We live in a depressing and troubled world. We face many trials in our personal lives and as a society. It is tempting for us to want to escape it all. In the past century, rapture theology has become extremely popular in many churches. Many people spend much time wishing God would “take them home.”
Personally, I believe the Bible teaches the rapture, but in these troubled times there are other important things we must keep in mind, otherwise we will find ourselves in rebellion against God and His purposes.
In John 17, Jesus’ prays for His disciples (and for us). His prayer does not allow us any kind of escapist thinking. He prays, “I do not ask You [God the Father] to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one” (v. 15).
As Jesus’ prayer makes clear, we are not of this world, run by Satan, but Jesus does not want to remove us from the world. The previous chapters indicate He has too much for us to do for us to leave. He wants to replace Satan’s kingdom with His own. He wants us to become involved with Him in making it happen. We can’t do that if we get raptured or retire to the sidelines of life and wait for His return.
In this prayer, Jesus asks God to sanctify them (and us) in the Truth for the task—for here and now. He sends them (and us) forth into the world—now. He wants them (and us) to live in unity—now. He gives them (and us) the power to live in His glory—through His Holy Spirit.
The gospel of the kingdom has not been well taught in many of our churches. As a rule, the church has not generally lived in unity in the power of the Holy Spirit. Our governments, educational systems, businesses, media industries, arts and entertainment, etc. all seem under the domination of anti-Christ forces. Non-Christians have called the shots while the church reacts defensively to the world instead of taking charge as Jesus commanded.
For Jesus to rapture His church now would signal defeat—a failed experiment. Defeat is never in God’s vocabulary. His original plan has never changed.
Who of us will remain faithful to Christ’s original aim to establish His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven? Who of us will live in the world and take the world for His kingdom in the power of the Holy Spirit? That’s what our troubled world really needs right now—a united church, empowered by the Holy Spirit, ready to represent Christ in every facet of our cultures and societies.
Has the Great Commission been fulfilled in India and the rest of the world? Has the kingdom of God come to earth through the church as Jesus envisioned? Is there unity in the body of Christ? If not, then we are not yet finished with our tasks on earth. Let’s not think of escaping quite yet! We must stay around until we have done it all Jesus’ way.
Elsewhere in the gospels, Jesus tells us to “occupy until I come.” In other words, keep busy for Him in the here and now and let God the Father decide His future return.