Ed Cyzewski: Can We Cancel the Rapture Already?

Ed Cyzewski: Can We Cancel the Rapture Already? April 1, 2014

I know that Nicholas Cage is “starring” in a summer blockbuster that relies on an inevitable and immanent rapture to scare viewers into theaters, but I’m afraid this little end times ruse needs to stop. It’s time to cancel the rapture.

Really. We’ve milked this biblically suspect, historically bankrupt, literary abomination of a doctrine long enough.

Did we really need a remake of the first Left Behind movie in the first place? Did we even need the first Left Behind movie after the books?

If an action movie relies on any measure of suspense, that’s already gone any way.

RAPTURE MOVIE News flash: people will disappear, stuff will blow up, news reporters will look confused, everyone will get the mark of the beast, and then more stuff blows up. THE END.

And while Christian culture is still gobbling up the latest end times speculation like Four Blood Moons and Perfect Ending, the vast majority of biblical scholars have left the rapture, well, behind. It’s time for the rest of us to do the same before they make the sequel or prequel to the latest Left Behind movie. If anything let’s do this for the sake of Nicholas Cage and the long-neglected American Treasure franchise. It’s what the founding fathers would have wanted.

Here are three even better reasons why the rapture needs to be cancelled:

The Early Church Did NOT Believe in the Rapture

While suffering persecution and expecting the immanent return of Christ, the early church did not expect a rapture, let alone that the rapture can be delayed if they elect conservatives to political office.

Even though Paul wrote about the return of Christ as an event that could happen at any moment, he never advocated for a kind of rapture. Rather, the “caught up into the air” to meet Jesus at his return language is an imaginative depiction of a royal procession (1 Thes. 4:16-17).

Yes, they expected the end to come soon. Yes, they expected to be caught up into the air to welcome Jesus back to earth, but they would also join him on earth to reign with him.

But you know what? A bunch of early Christians also thought that Jesus had already returned because someone TOLD THEM IN A LETTER (2 Thes. 2:2).

Can you imagine the low budget theatrics required for a Left Behind-style movie based on that?

Post men come riding into town like the four horsemen of the apocalypse, people read the letters, the same people become confused and distraught, and then stuff just starts blowing up for good measure.

All that to say, the early church did not believe in the rapture. In fact, the rapture was an invention of dispensational theology in the early to mid 1800’s, and it spread because the Scofield Study Bible included the rapture in its study notes.

In other words, the rapture’s popularity in America is basically the result of marketing.

Conspiracy and Destruction Sell, But They Shouldn’t Preach

I’m always up for a good mystery or suspense novel. I have no bone to pick with folks who turn to the Left Behind books or any other rapture-centered book for entertainment. However, once these plot lines leave our e-readers and book shelves and start worming their way to our pulpits, we have a huge problem.

John didn’t write a letter to the seven churches in Asia Minor in order to predict a terrifying future. They were already being marginalized, imprisoned, and even killed. He wasn’t predicting the destruction of the world. He wasn’t even predicting the legalization of same sex marriage and pot. He was explaining why terrible things were happening to them and promising them a future with justice, peace, and restoration under God’s visible rule.

Rather than passing along a secret code about the future that could only be interpreted through news headlines, he was actually passing along critically important theology. Evil was running rampant in the world, but Jesus had conquered it, is sitting on his throne in heaven, and will one day reward his faithful followers.

Revelation isn’t merely a “revelation of the future.” It’s a revelation of spiritual realities all around us. It’s a revelation of the past, the present, and even some of the future. We destroy John’s message by shoving the rapture and speculation about future events into a series of images and metaphors that were intended to explain why Christians actually needed to stay behind.

The Rapture Undermines the Kingdom Theology of Jesus

In the Gospels Jesus always described the movement of heaven to earth and the coming of God’s Kingdom. He spent his time healing people and casting out demons because he wanted to let the world know there’s a new sheriff in town.

Jesus wasn’t leading a rescue mission from a world that is destined to be destroyed in an end times battle between God and Satan. In fact, it’s far more likely that we’re the ones destroying the world, but that’s a whole other discussion about bowls of wrath and such. Jesus showed us what God’s Kingdom looks like, defeated the powers of evil, sent the Spirit down to his followers, and then sent them out to continue his work.

Revelation is not a narrative about the future, and it most certainly does not contain the rapture. It simply answers the question: Why are Christians suffering if the Kingdom of God has come and Jesus has conquered death. Revelation fulfilled the role of apocalyptic literature in Judaism by encouraging the faithful to persevere in the midst of trying times.

