By Pete Garcia
The rapture is one of the most ridiculous concepts ever derived from the pages of Holy Scripture. Who actually believes that one day, all the Christian’s in the world will suddenly disappear? If the rapture is biblical, then why is the word rapture not in the bible? If the rapture as a theological doctrine is true, then why is it firmly niched in either the conspiracy theory or science fiction section of every major bookstore? If the rapture is true, then why don’t more churches teach it? If the rapture is true, then why are there so many versions of it being taught? Which version is true? If the rapture is true, why is the ONLY time we ever hear about it on the news, is when some ignoramus has publically made a prediction that the world will end on such and such date? Wasn’t the rapture something dispensationalists invented back in the 19th-century?
I am pretty sure you have heard all these before. I know I have. Apart from all the false-date setters continually trying to kick-start the apocalypse, the Rapture of the Church as an actual event, sounds preposterous. By today’s feasibility standards, the Rapture ranks right up there with Noah’s flood and the parting of the Red Sea. About the only legitimacy the Rapture actually has going for it is that it is absolutely demonstrated and taught in both the Old and New Testament.
The Rapture of the Church is included in what we call Bible prophecy. Bible prophecy is largely included in the doctrine we know as eschatology, which simply means, the study of last things. All of bible prophecy centers on two main events, either Christ’s first coming, or His second.
As to the word “Rapture,” the actual word for it in the Greek is harpazo. The Greek word harpazo was later translated rapiemur by Jerome in his fourth century Latin Vulgate. The bible then largely stayed in Latin for the next thousand years. Once the English variants courtesy of Wycliffe, Tyndale, and others began to make the English-speaking bibles, the word rapiemur was simply translated into “caught up” as they mean the same thing. This was later transliterated from its Latin form, into the English word rapture in 1738 by the Reverend Philip Doddridge in his commentary on the New Testament. He was the first person to call the harpazo or the rapiemur, the “Rapture.”
When we talk about the Rapture of the Church as a doctrine, the most immediate and obvious connection to it is with the Pre-Tribulation Rapture position. That is because of two extremely popular books, the Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey, and the Left Behind series by the late Tim LaHaye. However, outside of Christendom, no one really knows and/or cares about the other rapture positions like Mid-Trib, Pre-Wrath, or even Post-Trib.
Regrettably, in the post-modern era, the Rapture is something the world and a growing portion of the confessing church have a hard time digesting in the 21st-century. The reality is that most churches today DO NOT teach about the rapture or any other portion of bible prophecy because either they were not taught it themselves, or they find it too controversial. You would be hard pressed these days to find churches teaching and/or incorporating eschatology in any consistent way outside of certain Calvary Chapels, and perhaps a few Southern Baptist or charismatic churches. Even still, the aforementioned denominations are under a multi-pronged assault regarding eschatology from within Christendom. The first assault comes in the form of Reformed and Covenant theology, who largely apply a preterist or amillennial hermeneutic that denigrates any serious study of prophecy. Another attack comes from the proponents of liberal theology who seek to abolish any mention of the next life, leaving their parishioners solely focused on the here and now. Not only these, but also many more seek to corrupt existing doctrines, especially eschatology.
One could not be on the fence when reading through the pages of the book of Genesis. You are either awestruck at its audacity, or dismissive of the incredible claims and accounts told there. However, since the late 19th-century, a growing segment of the professing church have increasingly begun denying it’s supernatural accounts, or trying to explain them away with human reasoning. Many reckon that the idea of a Supreme Being speaking the universe into existence (ex nihilo) is somehow crazier than believing that all came about accidentally over billions of years. While the 19th-century orthodox church was busy combating the rise and obvious heretical movements like Jehovah Witnesses, Mormonism, Christian Scientists, etc., a subtle and inherently more dangerous philosophy was quietly being introduced to universities and seminaries across the US and Europe, Uniformitarianism.
Uniformitarianism (or the doctrine of gradualism), is an unscientific philosophy that posits that the past and the future, are inextricably linked to what you see in the present. In geology and for most if not all the sciences, uniformitarianism is the foundation from which they all begin. It starts with the premise that the earth and universe are millions billions of years old, and that only over those billions of years could life come to be. Uniformitarianism is foundational to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, the Big Bang Theory, and any number of secular theories on the how, when, and why life began. And the foundation for uniformitarianism is that we were NOT created, but are here because of some cosmic accident due solely to natural processes.
Granted, any scientist worth their salt will admit (albeit reluctantly) that uniformitarianism cannot be directly attributed to the scientific method and thus is a philosophy. This is because whether we are talking about geology, anthropology, biology, etc., gradualism by its very definition, is not observable, testable, nor repeatable. Neither can it substantiate its conclusions without numerous built-in presuppositions. In addition, any evidence gathered today is done so with the predication that all variables remain constant and based off a modern standard of measurement. Therefore, although they cannot test nor repeat the acts of creation ex nihilo, they conclude uniformitarianism is the only “educated” place to begin. They do so in an attempt to recreate a world without God.
Unfortunately, this philosophy has crept into the professing church and even now into the ranks of evangelicals as logical or reasonable. While a growing number of Baptist churches identify themselves “reformed” or “covenantal” and would agree with a literal approach to Genesis, they seemingly have no issue dismissing the Pre-Tribulation Rapture. This is what I call theological cognitive dissonance.
Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” 2 Peter 3:3-4
What is of interest for today’s brief regarding the doctrine of the Rapture and the Genesis account, is a seemingly innocuous event. Snuggled comfortably between the days of Creation, humanity’s fall, Cain and Abel, and the world-ending catastrophic flood of Noah’s day was a man named Enoch.
