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Is the Rapture Wrong?

by Steve MyersDownload MP3
Many Christians trust they will be raptured to heaven during a coming time of crisis. But what does scripture really teach?

Transcript

[Steve Myers] Doctrine must come from the Word of God, not by man’s word. So what does God’s Word say when it comes to the secret Rapture?

Many Christians believe that in the near future they’ll be going about their daily business of working, shopping, at school, or even driving and then they will suddenly disappear! Gone—raptured away to heaven.

But is this what your Bible teaches?

On Beyond Today , we’ll explore the truth of the rapture theory by examining what Scripture really says regarding what will happen at the end of the age and the return of Christ. So stay with me as we discuss: “Is the Secret Rapture Wrong?”

[Announcer] Join our host Steve Myers and his guests as they help you understand your future on Beyond Today !

[Steve] Many Christians think that people around the world will be shocked by the strange and sudden disappearance of fathers, mothers, and even children. Planes will crash because pilots will vanish. Driverless cars will collide in the streets. Only clothing, sinners and even unworthy loved ones will be left behind.

Now have you asked yourself: Is this really what the Bible teaches? Is the idea of a secret rapture wrong?

Now, I’m not referring to the resurrection, because the Bible clearly speaks that a resurrection will take place. I’m talking about the idea that many churches teach as “the secret Rapture.” Now we’ll see on this program that these are two very different concepts. One is biblical, the other is not.

Now you know that books, and movies and many preachers even teach the notion that somehow Jesus will secretly snatch believers away to heaven for safety.

Now I hope you’ll think about that for a moment. Are you comfortable just accepting a belief because it’s popular or just because someone you may like promotes that idea? Don’t get your knowledge and understanding of the truth secondhand. Authentic Christians should never allow a movie, or a novel or a video define their beliefs.

God’s loyal people—they always take personal responsibility to look into a teaching and prove the truth! So be sure to go beyond entertainment and take a careful look with the right starting point, in fact the only true starting point—that’s the Holy Word of God.

So let’s see if the secret rapture theory stands up to the scrutiny of the Bible.

Many are pretty sure that the idea of the rapture must be recorded in the book of Revelation. But, if you check it out for yourself, you’ll find the truth is—there is no mention of a secret rapture anywhere in the book of Revelation.

So, as we begin, let’s define this idea. Now this belief includes the concept that Jesus won’t actually return to the earth—but will secretly come near, and take true believers, and transport them to safety in heaven.

Now during this time the raptured people will wait out the terrible trouble and tribulation that will be happening on the earth. The only evidence that the Rapture has actually happened is that Christians are suddenly gone. Supposedly they’ll be taken secretly, snatched up from the earth years before Jesus actually returns.

So, let’s see if the Bible validates the tenants of the rapture.

Does Scripture really teach that Jesus will secretly come and take Christians away to heaven?

Now we can learn something from the way Jesus returned to heaven after His crucifixion and resurrection. Now at that time, the disciples watched as He rose into the sky, “While they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men [now these were angels] they stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:9-11, NKJV).

Notice two important facts in these verses. First, the Jesus who will return to Earth, that one who comes a second time—He’s the very same Christ who lived here on Earth and who went back to heaven after His resurrection. The second fact is that He will return to Earth the same way—“in like manner”—as He went back to heaven. So, how did Jesus go to heaven after His resurrection? Was it a secret? No. The disciples watched Him literally rise into the air until a cloud hid Him from their sight. So these verses tell us plainly that Jesus will return to earth the same way—it will not be a secret.

Another Bible passage makes it absolutely clear that Jesus will not secretly return—in the book of Revelation. It says, “Behold, He is coming with clouds,”—now, that’s talking about Jesus—“and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him” (Revelation 1:7). You see, when Jesus comes every eye—everyone on earth—will see Him come. That certainly doesn’t sound like He’s coming secretly, does it?

The Bible also disproves this idea of a secret rapture with this statement directly from Jesus Christ in the book of Matthew: “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:27). Jesus’ second coming will be as visible as lightning that flashes during a storm. And we’ve seen those flashes—from one end of the sky to the other.

And so God’s Word makes it very clear that Jesus’ coming is anything but secret!

Now there’s a second idea that we must compare to the Bible and see if it is factual.

Is it true that believers will actually be taken away from the tribulation and distress to come, and only the wicked will be left on earth to suffer?

Now there’s no doubt, the Bible does foretell of a soon coming “time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time” (Daniel 12:1). That’s before Jesus’ return. But does that mean that Christians will be raptured and taken away from that tribulation?

Jesus Himself clearly tells us about this monumental event that will be like none other before it. He said, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Matthew 24:21-22).

Did you notice something important here? You’ve got to ask yourself, if the elect—if God’s people are secretly raptured before the great tribulation, why would they need the days shortened? You see, those ideas totally disagree with each other.

