Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Rapture of the Church: Fact or False Hope?

DISCLAIMER:  I am in no way questioning the validity of the Second Coming of Christ.  Jesus is returning to Earth to set up His eternal kingdom.  I am just debating the timeline and details.

If you have ever been a church-goer, chances are you have learned about the Rapture of the Church, or Christ’s Return or the Second Coming of Jesus.  If you aren’t a church-goer, maybe you’ve heard about the Rapture and knew it was something to do with the belief Christian’s have about leaving earth before doomsday hits.  Maybe you’ve even watched Nicolas Cage’s recent movie Left Behind, based on events that are to occur after this said rapture.

In any event, you’ve probably been told that Jesus is returning to meet all Christians in the clouds in the not so distant future.  “The dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord for ever”  (1 Thessalonians 4: 16b, 17). I was told this would happen before the Great Tribulation -- a 7-year time period when the Anti-Christ will rise and cause untold persecution of Christians (those who convert after the Rapture).  I was led to believe that Christians who are alive on earth during those last days will not endure The Great Tribulation but instead be whisked away to Heaven with Jesus in the sky. But Jesus will return again, and conquer the Anti-Christ, Satan, and all earthly enemies of Israel.  The Lord’s Wrath will finally be poured out on the world who has rejected Him as God and Savior.  The Bible verses describing these events were always so familiar to me and I never questioned the timing of the Lord’s coming. 

How wonderful the Rapture would be?  That’s why it’s called the Rapture of course because it will a carrying away of ecstatic joy.  I hope for all our sakes it’s true.  I certainly do not want to experience the horrors detailed in the book of Revelation but as I began to read and really study the Scripture myself, I just could not see how this lined up to be two separate events.  After all, it’s called Jesus’ Second Coming- the first being His coming to earth as a baby over 2 000 years ago- why would he come twice within a 7-year period?  Wouldn’t that be Jesus’ Third Coming?

Over the last 15 years or so I’ve vacillated between believing the carrying away of the Church to be in the pre-tribulation stage (pre-trib), to post-trib, then mid-trib and now maybe swinging back to post-trib.  I’ve recently been reading a book by a well-respected Christian author, teacher and pastor.  I’ve never disagreed with anything I’ve heard this preacher say, but when I began reading his book on end-time prophecy, I once again was intrigued by the discrepancies in what we’ve been categorically taught about the Rapture of the Church.  The author uses verses to explain how we will be raptured pre-trib but the rest of the verses in context (the entire passage or chapter) sure sound like the Second Coming of Christ.  Is it possible the Rapture, and Jesus’ glorious, victorious second coming to claim His Kingship over the Earth are one in the same?

Obviously, I’m not the first person to make this assertation, and I’m not saying my interpretations are exactly the way things will go down but I’ve never gone looking for other opinions of the post- or mid-trib theories of the Rapture (a quick Google search will reveal plenty of information about each theory).  I can’t honestly say that I’m 100% certain of a pre-, mid- or post-trib rapture; I just feel compelled to write about what I’ve learned from my own reading and understanding of the Scriptures.  Some people state:  “Well it doesn’t matter when we go, as long as we know we are going.”  This has some truth because we have a firm foundation that one day Christians will dwell and rule with Jesus in His new Kingdom.  However, isn’t it important to know just what, if any, process we will have to go through to get to that place?  Won’t it be easier to stand firm for Jesus if we know to expect intense persecution before we see His glorious return?  Or to instead have our hopes crushed when we realize that He is not returning for us at this time and we may have to give up our lives for Him before we join Him in His earthly rule? (Revelation 20:4, 5).

I guess this post is an introduction to my journey of analyzing, and interpreting a few key passages about the return of Jesus Christ, the battles of Gog and Magog and the dreaded Armageddon.  Won’t you please come with me as I try to sort these events out on paper or, you know, computer?  You’ll hear from me soon.