Are We Making Too Much of an Obscure Reference to the Rapture?

Questions:

  1. Where does the idea of the RAPTURE come into Christian philosophy when it is not located in Revelation by which we place so much of the final times idea, but mentioned only once in Paul’s letters, 1st Thessalonians?
  2. I was doing some research and it I came up with something interesting. Apocalyptic literature was very popular and important during the times of John. It was used to “reveal” why and what was going on in the world symbolically at the time. Why then, do we take Apocalyptic literature and make it a prophecy?
  3. If the Christians are raptured, then who is going to be left to fight in the final battle?
  4. If the Christians are raptured away, then when Christ returns and remakes and rules over the Earthly Kingdom, then who gets to live there?
  5. When does the term antichrist come into Christian ideology when it is not used but 5 times in the Bible and not in Daniel or Revelation, but used more in Paul’s letters. When Paul uses this term, it seems to be used as doing things or ideas, that are not in the likeness of Christ, not necessarily a person. Paul says, for instance, that Christian communities that do not believe that Christ was flesh and blood are antichrist.

Answers:

  1. The word comes from the Latin translation of 1 Thessalonians 4:17 (“caught up”) and describes the giving of resurrection bodies to those believers who are still alive at the coming of Christ.  Instead of their bodies being “raised” from the dead and made new like Christ’s, they are simply made new without going through death and made to ascend to where Christ is.  There is no reason to believe that Revelation is or should be the only New Testament book that addresses issues of eschatology (last things).  And there needs be mention only once for a concept to garner attention in Scripture.  Admittedly, this passage is one that is highly debated, not with regard to whether there will be a rapture but as to when it will occur.  Some believe it will occur prior to God’s outpouring of wrath (see Revelation 6-19) on earth and others that it will occur after that at the coming of Christ to earth to establish his kingdom.  The former believe that Jesus only comes in the air in a way that is not evident to all the world, takes up the dead in Christ and those still alive at his coming, keeps them in heaven until the wrath is finished, then comes to earth with them to establish the kingdom.  The latter believe he concludes the wrath with his coming, resurrecting and rapturing the saints, meeting them in the air and then immediately coming all the way down to earth to establish his kingdom.
  2. Though Christian writings follow commonly used forms of communication (letters, histories, apocalyptic) this does not mean they are slaves to the form and cannot in any way add something new to it.  The Gospels do not follow any form of that day exactly.  Paul’s letters take the letter form to a new level.  John’s apocalyptic form does not have to limit itself to speaking to present conditions only, especially when we consider that he knows the God of the universe who is and has been quite willing to tell the end from the beginning and who is concerned to warn us of the coming wrath so that we might flee to Jesus.
  3. Whichever view of the rapture you take (pre-outpouring of wrath, also called pre-tribulation rapture, or post-outpouring of wrath, post-tribulation rapture), it is those who belong to Jesus and have been resurrected or raptured who will help him fight the final battle (Revelation 19).
  4. The assumption in this question and the one before is that once you’ve been resurrected or raptured (the dead are resurrected, the living are raptured) then you go away somewhere.  But Paul makes it clear in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 that you go to be with Jesus and if he comes back to earth we will be with him.  Now on the pre-tribulation rapture view, when Jesus comes back all the way to earth to fight the final battle and establish his kingdom, those who have been resurrected and raptured will come with him, but they will also find on earth others who have believed in Jesus since or during the tribulation (wrath).  Together, they will populate the kingdom, those who have resurrection bodies and those who don’t, but all believers in Jesus.  On the post-tribulation rapture view, only resurrected/raptured believers will populate the kingdom.  This seems to pose a bit of a problem if you take Revelation 20 as describing the literal 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth, because at the end of it Satan is released and is able to mount an army of humans who rebel against Jesus.  Where do these unbelievers come from?  The pre-tribulation rapturists believe that those believers who enter the kingdom without resurrected bodies will have children, who will have children, etc., who do not believe.  They make up the army of rebels at the end of Christ’s perfect rule on earth.
  5. Paul never uses the term “antichrist” but rather “the man of lawlessness” (2 Thessalonians 2:3, therefore not a thing or idea).  Daniel talks about “the ruler who will come” and “confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven’”, who then breaks that covenant by desecrating the temple, setting “up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him” (Daniel 9:25-27).  John uses the term “antichrist” in 1 John 2:18, for example, where he says, “as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come,” and he references those of the church he is writing to who have left the congregation to follow false teachers.  It is these false teachers who are the antichrists.  He remarks in 4:3 that “every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God” and that “this is the spirit of antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.”  Here it is the spirit of antichrist that John speaks of and this is indeed an idea or false idea that seeks to draw attention away from the true Jesus Christ.  But this does not mean that the “spirit of antichrist” is or can be separated from individuals.  It cannot.  And one day it will be embodied in a particular antichrist who is described in Revelation 13 as an individual empowered by Satan who seeks to deceive the world and convince them that he is to be worshiped.
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One thought on “Are We Making Too Much of an Obscure Reference to the Rapture?

  1. Or you could take my view, that there IS no rapture. Sure, I 100% believe that Jesus comes bodily to earth,but not to rapture us, but to rule with us during the millenium. But if I’m wrong, I pray that it’s pre-trib 😉
    I’m doing a series (for the past 2 months now) where I focus almost solely on the OT prophets to explain the end times. I started with a few presumptions, but have come to new insight since.
    Great blog you have

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