Resources for Shaping a *RaptureLess* Theology: Where to Start to Debunk Left Behind
by Kurt Willems
June 5, 2014
With the new Left Behind movie coming out this Fall, I think it’s fitting to re-examine what the Bible actually teaches about the “End Times.” One thing that I realize when we talk about issues pertaining to the End, is that many folks feel in their bones that what they were taught is wrong. The hard part is putting together something that makes sense and is backed up by Scripture.
Yesterday, I posted an article called: Why the Rapture isn’t Biblical… And Why it Matters. In that post I looked at the most famous rapture passage and demonstrated why it is not about escaping planet earth.
Today what I want to offer are some next steps. Once we have deconstructed a theology that we intuitively know doesn’t reflect the way of Jesus, it’s important to rebuild – to reconstruct. In what follows, I am going to be somewhat strategic about the order of the following resources. If I were going to relearn this stuff all over again for the first time, here’s the path that I think would be the most fruitful.
So, without further ado, here are resources for shaping a raptureless theology. To be clear, the order I’ve arranged these in is intentional!
Here I offer some insights I gleaned from another resource, Reading Revelation Responsibly (see below). It’s a helpful overview of the major ideas in Revelation.
This resource will help you understand Mark 13, and its parallels in Matthew and Luke, with clarity. It won’t solve every nuance to every question you may have, but it will give you a framework to move away from Left Behind theology.
This book: The Good News of Revelation, by Larry Helyer and Ed Cyzewski
I had the honor of being one of the book’s endorsers. Here’s an extended version of what I said about this resource – "In The Good News of Revelation," Larry Helyer and Ed Cyzewski accomplish exactly what the title suggests: good news! In a culture where doomsday scenarios rank high at the box office and even higher in certain strands of the church, this book beckons us to imagine the world (although “fallen”) as ultimately destined for a hopeful future.
By placing Revelation within its first century context, the authors offer a compelling and poetic introduction to the most misunderstood of biblical books. They invite us to proclaim the upside-down victory of the Slaughtered Lamb through peacefully resisting evil in all its forms, choosing perseverance rather than compromise, and living as though Jesus is actually King and Caesar is a mere imitation. I HIGHLY recommend The Good News of Revelation to anyone interested in reclaiming Revelation as a call to faithful living – not in the midst of some horrific predictable future – but for RIGHT NOW!”
This book: Surprised by Hope, N.T. Wright
I’ve often said that this is the one book that every evangelical (and progressive) pastor should read. Wright outlines a vision of the Christian hope that is life-changing. What we believe about the future matters today! It matters for issues of justice, beauty, and art. Every pastor should read this – yes – but so should ever follower of Jesus!
This commentary: Revelation for Everyone, N.T. Wright
This is by far the most accessible commentary on Revelation out there. It’s also a fun read! This book will take the cryptic texts of Revelation and transform them into words to live by.
Resources for Going Deeper
This book: Reading Revelation Responsibly: uncivil worship and witness – following the Lamb into the new creation, by Michael Gorman (and Scot McKnight’s reviews)
This is the most helpful theological book on Revelation that I’ve read. Seriously, can’t recommend it enough. Read it. Then, tell others to read it!
This book: Apocalypse and Allegiance: worship, politics, and devotion in the book of revelation, by J. Nelson Kraybrill
Ever wonder what an Anabaptist might do if s/he were an expert on Roman culture and apocalyptic literature. Look no further. This book is amazing… especially if you want to go deeper with the imperial themes. A great complement and follow-up to Reading Revelation Responsibly.
This book: Unveiling Empire: Reading Revelation Then and Now, by Wes Howard-Brook and Anthony Gwyther
This book, co-authored by my friend Wes Howard-Brook, invites readers into the narrative of the Roman Empire. By the time you’ve engaged all of the theological and historical themes of the book, you’ll be ready to inaugurate a subversive revolution of love! Great resource for really digging deep while having implications for how we live.
This commentary: Revelation: believers church bible commentary, by John R. Yeatts
This commentary is part of the Believers Church series. Believers Church is “code” for Anabaptist, in case you are curious. This is a great resource for going a step beyond where Wright’s “For Everyone” commentary goes, in that it is more academic in nature (yet still highly readable!).
The Importance of Beginning in the Beginning by Rob Bell
Rescuing Revelation by Greg Boyd
Other Helpful Resources
The Theology of the Book of Revelation, Richard Bauckham
Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John & the Praying Imagination, by Eugene Peterson
Revelation (New Cambridge Bible Commentary), By Ben Witherington
Imperial Cults and the Apocalypse of John: Reading Revelation in the Ruins, by Steven J. Friesen
continue within this series -
Historic Premillenialism v. Rapture Theologies
or continue to -