Alibris Secondhand Books Standard

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

why i will not be raptured

Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkens have made an awful lot of money with their bestselling Left Behind series. And though the books are fiction, LaHaye and Jenkens have also authored a non-fiction book, Are We Living in the End Times? in which they attempt to show a biblical basis for the events of Left Behind.

Critical to Jenkins and LaHaye's story line is the idea of a rapture of the faithful before things get too difficult. True believers will be snatched away into the clouds to be spared from hardship.

Just how biblical are the Left Behind books, really? Just what does the Bible teach about the Rapture?

Remarkably, this whole doctrine is taken from one word that appears in just one verse in one of Paul's letters near the back of the New Testament.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

- 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

The Greek word harpazo in verse 17 above is the equivalent of the English words "caught up" and the Latin word raptus, from which Rapture is derived. The word appears nowhere else in the New Testament.

Rapture proponents also claim support elsewhere for this idea, most notably 1 Corinthians 15:50-51, Matthew 24:37-42, John 14:1-3, and Titus 2:13.

I'll look at these in reverse order, just because I can.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

- Titus 2:11-15

Did you see it? I didn't either. To a normal person reading this text, there is nothing to suggest that verse 13 teaches the doctrine of Rapture. To a Rapture proponent who is looking for any support he can get, this is one of the Bible's strongest indications that Jesus is returning twice. In LaHaye's own words:

The coming of Christ must occur in two installments because they are for two different groups of people and fulfill two different purposes. The first is the Rapture, when all living and dead Christians will be snatched up to be with Christ in the Father's house. The second is for all the people of the world, who will be judged for rejecting Christ. The first is secret, for a special group; the second is public, for everyone left on the earth. They are entirely distinct events!

Dr. David Cooper often compared the Second Coming to a two-act play separated by a seven-year intermission (the Tribulation). The apostle Paul distinguished these two events in Titus 2:13 by designating them "the blessed hope and glorious appearing."

- Are We Living in the End Times? p. 104

And it doesn't get much better.

Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.

- John 14:1-3

Jesus tells his followers he will go prepare a place, then he will return. Most Christians, who believe Christ will return but do not believe in a Rapture, understand this verse quite differently from the way Rapture proponents read it. For those who believe in a secret Rapture, the words "I will come again and receive you to Myself," acquire an additional meaning. The idea is that Jesus could not come both to comfort his faithful and to judge the nations at the same time. Apparently that's too difficult a task even for the Messiah.

For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left. Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.

- Matthew 24:37-42

At first glance, this passage looks like it may support the Rapture doctrine, with its talk about "one being taken" and all that. But what was it like in the days of Noah? Were the righteous taken away and the evildoers left on earth? It seems to me that it was the other way around. So maybe when Matthew says "one will be taken," he means taken away in judgment.

To be continued...

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At 5/15/2007 5:05 AM, Blogger John B. said...

I don't know if it's your intent to speculate on this, but I'd be interested to know what you make of this: why the doctrine of the Rapture has gotten the purchase that it has. Isn't the resurrection of the body promise enough?

At 5/15/2007 7:26 AM, Blogger BruceA said...

That's a good question. If I'm not mistaken, the Rapture is not nearly as popular around the world as it is in the United States, so I suspect cultural factors are primarily to blame. Off the top of my head I can imagine several factors that might be partly to blame.

The United States is...
1) a young nation without much of a sense of history.
2) a violent nation.
3) a nation that promotes radical individualism.
4) a very competitive society.

Any of these, I think, might contribute to the Rapture's popularity in the U.S. and in those places around the world where the church has been Americanized.

At 5/15/2007 10:38 AM, Blogger John B. said...

That makes sense; in fact, it (perhaps) squares with something that I was thinking about as I read your post but didn't think worthy of mentioning (ha: it's your lucky day): that maybe the Rapture is in some sense offered (whether consciously or unconsciously) as a competing narrative to that of the Jehovah's Witnesses and their focusing on the 144,000 servants spared from the plagues and judgments to come when the seventh seal is broken (Rev. 7:1-8).* But whereas Jehovah's Witnesses (according to Wikipedia) don't preach eternal torment in hell, Rapture proponents clearly do argue for a Hell-on-earth for the Left Behind.

*Actually, vice-versa, according to Wikipedia.

At 5/16/2007 11:15 AM, Anonymous KWiz said...

Whew! Thank you!!! I so appreciate when a person can look at the scriptures critically, attempting to understand them in the context in which they were written. Thank you for your exposition!!!

At 5/17/2007 6:11 AM, Blogger truevyne said...

Now I know the origin of the sermon I heard on Sunday while visiting a church in Florida about escaping tribulation through rapture. As you might guess, it didn't mesh with Mother's Day for sure.
I don't understand with all the work which needs to be done today, why preachers teach so heavily on end time topics, even if we are in end times.

At 5/17/2007 10:49 AM, Blogger Rey said...

