To a Teenager, About "Left Behind"
By Rebecca Mitchell

Dear N...,

About the Left Behind books and movies, I'm familiar with them. They are about the belief that Jesus will come suddenly and take to heaven in what is called "The Rapture" all Christians who are looking for Him and ready to go, and leave behind everybody else to go through "the tribulation," a time of terrible persecution and suffering on the earth. Some people believe the Christians left behind will end up in hell; others believe they will go through part of the tribulation, finally come back to the Lord and witness for Him, be killed, and end up in heaven, having missed out on the greatest blessings.

There are other versions of this general idea, and most evangelical denominations believe some version of it, and there has often been great fear because of it. That's why the Left Behind books and movies have been so popular. People are afraid Jesus will come when they are not ready, or their loved ones and friends are not ready.

"The Rapture" doctrine was not a belief of the early Christians or the early church fathers. The idea came from a dream someone had in the 1800's (less than 200 years ago, as compared with 2,000 years since Jesus came) and then some Christians began to interpret scriptures in the King James version of the Bible according to that dream. Correct interpretation of the original Greek scriptures does not support this doctrine. But the Rapture doctrine began to spread through the church of the 1800's and 1900's and continues right up to this day.

The general belief that God lives way up somewhere far away and we are down here waiting to be snatched away to live forever far up in the sky goes along with that doctrine. BUT... many, including myself, have come to see that the Scriptures, when interpreted correctly, show that, while God is everywhere, He has chosen (Hallelujah!) to make US His HOME! The Father was IN Christ Jesus, and Jesus said He and the Father would come and live in us. Yea! Various places in the New and Old Testaments say that we are His "house" and He comes to dwell IN US.

Do you remember it saying that the Kingdom of God has come down to earth? In Revelation John saw the New Jerusalem as a city "four square" (this means it was perfect in every way) and that it "came down from God out of heaven." It was said to John in Revelation, "I will show you the Bride, the Lamb's wife" and then John was shown the HOLY CITY, the NEW JERUSALEM. Many folks believe that the city over in the nation of Israel is going to be the New Jerusalem but it's not; the New Jerusalem is God's People, made clean and full of His nature ... love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, patience, etc.

God had them make the old temple of the Bible with things like gold (purity) and cedar (sweet smelling, like incense, like the prayers of the saints) and the breastplate of the high priest had real jewels, and each of these was a type of the NATURE OF GOD that all his people have when they are like Him. When you are pure in His loving and kindness, God sees GOLD in you; He likens to rubies and diamonds other things of His nature in you. The real New Jerusalem has GOD LIVING IN IT. It is truly GOD IN HIS PEOPLE who have been made pure and holy, a HOUSE for Him. And He isn't reluctant to live in us while we are learning and becoming what He made us to be, even when we aren't perfect yet. It says "while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." He's not put off by dirt and error. He knows He's cleaning us up inside by His Word and His love. The whole thing is His own plan! Isn't that wonderful?

Oh, there is so much in Scripture to show that God planned this all, that He always intended to dwell IN MEN, to share Himself with and in us, to be GOD WITH US and IN US. Not hurrying us away off somewhere and leaving others to go through hell, but loving and working IN ALL His creation. And, wonderful truth, letting us in on the great joy of showing Him to people by our living out His love for them. A friend long ago said to us, "The devil didn't slip up on God's blind side because God doesn't have a blind side." Ha! It's really awesome, isn't it?

One reason some folks misinterpret scriptures about the "end times" is that the Book of Revelation is full of SYMBOLS and PICTURES that stand for things. Some people take those symbols literally when God gave them as pictures of important truths. You recall how Jesus often spoke in parables? It's similar. Those who had "eyes to see and ears to hear" understood...but even then sometimes Jesus had to explain the parables privately to His disciples. God always has good reasons when He speaks this way. We trust His wisdom about this. So we come to Him, trusting as we open the Bible to study, or as we simply ponder His word and Himself, trusting Him to open our understanding. And He does!

My brother Jonathan, who studies the Scriptures, said this: "The main problem with the LB stories is that they focus on escapism, set one's thinking on the future of leaving this all behind, and undercut a sense of responsibility to the earth, community, other people (those not "the elect"), and thwart seeing God in our present moment. A secondary problem is that these stories breed fear."

I'm sure you know that years ago your grandparents A... and J... were shown by God, directly to A by the Holy Spirit, the truth that all people will ultimately be saved. Most of the denominational churches don't believe this, but it is clearly taught in the Bible and most of the early Christians knew this. I totally believe it.

Knowing this changes a person's attitude and outlook toward the whole world, friends and neighbor, other countries of peoples, all history past and to come, and the whole creation. We see all people, earth and stars, galaxies and universes that God made, and all happenings, in a whole new light. Not as something to be discounted, feared or worried about, or to be destroyed; but rather to be valued as HE does, because HE MADE IT AND THEM ALL AND HAS GOOD PLANS FOR ALL OF IT. It doesn't mean we have total understanding of everything YET :-) but it does cause our hearts to open like flowers to the sun and grow in God's love for all, even what and who looks pretty bad and pretty awful right now. We learn to love them the way He does, and it takes away any fear such as the "left behind" idea brings to so many. HE is a GOOD FATHER of all, He bring good discipline on the ungodly and the disobedient, all the while with His GOOD END for it all in view. He purposed for it all to play out over the ages and to ultimately bring the greatest joy to everyone and everything. We may rest our minds totally, enjoy the life He has given us, right down to the fun you have with your cousins, or sharing in harvesting the beans, or whatever you and your family do, and trust everything fully in His hands because you know of His great love toward everything and everybody--and His power to work his plan. And as you grow naturally you keep seeking to understand and know Him more fully, and you grow in spirit and wisdom.

Well, N..., that's my feeling, and I'm not perfect in understanding but I feel confidence in the goodness of God toward all His creation, and the ultimate and final WONDERFUL PURPOSE He is working out for all, no matter how woeful some things look now. God's Love is the strongest thing there is. He IS holy love, and that love changes everything and everyone. He has purposed, in His own time and way, to show His love to every particle of His creation. He wants all to know Him and share in His joy.

No wonder, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem and the people waved palm branches and sang praises and the Pharisees were critical; Jesus told them that, if the people didn't praise, the very rocks would cry out! The wonderful plan God has for the salvation of all creation was riding that donkey, and going to that cross to rise from the dead and change all the world forever...because of the great love of the Creator God.

I hope this helps, N...,   Rebecca

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