January 24, 2013

Delusions of Rapture

As this 21st century has entered its second decade seemingly hell-bent towards an intersection of environmental destruction with Orwellian government, speculation on the future runs rampant. In what passes for Christianity these days, there's a sizable proportion of believers who are waiting to be zapped off the Earth ('raptured' as they call it) just as chaos is unleashed for seven years of truly bad luck for those 'left behind'. Among atheists, this sounds totally absurd; but among the undecided, the question may linger whether there is any truth to the 'rapture' story.
Since the believers say they got this scenario from the Bible, let's have a Bible study to see how credible are their claims.
The word ‘rapture’ does not appear in the Bible. Pundits use it to describe an ostensible bodily ‘elevation’ of the saints living at the end of the age, when Jesus returns to claim his people (or church). According to certain ‘evangelical’ speculators, this divine act of transporting Christians into heaven will occur secretly and suddenly. They claim it will precede a period of 7 years of turmoil or ‘tribulation’ on the world, ignited by the ‘Anti-Christ’… after which, Jesus returns a third time to judge and punish the wicked left behind on earth.

One of the scriptures that the rapturists base their theory on is found in Luke 17:34-36, where Jesus states: "I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left. There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will be taken and the other will be left. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left.”

Could this text refer to a secret ‘rapture’ of the believers who are alive at Jesus' second coming? In John ch. 11, Jesus raises his friend Lazarus from the grave, and has this exchange with Lazarus' sister: “[23]  Jesus said to her, 'Your brother will rise again.' [24] Martha said to Him, 'I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.'"

According to those words, there must be a different rapture for the deceased saints-- on the ‘last day,’ seven years after the ‘first rapture.’ If there is a first rapture! A contradiction arises here-- is there one or two raptures?.

Apostle and preacher, Paul, clarified the situation in a letter to the Thessalonians (1 Thess 4): “[15] 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. [16] 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. [17] 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.” (Emphasis supplied by me.)

Clearly, both dead and living saints (those saved) will be raised together, in one event. Yes, you can call it a rapture... but, it will be far from secret!

Did Paul just invent this idea; or does it accord with Jesus' teaching? Check Jesus' words in Matthew 24 (the ‘Olivet Discourse’): [30] "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son Of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. [31] And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.”

Once again, the climactic event is anything but secret; and the angels gather 'His elect' (i.e. both living and deceased) from the four corners of the Earth. That's not all; note further that Jesus indicates that there is one, unique appearing of ‘the sign of the Son of Man’ in the sky. At that appearing, ALL the people of the earth will see His approaching ‘sign’. That must include the believers, because…He then sends out His angels to gather the faithful, both living and dead!

In the same ‘Olivet Discourse’ Jesus warned his hearers of deception so strong  “as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” [v. 24]. Why would such warning be needed if believers were going to be raptured away in advance? Jesus' own words are proof positive that there is no such thing as a 'secret rapture' in advance of a period of tribulation!

What about the ‘one taken and one left’? Luke 17:36 “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left. [37] And answering they said to Him, "Where, Lord?" And He said to them, "Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered."

Remember that at His appearance, the wicked will be destroyed by His glory (1 Thes 2:8; Rev 6:16, 19:17) ...while the saints are raised to meet Him. The text refers to two classes of people judged; there is nothing in it to justify or require the invention of a ‘pre-tribulation, secret rapture!’

Where do these theories come from? We can find a general answer in 2 Timothy 4:3 “For the time will come when they [Christians] will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires…”  This describes today's Christians who let others tell them what the Bible states; and especially, American church-goers, who feel they should get a free pass to avoid whatever nasty business explodes at the end of the Age.

The book of Daniel describes another group. Chapter 12:10 "Many will be purged, purified and refined, but the wicked will act wickedly; and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand.” We get that insight, people, by studying scripture by ourselves, and allowing the Spirit of God to enlighten our minds.

The notion of a pre-tribulation rapture was unknown until the 19th century. Then, a new Bible, the Scofield Reference Bible, was released by a publisher never known to favor Christian books (Oxford University Press). Their version gained popularity by including copious 'study-guide footnotes' to 'help' the poor, unenlightened Bible student. Those notes, cribbed largely from John Darby, introduced the false doctrine of the rapture (and more importantly, the corrosive doctrine of modern Zionism... but that's material for another study!)

Closing thoughts

There are numerous scriptures that indicate clearly that believers alive at the ‘end time’ will face great tribulation, which will be a severe test of faith, as well as an opportunity to proclaim the gospel to all the world. (See the Olivet Discourse in the synoptic gospels, plus Revelation, etc.)

There are no scriptures that support the secret rapture theory-- it is an invention of publicity seeking men wanting to sell their books and videos, and collect a cult of adherents. Also, sad to say, to lure ignorant Christians into deception.

Belief in a secret, pre-advent rapture can lull ignorant Christians into thinking God will ‘rescue’ them just because they belong to an evangelical church. This could be deadly to their mental, as well as spiritual life!

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