Fundamentalists Question the Rapture (Part II)
Because dispensationalists have led the charge to support Israel, this trend could have important implications for American foreign policy.
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David T. Beito - 11/28/2004
Trend may be too strong a word but it is fair to say that preterism is becoming more important in the last few years among fundamentalists.
The article on preterism (http://www.preteristarchive.com/Preterism/index.html) which I linked earlier goes into much more detail. Some extremely conservative folks like Gary North of the Christian Reconstructionists are as well as the fundamentalists at the Christian Research Institute are preterists who reject the rapture theory.
They also argue that such key figures described in Revelation, such as the Beast, etc. refer to past individuals such as Nero. The preterists, to varying degrees, also hold the view that the "new covenant" of Christ ended any special role for Israel or the Jews per se. Many believe that the Christian church is the "New Israel." They also question the tendency of many pro-rapture types to ignore the rights and grievances of Arab Christians.
Bill Woolsey - 11/28/2004
For what it is worth, the orthodox, Catholic
view is that Christ _will_ come again in glory
to judge the quick and the dead. (It is in the
Nicene Creed.) It is also part of the position
that no one but God himself knows the time of
that event. One relevant text is
Matthew 24: 37-44. Coincidentally, that was the
Gospel lesson this morning in all Episcopal and
Roman Catholic churches (and maybe Lutherans too.) In part it reads "..you do not know on what day
your Lord is coming." Anyway, Roman Catholics,
Anglicans, Greek Orthodox, Lutherans, Presbyterians,
Methodists...hold the view that Jesus will
return at some unknown future time and take a dim
view of people look to current events and claim
that the end is near.
The focus on signs and portents that the end is
near has been an important part of the
fundamentalist movement. I think the "end is near"
is the key element here. Trying to get them
to return to Christian orthodoxy on this matter
is pretty unlikely.
Yet it is many times more likely than a move to
an approach that denies all the fundamental truths
they hold dear.
In particular, to deny the traditional view that
history will end at some future time when God
will wind everything up and create and new heaven
and a new earth, etc.
As far as I could tell from the article, these weren't
fundamentalists would were questioning the rapture.
It is rather the same folks that published the Left
Behind series are publishing some novels that reflect
a critical theological perspective. This would be
a view that has support in the more liberal precincts
of mainline protestantism. Like the liberal wing
of the Episcopal Church.
I admit to remaining puzzled as to how anyone
could support U.S. intervention in the Middle
East because of Revelation prophesy.
My only personal experience along these lines
was someone who appeared fatalistic about
U.S. intervention--President Bush has no
choice because it is all the working out of
I have heard fundamentalists specifically deny
that they support Israel because of
the role Israel plays in Biblical prophecy.
I think it is rather that fundamentalists believe
that God gave Israel to the Jews and by helping
them regain and hold it, Christians are doing
the right thing by doing God's will. It is
rather like by not committing murder and theft,
they are doing God's will. (Since God appears to
have ordered the ancient Jews to exterminate the Cannanites, I wonder how fundamentalists would
react to a proposal for genocide of the Palestinians
today. I guess I really don't want to give them any ideas.)
The fundamentalists that have denied that
it has anything to do with fulfillment of
prophecy specifically noted that the notion
that Christians must influence the U.S.
government to do something or other so that
events in the Middle-East will be such that
God will then be able to return is absurd.
I would be interested in citations of people
who believe that American Christians must
do certain things to allow Jesus to return.