After my prior post I was inundated with comments (okay, I got one comment from Raven and that was it) asking whether or not I believe in the Rapture. I started to answer her comment but the longer I wrote, the more I decided I'd just put my thoughts out here instead.
When it comes to the Rapture - and a lot of other End Time events, I'm a decided "maybe." Could happen. Might not.
Back in the 70s and early 80s I was a firm believer that Jesus would return in my lifetime. I was certain I was part of the last generation. After reading and studying Hal Lindsey's books (especially The Late Great Planet Earth) I was certain 1983 was the year of the Rapture and the beginning of the Tribulation would begin. Unless I missed something, I apparently got that one wrong.
These days I'm a little less fervent in my convictions. In fact, if you held a gun to my head and asked me - "Yes or No" - if I believe Christ will return in my lifetime, my answer would be "No"! (I prefer "Maybe" but I'll go with "No" if given only two choices.)
Why? Well, there are a slug of reasons and I ain't gonna bore you with them all here. However, here is what I think I know (in ten seconds or less) about the two major camps in this debate:
Preterists (no, I did not make this word up) argue that the prophecies of Jesus return have already been fulfilled and that he has already returned via his presence in the lives of Christians. Dispensationalists, on the other hand, argue that scripture clearly points to a future and physical return of Christ.
Much of what is taught about the Rapture, Tribulation, the Antichrist and the whole 666 deal, has its roots in the work of dispensationalist thinkers such as John Darby and Cyrus Scofield in the 19th century. What amazes me is that these concepts are relatively new to the Christian faith - only a couple hundred years old or so. That doesn't make them wrong, of course but I can't escape the fact that what Christians today accept as fact was virtually unknown throughout most of Christians history.
I accept on faith that the Bible is the literal Word of God. What is tougher to accept are the interpretations of others who may or may not know what they're talking about. These days a fair amount of what Christians believe is rooted more firmly in the interpretations others have put on Scripture rather than on Scripture itself. We may be suffering from bad eschatology (which is not the study of edible French snails.)
(Sorry you asked, Raven?)