Contrary to popular belief, I am still alive, and as busy as ever. My time got slightly more compressed recently because I have to prepare a talk for an upcoming research conference in London. 15 minutes of pain, shame and “fame”, at the Imperial College, July 1st, 14:45. We shall overcome.
I recently managed to watch the first film of the popular Left Behind series. For those who are not in the know, it is a series based on the Bible’s prophecies about the Last Days, beginning with what is called The Rapture (huh? what’s that?) (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17), and continuing with the events (“The Great Tribulation”) described in the book of Revelation preceding the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
About the film, what can I say… it has its haunting moments, if you can put aside the cheesy acting (Kirk Cameron), over-acting (Clarence Gilyard and Jack Langedijk), annoying acting (Krista Bridges) and lack-of acting (Chelsea Noble). But I must admit, Gordon Currie’s UN head Nicolae Carpathia is probably the best Antichrist on film yet (beats Al Pacino in “The Devil’s Advocate” anyway – oh, and the Bad Kid in “The Omen”). The film keeps the interest up by presenting a plausible, albeit fictional, senario of how the Bible’s prophecies might unfold. And behind the peplum of Cheddar, the reality of what it tries to describe is chilling.
The Rapture is not exactly the most-known doctrine of the Christian faith. In fact, I’ve met Christians who know close to zero about it, while others almost dismiss it because they think it doesn’t make sense. The Catholics have wrongly interpreted it as death (which is not surprising if one considers their notion of the Gospel) while most people are “left behind” exactly like the characters of the titular film: Confused and suspicious.
In short, according to 1 Thes. 4:15-17, the Rapture is a future event when all those who believe in Jesus Christ will be “caught up together with [the risen dead] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air”. The reason for this – which so eludes many – is simply because of God’s coming judgement of the world (2 Peter 3:7), of which those who belong to Christ will be spared (Rom. 8:1).
There is another reason, mentioned in 2 Thes. 2:6-8. Jesus Himself called those who followed Him “the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13), which refers to preservation. The idea is that Christians are what preserves a decaying, rotting world from expiring completely (or, in other words, from completely turning its back to God). But when that time comes, when God finally judges the world for it’s rebellion against Him, those who believed in Christ and where saved (Mark 16:16; Rom. 10:9), the preservative salt, must be removed, so that sin can run its full course and end up, inevitably, in judgment.
This is the part where people shake their heads: “and he’s such a sensible guy”; “I can’t believe he’s doing a PhD in Science”; “Bible-bashing rubbish”; “give us a break”. A good twelve years ago, I would say the same things. But the problem is that everything else the Bible predicted has come precisely true, so why not these things too? The apostle Paul wrote that these things are nonsense to those who do not believe (1 Cor. 1:18-19; 22-24; 2:14) – it’s a question of faith, and faith requires trust, and trust requires humbleness, and humbleness is not exaclty what TV preaches today (free thinkers indeed).
Look. The reason people hate hearing about all this is because people hate hearing that they are wrong. That’s it. It’s also known as “Pride”, our Original Sin (Gen. 3:4-5). Essentially, we want to do things our way even though we don’t seem to manage very well.
But there comes a time – and I believe that everyone goes through it at least once – when we come face-to-face with God. It is a moment when all the tired philosophy and analysis falls away and what is left is the simplicity of God’s indescribable love aching for a response, eager to save, to bless, to give all the riches of heaven (Eph. 1:3). If you haven’t experienced it, it is very hard to describe; the Bible calls those who take this step of faith and trust in God “new creations (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15), which I think beats any lame term I could come up with. It is the moment when God touches a person, a moment that can define where that person will spend Eternity.
The “Left Behind” series: Cheesy? Sure. Badly acted? Definitely. Has a valid point? Well… I’d like to say just wait and see, but it might be too late then.
“Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” – Acts 17:29-31
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, Thanksgiving and honor and power and might, Be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” – Revelation 7:9-12
“These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” – Revelation 7:14b-17