In light of that question, we can see the tensions of the already, not yet Kingdom at play in the various scenes.

The martyrs cry out, “How long oh Lord?”

False prophets and evil empires attack the people of God.

The son of the woman defeats the dragon.

The dragon takes out his fury on the offspring of the woman.

Jesus isn’t distant from this world, and he’s not going to rapture us when things heat up. He’s right in the thick of the battle, standing with his people. In fact, our calling is to go out and bring healing to the nations, welcoming them into God’s Kingdom. The last thing Revelation or any other book of the New Testament, directs us to do is to wait for the rapture to deliver us from the grip of the Anti-Christ, as if we’re spiritual refugees floating on a raft of inerrant scripture.

We’ve been surrounded by anti-Christs and false prophets for centuries now.

We don’t know what the future holds, what the Millennium will be like, or how literal to take the closing portraits in Revelation, but we can at least know one thing for sure about Revelation and the end times: The Rapture Has Been Cancelled.

Learn more about Revelation in The Good News of Revelation by Ed Cyzewski and Larry Helyer. 

Ed Cyzewski
is the co-author of The Good News of Revelation and Unfollowers: Unlikely Lessons on Faith from the Doubters of Jesus. He shares sarcastic/imperfect thoughts on following Jesus at www.inamirrordimly.com.

"I'm a proponent of the "random servants view" of the parable. 😂"

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  • Thank you Zach and thank you Ed – this woman who is so damn tired of popular iterations of “Christianity” really needed this today.

  • Gavin Johnston

    I agree that the literal and Hollywood-based portrayals and understandings of the Rapture are simplistic and melodramatic, yet I disagree that that we should “cancel” it all-together. We live in an age of scientific materialism that thinks the earth is this piece of rock that would exist even if there was no human upon it. THAT SIMPLY IS A FALSE ASSUMPTION! The earth, the universe, physical creation itself is created and exists for the spiritual-evolution of life and if spiritual evolution stopped, or there was no hope for progress, or it was completely ruled by evil – the world would simply fold up and disappear because it would then have no purpose any longer for it to exist. The piece of rock that we hold in our hand is simply a part of the LIGHT and Jesus had quite a few things to say about the LIGHT! Jesus proceeds from the Father-of-Light and that is how he was able to manipulate what we perceive as the physical world like no other. As he tells the forces of darkness in John 8, if they were of the LIGHT/FATHER then they would recognize him, but because they are of DARKNESS/SATAN, they cannot recognize him. Jesus then goes onto say that he is the “I AM”! There is an I AM that allows every aspect of the Universe to exist and that is where Jesus’s consciousness proceeds from. As the source of all LIGHT, God has complete control of every piece of rock that we think exists separated from our own I AM. When Paul is taken up into the 3rd Heaven, he was in an apocalypse of sorts, he had risen and all was “left behind”, he begged to remain, but he was sent back by Christ to further reveal to the rest of us the very fabric of all existence, the Christ-Consciousness. As we’re all living in these scientific-materialistic age with our vision darkened by lack of spiritual vision, we may, in our lifetime, be very surprised by the true power that God-in-Christ holds over and some of this crazy Hollywood stuff might seem mild in comparison God’s real power over all creation.

  • Gavin Johnston

    If we weren’t all, including Christians, so enamored with the Whore of Babylon we could see these things, but our vision is darkened by her wily ways. I might not see a 666 stamped on my own and other people’s foreheads, but the evil, darkness, and blindness is written all over us even though we think that our theological understanding and profession of Christ gives us some special status. Like all masters of knowledge and light, Jesus so often uses divine irony when he says that so many that profess him he will say “I know them not”.

  • Herm

    “Revelation isn’t merely a “revelation of the future.”” Ed Cyzewski

    Luke 2:29-32
    “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

    “We’ve been surrounded by anti-Christs and false prophets for centuries now.” Ed Cyzewski

    John 14:15-21
    “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever–the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as
    orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”

    We could have been surrounded by the Spirit of Truth for millenniums now and forever more. Why are we so accepting of political and religious spirits that divide us through fear of the unknown when readily available to each and all is a real live Spirit that unites us in love and truth? The “Gospel” has always been touted in my life as uniting under God’s authority as the “good news” and ends up being spread throughout the world as a major contributor under mankind’s authority to divisional strife. I’m tired of it and choose to rest in God’s love as my Father. Hell and Damnation be damned!!!

