What, you don’t believe in the rapture?!
Well, I actually do believe in the rapture. But not in the particular version that we find espoused by many Christians. The version known as a pre-tribulational rapture where God takes all Christians to heaven while there is a 7-year period of great tribulation on the earth, then followed by a millennial reign of Christ.
I don’t believe this version holds water under scrutiny, at least the scrutiny of what Scripture teaches.
For starters, the oft-used word, rapture, never actually appears in our English translations of Scripture. Our versions use the phrase ‘caught up’ found in 1 Thess 4:17. The word, rapture, is derived from the Latin translation of the Bible (known as the Vulgate).
In getting our heads around the concept of the rapture, the best place to start would be 1 Thess 4:13-18.
13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven,with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Oddly enough, in this little excerpt, Paul ends by stating: ‘Therefore encourage one another with these words.’ Unfortunately, for many, the rapture doesn’t come across as encouraging. Rather some bring forth scare tactics. But this is the exact opposite of how the words are being utilised by Paul.
So back to vs17 and the little phrase ‘caught up’. This comes from a extremely long Greek word: harpagēsometha. And the root of this word is harpazo, which carries the idea of a known stealing. This contrasts with the Greek word klepto, which means to steal secretly.
Now, why the lesson in Greek here? Well, for many, the rapture is thought of as a secret event. Once the church gets raptured away and taken out of the earth, the rest of humanity are left looking around and wondering what just happened. But, at least according to the way the Greek is communicated, this is going to be an event in which all people know what has taken place. Christ will return for his Bride and all will know.
The second important phrase in vs17 is ‘to meet’. So on to another Greek lesson.
This phrase comes from the Greek eis apantēsis. Now, all Christians believe in this ‘meeting in the air’ with our Lord. The question is: What do we believe about it?
The phrase eis apantēsis means this: to leave a place in order to go and meet one who is coming toward you. The idea comes from an ancient practice: nobles of a city would go out to meet an important dignitary coming to visit their city, all in order to escort them back to the city.
Do you see the ramifications here?
This oft-discussed passage tells us this: a) Christ will be coming for his Bride, b) we will go to meet the Bridegroom in the air and then c) we will escort him back to earth (the place he was coming towards already). It’s like a cosmic U-turn – for us, not Christ, as we head back to this good and renewed earth.
Then, in continuing a kind of eschatological layout, this meeting in the air and journey back would lead to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev 17:7-9), with us dwelling forever in the new heaven and new earth (Rev 21-22).
A final point to note about the rapture. To underline this popular teaching about the rapture, people will also look to a passage of support in Matthew’s Gospel. Read these intriguing words:
As it was in the days of Noah,so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 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; 39 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. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 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. (24:37-43)
However, if we read this passage carefully, we see that it isn’t teaching that the people of God will be taken out of the earth.
To what does Jesus compare this event? He taught that it would be like the days of Noah – two men will be in the field, one will be taken and one left; two women will be grinding at the mill, one will be taken and one left.
Again, remember what happened in Noah’s day? Who was left and who was taken away? It was the righteous who were left on earth (Noah and his family) and it was the unrighteous who were taken out of the earth in judgment. Noah and his family were left to inherit a kind of new heavens and new earth. Thus, a prototype for the end of the age.
It’s never been God’s plan to remove his people from earth, but rather to see his kingdom rule on the earth as it is in heaven (Matt 6:10). God’s heart is to see heaven completely invade earth, bringing his right-ways, peace and rule to all he has created. All the while, he will have dealt with all unrighteousness and sin.
And remember the well-known words of Jesus: ‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth’ (Matt 5:5). It is the new Jerusalem, the Bride of Christ, who comes to inherit a new heaven and new earth (Rev 21:1-3).
God’s strategy is to restore and redeem the cosmos. And now it groans awaiting such liberation (Rom 8:21). It will be the final ‘new creation,’ in which we already participate.
This is where we are headed – not evacuation, but embracing a new heaven and new earth. And we can begin now by celebrating God’s good creation, taking care of it and preparing for that day when all things are made new.
I tend to agree.
Good one Scott, well done ! I do like very much the point you make about the kingdom of God increasing on earth and invading it. Here is a very good downloadable book on the idea of “rapture” : http://raptureless.com/download/raptureless.pdf
Great post! At our new church we have been doing a sermon series on Revlations for the past few months. Our pastor adheres to the minority view (that it was written by John before/around 70AD and much of what was reveled in the visions has already happened…and that the scare tactics of the Left Behind books and others in the majority view are damaging). It is facinating, and been giving me serious pause for consideration. I’ve been a Christian for 18+years, and never really given Revalations a moments pause… I’ve been missing out. We’re only up to Chapter 9 so far, but I have a feeling that once we get to the “rapture” I’m going to be hearing a sermon similar to this post.
