The Rapture: Fact Or Fallacy?

The idea of the Rapture can be summed up as the belief that, before or in the middle of the period of persecution and judgment from God (known as the Great Tribulation), Christ will secretly and silently snatch away all the Christians to heaven to spare them from the Tribulation’s horrors. Suddenly, Christians will vanish, all in a single instant. The ones left behind will wonder what happened to them. Chaos will ensue, providing the perfect conditions for the Antichrist, the ultimate incarnation of evil, to take over the world.

This concept has been the hope of many believers for over two hundred years and popularized by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkin’s bestselling Left Behind series. You may have even seen bumper stickers saying (in all seriousness) “In Case Of Rapture, This Car Will Be Without A Driver”. Many believers are facing what seem to be signs of the approaching Tribulation with confidence, certain that, before things get bad, they will be snatched up to heaven.

Where does this incredible idea come from? Is it Scriptural? What passages support it?

There have been many debates over who started the Rapture theory, and when it began. Some credit it to Catholics and Jesuit priests at the time of the Reformation, and others say it was the brainchild of a teenage Scottish girl who dabbled in the occult. No matter where it began, that is not of importance. What is important is comparing the concept to Scripture to find whether God promised a Rapture in the first place. As Peter pointed out in II Peter 1:20

But know this first of all, that no prophecy is a matter of one’s own interpretation.

With that in mind, let’s scour Scripture to find exactly what God has to say on this matter. Will Christians be secretly rescued before disaster strikes? Or will we remain here to face the Tribulation?

“ONE WILL BE TAKEN . . .”
One of the passages Rapturists use to promote the secret Rapture belief is Luke 17. Starting in verse 31, Jesus, speaking to his disciples, is talking about “the day the Son of Man is revealed”:

On that day, the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house must not go down to take them out; and likewise the one who is in the field must not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left. There will be two women grinding at the same place; on will be taken and the other will be left. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left.

Here, Rapturists say, is a description of what it will be like when Christians are snatched away to heaven. Two people, one a Christian and the other an unbeliever, could be in one place — then, without warning, without any preamble whatsoever, the Christian, they say, will vanish before the other’s eyes.

But somehow they manage to skip over the rest of the passage. Backing up to verses 22-24, Jesus is speaking of deceptions we are to face in the last days:

And He said to the disciples, “The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. They will say to you, ‘Look there! Look here!’ Do not go away, and do not run after them. For just as the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day.”

Jesus is telling us not to believe anyone when they tell us that Jesus has come, or that anyone here is the Christ. Why? Because when He does come back, everyone will know it for a fact. There will be no mistaking it. His comparison to lightning does not suggest a secret return or anything subtle. It does indicate suddenness, a suddenness that is even startling. But there will be nothing secret about it. The whole world will know.

Jesus explains further in Matthew 24:29-31:

“But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And he will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.”

First off, this event takes place AFTER the Tribulation — not before. Jesus’ description of the sun, moon, and stars indicated a great spiritual darkness that will fall over the world, a time of great wickedness, “as it happened in the days of Noah”.

Then he goes on speak of the sign of Christ appearing in the sky. ALL the tribes of the earth shall mourn. They will see Him coming “in great power and glory”. “He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet”. Again . . . Where in this passage do you see anything about a secret snatching away of the faithful? The entire world is going to know about it.

Paul goes on in I Thessalonians 4:26-30:

“And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man; they were eating, they were drinking, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.”

Again . . . Nothing here suggests a silent, secret return. Surprise is indicated, however, just as in the previous verses. He also indicates widespread destruction of the wicked, by comparing it to the Great Deluge and the destruction of Sodom. In both of the illustrations, neither Noah nor Lot were whisked out of the world to be spared. Noah had to build an ark. Lot was warned and told to get out of the city. And when the water receded and the smoke drifted away, Noah and Lot were the ones left.

Jesus is saying that His next coming will not only be recognized the world over, but will mean the complete and utter destruction of the wicked — not a secret fly-by in which he subtly snatches up His elect.

He then proceeds to verses 31-36, referenced above, speaking of examples in which two people will be in one place — one taken and the other left. Read this passage again. It does not, by any means, suggest that the righteous will be taken. Taken in context with the rest of the passage, it actually says quite plainly that the wicked will be destroyed in the midst of the just! To clinch this point, let’s move on to verse 37:

And answering they [the disciples] said to Him, “Where, Lord?” And He said to them, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered.”

