THE RAPTURE?
I spoke with a friend yesterday about the Harold Camping prediction that obviously failed. They know someone who is really into Camping and that person was being set up for the disappointment. On CNN they had a Baptist preacher who warned against this type of date setting- yet he spoke confidently about ‘the Rapture is the next event on Gods calendar- followed by the 7 years of great tribulation’.
I’m sure this fine pastor felt like he was providing a balanced voice compared to Camping’s date setting- yet I felt his interpretation was almost as ‘bad’ as what Camping was doing. Why?
My first introduction to ‘the Rapture’ came as a new believer who started attending a fine Baptist church- they were an ‘Independent, Fundamentalist, Pre-millennial’ Baptist church – and yes- they managed to fit all this on the sign!
The standard teaching says that in the New Testament there are 2 separate events that make up the 2nd coming. The first event is called The Rapture- that Jesus secretly comes all the way back to the earth and stops short in the sky [his feet don’t touch the ground] he ‘catches away’ all true believers [normally the Catholics, Orthodox and other historic churches get ‘left behind’] and then begins a 7 year tribulation period.
After the tribulation you have the other part of the 2nd coming- called the Revelation of Jesus- some Christians say this happens after 3.5 years of tribulation- others after the 7 year period.
Some say Jesus comes back after a 1000 year literal reign on earth [post millennial] others say before [pre- millennial].
And then you have various ways they interpret the end time judgment- some say you have what’s called ‘the Bema seat’ a separate judgment for believers- and then the ‘Great White Throne judgment’ the general judgment of the wicked.
O.K. does the bible specifically teach that the Rapture event is a separate event from the 2nd coming? No- in my view the bible does not teach this. Now- I’m sure that most of my Protestant readers are surprised that I hold to this view, because in American Evangelicalism this view is almost like the Trinity- in some circles it divides the true believers from the heretics.
Classic Christianity does not hold this view- this idea became popularized the 1800’s under a man by the name of John Nelson Darby and the idea spread to America in the 1900’s- primarily thru the revivalist strain of Christianity- and the ‘bible school/conference’ movement.
The historic churches just stuck with the classic idea that there will be one second coming- and there will be a resurrection and final judgment. I pretty much fall into this category myself.
You would be surprised how much thought has gone into this idea- I mean you have entire schools of thought- who call the other side heretics- just because they believe a 3.5 year tribulation as opposed to a 7 year one.
The word rapture comes from the Greek phrase used in Paul’s 1st letter to the Thessalonians- chapter 4. That’s the rapture chapter. The apostle says that Jesus will return and catch up [catch away] the believers into the air- they will forever be with God. This event is biblical- I believe it will someday take place. I simply believe this event to be the 2nd coming- not another event that you would define as the rapture.
I believe if you simply read the 2nd coming passages in the New Testament- that you would see this to be the most acceptable view. Jesus actually says ‘after these things [the great tribulation] then the sign of the coming of the Son of Man appears in heaven’ and he goes on to say ‘one will be taken- the other left’. It seems pretty clear to me that the event where ‘one is taken- another left’ takes place ‘after these things’ Jesus actually gives us the time table.
To be fair- the other side has many-many ways to ‘get around’ these verses- I just feel that after all is said and done- that the best way to view The Rapture is to see this event as the actual 2nd coming.
I have written a lot about this over the years [under the End Times section] and my purpose today is not to ‘prove’ whose view is right- I have found those tasks to be next to impossible. My point is if a believer [or group of them] chooses to break away from the historic church’s position on anything, then you need to think thru it very carefully. Most classic Christian churches have had very wise and knowledgeable men who thought long and hard before they articulated doctrine.
This is not to say that the majority view is always right- but it’s simply a safe guide to stick with the majority Christian view most of the time. I’m very aware of the minority report when it comes to the Rapture doctrine- I just feel like the portions of scripture that are used to ‘prove’ the doctrine are not strong enough to overthrow the classic belief.
The plain teaching of the New Testament is that there most definitely will be a Second Coming- and this event does not take place in 2 stages- the Rapture is the 2nd coming.