The Rapture

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TylerR's picture

Steve, that was my thought, too. A major doctrine? 1 Thess 4:13-18, which is what everyone reaches for, is not really about the rapture at all. It's a message of hope to believers that they'll see their loved ones again. It isn't, strictly speaking, about the rapture at all. That's not Paul's point.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA, where he's an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Ron Bean's picture

Labeling the rapture as a major doctrine may be another reason why many of the younger generation aren't embracing dispensationalism (or as one of them said dispen-"sensationalism".) Hal Lindsay, Tim LeHaye, and Nicholas Cage didn't do the position any favors either. Some of us are still bearing the trauma of A Thief in the Night and "I Wish We'd All Been Ready". Add to that the seeming historical absence of any mention of the doctrine and trying to make imminence equal rapture.

 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Jim's picture

Steve Davis wrote:

Did you mean absolutely a questionable opinionated conviction? 

Yes like ... total abstinence 

Don Johnson's picture

Various sites on the internet define the term. Here is Dictionary.com

the Rapture, Theology. the experience, anticipated by some fundamentalist Christians, of meeting Christ midway in the air upon his return to earth.

Here is what 1 Thessalonians says:

 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.

So it seems that the Bible describes Christians meeting the Lord in the air. Perhaps. I could be wrong, but I think I'm pretty sure that's what these words mean: "meet the Lord in the air"

Do you believe that is true or not?

Again, according to the secular Dictionary.com, 

the Rapture, Theology. the experience, anticipated by some fundamentalist Christians, of meeting Christ midway in the air upon his return to earth.

It seems that the secular Dictionary.com understands the words in the same way I understand the words.

If you don't believe that Christians will meet the Lord in the air, what exactly will happen differently when the Lord "will descend from heaven with a shout"? Are  you going to hang around here and tell him, no, you will have to come meet me down here? You aren't supposed to call me up into the air? No Rapture for me?

If you believe the Bible, you believe in the Rapture.

You may not agree on the timing of the Rapture, but you must believe in the Rapture.

So spare me the harumphing and triumphalizing. The Rapture itself is a major component of eschatology. If you deny it, you have serious problems with your orthodoxy, I'd say.

Yes, we can disagree on the timing. That part is not so clear. But we can't disagree on the fact. That part is crystal clear.

 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

G. N. Barkman's picture

I agree with Don.  Surely every Bible-believing Christian believes in the rapture.  What many question is the Pre-Tribulation timing of the rapture according to traditional Dispensational theology.

G. N. Barkman

Ron Bean's picture

Here is what 1 Thessalonians says:

 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.

This sounds like the Second Coming to some people who are just asking questions and who fail to see this event followed by a U-Turn to heaven and a repeat performance 7 years later.

I'm not harumphing. I've just been asked questions like this for years and have chosen to listen and try to answer instead of just telling them to stop questioning the "major doctrine" of a rapture that, according to dispensationalism, must occur before the 7 year tribulation.

 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Steve Davis's picture

Don & GNB,

Welcome to the discussion. The secular dictionary agrees with Don, or vice versa. Internet settles the question. Except... I think we could all agree that all Christians believe in the Rapture IF by that the Second Coming was meant. All here believe that Jesus is coming again in power and glory and await his glorious appearance. However, the article makes it clear that the Rapture and the Second Coming are not the same. The Rapture as described in the article (you did read it?) is a phase of the Second Coming, for the Church only, before the Tribulation and the second phase, second resurrection for Jewish saints at the end of the Tribulation, then millennium followed by third resurrection of the unjust (and any believers who entered the Millennium from the Tribulation and died?).

This scenario is a theological novelty and essential to dispensational theology. That does not mean it is untrue. It is a "we will see." But it has never been a "major doctrine." And it has nothing to do with timing. It has everything to do with its nature. If someone uses the word "Rapture," whether pre-, or mid-trib, they almost always hold to a distinction between that event for the Church and the Second Coming, discontinuity between Israel and the Church, etc. Someone who says "I believe in the Second Coming" is not necessarily saying "I believe in the Rapture." Someone who says "I believe in the Rapture" is saying "I believe in the Second Coming with phases."

So Don, your comments on orthodoxy and those who have a problem with it, while not surprising, are defensive/offensive, but lack any real biblical support. Denying the Rapture as presented in the article (or being agnostic) has nothing to do with orthodoxy except in some minds (and maybe the authority of dictionary.com). 

Jesus is coming again.There will be a resurrection of the just and unjust. He will reign forever. That is orthodoxy as found in the creeds and confessions throughout the ages. That there might be phases of his coming or multiple resurrections, that is interpretation, much more speculative, and open for debate (without accusing others of unorthodoxy). It might be correct interpretation. It is not orthodoxy.

