When stuff like this comes up as a point of disagreement the only part that really bothers me is how rabidly people will sometimes argue for their side. It's one thing to have a friendly disagreement, it's another when people start branding each other heretics over it. The early Church, and to an extend the modern one, is the story of "You're a HERETIC!" "No U!" "No U!" "No, YO MOMMA!" Like Rooster said above.
Well, that's...not exactly how I intended this to be understood. I was more going for the whole "it was false in the Early Church, it was false in later churches, and there hasn't been any convincing arguments in favor of it being true now. There haven't been any arguments to sufficiently refute the earlier arguments made against.
Personally, I do not believe in the Rapture either but I don't think that anybody's in danger of going to Hell if they do.
Well no I don't think people are in danger of Hell if they believe this error or that this even puts one outside of Christianity. My point was really to emphasis that this doctrine nonetheless was more than just a mere theological difference in opinion though. There is a time to be lenient and non-dogmatic about things. There are times however where firmness is necessary to emphasize an important theological doctrine.
For example, I feel that from a theological standpoint, a belief in either Creationism or Evolution is not relevant. It is not an essential part of the Faith, nor does it have the potential to seriously undermine our understanding of it.
By contrast, I do think pre-millenialism can undermine a proper understanding of Scripture. While not a teaching essential to salvation in of itself, it certainly leaves the door open to far more dangerous deceptions. One only needs to examine the fruits of it. First and foremost is the escapist nature of the belief itself. It gives a false assurance that those who are "saved" at the right time will be whisked away just before all the end times tribulations. That Christians will be spared suffering and tribulation, where in general the Christian experience throughout history has often been the exact opposite. This sort of wishful thinking is endemic of a train of thought in the current religious scene that seems to emphasize worldly comforts and such.
To be sure, God does provide relief from suffering and allows us to grow from it. However, if even Christ Himself wasn't spared the kind of suffering necessary for His crucifixion, death, and resurrection, what makes us think we will be spared from all suffering? It makes us woefully unprepared for the spiritual struggles we will face in life at the very least.
Then we have the usual people constantly searching for "signs" of the end or the possible impending rapture. Everyone is searching for what they feel is their due reward. It certainly doesn't help that many charlatans have arisen to exploit this. It is easy to dismiss them as nuts of course, but theologically, how can you refute them if you yourself hold to the same false teaching that is the foundation of theirs?
The more prevalent manifestation though isn't so much the extreme doomsday cults, but a more subtle searching of the "signs" that has become much more geopolitical in origin. The most common form finds its political expression in not only people's views of what is going on in the middle east, but also trying to do what they can to support whomever they feel will be "key" to the end times. For most this means of course pledging unconditional support to the current nation state of Israel. However, regardless of one's views of the Israeli-Palestine conflict, the issue is the motivation. The motivation isn't exactly out of Israel's best interests, but only because they believe it will fulfill their own end times prophecies. If it didn't happen to involve Israel, I doubt there would be anywhere near as much support.
The fact that the Church at large shouldn't officially be involved in politics such as this is problematic in itself. Using another nation state as a means of fueling hope that your particular interpretation of end times (and a flawed one at that) is not healthy. What is equally as unhealthy is the rather undue emphasis that has been placed on it by the adherents of said interpretation.
Ultimately, has it really brought anyone else to knowledge and acceptance of Christ? I can't think of the last time anyone was saved by reading the Left Behind novels. I have seen people who have either converted to the faith or had their faith nourished by those who focus their lives on the core essentials of it rather than believing in this stuff (or taking it particularly seriously).
“If the history of the 20th Century proved anything, it proved that however bad things were, human ingenuity could usually find a way to make them worse.” - Theodore Dalrymple