Lutherans and the End Times

Until I was grown, I never heard much about the end times at church.  All I knew about the rapture came from bumper stickers (In case of the rapture, this car will be unmanned) and I never heard of the 1000 year reign.  All this is probably because most Lutherans are amillenialists (big word for the day).  This means that unlike the pre- and postmillenialists, Lutherans don’t believe there will be a 1000 year reign of Christ on earth.  We believe that when Jesus comes again, that is the end.  What comes next is the New Jerusalem, the earth perfected.  Lutherans also believe that we are in the end times now, the time that began with Christ’s ascension into heaven.  How long will the end times last, and when will Christ come again?  As Lutherans the correct answer is, “I don’t know.”

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your LORD will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.  Matthew 24:36-44

It seems pretty plain to me — nobody know when Jesus will come again, not even Jesus himself!  The truth is, we probably won’t be expecting it.  Instead of spending time “predicting” when the end will come, we should concentrate on being ready today because it may happen at any time.

Of course, some believe these verses to refer to the rapture, but most people don’t know that this reading of Scripture wasn’t even around until the 1830’s.  It was developed by John Nelson Darby, a Plymouth Brethren pastor, who edited a study bible which popularized his theories.  There are no other verses in the Bible to support or further explain the rapture (Lutherans say when in doubt, compare Scripture to Scripture) and so Lutherans do not accept this interpretation.  We are decidedly “unraptured.”

All this being said, I must point out that I am a layperson without seminary training.  I don’t claim to have all the answers about Lutheran theology and doctrine, but should any readers have questions, I will earnestly try to obtain the answers!

 

Unraptured by Zack Hunt — Book Review

This book is subtitled, “How End Times Theology Gets it Wrong,” but it’s about much more than comparative theology.  It’s the story of one person’s faith, how it evolved over time, and how the things we believe affect the things that we do.

As a teenager, Zack Hunt became wrapped up (no pun intended) in the rapture.  His idol was Jack Van Impe and his prized possession the Jack Van Impe Prophecy Bible complete with a color coded guide to the apocalypse.  Understanding the “secret” Bible code that predicted the end times made Zack feel intelligent, superior and most of all safe — safe, since his salvation depended upon knowing and believing all the right things.

In college, Zack is dismayed to find that many professors of religion do not adhere to his beliefs.  Through study he comes to realize that the proof texts for the rapture are taken out of context, and that the book of Revelation has a spiritual rather than literal interpretation.  Even more, he sees that a fixation on the end times can prevent Christians from taking action in the here and now.  Why bother to try and fix what Jesus intends to destroy and remake anyway?  For Zack, at least, preoccupation with the end times led to a focus on his own personal salvation and future in heaven, and a lack of concern for the welfare of others in the present. This is not Christlike.

Unraptured is an interesting and easy read.  You’ll get an overview and history of apocalyptic theology (something Lutherans rarely talk about) along with the story of another Christian’s journey of faith.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars, because I did not agree with some of the author’s political and theological conclusions and his writing style was a bit too informal for my taste.  Overall, still worthwhile reading.