Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The Rapture

I'm amazed that by far the most page views on this blog have to do with the Rapture that I posted years ago. So in order to fill this space, and perhaps give these readers something more to see, I will post a few more posts on the subject. These are from a book I wrote a number of years ago when I actually took an active interest in the subject. Lately, you will know that my attention has been on Alpha and reaching out to others with the good news of a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. But to let you in on what I once studied, and to share my thoughts from that time, here, and possibly a few posts following, are some more thoughts on the Rapture of the Church.For the Christian believer what is known as the Rapture is the most climactic event in all of end time prophecy:  what is known as the "Rapture".
The word 'Rapture' does not occur in the Bible, but the concept certainly does.  The term itself is taken from the Greek word meaning 'caught up'.  The doctrine of the Rapture is this: there will come a time during these end-time events when the church, every living Christian believer, will be caught up into the air to be with Jesus along with the resurrection of every saved person who has ever lived.  It will occur before the wrath and judgment of God is poured out upon a wicked and rebellious world. 
There are those who don't believe in a literal Rapture, or even in a literal Millennial Kingdom, but to do so one must disregard the clear teachings of Scripture.  There are also those who hold to a post-millennial Rapture, that is, that the church will not be raptured until the end of the thousand year reign of Christ, but this too, I believe, is unscriptural.
I believe the Bible clearly teaches that there will be a pre- millennial Rapture, that it will occur before God sends His righteous wrath upon the unbelieving world, before Christ returns in judgment and before he sets up his 1000 year kingdom here on earth.  But that's not the end of the discussion.  Even among premillennialists, there are a number of views as to the exact timing of the event.  These include:
Posttribulationism; the Rapture will occur when Christ returns at the end of the seventieth week to judge the world. According to this view, when Christ reaches the air above the earth at his second coming, the church will be raptured up to meet him and then return immediately with him to earth.  It assumes that the church will go through the entire final seventieth week.  I think it can also be proven false by analyzing scripture.
Pretribulationism; the Rapture will occur sometime before the last seven year period of history begins, that is, before the Antichrist signs the covenant signaling the beginning of the seventieth week.  Some even feel that it will occur even before the Antichrist begins to consolidate his power by overthrowing three of the ten rulers in the final world empire.
     Let me give you a couple of verses that holders of this position use to back up this view.  1 Thessalonians 1:10.
" wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from  the dead -- Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come."
1 Thessalonians 5: 9.
"For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ."
One more, Revelation 3: 10, from the letter to the Church in Philadelphia.
"Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I  will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.
Each of these verses seem to indicate that the church will not suffer the wrath of God that is to be poured out on the world as part of Christ's second coming, and I must say that I think that is a correct interpretation.  God’s wrath was already poured out, on our behalf, on Christ, on the cross. However, I'm going to tip my hand here and say that, although the 'Pre-trib' position is probably the currently most popular one, I don't think it's correct.  I'm afraid it may be wishful thinking. It was not considered in the early church and in fact did not appear as a theory until the early 1800's.
Midtribulationism; that the church will be raptured exactly at the mid-point of Daniel's seventieth week, when the Antichrist sets himself up in the Temple, declaring himself to be God.  This is the event which signals the beginning of the time of 'Great Tribulation'.  This and the next position rely on the interpretation that the time of God's wrath does not begin at the beginning of the seventieth week, but only at the mid-point or sometime after.
The Pre-wrath position; this falls somewhere between the mid- and post-tribulation positions.  It teaches that the Rapture takes place sometime after the mid-point of the seventieth week, but before the wrath of God begins.  It holds that the church will go through a period of tribulation and persecution by the Antichrist following the mid-point of the seventieth week, but that this period of great tribulation will be cut short "...for the sake of the elect...", as Jesus tells us in Matthew 24: 22, and we will be raptured just before the day of the Lord judgment is poured out upon the unbelieving world.  This was the opinion of many of the early Church Fathers and this, in the author's opinion, is the correct position. I'm sure many people will disagree with me, so we will spend some time trying to discern just what the Bible actually teaches.
Let me first say that our God is the Sovereign Lord of the Universe.  He is accountable to no one.  Whatever He has ordained, that is what will take place, and if what you or I happen to believe turns out to be different from what actually happens, well, we know who was right and who was wrong.  This issue of the timing of the Rapture can tend to be a highly emotional one, with firmly and passionately held views, and so I would urge that it not become a point of violent argument.  We do not need to divide over this issue, and true, born again Christian believers who hold to any one position are just as saved as those who believe another.  In fact, the Rapture will happen when it will happen.  It's just that some of us may be more surprised than others when it happens.

It is crucially important, though, that we not allow ourselves to be mistaken or deceived on this.  If it is to be a pre-trib Rapture, that is what it will be.  We will all be pleasantly surprised, including myself.  However, if (and this is very important) --if it is not, then all those who have been assured and have accepted that the church will not enter the seventieth week may not be prepared if and when they do. Indeed, if we blindly accept popular teaching that we will not be here when the Antichrist is revealed, many may not even believe that it is the Antichrist when he does come. They may say, "No, this couldn't be him, because I've always been told that we would be raptured before he came."  This, as you can well imagine, would be a deadly mistake.  We could be in the seventieth week and many people might not even be aware of it. As you know, there are certain events which will occur within that seven years which Christians, if we are here, have to be ready for.  This is one of the main reasons I'm doing this analysis; to try to prepare those who will listen for what may happen.  It is essential that the Body of Christ be prepared when (or if) these things do come to pass.  Even those who teach the pre-trib position, I feel, do the church a disservice if they insist that theirs is the only possible position.  They should at least acknowledge the possibility that there are other options and they could be wrong.

More to come.

Take Care

1 comment:

John K said...

Hi Warren,
Interesting link, and an opinion a number of people hold (I would say Hank Hanegraff(sp?)for instance). I'm afraid I hold all these things with an open hand now. It's just that I'm a bit of a puzzle freak (Sudoku) and I love to see or make patterns fit together.