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'Rapture' Myth Left Behind by Theologian's Deconstruction

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The Coming of the Lord 1 Thess 4:

Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 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 own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till 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 each other with these words

Mark 13:32
"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

Scripps Howard News Service
April 15, 2004

("The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation," by Barbara R. Rossing. Westview, 212 pp. $24.)

Barbara Rossing
   Author, Barbara Rossing

Since 1995, Tyndale House has sold an astonishing 50 million copies of books in the "Left Behind" series by the *Rev. Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins.

The novels purport to describe in fictional-but-literal terms the Apocalypse, reign of the Antichrist, and return of Jesus to rule Earth. The final volume in the 12-volume series, "Glorious Appearing," has just been released.

At the heart of the novels is LaHaye's occult interpretation of the exact "script" of the coming End Times, in which faithful Christians will be "raptured" - taken up to heaven - before the rule of the Antichrist, good and evil will wage a seven-year battle, and finally, Christ will return.

Many believers have adopted these fictional books as a stand-in for biblical truth. But what most "Left Behind" readers - as well as those disturbed by the implications of the books - probably don't know is that LaHaye's grand vision teeters not on sound theology, but an obscure, contortionist, 19th-century interpretation of the Book of Revelation.

Now comes Lutheran minister - and New Testament scholar - **Barbara R. Rossing with a long-overdue response to the simplistic "prophecy" expressed in "Left Behind" and, frighteningly, adopted as fact by so many. "The Rapture Exposed" convincingly debunks the methodology of "end times" philosophy and shows why all this is more than just a theological spat in our war-torn world.

"The trouble is, the interpretation of the Bible on which these books are based is also fiction," Rossing writes. "Today's end-times writings draw on a method for looking at prophecy that was invented less than two hundred years ago and, by now, is a dominant American view.

In this system, the Bible - particularly the books of Daniel and Revelation - spell out in detail God's pre-ordained script of predictions for the end of the world."

But as Rossing writes, "The Rapture is a racket."

The "system" was born of a young Scottish girl's vision in 1830, later fleshed out by a late-19th-century British preacher, John Nelson Darby. Darby conjured up the idea of Rapture based on scriptural texts that, read by most, indicate no such thing, and he devised the concept of "dispensations" - distinct epochs in God's time, with different rules, to account for biblical inconsistencies and, shall we say, ease of prophecy.

In 1970, America got its own Rapture hawker in Hal Lindsey, who penned the best-selling "The Late, Great Planet Earth." But as Rossing points out, over the years Lindsey has had to quietly "adjust" his own firm "prophecies" as the world has changed; where once Russia, then "red" China, represented the forces of evil, now it's Islam.

Hal Lindsey
Author, Hal Lindsey      

Rossing methodically, accessibly hammers away the shaky foundations of Rapture ideology, taking particular note of the kind of scriptural contortions it requires to remain standing and relying on original texts, in original languages, to bolster her argument.

Should anyone care about what a bunch of true believers espouse? Yes, because there is a sinister political subtext to end-time religious belief: Rapture subscribers believe that the Jews must control all of their original territory - extending, some say, all the way into Iraq - before the temple can be rebuilt and Jesus can return. They welcome conflict in the Middle East and dismiss Palestinians (including the many Christians) as little more than human chaff.

"... the new movement of 'Christian Zionism' is a militant all-or-nothing kind of Zionism that scripts Israel as a player in the dispensationalist Christian end-times drama in a way that baffles even Israelis," writes Rossing, who is a traditional Zionist who supports states for both Jews and Palestinians.

The latter third of the book is aimed at believers who may be wondering how to counter Rapture theology and work for peace. But "The Rapture Exposed" should be read by anyone who wonders how to counter the simple-minded assertions that LaHaye knows God's precise "script" for the future, or how to debunk the decidedly un-Christian, and ultimately anti-Semitic, agenda of right-wing end-timers bent on promoting Armageddon in the Middle East. Rossing has given us a clear, intelligent, engaging - and deeply Christian - map to follow.

My only regret is that this book won't find its way into the hands of nearly enough "Left Behind" fans, at least some of whom might question their own beliefs when confronted with the cynical manipulations of end-timers.

Contact Clay Evans of the Daily Camera in Boulder, Co., at

*The word Reverend is used only once in the Bible-where it refers to God Almighty. Here at we do not refer to any man as "Reverend". Psa 111:9 He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend [is] his name.
**I Timothy 2:12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. 13For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.