What To Expect When You’re Expecting The Rapture

Rapture 2011 sticker.

Image via Get Glue.

I admit this is partially my fault: for the sake of sounding pretty, I’ve been using words like ‘rapture’, ‘apocalypse’, and ‘end of days’ fairly interchangeably. Nor am I the only one. For this reason and probably many others, there’s a certain level of confusion about what’s actually been predicted for today.

Well, I can clear that up for you. In fact, I shall – and in a helpful Q-and-A format, no less. As a librarian and blogger, it is my duty to spend the end of days spreading knowledge, so people can approach the Rapture and the ensuing tribulation better informed. And rest assured that as long as the Internet survives in our post-Rapture world, I’ll continue to blog helpful hints for surviving the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Or, y’know, other stuff. Just in case the Second Coming isn’t forthcoming.

Q. What is the difference between the Rapture and the Apocalypse?

A: People in fundamentalist denominations who believe we live in the End Times have a host of terms that’s as big as God’s host of angels who will preside over the Judgment. Let’s start with those terms – End Times and Judgment. So where we’re living right now is the End Times, which is the last segment of  human history before God unleashes Judgment on the whole world. Judgment, of course, is when God separates His Own, the good Christians of the world, from all the other evil people.

The Rapture: Jesus promised that His people who are living when he comes will go from Earth to Heaven without dying.

Image by Daniel Radosh via Radosh.net.

Before Jesus actually comes again in glory, evangelicals expect the reign of Satan in the world to cause what they call the Tribulation: a time of suffering and testing for all those living through it. But of course, it would be distasteful and quite unfair to make committed, believing Christians suffer through once things get really bad. So somebody came up with the idea of the Rapture: basically, the Saved will disappear into heaven all in a moment so they can live in bliss with Jesus instead of enduring the horrors to come.

Apocalypse, on the other hand, is a general term that we use for the end of the world. While Christians expect the world as we know it to end some time after the Rapture, we have quite a bit to get through before that happens: the Tribulation (where the Unsaved are tested by suffering); the Second Coming (where Jesus returns to rule Earth); and the Judgment, where sinners are separated from the righteous and cast into hell. Some denominations have some in-between stages there, or more detailed theories on how this will all happen, and some have even come up with theories about what happens after the Judgment . . . but that’s a whole massive kettle of fish and it’s not going to fit into this modest little Q-and-A.

Q: Is the Rapture in the Bible?

A: I’ve heard some argue that it’s not described explicitly anywhere in the Bible, but proponents say that it appears clearly in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18. Other verses often highlighted as possibly describing the Rapture include 1 Corinthians 5:51-53 and Mark 13:26-27. You’ll have to consider these verses for yourself to decide whether they sound like the Rapture or if you think they might be pointing to something else. And hey, while you’re at it, you may wish to question whether you consider the Bible a reliable resource anyway, a question many people sometimes forget to ask.

Q: How did they arrive at the May 21, 2011, date? And who are “they” anyway?

A: Now that is way too long of a story to get into here. I’ve gone over the logic briefly in a prior post. For more in-depth information straight from the fundie’s mouth, so to speak, you can visit FamilyRadio.com or WeCanKnow.com, both affiliated with the original prophet propounding this Rapture date,  Harold Camping.

Harold Camping, original proponent of the May 21 Rapture.

Image of Harold Camping via the Christian Forum, sponsored by Eternal Path.

Q: What is going to happen to those who are left behind?

A: That varies depending on who you’re talking to, but it’s generally agreed that it won’t be pretty. I recommend reading the Left Behind series by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye for a detailed and popularly supported vision of what the Tribulation might look like. Jack Chick also has a few ideas sketched out, literally and figuratively. (I like to go to Chick tracts for so much of my fun with fundamentalism.)

Q: If you’re a good person, but not a Christian, will you be raptured?

A: No. Sorry. The Rapture is a Christians-only party. Everyone else is stuck with Tribulation. Fundamentalist Christianity is very clear on this point: only faith in Jesus can save you. Not good works. Not being a good person. It’s all about Jesus.

And just for the record, fundamentalists generally agree that Catholics don’t count as Christians who will be raptured. We’re considered far too dependent on things like confession, infant baptism, and righteous actions. Oh, and the Virgin Mary. We’re not seen as Jesus-centric enough to be included, as far as the evangelical spectrum is concerned.

Q: Do animals get raptured?

Pets looking skyward.

Image via Dvorak Uncensored.

A:They do not. According to the relevant theology, animals don’t have souls, so they can’t be raptured. Think about it: how can a dog or cat ask Jesus into its little animal heart? They lack language, and even the understanding to be taught about who Jesus is.

Fortunately, there are many helpful organizations made up of animal lovers who are willing to care for pets following the Rapture. These kind volunteers, having never surrendered their hearts to Jesus, do not expect to be raptured today or any other day. Lucky for the animal friends of our fundamentalist brethren that good works don’t get you into heaven! Now the nice people at Eternal Earth-Bound Pets, Post-Rapture Pet Care, and After the Rapture can offer their kindness to Fido and Fluffy without any danger of being raptured away.

Animal lovers, take note: there may be a boom in dog-walking and cat-sitting jobs available once the Rapture takes place. You may wish to bookmark Workopolis now.

Q: Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that I’m still here after the Rapture. So what do I do now?

A: That’s up to you. I know many atheists, agnostics, non-Christians, and general smart-asses are planning Rapture Parties, so you may want to check around in your circle of friends. Maybe somebody is planning something. If not, you can plan your own.

I also know Facebook has some Post-Rapture Looting planned, and it looks like a pretty popular event. Event planners are offering the possibility of “sweet stereo equipment and maybe some new furniture” . . . though, as with most looting, it’s probably on a first-come-first-served basis.

Q: I want to get raptured. How do I avoid being left behind?

A: Most evangelical denominations I know of agree: you must ask Jesus into your heart as your Personal Lord and Saviour! Check out Jack Chick’s salvation primer to learn how.

Got more questions? Leave them in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer them for you as soon as possible. Assuming, of course, you’re still here.

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Posted on May 21, 2011, in Fun with Fundamentalism, Mere Christianity and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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