If you turn to the Word of God, you’ll find that all throughout the Bible, there are example after example of God’s people being saved in the middle of tribulation, not being saved out of it or before it. This includes Daniel in the lion’s den, Israel and the plagues of Egypt, and of course, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace.

God saved Daniel while he was going through that tribulation. The children of Israel, they were delivered from bondage after the plagues. And in that blistering furnace, God saved those three men miraculously.

Now these examples are important because right before Christ returns, true Christians will likewise be the target of the ungodly, because of their faithfulness. There will come a time of persecution and great tribulation, But there will not be a rapture, a removal of the faithful.

Now it is true, that just as in all of biblical history, God will preserve His elect. But did you notice how? The same Jesus that was with Daniel in the lion’s den, and with the children of Israel, and with the men in the fire, will not remove the faithful from every trial and tribulation. Instead, He will go with us through the trials. God will shield true believers who follow Him with all their heart and mind.

So it becomes obvious from Scripture that the idea of removing believers to heaven for protection, well that’s contrary to the teaching and example of the Word of God. It’s just not biblical.

But you may ask, isn’t there a place in the Bible where they base the teaching of the rapture? Well, yes. So let’s look at that one passage that forms the basis for the Rapture. Well that’s right, the main argument is based on just one scripture and it’s found in 1 Thessalonians 4:17.

Here’s what it says: “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”

This is from where the basis for the word rapture comes. When translated into Latin, the word used for “shall be caught up” is the Latin word “rapere”—that’s where we get our English word “rapture.” Now in Latin, the word means “to seize” or “to abduct” or to “snatch.”

Now the question is this: Does the original Greek word for “caught up” express the same sense of abduction or secret rapture? No, it doesn’t. Scholars say “[it] combines the ideas of force and suddenness seen in the irresistible power of God” (Leon Morris, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Revised Edition, 1984, p. 94). So rather than secretly whisked away, it refers to the sudden and forceful return of Jesus Christ.

Let’s dig into the context of this passage so we can gain an even better understanding.

Do you know why the apostle Paul wrote this section of Scripture? It was to answer the concerns of Christians in Thessalonica. They were grieving over the unexpected deaths of some of their faithful members. You see, they thought Jesus would return in their lifetime. They didn’t think that any faithful Christians would die before Jesus’ return. So they were caught unprepared for their death.

Now they weren’t worried about whether Christ would return to rescue them. They weren’t worried about their own safety in the end-of-the-age tribulation. And they weren’t neglecting their spiritual readiness.

Verse 13 shows this: “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep [died], lest you sorrow as others who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

You see, the topic is clearly those Christians who were asleep, who had died. God is going to bring the dead back to life in a resurrection. Notice it: “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 4:14).

Now did you see the time reference? It says: “God will bring with Him.” That is, they’ll come with at the second coming of Christ. Could he have meant a secret rapture? No, it could only be referring to Jesus’ second coming to earth and the resurrected faithful will be with Him.

Now that’s why they could have hope! All Christians, living and dead are included those verses: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4: 16-17).

So it’s no secret: The return of Christ is heralded by the seventh trumpet and a shout. True Christians both dead and alive will meet the returning Christ in the atmosphere of the earth, not in the heaven of God’s throne (1 Thessalonians 4:17). The Bible doesn’t call this a rapture—the Word of God calls this the first resurrection.

Paul used strong words so that people would be reassured that, at Jesus’ return, God would reunite believers who were still alive with believers who had died. The dead Christians won’t be left behind in any way!

Now there is another critical factor to consider about this verse. Recognizing the meaning of the word “meet.” It’s a very important word. One biblical scholar says, “the special idea of the word was the official welcome of a newly arrived dignitary” (Moulton, Greek Test. Gram., Vol. I, p. 14 ; and 1985, “Meet”). Another commentary says that this word “meet” refers to “when a king enters his city the loyal go forth to meet him…” (Jamison Faucett Brown).

Yet another states that the word “meet” is used “of the official reception given to a visiting governor, whom his citizens escort into the city from which they have come to meet him” (1986, notes on 1 Thess. 4:13-18; F.F. Bruce’s International Bible Commentary).

What does it mean? Well when we put it all together it becomes clear. When Jesus returns, true Christians will be resurrected and rise to meet the King of Kings! As an escort of honor, they’ll officially welcome the newly arriving King and accompany Him back to the earth where He will rule from Jerusalem.

That’s what this passage is all about. So imagine the celebration and the excitement. No wonder God’s people would be encouraged with this amazing truth.

Another important aspect is that trumpet blast that Paul wrote about. The book of Revelation tells of trumpets sounding at the end of the age. When the seventh and final angel sounds, the announcement is the finale, the last and greatest event: The return of Jesus Christ to initiate the Kingdom of God on earth.

“Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’” (Revelation 11:15).

I hope you see the significance. Scripture doesn’t allow for a quiet secret rapture of Christians to heaven for several years! Instead, that “last trumpet” announces Christ’s return to rule over the earth.

