I have a problem with the rapture. And there are two very good reasons why.
- First, because the scriptures do not teach it (contrary to what its proponents claim).
- Second, because the church for 90% of its existence (for the first 1,800 years) never taught it.
But more importantly, I believe the Church’s present belief in the rapture is indicative of a dysfunctional, underlying mindset that leads us to engage with this world in a way God never intended
But let’s start by looking at scripture.
(At the end, we’ll tell you how to get a free copy of Stephen’s book 10 Reasons Why The Rapture Must Be Left Behind)
Scripture Doesn’t Support A Rapture
If we are being honest, scriptural arguments for the rapture are mostly nonsense. And like most nonsense Biblical arguments, this entire doctrine stands more or less on a single passage of scripture: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. 15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. 16 For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Also like most nonsense Biblical arguments, this passage could ONLY be interpreted into rapture doctrine based on a cursory, uninformed reading. In reality, it has about as much to do with the rapture as a telephone book has to do with finding a good steak recipe. No biblical scholar of any esteem has ever interpreted 1 Thessalonians 4 as proof for the rapture.
As any New Testament scholar will tell you (and as the Church believed without question for 1,800 years), Paul’s imagery-filled description is of the Second Coming and the resurrection of the dead… not the rapture.
Renowned scholar N.T. Wright explains it well,
Paul’s description of Jesus’ reappearance in 1 Thessalonians 4 is a brightly colored version of what he says in two other passages, 1 Corinthians 15:51-54 and Philippians 3:20-21: At Jesus’ “coming” or “appearing,” those who are still alive will be “changed” or “transformed” so that their mortal bodies will become incorruptible, deathless. This is all that Paul intends to say in Thessalonians, but here he borrows imagery—from biblical and political sources—to enhance his message. Little did he know how his rich metaphors would be misunderstood two millennia later.
First, Paul echoes the story of Moses coming down the mountain with the Torah. The trumpet sounds, a loud voice is heard, and after a long wait Moses comes to see what’s been going on in his absence.
Second, he echoes Daniel 7, in which “the people of the saints of the Most High” (that is, the “one like a son of man”) are vindicated over their pagan enemy by being raised up to sit with God in glory. This metaphor, applied to Jesus in the Gospels, is now applied to Christians who are suffering persecution.
Third, Paul conjures up images of an emperor visiting a colony or province. The citizens go out to meet him in open country and then escort him into the city. Paul’s image of the people “meeting the Lord in the air” should be read with the assumption that the people will immediately turn around and lead the Lord back to the newly remade world.
Paul’s mixed metaphors of trumpets blowing and the living being snatched into heaven to meet the Lord are not to be understood as literal truth, as the Left Behind series suggests, but as a vivid and biblically allusive description of the great transformation of the present world of which he speaks elsewhere.
From N.T. Wright, to reformers Calvin and Luther, to nearly every scholar in between, this passage has had nothing to do with a mass disappearance of Christians into the sky, as rapture proponents would claim. Failure to understand this clear context is simply a sign of poor exegesis.
The one other scripture often used to “support” the idea of a rapture is Luke 17:34-35, though again, there are no noted scholars making this connection (nor in the parallel passage: Matthew 24). There are far better explanations which actually follow the traditional rules of exegesis for these passages.
I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken and the other left.
“Wow, Stephen, that sure sounds like the rapture.” I guess it’s possible when we cherry pick it out of context. But let’s actually read the verses before and after… you know… for context and all.
26 And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27 they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; 29 but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day, the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house must not go down to take them out; and likewise the one who is in the field must not turn back. 32 Remember Lot’s wife. 33 Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. 34 I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left. 35 There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will be taken and the other will be left. 36[two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left.”](this verse not included in early manuscripts) 37 And answering they *said to Him, “Where, Lord?” And He said to them, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered.”
Still seeing a rapture? The verses before and after have nothing to do with a removal of the church from the Earth. The obscure phrase, “One will be left and another taken” is actually a reference to the flood, not the rapture. (See Matthew 24:37, and Luke 17:26.) But rapture theorists ignore this context almost entirely, and instead err in favor of their pet theory over respected research or serious study.
Scriptural arguments for the rapture are at best claims of wild conjecture and bad exegesis that mistake the resurrection for an imaginary escape into the sky. This failure to take seriously the resurrection as one of the most important New Testament themes has led to many of these exegetical errors. When the scriptures are taken out of their context, passages are manipulated to prove this mythological, unfounded doctrine.
Church History Doesn’t Support A Rapture
The scriptures simply do not teach the rapture, but furthermore, the rapture goes against the history of the church.
From Augustine to Barth, no church father, doctor, theologian, pope, or biblical scholar, new or old, with any esteem, has ever argued for the rapture. Up until the 1830’s, when a man named John Darby invented the idea of the rapture, this doctrine did not exist anywhere in the teachings of the church.
That’s really important. The rapture did not exist until the 19th century. In other words, for 90% of church history NO ONE believed in the rapture.
Seriously… no one!
