What Is the "Rapture?"
by V. Glenn McCoy
A young Christian mother recently came into my office with her two children and said, "Will you please explain to my children what the 'Rapture' is?" Her children had been exposed to the "Rapture" through some of their friends and they were left confused. Most of us have seen bumper stickers that refer to the "Rapture" by saying something to the effect: "In case of Rapture, this car will be empty." Those who have not been indoctrinated by the proponents of this doctrine scratch their heads in wonder as to what this could mean. Denominational programs on television present the "Rapture" as a doctrine that all should believe. Members of the Lord's church are not always prepared to discuss this subject with their religious neighbors. Although there are some variations in beliefs about the "Rapture," in this article, we will discuss the most commonly held views.
Not a Bible Subject
Many are surprised to learn that the "Rapture" is not a biblical subject. The Scriptures say nothing about it. It is a concept that has been around for some time, but was highly promoted by Hal Lindsey in his book, The Late Great Planet Earth, first published in 1970. According to the proponents of the theory, at the end of the "church age" Jesus will raise the righteous dead and take them, along with the righteous who are living, to a special place, presumably like heaven, for seven years where they will be given rewards and positions. They teach that those people who remain on the earth will not know where the saints have gone. They will realize they are gone, but will not be able to explain their disappearance. They will see the open graves that have been abandoned by the resurrected bodies, but they will have no explanation. While this "Rapture" is going on in heaven for seven years, the "great tribulation" supposedly takes place on the earth. This is to happen primarily during the last three and one-half years of the seven-year period. During that time there will be fear, anxiety, and death on a massive scale. Further, those who advocate the "Rapture" teach that at the end of the seven-year period the righteous will go to Jerusalem with Christ and reign with Him for a thousand years. Then, at the end of the thousand-year reign the wicked will be resurrected and condemned to eternal punishment.
What Is Wrong With the "Rapture?"
Is there a Bible basis for the "Rapture" doctrine? No! Will there ever be such a thing as the "Rapture?" Absolutely not! Is there a conflict between "Rapture" teaching and the plain teaching of the Bible? Absolutely! Please notice some of the things wrong with the teaching of the "Rapture."
1. The "Rapture" requires too many comings of Jesus. They have Him coming the first time to take the righteous away for seven years. They have Him coming again seven years later to go to Jerusalem to reign a thousand years. Then at the end of the thousand years they have Him raising the wicked and judging them. Jude 14-15 pictures Jesus coming to execute judgment on the ungodly. So, according to the "Rapture" proponents, another coming of the Lord is required for judgment upon the wicked.
How does all this fit with Bible teaching? The answer is, not at all. The Bible says that when Jesus comes he will execute judgment "upon all," not some now and some later, but all at one time. His coming will not be in stages with years between the comings. "Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him" (Jude 14-15).
2. The proponents of the "Rapture" say that only a part of humanity will see Jesus when He comes the second time. Only the righteous dead and the righteous living will see Him. The remainder of the living will not see Him for at least seven years. Those among the unrighteous dead will not see Him until the thousand-year reign is finished. This cannot possibly be correct because Revelation 1:7 states that when Jesus comes "Every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him."
3. The "Rapture" is in conflict with Matthew 25:31-46. Unlike the "Rapture" theory, Matthew 25 has "all the nations," the wicked and the good being judged at the same time in the same judgment. The "Rapture" has some of the dead being raised while others are left in the grave. However, the Bible says that Jesus will come to judge all the living and dead, the wicked and the good, all in the same judgment. There will be a great separation. The wicked are placed on the left and the righteous on the right. Those on the left will be sentenced to punishment in hell, while those on the right will get to enjoy the bliss of heaven. There is no room in Matthew 25 for a "Rapture" period, or the "great tribulation," or the thousand years between the resurrection of the righteous and the wicked.
Paul states in 2 Timothy 4:1: "I charge thee there-fore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom." Paul said that Jesus will judge those who are living and those who are dead at His coming. Matthew 25:31-46 tells us that the judgment will contain both the righteous and the wicked. Therefore, all the wicked who are dead as well as those who are living will be judged. At the same time, all the righteous who are living as well as those who are dead will be judged. In contrast, the "Rapture" has Jesus coming with no universal judgment, with only part of the dead being raised, while others are left in their graves.
4. The "Rapture" theory is in contradiction to the clear and positive teaching of the Lord in John 5:28-29: "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." While the "Rapture" has multiple judgments, the Bible says that all humanity will be judged at the same time, the good as well as the wicked.
5. The "Rapture" does not fit the Bible teaching of the "last day." "This is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. ... No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:39-40, 44). "Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:54). "He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day" (John 12:48). Jesus taught in John 5:28-29 that the resurrection of both the good and evil will take place in the same hour. That resurrection and judgment will take place in the last day. The "Rapture" theory has not just days but a thousand years separating the resurrection and judgment of the good and evil.
6. The "Rapture" is in conflict with 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10: “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.”
In the above passage Paul spoke of two groups. The first group is composed of those who have been troubled and persecuted. These are the obedient. The other group is described as those who do not know God and have not obeyed the gospel. He also talks about two compensations. To the afflicted He will give rest, but to the disobedient He will bring punishment. The rest for the righteous and punishment for the disobedient will occur in "that day" when Jesus comes with His angels. The "Rapture" does not have the wicked receiving their punishment in "that day" as Paul declared, but a thousand years later! According to the "Rapture" doctrine, the righteous will be in the air and the wicked will still be on the earth.
7. The "Rapture" conflicts with 2 Peter 3:10-14: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.”
This passage refers to the Second Coming of Jesus. When that happens, the earth and all in it will be burned up. But, the "Rapture" demands a continuation of the earth after the Lord comes. They say the earth will continue seven more years until Jesus returns to Jerusalem, and then a thousand more years after that. They teach that the earth will be renovated to be the resting-place for those who are not among the fortunate 144,000 who will be in heaven. Compare this far-fetched theory with the Bible that clearly says the earth and all in it will be burned up at the Lord's Second Coming.
Two Primary Passages
There are two primary passages that the advocate for the "Rapture" use in an attempt to support this imaginative theory. Neither Rapture nor the teaching of it is to be found in either one. They both refer to the Second Coming of Christ with no reference whatsoever to a "Rapture."
The first passage "Rapture" advocates use to support their theory is 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17. One does not have to look very long to realize that this passage it no way verifies the "Rapture." The proponents of the "Rapture" say that Jesus will come in secret, but this passage tells us that when Jesus comes it will not be in secret. "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trump of God" (v. 16). The coming of Christ mentioned in this passage is the same as the one mentioned in Revelation 1:7: "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him." There is no secret coming discussed here. These Scriptures say that there will be shout, the voice of the archangel, the trump of God, and every eye seeing Jesus when He comes again.
The second passage that the advocates of the "Rapture" use is 1 Corinthians 15:50-58. It is equally lacking in support for the theory. Verse 52 dispels the idea of a secret coming when it tells us that the sound of a trumpet will accompany the Lord. There is more in this passage that does not fit the "Rapture." When Jesus comes, immortality will begin (v. 53). Death will be destroyed at His coming, "swallowed up in victory" (v. 54). In contrast, "Rapture" proponents say that life and death will continue on earth during the time the righteous are with Jesus. These passages do not verify the "Rapture," but in fact, they repudiate this false doctrine.
The theory of the "Rapture" is false because it is not taught in the Bible. It came from the mind of men.