Indeed the so-called “Rapture” is biblical (2 Thess. 2: 1…”our gathering together to Him”), the modern argument, is rather the “timing” of this! I am myself Post-trib. And I also hold to the position that the whole of the NT Canon was written before 70 AD! See the profound book by John A.T. Robinson: Redating the New Testament…”On the basis that the fall of Jerusalem is never mentioned in the New Testament writings as past fact, Dr. Robinson defending that the books of the NT were written before A.D. 70….contradicting, of course the consensus of generations of Bible scholars.” (From the back of the book, panel) And btw, no one can call John A.T. Robinson a “fundamentalist”, that for sure!
The question doesn’t only revolve around timing, but the whole nature of it. There is one final event – his appearing – which will introduce the full and final creation. Christ is already both Lord and Messiah, seated on David’s greater throne next to the Father ruling over all. We just await the finalisation and have much to get on with until that time.
It’s always best to lead with Scripture… “Now regarding the arrival (return) of the Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to be with him.” (2 Thess. 2:1, NET Bible). There surely does appear to be One entity here. Literally in the Greek, it is a presence (Parousia)… “para”, with, and “ousia”. Thus both an “arrival” and the consequent “presence” with. To let a pretrib. person speak, “When used of the return of Christ at the Rapture of the Church, it (the Parousia) signifies, not merely His momentary coming for His saints, but His presence with them from that moment until His revelation and manifestation to the world. In some passages the word gives prominence to the beginning of that period, the course of the period being implied, 1 Cor. 15: 23 ; 1 Thess 4: 15 ; 5: 23 ; 2 Thess. 2: 1.” (W.E. Vine)
Again, speaking for myself, I am not sure we can read in this much into the Greek word Parousia? I see more the Post-trib myself. But again, the timing of the so-called “Rapture” should be something of an open question and issue. (WE don’t have time and space to see all the different “rapture” positions here). But, I am surely myself somewhat a moderate “dispensationalist”, and somewhat inclined to the so-called PD, or Progressive Dispensationalism. Noting most certainly 1 Cor. 10: 32! Indeed we “Gentile” Christians (the Nations), come into the Covenant and covenants of Israel! (Rom. 15: 8-9, etc. / Eph. 2: 12-13).
Great teaching opportunity studying Revelation on Sunday mornings. I think this ‘minority view’ is drawing many in these days.
Well, I guess I’ll be the minority HERE and say I don’t agree with your arguments. I still hold to a more traditional view of rapture, tribulation, judgement, millennial kingdom, final judgement, creation of new earth, heaven comes to earth in form of new Jerusalem. I’ll admit I may not have the order of these events completely correct, but I DO know I certainly don’t want to come back to THIS earth after meeting my Lord in the air. I want to go to someplace better WITH Him. How could we come back here until AFTER the judgement anyway? Your arguments just didn’t make sense to me, but I’ll keep them in the back of my mind for future reference and reflection.
Thanks for commenting. The position you suggest as the ‘traditional’ view (a pretribulational rapture) is actually relatively new in the stream of history. It comes for the middle of the 19th century, beginning with John Nelson Darby and later popularised by C.I. Scofield.
The main question to consider is: Where does Scripture present two events – a ‘meeting in the air’ (or ‘rapture’) separate from the parousia/return?
I don’t believe Scripture presents separate events divided by some time period (i.e. 7-year tribulation). Rather it is all one event: Christ coming for his people, meeting him in the air, returning to a renewed earth, judgment upon the wicked. It’s all one major event, with nothing separated by a longer period of time.
Btw, I think we would all agree that the so-called “Day of the Lord” has many layers! One of the easy way out of the Eschatological density i.e. thickness, is to make them all One thing, or put them outside of time. And for myself, I am not sure that gives the depth of the Eschatological, nor the truth of the Apocalyptic! I actually like this statement in the notes of the early Scofield Bible, from the Intro: “Doubtless much which is designedly obscure to us will be clear to those for whom it was written as the time approaches.” Surely the prophetic study of Holy Scripture is always a work in progress! In my life-time so much has changed in both culture and the historical church, not to mention in the literal Land of Israel! But one thing for me at least is certain, the Post-Millennial doctrine and teaching is DEAD! (I sought to hold this position back in the late 80’s. But among other things, my time in Gulf War 1, and living and teaching in Israel in the late 90’s got rid of that!)
Thanks for the reply. I’ve dropped many “traditional” beliefs over the past two years, so know that I’m not afraid to do that. The ideas you are presenting are interesting, but they seem like a logical stretch for me still. However, I’m not saying you are wrong and I’m right because I don’t have a firm grasp on any idea being right. Honestly, I’m OK with not really knowing how it all will go down. Some people seem to have a very strong need to know how everything plays out or they can’t function. But I’m OK with not really knowing. I have my ideas (admittedly still mostly based on my traditional upbringing combined with what just makes sense to me (as far as I can figure it)), but I’m not married to them. I just want Jesus, and no matter where He is going to be and whenever He’s going to get there, is just fine with me.