And while this isn’t to say that new doctrines are always wrong, this does put up a very large question mark against the rapture. The fact that in such a short period of time, the rapture has gone from no acceptance whatsoever to mass popularity in the church today makes me question it’s validity and wonder what about it is so appealing to American Christians. Hopefully, you are wondering the same thing about now.
Traditionally, the test for truth in the church has been these two points:
- Is it scripturally true?
- Is it in line with the historical belief of the church as it was passed down from the first apostles?
When we ask these two things about the rapture you will quickly see why I have a problem with it.
The rapture is a scripturally unfounded doctrine. It is a doctrine that goes against the teachings of the church for nearly two millennium. It has no friend in the history of Christendom and little to no evidence to back it up in the scriptures.
Frankly, it’s just bad theology. At the end of the day the rapture has a very large burden of proof standing against it, despite the assertion by many American Christians that it is just “plain biblical fact”. If it truly is such a clear fact, then why is there so little evidence in its corner? Why is it without a friend in the world of theology, except for a handful of modern proponents, who are typically profiting off the fear it inspires?
Why The American Church Loves The Rapture
Ultimately, why do so many American churches proclaim this doctrine with such absolute certainty? Why, despite the complete lack of historical or scriptural evidence, is the rapture such a popular belief among Americans today?
There are several answers we might give to understand why the rapture has gained such acceptance. However, there is one in particular that I am interested in addressing. I believe that the rapture exists today and is accepted by so many because it is the symptom of a diseased church.
The church has come down with a bad case of escapism.
And this escapism has led to the rapture’s popularity and continued acceptance, despite all of the evidence to the contrary.
So what is escapism? Simply, it is a pathological desire to escape. Within a Christian context, it is easy to find. How often have you heard people say things like, “I just can’t wait for Jesus to return and take us home”? Personally, growing up in the church my whole life, I’ve heard stuff like this said ALL the time. Recently, I even heard a friend tell me they were jealous of someone who died because, “they get to be with Jesus”.
Escapism is deeply disturbing on a psychological level, and it can only lead to the same conclusion my friend came to: that it’s better to die than live on this earth.
This desire to escape the world – this contempt for the good world that God has made – is a SERIOUS problem. In my mind, it’s more serious an issue than the rapture itself. The mindset of escapism, and the “to-hell-with-the-world” thinking is the disease behind our failing influence in the world today. We have little influence and our gospel is becoming more and more irrelevant, because we have become so focused on the next world we forgot about this one.
One of the foremost theologians today, Jürgen Moltmann, had this to say about the rapture:
A God who only waits to ‘rapture’ Christian crews from their aircraft so that the aircraft crashes and thousands of persons are killed cannot be a God whom one can trust. Rather that is the wicked idol of a pathological contempt of the world.
This doctrine is not only unscriptural and historically problematic, it is deeply unhealthy. It is a symptom of a diseased church. It reveals an underlying mentality towards the world that is nothing like God intended – nothing like we see in Jesus.
But there is a cure.
Conclusion: And God Saw That It Was Very Good
God is deeply interested in the world. God loves flowers and mountains and wine and trees and human bodies and sunsets and the oceans and science and sex and Chipotle and beaches and snow and life and living and all the bountifully beautiful things of this beautiful world.
Indeed, we see the expression “it was good” in reference to Creation SEVEN TIMES in Genesis 1 alone! Just as we tend to love and treasure the things we create, God LOVES his Creation!
We have to be reminded of this. We have to take it seriously. God is the ultimate materialist!
As Robert F. Capon writes:
There is a habit that plagues many so-called spiritual minds: they imagine that matter and spirit are somehow at odds with each other and that the right course for human life is to escape from the world of matter into some finer and purer (and undoubtedly duller) realm. To me, that is a crashing mistake — and it is, above all, a theological mistake. Because, in fact, it was God who invented dirt, onions and turnip greens; God who invented human beings, with their strange compulsion to cook their food; God who, at the end of each day of creation, pronounced a resounding ‘Good!’ over his own concoctions. And it is God’s unrelenting love of all the stuff of this world that keeps it in being at every moment. So, if we are fascinated, even intoxicated, by matter, it is no surprise: we are made in the image of the Ultimate Materialist. [From The Supper of the Lamb]
May we once again see the world as a wonderful gift. May we leave the rapture behind for good and come to embrace the world as our home. Read the end one more time. Revelation paints a clear picture. Heaven is coming here, to this earth. We will not be escaping off into outer-space anytime soon. This world is our home.
Escapism has plagued the church for far too long. It has led to the rapture doctrine, and to many other detrimental beliefs we have today. We must learn once again to love the earth, to echo God’s “it is good” over creation. We are made for earth. Let’s learn to love it, change it, have hope for it, and leave for good this nasty business of leaving it all behind, behind.
For a far more in-depth look at this topic, Stephen has graciously made his book 10 Reasons Why The Rapture Must Be Left Behind available as a FREE .epub download for Brazen Church readers! Alternatively, you can click here to order a physical copy from Amazon.
