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.
“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:
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
Did you catch it?
4:1 This call seems clearly to indicate the fulfilment of 1 Thes.
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:
That sounds more like it!
Let’s read it in context:
We have a problem.
- 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?
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:
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:
TEXT COMPARISON SLIDE
As if this wasn’t clear enough, Jesus clarifies this point later when his disciples ask him about it:
The evil will be removed, THEN the righteous will shine like the sun in their father’s kingdom!!!
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.
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.
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?
NLT translates this weird when they say everything will be found to deserve judgment.