What Is the Mystery Called the Rapture?
By Dave Hunt and T.A. McMahon
Tom: You’re listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage everyone who desires to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to Him.
We’re going through Dave Hunt’s book When Will Jesus Come? Compelling Evidence for the Soon Return of Christ.
Now, Dave, last week, as we reviewed chapter 12 of your book titled, “The Church Must Be Removed,” you explained what the church is and why it had to be removed. Today I’m going to read a couple of verses that address how it’s going to be removed, and I’d just like you to elaborate on them.
We’ll start with John, the Gospel of John 14 beginning with v. 2: “In my Father’s house are many mansions… I go to prepare a place for you… and I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
And then 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout…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.”
And finally, 1 Corinthians 15:51-52: “Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep [that is, die] but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: …the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
So, what of this mystery known as the Rapture, Dave?
Dave: Well, of course the mystery Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians 15: “I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep…” In other words, we won’t all die, but we shall all be changed, that was an absolutely new thought, that something was going to happen to transform all Christians to give them new bodies. Why would you need a new body? To show off here on earth? No, because we’re going to be taken to heaven. And this, of course, is what Paul is explaining: how it’s going to happen, or what it involves, in 1 Thessalonians 4.
Tom: But it’s a mystery because this was never a promise made to Israel.
Dave: Oh, it was never a promise made in the Scriptures until that time.
Dave: Tom, as you read those verses, I was thinking, How could anyone who is a Christian, who knows the Bible, how could they object to this thing called the Rapture? It’s pretty clear.
Tom: Well, they could object if they thought, Well, it’s not scriptural. But we just read the Scriptures!
Dave: Right! John 14, Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” Now, it sounds to me like He was going to heaven. In fact, He did go to heaven at the ascension, Acts 1. It sounds like He’s saying, “I’m going to My Father’s house, and there’s a lot of mansions, a lot of places up there, and I’m going to come again and take you up there too!” I don’t see how you could come to any other conclusion.
Now, it sounds like a Rapture. It sounds like people will be taken off of this earth. Well, they object, “Well, yeah, but we don’t find the word ‘rapture’ in the Bible.” So as we point out in that chapter, yes, it is in the Bible, in the Latin New Testament. Rapturos: you find it right there in 1 Thessalonians 4 beginning at verse 13 and so forth.
Tom: But the Greek, Latin or Greek, it’s a particular word, and whether it means to rapture us away or to catch us up, it all has the same meaning, doesn’t it, Dave?
Dave: Right. But in Latin, the word is rapturos, so you have “rapture.” That’s where it comes from. It doesn’t say “rapture” in 1 Thessalonians, and of course that’s what they object to: “Well, that word isn’t in the Bible.” It is, it’s in the Latin translation. Latin is just as good as English, and it simply means “an ecstatic catching away.”
Dave: So in the English Bible, coming from the Greek, the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, the voice of the archangel, the trump of God. The dead in Christ will rise first, then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up, that’s the phrase there, caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air. Now, that sounds like we’re meeting Him in the air. He’s not coming to this earth—meeting Him in the air because He’s fulfilling His promise: “I’m going to take you to My Father’s house of many mansions.” So He’s not coming to the earth at that time to reveal Himself. This is not when His feet touch the Mount of Olives, as it says in Acts 1, but we’re caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air. And then it says, “And so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
Tom: Dave, how do those that don’t believe in the Rapture but consider themselves to be Bible-believing Christians, how do they explain John 14:2-3?
Dave: Tom, I don’t know. You see, what these people have to do is spiritualize. For example, the people who reject the Rapture generally also reject Israel.
Dave: So that the promises to Israel—“Well, that’s to the church.” Well, wait a minute, but it’s all about a physical land. “Well, no, that was simply symbolic of the spiritual blessings that we will have.”
We’ve talked, I think, in the past, very briefly, about the Renovaré Spiritual Formation Bible.
Tom: This is Richard Foster’s organization.
Tom: And others who…
Dave: Fifty supposed biblical scholars, and they have comments on each part of the Bible. For example, in Jeremiah 31:8-10 and thereabouts, where God says, “I’m going to bring them back. I’ll say to the North, ‘Give them up!’ I’m going to bring them back to My land [God calls it His land] from everywhere that I’ve scattered them.” And we quoted one time on this program, I’m sure, Jeremiah 23 beginning at verses 7 and 8 where God says, “It’s no longer going to be said, ‘Blessed be the Lord who brought His people from out of Egypt,’ but ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord who brought His people from all those countries where He’d scattered them.’” Okay? And they’ve come back to Israel in our day from more than a hundred countries, and the Renovaré Spiritual Formation Bible with these “great biblical scholars” (and I won’t recite who it’s endorsed by), what does it say about that passage? “Oh, this is a promise that all the homeless people will find a place to live.” Tom, this is wicked!