The disciples have asked Jesus where the people will go when they have been taken. Jesus, in response, has painted a grim picture. This isn’t heaven. This isn’t salvation from the Tribulation. This is judgment.

“TO MEET THE LORD IN THE AIR . . .”

Another popular passage used to back up the Rapture theory is I Thessalonians 4:17:

Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.

This does sound a lot like what they call “the Rapture”, doesn’t it? But again, they are failing to take the passage in context.

Backing up to verse 13-15, we read that Paul is settling a subject that has been concerning the Thessalonian assembly:

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep [dead], so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus [Christians who have died]. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep [died].

Paul doesn’t go into much detail as to what exactly was worrying the Thessalonians, but it seems they were concerned that somehow the Christians who had died would not receive the same reward as would those who would be yet living at Christ’s return. The Thessalonians were not asking if they would have to face the Tribulation. They were not asking about anything of the sort. Paul is not talking about a Rapture. He’s talking about Christians, both living and dead, and how Jesus is going to take them all to Himself as equals. Continuing in verses 16-17:

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

Notice in verse 16 that the Lord “will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God.” No indication of secrecy in any form here! In fact, it indicates a triumphant return, an announcement to the entire world that THE LORD HAS COME! This meshes with what Jesus said in Luke 17:24, that His coming would be like the lightning that flashes from one end of the sky to the other. It will be inescapably obvious.

Having established that, let’s move on to the part proponents claim to be descriptive of the Rapture:

. . . and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.

First — this verse says absolutely nothing about us being taken to heaven. It says we will be caught up, along with those who have risen from the grave, to MEET the Lord. Paul is describing Jesus’ coming, the coming in which he utterly destroys the wicked as described in Luke 17. Never once does I Thessalonians 4 even hint that those whom the Lord gathers will ever leave the bounds of this earthly realm.

Paul refers again to this in I Corinthians 15:50-52:

Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

When Christ returns, the entire world will know of it. Christians, rather than being beamed up out of the world, will be changed from corruptible, fleshly beings to immortal, spiritual beings, immune to the destruction that our lost contemporaries will face. That will occur at the sound of “the last trumpet.” What is the last trumpet?”

The Book of Revelation is essentially a retelling of world history since the beginning of Christianity. It is told several times over, in different ways, to give us varying perspectives. Various events in history are marked by seven trumpet blasts, the last of which signals the return of Christ, as described in Revelation 11:15-18:

Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, “We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign. And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bondservants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.”

So we see that, when the last trumpet sounds, Christ will return to reward the righteous and destroy the wicked, to take back His Kingdom here on earth. And it is then that we will be changed “in the twinkling of an eye” and caught up to meet Him in the air.

But when we meet him in the air, is it to follow Jesus as He makes a 180-degree turn back to heaven? I Thessalonians 4:17 says, “So we shall always be with the Lord.” Will we always be with Him in the air?

Zechariah 14:5 says of the last days,

Then the Lord, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him!

Later, in verse 9, he says,

And the Lord will be king over all the earth; in that day the Lord will be the only one, and His name the only one.

Jesus says in Matthew 5:5,

Blessed are the gentle [humble, meek], for they shall inherit the earth.

Psalm 37:9-11 says,

For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be. But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. (KJV)

Scripture is not here speaking of the so-called Millennium, but of the Second Coming, when Christ shall take His people to Himself and destroy wickedness forever.

Jesus prayed for His disciples in John 17:15,

I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.

Later, in verse 20, He mentions all Christians to come after the disciples,

I do not ask on behalf of these alone [the disciples], but for those also who believe in Me through their [the disciples’] word . . .

If Jesus asked that we be PROTECTED rather than REMOVED, then there is no doubt that is what will happen!

This is in keeping with Jesus’ example of Noah and Lot, in which Noah and Lot were protected, but not taken out of the world. (II Peter 2:5 says, [God] preserved Noah [kept him safe] . . . when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly . . .) Therefore, according to I Thessalonians 4, we are changed to immortal beings at the time Christ’s coming and the destruction of the wicked, then gathered together from all parts of the world to meet Him as He arrives in the clouds. At this point, we DO NOT return with Him to heaven, but return to earth with Christ as a conquering army.

