The Rapture

Keith Sharp | via christistheway.com

THE ULTIMATE TRIP … those who are alive to tell the story of ’Project Disappearance’ will try in vain to describe the happening which will verify the oldest secrets of God’s word… ’There I was, driving down the freeway and all of a sudden the place went crazy … cars going in all directions … and not one of them had a driver. I mean it was wild! I think, we’ve got an invasion from outer space!’ (Lindsey. 124-125)

This is Hal Lindsey’s description of ‘The Rapture,’ a concept extremely popular with fundamentalists in Christiandom. Does the Bible teach the doctrine of ‘The Rapture’?

Doctrine Defined

To answer this question we must first know what the doctrine is. Lindsey states it thus:

Someday, a day that only God knows, Jesus Christ is coming to take away all those who believe in Him. He is coming to meet all true believers in the air… It will be the living end. The ultimate trip. (Ibid. 126)

“…we believe the Bible distinguishes between the Rapture and the second coming of Christ and … they do not occur simultaneously.” (Ibid) So, according to premillennialists, there’s not just a second coming of Christ, there’s a second and a third (and actually, even a fourth). The next time Christ comes, we are told, He will secretly rapture (snatch out) true believers. He will raise the righteous dead. But the unbelievers and the lost dead will remain.

Key Terms

There are some key biblical words associated with this doctrine that we need to understand.

The term rapture itself is derived from the Latin Vulgate version of 1 Thessalonians 4:17 where the expression ‘caught up’ is translated by the Latin rapturo. The English word rapture, though it does not occur in Scripture, is therefore synonymous with the idea that living Christians at the time of the coming of Christ for them will be translated and caught up to meet the Lord in the air. (Walvoord. 248)

In 1 Thessalonians 4:17 the Greek word “harpazo” is translated “caught up” in the New King James Version. This is the word the Premillennialists prefer to call “rapture.” The term means “snatch, seize” (Arndt & Gingrich. 108). The word “coming,” used to describe the coming of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:15) is a translation of the Greek word “parosia.” This word means “presence… coming, advent” (Ibid. 635). It is always used of a literal presence (cf. Philippians 2:12). Finally, the word “appearing,” used to describe Jesus’ second coming (1 Timothy 6:14), is from the Greek “epiphaneia” (English equivalent, “epiphany”). The word refers to “a visible manifestation of a hidden divinity.” (Ibid. 304)

Doctrine Defined

There are six key parts to the premillennial doctrine of the rapture.

  1. The “second coming” of Christ is different from and after “the Rapture.” “…we believe the Bible distinguishes between the Rapture and the second coming of Christ and … they do not occur simultaneously.” (Lindsey, 131)
  2. The Rapture will be secret. “…in the Rapture, only the Christians see Him—it’s a mystery, a secret. When the living believers are taken out, the world is going to be mystified.” (Ibid. 131)
  3. Only the righteous will be raised at the time of the Rapture. The wicked will be raised at the time of “the millennium.” (Ibid. 130-131)
  4. The church will be in Heaven for a period of seven years (during the Great Tribulation). “…your presence during this seven-year period in history is entirely up to you.” (Ibid. 127)
  5. Events on earth will continue. “These believers will be removed from the earth before the Great Tribulation—before that period of the most ghastly pestilence, bloodshed, and starvation the world has ever known.” (Ibid)
  6. Many will be led to Christ after this. “We need to understand that during the seven-year Tribulation there will be people who will become believers at that time.” (Ibid. 132)

What the Bible Says

The Bible uses the words “caught up” (harpazo, Rapture), “coming” (parousia) and “appearance” (epiphaneia) interchangeably to describe the second coming of Christ. The Lord will destroy the lawless one “with the brightness (epiphaneia) of His coming (parousia) (2 Thessalonians 2:8). This “coming” (parousia) is at the same time he catches up (raptures) the saints (1 Thessalonians 4:15, 17). Jesus wont’ return a third and fourth times; there’s just one second coming. These events, Christians being “caught up” and the second coming of Christ, are not separated by 1007 years (7 year “Great Tribulation” followed by 1000 year kingdom), as premillennialists contend, but they will happen at the same time. When he comes for His saints, it won’t be secretive. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God” (1 Thessalonians 4:16)

There won’t be a period of 1007 years between the resurrection of the righteous and the resurrection of the wicked. All the dead will be raised at the same time.

Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. (John 5:28-29)

Christians aren’t going to go to be with the Lord and then come back to the earth for a thousand years. We’re going to leave this earth forever when He returns.

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be aught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus e shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

The word “thus” is an adverb meaning “in this manner” (Arndt & Gingrich. 602). In this manner, in the air, “We shall always be with the Lord,” not for seven years be with the Lord.

At His coming (parousia) the earth, even the universe, will be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:20-24, 50—54; 2 Peter 3:1-12).

There will be no second chance to be saved then, for at His coming all shall be judged and receive either eternity in heaven or in hell (Matthew 25:31-46).

The Bible does not teach the premillennial doctrine of the Rapture. This doctrine holds forth the false hope of a chance after Jesus’ return. It is an integral part of the false, materialistic system of premillennialism. When Christ returns, this world will come to an end, we will all be judged and eternity will begin.

Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? (2 Peter 3:11-12)

Works Cited

Arndt, F.W. and W.F. Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament.
Lindsey, Hal. The Late Great Planet Earth.

Walvoord, John F. The Millennial Kingdom.

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