The Rapture


      Following World War Two, a number of doctrines were either introduced or experienced a resurgence. Many of these movements were socialistic and physical in their essential nature. One of these doctrines was Premillennialism. Simply stated, Premillennialism is the teaching that a number of events are going to occur that will eventuate in Jesus literally reigning on earth for a thousand years. Revelation chapter 20 is the main text used to advocate Premillennial views. Involved in the Premillennial canopy is the doctrine of the rapture (Click here to learn more about Premillennialism).

     The rapture has been called the hottest doctrine of the decade. A plethora of books have been written on the rapture. Bumper stickers, radio and Television preachers, and seminaries are often heard declaring the "esoteric truths" of the rapture. One search engine I used to do an Internet search listed over 22, 000 matching sites for "rapture." On the Internet you will find sites providing "rapture clothing," the Rapture Church, and information on the Secret Rapture. One Web site specializes in information on the condition of those taken in the rapture and those left behind. There is a least one church Web ring for those teaching eschatology and the rapture.

     It is strange that when you go to established reference works, the word "rapture" is not even listed. In fact, the word "rapture" does not even appear in the texts of translations with which I am familiar. In all fairness, though, the Greek word from which "rapture" is derived is found. The Greek word is harpazo. W. E. Vine comments thus on harpazo (more later):

     "to snatch or catch away," is said of the act of the Spirit of the Lord in regard to Philip in Acts 8:39; of Paul in being "caught" up to paradise, 2 Cor. 12:2,4; of the Rapture of the saints at the return of the Lord, 1 Thess. 4:17…" (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words).

     There are several Premillennial events that are directly connected with the doctrine of the rapture. They are:

5. At Christ's coming the righteous dead of all ages will be raised in the "first resurrection."

6. The resurrected dead together with the transfigured living saints are to be caught up to meet the Lord in the air (the rapture).

7. The judgment of all the righteous will then take place.

8. Before and during the tribulation period, the Jews are to be restored to the land of Palestine.

9. At the mere sight of their Messiah, the Jews are to turn to Him in a national conversion.

10. Christ, at his coming, will destroy the anti-Christ and all his forces in the battle of Armageddon.

11. After this battle, Christ will establish a world wide Kingdom with Jerusalem as its capital, in which He and the resurrected and transfigured saints will rule for a literal thousand years in peace. (To see full list, click here and scroll down.)

     Regarding the rapture, on one Web site I found the following words that are being heard on the part of many religious people:

     "If it has not already happened, it will be discovered one day that millions of people in the world will disappear suddenly….The Lord Jesus Christ will have returned and taken away all true believers (and certain others) from the world. Do not search for us. We are with the Lord and will be back after the Seven Year Tribulation when Christ comes with all His Saints to destroy Antichrist and set up his Kingdom."

     Let us now turn our attention to the apostle Paul's teaching in his Epistle to the church at Thessalonica.

     "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:  Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words" (I Thes. 4: 13-18).

     Some at Thessalonica were advocating the false doctrine that the righteous who died before Jesus' return died in hopelessness. Paul shows that not only do the dead have hope, they are actually at no disadvantage. The living saints shall not precede the resurrected dead (vs. 15). The saved resurrected and the transformed living saints shall be caught up together …in the clouds…" (vs. 16).

     Beloved, the scriptures do not teach two or three separate "physical" resurrections. The righteous and wicked dead will be raised during the same "hour" (Jn. 5: 28, 29). Also notice that the judgment of all the resurrected as well as the living will take place at the same time (same "hour," Jn. 5: 28, 29, see Premillennial events 5 and 7). Moreover, Paul wrote that the resurrected and transformed saved will meet "the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (I Thes. 4: 17). The scriptures do not teach a "third advent" of Jesus, at which time he will set up a physical world Kingdom. Jesus said his Kingdom is not of a physical, governmental nature (Jn. 18: 36). Jesus established his Kingdom and Christians were in it in the First Century (Matt. 16: 18, 19, Col. 1: 13, Rev. 1: 9, see event number 11). Furthermore, the scriptures know nothing of a national conversion of the Jewish nation or a physical battle called Armageddon. Premillennialists take texts such as Romans 11: 26, Rev. 20: 1 ff., 6: 11, 7: 4-8, and 14: 6-8 and pervert them by making them literal and physical.

     The so called "secret rapture." Regarding every Premillennial point, there is an attempted effort to produce scripture. Matthew 24: 37-41 is often produced as the proof text for some being caught up (raptured) while others remain on earth. Jesus did say, "Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left" (vs. 40, 41).

     When this passage is carefully studied, it becomes apparent that Jesus' coming in judgment is under consideration. One being taken and the other left, is simply teaching the suddenness and unexpectedness of Jesus' return (see Luke 17: 28-37). Even couples close in this life by means of domestic association shall be separated. It takes a productive imagination to read and inject into Jesus' teaching all that Premillennialists typically do (sometimes separate events covering large amounts of time). Such injections are not only imaginative, but in view of plain teaching as to what will happen on the Day of Judgment are forbidden (Jn. 5: 28, 29; Matt. 25: 31 ff.).

     One rapture Web site I visited engaged in date setting (Premillennialism is eschatological and often involves date setting). They had the date set for a number of last day events beginning in May of 2000. Jesus is coming the third and final time, according to them, May 31, 2008 (see Mk. 13: 32). Another tragic doctrine associated with the rapture teaching is the doctrine of a second chance. According to many Premillennialists, after the so called tribulation period (those left behind), all the lost will be given another chance. The Bible presents the events of the Judgement Day as final and no second chances will be extended to the lost (Matt. 25: 31 ff.).

     In closing, the Bible does teach a rapture (being caught up to meet the Lord in the clouds and forever being with him), but not in Premillennial terminology and concept. The emphasis of the Bible is constantly being ready, for we know not the time of Jesus' return in judgment (I Thes. 5: 1 ff.). (See sermon outline on "Why Bring Jesus Back to Earth?")