THE WHEAT AND THE TARES

Matthew 13:24-30 consists of the parable of the wheat and the tares (weeds).

Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares? And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ ”

Later, Jesus explains the parable, beginning in verse 37:

And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”

Jesus reiterates this concept in the parable of the dragnet in verses 47-50:

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away. So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

So, after carefully reading these two parables, what is the logical conclusion? That the righteous will be removed from the world? No! The sower says, “First gather the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them.” Jesus, while explaining the parables, says His angels will gather out of His kingdom “all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire.” Jesus is NOT talking about a secret Rapture of the elect, but a climactic destruction of the wicked!

Remember the story of Israel’s captivity in Egypt. While God brought plagues and calamity on the Egyptians, the Israelites remained unscathed in their own corner of Egypt, the land of Goshen. Not until God had finished striking Egypt did God finally lead His people out.

In Biblical terms, Egypt represents the world of fleshly ungodliness. Israel represents Christ’s own, Christianity. The story God is telling here is of Christians residing among the ungodly, who are struck again and again with God’s judgment (Tribulation), but are sheltered through it all. God never promised to remove us when things got bad. But He does repeatedly promise to protect us.

Proverbs 2:21-22 says,

For the upright will live in the land and the blameless will remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the land and the treacherous will be uprooted from it.

This makes much more sense when you read it while keeping the passages above in mind.

Isaiah warns in Isaiah 13:9

Behold, the day of the Lord is coming, cruel, with fury and burning anger, to make the land a desolation; and He will exterminate its sinners from it.

If you read further, through verses 10-11, you will see it speaks of the very day to which Jesus refers in Matthew 24:

For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; The sun will be dark when it rises and the moon will not shed its light. Thus I will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for the iniquity; I will also put an end to the arrogance of the proud and abase the haughtiness of the ruthless.

When the Lord returns, he will not take the good and leave the wicked. It is plain in Scripture that he will destroy the wicked and leave the good, transformed into perfect spiritual beings.

Psalm 104:35 says,

Let sinners be consumed from the earth and let the wicked be no more. Bless the Lord, O my soul. Praise the Lord!

Psalm 52:5 speaks to the wicked, warning them of their fate:

But God will break you down forever; He will snatch you up and tear you away from your tent, And uproot you from the land of the living.

DROSS AND CHAFF

When a goldsmith puts gold through a refining process, he heats it with fire, melting it, subjecting it to immense heat. As he does so, the impurities, also known as dross, rise to the top. The goldsmith then scoops off the dross and throws it away. The gold remains where the smith placed it — in the crucible. He does not take the gold and leave the dross. He takes the dross and leaves the gold. Keep this in mind when you read the following passages.

Thou puttest away all the wicked of the earth like dross: therefore I love thy testimonies. — Psalm 119:119 (KJV)

Take away the dross from the silver, and there comes out a vessel for the smith; Take away the wicked before the king, and his throne will be established in righteousness. — Proverbs 25:4-5

Note the passage from Proverbs. “Take away the wicked before the king, and his throne will be established in righteousness.” If this is the case, would not Christ, upon returning to reclaim his kingdom, want His throne to be established in righteousness? He would not take away the righteous, but the wicked.

God also compares the righteous and the wicked as wheat and chaff. When wheat is harvested, it is winnowed, tossed in the air. As the useless part of the wheat kernel, called chaff, breaks loose from the grain, it floats away on the breeze, and is thus discarded. Again, the wheat is not taken from the chaff. The chaff is taken from the wheat.

Job 21:18 says of the wicked,

They are as stubble before the wind, and as chaff that the storm carrieth away. (KJV)

Isaiah 5:24 says,

Therefore, as a tongue of fire consumes stubble and dry grass collapses into flame, so their root will become like rot and their blossom blow away as dust; for they have rejected the word of the Holy One of Israel.

Malachi 4:1 says,

“For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,” says the Lord of hosts, “so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.”

The passage in Malachi is saying that, not only will the chaff be removed, but it will be burned, just like the tares in the parable of the sower. And so complete will the destruction be, that wickedness will be left with “neither root nor branch” — in other words, no way whatsoever to begin again: Completely and utterly destroyed forever.

IS THE RAPTURE BELIEF DANGEROUS?