So anyway, what we’re talking about is the Rapture. It seems to me pretty clear that Christ said, “I’m going away to My Father’s house. I’m going to come again and bring you there.” Paul explains it in more detail: “The dead in Christ…Christ is going to come from heaven, the dead in Christ will rise, and we will be caught up to meet them in the air.” Now, as though…well, Paul, you overlooked something: how are we going to be caught up? In our bodies? We can go zooming through space? Actually I don’t think it’s zooming through space, it’s another dimension.
But anyway, so the last passage you read, Paul explains, 1 Corinthians 15—what is it—begin in 51, 52, something like that…
Tom: Fifty-one, mm-hmm.
Dave: He says, “I’m going to show you a mystery.” Now there, mysterium, mysterios, or whatever the word is in the Greek, it doesn’t mean something that you cannot understand; it’s being revealed. Something…
Tom: Right, for the first time.
Dave: Right, something unknown before now is going to be revealed. You wonder how this is going to happen? Well, we’re all going to get new bodies! The dead will be raised incorruptible, 1 Corinthians 15 says, and we shall be changed. We won’t all sleep, we won’t all die, but we will all be changed, transformed. And of course in that chapter He’s been talking about what body did they get, and he’s been discussing this, and what do you mean what body do you get? Well, when you die—[when] a seed goes into the ground and dies, it comes up a new body! There’s a type of the resurrection, Paul says. It gets a new body! It’s a resurrection! And so the dead who have been planted, they’re going to be raised in the likeness of Christ’s resurrection, and it talks about that earlier in that chapter. Well, what about us? They get new bodies…“us,” I say. Tom, I’m hoping I’ll still be alive! What about those of us who are alive and remain? What happens to us? How are we going to get into this new dimension or zip through space, zoom through space and get to heaven? How could we even live up in heaven in these physical bodies only suited for this earth? Paul said…
Tom: Dave, I got out of bed this morning and I got pains and aches, you know? Did some heavy labor yesterday, and I don’t want to take this body with me is all I’m saying!
Dave: Well, it’s not going to—it won’t work up there, Tom.
Tom: That’s good!
Dave: So we will all be changed. The dead will rise incorruptible and we will be changed. This mortal must put on immortality. “This corruptible must put on incorruption,” Paul says there. “And then shall be brought to pass that which is said: Death, where is your victory? Death is swallowed up in victory. Oh, grave, where is your triumph?” Well, that’s finished!
One of the reasons why reincarnation won’t work, Tom…and yet there are Christians—I’ve met quite a few of them—claim to be born again, and they see no conflict between resurrection and reincarnation. Well, in reincarnation, you’re going to leave…how many lives have I lived? A hundred? A thousand? A hundred thousand? Well, for every life that I’ve lived and been reincarnated into another body, I’ve left a body lying in the grave somewhere! Death has not been conquered, death has conquered—every body that I’ve ever had has been conquered by death.
No, death will be conquered. Christ did not reincarnate, He resurrected. The body that was laid in the grave was no longer there. The grave was empty. Now, that does not happen in reincarnation. So…
Tom: Plus, Dave, as you know, and maybe many of our listeners, it’s Samsara, the wheel of sorrows! There’s no release from it, you just keep building so-called karma and karma, and you can’t work it off, and it’s problem after problem. Yet we in this country, in America, we tend to change those things around so it sounds more accommodating. But that’s…ask a Hindu about reincarnation, they’ll straighten you out!
Dave: Well, Ghandi said it was a burden too great to bear. But of course they say that yoga is the way to get out of it. And I don’t know if we’ve started advertising the book I just finished on yoga, but that is growing in the church everywhere! Born again evangelical Christians are buying into yoga, so that’s what they say: the way to escape time, sense, and the elements, reach moksha, the Hindu would say, “You’ve got to practice yoga and then you’ll somehow get through to who knows what.”
Anyway, Tom, I took a long time, too long, but you asked about how do we get there. The church is going to vanish; how is it going to vanish? Christ is going to take us all away; even the graves will become empty.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Dave, I came to the Lord in the end of the ‘70s, but prior to that, there was a book that just took the world by storm. It was called The Late, Great Planet Earth, and one of the teachings of Hal Lindsey in that book was about the Rapture, and people got excited, and lots of people got saved!
Tom: But what happened? All of a sudden, with that expectation, the Lord tarried—at least He hasn’t come yet—so with that, enthusiasm died off, and where are we today with that?
Dave: Tom, I remember those days very well. You were not a Christian yet.
Dave: But I was. I became a Christian forty years before you did! You couldn’t imagine I could be that old, could you?
Tom: No, Dave, looking across at you, you’re just…
Dave: Just a teenager!
Dave: Right, yeah. And…
Tom: With a little less hair than most teenagers, but…
Dave: Right. Well, some teenagers get bald early.
Tom: That’s true.
Dave: But I remember those days very well. I remember the bumper stickers on cars: “Ride at your own risk: I’m leaving in the Rapture!” I remember the expectation.
Now, I think Hal would deny that he intended to teach this, but a lot of them got from that book that a generation is 40 years, and this generation that sees Israel back in its land will not pass until everything is fulfilled. Well, the Rapture has to take place. I remember very well, 1948, Israel became a nation; 40 years, 1988, subtract seven years of Great Tribulation—1981! That’s the Rapture! And I remember the excitement on the part of many, many Christians, and as I probably mentioned before, in those days people used to ask me, “Well, what do you think? Is it about to happen?”
