“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17.
This quote from the letter of the Apostle Paul to the Thessalonian church describes what many Christians call the Rapture. They are amazing words. The Church from its beginning has regarded these as revelation, a prophetic proclamation of an event that will happen in the future. The world largely does not know this text, or mocks it as mythical stuff of fairy tales and superstition.
Man has always been fascinated by the supernatural. He senses that folk tales, legends, myths give him a glimpse into the invisible world. The Marvel movies, based on fantasy comic- book heroes tap into a yearning within us for super-heroes, super-saviours. Planet Earth, polluted by ecological disasters, crime, political corruption, economic disparities, poverty, racism, suffering is obviously in need of salvation. And these heroes, out of the imagination, fill, however temporarily, our hunger for a better world.
Fairy tales, ancient and modern, are rooted in the truth of humanity’s full reality, beyond the physical, materialist, consumerist, secular round from birth to death. Man is a spiritual being, part of a larger creation, most of which is unseen. All those tales of good fairies and evil goblins, brave heroes and blood-sucking soucouyants, witches and wizards, wars among the planets, possession by evil aliens from outer space, have their source in the sense of a strange history that lurks deep in our psyche and human experience.
The Bible speaks clearly of God and the devil, angels and demons, wars in heaven between God’s faithful armies and hosts of Satan. John Milton’s Paradise Lost, one of the great works of Christian literature, gives a graphic picture of one writer’s creative interpretation of the temptation and fall of humanity. A fall from a paradisal, perfect situation, a good relationship with their Creator, into this hell-hole of a world with all its pain and eventual death. In both the Old and New Testaments angels appear. Demons were cast out of men by Christ. An angelic realm exists between Deity and humanity. They are our extra-terrestrials.
Truth is always stranger than fiction. As fascinating as fantastic movie speculations can be, they fall far short of revealed Biblical truth. “In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth.” (Genesis 1:1). Ever since Darwin’s evolutionary theories, creation by an Almighty God has been dismissed by the secular world. Man has put his hope in Superman, Batman, Wonderwoman or Spiderman not in the God revealed in Bible Scriptures. He prefers other theories of existence of living creatures to the Christian proposition of a God who created all things. Grimly, Paul writes “because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved, God shall send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie.” (2 Thessalonians 2:10,11).
All these vain imaginings reflect man’s unwillingness to face what he knows within himself: that he is a creature of an Almighty God, before Whom he is accountable. Paul writes to the Roman church that men had “suppressed the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them…so they are without excuse…they became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:18-22).
The second coming of Christ to judge our world has been much scoffed at. Peter had prophesied that “in the last days, scoffers will come…they will say, ‘where is this coming He promised?” (2 Peter 3:3,4). Jesus foretold His return, on a day unknown to man. Christ said that His return will be sudden, in power and great glory. Many Bible writers give us glimpses of what that arrival will be like. The resurrection of the dead will happen. Angels will come with Christ. The Devil and his wicked ones will be defeated and judged. Earth and heavens will be destroyed by fire. Christ will “execute judgement on all and convict all that are ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” (Jude 15). A new heavens and new earth will be made, “where righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:13).
Christ’s coming is spoken of as “imminent”, near at hand. Believers are exhorted to live “holy and godly lives” as they wait for His return. “Therefore be also ready, for in such an hour as you do not expect, the Son of man comes.” (Matthew 24:44). The Bible gives believers a valid, systematic, logical view of history and humanity’s place in it. It places Jesus Christ at the centre of human history. Bible teaching carefully studied, presents a coherent explanation of who we are and what the future of our cosmos is. All roads lead to Jesus Christ, crucified but resurrected from the dead, to Whom is now given “all authority in heaven and on earth.” (Matthew 28:18). Tell that to world leaders, great or small!
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul makes an astounding statement about Christ and God’s plans for the entire creation: “in the dispensation of the fullness of the times, He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth.” (Ephesians 1:10). To the Colossians, this Apostle who had met the risen Christ writes that God the Father plans “by Him (Christ) to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven…” (Colossians 1:20).
As heart-warming and uplifting as so many of those sci-fi Marvel and other movies are, with their stories of super heroes and a universe at peace, the Biblical reality is revealed truth and far more satisfying for believers. Those who believe in the God of the Bible and Jesus Christ, in His redemptive, saving work and His sure return, know that “our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” (Philippians 3:20,21).
The worldliness of Christendom, questionable behavior of many church folk, even the personal failures of genuine Christians have obscured the mighty revelations of God in the Bible Scriptures. But for those who trust the inspired word of God, these teachings and promises are a source of great comfort and hope, even past their rejection in an ungodly, sin-filled, mocking and blasphemous world. The faithful, believing Church is “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us…” (Titus 2:13). For us this is reality beyond sci-fi fantasy. It is not pie in the sky. Jesus Christ will return to this cosmos as King of kings and Lord of lords. Maranatha!