Absolutely! First of all, it contradicts Jesus’ words and attempts to make Him a liar. Jesus promised to protect us, but He never once promised to remove us from the world during the Tribulation. As a matter of fact, He specifically said we would remain until the wicked were taken away and destroyed. To say He will rescue us just in the nick of time is contrary to His words.

Secondly, imagine all the millions who believe in the Rapture. When things become harder and harder, when the world climate becomes increasingly hostile toward those who call themselves Christians, we will see more persecution than ever before, on a global scale. When all this happens, and the Rapture fails to take place, people will lose faith in God. I sometimes wonder if this is what Paul meant in II Thesalonians 2:3:

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition . . . (KJV)

Could this “falling away” be when Christians, waiting to be beamed up in a secret Rapture, come to the stunning realization that it’s never going to come? Imagine the feelings of the millions who have been banking their future on being rescued by Jesus Himself. At the very least, they will begin to question their faith. Many, many people will discard their faith altogether — after all, why would they want to follow a God who, as they will see it, lied about Rapturing them out of the Tribulation?

Third, it promotes spiritual laziness and irresponsibility. What motivation do these Rapturists have to bolster their faith and their spiritual standing? If they are going to be snatched away to heaven before the Tribulation, they have no reason to continually strengthen themselves in the Word. As long as they are saved, many think, they have a ticket to the Rapture train. All they really have to do is sit back and wait for the ride. And so many people are stuck in a rut, not growing, until at last the heat strikes, and just as the seeds that fell on rocky ground in the parable of the sower, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. (Matthew 13:21)

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5 Responses to “The Rapture: Fact Or Fallacy?”

  1. internet elias Says:

    Amen…to all in this post. So very refreshing to come across a blog speaking Truth found in God’s Word and revealed by the Holy Spirit. I was about 8 or 10 when the doctrine first showed up at our Baptist church in Sunday School literature. We had never heard of it until then. And those, including the pastor, who found Revelations to be kinda scary…grabbed hold of the Rapture doctrine with all hands, hearts, feet…and…well…you get it :smile:. But my dad was clear on the truth of the end times. While still a teenager, he shared the scriptures with me showing clearly that time…the Age of Grace…remains until the Second Coming. In my late twenties, I was teaching prophecy concerning these things at my church.

    The Rapture doctrine is so very dangerous. And the VAST MAJORITY of Christians in my area hold it as gospel. They listen to learned men and they do not ‘search the scriptrue to see if those things be true. Sad.

    Again, thanks for the post. I am encouraged.

    Carolyn

    • Thank you, Carolyn! 🙂

      Yes, I have family who are of the Baptist denomination, and while they are sincere people and I love them very much, they frustrate me so terribly when they seize onto a manmade fable and promote it as God’s word. It’s the very definition of false prophecy! I can understand their desire to avoid the Tribulation. None of us are looking forward to it. But we can take comfort in God’s promise to protect us, and the fact that He already knew it was coming. God is amazingly gracious. He will never give us more than we can handle. If we live to see the Tribulation, then let us rejoice that God found us worthy to suffer persecution for His name.

      God bless you and yours!

  2. Read the post again. I’m thrilled at the ‘meat’ you covered in this post. To tell the truth, I sometimes get discouraged over the vast number of Christians who reject the scriptures which clearly prove a dynamic and visible Second Coming. In my discouragement, I remember the prophecy which says..”2ti 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 2ti 4:4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

    We are surely in that ‘time’ since the Rapture doctrine is one of the most prevalent and widespread ‘fables’ in the Church. I pray, ‘Thy will be done.’

    • Thank you for your kind words, Carolyn! They encourage me to keep going.

      Yes, it is horrible the number of so-called teachers people have “heaped to themselves” — the Billy Grahams, the Tim LaHayes, the Joel Osteins, and the many other peddlers of the Word. These teachers are SELLING their doctrine, teaching the doctrine they know people will PAY FOR — in other words, they’re selling Itchy Ear Ointments. They don’t care about the truth — only what they can sell to those who are gullible or deceived.

      I agree with you. We are indeed in that “time” mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:3. Now is the time to speak even more loudly and boldly, and to shine all the brighter.

  3. Thank you for your kindness! I hope this blog encourages and challenges you as it continues.

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