And I would say, “Well, I hope so!”
Dave: I’m ready for the Lord! I’m longing for Him at any moment, but I don’t think He’s coming right now, because too many people are expecting Him. And He said very clearly— Matthew 24:44 or 45, I don’t remember, but right around there—“At such an hour as you think not the Son of Man cometh.”
Now, that brings us to another—I don’t want to get ahead of you, Tom. You’re trying to follow this chapter, but you couldn’t call that the Second Coming. Second Coming takes place in the midst of Armageddon after the Great Tribulation! The world’s about destroyed! How could Christ say, “Oh, you would never suspect that I’m coming now”? There would be nothing else to expect! So this must be another event. “At such an hour as you think not, the Son of Man cometh.” He said, “You better watch and be ready.” So that’s what I would say. Too many people are expecting Him now. That doesn’t sound like what the Bible says.
Well, then I saw the pendulum swing, you know, from pre-Trib to mid-Trib, or pre-wrath or post-Trib, amillennial, you know, and today not too many people take this very seriously. The bumper stickers wore off. Nobody’s even thinking about it. And, Tom, I often say when I’m speaking somewhere, “If the Rapture occurred today, would it disturb some important plans you have?”
And Christ gives us a parable about that. “Well, I just married a wife. Can’t come to this feast.” Or, “I just bought four yolk of oxen. I haven’t check them out yet.” Or, “I bought some land and I haven’t looked at it.” Ridiculous excuses! And I believe as the Lord looks down from heaven, He’s looking for a bride. We’re His bride. There’s going to be a wedding up there, another reason for a pre-Trib Rapture. How can the saints come with Him from heaven at the end of the Great Tribulation if they haven’t been taken up there first? You’ve gotta have the Judgment Seat of Christ and the wedding.
If the bride is not eager for the wedding, you better call it off! And yet, Tom, as I travel around, I talk to a lot of pastors, they can tell me their five-year plan, their ten-year plan, this expansion, and “We’ve got a building project going,” and so on. Well, that’s okay, but I never…yeah, I could say I never them say, “If it be the Lord’s will. If the Lord has not yet come.” And I wouldn’t even talk about tomorrow! I’d say, “If the Lord spares me, and if He hasn’t come, and He’s left us on this earth yet.”
Tom: Dave, back in the ‘70s when I came to the Lord, then the early ‘80s, there was actually a teaching that was aggressively anti-Rapture, and I’m talking about Christian Reconstructionism.
Tom: And then some of the lines they used to use about a Rapture theory: “Well, it’s an escapist theory, it’s a helicopter. You know, you’re just going to get your ticket and get out,” and so on and so forth, which is the antithesis of what the Rapture is about, that expectation! What do you think?
Dave: Yeah, Tom, we are accused of that. You guys don’t want to live up to your responsibility here and…they were all about reconstructing America…
Tom: Through the laws. They were called theonomists: “We’re going to apply God’s laws and transform the earth into a paradise.”
Dave: Even J. I. Packer has talked about that, you know: “This is our responsibility. We’re going to make this world a better place, a safe place for our great-grandchildren to grow up in,” because they just think that we’re in the Millennium already. As you would say, Tom, we must be in the slums! If Satan is locked up, how is it that the Bible says he goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour? So yes, that was a teaching: “We’re going to take over the world! We’re going to take over…”
I remember Paul Crouch in TBN saying, “We are going to take these airwaves and we’re going to take them by force if necessary!” You remember? They had a big conference in Phoenix—I think 16,000 people showed up. The title of the conference was Take It by Force, and they said, “We are going to take over!” Part of it was because Reagan got the nomination, you remember? I think he had 10,000 evangelicals gathered there in Dallas. Maybe you want to elaborate on that, I don’t know, but boy, they were excited! “We’re going to turn this into a Christian country!”
Tom: What I remember about it: Gary North, Rousas Rushdoony, these guys—particularly Gary North…
Dave: Son-in-law of Rousas Rushdoony, and they couldn’t get along together, and yet they’re going to make a new world!
Tom: Yeah! So we have Reformed theologians, Calvinists many, and now they’re going to link up with the charismatics, with the Paul Crouches, because the Reformed theologians say, “We’ve got the doctrine, they’ve got the excitement and the money. We’re going to combine here and we’re going to take over the world!”
Dave: Right. Yes, I remember Gary North saying—what was it—by the year 2000, born again Christians, they’ll just cry out to get you into office, because they’ll all know that it’s the only way to go! It hasn’t quite gotten there. I don’t know whether the Lord will tarry this long or I will live that long, but I have a letter from Gary North saying, “What are you going to tell me in the year 2012 when the Rapture hasn’t yet occurred?”
Tom: Yeah. Well, Dave, as you know, this is our blessed hope. So we’re out of time in this segment. Dave, we’ll continue with this next week, the Lord willing.
Program Number: 1951