Crammed with Heaven: why I don’t believe in a rapture rescue.

A monthly column in which Jenni Pretorius Hill shares stories of hope which bring Heaven’s perspective to Earth

What we believe about tomorrow influences how we live today. I once had a teacher colleague who got tested for a rare and devastating disease. Her mother had died young, as had her grandmother, and she wanted to know whether she was destined for a similar fate. When the results came back in the affirmative, there was little her colleagues could say to comfort her; our words were like a leaking tub, insufficient to hold her grief and shock. Her doctors painted a grim picture of her inevitable decline, so she concluded that nothing good lay in her future. She would live for today only, with no thought or investment into an absent tomorrow. 

Just as my colleague had a hopeless vision for her future, I know many Christians who have embraced a doom-and-gloom perspective of the end of the world. They have chosen an eschatology that leaves little room for a belief in a victorious and overcoming Church. Their hope rests entirely on the notion that they will be rescued before life becomes unbearable.

I believe the Church is a bright, and formidable force arising in the Earth today. Many believers will agree with me, while also believing that there is a concurrent increase in darkness. It’s a silly idea if you think about it. How can darkness increase if the light is getting brighter? When you enter a dark room and switch on the light, what happens to the darkness? Light and darkness cannot co-exist. We either believe that we are descending into darkness and chaos, or that the Kingdom-light is shining ever brighter in our world – calling more and more people to faith in Christ.

A popular theology but does it align with the Gospel of the Kingdom?

Psalm 110:1 states that Jesus will sit at the Father’s right hand until his enemies are under His feet. The Scripture is quoted in the New Testament as well. We know that when He ascended, He took His place alongside the Father. That’s where He is now. He will only leave His throne (and make His return) when His enemies are subjugated, and the process of this subjugation is underway. Who then is responsible for the Kingdom mandate of domination? We are! His church.

Jesus refers to His Church as the ecclesia. This is more than just a body of people; it is an authoritative body with a mandate to govern. God did not birth His Church for us to cower in a holy huddle as we plead for the rapture to extract us from the wickedness of earth. 

God gave the mandate to govern the earth to Adam, who then relinquished it to Satan. It took the death and resurrection of Jesus to regain what Adam gave away. It was God’s idea from the very start, that we, His beloved children would assert His authority on the Earth. And if He has offered us this responsibility, has He not equipped us with what we need to fulfil the job? If we believe the presence of Christ within every believer is not enough to subjugate darkness, we make a mockery of the cross. 

I agree that wickedness and trouble does seem to be pressing in on every side, but I am glad I’m living today rather than in years gone by. Surviving to the age of 47 was no mean feat in the past. If I had escaped the scourge of childhood diseases, my life would still have been at risk with every cough, infection, and injury and with every child I birthed. I could have been obliterated if resident in Pompeii in 79AD or crushed by earthquakes in Asia Minor in the first century. Hanging or burning may have been my fate during the Dark Ages, or death by beheading in revolutionary France. Had I held fast to my faith in Rome, Nero might have fed me to his lions, and sharing my faith in Japan in the 1500s would have seen me crucified. Starvation by famine could have spelled my end in any number of countries. Depending on my race, I may have been a slave-owner or a slave, and had I been born at the start of the 1900s I could have lost father and brothers in the Great War, and husband and sons in the second. 

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God struck Babel because the people were challenging God. Today, in redefining the boundaries of gender and genetics, we are doing the same. The same ancient, wicked spirit undergirds both. The genocidal devil that was unleashed through Hamas’s attacks on Israelis is the same spirit that laid waste to Rwanda, Carthage, Yugoslavia, Melos…

My point? If you’re looking for evidence to support the claim that we are hurtling towards an apocalypse, it might be an idea to exchange stories with the ancients, and probably with anyone who lived a generation prior to your own before you draw a conclusion.

If you believe in a rapture-rescue theology, it’s important to consider how this idea may be affecting the way you live today. If you believe that decay and war is inevitable, can you really pray with authority to thwart it? Will you cry out for righteousness, speak out against injustice, and make a public stand for truth if you believe that the effort will be futile? If Heaven is a place to escape to – a destination only attainable when we die – will you pursue tangible expressions of Heaven here on Earth? Will you look towards building and restoration if you believe that destruction is unstoppable? Is it love, and a belief that there is hope this side of Heaven, that motivates you to win souls, or is it the fear of them being “left behind” to face death and punishment that prompts you to evangelise?

The Gospel of salvation is wonderful news, but it is not the Gospel Jesus preached. The salvation Gospel ends at the cross. I’m saved, and you’re saved; let’s batten down the hatches (because the world is going to pot) and look to our eventual victory when we get to Heaven. The Gospel of the Kingdom starts at the cross. Because of what He has done for us, we represent Him by extending His Kingdom on the Earth so that the knowledge of the glory and the goodness of God begins to penetrate every area of society. The Gospel of the Kingdom is what Jesus preached and it offers us a hope-filled picture for our future: the salvation of souls and the transformation and reformation of nations. 

This is the picture that compels me to keep going, and to keep believing for the greatest revival the world has ever seen. 

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3 Comments

  1. Thanks Jen for a great article

  2. Hello Jenni
    thank you for a beautifully written article
    however, some of us just seem to have everything go wrong in life which is, I firmly believe, due to bad decisions. Life is the sum of the choices we make good or bad at the time.
    The Bible states that bad things are going to happen; plagues, storms and more degradation of the earth etc etc etc will happen so no amount of prayer will stop that, I do not think that we can kid ourselves otherwise. This present civilization will one day end and it will not be pretty. When you get old, your perspective changes radically, whatever you have built up or collected will ultimately be destroyed so if we were all clever we would travel light in this life.
    As for Heaven, for those staunch believers in the Reformed Doctrine, your destiny is predetermined, yes makes one wonder whether we should evangelize at all. But we try in the hope that we may influence some souls to a better eternity.
    I wish there was some light to convince me to believe in the possibility of a great revival, but I am afraid that is only wishful thinking, and what is prophesied in the Book of Revelation must happen if we are true believers in the Word of God.
    thanks

  3. Good article. Needed. Much of the church has been totally rapture verskrik for the over 30 years. Has distracted many from the here & now. And made us throw up our hands in helpless resignation, saying “Oh well, these things must happen, and I’m getting out of here soon anyway.” However, we were told to occupy till He comes. Some years back, I was interested to hear Pat Robertson, of the 700 Club say on the topic – “Jesus is coming back once, not one and a half times!”