Some Initial Thoughts on the Rapture

I haven't reviewed the issue of the Rapture in a long, long time. There was a time, however, when I was fascinated by the End Times. Perhaps part of that is due to the fact that my preacher, and any evangelist he brought in to preach, would always try to scare the living wits out of us, I don't know. My crowning achievement as a teenager was having mapped out Matthew 24 line for line, by myself. Too bad I lost that several years ago.

Somewhere in my early adulthood I decided to stop thinking about it, having known where I was going and knowing where I wanted other to go regardless of how the End Times worked out. I was a small fish in a big ocean of theology and I was not strong enough to defend Dispensationalism or change to any of the other views, such as the Covenant view. However, I did grow up in a Dispensationalist house, with at least my Dad and Grandpa believing the tradition.

I didn't even know that most Dispensationalist thought had only been around since the 1800s. That's how little I had stretched my faith as a young man. As a seminary student, even in a conservative seminary like Liberty, I realize that I need this stretching to take place before I can really understand or be a part of theology.

So, in order to stretch myself, and to allow God to stretch me, I chose the Doctrine of the Rapture as my term paper subject. I am fully prepared to walk away from Dispensationalism should it be required of me after thoroughly reviewing the Scriptures. I do know, however, that doing that will hurt deeply. I still value my Grandpa's doctrinal leanings and as he leaned that way, so do I by nature. I have already been warned by a friend who went through this a few years ago that it would be difficult if I learned that there was no way to defend the doctrine.

I have given my paper the working title of The Doctrine of the Rapture: In Search for a Defensible Position. If, by the time I'm done, there is a way to defend it, then I will stay with it. If, however, I am unable to do so, I must reconsider. The research is underway as we speak.

What are your thoughts on the rapture? Do you hold to it or do you believe in a single, Second Coming event? I would love to have your careful and respectful thoughts. Thank you!

14 comments:

Dan Allen said...

This is truly a difficult subject, and it calls into question your entire framework of understanding the Bible, not just your view of the end times, because essentially the way you view the end times is based on how you understand the history of God's work among His creation from beginning to end.

I used to be dispensational. Honestly I didn't know I was, like I am sure many people don't, but I was simply not aware that there was any other views. A book that largely changed my perspective was A Case For Amillenialism by Kim Riddlebarger. He does a great job presenting all the views, walking through key passages, talking about the history of the views, and honestly he does it with fairness and kindness to those who don't agree with him. He never makes anyone out to look stupid or evil or heretical.

It is hard to have the foundation of your understanding shaken, but it will certainly help you to solidify your beliefs either way.

I look forward to reading more about how this study goes for you.

Dan

Dan said...

Dan,
Thank you for your kind, encouraging comments! I'm headed to Trinity Evangelical Seminary's library tonight to do research, and I'll see if I can't scare up that book. It would be good to read it.

Because it is such a far-fetching topic, I'm not dealing as much with the concept of dispensationalism as I am just the Rapture. I plan only to discuss the overarching theme of dispensationalism only as it relates to the Rapture. However, I do agree with you...this study could end up changing how I view everything about God.

Nice blog by the way.

Phil said...

Great study to engage in..

I firmly believe Christians will go through the rapture.

I think the topic is extensive and complex, and the starting point is the key to making things fit together. For me, the clearest passage is Jesus' teaching on the end times in Matthew 24. He lays it out pretty clearly chronologically no other passage in scripture does. I think fitting all the other passages like 1 Thes 4, Revelations, Daniel, etc into that Matthew passage makes it clearer.

Dan said...

Phill, thank you for your comment. I have done a few weeks of research and so far I have found little to change my opinion on the rapture. I still think there will be one, though I may be less Dispensationalist today than I was a few weeks ago.

Steve said...

Hey Dan,

sorry it took me so long to get to this, but I've been busy with research myself.

A few things:

1) don't tie your dispensationalism and your eschatology to close together. I would consider myself to be reformed, but I hold to a pre-trib, pre-millennial view of eschatology. While I agree that strict dispensationalist is a product of John Nelson Darby, Dispensationalists don't hold a corner on pre-trib rapture or pre-millennial views.