Robert, I like what you said about how this is a work in progress. So true. We can’t have the perspective that John had until we experience what John did When these things begin to happen (and I still believe most of them haven’t happened yet), it will become more obvious what the specifics are in the narrative that are currently cloudy. End times are an interesting area of study, but it’s always important to keep a good perspective on it and not hold to any particular supposition as “the truth”. I think we all agree on that.
But my “suppositions” are true on eschatology, after all my last name is Darby! Of course I am kidding! (I have no known connection with John Nelson Darby), who was also an Anglican presbyter early in his Christian life, before going with the so-called “Brethren”. But nevertheless, He was a profound personal Christian, certainly!
Good thoughts Scott. The more I evaluate the 1 Thess passage in relation to Christ’s judgment and fulfillment of prophecy, I’m losing confidence in Paul describing an event that takes the church out of the way before his return. We definitely cannot look at these passages in isolation but how it all inter-connects. Of course, fulfillment itself can be tricky depending on how one reads the prophets and revelation.
Interestingly enough, those who are “caught up” are those alive and remaining. It would be a redundancy to speak of those left after the dead are raised as alive and remaining. It is not redundant to speak of those who survived the time of intense trouble and persecution prior to our Lord’s coming as such.
Just a thought…
Hey Jason. I’m not sure it’s greatly redundant because two “categories” of people are being spoken of. Those alive (in the church in Thessalonica) and those who are presently dead. Paul is trying to help the current people understand how it will work. The alive (who never died) will be caught up with the rest (Christ and those raised), meet him and them, and then return immediately toward the place where the king was coming already. At least that’s how I read it.
I understood what you are saying. What I’m looking at is the fact that it would already be understood that there were those alive and remaining. Thus it is redundant to use those details. It would be just as simple to say, “and the rest of the believers…” That is why I tend toward thinking that he is speaking of more than simply those who are not dead at Jesus’ coming, but those who actually survived all that preceded His coming.
Rev 14:9-13 tell us of the blessedness of dying from that time forward, and of the fact that the rest are given hope that is called “patience” or endurance. The blessed dead rise again, and the enduring/surviving saints are changed and caught up.
Would I go beyond quibbling as we are and make this a point of strong contention? Nah. Well, maybe. I am Baptist, after all 😎
I think it’s a plausible approach, but not a stand alone sort of thing.
Yeah, I understand what you’re saying. However, as far as we can tell, 1 Thess 4 does not have in mind any cataclysmic time period prior to Christ’s return. Rather, it may be a forcing of other texts (perhaps a particular angle on Matt 24 or a particular angle on some passages in Revelation) into 1 Thess 4. Paul’s not working with a framework of a “tribulation period.”
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using the noah story and the ark, hmmm, it depends on which one is the actually sacrifice. I have to look at it as a week. The week begins with Adam. The week ends with the Birth of Jesus. It like the Passion week. You begin with Jesus entering Jerusalem. You end the week with the Resurrection. Each beginning represents something that one thinks is. At the end of the week, it is truly what it is. These are “God’s weeks” not to be confused with Israel’s weeks and the Adopted’s one week.
There is a sacrifice some place. We know it is not Noah and his family. It is rest of Adam’s family. In the case of Jesus, he is the sacrifice.
Using that scenario, the week with the “Rapture” has a beginning, middle and end. We can agree that the middle has something to do with those dying for not taking the mark. Who begins the week? What change to they have an the end of the week? Are they suppose to make the sacrifice?
The problem that I have with the Rapture is trusting unbelievers to make a holy sacrifice in the middle of the week. Keep in mind this is a week set aside for the adopted. It is talking to us and the Holy Spirit. God seems to often do things in 3’s. We know that two temples have been destroyed, one around 586 BCE and the other around 70 AD.
Where is the 3rd temple? It should be where the Shekinah took place. I believe that happen at Pentecost in the upper room.
I do know that… one day every knee shall bow and every tounge will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!!! I myself believe totally in the rapture (as is written very clearly in the Holy bible) but for the sake of argument… I know that our God in Heaven would not want any to argue but to spend some time in prayer over such issues. satin loves for us to find controversy about the bible;( so…I don’t look for reasons to counterdict what the bible says;) I pray and let the Holy Spirit guide me to the truth!!!!!! Mans opinions are just that-but the word of God stands true and never changing-fact!! Honestly… Believing in the Rapture (or not) isn’t what will get you to Heaven! or as some believe that we will be left on earth as noah days, but whatever… The bible says:So as the tree fallith…so shall it lye ( which is simple..If we die a sinner-we live eternally as a sinner and there with the author of sin-satin). So,it doesn’t matter when or how we die… if we are truly saved by God, follow His word and His commandments, putting Him first and formost above all.We are promised life eternal with Him (God):) What then will the controversy of the meaning of the word rapture(or what ever language you choose to understand it all in be worth in the end?) I love to learn and study God’s word but I refuse to try and change peoples mind. We all have a right to our own beliefs-I do pray and ask God to allow the truth of His word be reveiled clear unto me and also to those who are looking for the truth. God Bless to you all:) Love Lisa Crider