How did the first Christians think about “The Rapture”?

 

“The Rapture” is a pretty popular subject right now. With the new Left Behind movie coming out in October and the T.V. show The Leftovers currently airing.

In both cases “The Rapture” is portrayed as an end of the world apocalyptic event, that is more nerve-racking than comforting.

But when Paul wrote about “The Rapture” in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 is this what he had in mind? And is this how the Christians he was writing to understood it?

New Testament scholar N.T. Wright provides a few good reasons why it is likely that Paul’s original audience understood “The Rapture” very differently than the current media portrayal.

 

 

 

 

Does What I’m Doing Matter?

It has been one of those weeks. The kind of week where I feel really busy, but then wonder if any of what I accomplished really mattered. It has been a week without energy. A week that felt foggy. A week that lacked, a certain je ne sais quoi.

Maybe you have experienced that kind of week.

Currently, I’m reading Surprised by Hope, by N.T. Wright, an excellent book for the Easter season. In it, he writes the following passage–a passage which I should probably read every week.

But what we can and must do in the present, if we are obedient to the gospel, if we are following Jesus, and if we are indwelt, energized, and directed by the Spirit, is to build for the kingdom. This brings us back to 1 Corinthians 15:58 once more: what you do in the Lord is not in vain. You are not oiling the wheels of a machine that’s about to roll over a cliff. You are not restoring a great painting that’s shortly going to be thrown on the fire. You are not planting roses in a garden that’s about to be dug up for a building site. You are—strange though it may seem, almost as hard to believe as the resurrection itself—accomplishing something that will become in due course part of God’s new world. Every act of love, gratitude, and kindness; every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation; every minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or to walk; every act of care or nurture, of comfort and support, for one’s fellow human beings and for that matter one’s fellow nonhuman creatures; and of course every prayer, all Spirit-led teaching, every deed that spreads the gospel, builds up the church, embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruption, and makes the name of Jesus honored in the world—all of this will find its way, through the resurrecting power of God, into the new creation that God will one day make. This is the logic of the mission of God. God’s recreation of his wonderful world, which began with the resurrection of Jesus and continues mysteriously as God’s people live in the risen Christ and in the power of his Spirit, means that what we do in Christ and by the Spirit in the present is not wasted. It will last all the way into God’s new world. In fact, it will be enhanced there.

I pray you’re having a great week. But just in case your week, like mine, has felt a little futile, let us remember that nothing we do for the Lord is in vain. Our work matters.

Advent… A Different Kind of Waiting (Week 3)

It’s week three of Advent.  A week to focus on joy. The joy  that comes from anticipating the arrival of Christ’s birth.

But ironically finding joy in Christ during the Christmas season, is often hard. Especially when there is so much competition for our affections.

So how do we find our joy in Christ,  even in the midst of our market-driven society?

Here’ s three steps that I think can help:

1. WE START BY FORGETTING ABOUT OURSELVES

John Piper writes,

“The really wonderful moments of joy in this world are not the moments of self-satisfaction, but self-forgetfulness. Standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon and contemplating your own greatness is pathological. At such moments we are made for a magnificent joy that comes from outside ourselves.”

2.  THEN WE TRUST THAT JESUS IS THE BETTER JOY

St. Augustine, speaking of Jesus, wrote in his Confessions,

“How sweet all at once it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I had once feared to lose! You drove them from me, you who are the true, the sovereign joy. You drove them from me and took their place, you who are sweeter than all pleasure.”

 3.  FINALLY WE WORSHIP

As Bishop N.T. Wright put it,

“When we begin to glimpse the reality of God, the natural reaction is to worship him. Not to have that reaction is a fairly sure sign that we haven’t yet really understood who he is or what he’s done.”

So this Christmas season don’t let the commercials, and the stress of buying stuff, steal your joy. Instead give yourself permission to lose yourself in the person of Jesus Christ, thinking about who he is and all  he has done. Allow Jesus to take away your affections for lesser pleasures, and begin to fill your heart with deeper affections for himself. Then worship. Wherever you are, even if you must begin with whispers, praise him for everything you can think of.

Then you will find joy.

 

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