2) It is clear that the early church believed that the second coming of Christ would take place in their life time and that it was imminent. As we are taught to believe based on the same Scriptures. Every day we should wake up expecting that today is the day He will return for His Bride. With that thought in mind, it would be hard to see how the church would NOT know when Christ would return, if not for a pre-trib rapture. Follow the logic. Daniel and Revelation both give us the exact timing of the tribulation. The clock starts with the signing of a peace treaty with Israel and the Beast, 1260 days later, the abomination of desolation. Another 1260 days and Christ sets foot on the MT of Olives. It would be easy for the simplest of folks to rationally calculate His return. 7 years, or 84 months (reckoning on the Jewish calendar.)

3) Matthew 24:36-42. Most people read this passage and believe this speaks of the rapture. Be careful. The one taken goes to Glory? I don't think so. This is as in the days of Noah, right? Well who got taken away in Noah's day? Not Noah and his family, but the unbelievers. I believe that this is speaking of the unfaithful that will be swept away in judgment. Just FYI. In case you don't get that anywhere else in your studies, you can think on it.

4) I am sure you are aware that 1 Thes 4:17 is the classical view of the rapture. "Caught up" is Harpazo (Greek) and raptūra (Latin). It is really just "up" in the Greek manuscripts, no "caught"
My Greek lexicon defines it as: to seize, to carry off by force, or to snatch out or away

A tight rendering of the passage would be "Then we which alive remain, up together with them in clouds, and meet Lord in air: and so we ever be with Lord."

Sooooo, "those of us who are alive at the time of His coming, will be snatched away with the Believers who have died before His coming, and we will meet the Lord in the air and be with Him forever."

Cool, huh?

Blessings Brother!

Steve
.

Ken said...

I am looking up! Any day could be the last.

Dan said...

Ken, I completely agree with you! Keep on looking!

Steve, I have counted you a mentor for some time now, and I appreciate what you've written. I've been mulling it over in my head for days. I'd like to develop this thought a little for my personal theology and perhaps for my paper. Since I assume you won't be publishing a book before I need this paper finished, do you know of any books that support your idea? I think I'm leaning toward it. Dispensationalism, while part of my childhood and I think a defensible position, is a bit extreme. Thoughts?

Jin-roh said...

I suppose you already know my position on the subject.

You might consider checking out the preteristsite.com or if you want to just listen to one sermon, go to the berretta cast and download "preterism from the pulpit" if you use iTunes or have some other way to listen to a podcast.

Anonymous said...

The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares in Mt. 13 kill any pre-mil view. I change on the spot. See Floyd Hamilton's Basis of Millennial Faith.

Clarence Bass's Background of Dispensation-ism gives a good history. Also see O.T. Allis Prophecy and the Church.

Publish your paper.

Don the Baptist said...

The Lord is coming back. The dead in Christ shall be raised. How and when is God's business.

Tony Farson said...

Dan, you and me go way back bro and you know me to be outspoken on what I believe... Often times and much to my shame to a point of alienating those who didn't agree with me. The LORD has tempered and refined me over the last year or two and and while I am quite passionate about my beliefs and consider myself fully Reformed in a my theology. I can equally say that these things should drive no one to being critical, cruel or crude. NONE of these things are worth dividing over and we should be seeking ways to fellowship and love one another based on the truths of the Gospel not on the things that divide us. This much is true no matter the stance you take on Eschatology...

The LORD is returning to gather His people, to judge the living and the dead and usher in a new age of restored fellowship both in body and spirit between Creator and creature.

I respect you for being willing to approach the Word with a willingness to be stretched, to seek the True or Living God and to want to know the God as He has revealed himself. I understand that this pursuit can lead to different conclusions than mine but I respect you nonetheless my brother.

Besides; Reformed believers have far more in common with a Dispensational believers than with unbelievers so we should strive to live at peace (Psalm 34:14, Romans 12:18, Hebrews 12:14) with all equally for it is how the LORD will shine through us.

To me the argument on "dispie" and reformed thought doesn't come down to end-times, but on one word... Israel.

Who is the Israel of God? Is it ethnic Hebrews? Is the church the "Great Parenthesis" unforeseen in almost all prophetic passages? Left as second hand citizens beneath ethnic Israel even into eternity?

Or is the true Israel spiritual encompassing Jew and Gentiles? A universal church that spans generations, continents, and ethnicities to create a vast mosaic that bring all glory and honor God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

Romans 11 talks about the "great mystery" being explained... It talks about Olive trees (Israel) and broken off branches (unbelieving Jews) and wild olive branches (gentiles) being grafted in making the tree full and becoming like the rest of the tree (Israel) and that "In this way all Israel will be saved" (11:26).

