by Dudley Ross Spears
Maybe you have seen the bumper sticker that reads, "In case the Rapture occurs, this car will be driverless." With tensions building in the Middle East, expectations are being sharpened in those who believe that the Rapture is about to take place. The Rapture is an intriguing topic and we will study it today - please stay tuned. First, let me mention some other matters.
The doctrine of "The Rapture" is espoused by a large segment of the Protestant denominational world. Possibly you have listened to your own "Pastor" speak of it as if it is certainly taught in the Bible. It might surprise some to know that the term "Rapture" is not in the Bible. And it is also surprising that even the idea of a "Rapture" is not in the Bible. The doctrine of a secret rapture is part of a very serious defection from Bible teaching known as dispensationalism or premillennialism. It is a deceptive set of doctrines that lead many astray.
But just what is meant by "The Rapture?" Let's let an authority tell us. From Mr. Hal Lindsey's book, "The Late Great Planet Earth," comes this definitive statement. "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, space suits, 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." (page 126).
Mr. Lindsey is an authority among dispensationalists and premillennialists. He tells us that the word "Rapture" means "to snatch away or take out." The dictionary uses words such as ecstasy to describe it. This taking out of the world is supposed to be in direct relation to a series of events that will culminate with a return of Christ (with those taken away in the rapture) to launch a thousand-year reign on earth with His headquarters in Jerusalem. All of this is the result of speculative fantasy and has absolutely no basis in the Bible.
Some have tried to figure this time table out and have set dates when the rapture was to begin. Who can forget the stir caused by Mr. Edgar C. Whisenant, right here in our own community, when his book was widely distributed. That book, "88 Reasons Why The Rapture Will Be In 1988" predicted that Jesus would come back and snatch His own people away. Either the Lord had no people in our area, or the prediction was false. The latter is true -- there was no rapture in 1988. In fact, there never will be one. No man can set God's clock.
Mr. Lindsey also tried to find the date for the rapture. In his book he commented on Jesus' statement, "Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place" (Matthew 24:34 NASB), and said, "What generation? Obviously, in context, the generation that would see the signs - chief among them the rebirth of Israel. A generation in the Bible is something like forty years. If this is a correct deduction, then within forty years or so of 1948 (the date he assigned as the birth of Israel), all these things could take place." (Page 43). That computes to 1988 -- but this is 1990 and none of the things mentioned in Matthew 24 have occurred. One simple answer to it all is that the signs of Matthew 24 happened a long time ago when Jerusalem was destroyed by the crunching power of the imperial army of Rome. Mr. Lindsey joins those who have erroneously tried to set God's clock.
The error of this Rapture theory is quite obvious. Those who hold the error claim the Lord will take the saints off to some exotic rendezvous somewhere in the clouds. A few years ago a man said to me, "I am thankful that when the tribulation begins, I won't be here." I asked, "Where will you be?" He said, "With the Lord in the Rapture." I asked further, "Where will that be?" He answered, "Somewhere in the heavens where all is beautiful." I asked, "Will that be better than heaven?" He thought a little and answered, "About the same, I suppose." "But," I replied, "you will then have to return for the battle of Armageddon and then finally live with Christ on earth during the millennium." Think about this a moment -- the Lord allegedly returns secretly, takes all the saints away for a short period of either 3 1/2 years or a full 7 years (depending on whose theory of the Rapture you believe), come back and engage in the most awful carnal warfare of history, then go to Jerusalem and set up a millennial earthly kingdom. I like what the man said who heard all this and gibed, "If I ever get headed off this planet in the right direction, I certainly don't intend to return to it and fight a war."
The doctrine of this imaginary Rapture doesn't fit plain Bible teaching relative to the next appearance of Christ. Consider this: where will the Lord take the believers during the seven-year period? He cannot take them somewhere in space, or to another planet. Neither can He take them somewhere on earth in a secret hideaway, because Peter tells us that the universe will be totally destroyed when the Lord comes the next time. Listen: "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief; in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements (planets, marginal reading) shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (II Peter 3:10).
This statement clearly shows that when the Lord returns it will be anything but silent and secret. It will be noisy and open. But the fact is there is really no place on earth or in space where the raptured can go. There is really only one place left and that is Heaven itself. The word the rapturists use for their doctrine is the verb "caught up" found in I Thessalonians 4:16-17. It reads, "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 that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up (Greek harpadzo) in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord."
If you didn't have a pet theory to defend how could you ever conclude that the being "caught up" with the Lord would be only a temporary Rapture? And you would never conclude that the place was anything other than Heaven itself. So, the doctrine fails the first test the Bible has for it.
This fictitious thing called the Rapture is allegedly to follow what is called "the Great Tribulation." Have you ever wondered where these preachers get all these terms? Anyway, they tell us that just about the time when this tribulation begins the countdown has also begun. Allow me to read once more from Mr. Lindsey. "Most prophecies which have not yet been fulfilled concern events which will develop shortly before the beginning of and during this seven-year countdown. The general time of this seven-year period couldn't begin until the Jewish people re-establish their nation in their ancient homeland of Palestine." (Page 32).
This is another figmentary imagination from a hyperactive speculative mind. God has made no promise to Israel concerning the land of Palestine which has not long since been fulfilled. There is not a single promise today that is made to Jewish people that is not equally made to every race of mankind under the heavens. Can you think of one promise God has given one nation that does not include all nations? If so, what is it? Every promise God made in regard to restoring Israel to the promised land has been fulfilled. Listen to Joshua 21:43. "So the Lord gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers and they took possession of it." And verse 45 concludes, "Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass." That seals it, does it not?
This theory also claims that there will be an increased amount of wickedness and the conditions just preceding the coming of Christ will be terrible - much like what is about to happen in the Middle East now. Matthew 24:20-22 is cited. "And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on a sabbath; for then shall be great tribulation, such as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days had been shortened, no flesh would have been saved."
This passage cannot refer to any phase of "the Rapture." According to that doctrine, the saints won't be on earth to experience any tribulation. The passage refers to the destruction of Jerusalem and thus they were to pray that their flight from the burning city not be on the Sabbath day or in winter when travel was restricted.
Finally, Jesus taught His disciples in parables. In Matthew 13:24-30 He taught them about the kingdom by using an example from a farmer. He said that while a farmer slept, an enemy (and he means the Devil) sowed tares in his wheat field. When this became evident the reapers (angels) requested permission to remove the tares. But the owner (who represents God) said, "Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather up first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn."
Jesus said the harvest is "the end of the world" (verse 39). The tares are the "sons of the evil one" (verse 38). That means that the wicked are to be gather up first. But the doctrine of the Rapture has the saints being gathered first. The Scofield Bible makes this comment on verse 30. "At the end of the age, the tares are set apart for burning, but first the wheat is gathered into the barn." The Scofield Bible is oriented in all the comments in it toward this false view of the end of time. Which would you rather accept as fact -- Christ or Scofield? Christ or Lindsey?
The doctrine of the rapture is a ruse -- not a reality. It promises things God has never mentioned. It offers false hope, denies plain Bible teaching, and is contradictory to the New Testament teaching on the end of time. Reject it and accept only what you can read and understand from plain language in your own Bible.