Stephen D Morrison is the author of 10 Reasons Why the Rapture Must be Left Behind, and several other books on theology and life including We Belong: Trinitarian Good News, and Where Was God?: Understanding the Holocaust in the Light of God’s Suffering. He graduated from Bethel’s School of Supernatural Ministry in 2013, and has since retained a passion for theology and how we talk about God. Visit his website SDMorrison.org for more.
I have grown up in fundamentalist churches and even went to a “Bible School” so I can attest that the escapism of which you speak is definitely real. “This world is too much of a mess – can’t wait to leave it all behind.” It’s a failure on our (my) part to engage with the people we rub shoulders with every day. I think that Calvinisim is partially to blame as well. If there are only a “chosen few” then I don’t have to love them all. After all – “they” are the goats and I’m a “sheep”.
I’ve been a parent for almost 21 years and nothing has taught me better or deeper about the love of our Parent than being parent to 3 girls. I love them all equally but individually. I want the best for them and no matter what good or bad choices they make, I will always love them and want to be involved in their lives. The idea that they could do something that would make me reject them forever is as foreign to me as a language I’ve never heard.
And God loves each human on the planet so much better than that. His plan was to”escape” into the hearts of all mankind and live and love with us. But we’d rather talk about the sweet by and by and not bother to engage the hurting. I’m as guilty as anyone – so I’m not pointing fingers. Thanks for sharing. It was a good, thought provoking read.
Alex Haiken says
While I agree that the rapture is a false doctrine, it’s actually based on multiple passages including, but not limited to Mat. 24:39-31, 1 Thes. 4:15-17; 1 Cor. 15:51-52, Mat. 24:21-22 and Rev. 7:9, 13-14, and not simply one text. However, when these texts are examined more closely and in context, as Morrison maintains, this clearly is not what the texts are saying at all. They aren’t addressing a rapture where Christians will be zapped away BEFORE the return of Christ, they’re in actuality addressing the event of the return of Christ itself.
However, this article fails to point out that when discussing these texts and the issue of the “rapture,” we’re in fact predominantly arguing about timing. While the texts address the event of the return of Christ itself, Paul (and Jesus) also describe that at the second coming, “the dead in Christ will rise first, then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.”
Who are “the dead in Christ?” Who are “those who are left?” And what are these two differentiated? According to the Bible, there are four groups of people in the world. Every human living or dead falls into one of these four categories or groups. And only God in His infinite wisdom can make the determination of which group each person falls in. But the fact remains that everyone falls into one of these four groups. The four groups are:
(1) The righteous dead — (i.e., those in Christ and who have passed away)
(2) The unrighteous dead — (i.e., those NOT in Christ who have passed away)
(3) The righteous living — (i.e., those in Christ who are still living)
(4) The unrighteous living — (i.e., those NOT in Christ who are still living)
We know that at the Second Coming of Christ “the righteous dead” are resurrected and taken up to meet the Lord in the air. Immediately after that event, “the righteous living,” who have remained alive on the earth until the Second Coming itself, are also taken up to meet the Lord in the air.
The argument over the rapture is actually over whether this event occurs before the return of Christ or after. “Rapturists” believe they won’t be here when Christ returns because they believe they’ll be “raptured” away before that happens.
Perhaps the most famous “rapture” text is from Jesus himself from Matthew 24: “Then two men will be in the field. One is taken, and one is left. Two women will be grinding at the mill. One is taken and one is left.” (Matt. 24:40)
But look at the context of this statement of Jesus. He has just prophesied the destruction of the Temple to the shock and dismay of his disciples. They come to him privately on the Mount of Olives and ask: “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and the close of the age?” (Matt. 24:3)
Jesus’ answer extends all the way to the verse in question. He not only describes signs and events he continues to urge watchfulness. Now look at the quote in its immediate context:
“… so will be the coming of the Son of man. Then two men will be in the field. One is taken, and one is left. Two women will be grinding at the mill. One is taken and one is left. Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” (Matt. 24:39-41)
This is not an event prior to the Second Coming; rather it is an event at the Second Coming. When one reads all the verses in Matthew 24 from verse 1 forward we see that Jesus has never deviated from a discussion of the end of the age and his second coming.
Consequently, I would maintain the real issue is what whether or not we will go to be with Christ, the matter is of timing. Will that occur before the retune of Christ, as the “rapturists,” falsely maintain, or at the Second Coming itself?
Martin Fell says
According to Jesus and all the other writers of NT the end of the age and return of Christ (the phrase second coming isn’t anywhere in the Bible) Occurred in AD 70. There is no point in speculating when Christ will return (He returns and keeps on returning to us and in and through the Church) way behind us!
Steve Parker says
I think this article points out very clearly many of the challenges faced by proponents of the “left behind” eschatology, and why the church needs to cleanse itself of the doctrine as quickly as possible. An observation:
While “escapism” is certainly one of the primary reasons that the American church clings to this doctrine, I believe there is another equally weighty consideration. It is the “just desserts” mentality. I have observed many Christians carry an almost gleeful attitude toward the wrath that they believe will be poured out upon the earth during the 7-year “tribulation” period they believe is coming. There seems to be this anger toward those in the world for having rejected (their brand of) Christianity and the scorn that society has demonstrated toward (their brand of) believers, and they are looking forward to this time as a personal vindication for all of this. Comments such as, “Well, I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes when the Lord comes back,” tend to reflect this and are quite prevalent among these folks. It is another indication of how the rapture mentality reflects the unhealthy condition of many in the church.
