Waiting for the Rapture?
By Kyle Pope
Afew years ago a religious group predicted
a certain day on which they had calculated that “The Rapture” would
occur. To their disappointment and embarrassment the day passed with no
fulfillment of their prediction. Though these men and women most certainly
believed in what they had predicted, it was their misunderstanding of Scripture
that led to their failure. In fact, that same misunderstanding will lead many
in the religious world to the same disappointment.
What Is “The Rapture”?
careful Bible student will ask this question because of the fact that the word
is never used in Scripture. The phrase “The Rapture” refers to a
doctrine taught in the world, which is tied into various false doctrines
regarding an earthly millennial (i.e. 1000 year) reign. Many teach that prior
to a period of intense tribulation Christ will return only for the church. At
which time the righteous dead will be resurrected and together with the living
saints be “raptured” (i.e. caught up) with Christ to await the end
of the “Tribulation.” At that time (so the theory says) Christ will
return with all the saints to reign on the earth 1000 years. At the end of this
earthly reign (they claim) there will be the final resurrection and judgement.
What Does the Bible Say?
the Bible teaches a type of rapture (i.e. being “caught up”) with
the Lord. In I Thessalonians 4:13-18 the Apostle Paul responds to concerns the
brethren had about saints that had died. He reassures them that those alive
won’t - “Precede those who are asleep” (vs.
15). Instead - “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 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” (vss. 16-17).
this differ from the false doctrine of “The Rapture”? First, notice
the occasion: “The coming of the Lord” (vs. 15). Hebrews 9:27-28
makes it very clear that resurrection will be followed by “judgement,”
and the Lord’s second coming by “salvation.” The
“rapture” doctrine claims judgement follows resurrection by over
1000 years. Further, notice the declaration that - “The dead in Christ
will rise first” (vs 16). The Bible makes it clear that although the
saints may be first in succession, the occasion for the resurrection of the
just and unjust is the same. John 5:28,29 speak of it as “The hour ...
in which all who are in their graves will hear His voice.” The
passage then refers to both the righteous and the unrighteous. Even in I
Thessalonians the very next chapter (still in the same context) speaks of this
occasion as the - “Day of the Lord” (vs 2) which comes “as a
thief in the night” (vs 2), from which “they shall not escape”
(vs 3). According to Scripture both the righteous and the wicked will face
judgement when the Lord returns in connection with the saints being “caught
of this doctrine often appeal to two passages to support this concept: Matthew
24:40,41 and Revelation 20:5. The first comes in the midst of Jesus’
discussion with His disciples about the coming destruction of Jerusalem.
Reference is made to those “taken” and those “left.”
may be that in parts of this passage Jesus points ahead to the final judgement,
most of this passage deals with the destruction of Jerusalem. Notice the
promise - “This generation will by no means pass away till all these
things are fulfilled” (Matthew 24:34). The reference to those
“taken” and “left” refers to those present during the
destruction of Jerusalem who were led away captive as can be seen in
Luke’s account of this same teaching (21:24).
second text they look to, which is perhaps a little more difficult to
interpret, speaks of a “first resurrection” in which souls beheaded
for their testimony live and reigned with Christ (Revelation 20:4-6). First, we
must note that there is no reference in this text to a bodily resurrection. This is
speaking of a spiritual resurrection similar to Ephesians 2:4-6, Colossians 3:1
or a spiritual resurrection of the cause for which they died. There is no
reason to conclude that it is a bodily resurrection. Second, the Bible makes it
clear that Christ reigns now. He now has all authority (Matthew 28:18), His
kingdom exists now (Colossians 1:13) and it is not an earthly kingdom (John
18:36). Thus, the “first resurrection” of Revelation refers to martyred
saints spiritually reigning with Christ until the end of the age.
doctrine of “The Rapture” is dangerous because it relies upon a
misconception of the nature of the church and Christ’s kingdom. The
church and the kingdom are the same and exist now. All who truly submit their lives to Christ as King are part
of His kingdom and can look forward to that wonderful final day of judgment
when His church will be “caught up” to meet Him in the air.