Vol. 3, No. 8
[Firm Foundation, Vol. 114, No. 11, November 1999, pp. 9-11]
A young Christian mother came into my office with her two children and said, "Will you please explain to my children what the Rapture is?" Her children had been exposed to the Rapture through some of their friends and they were confused. Most of us have seen bumper stickers that refer to the Rapture, saying something to the effect "In Case of Rapture, This Car Will be Empty." Those who have not been indoctrinated by the proponents of this doctrine scratch their heads in wonder. Denominational programs on television present the Rapture as a doctrine all should believe. Although there are variations in the belief about the Rapture, we will discuss the commonly held view.
Many are surprised to learn that the word Rapture is not in the Bible. It is not a Bible subject. The Scriptures say nothing about it. It is a concept that has been around for some time, popularized by Hal Lindsey in his book, The Late Great Planet Earth.
According to the proponents of the theory, at the end of the "church age" Jesus will raise the righteous dead and take them, along with the righteous who are living, to a special place, presumably like heaven, for seven years where they will be given rewards and positions. That is supposed to be the Rapture -- but there is no mention of anything like that in the Bible.
Proponents of this mistaken idea teach that those people who remain on the earth will not know where the saints have gone. They will realize they are gone, but will not be able to explain their disappearance. They will see the open graves that have been abandoned by the resurrected bodies, but they will have no explanation. While this Rapture is going on in heaven for seven years, the "great tribulation," supposedly, takes place on the earth. Some think this will happen because of the last three and one-half years of the seven-year period mentioned by the prophet Daniel (See Daniel 9:27). During that time, there will be fear, anxiety and death on a massive scale, say those who advocate a short-term Rapture, but no Bible writer teaches this. Further, those who advocate the Rapture teach that at the end of the seven-year period the righteous will go to Jerusalem with Christ and reign with him for a thousand years. At the end of the thousand-years the wicked will be resurrected and condemned to eternal punishment.
There is no Bible basis for this teaching. The Bible speaks of the joy of the saints as they enter heaven and this will be ecstasy (rapture) beyond imagination, but the Bible knows nothing of a 3.5-year rhapsody, followed by a 1,000-year reign on earth. This is simply not taught in the Bible.
Notice some of the things wrong with the teaching of a coming short-term Rapture.
1. The rapture requires too many comings of Jesus. They have him coming the first time at his birth, and a second time to take the righteous away for seven years. They have him coming a third time seven years later to go to Jerusalem to reign a thousand years. Then at the end of the thousand years they have him raising the wicked and judging them. According to the Rapture proponents, another coming of the Lord is required for judgment upon the wicked. How does this fit with the Bible teaching? The answer is, not at all. The Bible says that when Jesus comes he will execute judgment "upon all," not some now and some later, but all at one time. His coming will not be in stages with years between the comings. The Bible mentions only two comings of Jesus from heaven to earth (See Heb. 9:27).
2. The proponents of the Rapture say that only a part of humanity will see Jesus when he comes the second time. Only the righteous dead and the righteous living will see him. The unrighteous living will not see him for at least seven more years, or until the thousand-year reign is finished. This cannot possibly be correct because Revelation 1:7 says that when Jesus comes "every eye will see him, even they who pierced him. And all the tribes of earth will mourn because of him."
3. The Rapture is in conflict with Matthew 25:31-46, which, unlike the Rapture theory, has "all the nations," the wicked and the good being judged at the same time in the last judgment. The Rapture has some of the dead being raised while others are left in the grave. However, the Bible says that Jesus will come to judge all the living and the dead, the wicked and the good, all in the same judgment. There will be a great separation. The wicked are placed on the left and the righteous on the right. Those on the left will be sentenced to punishment in hell, while those on the right will enjoy the bliss of heaven. There is no room in Matthew 25 for a Rapture period, or the "great tribulation," or the thousand years between the resurrection of the righteous and the wicked. Paul states in 2 Timothy 4:1, "I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge, the living and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom." Paul said that Jesus would judge those who are living and those who are dead at his coming. Matthew 25:31-46 tells us that the judgment will contain both the righteous and the wicked. Therefore, all the wicked who are dead as well as those who are living will be judged. At the same time, all the righteous who are living as well as those who are dead will be judged. In contrast, the Rapture has Jesus coming with no universal judgment, with only part of the dead being raised, while others are left in their graves.
4. The Rapture theory is in contradiction to the clear and positive teaching of the Lord in John 5:28-29. "Do not marvel at this for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear his voice and come forth -- those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation." The Rapture theory is wrong because it has multiple judgments. The Bible says that all humanity will be judged at the same time, the good as well as the wicked.
5. The Rapture does not fit the Bible teaching of the last day. "This is the will of the Father who sent me, that of all he has given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up as the last day. And this is the will of him who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day. … No on can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:39-40,44). "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:54). "He who rejects me, and does not receive my words, has that which judges him, the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day" (John 12:48). Jesus taught in John 5:28-29 that the resurrection of both the good and evil will take place in the same hour. That resurrection and judgment will take place in the last day. The Rapture theory has not just days but a thousand years separating the resurrection and judgment of the good and evil.
6. The Rapture is in conflict with 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10. "Since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation to those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power, when he comes, in that Day, to be glorified in his saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed." Paul speaks of two groups. The first group is composed of those who have been troubled and persecuted. These are the obedient. The other group is described as those who do not know God and have not obeyed the Gospel. He also talks about two compensations. To the afflicted, he will give rest, but to the disobedient, he will bring punishment. The rest for the righteous and punishment for the disobedient will occur in that day when Jesus comes with his angels. The Rapture theory does not have the wicked receiving their punishment in that day as Paul declared, but a thousand years later! According to the Rapture doctrine, the righteous will be in the air and the wicked will still be on the earth.
7. The Rapture conflicts with 2 Peter 3:10-14. "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; but the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless, we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by him in peace, without spot and blameless." This passage refers to the Second Coming of Jesus. When he comes, the earth and all that is in it will be burned up. But, the Rapture demands a continuation of the earth after the Lord comes. Proponents say the earth will continue seven more years until Jesus returns to Jerusalem, and then a thousand more years after that. They teach that the earth will be renovated to be the resting place for those who are not among the fortunate 144,000 who will be in heaven. Compare this farfetched theory with the Bible that clearly says the earth and all in it will be burned up at the Lord's Second Coming.
There are two primary passages that the advocates for the Rapture use in an attempt to support this imaginative theory. (Neither the word Rapture nor teaching about this supposed Rapture is found in the Bible.) The two passages are:
1 Thessalonians 4:13-17
This passage is used in an attempt to support the Rapture theory, but these verses in no way verify the Rapture. The proponents of the Rapture say that Jesus will come in secret, but this passage tells us that when Jesus comes it will not be in secret. "He will descend with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God" (v.16). The coming of Christ mentioned in this passage is the one mentioned in Revelation 1:7. "Behold, he is coming with clouds, and every eye will see him, even they who pierced him." There is no secret coming discussed here. These Scriptures say that there will be a shout, the voice of the archangel, the trump of God and every eye seeing Jesus when he comes again.
2 Corinthians 15:50-58
This is a second passage the advocates of the Rapture use. It equally lacks support for the theory. Verse 52 dispels the idea of a secret coming when it tells us that the sound of a trumpet will accompany the Lord. When Jesus comes, immortality will begin (v. 53). Death will be destroyed at his coming, "swallowed up in victory" (v. 54). In contrast, Rapture proponents say that life and death will continue on earth during the time the righteous are in rapture with Jesus. These passages repudiate this false doctrine.
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