I remember, more than 25 years ago, sitting in my high school Sunday School Class when the subject of the rapture was brought up. It wasn’t the first time I had heard of it or had even talked with others about it, but this time it was different. I had already heard of the three main views of the rapture; 1) pre-tribulation, 2) mid-tribulation, and 3) post-tribulation, but what I was about to hear was something new to me. Our Sunday school teacher was asked what his personal view was in regards to the rapture, and after reminding us of the Assemblies of God’s position of a pre-tribulation rapture he then told us he was a “pan-tribulation” person. For those of you that don’t know, the “pan-tribulation” view simply states that as long as you’re ready it will all “pan” out in the end.
I realize that my Sunday school teacher probably had a good reason for saying what he did, either because he was unsure of what position he personally agreed with, or because he was trying to avoid getting into a discussion on the different viewpoints relating to the subject. It’s also possible that he held a position that differed from the denominational position of the church and didn’t want to be seen as divisive on the subject, so it’s really hard to say why it was that he decided not to share what his stand on the subject was.
Since that time I’ve talked with many that take the same approach as my Sunday school teacher, and I’ve found with many of them it was because they didn’t want to think about it. The position they were taking was that as long as they are ready when it happens then that is all that is needed, but I think they are missing an important part of what it means to be ready for the rapture, something that I will get into shortly.
Over the years I’ve also talked with some who, when the subject of the rapture comes up, become silent and at times will even attempt to change the subject as though I wouldn’t notice, which often times has perplexed me especially when they are a minister. Why the silence, especially from those who are ministers of the Gospel and should be teaching and preaching on the subject? Is it because they don’t know what they believe and therefore want to avoid any discussions on the subject? Is it because the view they have is contrary to the position their church or denomination takes? Is it because they take the same approach as my Sunday school teacher and embrace the “pan-tribulation” view? While I think it is important to ask these questions, I can’t help but wonder if the reason for the silence is far deeper and more personal than these questions touch on.
When people appear to be silent on the issue of the rapture, I can’t help but think it is for reasons beyond what view they have or because they are trying to avoid getting into a debate on the it. Several years ago I came to the conclusion that Christians in America are enjoying life too much or are too comfortable with life here in America to truly desire Jesus to come back any time soon. You’ve heard of the “bucket list”, a list of things that people want to do or experience before they die? Well, I want to coin a new term, the “bucket plus list”, a list of things that people want to do or experience before the rapture takes place.
People with a “bucket plus list” believe that Jesus is coming back, and some of them even know that it will be possibly very soon, but they are hoping deep down that He doesn’t return until they’ve completed their “bucket plus list”. There are things that they value more than the return of Christ because they desire those things more than they do His return. Jesus said that those who desire the things of this world more than Him are not worthy of Him, and the Apostle John tells us that we can’t love Him if we love the world, so what does that say of those who have a “bucket plus list”? And, if people have a “bucket plus list” would they be considered “ready” when Jesus does return for His bride?
In the ancient Jewish marriage customs, the bride didn’t know when the groom would return but it was her responsibility to be ready when he did. If the groom returned and saw she wasn’t ready, namely that she hadn’t adequately prepared herself for him or was even eagerly watching for him having her affections elsewhere, then he could turn around and leave her where she was and give her a letter of divorcement. Understanding that our relationship with Jesus and His return parallels that of the ancient Jewish marriage customs in so many different ways, we can safely assume that His return for us, His bride, would resemble the same marriage customs ancient Jews modeled. There were many times that Jesus either told us He would return as a thief in the night, or He would tell us to “watch and pray” regarding His return. Seeing that Jesus would come as a thief in the night and how much he stressed and even commanded us to watch and pray, it only stands to reason that to be watching for and eagerly anticipating His return is one of the core elements that makes one ready for Him when He returns. If we have a “bucket plus list” that keeps us from eagerly watching and looking for His return, then we risk not being considered “ready” and worthy in His sight to go with Him when He returns.
No matter what your view of when the rapture of the church will take place, the fact remains that His return is very, very near. The fulfillment of Biblical end-time prophecy before our very eyes points to the very near start of the tribulation period, which in turn tells us that the rapture could happen at any moment for those of us who believe in a pre-tribulation rapture. So, this is not the time to have a “bucket plus list”, but instead it is the time to get rid of them and start watching and looking for His return with anticipation. Don’t be like the foolish virgins who were not ready and prepared for His return because of the things you want to see happen before He comes for His bride. After all, what is more important; the things you have on your “bucket plus list”, or the return of Christ for you His bride? What is most important to you reveals where your heart is, or more importantly where your heart is not. Are you ready for Him to return, even if it is this very day or night?
Watch and pray, and eagerly desire to see Him when He returns more than anything or anyone else, otherwise He may not consider you ready when He does return.