The following controversial (theological) topic will have more eggs in that basket for many Christians. It is deeply rooted in their ‘Christian’ worldview how it in the last days (the end time) should pass with the church of Christ. Especially in the evangelical movement is the rapture a big issue and an undeniable certainty.
One time it happened in a conversation with a fellow Christian, that the person asked me whether I was born again, because I had my doubts about this ‘view’. The Bible is very clear and plan about it, isn’t it? But the more the person tried to convince me of this “biblical” doctrine, the more question marks came up and I found it an ‘inconsistent’ all together collected passages of the Bible, where they have built a whole theory around it.
And, unfortunately, I come more and more to the discovery that many Christians who adhere to this “biblical” doctrine, that their deep-rooted conviction, not actually is based on God’s Word, but has its origin in the books of Hal Lindsey (in particular the book ‘The late great planet Earth) and/or the 16-part series of Left behind’ from Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye (which is not more than a novel!).
The theory of ‘the rapture’ has its origin in the 1900 century. John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) is regarded as the founder of the dispensation theory (also known under the name dispensationalism). In this theory is assumed that the history can be divided in different dispensations (different times). One of this dispensation is that God after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, has ‘parked’ the people of Israel and has gone further with the Church, which has its origin at Pentecost. It is only when the Church will be raptured in the blink of an eye, that God goes further with His people of Israel, who must first go through a 7-year-long oppression. Then God will in the person of Jesus, the Messiah, redeem His people and the 1000-year (peace) get started, where Jesus will reign with a rod of iron. However, it is the question, whether the Bible (so obviously) talks about a ‘rapture’. This article tries to give an answer on this subject.
Research and preserve the good
There are several Bible texts where the pretribulationist (is anyone who believes in the rapture before the great tribulation) bases his doctrine. I will treat here only the most important Bible texts and will shoot on it. It is not that I want to be found to be in the right, but that we learn to critically examine whether these texts (without eisegesis) the doctrine of the rapture endorse by themselves. The first text we will look clearly is 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17:
‘For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who remain until the Lord’s coming, will not possibly precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who remain, will be snatched away at the same time together with them in the clouds for a meeting with the Lord in the air, and thus we will be together with the Lord always.
We want look at the phrases ‘will be snatched away’ and ‘for a meeting with the Lord in the air’.
Will be snatched away is in the Greek one word namely; harpazo, which means to take along quickly, grasp, to lay a distress upon. But what does harpazo actually mean and in what context is it? We encounter the Greek word already in Acts 8:39. In this verse Philip, after he had baptized the eunuch, is caught up by the Spirit, and found in Ashdod, where he goes through the land to preach the gospel. Harpazo here is not so much a rapture, but the Spirit takes Philip in a flash away and ‘teleport’ him, so you can say, to Ashdod. In this context we must see also harpazo in 1 Thessalonians 4:17.
In 1 Corinthians 15:51 and 52, Paul says that at the sounding of the last trump those who do not sleep will be changed in a twinkling of an eye. Paul is speaking in Corinthians 15 that our perishable body will be changed in a imperishable (a glorified body). In my opinion talks Paul about this, but in other words, in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. Also here, we will have in one moment a ‘heavenly’ body and we are at the same time also in a flash in the air for a meeting with the Lord. However, it is now the question in which context we must understand the phrase ‘for a meeting’.
Go with or bring in?
We can look at the phrase ‘for a meeting’ from two different points of view. You can walk to someone with the intension to go with that person. But you can also walk to someone to greet him and bring him in. The question is, in what context, Paul has meant this word in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. When I both the Old and New Testament investigate, then the phrase ‘for a meeting’ (both in Hebrew, as in Greek) has the meaning of greeting someone to receive him. In addition, in the ancient time, it was usual, when a king came back from a battle, that he was led by the people, who were already to meet him outside the gates of the city. This was also accompanied with blare of trumpets. The return of the king did not ‘noiseless’. This is, in my opinion, exactly the case at the (second) coming of the Lord. When we are ‘snatched away for a meeting with the Lord in the cloud’, then this goes hand in hand with blare of trumpets. In other words, it will not be a ‘sneaky’ happening, as the proponents of the ‘rapture’ would have us to believe.
The next time we will look at the text where Jesus speaks of that one will be adopted and the other will be left behind (Luke 17:20-37).