Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Rapture

One man’s eureka moment brands him a fool in the mind of another. My Eureka moment cannot actually be fixed to a precise moment; rather, a span of time of about eight years. When my parents decided to follow Christ they settled into a wild non-denominational, dispensation-ally minded church. There my indoctrination on the rapture began and continued for the next 20 plus years.

The first inkling that I may have been mislead was in Bible college. While sitting in a class on Assemblies of God History and doctrine, the defense of the premillennial rapture of the church was laid out…in about fifteen minutes. I remember thinking, “That’s it? That’s all the scripture they can come up with to ground one of their 16 fundamental truths?”

In what should be a major work, I will briefly explain why I have trouble with the rapture theory. I don't intend on explaining the basis for belief in the rapture, but if your interested, CLICK.

The origins of the Rapture disturb me. The belief itself is new to the Christianity, relatively speaking--only 200 years old. The idea was floating around circles of Christianity in the early 1800's. It took a guy named John Nelson Darby to set the dispensationalist boat afloat--the movement that purports the rapture among other things. Darby was an Anglican priest who got fed up with lax spiritual climate of the Church of England, so he left and started his own "nondenominational" group. He taught this group that there would be two second comings (that doesn't even make sense) of Christ (why didn't Christ tell anyone that?) the first of which was a secret "rapture." Rapture comes from the Latin translation by Jerome of 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17 (yep, "rapture" doesn't even appear in the cannon). The second, second coming of Christ (third coming?) will occur when Jesus comes back to earth with his saints to set up a millennial reign on earth. This was radical teaching at the time, breaking from the orthodoxy of Catholic and Protestant streams.

Darby, who died in obscurity, produced a Darbionite disciple, Cyrus I. Scofield. Scofield, an amateur theologian, made history when he wrote the first study Bible, the Scofield Reference Bible, that featured the theology of Darby in convenient, easy to read notes. This first study, published in 1909 was a hit, and sold like that Harry Potter series. Scofield's notes on Thessalonians explained the Rapture and thus duped the consuming public--Sola Scritura at its best.

Aside from the goofy origins, the Biblical evidence is flimsy at best. The term itself, "rapture," was, as mentioned above, was the translation by St. Jerome of the term Parousia ("coming") in I Thes. 4:15. This term is often transliterated and used to refer to the Rapture by evangelicals. But this term is used elsewhere (cf. Phil 2:12) to refer to less apocalyptic comings. Besides, as George Ladd points out in The Blessed Hope, the context of these verses hardly suggests a secret coming. Please read 1 Thes. 4 14-18. There is absolutely no hint that the apostle Paul is speaking of two independent 2nd comings of Christ.

Back to Parousia. Tt is claimed by adherents to Rapture theology that this word is the word used to denote rapture, and that other terms (apokalupsis, epithaneia) are used to refer to the second, second coming. They say that the New Testament writers purposefully used different apocalyptic terms of return to differentiate between the rapture and the coing in which Christ returns with the saints. Why then is parousia used in 1 Thes. 3:13 to refer to the second coming, and not the "rapture?"

Frequently cited Romans 8:23 is clear eisegesis: but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. A secret rapture? Sure, every believer runs the race for the the redemption of their bodies, for an eternal existance with their savior...heaven. You cannot get rapture out of this verse. I encourage you, read this verse in context. If I want to get technical, Paul is saying that our "adoption" IS the redemption of our fallen, sinful bodies (cf. Eph. 1:5.6).

One of DC Talks most famous remakes comes from a group of verses cited as unquetionable biblical proof for the rapture (I Wish We'd All Been Ready). But here Jesus is using his characteristic paradoxical rhetoric to illustrate spiritual consistancy and readiness, not a precise moment in which he will pull a sneaky return. Besides, were he talking about a rapture, a blessed hope out of persecution, how does one explain his words just a few verse earlier: "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake." in the section in which this verse lies, Jesus is telling his folowers that they will know that he is coming again when they personally suffer tribulation.

I do not want to take time here, but look up other cited verses that supposedly support rapture theology--Titus 2:13, 1 Corinthians 15:51,52--and see if you get rapture out of it.

While this might be long blog post, I have barely scrathced the surface. Leave me comments if you agree, disagree, or want me to go deeper on any verses. I would like to finish this post with this thought. Anyone (protestant) who accepts the theory of the Rapture without actually consulting scripture for its reliability is rejectng the idea of Sola Scriptura, and subscribing to the authority of the Pope. Not the Catholic Pope in Rome, but pope Hagee, pope Jerry Falwell, pope John Darby, and/or pope Cyrus Scofield.


Kenni B said...

So then are "...we which are alive and remain...." going to be "caught up together with Him in the clouds" and come right back down with Him for a little Armageddon beat down?

nate said...

I am not sure about an Armageddon beat down...there is a difference between armageddon and tribulation, which I am talking about in this post. If you consider the context, Paul is talking about two groups of people, those who are asleep;that is, those who pass away before the second coming of Christ, and those who remain; Christians alive at the time of the SECOND COMING of Christ--these living Christians will be caught up in the clouds.
I don't believe Paul is talking about the rapture here, and neither did 1800 years worth of scholars, including Luther, Zwingli, CAlvin, Knox, etc. THis is how they interpreted these verses.

Stephen said...

Well said, sir. And I enjoy a cold Yoo-Hoo on a hot summer day, too.

nate said...

Thanks! I don't know what I want more right now...a yoohoo or summer.

Kenni, didn't mean to sound rude in that last comment...I wrote it before I rushed off to work this morning!

Anonymous said...

I'm reading a great book by James Stuart Russell called "Parousia". I bet you'd like it.


Ric Booth said...

Thanks Nate. I think Tony Campolo gives a good and similar treatment of this in his book, Letters to Young Evangelicals. He also describes some of the negative impacts he sees in the "Rapture Theory."