The Rapture Heresy in a Nutshell
By Steven Speray 1999
People all over America are talking about the ‘Rapture.’ A new series of best selling books ‘Left Behind’ exposes this relatively new doctrine. Jack Van Impe preaches it on every one of his TV programs.
What is this Rapture, and is it in the Bible?
The teaching first appeared in the 1800’s from John Nelson Darby (Scottish Dispensationalist) and transferred by CI Scofield into his “Scofield Reference Bible.” Prior to the 1800’s no one claiming Christianity ever heard of this doctrine.
Many psuedo-Christians or heretics use verses such as (I Thess. 4:13-17), when talking about the Rapture, meaning the Church will be taken up with God in the sky before the Great Tribulation and before a 1000-year reign of Christ on earth known as the pre-millennial view or millenarianism. You may have seen bumper stickers with “In Case of Rapture, this Car will be Unmanned.”
Dr. David Jeremiah on his radio program ‘Turning Point’ explains, “that we should be looking for Christ instead of the antichrist, for the Rapture will happen first, and then the antichrist will rise for the Great Tribulation. The Faithful will not have to endure the Great Tribulation.”
Dr. Jeremiah uses (II Thess. 2:7-8) to show why he believes the Rapture happens before the Tribulation. It says, “…But the one who restrains is to do so only for the present, until he removed from the scene. And then the lawless one will be revealed.”
According to Dr. Jeremiah, “the one who restrains is the Holy Spirit and since the church cannot be with out the Holy Spirit then the Rapture happens with the removal of the restraining one.” Dr. David Reagan on his radio program ‘Christ in Prophecy’ says somewhat the same thing. Dr Reagan believes the restraining one is the Church.
Dr Jeremiah, also reasons that we will not be around for the Tribulation because nowhere in the Bible explains how we should go through it.
There are other passages that seem to illustrate a pre-tribulational Rapture. (Matt. 24:40-41) states, “Two men will be out in the field, one will be taken, and one will be left.”
(Luke 17:34-35) gives this account, “I tell you, on that night there will be two people in one bed: one will be taken, the other left.”
(I Thess. 4:13-17) has it best stating, “For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (‘Will be caught up’ is Rapiemur in Latin, which we get the word ‘Rapture.’)
What are we to make of all this? First, we must be aware that there are many different forms of writing in Holy Scripture. These are called literary genres. They are easily understood when they are read within the culture of the time. The cause of the confusion is when we take a genre of a different culture from another time and place it within the same context of the present culture.
Apocalyptic writing such as the books of Daniel and Revelation is one literary genre common among the ancient Semites. It is filled with strange illusions, bizarre images and numbers that have symbolic meaning.
There are other genres used in Scripture such as the parable, the allegory, and the historical novel. In each literary form, the writer presents but not necessarily asserts the message of God. It is what the writer meant to assert that we must find out. With this in mind, Holy Scripture should be read within the historic context and living Tradition of the Church.
If this is not done, then the interpretations will vary with every whim and best guess of the reader and will ultimately end with denying the very Word of God. Scripture itself warns of traditions of men that will nullify the Word of God.
It is interesting to note that immediately after the paragraph used to proof text the Rapture theology, is found the very Scriptures that tell us about Sacred Tradition. (II Thess. 2:15) “Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours.”
What about those passages of Scripture that seem to prove the Rapture?
One should ask how did the early Church fathers interpret these passages. Do other passages in Scripture clearly contradict those interpretations?
Without reading them in its historical and biblical context in accord to Church teaching, would be going against what Scripture itself says. As St. Peter warns, “Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of Scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation” (II Peter 1:20) and “In them there are some things hard to understand that the unlearned and unstable distort to their own destruction, just as they do the other scriptures.” (II Peter 3:16)
Though many saints have preached a literal 1000-year reign of Christ on earth or millenarianism, never has there been taught this idea of the pre-tribulational Rapture. Scottish Dispensationalists invented this doctrine less than two hundred years ago and it has since become an American phenomenon.