Now there is one other passage that we should consider. It’s used to support the idea of a secret rapture. In fact, you may be familiar with the verse that says, “Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left” (Matthew 24:41). It’s found in Matthew 24 and in Luke 17.

Now to understand this passage—we’ll need to step back and look at the context of the verse. Have you ever noticed that Jesus says something remarkable right after that statement?

He says, “Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together” (Luke 17:37). In Matthew it says “wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together” (Matthew 24:28). Now, that sounds kind of odd, doesn’t it? Yet it is significant. So let’s sort it out.

Jesus is paraphrasing the inspired words of Job. He says: “Does the eagle mount up at your command, and make its nest on high? On the rocks it dwells and resides, on the crag of the rock and the stronghold. From there it spies out the prey; its eyes observe from afar” (Job 39:27-30).

The symbolism in this story helps unlock this mysterious statement that Jesus Christ gave many years later.

What do these eagles represent? Well other scriptures show “eagles” can symbolize God’s faithful people. Notice: “But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

Next, let’s notice where Job said those eagles dwell: “On the rocks it dwells and resides, on the crag of the rock and the stronghold” (Job 39:28). You see that symbolism points to God’s people as eagles dwelling in the rock. In other words, relying on Jesus Christ, who is our spiritual Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4).

Then the verse speaks of “prey,” which is “afar off” that the “eagles” are seeking. In other words, what are God’s true people looking forward to in the near future?

The answer is found in Matthew 6:33, “…seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…”

So if we summarize that passage, we find that the eagles, who are God’s faithful people, are spying out, or seeking first, the return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of His Kingdom on earth.

And by unlocking that symbolic meaning in Job, we can reread Christ’s statement in context.

He said, “For as the lightning that flashes out of one part under heaven shines to the other part under heaven, so also the Son of Man will be in His day…Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left” (Luke 17:24, Luke 17:35-36).

So we see this is referring to the end of the age. The context is about the coming Kingdom of God on Earth. Christ is predicting events that will occur just before His return to this earth and the resurrection of God’s faithful people.

Now the important question: Will God’s faithful people be whisked away? Or will they be resurrected at the end of the age and gather around the “body” of the returning Jesus Christ?

Well let’s notice it: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

You see, now we can understand that Jesus Christ is the “body” that the “eagles”—His faithful people, the Church—will be gathered at the resurrection. That’s when He returns to rule over the nations as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

So you see, when we allow the Bible to interpret itself, it’s unmistakably clear that Christ fully returns to the earth to fulfill the countless prophecies about the coming of the Messiah, the King of Kings, to save the world. It’s unreasonable to think that He would come and briefly be there to only leave and not return for years!

Remember what Jesus Himself prayed: “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15).

Now that’s just the opposite of a secret rapture! The Bible doesn’t promise that God will take believers to heaven to protect them from the troubles to come. Jesus prayed for just the opposite—our protection from evil while we’re here on the earth.

There is no doubt—Christ will return, but be careful not to read into those prophecies words and ideas that just aren’t in Scripture. There is a second coming and a resurrection of the faithful, but there is no secret rapture.

In Jesus’ true teaching there is also an admonition. The challenge for all of us is to be sure that we’re considered by God to be His worthy “eagles” at His return. That at the resurrection, we want to be with the “body” of Jesus Christ when He returns in power to set up His Kingdom on Earth, and to rule over all the nations with His faithful people.

So what should we do? Get into that Bible! Prove it for yourself. Don’t take my word for it. Go to the truth of the Word of God. Get out your Bible, and open it up and read it for yourself. Then you can really begin to understand the truth.

Now I hope you’ve been challenged to look further into the truth of Scripture. I’d like to help you by offering you a special, free Bible study aid: The Rapture vs. the Bible. This valuable study guide will help you better understand that the secret Rapture teaching simply doesn’t come from the Bible. It will also aid you in discovering the wonderful hope of the resurrection that God has planned for you and all humanity.

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[Steve Myers] Hi, I’m Steve Myers. I’m the pastor here at the United Church of God Cincinnati East congregation. We have hundreds of congregations around the United States and across the world. I’d like to welcome you to come and join us on this great spiritual journey. Click on the Congregations tab to find a church near you.

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[Steve] The idea of Christians being secretly raptured to heaven is a false teaching. Remember, just because many believe it, doesn’t make it true.

Now your Bible does teach there is a frightening time of world trouble ahead. But more importantly, it also teaches that Jesus will come again to set the world right. He will resurrect His loyal, obedient people.

Be sure you are loyal. Be sure you’re obedient to God, because now is the time to obey. Now is the time to repent, to change. It’s not too late. So, don’t get caught up. Don’t get caught up in that idea of a secret rapture. Always turn to the Bible so you can understand the true teachings of Jesus Christ.

That’s our program for today. Thanks for joining me and don’t forget our free offers. Be sure to tell your family and friends about us, and tune in again next week for another edition of Beyond Today . And join me in praying, “Thy Kingdom come.” For Beyond Today I’m Steve Myers. Thanks for watching.

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