Actually I have heard very few Rapture supporters use the Matthew passage in support of a rapture.

At 5/19/2007 8:56 AM, Blogger Christinewjc said...

If you look at Biblical history in the Old Testament, each time a judgment was to occur, the righteous were rescued. That's the good news.

The bad news is that most of the time there were so few righteous people walking with God that could be rescued!

For example, before the flood it was Noah and his family. Remember, also, that Noah preached and warned about the coming flood for decades, but the non-believers and pleasure-seeking-decadent people laughed and scorned him.

In the case of Lot, remember the verses where if 50 righteous people were to be found in Sodom and Gomorrah, it would be spared? Then, the request wittled down to 20, then 10 righteous people to spare Sodom. It was so evil and decadent a culture, that not even 10 people who followed after the LORD God could be found!

Lot's family were the only ones spared...even then, they had to be encouraged out by the angels of God! Lot's wife looked back. We all know what happened to her...

The Rapture is a fascinating topic. I don't have the time right now to go into great detail, but perhaps I can post again later.

I will say this. In the book of Revelation, the first three chapters are spoken by Christ (and written down by John) and they are warnings to the 7 churches about falling into heresy, apostasy, sexual immorality, and being "lukewarm" in the faith.

In later chapters, the churches (meaning all the saved believers) are not mentioned as being present on earth during the Tribulation. However, they are mentioned as being at the throne of the Lamb in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (chapter 19).

Chapter 7 mentions those believers who will be saved and/or martyred (after the Rapture and out of the Tribulation) and their "robes washed" and their "souls sealed" unto God.

There is lots more detail to share, but this is some information that supports the Rapture scenario. There are 3 opinions about the Tribulation (pre, mid, and post) as well as the corresponding three opinions about the endtimes (Pre-millennialism, Amillennialism, and Postmillennialism.

It's good to discuss these differences, but it need not cause division and controversy in the church, because each view acknowledges what is most crucial to Christianity - Christ will return, defeat Satan, and reign forever! Whatever and whenever the Millenium is, Jesus Christ will unite all believers; therefore, we should not let this issue divide us.

At 5/19/2007 11:10 AM, Blogger Ian said...

Thanks for a great blog! I started reading the Bible from cover to cover when I was in Jr. High. However, the Christian school I was at was heavily dispensational and I remember sitting in Bible class while people talked about secret raptures and the United States of Europe and stuff by Hal Lindsey and I was thinking "Where the heck's all this coming from? I never read any of that!"

"If you look at Biblical history in the Old Testament, each time a judgment was to occur, the righteous were rescued. That's the good news."

That's actually quite an oversimplification and doesn't seem to support the rapture theory. First of all, none of the rescues mentioned were rescues out of the world but were all very this-worldly rescues. So based purely on induction, one would expect that any rescuing God does in association with end-times stuff would also be very this-worldly.
Secondly, God does at times in the Bible allow the righteous to go through tribulations and judgment. What is for the unrighteous pure judgment is often for the righteous purification through suffering and trouble. The fall of Judah and the Babylonian Captivity are good examples of this sort of thing. There are other themes about this judgment/purification thing running through Scripture and first century Judaism as well. The suffering Christ and suffering people of God are central pieces of New Testament thought, for instance.
"In later chapters, the churches (meaning all the saved believers) are not mentioned as being present on earth during the Tribulation. "
These seven churches are not necessarily equivalent to all believers - that's actually a very contentious interpretation that many reject. And in any case, that a church is not mentioned as being somewhere does not mean that it isn't there! That simply doesn't follow.
"Chapter 7 mentions those believers who will be saved and/or martyred (after the Rapture and out of the Tribulation) and their "robes washed" and their "souls sealed" unto God."
Again, this doesn't support a rapture either. Just because John has a vision which pictures a bunch of people who have come out of the tribulation before God's throne does not mean that these are all Christians, that they are in heaven and off the earth, or that any of them were raptured. Nor, even though it comes at the place it does in the book, does it mean that the vision concerns what takes place prior to Christ's final coming. This is apocalyptic literature after all.
Anyway, that's all I have to say in such a short space. Thanks again for the great post!

At 5/20/2007 8:59 PM, Blogger BruceA said...

Christinewjc -

If you look at Biblical history in the Old Testament, each time a judgment was to occur, the righteous were rescued.

Sometimes righteous people were spared from the judgment on the larger community, but not always.

Moses was punished with all Israel in the wilderness, and was not allowed to see the promised land. Samson died with the Philistines. Ezekiel and Daniel were taken into exile in Babylon.

More to the point, Jesus said that his followers will face hardship and tribulation:

Then they will hand you over to be tortured and will put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of my name. Then many will fall away, and they will betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. - Matthew 24:9-13

At 11/05/2007 12:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of the two in the feild, One will be left in the field to continue God's work, The other will be taken away through deception to "play church and the one world system" with the antichrist.


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