When investigating the Rapture theology, several problems immediately arise. In the foundation verse for the Rapture (I Thess. 4:15-17), we see that this Rapture happens with the coming of the Lord, “for we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, … Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up.” In (Matthew 24:29-31) and (Mark 13:24-27), we see that when Christ comes again it is immediately after the Great Tribulation. The psuedo-Christian heretic would have to conclude two second-comings of Christ to keep from contradicting these two passages, and particularly (II Thess. 2:7-8).
On his TV program JVI Presents, Jack Van Impe denies two second-comings. He reasons that the Rapture happens when the Lord appears in the sky but doesn’t actually make His Second-Coming.
Since Van Impe uses (I Thess 4) to prove his position, he must conclude that very passage that says the “coming of the Lord” is not really the coming of the Lord because that must come later.
Also, the appearance of the Lord in the sky is precisely how Holy Scripture describes the Second Coming. See (Act 1:11)
The fact is the pre-tribulational rapture theorist must believe in two second-comings even if they refuse to acknowledge it as so. Two second-comings is not the historical Christian belief.
Jack Van Impe uses the historical belief in millenarianism to show why the Rapture should be believed. He also misrepresents Catholicism by using her books to show how the Catholic Church also believes in a pre-tribulational Rapture. Unfortunately, he reads into what he wants to see without looking at the whole picture.
Those verses found in (I Thess. 4) that speak of being “caught up” is simply speaking about the resurrection of the body for us all on the last day. It is a Christian dogma. As a matter of fact, on that same day the damned will find themselves being “caught down” in the same manner.
(Matthew 24:40), “One will be taken; and one will be left,” was fulfilled during the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. This whole chapter is on that event which serves as a prototype, or prefigure of the end of time. Look at this verse in light of the next chapter where Christ said he would separate the sheep from the goats. The sheep (Faithful) will be taken and caught up with their bodies, and the goats (unfaithful) will be left and taken down to hell in their bodies. This is the plain explanation of those passages.
In (II Thess. 2:7), the restraining one might be referring to the hierarchy of the Church or perhaps it is St Michael. There is absolutely no reason to believe it is the Holy Spirit or the Church, unless of course you’re trying to make it fit into a new theology.
St. Paul writes as if the Thessalonians know what or who it is. No one knows for sure. It is important to know that whatever or whoever it is will be taken out and the antichrist will rise.
Dr. Jeremiah said Scripture doesn’t say how we should go through the Great Tribulation and reasons that me must be taken up before it happens.
However, (Matthew 10:22, 24:13) states he who endures and perseveres to the end will be saved. St. Matthew is stating quite emphatically that the Faithful might have to suffer greatly as it goes through the Great Tribulation.
(Hebrews 11:32-40, 12:1-13) is clearly saying that the Faithful may and will have to suffer greatly.
St. Peter, who holds the primacy in the hierarchy, in (I Peter 1:3-9, 2:18-25, 3:13-17, 4:1) speaks about suffering while (Matthew 10:16-18) warns us of the coming persecutions.
Dr. David Jeremiah, Dr Dave Reagan, Jack Van Impe, Hal Lindsey, Jerry Jenkins, Tim LaHaye and all those like them who profess a pre-tribulational Rapture are the very false teachers St. Peter warns us against. (II Peter 2:1)
As for the Rapture, our focus is on the coming of the Lord but this will be His Second Coming and we are not thinking about getting out of here before the Great Tribulation for we are now going through it. The number seven represents completeness or wholeness and is erroneous to believe that seven years must be a literal seven rather than a complete and whole time of trial. The number 1000 years also represents a round number of a long period of time. It is not to be taken as a literal 1000 years.
One could argue that 1000 years is a single day since Scripture also has it that a 1000 years is as one day to the Lord. (II Peter 3:8) The point is there are other ways to view the 1000 years of peace rather than the pre-millennialists or millenarianists. Pope Pius XII declared this position couldn’t be safely held.
As for the Second Coming of our Lord, we will be judged as we live since that day will usher in the Final Judgment.
We hold fast to Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, and profess in the Apostles’ Creed, “ He will come again to judge the living and the dead.” On that day, the same Apostles’ Creed continues with “I believe in… the resurrection of the body.”
The resurrection of the bodies to the souls of the Faithful is the true Rapture and it happens on the last day of time as we know it when we will enter the age of ages.