Mitch Lindsey says
I consider myself a recovering Baptist. I once was in full time ministry, have a Bible college degree and attended seminary. I personally believe the doctrine of the rapture to not only be completely false but dangerous as well.
The escapism of the “rapture” is more than a desire to leave the “evils” of this world to be with Jesus. It becomes a rationalization for not having to do anything to make a positive difference in this world. The world is destined by the Darby doctrine of dispensationalism to become worse and worse until things are so bad Jesus takes the church out via the rapture to escape the 7 year tribulation prior to the destruction of the world. If the rapture is true, then nothing can be done or even should be done to try and make the world a better place. The rapture becomes an excuse for the lack of any attempt to become involved in addressing the evils (war, racism, injustice, poverty, etc) of the world. In fact, among dispensationalists, there does seem to be a glee concerning the decline of society and conditions worldwide as the necessary prelude to the rapture.
Frankly, it reminds me of the Muslim fundamentalists speaking of the declining world conditions before the coming of the 12th Iman. There arises not only a gleeful anticipation of Armageddon, but even a desire to hasten it along!
All of which is contrary to the teachings and mission of Jesus. I think of the passage in Luke where the Sons of Thunder wanted to call down fire from Heaven on a Samaritan village that had rejected Jesus. Jesus rebuked them saying. “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (Luke 9:55-56 KJV)
Patrick Prescott says
Darby helped publish a book by Jesuit Priests after the Pope banned their writings. The work was translated into English and Darby used the British Empire to spread the doctrine. Crazy that anti-catholic protestants take Catholic heresy and turn it into the dominant test of belief for modern evangelicals.
Growing up and indoctrinated in rapture theology I felt cheated by God. Why would he cut my life short and this happen in 1975 (Herbert W. Armstrong), 1988 (Hal Lindsay)?
I read Ray Summer’s book Worthy Is The Lamb, (out of print, but you can get used copies on Amazon and as an e-book.) Realized I was played for a sucker, boy that really helps a seminary student knowing that most of your denomination is selling snake oil and that they are firing every professor who doesn’t believe in their snake oil.
I’m glad others are speaking out against this disease in most major denominations.
I became a believer during the late 60’s, a time when many really believed the world was in a time of the Apocalypse. I have one of the first published copies of “The Late Great Planet Earth.” But I early learned the error. Later saw not what I call the “escapism” but the belief that because things are bad here in the US with declining morality, drug abuse, political abuse, etc, things are bad everywhere. The Church in America is in decline, but around the world there is tremendous Church Growth. My denomination has 7 million members in the US, but over 5 million in Africa alone, and they will surpass the US in 10 years. Yes, there is ISIS (a not real fear here), disease, etc. But there is real church growth, and change many places around the world. Plus, as my College Sunday School Teacher, Ruth Graham always said, “Tribulation, think what the Chinese Christians endured under communism.” We don’t have it nearly so bad here with our million dollar houses, high price cars, toys (boats, Harley’s (I have one), second homes, ball games). We’ve got it good, and are not grateful.
Dave Windhorn says
After becoming a follower of Jesus and member of the body of Christ at the age of 20, I swallowed what the church taught for nearly 40 years, that’s right, hook, line and sinker!! I have since come to know the truth about the non-rapture and other traditional doctrines of the “church” as I’ve been challenged to be a Berean! One of the best books I’ve read regarding the non-rapture is “Raptureless” by Jonathan Welton. May God continue to open my eyes to the truth of His word as I continue to follow the Messiah and His teachings. Blessings…..
Eric Bolden says
Ironically, the same Christians interpret various scriptures on “suffering” or “trials” as the “difficulties” we all face (whether health, death of loved ones, living, work and finance problems, mistreatment by others). A whole massive Christian teaching industry has sprung from these “principles” of “gaining victory”.
But according to the original context, most of these passages were referring to the actual persecution the Church was facing in the first century. Yet at the prospect of modern day Western Christians facing something that actually matched the first century more, then they say God would never let us endure that, and so He will take us out of it.
Eddie Williamson says
The rapture theology, is, as is suggested in the article and comments, a mainly American obsession. It is mused over occasionally in the wider church (like here in the UK) but does not in any way form a major doctrine, nor have I ever known it cause any friction or been the cause of any dogmatic argument. Not saying the rest of the world never disagree over theology, but just wanted to echo the fact that writing novels and books about it is a particular American phenomenon. The same novels that always seem to believe the Bible prophecies are all about the US and not the majority, huge world out there. Not being rude on that – us Brits one time used to believe the world revolved around us!
