The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation

by Barbara R. Rossing

Paperback, 2005




The idea of "The Rapture"-the return of Christ to rescue and deliver Christians off the earth-is an extremely popular interpretation of the Bible's Book of Revelation and a jumping-off point for the b


Basic Books (2005), 222 pages


½ (30 ratings; 4)

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LibraryThing member deusvitae
When reality is not good enough- or not persuasive enough- realistic fiction will often be used to convince people of a position. This tendency has worked wonders for those who espouse premillennialism with the Left Behind series written by LaHaye and Jenkins. The premillennialists have certainly
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seemed to gain a major victory with those books over the past few years, and even though they loosely claim to be fiction, not a few have followed after the premillennial view on account of the influence of these books. Even those who are not convinced are asking many questions because of the contents of these books, and often these people receive entirely unsatisfactory answers and therefore buy in to the premillennial view of Revelation and other texts.

In this climate it is good to see challenging responses to this premillennialist trend, and Barbara Rossing's The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation in many ways does a great service in combating the spread of premillennialism.

While I have many disagreements with some of what the author has said, and such will be discussed later, I am pleased to report how she has done very well at refuting many of the claims of the premillennialists and has done well to expose premillennialism for the recent fabrication that it is. She spends the first couple of chapters speaking about the dangerous consequences of premillennialism and its origins. She demonstrates clearly how premillennialism is not two millennia old but two centuries old- originating in the thought patterns of John Darby and the Plymouth Brethren and receiving popularity from the Scofield Bible. Far from being a harmless oddity, premillennialism is also exposed for how it has governed American foreign policy in the highly factious area of Israel, has led to apathetic attitudes toward maintenance of the environment, and, most importantly, has posited a return of Christ that is entirely inconsistent and incompatible with the presentation of Jesus Christ throughout the rest of the New Testament.

She spends those chapters and the next two chapters analyzing the Biblical claims of the premillennial position. She rightly demonstrates how the idea of the rapture, time gaps in the prophecies of Daniel, and the seven-year tribulation are not present in the Scriptures, and also demonstrates how the hodgepodge interpretive methodology of the premillennialists is inherently flawed.

While those refutations are well and good, perhaps the best thing about Barbara Rossing's work is how she does not just show why premillennialism is false but also presents an alternative view of Revelation that is, on the whole, more consistent with the rest of the New Testament than the standard premillennial view, as she does in the rest of the book. As opposed to wrenching the book of Revelation out of the first century Asia Minor context in which it was written, as premillennialists are wont to do, Rossing firmly keeps the context in view and posits how John presents a message of hope to the persecuted Christians of Asia Minor in the late first century. Furthermore, Rossing demonstrates the limited view of the nature of prophecy as believed by premillennialists- prophecy is not a fixed view of what must come, but a warning to repent so that what is prophesied will not come upon the people. She uses the persuasive example of Jonah, who prophesied a message that did not come to pass because of the repentance of the Assyrians; I would add also the prophesyings of Paul in Acts 27. When the purpose of the book of Revelation is considered- to encourage the saints of Asia Minor in the late first century- and the understanding of the nature and purpose of John's vision as just explained are combined, it becomes extremely clear why premillennialism is a dangerous fallacy.

Rossing also works with the details of the imagery along with parallels in the Old Testament prophets to present some viable views on what exactly John is talking about. John constantly uses language and imagery from the prophets of old, and his message against Rome is spoken in many of the same terms as Isaiah's against Assyria and Babylon. Rossing particularly focuses on John's reversal of the idea of nike, victory. The idea of victory and conquering by military prowess was deified in Rome, and Rossing explains how John uses the idea of victory to show how the victory will really be God's in the end. While Rome may vaunt in their current victories, God will be the end victor against Rome. Likewise, Rossing focuses on John's quick change in Revelation 5 from referring to Jesus as the Lion to Jesus as the Lamb, and how from then on Jesus is not portrayed as the Lion but the Lamb. The image of the Lamb as the powerful ruler of the universe overthrows normal conceptualizations of power, just as Jesus' teaching of the last being first overthrew standard conceptions of power in the Gospels (cf. Matthew 19:30). Overall, Rossing presents many views of Revelation that are more consistent with the New Testament and the first century Mediterranean world than what the premillennialists would posit.

Unfortunately, however, Rossing's strong disagreement with the premillennialist view has led her to go to the opposite extreme. Rossing stands in the liberal Protestant tradition, and such is made evident by many of her positions. In the first chapter she rejects any notion of the destruction of the world, emphasizing God's promise to Noah in Genesis 8:21, rejecting any harmonization of the two statements of God, first promising to not destroy the world and then qualifying it by saying "not to destroy with water" in Genesis 9:11, and casually dismissing any references to 2 Peter 3:9-10. The destruction of the earth and the transformation of mankind is made evidence from 2 Peter 3:9-10 and 1 Corinthians 15, and Rossing does not provide suitable evidence to lead to the conclusion that we should dismiss the fact that God qualifies the promise in Genesis 9:11 and also that 2 Peter 3:9-10 cannot mean what it says it means. Furthermore, while she does well in emphasizing and demonstrating the fact that Revelation is a vision when exegeting chapters 4 through 20, her approach suddenly becomes much more literal when speaking of chapters 21 and 22. Her belief of a "New Jerusalem" on earth, the idea that the end of time will see the renewal of the earth we are presently on, and that such will be our home (as it would seem from the Epilogue), run afoul of the vision of the Judgment and then Heavenward trip of the redeemed in Matthew 25:31-40 and the reward of Heaven waiting for us as indicated in 1 Peter 1:4. Rossing would do well to continue to see Revelation 21-22:6 as part of the visions that John saw, resist the temptation to interpret them on a more literal plane than the previous chapters, and to use the reference points of Revelation 21:2 and 21:9 which indicate that the vision of the new Jerusalem is indeed a picture of the Kingdom of God, the Bridegroom of Christ, manifested on earth as His church. The Bible makes it clear that while the creation is good, man has corrupted the earth, and the Kingdom of God cannot be established on the earth in any physical way (Romans 1-5, Colossians 1:13, John 18:36, Revelation 1:6).

Despite these difficulties, The Rapture Exposed does a good service in pointing out many of the problems with the premillennialist viewpoint and can be of some assistance in determining a more consistent and Biblical view of Revelation. It is unfortunate that Barbara Rossing's liberal Protestant heritage has led her to go toward the opposite extreme and deny the impending destruction of all matter and the glorification of the saints to Heaven. In the end, a great service has been done to counter the claims of premillennialism, but yet the Bible be true, and let us consider its message for us.
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LibraryThing member auntieknickers
An excellent response to the "Left Behind" novels and other dispensationalist works. It shows that Revelation is not a prophecy of doom but a message of hope.2004
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