 

TylerR's picture

In recent years, Bauder did a multi-part sermon series on the Rapture at Central (you can find the videos on their site), and Paul Henebury did a long written discussion on it. I personally believe in the pre-trib rapture, but it's not nearly as strong as its most zealous advocates want to make it out to be. In short, my own position is that the pre-trib rapture is the best bad option out there, when it comes to this eschatological question. It isn't the focus of any didactic, deliberate teaching in Scripture. It's a valid inference from a whole host of passages, none of which are explicitly discussing the doctrine.

For that reason, I hold to the pre-trib rapture somewhat loosely ... to paraphrase the band .38 Special.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA, where he's an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Don Johnson's picture

The Rapture is when we go up

The Second Coming is when He comes down

if you believe we will go up, you believe in the rapture

if you don't believe we will go up, you don't believe the Bible

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

TylerR's picture

I get your passion. My point is that we should be big enough to acknowledge the following:

  • The pretribulational rapture is not the subject of any deliberate teaching in Scripture. You cannot make the case that Paul's point in 1 Thess 4:13-18 is to teach the rapture. 
  • It has dubious historical weight. I've read the journal articles which try, desperately, to find some glimmering of hope for this doctrine historically. They have some good points to make, but much of it is rather desperate.
  • A survey of historic creeds and confessions will show this is not a doctrine that has been emphasized or taught throughout church history. It hardly qualifies as a "major doctrine." For example, the 1833 New Hampshire Confession of Faith (my favorite) reads thus (Article 18):

Of the World to Come. We believe that the end of the world is approaching; that at the last day Christ will descend from heaven, and raise the dead from the grave to final retribution; that a solemn separation will then take place; that the wicked will be adjudged to endless punishment, and the righteous to endless joy; and that this judgment will fix forever the final state of men in heaven or hell, on principles of righteousness."

  • Some Christians like to be dogmatic and iron clad about everything. I believe the intricacies of the eschatological timetable, especially a timetable as complicated and fickle as the dispensational one, deserve a bit more caution, and a lot less bombast than this article shows. But, I get that David Levy was writing for his base. 

If Christians re-allocated 1/10 of the time they spend on eschatological musings to, say, the doctrines of Christ, God, salvation, sanctification (etc.), they'd have much richer lives for the Lord.

The best thing I've read on the rapture remains Walvoord's book. The very last sermon series I'd ever do would be on the pretribulational rapture. It's just not important to me. Another, recent Israel, My Glory article discussed why the pre-trib rapture isn't emphasized in many conservative churches anymore. The writer observed:

It’s no coincidence pastors under 45 with advanced degrees are forsaking the pretribulational view. Christian higher education over the past 20 years has shied away from treating this doctrine with the seriousness it deserves, and we are reaping the results.

Maybe. Speaking for myself, I've gone away from emphasizing it strongly because:

  1. It's not a major doctrine
  2. It's not specifically and deliberately taught; it's an inference, not a didactic teaching
  3. The evidence for this position is slight; it deserves more humility and caution than proponents from two generations ago want to give it 
  4. It's not nearly as important as other doctrines. I'd rather discuss the doctrine of Christ, than argue about "the time of Jacob's trouble" or discuss whether there is an implied rapture between Revelation 3 and 4. 

In short, I believe I am treating it with the seriousness it deserves ...

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA, where he's an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Don Johnson's picture

I never said the pretribulation rapture ​​​​​​​was a major doctrine. The rapture itself is. 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Steve Davis's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

I never said the pretribulation rapture was a major doctrine. The rapture itself is. 

I guess this makes sense to you but I don't really see your point in the context of the article under discussion. So I'm writing for readers for whom this may not make sense either.

Although the Rapture may be pre-, or mid-, it is generally in reference to the Church and excludes OT believers. If you hold to post-trib return of Chirst and want to call that the Rapture where all believers of all ages are raptured and resurrected you are closer to correct. However, I think we both know that the article was dealing with the pre-trib Rapture and the Church. Rapture may used for the post-trib Second Coming where believers meet Jesus in the air and return immediately to earth. In that case, that is the Second Coming but I don't think that's the Rapture you're defending.

When people speak of the Rapture they are generally speaking of the Rapture of the Church and resurrection of only NT believers, meeting Jesus in the air then going to heaven until phase two of the Second Coming at the end of the Tribulation when Jesus returns with NT saints and OT believers are resurrected. It's interesting to me that in some of the foreign languages in which I'm conversant the word "Rapture" is always used as the "Rapture of the Church." Otherwise the word makes no sense as a snatching or even kidnapping. English has chosen to transliterate the Latin word.  So yes, you can use Rapture for any event where someone is going up even if they are different groups at different time. But I believe your Rapture has only Christians going up. So no, it's not a major doctrine. 

Don Johnson's picture

The reason the term and its meaning is important is that if you deny it, you deny Scripture.