Barbara Smith says
I think it is coming and this is Why , The thing predicted for the nd times are horrible . I dont think They could happen like it is written without the Holy Spirit being gone. Real Christians have the power of God in Them but When this is all happening nothing stops it. I think the power of God will be gone and the world will be a terrible place like Hell on earth and there will be no place to hide from it. Sorry I think Its coming Just to be sure make Sure Your ready. I Am pretty sure this is how God explained it to Me. Unless I am wrong.
I’d be more inclined to consider the arguments if the author were not so dismissive and condescending. Phrases like “mostly nonsense,” “cursory, uninformed reading,” and “no scholar of any esteem” demonstrate the need to belittle those with whom you disagree. I’d prefer to just read NT Wright for a scholarly approach.
As much as I want to consider these arguments, I admit that I agree with you, Davis. It did leave an impression of “Duh, everyone should understand this! Have you been living under a rock?” To say that Scripture is out of context and being manipulated is one thing but to say that one’s belief in the Rapture makes about as much sense as finding a good steak recipe in phone books is quite another.
I am not a biblical scholar nor do I know how to do proper exegesis. I find the arguments concerning escapism and the lack of such teachings over Church history to be understandable. I agree that contempt for this world and for the flesh is sinful. For if God came into this world with a human body, then how can either be inherently evil? It reminded me of St. Thomas Aquinas and all his Dominican brothers battling the heretical Albigenses, or St. Francis’s childlike awe and joy at the beauty of Creation. Yet, the reasons in this article were not “painfully obvious” to me and may not be to many people. Is this supposed to be tough love for the coddled or shock therapy for the sick? I don’t know. But, I cannot get the aftertaste of didactic condescension out of my mouth. Maybe I’m just being over sensitive.
If there are other scholarly resources that I can use to explore these arguments, I’d like to know, blow to the ego aside.
Are you using the perceived condescension as an excuse NOT to consider what he says to be true. Condescension is not an indication that he is wrong.
Parker Dutro says
No, it is not. But it often indicates a contempt lying beneath the surface, which is likely influencing the individuals reasoning.
The author states, “ Escapism is deeply disturbing on a psychological level, and it can only lead to the same conclusion my friend came to: that it’s better to die than live on this earth.”
But it IS better to die than to live on this earth. For many people throughout history, life has been full of burden, suffering and pain. Because this world which God formed and called “very good”, was thrust into a state of cursedness when Adam chose to sin. The resulting trauma creation has been experiencing ever since has certainly been complimented by joy, love, prosperity, and all the pleasures life has to offer. But nonetheless, for billions of people over the span of history death followed by eternity in the presence of the Lord was a no brainer compared to the suffering that characterized their existence. Look at how Christians who refused to renounce faith in Christ alone for salvation were brutally executed by the Roman Catholic Church for hundreds of years. Of course death was better, yet these faithful brothers and sisters spent the time they had on this earth trusting in the Lord.
No, escapism as an “ism” is not a valid refutation of the belief in the rapture. Those who believe that the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord as described throughout scripture is yet future (it is) understand what kinds of things will be coming on the earth during that time, and no sane person would NOT wish to escape that.
The rapture is the most absurd doctrine that has really only one thing going for it: it’s clearly taught in scripture. Not just doctrinally in the text of the New Testament, but in types and patterns from Genesis forward. And one beautiful aspect of the Harpazo that we will all get to enjoy someday is that one isn’t required to believe in it in order to be raptured! If you are alive and sealed by the blood of the Lamb at the time He comes to take His bride home prior to the pouring out of God’s wrath in the Day of the Lord, you’ve got a ticket for that train with your name on it.
Excellent point. Thank you.
Elizabeth Ware says
I agree. I agree with this article, but I found the condescending tone very off-putting. I would share it with others who are still on the “Left Behind” train, but can’t because it is basically calling them all stupid. There is a better way to frame this argument.
Sheila Sternberg says
I’m not sure I understand what the author is saying regarding “one taken, the other left.” The context of those passages in Matthew and Luke is how God protects His own while He is pouring out His wrath. The two examples He gave were His judgment of the world during the flood, and His judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Lord is using those stories to explain His coming judgment, called in many places, THE DAY OF THE LORD.
2Pet. 3:5-7 For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
Yes, there is a time of judgment coming upon the unbelieving world, and God will once again preserve His own while He pours out judgment on the earth. To say that those who trust that the Lord will keep them safe during this time is “deeply unhealthy” and “symptom of a sick church” is an ad hominem attack. Why resort to that if he actually has the answers. Does the author deny that the Day of the Lord is a future event?
Joel 1:15 Alas for the day!
For the day of the LORD is near,
And it will come as destruction from the Almighty.
