The rapture theory – true or false?
There are many books available today which state that the Bible speaks of a time when a certain group of people, will experience a removal from the planet earth to enjoy a blissful experience with Christ in heaven. This period is known as the Rapture. While this is taking place the remainder of the world’s population will undergo, it is stated, the ‘Great Tribulation’. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate that best selling publications such as ‘The Rapture’ (part of the Left Behind Series), which advance such teaching, are astray from an understanding of the prophetic plan that God has revealed to man in the Bible.
The Return of Christ
In unmistakable and precise terms the Bible demonstrates that Jesus is to return to the earth, and with this we have no quarrel. In Acts 1:11, the angel said to the disciples “…this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” But for what purpose is he to return? Before the birth of Jesus, the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that God would give unto him the throne of David, that he would reign over the house of Jacob for ever. Shortly before his death, Jesus in response to Pilate’s question as to whether he was indeed the King of the Jews, explained “My kingdom is not of this world” (Greek kosmos – Order of things). The Law of Moses, the order of things then in existence, was not the form of government over which Jesus is to rule. However, implied in his answer nevertheless, was the teaching that he would be a king over a kingdom at a future period. Other examples could be cited where the Bible confidently predicts that Jesus will return to earth to reign.
The Rapture theory inconsistent with the Return of Christ
The Bible promises men and women a reward if they are obedient to the commandments that are contained in its pages for their guidance. This reward is eternal life, not in heaven but on earth, for example. “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the EARTH”. This being so, we would ask, how then will believers be “raptured”? In fact nowhere in the Bible do we find the notion that believers go to heaven! Furthermore, if Christ is to return to the earth, why should his followers go to heaven? Ought they not to be with him on earth? Jesus promised his disciples that they would sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. This points emphatically to the revealed will of God to restore the former kingdom of Israel, in a day when people will call “Jerusalem the throne of the Lord” (Jer 3:17).
The Great Tribulation
This phrase is taken from the 24th chapter of Matthew’s gospel and without any doubt refers to an event which has already happened! So confused are the modern day writers of Bible prophecy that they mistakenly attribute events which have already transpired to a time which is yet future. Another example of their jumbled views is that the Book of Revelation is declared by them to have an almost totally futuristic content, whereas in reality the visions given to the Apostle John were for the express purpose of revealing those things which would “shortly come to pass”, ie. events from AD 96 up to the time when the climax of world events would usher in the reign of Christ.
“Caught up together … in the clouds”
In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians he wrote about the time when the Lord Jesus Christ would return to the earth which, as we have seen, is consistent with other Bible passages. He also explained that the hope of believers, resurrection from the dead, would be realised at this time. “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord, therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). This passage has been used by many writers to indicate that the believers alive at the return of Christ to the earth will themselves be caught up to heaven. But what does it really say? First it is necessary to note that Jesus is to descend from heaven and second, that the believers are to be ever with him. If Jesus is on earth at this time then how is it possible that one can entertain the idea that the believers are to be removed from the earth to escape the ‘Great Tribulation’? Why then does the verse say “caught up together with them in the clouds”? Is this not a clear indication that some are to ascend to heaven? Not so, for how can this be reconciled with those earlier principles that Jesus, with his faithful followers, is to reign on earth? What then does it mean?
There are two items which cry out for an explanation:-
The phrase “caught up” in the original Greek implies transportation, not necessarily in an upward direction. In Acts 8 the same phrase is used speaking of the miraculous removal of the evangelist Philip from Gaza to Asotus, a distance of some twenty miles. It is very probable therefore that the verse in Thessalonians refers to the transportation of those living, along with the resurrected dead, to a specific place on earth, for the purpose of judgement, “For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)
The phrase “in the clouds”, may at first reading convey the impression of an ascent from earth, but again it is important to see how this verse can be understood in the light of other Bible teaching. In Hebrews 12:1, the writer uses the words, “seeing then that we are compassed about by so great a cloud of witnesses” and as the context clearly shows, he is referring to the many wonderful examples of faithful men and women of bygone days who had believed God and looked forward to the reward promised by him. It is this great cloud of believers that will be assembled, (possibly at Mt Sinai) for the purpose of being judged, thereafter to be ever with the Lord, on EARTH. They will be in possession of immortal bodies having been adjudged worthy of everlasting life because of their obedience to the mind of God revealed in the scriptures of Truth. However, for the many that are currently deluded by this false expectation of the Rapture, they will actually find themselves joining forces to oppose the returned Jesus, whom they now profess to serve, considering him to be the ‘Antichrist’ (2 Thessalonians 2:6-11). We would therefore urge you to search the scriptures as did those in Berea (Acts 17:10-11), to see if these things are so, for it will be vital in that day that we have clearly understood what is soon to happen on the earth.