  • Herm

    Gavin, I love your passion for the truth, thank you for sharing that. I ask though, how much of the complex (as versus “simplistic and melodramatic”) must a child of God understand to share in His family? Aren’t we always most vulnerable to the bully on the school playground when we try to defend the why of our parent’s nurture? What more do we need to understand and live as His than Deuteronomy 5:11-21 and Luke 10:25-37 … while trapped on this rock?

  • Jesus Tavern

    Such good stuff here Ed and Zach. Don’t even know where to begin. I guess I’ll mirror Zach’s quote on Twitter because its such a good line, “Jesus isn’t distant… and he isn’t going to rapture us out when things heat up”. Also, in case there are any doubters, there have in fact been many antichrists already (1 John 2:18, 4:3)

  • Lauren

    2 peter 3 says: ” knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” ” and then later on peter says the day of The Lord will come like a thief in the night, where all things material will melt with fervent heat.. And because he will come like a thief, we ought to always be watching, to keep ourselves holy so that we may be counted worthy to escape all these things.  The rapture is biblical, I suggest you research the original language of the New Testament, using blueletterbible.com, and you will understand the true meaning of the things said in scripture.  I was in the same position as you, thinking the rapture just doesn’t make any logical sense, and it drove me crazy because I wanted to know the truth.  So I put aside all preconceived ideas and studied the whole New Testament extensively, and the meaning of the words in the original language on blue letter bible.  There is so much evidence for a rapture that it is impossible for me to explain, other than to just tell you to study it for yourself in the original language.  Seek the truth and you shall find it.  God bless.

  • Exactly! I think it’s hard for us to realize the John was far more interested in uncovering spiritual realities.

  • I assume you mean studying the Bible in Koine Greek. Been there. Done that. I’m 100% convinced that Jesus will return and that he will return as a thief in the night, but I don’t need a rapture for that to be part of it. NT Wright’s book on Heaven (which is on sale today! Yay!) has a pretty thorough historical critical, Greek-based explanation of the key proof texts used for the rapture.

  • Thanks Kimberly. The Bible pretty much always ends up being better than I expected the more I dig into it. At least, that has been the case in my studies of Revelation!

  • Jeff Miller

    Andy Samberg as Nic Cage: “Left Behind” has the two marks of a great Nic Cage movie. Number One: Most of the characters randomly disappear with no explanation. And Number Two: it ends with the main character destroying his enemies by shooting a sword out of his mouth.
    Seth Meyers: Well, now, Nic, some people are saying that your movie is biblically suspect, historically bankrupt, and is based on a literary abomination.
    Andy Samberg as Nic Cage: (Pause) That’s high praise.

  • Lauren

    But what about what john 14:2 says? “In my father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Are you saying, basically, that jesus will come again to earth and establish his kingdom here, but there will be no taking up to heaven prior to that? And if so, do you believe that this second coming is imminent as jesus says?

  • There are lots of possible scenarios. For starters, it seems that Jesus and the other NT authors believed those who die before the second coming will be with the Lord. So that could explain what the mansions are. That at least seems like one explanation to me. However, let’s remember that we are far removed from the symbols and imagery of his time. Is it possible that these mansions could be part of the new Jerusalem that drops from the sky? Maybe. But check out the final chapters of Revelation. The point is that God has come down to dwell with humanity. That makes sense in light of the OT passages where God is building a temple to dwell among his people. I don’t claim to know what it’s going to look like, but the rapture is an unnecessary addition to our end times discussions.

  • Or… “They said the same about the DaVinci Code.”

  • Lauren

    I understand. There are many possibilities of how the end times will unfold. Personally, I believe there will be a rapture, but not like the way the left behin series makes of it. I believe in the red moon rapture theory, which will take place at the 6th seal, but I also leave room for error, that anything can happen really. The important thing is that we believe in jesus coming like a theif in the night, and always be prepared, and pray continuously to be counted worthy to escape all the things to come. And with biblical prophecy unfolding so quickly, look up because our redemption is drawing near. Thanks for replying. I appreciate your knowlege and spreading of the gospel. God Bless.

  • Jeff – Link!!!

  • Jesus Tavern

    Yeah for real. Which also is surprising since Jesus himself said that his words are Spirit (John 6:63)

  • duhsciple

    Based upon how I pray, I have a different view. I pray “thy Kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as in heaven” not “rapture us away from the earth to thy Kingdom in heaven.”

