RAPTURE, RAPTURE, RAPTURE, was the echoing headlines on September 17th 2011. Harold Camping had predicted that the rapture would occur on such a date. However this was not to be the case and Christianity took one more step towards lunacy in the eyes of the world. Nonetheless, I took the time to refresh myself on the passage in First Thessalonians and noticed something I had never seen before. First, let’s recap the text:
“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. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” – 1 Thess. 4:13-18
Of all the things that could stand out in this text, the final verse caught my attention. Paul makes a concluding exhortation by commending the believers in Thessolonica to “encourage one another.” What is the content of this encouragement, “with these words.” I see two propper uses of the rapture as opposed to the abuse of such teaching.
1. The rapture is to be encouraging. How often do we use the rapture as a scare tactic. This was done ever so well with the “Left Behind” series. This may not necessarily be wrong, but the text at hand teaches us that we are to encourage one another with this promise of salvation by Christ. Let’s not scare people with the rapture, let’s instead encourage one another with such a marvelous rescue opperation by our Lord.
2. Not only is the rapture encouraging, but it is for believers. I believe Paul is being very direct with this teaching in that we are to encourage “one another.” This is an in-house subject, but the rapture has found constant use with evangelism and sharing the gospel. I am not so sure that the rapture is the best way of presenting the gospel, much like a long conversation on predestination, varying justification views, and the sacraments.
Thus, although the rapture did not occur, it did cause me to see who the teaching of the rapture should be for, us the Church, and how the teaching should be used, that is for encouragement. Be encouraged Church, our Lord has not abandoned us, but will soon return to rescue all of us.