Enoch lived sixty-five years, and begot Methuselah. After he begot Methuselah, Enoch walked with God three hundred years, and had sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. Genesis 5:21-24
It is a seemingly inconspicuous passage about a man who goes missing. In fact, so unremarkable is the mention that only the careful student of Scripture would catch the subtle difference in the genealogical table where Enoch is inserted. And then we do not hear about Enoch again (in the Bible) until the first century when the apostle Paul (writing to the Hebrews), gives a little more detail into what actually transpired in the Genesis 5:24 account.
“By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” – Hebrews 11:5
So now we have the Genesis 5:24 issue of what happened to Enoch historically and theologically settled. Enoch did not die, but rather, was translated (metatithēmi) early so that he did not physically die. Although his mention is brief, there may be more to the story when we take the first six chapters of Genesis together as a whole.
Enoch remains one of three candidates who will likely take up the mantel as one of the Two Witnesses inside Daniel’s 70th Week (aka…the Tribulation) (Revelation 11:1-12). The most obvious candidates are Enoch, Elijah, and Moses. From what is described in terms of supernatural powers afforded them, we tend to think of Moses and Elijah as being the two most obvious given they represent both the Law and the Prophets. That view is reinforced by the fact both of these men appeared with Christ at His transfiguration (Matt. 17, Mark 9:10).
However, we know one of them must be Elijah since Malachi 4:5 states Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. The question then becomes is it necessary for Enoch to come also, since he is the only other person in biblical history that never physically died? Because the Two Witnesses are killed in Rev. 11:7, this seems to reinforce Hebrews 9:27, which states that it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.
Furthermore, Enoch was also prophet according to the book of Jude. Although much has been attributed to Enoch by way of non-canonical, extra-biblical writings, we can at the very least say, he prophesied about the end of days. So whether it is Moses or Enoch, we cannot say definitively. Both make interesting candidates for being one of the Two Witnesses.
Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” Jude 1:14-15
I have always been fascinated with the terminology people use or come up with to describe the varying ages (or epochs) mankind has passed through. Whether it was the pre-historic past, the Bronze Age, the Dark Ages, the Renaissance, Age of Enlightenment, or the Industrial Revolution, experts love to pigeonhole whole periods of time by some determinable trait unique to the time. According to the experts, we today are in any number of ages; the fourth turning point, the Industrial Revolution 4.0, post-modern era, post-Christian era, the Age of Information, etc. But to the observant Christian, we are in simply what the Bible calls, the last days; But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come…2nd Timothy 3:1-4.
But to be fair, the apostles Paul (Hebrews 1:2) and John (1 John 2:18) concluded that they (in the first century) were already in the last days and even the last hour. Preterists, Amillennialists, and other Christian skeptics use those passages to justify their eschatological position that everything that would happen prophetically, already has. However, this is a blatant denial of scriptural truth.
- First, as men were moved by God the Holy Spirit to write, their understanding of time was not confined to the day and age they lived. Their reckoning of time was as accurate then, as it is now. This is because God is omniscient and exists apart from His creation, which includes time. He created time for man’s benefit, not His (Gen. 1:14, Psalm 109:14).
- Secondly, given the reality that the Antediluvian race could live for centuries, it is worth noting Enoch’s premature departure. His early departure (deliverance) reinforces what is later verbalized by Abraham on the plains of Mamre regarding the impending destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah when he asks the Lord, far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? Gen. 18:25.
- Lastly, what then is the requirements for the “Rapture” of the Church? Is it persecution? Tribulation? Prosperity? Or is it an act of grace God foreordained before creation (Eph. 1:4-6)? Did not God the Father tell those witnesses at both Christ’s baptism and at the mount of Transfiguration “this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased?” As born-again believers in Christ, are we not in-Christ? (Col. 3:10-11, Ephesians 1:11-14, 4:4-6, 5:22-24, etc.) Because we are in Christ and thus despite our own failings, we are pleasing to God because we have received the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:17-21, Eph. 2:8-9).
So we go back to the man Enoch. Aside from a couple of mentions in genealogical tables, we have two passages about his life, and one direct quote from him in the whole of the Bible. His life demonstrated the reason why he was taken, because He pleased God. His translation reinforces the principle that God does not judge the righteous with the wicked. Lastly, Enoch’s words reassure us that judgment is coming, and that God will finally bring his justice to the earth when He returns WITH His saints. Thus, we have the summary of Enoch’s life in four verses, yet, they reveal so much about God’s character in dealing with mankind.
The first act of grace was with God’s covering of Adam and Eve with skins as they were sent from the Garden of Eden. They represent all of mankind. (Gen. 3:21)
The second act of grace was with God sparing Cain after he murdered his brother. Although worthy of immediate judgment, God allows Cain to go his own way and his descendants would make up the wicked who are judged in the flood of Noah’s day. They represent the wicked of all ages. (Gen. 4:1-24, 6:1-4)
The third act of grace is with Enoch, who by faith pleased God and thus never tasted death. Even by naming his son Methuselah, would serve as a warning to the Antediluvian peoples. Although he represents the righteous of all ages, his peculiar focus on the Second Coming (not the flood) seems to place him with that of the church, who is delivered before the start of the judgment (the Tribulation).
The last act of grace is with Noah and family. They represent the Tribulation survivors who live through the judgment and go on to repopulate the earth (as they will repopulate the earth in the millennium).
Even So, Maranatha!