Now that we've moved past all the hype surrounding Harold Camping's false Judgment Day predictions, I'd like to share another perspective on the "rapture" that is more in line with what most Christians around the world actually believe.
Mainstream churches knew that May 21, 2011, was a meaningless date, because the Bible clearly states that no one but God the Father knows the day or the hour of Christ's return. It is amazing to me that the pastors who get the most media attention regarding end-times prophecies are the ones with the most predictably wrong view.
In my biblical training at Boston Bible College and at Liberty University, I learned what was needed to study scripture and especially how to interpret the difficult writings of prophecy.
Many people ask the questions: "What exactly will happen in the end times? Are we in the last days? Is there such a thing as a rapture?" I posed the same questions as a young man, and now I have the tools to help people find the answers.
Many Christians, and even pastors for that matter, haven't spent much time trying to understand what is written in those books of the Bible that speak about the end times, the rapture of the church, or Christ's Second Coming.
When you start reading the "Book of Revelation," in chapter one, the Apostle John opens with "He (Jesus) made it known by sending his angel to his servant John." What is important is that God wanted not only John, but also the last generation, to know what was going to happen.
For many millennia, the followers of God didn't fully understand what the prophetic writings of Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Joel, John, Peter and Paul were trying to say.
As a matter fact, the writers themselves didn't always comprehend what they were seeing and receiving from God.
Think about what these men were looking at when receiving visions of our present day; not knowing how to explain airplanes, tanks, helicopters, cars, etc. They only had their personal experiences around them to explain their visions.
Daniel struggled with this and he asked God one day to explain it: "I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, ‘My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?'"
He replied, "Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand." (Daniel 12:8-9, New International Version).
In this verse, you will find the answer to why for thousands of years the prophets of old and the church didn't understand the books about prophetic events. God chose not to reveal their meaning until the time of the end.
I truly believe that time is now.
I know that in some churches pastors don't talk about the rapture all that much. Some have even stated that "the word rapture isn't found in the Bible." And they are right. The literal word "rapture" is not in the English Bible.
However, the concept is quite biblical, including the following verses in Thessalonians 4:16-17 (NIV): "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever."
The words "caught up" have the same meaning as the word "rapture." Indeed, there are other words that are not found the in the English Bible, such as "Trinity," yet this concept is a fundamental principle of Christianity that is found throughout the New Testament.
Just because you don't see the literal words in your English Bible doesn't mean that the concepts are not present and vital.
The rapture will change this world in an instant, and the prophecy is not as difficult to understand as you might think. By reading the Bible and referencing the teachings of someone who understands and studies this topic, you can readily gain a solid understanding of these prophetic mysteries. God truly does want you to know the signs of the times!
There is so much more that I could write about this rich subject. In fact, we're in the middle of a multi-part series at Adventure Community Church that explains end-times prophecy in plain English, and relates it directly to current events.
If you're interested in learning more, please check out the video archives on our website, http://adventurecc.org.
• Michael Clark is one of the founding pastors of the Christian, non-denominational Adventure Community Church in Ahwatukee, where he has served for nine years. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.