Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Left Behind

There's been a lot of talk about the Rapture this week, with certain celestial events taking place in the sky. Yesterday, we talked about how we somehow have this idea in the depths of our spirit that thinks we're going to be taken naked when Jesus returns (and the theological truths that may be behind that). But what really strikes me when we start talking, even in jest, about the Rapture is the number of Christians - faithful, believing, earnest Christians - who wonder if they will be left behind. 

Even if we offer an awkward chuckle when we say it, there's something inside so many of us that wonders if, when the resurrection really happens, we will really be resurrected. 

And that breaks my heart. 

I mean, Jesus said it, didn't He? He said He was going to prepare a place for us and that when He comes back, He will take us to the place that He is preparing. He said that if we believe, we will have eternal life. The most famous verse in all of Scripture - John 3:16 - promises that whosoever believes will not perish. 

Yet, here we are, wondering what's going to happen to us when Jesus comes back. 

This comes from a couple of places. First, it comes from the teaching in some branches of Christianity that not everyone will be saved. That there are the believers, and then, there are the elect. That God has set aside before time began the numbers of who He will save, and He already knows who they are by name. Even if you don't worship in this branch of Christianity, you've probably heard this idea floating around if you've been a Christian for any length of time or have read any popular Christian living books. Because it's out there, and it's so firmly rooted out there that Christianity as a whole can't ignore it. 

The idea comes from Revelation, where it is written that something like 144,000 (12,000 from each of the 12 tribes) are marked for eternal salvation/redemption/resurrection. Over the years, scholars have attempted to comfort the worried by explaining this as one of those "perfect numbers" that the Bible, we're told, likes to use - numbers that mean more than their numerical value and are meant to be all-encompassing. But that's a lot of math for most of us, and a lot of questions for the rest of us. How are we supposed to know when the Bible means, for example, three or when it means an infinity? Too complicated. I don't like it. 

It's much easier for me to believe that a God who created everything from nothingness with a simple word has a heart for everything He's created. That a God who knows the number of hairs on your head isn't counting to see if you might be in the 144,000. The truth is, there are a lot of problems with Christianity if we think about the idea that there are currently 8 billion persons on the earth, not including thousands of years of previous civilization, and we want to believe God only wants to save 144,000 of them? Christianity, then, would have worse odds than the lottery. 

That just doesn't gel with what we know about God. 

The other place our hesitation comes from is our understanding that, well, we aren't as good at living this faith thing as we think we are...or as we want to be. We're faltering. We're failing. We're sinning, even after the whole sacrifice on the Cross thing and the promise of eternal love and abundant life. So we wonder if we're living a good enough life to be "ready" for when Jesus comes back, and we fear in our hearts that if we're not, we're going to be left behind. 

But says Jesus to the thief, with nothing at all in this world to redeem him except this one profession of belief - today you will be with Me in paradise. 

From this, we can - and must - take comfort. For if the thief had nothing more than a profession of faith, then we, who have made that profession and continue to make it with our broken, messed-up, faltering lives, have the same promise. 

Friends, if you are a lover of Jesus and beloved of God, you need not worry that when He comes back, He's not coming for you. He is. You're going. He has prepared a place for you, and He intends to take you there. Period. 

There is no such thing as a believer left behind. 

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