The Rapture of the righteous faithful is a common teaching of many churches and Christians today. It is central to the many doctrines of premillenialism that are taught in some places. Because this is such a prevalent doctrine we should look carefully at what it teaches and search the Scriptures for a basis of the teaching.
What Is “The Rapture”?
“Rapture” is not a term found in Scripture. However some use the word to describe a sudden removal of the faithful from the earth. Author Hal Lindsey says it this way:
“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. Without benefit of science, spacesuits, or interplanetary rockets, there will be those who will be transported into a glorious place more beautiful, more awesome, than we can possibly comprehend. Earth and all its thrills, excitement, and pleasures will be nothing in contrast to this great event. It will be the living end. The ultimate trip.” (1)Hal Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth, 1970, Zondervan Publishing, pg. 137.
Lindsey isn’t finished with his description of the Rapture.
“…in the Rapture, only the Christians see him — it’s a mystery, a secret.” (2)Lindsey, pg. 143.
More succinctly, the doctrine teaches that Jesus will return and secretly and suddenly snatch away the faithful while leaving the unfaithful to struggle upon the earth. That, in a nutshell, is the Rapture.
Is “The Rapture” a Biblical Doctrine?
No, it is not. Let’s examine the Scriptures and see what the Bible says.
Jesus is coming. John 14: 3 declares Jesus’ plan to return, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” Paul speaks extensively about the return of Jesus in both letters to the Thessalonians (c.f. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-12). At almost the very end of the Bible Jesus again promises, “Surely I am coming soon!” (Revelation 22:20). It is beyond reasonable question that Jesus is coming again. On this point we surely agree.
The day of his coming is unknown. Jesus himself said that the day of his return was known only to the Father (Matthew 24:36). (3)Some would argue about the passage from Matthew 24 and its link to the second coming. We will take up that discussion at a latter time. Although some have tried to set the date of his return they have been proven wrong again and again. While many do not attempt to set the actual date of his return they try to narrow it to a given period of time. Almost always that period of time is within their lifetime. (4)Lindsey does the same thing having declared that the Temple in Jerusalem would begin to be rebuilt in the 1970’s – See Lindsey pg. 57. The Bible however is clear, the day of Christ return is unknown and it will come at a time when it is unexpected (Matthew 24:36-44).
The return of Jesus will be very public. Let’s set forth the key passage for your consideration:
“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of the archangel and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with him in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17)“This is evidence of the righteous judgement of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering – since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire inflicting vengeance on those who do not obey the the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed because our testimony to you was believed” (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).
Let us carefully notice some key facts from these two passages:
The return of the Lord is attended by great fanfare, great sounds and great sights. We have the “cry of command” (shout in KJV), the “voice of the archangel” and the “trumpet of God.” We also have his coming attended by “mighty angels “ and the rising into the air of the righteous. Surely there is nothing secret about this return.
Both the righteous and the unrighteous are included in a single return of the Lord. In the passage from 2 Thessalonians Paul speaks both of those who afflict the righteous (they are punished) and those who are called saints (They glorify the Lord). Those who teach the doctrine of the Rapture have artificially created a third return of Christ in order to support the idea of a secret second coming.
We are with the Lord forever in the clouds and air. Not really directly connected to the Rapture, we observe this point to demonstrate that we will not return to the earth to reign in a physical kingdom under the Kingship of Jesus.
The Danger of the Rapture
We must not view the idea of the Rapture as some kind of trivial, harmless oddity that is taught by a few people. It is a massive deception promulgated through much of the religious media and which has even formed the basis for many fiction books. It is also an eternally deadly teaching because it leads to one to believe in a second-chance salvation where none is offered.
Rapture teachers hold that those left behind after the Rapture occurs will be forced to endure seven years of tribulation. (5)There are many flavors of millenial teachings and some do not teach this particular doctrine. However most do. Those who are left behind will have seven years of incredible hardship to endure before the victorious Christ returns for the third and final time. It is at this time that there will be a great judgement. The left behind who have proven faithful in that seven year period will then be allowed into eternal bliss. In other words, they got a second chance. While encouraging and hopeful, such is not found in Scripture. Because there is no such thing as the Rapture, there is also no second chance. Hence we ought live every day as if the Lord is returning now.
People who believe the Rapture are not evil people. They simply have been surrounded by the false teaching and have not thoroughly searched through the Bible teachings. We hope this helps.
As always, your comments are welcomed!
References ↑1 Hal Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth, 1970, Zondervan Publishing, pg. 137. ↑2 Lindsey, pg. 143. ↑3 Some would argue about the passage from Matthew 24 and its link to the second coming. We will take up that discussion at a latter time. ↑4 Lindsey does the same thing having declared that the Temple in Jerusalem would begin to be rebuilt in the 1970’s – See Lindsey pg. 57. ↑5 There are many flavors of millenial teachings and some do not teach this particular doctrine. However most do.