Monday, August 3, 2015
Getting Caught Up In "The Rapture"
Recently, a movie entitled Left Behind was brought to my attention. It was released in October of last year and starred Nicholas Cage in a remake of the movie from 2000 staring Kirk Cameron. All of the Left Behind movies are based on a series of novels released from 1995-2007 by Protestant authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. The novels are concerned with the Protestant heresy known as "the Rapture."
Originating in the 1700s and popularized in the 1800s, various Protestant sects began to teach that Christians will be taken up in the sky by God before the Antichrist rules the world, after which there will be a literal one thousand year rule of Christ on Earth. Even among so-called "Evangelical Protestants," they argue over whether the rapture will take place before, in the middle of, or after the Great Tribulation (referred to as pre-trib, mid-trib, and post-trib, respectively). The term "rapture" comes from the Latin word rapiemur--"will be caught up." It is used in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, one of the "proof-texts" for Protestants: "Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever." (Emphasis mine)
The first movie, with Kirk Cameron (and its two sequels), is full of pre-trib theology, as were the books. Cameron, an evangelical Protestant himself, helped write the screen play with his friend and fellow sectarian Ray Comfort. (Although having the best of intentions, it is painful to hear Comfort debate with atheists. He makes believers look ridiculous, having once asserted that a banana was "proof of intelligent design" by God because of the way it fits the human hand. I wish I was joking, but I'm not.) The remake with Cage is so bad it was ridiculed by Christianity Today, calling it devoid of religious significance.
"Consider: one of the characters proposes that the Rapture was caused by aliens, and the movie would be no different if this were true....In fact, most Christians within the world of the movie—whether the street-preacher lady at the airport or Rayford Steele’s [main character's] wife—are portrayed as insistent, crazy, delusional, or at the very least just really annoying. Steele’s wife’s conversion to Christianity is shown to have pushed her and her husband apart; we see that she’s decorated her house with crosses, throw-pillows that say “Pray” across the front, and encouraging posters.That is the deepest conception of Christianity that this movie has: posters, pillows, and crucifixes." (See http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/october-web-only/left-behind.html?paging=off).
The books are interesting insofar as they depict a "protestant pope"--John XXIV--getting "raptured" because he accepted the theology of Martin Luther! Those Catholics who rejected him are "left behind"! His fictitious successor, Peter II, is the false prophet of the Apocalypse who sets up the One World Religion. Some in the Vatican II sect have denounced the books as "anti-Catholic," but I think it's really just a matter of hitting too close to home by portraying a "Protestant pope"! (Are you listening, Francis?)
Surprisingly, some Traditionalists think the rapture to be true, or at least possible, not realizing it conflicts with Church teaching. Protestants point to Scripture verses such as St. Matthew 24:40-41, "Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left." And St. Luke 17:34-35, "I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.” Remember,all of the Bible must be read with Sacred Tradition and the guidance of the Magisterium. Ironically, right after the main "rapture verse" (quoted above in First Thessalonians), in the second epistle to the Thessalonians, we read, "So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter."(Emphasis mine)
II Peter 1:20 states, "Understanding this first, that no prophecy of scripture is made by private interpretation." (Emphasis mine). Finally, in II Peter 3:16, "As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are certain things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction."
Keeping all this in mind, what are we to make of the "rapture" as Traditionalists? Those Biblical "proof- texts" were always taught to be referring to the Second Coming of Christ. For the "rapture Protestants" He comes back, not once "to judge the living and the dead," but twice. This is heresy. The "caught up"refers to the resurrection of the bodies of the just on the Last Day. As for the "one taken, one left," if you read the next chapter in St. Matthew (chapter 25), it speaks of the sheep and the goats being separated on His right and left. The sheep (the Faithful) go body and soul to Heaven, while the goats (the damned) go body and soul to Hell. All pre-Vatican II theologians taught that the Church must endure throughout the Great Tribulation. "But he that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved." (St. Matthew 24:13)
This heresy has led to the "prosperity preachers," like Joel Osteen and others, who tell us Christ suffered and died for us so we can believe in Him, thereby getting to live in a mansion while driving a Rolls Royce. So if you hear about "the rapture," don't you believe it. Worry not about being "left behind." Rather, pray that you don't get led astray. "But he that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved."