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Leaving the Rapture Behind

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Today we’re talking about the rapture. And I know I’ve tipped my hand on this issue quite a bit, but I’m going to do my best to present accurately the arguments of the scholars who believe and support this position.
I won’t consider you a bad Christian if you disagree with me. It is okay to disagree with me. This discussion needs to take place because as a culture, we have largely believed one perspective on Revelation, and we’ll trace the history of why that is in a bit, but the
Some of you might get frustrated that we would even talk about this. You might ask “does this even matter? Is my understanding of this necessary for salvation?” To which, I say, "No. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try. Remember Hebrews 5-6 and 1 Corinthians 3 and the encouragement of the authors to seek knowledge of the faith beyond the elementary. Yes, we should cover the basics, but we shouldn't be content to remain there."
And just because it isn’t an issue necessary to grasp for salvation does not mean that it is not important, nor does it mean that it will not deeply affect how you view the church, the mission of the people of God, the urgency of the Gospel, how you read the rest of Scripture, and how you view the suffering of non-American Christians.
And you’ll see why we’re talking about the rapture here in a little bit, but before we get to that, I want to start by using some quotes from rapturists to define what I mean when I say rapture.

Defining Rapture

“Quickly and invisibly, unperceived by the world, the Lord will come as a thief in the night and catch away His waiting saints.” (Jesse Silver, The Lord’s Return, 1914, 260).
“His appearance in the clouds will be veiled to the human eye and no one will see him. He will slip in, slip out; move in to get His jewels and slip out as under the cover of night” (Oral Roberts, How to be Personally Prepared for the Second Coming of Christ, 1967, 34).
“It will be a secret rapture - quiet, noiseless, sudden as the step of the thief in the night. All that the world will know will be that multitudes at once have gone” (G.S. Bishop, The Doctrine of Grace, 341).
“In the rapture only the Christians see Him - it’s a mystery, a secret.” (Hal Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth, 1970, 143).
“[The rapture] will be a SECRET appearing, and only the believers will know about it” (Herschel Ford, Seven Simple Sermons on the Second Coming, 1946, 51).
The rapture is defined as: "The secret coming of Christ to take his church out of this world that will initiate the beginning of the seven year tribulation before the thousand year kingdom."

History of the Rapture

The Rapture was NEVER EVER EVER talked about before 1830. In the history of the world, the rapture was never talked about before 1830! This doctrine is only 187 years old!
Margaret MacDonald (1815 - 1840)
self-induced fever at a prophecy conference and claims to have had a vision from God talking about his 2nd coming.
And you can find the account of her utterance in her own handwriting. It’s not hard to find.
John Nelson Darby (1800 - 1882)
Founded the Plymoth Brethren in Ireland and England
1830 Darby visited Margaret MacDonald in Port Glasgow, Scotland, and heard how earlier in the year she had received a revelation that a select group of Christians would be raptured before the time of the Antichrist. Darby began popularizing the doctrine of the pretribulation rapture of the church in prophecy conferences. In succeeding years he developed his theology of dispensationalism from his premise of the pretribulation rapture.
-One of the recipients of Darby’s teaching was Dwight L. Moody
Dwight L. Moody (1937 - 1899)
was heavily influenced by Dispensationalism in 1872
-Founded Moody Bible College in Chicago in 1886 and taught it vehemently.
-Another one of the recipients of Darby’s teaching was Cyrus Scofield
Cyrus Scofield (1843 - 1921)
-He helped Moody out on campaigns in the 1879 pushing dispensational rapture theology.
-(1909) Scofield reference Bible became the bible of the early 20th century.
-He is the father of study bibles. The problem is that people didn't differentiate between the Scriptures at the top and Scofield's notes at the bottom.
Hal Lindsey (1929 - Present)
Additionally, in 1970, Hal Lindsey wrote The Late Great Planet Earth- a book that outsold the Bible in the 1970s. And in it, he postulated that Jesus would come back no later than 1988 because it was 40 years later than the reestablishment of Israel as a nation and in the Bible 40 years is typically one generation.
Edgar Whisenant (1932 - 2001)
Edgar Whisenant wrote 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will be in 1988 with which Hal Lindsey agreed staunchly.
Billy Graham (1918 - Present)
Billy Graham was influenced by this teaching, and then wrote his book, Approaching Hoofbeats (1983).
He preached to millions of people, many of whom read his books.
Jerry Jenkins (1949- Present) and Tim LaHaye (1926-2016)
Then of course, Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye made this very popularized in their Left Behind series in 1995, selling 65 million copies of the first book in the series.
So now that you know the HOW of the popularity of the Rapture, let’s look at the WHY and I’ll try to deconstruct it:

“Rapture” Passages

Revelation 4:1; Matthew 24:36-41; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43, 49-50; 2 Peter 3:10-13; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Revelation 4:1 NLT
Then as I looked, I saw a door standing open in heaven, and the same voice I had heard before spoke to me like a trumpet blast. The voice said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must happen after this.”
Did you catch it?

4:1 This call seems clearly to indicate the fulfilment of 1 Thes. 4:14–17. The word “church” does not again occur in the Revelation till all is fulfilled.

"This brief passage from Revelation is one of the shortest yet one of the clearest pictures in Scripture of the rapture of the church." (M.R. DeHaan, 35 Simple Studies on the Major Themes in Revelation, p.61)
Scofield is right, the word “Church” isn't used, but "saints" (a word in the rest of Scripture used to refer to the people of God on earth) is in Rev. 5:8, 8:3, 8:4, 11:18, 13:7, 13:10, 14:12, 16:6, 17:6, 18:20, 18:24, and 19:8. And yet, rapturists assert that the church returns in chapter 19, where the word, church. DOES NOT OCCUR!
Interestingly, the word church (ekklesia) in Revelation never refers to churches generally. It is ALWAYS (with one possible exception in Revelation 22) in connection with the seven Churches.
Let’s see if we can find the Rapture in another passage:
Matthew 24:40–41 NLT
“Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left.
That sounds more like it! Let’s read it in context:
Matthew 24:36–41 NLT
“However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes. “Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left.
We have a problem.
Matthew 24:38–39 NLT
In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.
- Who is the "they" and the "them"?
The point of the parable is the unexpected removal of the evil from the earth.
In the days of Noah, for what were the evil people taken away? Judgement.
It isn't the good people that are taken away. It's the bad people.
Let’s look at another passage to see if we see something different:
Matthew 13:24–30 NLT
Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew. “The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’ “ ‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed. “ ‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked. “ ‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’ ”
Now, the NLT that we use does not translate an important word in the last verse there in the Greek that almost every other version includes, the word πρωτος (first):
Check it out:
As if this wasn’t clear enough, Jesus clarifies this point later when his disciples ask him about it:
Matthew 13:36–43 NLT
Then, leaving the crowds outside, Jesus went into the house. His disciples said, “Please explain to us the story of the weeds in the field.” Jesus replied, “The Son of Man is the farmer who plants the good seed. The field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one. The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world, and the harvesters are the angels. “Just as the weeds are sorted out and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the world. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!
The evil will be removed, THEN the righteous will shine like the sun in their father’s kingdom!!!
Matthew 13:49–50 NLT
That is the way it will be at the end of the world. The angels will come and separate the wicked people from the righteous, throwing the wicked into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
In this context, who is dealt with first?
But this is from the Scofield reference Bible:

The gathering of the tares into bundles for burning does not imply immediate judgment. At the end of this age (v. 40) the tares are set apart for burning, but first the wheat is gathered into the barn (John 14:3; 1 Thes. 4:14–17).

The problem with rapturist theology (especially one that seeks to remove Christians from suffering) is that you have to be committed to it to see it in the text.
"Jesus said it wrong, but we'll correct him."
That DIRECTLY contradicts the chronological indicators laid out by Christ in Matt. 13:30 and Matt. 13:41-43.
Not only that, but rapturists completely ignore the context of who is taken away in these passages.
Why would the evil be taken away first?
2 Peter 3:10–13 NLT
But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment. Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, he will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.
NLT translates this weird when they say everything will be found to deserve judgment. That’s not the flavor of the text. Peter uses the word εὑρίσκω here. Instead of judgement language, it would seem that the world is purified by the fire because the word εὑρίσκω means “to find, or to reveal something for what it is”!
There’s a reason that when Archimedes discovered a confirmation of his theory of water displacement, he yelled out, “eureka, eureka”. It means, “I found it!” So it will be with the earth.
And the word “destroyed” doesn’t mean “destroyed.” It’s the Greek word, λύω which means to loose, or release, or to reduce something down to its components, in other words, to be revealed.
We're still going to use this place.
Kainos/Neos- 2 Pet. 3:13 Rev. 21:1 is KAINOS!
Why? Because if God doesn’t restore the earth and remove the effects of the work of Satan from it, Satan has won.
You are a new creation. It’s not like God wiped you out removed your personality, and started over with you. You are new.
1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 NLT
And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.
It doesn’t seem very secretive. It seems pretty loud if this is what Paul is talking about.
But the focus of the passage is not on rapture, it’s on the people who have died. These people are grieving because they’ve lost loved ones and believed that they went to the abode of the dead (or sheol as the OT calls it) and have missed out on reward. Paul writes mostly to encourage them to have hope for the dead and to explain their predicament.
1 Thessalonians is one of the earliest books (ca. AD 50) in the New Testament. They did not have a robust theology of death at that time. Paul is just at this point, in this letter, establishing this theology for the church. Historical context is VERY important.
The dead in Christ will rise- when does this happen in the rest of the Bible? The Second Coming of Christ!
John 5 defines it that way, certainly.
1 Thess. 4:18- How is discussion regarding a rapture that won't happen for thousands of years be encouraging?
"Meet" has huge connotations.
Matthew 25:6 NLT
“At midnight they were roused by the shout, ‘Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out and meet him!’
Acts 28:15 NLT
The brothers and sisters in Rome had heard we were coming, and they came to meet us at the Forum on the Appian Way. Others joined us at The Three Taverns. When Paul saw them, he was encouraged and thanked God.
We meet the Lord in the air because he’s going to purify the earth with fire so that we can immediately return to it with him. We will return to the kainos earth!
But this word consistently means to meet and come back.
Issues with the Rapture
Chronological snobbery
The church for 1800 years just didn't get it? It’s chronological snobbery to think that 2,000 years removed from Christ, we can understand him better than people who were 10-15 years removed from him. They had much less hermeneutical distance.
Since the rapture is not even mentioned remotely documents of the history of the church, until 1830, this make us uncomfortable. Because while at times, the Catholics overstate church tradition, our movement understates it. And if no one mentions this doctrine for 1800 years in all of church history from the founding of the church, it’s probably because it wasn’t there.
Novelty is the enemy of orthodoxy. That doesn’t mean that we can never accept anything new, but in terms of theology, we should treat new things VERY suspiciously.
The Bible just doesn't agree with this interpretation.
Wilfrid Meloon mentions how he once heard Charles Fuller say on his radio program,
"There is not one verse in the entire New Testament which teaches a pre-tribulation rapture of the church, but, I still believe it.” (Wilfrid C. “Will” Meloon)
Where is the locus of authority? Is it me for myself and you for yourself or is it Scripture?
This is a very American phenomenon.
How can you say that the tribulation hasn't yet begun to a Christian in Iraq or Syria or China? What’s worse than seeing your family butchered or mutilated, or starve to death, or raped? It’s supposed to get worse than that? Or is it just because we’re comfortable that we don’t have a concept of what tribulation looks like because we’re comfortable?
Those Christians might say: "Why haven't we been raptured? Are we not faithful enough? Does God not care about us? Or is it just because we're not Americans?" We're comfortable and we like comfort (remember Laodicea?) If there is a theory or doctrine that says we will be taken out before it gets uncomfortable, WE WANT THAT ONE.
I don't care if the Bible says it, I still believe it. I want to keep this comfort. This is not the story of the church universally. If we use our comfort as our authority, it can absolutely deteriorate the true message of God. The message of God is not our experience, it's his inspired word. His inspired word does not talk about comfort for the church. It talks about tribulation (John 16:33, 17:15). How does it make sense for the one beacon of hope that the world has to be removed from the earth just before they go through the great tribulation? Oh, that's a good gospel plan! As American's, it's okay as long as we're okay. If a theology can match us being okay, we will attach to it.
It teaches a second chance for unbelievers.
Where in the Bible does it talk about people getting a second chance at the second coming? What does that kind of teaching effect people to do? "I've got time." When I read Scripture, it seems like the 2nd Coming is THE END.
And I’ve seen people who have said they were waiting to submit to Christ until the rapture happens. SAY WHAT?!? It gives a non-urgent attitude to people who don’t have a concept that at any moment, we are on the doorstep of eternity.
How just is it for God to give the people who make it to the rapture a second chance, but everyone else in the history of the world only gets one?
It teaches three comings of Christ.
I don't see three comings of Christ in Scripture.
(1) Incarnation, (2)Rapture, (3)Millennial Kingdom.
Hebrews 9:28 NLT
so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.
Some say that it's "two second comings".......... that's a logical fallacy.
"So we see that there are not two Comings of Christ, but rather, there are two phases of his one coming. The first phase is for Christians, and the second phase is for the world of unbelievers as well as those who received Christ as Savior and Lord and survived the awful persecution of the tribulation." (LaHaye Understanding Bible Prophecy for Yourself)
“No matter what rapture position one holds, Christ’s second coming is one event which occurs in two parts.”
(Richard Mayhue, Senior Vice President and Dean and Professor of Pastoral Ministries and Theology at The Master’s Seminary, Why A Pretribulational Rapture?)
As I said before, it is okay if you disagree with my conclusions, but make sure that if you do, it is because you are convinced that the Bible says I’m wrong, not because it is a comfortable position. Because, frankly, I wish the rapture was true because I like being comfortable, but I don’t find compelling support for it in Scripture.
My application to this sermon is almost the same as the application for the Laodicean church:
Repent of your comfort.
And also make sure that Scripture is your final authority. Don’t approach Scripture with an agenda. Submit to Scripture regardless of what you believe of it. I want to be a church and a people that submits to the word of Christ.
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