I have followed your commands, which keep me from following cruel and evil people. (NLT) Many people have the idea that the Antichrist will be obvious to all from the moment the final seven year countdown kicks in. For those of you that don’t know, there is a passage in the bible, in Daniel 9 … Read more »
Rupturing the Rapture
For so many, what the bible teaches about the end times is an object of either fascination, or dread, or weariness. There is a plethora of books, positions, articles and videos and sermons and slogans out there on the subject, often confusing, often contradictory. There have been so many false claims that did not come true, arguments and counter-arguments that many in the church have grown weary and wary of the whole subject. For others it remains a focus of passionate interest, with intense debate on the particular prophetic patterns perceived, rightly or wrongly, in the teaching of the bible. And I’ve gone and added another new book to the mix, with yet another in the works. Why?
Well, it is because there is a deadly dangerous lie that has gripped much of the Western – and particularly American – evangelical church, and it’s called ‘the rapture’. For millions of Christians who believe they are ‘bible-believing’ this is the gold standard of end times interpretation. Preachers proudly boast that it is the only view that truly takes the bible literally when it comes to the end times. Words like ‘imminence’ and ‘Blessed Hope’ and ‘not under wrath’ are bandied around and become mantras for brainwashed believers who think that they are teaching sound doctrine when they are doing anything but. The deception is immense. How do I know it is a deception? How can I say that with such certainty?
A good place to start would be to look at the arguments of those who are the leaders of such a belief-system, and this is what I do in my book ‘Rapture Rupture! The Big Lie Behind ‘Left Behind’ Exposed’. By far the most popular and prominent current teacher of this dangerous doctrine is Tim LaHaye, co-author of the best-selling ‘Left Behind’ series, which makes him millions in royalties, whether from the books, or for the films (most recently in a Hollywood re-boot starring Nicholas Cage). As well as the iconic ‘Left Behind’ novels, he has written a number of articles and book chapters in non-fiction works, and in at least one of them he touts a table of fifteen ‘irrefutable proofs’ from the bible of his position that ‘the rapture’ is, and must be, a separate event from the glorious return of Jesus at the end of the age. (For those of you who don’t know, ‘the rapture’ is a popular and kind of technical term for an event described by the apostle Paul in several of his New Testament letters, in which there is a resurrection of dead disciples of Jesus and the transformation of those alive, who rise to meet Jesus in the air.) He is not alone in offering such ‘tables of proofs’. Although there are many variants, the core pattern is always the same: they have a list of claims side by side, usually – but not always – accompanied by Scripture citations – in which passages that are supposed to be about the return of Jesus (in a few cases they actually aren’t) are claimed to be contradictory or mutually exclusive, and therefore ‘prove’ that the rapture must be a separate event, because that is, allegedly, the only way such ‘contradictions’ can be reconciled. I have even seen the very same verse used by two different ‘rapture’ proponents where one said it was said about the ‘Rapture’ and the other claimed it definitely had to be describing the actual Second Coming of Jesus.
I have also seen – and LaHaye is one of those that does this – the very same continuous passage broken up and a few verses claimed to be the rapture, the next few the second coming, and the next few the rapture again. When there has to be such confusion in defending a doctrine and justifying it, you know there must be a serious problem. In the book, I demonstrate how each and every single one of his so called ‘irrefutable proofs’ actually proves the opposite of his case or are otherwise severely flawed. In one case, he literally makes something up, in another he gets something 1000 years out, and in another he uses a passage as ‘proof’ of the rapture when it almost certainly isn’t referring to the return of Jesus in any way, shape or form (John 14.1-2). In proof after alleged proof, what is really going on is one of two things – either having to assume the whole belief system surrounding the ‘pre-trib’ rapture to ‘prove’ that a passage is teaching it, or else forcing a ‘contradiction’ to prove two passages must be speaking of different events by assuming that just because a passage doesn’t mention something, that rules it out from happening at that time – in other words, repeatedly violating the dictum that ‘Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’.
In the book, I show that a number of the favoured proofs or slogans of the Pre-Tribulation rapture crowd are false. For instance, ‘not under wrath’ does not mean what they claim it means – they get it completely wrong. I also show how their insistent use of ‘imminence’ is actually unbliblcal, and how they completely miss the very clear contextual setting and meaning of the many ‘thief in the night’ passages in the New Testament. It doesn’t at all mean what they think. I also show how the continual harking to ‘the Blessed Hope’ of the rapture is in fact to embrace a heretical interpretation of a key bible verse about Jesus’ divinity (or at least it would if people were being at all consistent).
But the core of understanding the truth is, as it almost always is, getting to grips with the New Testament from a Jewish perspective, the perspective out of which it was written. But even here the Pre-Tribulationist crowd get it badly wrong, corrupting the evidence to force Jewish wedding customs to fit their views, when in reality they contradict it (this is important because Jesus quite often taught about his second coming in terms of a wedding, so the wedding customs of his day are highly relevant). Once you understand how Paul applied Jewish methods of scripture citation to Jesus’ teaching when he wrote of the rapture, you can see, as I show in the book, that Paul links his teaching on the rapture clearly and consistently to Jesus’ teaching on the last days in such a way that the only legitimate position is what we today would call ‘Post-Tribulation’ There is no room for any other interpretation once you understand the implications. I show how Paul makes an often missed clear allusion to the fact that the rapture only happens after a great many Christians die in the Tribulation.
I show how this ungodly teaching runs completely counter to the entire tenor of the teaching of the New Testament and the apostles on the ‘Last Days’. Not only that, but I show how the Pre-Tribulation idea involves nullifying the word of God for the sake of human tradition, and how the major interpretive method that most of its proponents use, whether knowingly or not – and some boast of it, saying it is the ‘line upon line’ approach from Isaiah 28.10 – is actually a sign of divine judgement, not the divinely sanctioned method of exegesis they think it is. In short, the rapture doctrine as espoused by much of the modern evangelical church is an idol, a dogma to which all scripture must be forced to conform, no matter how grotesque the contortions. To adapt a wonderful phrase I found when researching this issue, apologists for the rapture use scripture like a drunk uses a lamppost, for support rather than illumination. For all these reasons and more, as a theologian, I can say quite categorically that the usual teaching on the rapture is a lie, a deception. I show how devastating its impact will be when the Tribulation comes, and how it will contribute greatly to the final apostasy. It has already happened in one nation in the 1950’s, and it will happen again on a much bigger scale when the anti-Christ comes to power. This issue matters incredibly and eternally, since Jesus warned ‘Only those who endure to the end will be saved.’ How can we do that if we are utterly unprepared? So in this section, I will deal with related issues. But wait, there is more…
Charted Hope Charts and diagrams, Chronology and exact detail, Military and political moves, What have these to do with Christ? Are not these the genealogies And the quarrelling about words of today, Against which Paul the apostle warned us? We have a living hope, But we dissect it into minutiae, Make these minutiae all in… Read more »