Rapture

“Caught up…in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:17). What does it mean? To multiple millions of Christians it means “in an instant, millions of people disappear from the face of the earth, shedding their clothing, shoes, eyeglasses and jewelry” (New York Times, Front page, October 4, 1998).

It’s called the “Rapture” and it’s a near-frantic preoccupation with the idea of Christians mysteriously being physically levitated off the surface of planet Earth, alive, and whisked away, en masse, on a gigantic flight through outer space to heaven. You can read it on bumper stickers:

  • “In case of Rapture, this car will be unmanned!”
  • “Rapture: The only way to fly!”
  • “He’s coming to take me away! Ha! Ha!”
  • “Get right, or get left behind!”

This is the view promoted and popularized by the “Left Behind” serieswhich has been termed “the hottest trend in apocalyptic literature since Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth” (Focus on the Family’s Citizen magazine, December 1998, p-6). It is also the predominant view in evangelical Christianity.

Theological Problem

The so-called “Rapture” was never taught in the Church prior to its invention in the 1830s. And it directly contradicts Scripture.

What Scripture Says

Jesus specifically prayed against this belief. In his prayer for all believers He prayed that they back then and we today would not be removed from the world.  “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” (John 17:15, 20). We believe Jesus prayer for all believers is still in effect and that He gets his prayers answered. In perfect consistency, Jesus sent forth his disciples, and us today, into the world (John 17:23) to be salt and light (Matt 5:13-16). Furthermore, He told us that “in this world you will have trouble/tribulation” (John 16:33 NIV, KJV). He never said some would escape it.

Another problem is, rapturists think they are going to defy the death ratewhich to date is 100 percentand get out of this world without going through the grave. The Bible, on the other hand, teaches that it’s “appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb 9:27). A Rapture-removal, at best, would be an exception to this, or it’s an outright contradiction. Also, an escape from planet Earth is not the subject of any Old Testament prophecy or promise to be fulfilled by the coming Messiah.

Elaborations

  • Invention of the ‘Rapture’ idea.
  • A seductive teaching.
  • What else might God have had in mind?
  • Resurrection of the dead ones (plural).
  • ‘Bones-are-still-in-the graves’ objection.

Sources:

  1. Shattering the ‘Left Behind’ Delusion by John Noe (out-of-print)
  2. Unraveling the End  by John Noe
  3. End Times Fiction by Gary DeMar
  4. Last Days Madness by Gary DeMar
  5. The Rapture Plot by Dave MacPherson
  6. Rapture Fever by Gary North