Monday, June 15, 2020

Revelation Day 22


What about the “rapture”?

Day 22

B. Hodge, Biblical Authority Ministries, June 15, 2020

I used to believe in a rapture event as taught by dispensationalists. After studying the Scriptures many years, I do not believe in the dispensational rapture any longer. As you now know, A-millennialism and Post-millennialism (and most within Historic Pre-millennialism) do not have a dispensational rapture event. The modern idea of a rapture is usually associated with Dispensational Pre-millennialism—a view that largely began in the 1830s.  

A few Historic Pre-millennialists believe it but most do not; but generally the view doesn’t pertain to a rapture event. I suggest that the Historic Pre-millennialists that do believe it is because of recent influence by Dispensational Pre-millennialists and the two positions are being convoluted into each other by people unfamiliar with the intricacies of the two positions.

Another preliminary point is what is meant by “rapture”. It is not in reference to the last day and final judgment—though it its sometimes used by Christians (particularly of the past) in reference to the last day or Second Coming (i.e., the final judgment and the end of all things here on earth before the Kingdom of God is consummate and we spend eternity with God in perfection.) But the word rapture has a different meaning today in comparison to its past definition

Rapture By Today's Meaning

Rapture today (as of the 1830s) has taken on a new and different understanding due to dispensationalism. Bear with me as I explain this briefly.  

What is meant by rapture today is generally seen as the alleged partial return of Christ (just to the clouds) to take believers to heaven (also sometimes called the “Second Coming” by Dispensationalists, but usually distinguished as merely the “rapture”). This is metaphorically when the wheat is taken out of the field and the tares are left (Matthew 13:24-30).

Continuing in the dispensational worldview, Christ awaits His real Second Coming (some denote this as the Third Coming) where He will leave His heavenly throne either 3 ½ or 7 years later and bring the resurrected saints with Him to set up an earthly kingdom for a literal 1,000 years on earth. After this return, then Jesus now has an authority on earth to reign from a physical throne in Jerusalem.

And then finally after the dispensational understanding of the 1,000 years, Christ will have the final judgment and the end of all things here on earth when the future kingdom is finally consummate and we spend eternity with God in perfection. This initial event of Jesus reaping people in the sky and taking them to heaven is what is meant by rapture or the rapture event for this discussion.

The word rapture is not used in the Bible. However, that is not necessarily a reason for rejecting it. Many times, Christians give names to biblical doctrines and theological out-workings of Scripture. For example, “Trinity” is also not found in the Bible yet is a biblically derived understanding of the nature of God.[1]

The rapture is supposed to be a future event that has Christians disappear. Then they are caught up in the clouds with the Lord in His “partial” second coming to go to heaven and wait for their return to earth. So Jesus leaves the throne of God, leaves heaven, almost makes it to earth and then goes back. He gets Christians and then returns to heaven leaving behind non-Christians.

It is supposed to happen at either 7 years, 3 ½ years, or immediate before Jesus comes back a third time, giving up His heavenly throne to set up an earthly kingdom (depending if you are Pre-Tribulation, Mid-Tribulation or Post-Tribulation within the dispensational worldview). When Christ’s thousand years of reigning are up, He gives up His earthly throne for a heavenly throne again. At this point, it is to usher in the end/resurrection and inauguration of the perfect state (I understand there are variations in these models depending on whom you are talking).   

Brief History of “the Rapture”

Early Church fathers didn’t comment on the Dispensational “rapture”. There is a reference, by modern rapture-believers, to Irenaeus (d. A.D. 202) writing about the end and the evil associated with it where he quotes: “And therefore, when in the end the Church shall be suddenly caught up from this, it is said, ‘There shall be tribulation such as has not been since the beginning, neither shall be.’ For this is the last contest of the righteous, in which, when they overcome they are crowned with incorruption.”[2]

But Irenaeus was merely quoting 1 Thessalonians 4:17 and Matthew 24:21. To interpret his quoting of these verses as evidence of his belief in the Dispensational rapture is without warrant. Furthermore the context reveals that Irenaeus was talking of the final judgment and resurrection as he finishes that section by saying that due to this evil, “…a cataclysm of fire shall also come upon the earth.”[3] As a note, Irenaeus, in this same section predicted that the end would be 6,000 years after creation, which has come and gone. 