There are other doctrines which deny the secret, silent, any moment characteristics of the rapture, which still allow for the Lord to judge the world while preserving His own people. They would read the rapture (“catching up” from 1Th4:16-17, harpazo in Greek, rapiemur from RAPTURO in Latin) as occurring during the second coming which is neither secret nor silent. One doctrine you may be familiar with is POST TRIBULATIONAL. Another doctrine which I find to me much more accurate (which doesn’t require any rearranging of scriptures) is called PREWRATH. Here is one site with links to others you may want to investigate if you know that the catching up occurs on the same day the Jesus returns in the sky. http://exploreprewrath.com/prewrath-resources/
Parker Dutro says
Daniel 9, and the 70 weeks prophecy given by Gabriel is foundational for understanding what the Day of the Lord is. It’s timing and it’s purpose. The 70 weeks described by the angel Gabriel are “determined for your people (the Jews) and your holy city (Jerusalem).” The Day of the Lord is when God finishes His work with the Nation of Israel. The church age will at that point have concluded and God will once again turn His attention, His redemptive program, solely back to the Jews. This comes done to how a person’s hermeneutic shapes their understanding of the nature of the Church (what is it? Where did it come from? What is God’s purpose for it?) and how the church is distinct from Israel (who is Israel? Where did Israel come from? What is God’s purpose for Israel?)
Every person I know that is certain there is no pretribulation rapture is also certain that the Church has, in some way, replaced Israel as God’s people. A faithful reading of the Old Testament puts any idea that God is finished with His redemptive plan for the Jews to rest. God will keep every promise He made to Abraham and David concerning their family, many of which are yet realized.
I absolutely agree with the two main reasons given above.
And, as has been pointed out, it’s a question of timing.
As Rick Joyner (American author and leader of Morningstar Ministries https://www.morningstarministries.org/) points out, try telling the persecuted church worldwide that they will be raptured before the general tribulation … that they are already going through! But also, it’s better to be prepared for suffering and then escape it (if a pre-trib rapture turns out to be true) than to believe we will escape it and then have to endure it unprepared!
Charles James says
Wow Stephen! God sure has given you insight into all this. I have known for about 15 years the fly away doctrine is wrong and all that. You are truly a blessing to many of us my friend. 🙂
I have to agree somewhat with Sheila Sternberg, even though I disagree with her timing view. I’m familiar with her website. There is a rapture. But it’s about timing and context. Is it amil/postmil or premil?
Whenever I see Wright and Joyner cited favorably, it’s painfully obvious to me where an article is heading. I find it ironic how Wright, for example, is so “exegetical” about I Thess 4 and then takes an amillennial regeneration view of the resurrection in Rev 20:4. Joyner seems to be confused regarding the difference between tribulation the God’s wrath. The disagreement between premils re rapture timing is in where God’s wrath begins.
As for this statement:
“…The rapture did not exist until the 19th century. In other words, for 90% of church history NO ONE believed in the rapture. Seriously… no one!”
First of all, until around the 16th to 17th centuries no one knew pretty much anything about Covenant Theology, much less New Covenant Theology. That, in itself, doesn’t make it wrong (or right). But you might want to get a hold of William C. Watson’s book which produces a multitude of pre-conflagration rapture statements from various Puritans. Yes, seriously! Watson was able to take advantage of modern databases for his information.
Dr. William Watson says
Thanks, Al. My book is “Dispensationalism Before Darby” (Lampson Press, 2015). Go to the publishers website to get it cheaper than on amazon.
ok but how many of them supported explicated pre trib rapture?
William C. Watson says
I have about a dozen which are quite clear and another dozen which are a bit less descriptive. What I found is many different views: pre-, mid-, post, historicist, and yes, even amil. I’m now working on the church fathers and have a medivalist finding mostly preconflagration and some pretrib rapture from the 5th to 15th centuries.
The pre trib is stretching it I think
Tonight I have read 6-7 articles on this site, regarding mostly issues with the doctrines of hell and judgment, and the rapture. After every one of them, I find myself increasingly frustrated. The articles spill a lot of electronic ink criticizing harshly and condescendingly ‘traditional’ evangelical theology (and point out some apparently reasonable flaws in contemporary understanding in some cases), but the authors seem to spend VERY little time saying what their ‘correct’ view is, explaining why it is correct and dealing with honest criticisms of their view. And that’s if they ever get around to clearly defining their view without requiring you to give them their email to receive a document later. I’m here now and I want to read it now.
How can we evaluate the ‘biblicality’ of the authors’ views are if they say (as they do in this article) the right exegesis is ‘painfully obvious’. I hold a PhD in physical chemistry and have been studying Scripture with as honest a desire for truth as anyone for over 35 years, and it ain’t painfully obvious to me. That’s why I wasted time reading this article–to learn what I’m apparently too stupid to pick up on my own.
One of the concerns I have from reading these articles is the articles continual talk of God and His love, which ARE critical to understand. Yet, the number one aspect of God’s character, judging from word count as the authors seem to, is His holiness, or separateness and His perfection. He does talk about judgment and violent judgment. The Law of Moses does demand blood as payment for sin, as a strict metaphor for the death which is the wage of sin. This is why a death was necessary for substitutionary atonement at the cross. The Bible does state that God is Just, so the legal idea dismissed so casually in the articles seems to have some ontological weight, as God’s legal standard, if you will, is based on His own character and nature. So His adherence to a judicial standard isn’t arbitrary or binding on Him, except as His own character constrains Him. Just as my maleness constrains me from giving birth, God’s character constrains Him in some areas. He IS love, and that is a critical aspect of His character, yet I am concerned that the articles on hell and judgment may be too dismissive of other fundamental aspects of His character, and the whole teaching of Scripture.
