Editor's note: On Nov. 16, the 12th book in the “Left Behind” series will be released in paperback. Sales of the books and related products are estimated at $1 billion. But the books raise questions, and ELCA pastor Barbara Rossing tries to answer these in The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation (Westview Press, 2004; available from www.amazon.com). Here she shares an excerpt from her book.
“The Rapture is a racket. Whether prescribing a violent script for Israel or survivalism in the United States, this theology distorts God’s vision for the world. In place of healing, the Rapture proclaims escape. In place of Jesus’ blessing of peacemakers, the Rapture voyeuristically glorifies violence and war. In place of Revelation’s vision of the Lamb’s vulnerable self-giving love, the Rapture celebrates the lion-like wrath of the Lamb. This theology is not biblical. We are not raptured off the earth, nor is God. No, God has come to live in the world in Jesus. God created the world, God loves the world, and God will never leave the world behind! …
“Jesus is coming back at a moment we cannot know. But that does not mean that God is getting ready to destroy the earth and take Christians away to another planet, as the popular Left Behind novels seem to suggest. A Presbyterian pastor taught me a Rapture song he learned as a child: “Somewhere in outer space God has prepared a place for all those who trust him and obey. … The countdown’s getting closer every day.” This song reflects a key point on which the Rapture teaching is false and dangerous. There is no place in outer space to which God will take us to escape the earth. This is not the biblical message. We cannot trash this planet and assume there is another. …
“The Bible’s message is not that “God so loved the world that he sent World War Three.” God will judge evil—Revelation is clear about that. But God is not a God who will destroy the earth, either by fire or by nuclear war. Nor does God approve of our destruction of the earth. God laments over any harm done to the earth by us or by anyone else, crying out with a cosmic cry of “Alas for the earth.”
“Whatever future events await the earth, the biblical message is that God comes down to earth to live in it with us. Earthquakes, darkness, plagues? God comes. Are hearts breaking, is all hope lost? God comes. At one of the bleakest moments in history, when the Jewish people of Judea and Galilee groaned under Roman occupation some 2,000 years ago, “the word became flesh and dwelt among us,” John’s gospel tells us. God came to be born in the world. Jesus is God’s final word incarnate in the world and that word is “yes.” God loves the world enough to live in it.
“If we want to find God today we must also stoop low—to look into the manger in which Jesus was born, to find God in the small things, in the daily stuff of earth.”
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers