earth are.

Here’s some food for thought: a number of Christians who don’t believe in the doctrine of soul sleep use Ecclesiastes 9:5 to argue against asking the prayers of the departed saints. If they believe in the soul’s continued existence after death, why is it too difficult to believe that those who have gone on before are capable of praying for our needs?

April 30, 2010 Posted by | Theology | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Saviour, Yes…Lord? I’m Not Sure

Lord & Saviour, Saviour & Lord. We often hear these two terms used together. However, many professing Christians use these terms as though they’re entirely separate from one another.

Is it possible for Jesus to be one’s Saviour with Him being their Lord? Certainly, 5-point TULIP arguments aside ) Throughout the New Testament, it seems to be generally accepted that Jesus died for the whole world, not just those whom He called. (1 Tim. 4:10, 1 John 2:2)  However, not all of those for whom He died acknowledge or profess Him.  Does He, then, cease to be their Saviour and allow them to find their own “path” to salvation? Certainly not!

I’m sure I’m going to put some people out of their comfort zone by posting this.  However, it needs to be said.  Many claim to love  Jesus & accept Him as their Saviour, but will not allow Him to be the Lord of their lives. They want to be numbered among His saints, but apparently feel that they are “good” enough to be saved without letting Jesus be in control. How many either have someone in their lives who has made these statements, or perhaps has made them themselves?

“I don’t need a church, and I don’t need other Christians. I believe in Jesus, He expects nothing more of me.”

“Hell was made up by the Catholics to keep people in line. God never created a hell.”

“No matter what I do, I have no fear of hell. What was John 3:16 all about if it meant we weren’t all saved from hell?”

These are examples of what Lutheran pastor and martyr Dietrich Bonehoeffer described as “cheap grace”. God’s gift of grace is freely given, but it’s not cheap. Like any gift, we must accept it. When we accept God’s gift of grace, we open ourselves up to being changed and renewed by that gift. The irony is that the first generation of Christians freely preached the Gospel, attended worship at least once weekly despite persecution, and did not fear loss of life in exhange for being faithful. 2000 years later, many who profess Jesus are reluctant to talk about their faith, are willing to give up Sunday worship for a hike/trip to the beach/whatever, and are willing to sacrifice their faith for any number of reasons.

Jesus literally purchased the Church with His own blood (Acts 20:2) That Church is made up of true Christians of all denominational backgrounds. If you believe in Him, you are part of that Church. How, then, will YOU respond to His sacrifice for you?

May 5, 2008 Posted by | Theology | Leave a comment

Christianity is a Paradox: Anglo-Catholic AND Evangelical

Please note: I’m using the term “evangelical” as it’s understand by many Anglicans. “Evangelicalism”  in an Anglican context is vastly different from Protestant evangelicalism and many of the beliefs commonly associated with it. I do NOT subscribe to many of the beliefs that make up Protestant evangelicalism, so please keep this in mind  when posting comments.

I’m sure a lot of you are probably going to wonder if I’ve lost my mind altogether just by the title of this post alone. It would seem as though the terms Anglo-Catholic and evangelical are polar opposites. After all, different Anglican “camps” are often divided along these lines.

Yet, these two terms aren’t really, and shouldn’t be, opposites. I consider myself Anglo-Catholic (or possibly Anglo-Catholic Lite, by some definitions!) in that I have a “high” view of the sacraments, Church, liturgy, and communion of saints. However, I also consider myself evangelical in that I believe strongly in the Scriptures as the final authority, realize the importance of evangelism, and believe that one must have a personal relationship with Christ in order to fully serve Him.

Regardless of one’s denominational background, I believe these three points of evangelical thought are something most of us can agree on, and here’s why.

<> Scripture as the Final Authority-Regardless of whether a Christian group has a “Scripture alone” stance on doctrine or does defer to tradition, Scripture has a primary place. Even as much as tradition plays a role in Roman Catholic theology, for instance, all teaching must be in harmony with Scripture. The word canon, used to describe the books that make up the Bible, means “rule”. The Scriptures give all Christians a “rule of life” to live by.

Evangelism-Although evangelism often puts people in mind of coercive conversion attempts, at heart it’s something all Christians are obligated to do. The Church of the apostolic era was VERY evangelistic. True evangelism is about sharing the Good News of Jesus’ offer of redemption, not bullying someone into a decision.

Personal Relationship-last, but certainly NOT least! True sacramental theology does not teach that the mere “motions” of receiving a sacrament save. Sacraments are, after all, an “outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace” (Book of Common Prayer 1979). We don’t receive the sacraments to earn God’s redemption, we receive them because we’re responsive to God’s redemption.

For any fellow “evangelical Anglo-Catholics” out there, you’re not alone.

May 5, 2008 Posted by | Theology | 2 Comments