For anyone coming into the series fresh, I’ve been talking about the rapture/ the resurrection of the dead. There has been some interesting discussion on The Rapture Challenge: – I HIGHLY recommend reading that post – and the accompanying conversations – before continuing (the other two posts on the topic: WHEN Comes the Return of Christ, and The Rapture?; HOW shall Christ Return?).
Attempting to move past the rapture topic, but the teaching is so prevalent that it must continue to be addressed as we move forward. Having an accurate. biblically defined perspective on the resurrection of the dead is essential. I say this because the resurrection of the dead is defined as a principal doctrine of Christianity (Heb. 6:1 & 2) – it is a FOUNDATIONAL teaching. As a ‘foundational’ teaching, many Truths are built upon it – we cannot have an accurate understanding of end-time events without understanding what the bible teaches on the resurrection of the dead. If we hold an erroneous perspective on the topic, the entire framework of our belief about the coming days will be flawed. If we believe what the bible teaches about the resurrection of the dead, we then have a right BIBLICAL platform from which to form a framework of faith. This is what I mean by ‘foundational.’ (Again, please read the preceding posts.)
In fact, I would prefer to teach the resurrection of the dead outside of the ‘rapture’ theology, entirely, but as the rapture teachings are so prevalent in the church today, it is impossible to not address it.
Here I will discuss certain faulty perspectives that arise due to misunderstanding of a foundational biblical Truth. For, ‘Wisdom is justified of her children.’ (And vise-versa.)
Does it seem interesting to anyone else that the only people who seem to fully understand the rapture are the theologians, and ministers who ‘teach’ it? I notice that even among proponents of the rapture who have been taught the doctrine are unable to distinguish when, and where the bible is speaking of it, or the ‘resurrection of the dead.’ Further, most are uncertain whether or not the rapture is something different from the resurrection of the dead. A general haze of confusion surrounds teachings about the rapture, yet it is adamantly declared as a plain biblical Truth and anyone who questions it is quite literally shunned – I don’t believe in the rapture, so I should know.
I grew up believing the rapture as it is taught among mainline evangelicals/ Pentecostals. I recall never really having a full biblical understanding of how (or if) the rapture varied from the resurrection. The reason that there is a general haze of confusion around the doctrine is because there is no concrete biblical basis for it – there is always a question at the back of any real seeker’s mind as to whether these passages are talking about the resurrection, or something else. Is there a secret, invisible return of Christ before the ‘official’ return of Christ, does the Holy Spirit leave the earth at the rapture…? In fact, in order to believe the rapture, one must hang his entire trust upon the interpretations of the person teaching it; they seem to have points which seem to ring true… but the plain statement of scripture is lacking.
Along with the general confusion, there are specific theologies derived from the rapture doctrine which only lend further confusion. For example, speaking of the latter days, Jesus commanded that His people watch and pray, for we do not know the day, or the hour of His coming (Matt 24:42-44). Now, upon the foundation of the ‘rapture’ doctrine, this seems to mean that we need to be watching constantly for an event that could come at any moment. No one knows when it will happen, so we literally need to be watching for it constantly. But… this begs the question: Why? Why watch for an event if no one knows when it will happen? If Jesus is going to ‘catch up’ everyone who is saved when He returns… why does it matter if we are watching for His return? Did Jesus mean to imply that only those who were watching for the rapture would be caught up in it? Well that adds a whole new dimension of confusion! Does that mean that those who do not believe in the rapture are not ‘saved’?! That can’t be, for that would change the tenants of the Gospel, but why would Christ refuse to catch up some of His believers simply because they weren’t – in the moment He decided to show – watching?
The ‘left behind’ theology that derives from interpreting Jesus words through the false teaching of the rapture is simply confusing. It doesn’t make sense, and it leaves people paranoid, that they should be diligently ‘watching.’ Yet… how do you watch for such an event to begin with… is Christ returning physically, and we should be constantly staring into the sky?! We are left with no understanding even how to watch! Was that Jesus’ point? To confuse us? To make Christians paranoid that they might miss the rapture?
I recall having a conversation with a Catholic gentleman back when I believed the rapture; I was listening to LaHaye’s famous series of Novels on audio, and I was trying to convince this gentleman of the rapture. At the time, I thought his response was irreverent, and without understanding of what the bible taught – he said these words I will never forget: ‘Do I believe in the Apocalypse? Yes. But I don’t believe God is going to come down and snatch up His favorite people up to heaven.’ At the time I wrote off this conversation, as I was convinced, but think about that. Is God, indeed, going to take those He prefers, and leave other Christians because they don’t believe in the rapture?
Let me, then, clarify what Jesus was talking about when He commanded believer’s to watch (because many will not otherwise be able to understand it outside of the framework of rapture teaching (remember that I said ‘foundational’)). Jesus commands His disciples to ‘watch and pray’ a number of times in the Gospels – it is only once or twice that He applies the teaching to His return and the resurrection of the dead. In fact, He is talking about exercising one’s spiritual senses. Really what He is saying is: ‘Wait on the Lord;’ be praying, be paying attention to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Guess what? That is not amorphous, that is not confusing, that is something we CAN learn to do constantly.
When applied to the resurrection it makes sense, as much as it made sense for Him to command the disciples to watch and pray in the garden – be alert, be ready IN GOD. We may not know the day or the hour, but we CAN have a sense of the season we are in by the discerning of the Holy Spirit. In fact this waiting on God is a primary thought when we continue to discuss how to prepare for the tribulation.
Changing the Dispensation of the Holy Ghost <-Link (see section: “‘The Year of the Lord’s Favor’ Or: ‘The Messianic Age,’ Or ‘The Age of Grace’” of this post)
Old Covenant Relapse
There is a MAJOR HERESY derivative belief regarding the rapture which is this – that once the Christians are snatched out of the earth the Old Covenant genealogical Jews become the chosen people of God, once again. This is literally an antichrist doctrine. Only those who receive Jesus Christ, the Jew’s True Messiah are saved – this remains the case until His return. Jews who do not put their faith in Jesus Christ will perish in their sins with the rest of humanity that rejected the One True God. There will be no relapse into the Old Covenant – but once again, believing this teaching would mean that the rapture CHANGES THE GOSPEL. (See posts: WHO is the Israel of God? ‘Seed of Abraham’; WHO is the Israel of God? Pt 2. ‘First Glimpse into the New Covenant Era’; WHERE is the Israel of God? ‘Know ye not, ye are His Temple?’) And to see just how dangerous it is to believe such an heresy in the days to come, see WHO is the Beast from the Sea? pt. 2 ‘Antichrist’
One of the main arguments for this belief is actually the sealing of the 144,000 in the book of Revelation (Rev 7:4-8; 14:1-5). I will at some point in the series on the last days discuss the 144,000 in greater detail, for now I will just say that I do not believe they are literal genealogical Jews, I believe they are the redeemed saints of Christ – the True, spiritual Israel: Christians, and that the tribes mentioned means something in the SPIRIT, not in the natural. The key to their identity is found in Rev 14:3-5; remember, these are those WHO FOLLOW THE LAMB [Christians!] whithersoever He goes.
No wonder Paul, so adamantly charged the Thessalonians not to be deceived about the timing of the resurrection (2 Thess 2) – he knew confusion on the point would lead to antichrist teachings!