Others have grasped at straws to make early church leaders sound as though they support a rapture but without much success. It is usually because they don't realize that the word rapture had a different meaning in the past. So when were there any legitimate references to the Dispensational rapture?

Prior to the 1830’s one would be hard-pressed to find churches that had creeds, catechisms, or faith statements that had the rapture. Though a few vague unpopular references[4] preceded John Darby and Edwin Irving, around 1830 (reinforced with possible influence from Darby’s and Irving’s supposed prophetess friend Margaret MacDonald), it was these two men that began to popularize this view with a new definition of rapture.

More so, it was Darby; and he even called it the “doctrine of the secret rapture”, which proves it was not a known concept. By the late 1800s, they began having a rash of followers. And when the view was adopted by gap theorists C.I. Scofield [and he inserted into his Bible study commentaries in 1909] and author and Rev. Clarence Larkin, with his books Dispensational Truth (1918-1920)[5] and The Second Coming of Christ (1918-1922), the view catapulted into the mainstream for a Dispensational Pre-tribulation Premillennial position. Other views predominantly reject it.

The idea of a Dispensational rapture is the idea of Christ having two second comings or more properly, a second coming and then a third coming. This is problematic in light of Hebrews 9:28 and Acts 1:11. But the view holds that Jesus will secretly return for the saints and rapture out believers (the Dispensational resurrection); then will return 3½  or 7 years later to return to earth for a 1,000 year reign (this is also associated with a form of Judaism with sacrifice at the Temple being reinstated) and then after the millennium there will be another resurrection.

Biblical Evidence of a Rapture?

The primary text in the Bible pointed to for a rapture is 1 Thessalonians 4:17:

Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

However, the context (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) reveals this is discussing the resurrection at the end, not a pre-end event. The word rapture is derived from Greek word harpazo, which is translated “caught up”.

Some might say, that all Christians believe in the rapture since all Christians believe in the day of judgment/the final day. However, that is an bait and switch fallacy. The “dispensational rapture event” is not to be equated with the “end/resurrection sometimes called a "rapture’”—they are two different instances. The rapture and the doctrine of the end/final resurrection are two different concepts/events—even within Dispensational Pre-millennialism. The doctrinal position of the rapture by dispensationalists is NOT the end.

Furthermore, the context of 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 has the dead in Christ resurrecting first and those in Christ who are still alive are the ones who are caught up with the Lord afterwards.

Interestingly, the parable of the wheat and the tares has the tares being taken out first (Matthew 13:24-30)! John 5:28-29 indicates the resurrection will have all people, good and evil, coming forth at the same basic time, not separated by 1000 years.     

The second primary passage used to give support to the rapture is Matthew 24:39-42.

And did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.

The context of Matthew 24 regards the judgment on the Jews, particularly Jerusalem and the Temple’s destruction (see the parallel passages like Mark 13:1-30; also see: John 2:19 and Mark 15:29). It marks the event that ends the old covenant with its sacrificial system (e.g., Hebrews 8:13) and the final transition into the new eternal covenant in Christ (Jeremiah 32:40, Hebrews 13:20). [See Question on Day 17 for more].

This is not a future rapture of Christians out of the earth when things get bad. Context mustn’t be neglected. Although brief, I hope this gets the point across about why the rapture is problematic.

Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11, Matthew 13:24-30 (note again that the tares/weeds are gathered first which is opposite of the rapture teachings. Also note, that it is a wheat field, not a tare field).




[1] Bodie Hodge, God is Triune, February 20, 2008,  https://answersingenesis.org/who-is-god/the-trinity/god-is-triune/.
[2] Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 5, Chapter 29.
[3] Ibid.
[4] For example, a college paper by Morgan Edwards for Bristol Baptist College in 1744 mentioned a two fold return of Christ by confusion over the second coming with the first resurrection, but claimed they were new ideas on his part. But these had influence over virtually no one. 
[5] Larkin falsely predicted the Second Coming  of Jesus in A.D. 2000 in his book Dispensational Truth, Rev. Clarence Larkin Est., publisher, Philadelphia, PA, [37th printing (1920)], 1918, p. 16.

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