  • I want to see scenes of airplanes falling out of the sky because the pilots are gone (both of them); I want to see grandma’s clothing in a pile in the living room floor with her eye glasses on top. Does this make me a bad person?

    But seriously, thanks for an excellent post on the rapture.

  • Melinda V Inman

    Great post, Ed, as always! Thank you for saying it!

  • Lauren

    I pray that too. But Jesus also says to be praying constantly that we can escape all these things, whether its via the rapture or not. Jesus desnt want us to go through the uncreation of the world because it will be absolutely horible. When He comesbac to reign physically on earth, heaven and earth will pass away from His glory and a new heaven and earth will be created. This one is falling apart. If its God’s will that we be taken to heaven prior to that, then that’s awesome I think! If you read matthew 24, wen jsus says one will be taken and the other left, taken in its greek form actually means taken as in given in to marriagve (like the marriage of the church to jesus) and left means divorced. And the disc,iples say, where lord? And He says, wherever the body is, there the eagles will gather, which is actually meaning whrever Jesus is, there we will be gvathered. And interestingly also, is that in jewish marriage ceremonies when two are betrothed, the bridegroom goes away to prepare a place for them to live together, he prepares a home for them. And the bridegrooms father is the one who decides when he is ready, when all is prepared properly, and he seds his son to get the bride, and they marry at the bidegroom’s father’s house. Do ou see where I am going with this? And what about the parable of the wise virgns? When the bridegroom took away the wise virgins and the foolish ones were left behind because they didn’t have enough oil? Regardless of what we think, Gods will will be done whether we are raptured to heaven or not. But thereis plenty of evidence of a rapture. The only thing that matters is that we are doing god’s will when He returns for us, and kep ourselves clothed wth His righteousness, and keeping our robes white so that we may be counted worthy of our Bridegroom. When Jesus returns, he will be returning with his bride, to announce their marriage to the world, and heaven and earth will finally be unified, which is exactly what “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” means. The relationship between heaven and earth, God and man will be in perfect communion again, like it was before the fal of Adam and Eve. (Sorry for the spelling/grammar errors)

  • Joey Cagle

    I’m a partial preterist myself.

    Books I recommend on the subject if anyone is interested:

    Victorious Eschatology by Martin Trench and Harold Eberle
    Raptureless by Jonathan Welton
    And last but certainly not least, The Holy Bible.

  • auggie

    Nobody is questioning the return of Jesus, or that He ultimately saves His people from the wrath of God. Christians believed Jesus could come back at any time long before the dispensationalist rapture stuff got started in the 19th century. The church is, thankfully, older than modern Christian sensationalism.

  • ShameonMe

    Protestants are weird…

    Orthodox Fan

    PS. please don’t mention toll houses.

  • duhsciple

    Thy will be done is found in…

    Everyone receiving his or her daily bread

    Everyone, when hurt, no longer transmitting his or her pain but transforming it into forgiveness. We ask God to imitate our forgiving.

    Resisting the temptation to use evil means to fight evil

    The Left Behind books are anti Christian whenever enemies we are commanded to love are slaughtered.

    Salvation is not escape from the cosmos God loves (John 3:16), but the transformation and recreation of the planet and human beings to imitate God’s love (which is not about destroying or torturing people)

  • I can’t wait to livetweet Left Behind.

  • Lauren

    Revelation is full of evil people being slaughtered (as well as believers) but if you are taking revelation figuratively, then I get it. All I am saying now is Jesus is coming back, let’s be ready for Him because it can be any day now, and let’s keep watching the times so we are not decieved, let’s keep reading the scriptures and praying without ceasing so that we may stay faithful… and let’s show the world God’s Love through Christ and unite through Him, instead of splitting up into groups and making fun or causing division in the body of Christ over something so unimportant compared to the big picture. So that the world will know us Christians by our brotherly love, and will be intrigued and drawn to Jesus, which is Gods true will ( John 6:40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.) … Can we agree on that?

  • AJ

    “This Is The End” is the best rapture movie I’ve seen.
    Just sayin’

  • Tanks for mentioning Matthew 24. Key text for the whole topic.

  • dartarro21

    Thank you for writing this. I think theologians were searching for some kind of get out of jail free card with creating the idea of the rapture. When Jesus said you gotta take up your cross and weigh the cost of following Him, I think He meant it…coming to take us away when things get hard doesn’t follow what He taught or the context of Paul’s writings.