The Rapture

The doctrine of the rapture has taken the religious world by storm. It is a fascinating, mystical thought to just vanish right in front of the lost world. It has attracted many to the doctrine in the same way that magicians attract large crowds to see their vanishing acts. Nevertheless, as amazing as it sounds, we must put the truthfulness of the rapture to the test by examining the word of God.

One thing to note about the doctrine of the rapture is how new it is to religious circles. Looking through the many writings of the last 2,000 years, no man has been able to find any similar idea to the rapture until recently. The earliest form of a rapture type doctrine came in 1788 in a Baptist church in Philadelphia, PA. A Baptist preacher of our day, John Bray, released this comment after researching the history of the doctrine: “It is mighty embarrassing to me as a Baptist to learn that now I cannot trace this teaching to anyone further back than a Baptist leader, and here in America at that!” This is concerning. How can we accept a teaching that is so far detached from the words of the Bible?

Of course, a couple of scriptures are used today by advocates of the rapture, which we will give diligence to now. The first of which is 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. From this scripture even the word “rapture” was adopted. This text is surely dealing with the second coming of the Lord, but the details of the text are not consistent with the doctrine of the rapture. It describes a day when the Lord will descend from heaven with “a shout,” with also the archangel’s voice and with the trumpet of God. The order of events after this, according to this text, is that the dead who are in Christ will be resurrected, then after them, the righteous who are still living on the earth will be “caught up” with the resurrected and would be with the Lord always. The words “caught up” are just one word in the original Greek (harpazo) and the word means “to seize by force.” When translated into Latin, the word becomes “raptura,” and that’s where they got the term “rapture.”  However, today’s idea of a rapture just doesn’t fit the context of 1 Thessalonians 4, nor does it fit the rest of the Bible’s discussion of the end of time. The details given to the Thessalonians demonstrate a very loud final event, starting with the voice of the Almighty God throughout all the earth, followed by the voice of a commanding officer of the heavenly hosts, as well as the blast of the “trumpet of God”. Now, the doctrine of the rapture teaches that the rapture is completely silent; it will be a mystical vanishing without a single noise. It is difficult to accept that in light of the information that God has given us. Some might argue that only those to be raptured will hear these great sounds. This is untrue by the words of Jesus in John 5:28-29, “the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” Jesus spoke of “the hour” that is coming, when “all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth.” Jesus makes it perfectly clear that all (both good and evil) will hear his voice, not just the righteous. Jesus’ own words singlehandedly refutes the entire doctrine of the rapture, and for that matter, the “end times” doctrine. For the Lord spoke of “the hour” when all the good and evil will be resurrected. The teaching of the rapture is that all the righteous dead will be raised up while the wicked remain in the tombs for another 1,007 years. Now, which is it? Within a single hour or 1,007 years in between? The doctrine of the rapture crumples when we start to hear the Lord speak. The rapture is holding on to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 as its argument because the text does not mention the wicked dead being raised. Friends, is the text a complete and comprehensive record of events that will occur on the last day, or does it have an entirely different purpose? Indeed, the context is concerning the sorrow of the church over their brethren who had passed away (v.13), and the thrust of the text is that the brethren would understand that they will meet their brethren again in the air with the Lord. The final statement of the context shows the purpose of the given details: “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (v.18). So, it is evident that this is not intended to describe the final day in its entirety. It does not specifically mention the wicked dead being raised too, but that’s not the purpose of the context. The words of Jesus, back in John 5:28-29, are sufficient for us to understand that the wicked dead would rise at the same hour as the righteous.

The other scripture used by proponents of the rapture is Luke 17:35-36, where Jesus says, “Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.” Now, the first problem with applying this statement to the end of time is that Jesus is having a conversation with his apostles about the destruction of Jerusalem that would occur later that century. The original idea that Jesus is conveying is how the siege against Jerusalem would come upon the inhabitants suddenly. The day would first appear to them as any other workday; women would be grinding wheat and men would be working the field. They would not know until it was too late that the Romans were coming upon them. But why would one be taken while the other is left? Where are they taken if not in the rapture? Luckily, Jesus’ apostles had a similar question about where these would be take, and they asked him “Where, Lord?” (Luke 17:37), to which, Jesus responded, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.” So, Jesus makes it clear that the “taken” are not taken to another location, but that their lives have been taken from them; they are now corpses for the vultures. Honoring Jesus’ response results in a rejection of the rapture doctrine; for while we hear those who say this text is talking about the rapture of the righteous, but Jesus says it is about the lives to be taken in the Jewish-Roman War in the first century. But Jesus also spoke of those who are left, what could he mean by that? Well we know that those taken are those whose lives were taken in the war, so those left must refer to those who survived the war. This does not put them in the clear, for in Leviticus 26:31-39, God warned the Jews about what would happen if they rejected the covenant, promising to lay their cities waste and take their lives, but for those who are left, God said, “those of you who are left shall rot away in your enemies’ lands because of their iniquity”. So, Jesus’ illustration of “one will be taken and the other left”, has nothing to do with the righteous, in fact, Jesus explained earlier in the context what happened to the righteous, they were instructed to flee the country of Judea the moment they saw Jerusalem surrounded by armies (Luke 17:31; see also Luke 21:20-21), so those taken are not the righteous, and nor are they those who are left. The righteous fled the scene earlier; Jesus is only illustrating the circumstances of the wicked nation of Judea in the first century, some were taken (dead) others were left (to captivity). Considering these things, it is evident that the rapture doctrine is a mishandling of God’s word and therefore, the doctrine has no place in the faith of a Christian.

Article by Tanner Campbell