By Larry Ray Hafley
Perhaps you saw the bumper sticker a few years ago which said, “In case of the Rapture, this car will be without a driver.” Regardless, you are at least passingly familiar with the expression, “the Rapture.” The rapture theory is part and parcel of premillennial speculation. It states that before a seven year period called, “the great tribulation,” the saints will be snatched, or the righteous will be raptured from the earth to be with Christ. After this time, Christ will come to the earth with His church and commence His 1,000 year reign in Jerusalem. If you have been content to read your Bible, this is all news to you. Like infant baptism, Christmas, Groundhog Day, and the Pope, the rapture doctrine is not in the word of God.
The Chief Text
The central text used to support and sustain the rapture doctrine is 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18:
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent /precede/ them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
Paul shows that the dead in Christ are not to be sorrowed after like those who have no hope. Some believed that one who died before Christ came would miss the blessings and benefits of His coming. Paul lays that fear to rest. As a matter of fact, the righteous dead will rise first, before the righteous living, to meet the Lord. Paul was not contrasting the righteous dead and the wicked dead.
The chief text to refute the rapture doctrine is 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. See above.
First: The Quiet Coming. Rapturists teach that they will be quietly, mysteriously taken away. Presto, they will become invisible! Actually, the second coming will be quite a noisy affair. Paul says the Lord will “descend… with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God.” Peter says “the heavens shall pass away with a great noise” (2 Peter 3:10/. “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” There is no room for a hushed up rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4.
Second: The Two Comings. Those pregnant with visions of rapture expect their deliverance in the first stage of a two-part coming or the first of two comings. Well, whatever. Their idea is that stage number two occurs after the seven years of tribulation when the Lord shall return to set up His kingdom on earth. (Compare that with 1 Cor. 15:24-28/. But the context of 1 Thessalonians 4 is a stubborn thing. Men divided the Bible into chapters and verses, so we often separate areas that are kin to one another. Continue reading into 1 Thessalonians 5.
But of the times and seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you as a thief.
Obviously, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:4 is at least contextually related. Compare the comforting conclusions of 1 Thessalonians 4:18, “Wherefore, comfort one another with these words,” and 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.” So, when the Lord combs and the righteous are “caught up,” at the same time the wicked will be overtaken and destroyed. This is also the teaching of 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10:
Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe because our testimony among you was believed in that day.
God is going to repay tribulation to the troublers. He is going to repay rest (a noun, not a verb) to the troubled. But when? (1) “When the Lord shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them (the sinners)” and (2) “when he shall be glorified in his saints. . . in that day.” (3) “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:4). But what about the wicked? They are not in Colossians 3:4. Yes, but they are in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10. (4) Both the righteous and the wicked are in Matthew 16:27. “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.” So, when the Lord comes with the angels, then (not later) He shall reward every man knot part, not some/, but “then,” “every man.” There is no sequential, sectional coming; hence, no rapture. Truly, “there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust” (Acts 24:15). Are you amazed, all ye that await your rapture? Well, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, into the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” Observe that the “shout” of 1 Thessalonians 4:16 is the “voice” of John 5:28. Do you see the implications of that conclusion?
Now, place all these cited and related passages together. If you come up with (1) a separate coming of the Lord for the saints only, (2) seven years of. tribulation on earth; (3) another coming of the Lord and the beginning of a 1,000 year reign on earth, then you are reading ideas for -which there are no words of the Lord.
Third: The Duration. The third rupture imagination is seen in its duration. Rapturists say the saints will soar to meet the Lord in the air for seven heavenly years before being hauled back to earth for 1,000 earthly years. That is not what 1 Thessalonians 4 teaches. It says that after the righteous are raised “so shall we ever be with the Lord.” To suit their dream, it should say, “so shall we be for seven years with the Lord.”
As the righteous shall “ever be with the Lord,” so the destruction of the wicked will be unending. The wicked “shall not escape,” and they “shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord.” The “everlasting destruction” (2 Thess. 1:9) is equivalent to the “ever be” with the Lord (1 Thess. 4:17). The destruction, like the deliverance, is final, total, eternal. “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matt. 25:41).
Fourth: The Visible Coming. The wicked will not see the Lord when He comes to rapture the righteous, or so say the premillennialists. How do we account for this blatant blindness? We are told that the Lord is coming for His saints (the rapture) and then He will come with His saints (the second coming. The first time He will not be seen or manifested, but He will be seen the second time. No such distinction is taught in the New Testament. Both the “alive and the dead” will be judged “at his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:1). Both the wicked and the righteous will see Jesus when He comes. “When he shall appear, ” the righteous will see Him (Col. 3:4; 1 Pet. 5:4; 1 Jn. 2:28; 3:2). “When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven,” the wicked will see Him, or else the word “revealed” means concealed.
“Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye (not just the righteous) shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him” (Rev. 1:7). All will see the Lord when He comes “with clouds.” The righteous will meet Him “in the clouds” (1 Thess. 4:17). He shall come back as He went, i.e., visibly with clouds (Acts 1:9-11; 1 Thess. 4:17; Rev. 1:7), and “every eye shall see him.”
The rapture doctrine is a delusion. It is a large part of the fabric of premillennial sewing, but there is not even a stitch of it in the testimony of the Lord. If the hope of the rapture is so prevalent and prominent in the Present premillennial preaching, why is it not frequently and fervently advocated and demonstrated in the word of God?
- What is the chief text used to support the rapture doctrine?
- What was Paul’s point in 1 Thess. 4:13-18?
- According to the rapture doctrine, how long are the saints to be with the Lord?
- How long are the saints to be with the Lord according to 1 Thess. 4?
- What is the significance of the “voice” of jn. 5:28 and the “shout” of 1 Thess. 4:16 as it pertains to the rapture theory?
- When the righteous are glorified, what will happen to the wicked? Will they: (1) Be given a second chance? (2) Be left in their graves? (3) Be raised, judged and condemned? (4) None of the above.
- Will there be any noise when the Lord comes for His saints? Cite passages.
- Will Christ’s kingdom be set up when He returns? See 1 Cor. 15:24-28.
- How many people will see the Lord when He comes again?
- What is the significance of “clouds” with respect to the rapture doctrine in such passages as Acts 1:9-11; 1 Thess. 4:17; Rev. 1:7?
Guardian of Truth XXVI: 3, pp. 35-37
January 21, 1982