I do agree with the authors that we are woefully ignorant of the understanding of the times–how the contemporary receivers of the messages would have understood them. Given that modern ignorance, more humility and patience and depth on the part of the authors to explain why they feel this deeper understanding COMPLETELY negates contemporary understandings of the passages would be welcome. They make interesting cases, but not necessarily compelling ones, especially given that we readers have no way of knowing if the authors are themselves cherry-picking sources that agree with their view. That is why it is very important to share criticisms of one’s view in detail and graciously deal with them, including acknowledging where there ARE weaknesses.
In short, I find these articles interesting and provocative, but not satisfying nor conducive to humble discussion. I feel somewhat belittled for not grasping what is obvious to the authors and given little or no help to cross the gap. I find the arguments to be conveniently ignoring large parts of Scripture that give weight to the ideas that lead to the ‘unbibilical’ views I’ve apparently held. This leads me to believe that the authors may be cherry picking verses, passages, and historical/cultural references that support their views, just as they accuse their opponents of doing, and thus make their arguments no better than the ones they declaim. I WANT to know the full truth of Scripture, and one way is to study and learn from alternative views such as this. I just wish they would not commit the same sins of rhetoric they pillory in their opponents.
I I’m late. But just to document it. False doctrines are not only eaten up by the simple. In fact many a brilliant man concoct them. Just look at Calvinism.
Iq has nothing to do with it for many. For some its Lust.
Lust for apocalypse.
For others gnosticism.. knowing special secret truths.
Simply put. It’s not taught in scripture. I’ve got 50 commentaries by Bible scholars…… Zip. Zilch. Not a one reads a secret Rapture separate from the second coming.
You have to be taught this from some clown who has allowed himself to be duped. Is that nice enough? It is false teachings after all and it is crystal clear so perhaps identify why it is you buy it.
I invite readers to go over Prof. Watson’s paper highlighting 17th & 19th century writers he claims taught early forms or hints of a pretribulation rapture. Simply Google . Aside from his misspelling of well-known prophecy writers including Lindsey, Scofield, Benware, Jeffrey etc., his selective quotation of older writers is embarrassing. For example, when quoting Morgan Edwards, an 18th century writer lauded by Thomas Ice etc. these days as a pre-Darby pretribulationist, he followed Ice’s example and stopped quoting in order to bypass Edwards’ blending of Matt. 24 with I Thess. 4:16! (Google “Morgan Edwards’ Rapture View” for more on this.) When Watson places his cited authors in categories at the end of his pdf piece listed above, he cannot find anyone among them who clearly taught a pretrib rapture. He gets around his initial claim by asserting that usage of words like “escape” automatically prove pretrib, that a rapture before the final “conflagration” must of course mean before the final tribulation! It’s strange that Darby and other early pretrib developers in the 1830’s – all of whom admitted that pretrib was then a “new” doctrine! – were totally unaware of the claims Watson has made. The most accurate and documented book I know of on the long hidden beginnings of the popular, lucrative pretrib view is journalist Dave MacPherson’s book “The Rapture Plot” – available by calling 800.643.4645. Google “Scholars Weigh My Research” for scholarly evaluations of his decades of research on all this. (Google “Prof. F. Nigel Lee on Dave MacPherson” to see the reaction of someone with nine earned doctorates!) MacPherson has many Google items including “Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty,” “John Darby Did NOT Invent the Rapture,” “Edward Irving vs. John Darby,” and “Margaret Macdonald’s Rapture Chart.”
William Watson says
Instead of dealing with the evidence (my sources), Jon cites a few misspellings in the preliminary essay available free on line, which were corrected by an editor in my book which he did not read. I could do the same with his critical comments. My sources are from the 16th to 18th centuries, not the 19th. He praises MacPherson as a “journalist”, but ignores my extensive academic credentials. It’s a hate-filled hit piece that shows no interest in actually discovering the truth.
I absolutely love what you said at the end! Amen! Our hope is in the resurrection, our change from a physically body that dies to a physical body that will not. Jesus was resurrected flesh and bones, and he is returning as the son of man, as a Son of God, because God’s Spirit lives in his mind being connected to the will and righteousness of God. The sound of a stream, the sight of the sun going down over the mountains, the smell of apple pie, the feel of a warm breeze that smells of grass and flowers. In a new heaven and a new earth, I look forward to seeing what mankind will create and design with a righteous imagination!
William Watson says
If anyone is interested, I will be presenting a paper and powerpoint next Tuesday on the rapture from the 2nd to the 15th century to the annual PreTrib conference in Dallas. I have over a dozen clear examples pre- and mid-trib raptures in the fathers and another dozen in the Medieval period. Sometime in December the paper will be posted on pre-trib.org for your critique.
Aaron Graham says
1. “Scripture does not teach a “Rapture.”
Of course the word “Rapture” is not in the Greek, or our English Bibles. It is a word we use that is a throwback to the Latin Vulgate, “Rapiemur” which is where the word originated. But the “Harpazo” of I Thes 1:17 is clearly demonstrated.
