Vol. 8, No. 8
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The latest premillennial sensation to hit the religious scene is the Left Behind series of best selling books written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. The initial volume Left Behind has spawned other premillennial themes, such as Tribulation Force, Nicolae, Soul Harvest, Apollyon, Assassins, The Indwelling and The Mark. Each new book has avid readers anxiously awaiting the next one in the series. There is also Left Behind: The Kids so that children ages 10-14 might be thoroughly indoctrinated in premillennial sensationalism. The Left Behind movie came out in October 1999.
The Left Behind book and movie cover the basic Rapture doctrine. It is the fictional story of Rayford Steele, his daughter Chloe, Buck Williams and Bruce Barnes as they try to make sense of the strange disappearance of thousands of people around the world. The rest of the Rapture story is that while these select souls are taken to be with the Lord during the Rapture period, there will be a seven-year tribulation on earth unlike anything ever seen before. The seven-year tribulation is to be consummated by the horrific battle of Armageddon. Then, Jesus Christ is to set up his kingdom on earth for one thousand years. The entire Rapture scenario is as fictional as anything you will read in novels, but those who believe it claim that it is taught in the Bible. As we shall see, such is far from being the case.
The Rapture is a very popular aspect of what is called Dispensational Premillennialism. John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), a former Anglican priest, brought this brand of millennial thinking to the United States. C.I. Scofield (1843-1921) popularized the Rapture dogma in his Scofield's Reference Bible. (It was first published in 1909 with extensive notes and cross-references. Other editions were published in 1917 and 1967.) Hal Lindsey brought the Rapture to the attention of the modern reader in his blockbuster work, The Late Great Planet Earth (1970). Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins have now introduced the Rapture error to an entirely new generation of readers in Left Behind.
The second appearance of Jesus Christ is a fundamental part of the Christian's faith and hope, and for good reason (John 14:1-3; Acts 1:9-11; Hebrews 9:28). It seems, however, that the Bible's simple teaching on last things lacks excitement for many people. They prefer something more sensational, such as the Rapture notion provides. Would it be safe for us to assume that the Rapture is true because it is popular, sensational and exciting? Or, would it be better to see if it is taught in the Bible (Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1)? If it is not taught in the Bible, it should have no part in our thinking!
The word "Rapture" comes from the Latin word rapere, which means "to seize, snatch out, take away." It is believed that this doctrine is taught in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17. Yet, a reading of the passage will show, first, that there is no mention of a "Rapture" either in word or thought. The claim is made that the idea of the Rapture is found in the expression "caught up" (vs. 17). This, however, is rendered from the Greek word harpagesometha, not the Latin word rapere. Even if one argues, "The word Rapture is in the Latin Bible," it is still true that the Rapture concept is not taught in any reliable Bible.
Second, there is nothing silent or secret in this passage. There is a lot of audible phenomena in verse 16: "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." Someone has dubbed this the "noisiest" verse in the Bible!
Third, there is nothing in this passage about a secret appearance of Jesus Christ. The appearance of Christ will be obvious to all (vs. 16; Matthew 25:31-32; Revelation 1:7). Jesus was visible in his first appearing on earth (2 Timothy 1:10). He will be visible when he appears the second time (1 Timothy 6:14; 2 Timothy 4:1, 8; Titus 2:13).
Fourth, the saved will "ever" be with the Lord (vs. 17). Not for a mere seven years!
The fanciful, false and fanatical Rapture theory has too many appearances of Jesus to be consistent with the New Testament. The Bible teaches that Christ will "appear the second time without sin unto salvation" (Hebrews 9:27-28). As men die but once and will be only once judged, so Jesus Christ died but once for our sins and will appear but once more, the second time. The Rapture has at least three appearances of Christ. First, it has Jesus coming for his saints at the beginning of the Rapture. Second, it has Jesus coming with his saints at the end of the Rapture. Third, it has Jesus returning to judge the wicked at the conclusion of his so-called millennial reign.
It is an easy thing to show how the Rapture contradicts the New Testament. Never has there ever been a system of thought devised by man that is more blatantly false and obviously inconsistent with plain Bible teaching.
First, the Rapture theory contradicts John 5:28-29, which teaches that there will be a single resurrection with the just and the unjust coming forth from their graves in the same hour. The idea that only the righteous dead will be resurrected at the Rapture is wrong.
Second, the Rapture theory contradicts the "Last Day" passages of John 6:39-40; 44, 54; 11:24; 12:48. The last day will mark the end of time. The resurrection of the dead will be at the last day. The judgment will be at the last day. None of this leaves room for a seven-year tribulation, or a millennium!
Third, the Rapture theory contradicts 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10. In this passage the reader will find two groups mentioned: persecutors and persecuted, and two compensations promised: punishment and rest. It is clear that both the just and unjust will be rewarded at the time of Christ's return (Matthew 25:31ff).
Fourth, the Rapture theory contradicts 2 Peter 3:10-12. The erroneous Rapture dogma says that the earth will continue to exist after the Lord comes to rapture his saints and for another one thousand and seven years thereafter. The Bible, however, says that the earth will be burned up when Jesus returns.
The Left Behind series of books are called "Christian fiction." Fiction they are, as something made up and not based in fact. They may weave an interesting story, but they carry a theology that is blatantly wrong! Christian they are not, because they espouse a system of belief that makes Jesus Christ a liar (cf., Matthew 4:17; John 5:28-29). Everything that Christ and the inspired writers taught relative to the end times proves these books to be false.