This was the defining scripture in my pursuit of sound doctrine on this matter. To me it is clear that there is no need for some future time where only ethnic Jews again become the focus of God's redemptive plan... Billions of Jews have already surrendered to the LORD just as billions of gentiles have surrendered to Him. It is happening NOW and will continue until Christ comes. There is already a massive increase in Hebrew conversions around the globe, its been going on for decades now. To me it would seem the partial hardening is proclaimed in Romans is wearing off... But I could be wrong... and that's Okay! Because Jesus loves me this I know... :-)

Dan Smith said...

Tony,
It is so wonderful to hear from you again! I figured I had offended you to the point of no return, as it were. I'm glad you took the time to work with me on this issue.

The fact is you're right. We have far more in common between Dispensationalists and Reformed (and all variations of the two) than we do with unbelievers and that is the key. Steven and I had to figure that out back in the day as well.

The truth is that I think some of this does hinge on Israel, but because I'm no scholar on the matter, I haven't decided yet what part that is. I'm glad you brought it up though. Although I'll also say that I think the idea of a rapture can stand on it's own merit without the need for figuring out one's belief on Israel. It is a part of the end times theology, but nothing hinges on it, nor (in my study) does it hinge on anything else.

I appreciate the quick review of Romans 11. I need to look more into this after my current semester is finished. Thank you, brother! Be Blessed!

Tony Farson said...

:-) I figured you didn't want to hear from me after our last exchange on this very subject. I'm glad I was wrong brother, and I apologize if I pushed to hard... I was and am new to Reformed theology and VERY excited to share all that I had learned and come to believe.

I am Amil and I believe that Paul was speaking clearly about those who believe being "caught up" in the sky when Christ appears. I don't believe it is some intermediary event between Christ's first and second coming. Nor do I agree that it is God's way of getting "the church" out of the way so He can once again turn to ethnic Israel.

I think the "rapture" is the first thing to happen when he returns to commence His eternal rule. He is brining his court with him for judgement day just as the kings of old would summon their court to pass judgement and issue edicts. In the OT kings like (like Saul and David) were inaugurated as king long before they commenced their absolute rule. The old king still commanded some authority and demanded fealty until the new king took his place. The Amil's battle cry is "The kingdom is now!" Because we believe Christ has already been crowned, and the old king (satan) is in the final pagnes of death as Christ gathers His people unto himself. Spiritually Christ regins and believers are His palace. When he returns it will be to restore all things and put all of creation in order and commence physical, eternal reign over His creation, and over His people, the Israel of God (Jew and Greek).

I read Steve's comments above after I posted last night and he is correct that dispensationalism doesn't exclusively have premil eschatology cornered. But their brand of premil (called dispensational premillennialism) is not even close to what is known as historic premillennialism which actually has more in common with postmillenialism. A mentor friend of mine once said:

"you can be reformed and [historic]premil, but you cannot be dispensational and anything else other than [dispie]premil."

In other words it is theologically impossible to hold to Reformed theology on all things except eschatology because holding to dispiepremil requires dispie theology to make sense, just as Reformed views on eschatology requires Reformed theology. Therefore the question of Israel and the Church is at the focal point of dispie theology and eschatology and ends up at the heart of the debate between the Reformed tradition and Darby's new revelations. He created dispiepremil including the intermediary return of Christ and the rapture as a separate historical event to give ethnic Israel another exclusive moment in God's redemptive plan. created the seven year tribulation as well as turning the book of Revelations into an exclusively futurist book, when I and many others believe it to be first and foremost a book to encourage and embolden believers to fulfill the Great Commission with courage and urgency. However, the book itself encompasses history, current (for John) and future (from John's perspective) events including the second coming.

But I digress... I apologize for the length of my post. I hope it wasn't too much. It is a complicate thing to sort these topics out I know. It is even more difficult when one must, to some extent disconnect oneself from what he have been brought up to believe and try to remain objective and a true seeker... It was and still is really frustrating for me sometimes too! Please let me know if you have questions I can help with or if you would like to get some more book titles that may help sort some of these things out. Love ya brother!

Dan Smith said...

Brother, the truth is that I'm not where you are with this subject, nor am I ready to be at this time. Should I study for a PhD someday, and choose this for my research subject, then I will definitely look you back up for help. I'm very content to know that what I grew up with is quite possibly not going to end up happening. Yet if it does, I can be content then as well knowing that you and I will meet each other in the air. If not, then we'll see each other in the end somehow.