Paul had an expirence of being “snatched away” into Heaven (2 Cor 12:2) John had an expirence of being called up into Heaven (Rev 4:1) As well as Elijah and Enoch from the Old Testement.
It is misleading to assert that the Bible does not teach that Christ will return to this Earth and “catch away” His church in the air and in that moment, we will be changed to be like Him. This sudden, and unexpected event is clearly taught by Jesus, Paul, Peter, Jude, and John. All of this is with the same warning “Be ready.” Paul’s teaching of the return of Christ had a tone of immediacy, and the scriptures indicate that it could happen at any moment. This contrasts with the “Day of the LORD” in the Old Testement that had clear markers and signs preceeding it.
Many also miss the subtle language used in II Thes 2:3. The “apostasia” (which is often translated “falling away, or rebellion” is misleading in English. In greek, the root is “apo” (falling away, depart) and the verb “histemi” (a place of standing) or a literal translation: “to depart from a place previously standing”
This could be a departure from the faith, but it could also have another “departure” suggested.
In context of the book of 1 Thes and 2 Thes, it is not unreasonable to assume that the context of 2 Thes 2:3 was to assure the church who was worried that they had already missed the “Day of the Lord.” (2 Thes 2:1-2) Paul encourages them that it would not come unless first the “departure from where you are standing”, and “The man of lawlessness is revealed. ” In light of what was the stated concern, and the context of 1 Thes 1:17, it is not unreasonable to assume Paul might be referring to a “departure” more like what he described in the previous book, or a “Harpazo”
My larger question to anyone who rejects a “catching away” of the Church as somehow an error is, do you believe Jesus Himself will return to this Earth and literally reign on David’s Throne from the city of Jerusalem?
If you answer “yes,” than any argument is simply one of the timing of when this will happen, and it it a pointless disagreement. I care little if I am “caught away” 7 years before, or 3 1/2 years, or even 30 seconds before Jesus returns. Jesus WILL return. That is the important part.
We WILL be “raptured” up to meet Him in the air and be changed.
And we will always be with Him from that moment on.
Those who believe this “catching away” will happen simultaneously with the literal retuen of Jesus may be right. I tend to see good evidence to suggest it will happen BEFORE Daniel’s 70th Week. But it could come after. Its irrelevant because it WILL happen, as assured as I am that Jesus will physically reign on David’s throne.
But the “catching away” is Biblically sound…to say otherwise is not being honest with the Greek, Latin, or English translations.
And if I lived 1,500 years ago and spoke Latin, I would call this event the “Rapture”.
Trisha Winters says
Everyone is entitled to free will and their own opinions, however I am writing a rhetorical analysis essay, about the arguments and beliefs of this very subject. I feel truly sorry for all the non believers, the day will come when the second coming of Christ returns, and the rapture will quickly come as quickly as it vanishes, taking all of the “true believers, Christians, and born again” while leaving the rest to suffer the famine, plague of illness, outbreak of travesty with war against Israel. Full nuclear and chemical wars. Global families food shortage and contamination of meat killing millions. Muslim economies will remain of power. These are known as the “transpired events” of the (Great Revelation)which will take place approximately 14 days since the rapture.
More destructive tragedies, include massive global earthquakes, moving all mountains, island and shifting of the seas, along with the darkening of the sun in an eclipse, becoming a moon of red, and the beginning of stars falling from the sky.
Many will turn their backs in disbelief and left behind to suffer the wrath of destruction for 7 years. In addition to these traumatic attributes, The New World order will rise with the leadership and destruction of the “Antichrist” taking the lives of those Christians, who were not “real Christians” and did not really practice the word of God , and had no spiritual connection with HIM. Going to church DOES NOT make you a true Christian. Many out there are fake and hypocritical, and will spend eternity in the lake of fire, experiencing the most awful, gut wrenching, pain and suffering beyond what we could ever imagine if they do not follow the commands of the New World Order and the Anti Christ’s demands of receiving the “Mark of the Beast”, however those left behind who become spiritually resurrected and truly believe in the Savior Jesus Christ will be given a second chance to redeem their faith and righteousness, and those who reject the Mark, (666) will be sentenced to death, but will be at peace in a glorious place called heaven where there will be no more pain, war, murder, violence, sickness, suffering, drugs, rape, molestation, and all of the other sinful destructions here on earth.
So those of you who are atheist, or Satanists, or whatever you believe or don’t believe. I know when this day comes, I will be among those taken. Think about it, the atrocities that plague the world now, are becoming worse. Our earth is already in trouble, things that were predicted are already happening. The Anti Christ is already walking the earth maybe not in actual human form, but in the form of drugs, other types of addictions, diseases and sickness, murder, war, violence, rape, children being murdered and molested, hunger, homelessness, theft, and the list goes on and on…it is just the beginning. Get right with God before its to late. May HE have mercy on your empty souls.
Cheryl Coldiron says
What about the scripture 2 Corinthians 6:17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.?
And don’t love the world or the things in it,?