In Professor Stuart Piggin’s seminal work on the Evangelical history of Australia, The Fountain of Public Prosperity, he argues that it was the rise of ‘pre-millennialism’ eschatology that gave much impetus to the Evangelicals successful evangelism. Evangelical evangelists of the mid-1800’s were preaching that Christ’s return – and the end of the world – was imminent. But their pre-millennial gospel was also ‘pre-tribulational’ – which meant that the urgency to turn to Christ in repentance was even more urgent, otherwise Christ’s “secret return” (‘the rapture’) could leave the unrepentant in the midst of a hell-on-earth “Great Tribulation”. This new evangelistic message gained much traction and many converts. It would be a popular evangelistic message up until the latter part of the twentieth century. Pragmatically, it was a popular because it worked! But like many (unexamined) good ideas, it has had unintended negative consequences.
We all approach the Bible with certain ideas that color the way we read it. This is especially the case with the Book of Revelation. While certain parts of the Bible are difficult to understand (largely because we are separated by time, distance, language, personal disconnection and cultural practices), the Book of Revelation is particularly difficult to understand. This is borne out by the plethora of interpretations that have been offered about it.
The Gospel is not a message that warns people of a Secret Rapture! This kind of Rapture has nothing to do with the Gospel! By exposing the modern teaching of a Secret Rapture as a fairly recent invention in pop-theology, it is my hope that Christians disburse from the Rapture bus-stop and get back into the main game of life. Rather than waiting for Jesus to rescue them from this naughty world, believers should strive to be salt and light on Christ’s behalf to a world that would just love to see someone passion and genuine about what they believe in: Jesus Christ, Saviour and Forgiver to all those who are reconciled to God. We know that life will always have its tribulations. The Church will never rule the world and bring in some kind of utopian bliss, but the those in the Church can be better prepared to handle life’s difficulties if they are not waiting for some kind of false hope such as a Secret Rescue Rapture.