What Are Some Misconceptions About the Rapture?
By Nathan Jones
What are some misconceptions about the Rapture?
The best example of getting it all wrong about the Rapture is a video made by YouTube “poet” Jefferson Bethke, who was made popular by his awesome video “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.” Jeff’s done some good work furthering the Gospel, and I commend him for it, but when it comes to his understanding of the Rapture, I have to ask…
How is Jefferson Bethke wrong about the Rapture?
Jeff makes the following eight common misconceptions people have about the Rapture.
But first, what do I mean by the Rapture? I’m referring to that biblical teaching that Jesus is going to return one day to catch up, snatch away, rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:17 — English “catch up” from Latin “rapio” = Rapture), believers in Christ — called the Church — off this earth and up to Heaven to live with Him forever (John 14:1-4; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). The Apostle Paul comforted the Thessalonians by teaching them that the Rapture is meant to encourage believers living in this difficult age of persecution. Christians, though, will not have to endure the worst time that is yet to come — the wrath of God over a 7-year Tribulation time period (Daniel 9; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9; 4:18; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2; Romans 5:9; Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 3:4).
Paul explained that the Rapture is meant to give Christians comfort and hope. Jeff disagrees. His thesis:
1. The Rapture is problematic when it comes to hope as a Christian believer.
How can the teaching of the Rapture be “problematic” when Jesus Himself even promised, “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth” (Revelation 3:10)?
As a Christian I find it highly comforting to know that God doesn’t beat up on His children when He brings judgment on the world, a judgment that will destroy much of the world’s population and ecology. Jesus even compares His Church to a Bride (2 Corinthians 11:2), and no man beats up on his fiancé, especially for seven years. God’s loving protection provides great comfort and hope!
2. The Rapture teaching is too new to be true.
Jeff trots out that well-disproven claim that the Rapture teaching was popularized in 1830 by a crazed teenager named Margaret MacDonald, and then a cult leader named John Darby promoted her view. This is an historical fallacy, for not only was Darby teaching about the Rapture well back in the 1820s, but many others had since the Puritans 200 years earlier.
(Joseph Mede (1586-1638), Increase Mather (1639-1723), Pierre Jurieu (1687), Philip Doddridge (1738), John Gill (1748), James Macknight (1763), Thomas Scott (1792), Morgan Edwards (1722-1795), William Witherby (1818). For more examples, read Dispensationalism Before Darbyby Professor William C. Watson, an expert on historical literature from the 1600s-1700s.)
Bible prophecy stopped being taught in the Church in the 400s AD when Augustine began spiritualizing everything in the Bible, and until the Renaissance you could be killed for disagreeing with his teachings. When the Reformation in the 14-1500s began bringing back the literal interpretation of the Bible, Bible prophecy was once again taken seriously.
Anyway, biblical truth is determined by Scripture alone, and not how that teaching has been perceived at different times during history. And, Scriptures teach about the Rapture of the Church. Christianity is now understanding the Rapture better because of what the Prophet Daniel was told — that end time prophecy will not be fully understood until the time comes for it to be fulfilled.
3. Raptured people live as disembodied spirits.
Jeff goes as far as calling the Rapture teaching a Gnostic heresy! He’s right that Gnosticism is a heretical teaching that material is bad and spirit is good, which the Apostles kept refuting. But, the Rapture passages never teach that after we die we live as disembodied spirits. The Apostle Paul explained when Raptured our corrupted human bodies are transformed and changed into our new glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:50-58). The Bible teaches that these glorified bodies are tangible, recognizable, and eternal, just like Jesus’ body at His resurrection.
4. The Tribulation is for destroying those God doesn’t want.
Jeff doesn’t seem to understand what the Tribulation is all about. The Tribulation isn’t all about judgment, but about salvation. The Church is raptured because God has promised His Bride will never have to endure His wrath, but for those people left behind, this is God’s big push to get them on their knees and bring them to salvation. While the focus is on bringing the Jewish people to accept Jesus as Messiah, Gentiles will also come to know Christ. And God uses all sorts of amazing methods such as the Rapture (Revelation 7:9-14), Two Witnesses in Jerusalem (Revelation 11), 144,000 Jewish Evangelists (Revelation 7), Judgments of God (Isaiah 26:9), and the Gospel Angel (Revelation 14:6) to share the Gospel.
The Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), and multitudes will come out of the Tribulation saved.
5. Christians are worried they’ll be left behind.
No Christian today should have any fear that they’ll be left behind. If you’ve accepted Jesus as your Savior, then you’re secure in God’s promise: “When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:4).
6. The Rapture is about ushering in Jesus at the end of time.
To make such a statement, Jeff’s likely bought into the once dead but now resurrected view called Dominionism, also Kingdom Now, or Post-Millennialism. This view spiritualizes the biblical prophecies concerning the Rapture, Tribulation, Second Coming, Millennial Kingdom and Eternal State and throws them all into a blender. The result is that prophecy is all in the past and that the Church will evangelize the world until it gets better and better, until eventually the Church reigns over a golden age. Jesus then returns and the Church hands a restored world over to Him.
But, is the world getting better and more Christian?
No, not really. Post-Millennialism is an exciting concept, but not realistic. Only Jesus Himself personally can restore all things.
7. Christians are hiding out waiting for the Rapture instead of evangelizing.
One merely has to leave the confines of their Reformed churches and actually get to know a person who believes in the Rapture of the Church to understand that we Premillennialists take the Great Commission very seriously. Because we always live with the “30,000 foot level” view — that being, Jesus is returning soon — we’re always excited by three things: 1) evangelism, 2) holy living, and 3) the return of Christ in victory. The greatest missions’ movements ever were pioneered by those who lived with the hope of the Rapture.
8. Paul’s reference to hope was about the Eternal State.
That Jesus rules over a restored and united Heaven and Earth in the Eternal state is exciting, and does provide great hope for the Christian, I agree. But, that’s like watching the Super Bowl game alone and missing all the games that led up to it. There are so many other victories our team has before that final game. It’s a great stretch to claim Paul’s reference to hope was just about the end game, especially since the context of his comforting the Thessalonians was about not living through the Tribulation.
The hope God gives us isn’t limited to the Eternal State, but in all of Christ’s other victories as well, and that includes the Rapture.