I will grant that as the term is used, it almost always refers exclusively to the Church, whether you hold to pre, mid, or post trib views. I would suggest that 1 Thessalonians 4, which clearly teaches the rapture, is not necessarily making that restriction on this point, but the context would tend to favor that view.

Regardless, it is an important aspect of eschatology, and as such can't be denied by Bible believers. Those of us anticipating the Lord's return will rise to meet him in the air. That is indisputable. That's my point. The word rapture refers to that event. Our understanding of the timing and those involved requires additional descriptive words.

So don't just dismiss the term because you are prejudiced against dispensationalism.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Mark_Smith's picture

As Don mentioned, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 features Paul teaching about the hope that believers have in the physical return of Christ to the earth. When He returns, He will bring back with Him the resurrected believers who have died (v 14). Those who are still alive when this happens will meet those who have died previously (v 15). A trumpet call will happen and the dead in Christ will rise from their graves anew (v 16). Then, all the believers will meet the Lord in the air and be with the Lord forever (v 17).

Now, you can call that whatever you like. You can time it whenever you like, but that is by definition a "catching away" to be with the Lord. Hence, Paul taught a rapture. The word harpazo is even used in v 17. 

So, the Bible clearly teaches a "catching away" of believers to be with the Lord bodily. Thus, a rapture is biblical doctrine. I personally couldn't care less what any creed says or does not say. That is the plain teaching of Scripture.

TylerR's picture

Mark:

Historic creeds and confessions, among many other things, serve as confessional guardrails and time-capsules for historical theology. If the pre-tribulational rapture is "the plain teaching of Scripture," as you say, then why don't creeds and confessions throughout church history ever mention the doctrine? 

As I said before, I agree with the pre-trib rapture. I just don't think the case is nearly as strong as its more zealous advocates (e.g. David Levy) wish it were, and I also don't believe it deserves the emphasis some dispensationalists want to give it. 

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA, where he's an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

G. N. Barkman's picture

I'm still with Don on this one, Steve.  I understand what you are saying, but you are reading more into the term "rapture" than the term requires.  Yes, it is often be used the way you describe by Dispensationalists.  But from my standpoint, the rapture means believers alive when Christ returns are caught up to meet Him in the air along with saints who are resurrected at the same time.  So if someone asks me, "Do you believe in the rapture"?, my answer is "yes."  If they continue by asking about the pre-tribulation rapture of the church, my answer is "no."  Don's original point is that since I Thessalonians four teaches the doctrine of the rapture, all Bible believers believe in the rapture.  I agree.

G. N. Barkman

Ron Bean's picture

When we consider the declared position of Israel My Glory I think it's safe to assume that they are referring to the Rapture as an even that precedes the Tribulation. So, is the pre-tribulational rapture a major doctrine?

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Responses to Tyler:

"The pretribulational rapture is not the subject of any deliberate teaching in Scripture. You cannot make the case that Paul's point in 1 Thess 4:13-18 is to teach the rapture."

I, too, have studied this passage for years, and could not disagree more strongly with this statement. What am I missing?

"If Christians re-allocated 1/10 of the time they spend on eschatological musings to, say, the doctrines of Christ, God, salvation, sanctification (etc.), they'd have much richer lives for the Lord."

I agree. That is why I have spent much of my ministry explaining that dispensationalism is a development within historic, orthodox Christianity, not some weird rewriting of the Bible. Yet, without it we would be much the poorer. The great dispensational teachers that I have personally sat under (e.g., McCune, Houghton, Whitcomb, Walvoord, Ryrie, Breese, Ice, Showers, etc.) all embody this in their personal lives and ministries.

Response to Ron:

"Hal Lindsay, Tim LeHaye, and Nicholas Cage didn't do the position any favors either. "

If you please, it is LaHaye. Not sure I would group those three men together, necessarily, and not sure what more LaHaye could possibly have done to advance dispensational eschatology. You may not agree with everything he did (as I also do not), but he was a great and godly man. I had the privilege of interviewing him once, and met him at the Ark Encounter just a few weeks before he died. He was the kind of character that appears once every generation or two.

__________________________________________

I have to say, I am just sort of shocked at the reaction this concise article on the rapture has received here. As one who was drawn out of Lutheranism, with all of its emphasis on creeds, confessions and councils (as well as amillennial eschatology, which you can have, if you want it), primarily by dispensational and prophetic Bible teaching, it is not a good sign (no pun intended) for the future of fundamentalism.

Assistant, Dr. John C. Whitcomb — Writer, Regular Baptist Press — Associate, IMI/SOS Int'l

Steve Davis's picture

If we want precision then let's say the I Thess. teaches the Second Coming of Christ. Those who believe this event is for the NT Church only to the exclusion of Israel will call it the Rapture. Those who believe that the Second Coming includes OT and NT believers rarely use the word Rapture. Even Don admits the word is used almost exclusively for the Church. Denying the Rapture as understood by Don and others is not denying biblical eschatology. The article in question clearly was treating the pre-tribulational Rapture of the Church as a major doctrine. Don changed the topic in arguing for something more nebulous. 

