According to history, over a century ago a new phenomenon arose known as the Zionism movement. By the late 1800’s and early 1900’s much of the Church had been influenced by this movement. Within a period of time many began to teach a new idea called “the rapture theory” in which Christ would soon come and take the Church to heaven suddenly from the earth before the great tribulation.
In early 1800’s Edward Irving was excommunicated by the London presbytery because of his controversial teaching of the sinfulness of Christ’s humanity, and in 1830 he was condemned and deposed by the ministry of the Church of Scotland. He then began his own church called the Catholic Apostolic Church. The Encyclopaedia Britannica, volume 12, 1966 issue, pages 648-649, describes Edward Irving and the controversy over his teachings in Scotland and England.
During this time a woman called Margaret MacDonald had a trance in 1830 while living in Port Glasgow, Scotland where she claimed she saw the Lord coming before the tribulation to take (rapture) the saints to heaven. Her “revelation” was recorded in a book written by R. N. Norton and printed in London in 1861. Because of the new concept of the teachings of Edward Irving, he bought into this trance and began to teach the rapture theory. It was from this supposed revelation that the modern doctrine and present terminology respecting it arose. It came not from the revelation of the Scripture, but from that which falsely pretended to be the Spirit of God. Edward Irving accepted this teaching, and it was taught at prophetic meetings at Powerscourt House in Ireland, attended much by Plymouth Brethren organizer John Darby. Irving’s views influenced Darby, C. H. Mackintosh, and C. I. Scofield (whose Bible notes popularized the new theory). Darby and Scofield along with Clarence Larkin and his factions began to teach this new theory, and in the early 1900’s it reached a peak in popularity.
There is no clear biblical basis for the teaching of “rapture theory” in the scripture; neither will you find in the teachings of Jesus a plan to take His Church to heaven via a sudden intrusion before the tribulation. From Genesis to Revelation, the word rapture is not found. However, the popular rapture theory has based its tradition and knowledge on the following passage of scripture:
“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 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.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Specifically, it is verse 17 that speaks of the saints being “caught up”. The notion here is that the Church is to meet the Lord in the air and then go to heaven to be with Him forever. The correct context of the passage does not say we go to heaven and be with the Lord, as the rapture theory teaches, because that would require the return of Jesus to the earth the third time for the millennial reign (Revelation 20:4-6).
Let us get this straight. Jesus is coming back again from heaven to earth for His Church! The scripture speaks very clearly of this second advent of the Lord. There will be the rising first of the dead and then the saints who are alive shall be caught up for the procession with the Lord in the clouds. Consider this:
“….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.” (Verse 17). The whole concept of the rapture theory teaches that when we are caught up in the clouds we shall go to heaven to be with the Lord. However, this verse did not specifically make mention of the Lord taking us back to heaven, it only says, “so shall we be with the Lord”. The question is where shall we be with Him?
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matthew 24:29).
“… and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.…And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.” (Zechariah 14:5c, 9).
The primary purpose of the rapture theory is to provide a means of escape from the tribulation that is coming to pass. The Church has simply fallen into line with commonly accepted mindsets and opinions concerning this interpretation. The coming of the Lord (the Son of Man) has been clearly stated to occur after the tribulation. You now begin to understand that the whole purpose of the rapture theory is to create a means of escape for the Church from the tribulation that is to come. This teaching of the institutional church has no point of reference in scripture. Rather, the means of escape for the Church during the coming tribulation will be by the act of God’s sovereign intervention, as in the days of Noah by the ark. When you study carefully the book of revelation, which is the revelation of Jesus Christ. You will notice that the church age ends at Chapter 3; after that the church is never mentioned again until you come towards the end, then there is an emerging of a company of people from the earth which are known as “The Bride”, and they have gone through the tribulation, and their cry is “Come Lord Jesus”.
Bible commentaries and other references have promoted the rapture theory, and they have become an accepted and popular doctrine in the Church. The rapture theory is the doctrine of men and not the revelation of God.
It amazes me that the Church and many leaders who claim to be born again and Spirit filled cannot accurately define the truth, but have based their theory and understanding on the teachings of those who did not even know the Holy Spirit or have an experience of Him.
The truth of God’s revelation is not revealed by men to be validated and justified by the popular mindsets and opinions of men. Much of our eschatological theories or theology is defined by the popular opinion and acceptance of men. Some of these theories have violated the purpose of God and must be restructured and readjusted to align to God’s word.
One popular commentary note about the rapture says that there are two stages or phases of Christ’s coming: “The coming in the air” and “the coming to the earth”. It says there are two advent comings of the Lord. It stated that the rapture takes place at least 7 years before the second coming of the Lord to the air and then the third coming of the Lord is to the earth to reign. There is no scripture to support such theory. There is scripturally only one coming of the Lord Jesus Christ from heaven to earth.
The word “rapture” in Greek is “harpazo”, which is translated as “caught up, to seize by force, snatch up, to plunder, to rape or to grasp hastily, catch (away, up), pluck, pull, take (by force)”. This word “rapture” has come into use as a result of the Latin translation of the bible where the phrase in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 reads, simul rapiemur cum illis. The root of this doctrine can be traced to Catholicism.
The word “caught up” which is translated to mean “rapture” is also the same Greek verb that appears five times in scripture (Acts 8:39; 2 Corinthians 12:2; 2 Corinthians 12:4, I Thessalonians 4:17, Revelation 12:5). Considering the verses where the word “caught up” appears, there is no reference to a rapture to heaven. The man the Bible speaks of in 2 Corinthians 12 was the apostle Paul himself. He was not caught up (raptured) to be with the Lord in heaven forever; the same man that was caught up was the one writing down his experience in the earth.
The context of the scripture as reflected in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 will be the same as experienced by Paul. The ‘caught up’ experience of the saints is to meet the Lord in the air, to bring the rule of God’s Kingdom to the earth, and to reign with Him. It is a spiritual procession to the earth and not to heaven and again to earth as the rapture theory teaches. We are to meet the Lord in the air as a company of people who are the witnesses.
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,” (Hebrews 12:1).
“….and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee…..And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.” (Zachariah 14:5, 9).
The caught up experience to meet the Lord in the air is a mysterious experience of change in which the mortal puts on immortality to be made fit to inherit the Kingdom of God in the New Earth.
“…the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious Body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself.” (Philippians 3:20c, 21)
The bliss is that we shall be with the Lord forever as a company of people redeemed from corruption.
“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:50-55).
This scripture reveals that there will be a translation of our bodies into a new and incorruptible state. This is a change that prepares the body for eternal durability and will be the beginning of our inheritance of God’s Kingdom in its fullness in the new earth. It is the ultimate realization of the Kingdom of God in a universal and eternal sense. What a glorious transition of eternal redemption! This is the hope of the Church.
The issue of the tribulation and rapture should not scare us. It doesn’t matter what our conception of the coming of the Lord is. The most essential and fundamental thing is for us to be ready for that glorious experience of being caught up to meet the Lord in the air, so that we can always be with Him for eternity. We are the privileged generation that will see the coming of the Lord and the establishment of His Kingdom on earth. It is amazing to know that many have sought for this mystery and to be a part of it, but God has ordained it for this time and season.
When the Lord comes, the Church is going to meet Him in the air and will come to rule the New Earth. The order of God’s Kingdom will be fully established as He governs all things.