So then the sense of Rapture is enlarged to justify the term regardless of who is included? To me, that is not precision. Per Don, it has nothing to do with being prejudiced against Dispensationalism. I taught it for years and still could as a system of interpretation. Per GNB, if someone asks about the Rapture, you can almost be sure they are not referring to simply resurrection and meeting Jesus in the air of all believers. It is used for the Church and not for OT believers. Per Mark, you're not dim-witted. If you are talking generally about believers rising to meet the Lord in the air then, there is no argument about a catching away. However, the point of the article is the pre-tribulational Rapture of the Church as a major doctrine. Again as Don observes, the term is used almost exclusively for the Church. Believers who hold that the coming of Christ is for both OT and NT saints do not generally use the term Rapture. The Rapture is considered the first stage of the Second Coming. The Rapture is the secret coming followed by the glorious appearing at the end of the Tribulation. Those who see a single coming and general resurrection do not use the term (to my knowledge). It's not a question of who's right or wrong at this point. Theologically, Rapture is loaded and more precise then a generic meeting the Lord in the air. Per Paul, sorry that you are shocked. From what I recall the Rapture was not historically considered a fundamental of the faith. The Second Coming is and remains a fundamental of the faith. 

Anyway, I'm glad the article got a little action. I debated whether to comment. Thanks for the feedback/pushback. Let us rejoice that Jesus is coming again! May be morning, may be noon, may be evening, and may be soon!

Don Johnson's picture

Steve Davis wrote:

If we want precision then let's say the I Thess. teaches the Second Coming of Christ. Those who believe this event is for the NT Church only to the exclusion of Israel will call it the Rapture. Those who believe that the Second Coming includes OT and NT believers rarely use the word Rapture. Even Don admits the word is used almost exclusively for the Church. Denying the Rapture as understood by Don and others is not denying biblical eschatology. The article in question clearly was treating the pre-tribulational Rapture of the Church as a major doctrine. Don changed the topic in arguing for something more nebulous. 

Steve, I don't really have much more to add to this discussion. However, a couple more things

1. Yes, Rapture is a term that generally only dispensationalists use. No problem admitting that.

2. But, Yes, Rapture as defined is something ALL Bible believing Christians believe.

3. Often people hear the word "pre-tribulational" when you only say Rapture. But that merely illustrates my point. The term Rapture communicates nothing about pre-tribulational, or any other view of the rapture.

The quote at the beginning of this thread said:

The Rapture of the church is a major doctrine in Scripture

That statement, by itself, is true. Yes, I know that Friends of Israel goes on in their article to argue for pre-tribulational. Of course. But the quote that started this off said simply, "the Rapture" without qualification.

You have to believe it if you are going to believe the Bible.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

TylerR's picture

My only quibble with the article is that it calls the re-trib rapture a "major doctrine." I don't think history or exegesis can support that claim. The article itself does an excellent job of explaining the pre-trib rapture for a layperson. In fact, this article was part of an entire issue which dealt with different aspects of the rapture. I've bookmarked this issue of Israel, My Glory to refer curious Christians to in the future. It's an excellent edition to introduce the pre-trib position. 

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA, where he's an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Don Johnson's picture

TylerR wrote:

re-trib rapture

Man, you think the post-tribbers have to go through it twice??? Poor guys

 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

TylerR's picture

A re-trib would indeed suck. 

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA, where he's an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Larry's picture

The nice about being pre-trib is that we are the only ones who can change our position if we are wrong.

Jim's picture

This edition of Israel My Glory ...

  • We support FOI financially and receive the mag
  • [as an aside - I am unashamedly pre-trib and have been for 4+ decades!]
  • The context of the article is Pre-Trib Rapture (and in the mag classical dispensationalism)

The 2nd coming is an absolute (the image above with the concentric circles)

The details of the 2nd coming is not an absolute!

Jeff Howell's picture

just eliminating the chapter and verse divisions and reading straight through and arriving at the conclusion that the Day of the Lord logically follows the catching away/rapture of those believers? It truly does seem that Paul's use of the Day of the Lord terminology would refer to the time after the catching away. So, contextually doesn't that argue for a tribulation/Day of the Lord series of events after the rapture? You would have to go through exegetical gymnastics to arrive at something else, it seems. Going further, this was part of the great doctrines of the 1st century church, a major component of Paul's teaching to the Thessalonians, and a source of great comfort and hope, as the doctrine of the resurrection and the rapture of living believers are linked. I do wonder how it gradually seemed to phase out in emphasis through the centuries.