I suppose I intended to move on from this topic, my post about the timing of the rapture has by far been the most viewed (and it seemed the most scorned) within the series I’ve been writing on the latter days (a bit ironic, as I think certain others in the series are far more controversial. The preliminaries for the series started here, and the series, itself here.). What I said in it is a little hard to swallow for most Christians, and I believe, require further discussion.
In this post I am going to do something I don’t often do. I am going to challenge theologians and ministers who believe, and teach the rapture to refute me with scripture. This may get nowhere, but I’d like to be convinced by the Word of God that there is a pre-tribulation rapture – if nothing else the exercise may sharpen your point, and understanding of what you believe.
I’d like to ask Christians reading this to share it – specifically with lay, and professional ministers, and see if someone can supply plain teachings from scripture which clearly declare that there is a separate event preceding the resurrection of the dead in which saints are caught up with Christ BEFORE the resurrection of the dead, which we could label the ‘rapture.’
I will, here, reiterate three passages of scripture, which I believe, conclusively refute the rapture doctrine; I could easily use others (for a fuller view of my perspective, read the two preceeding postsWHEN Comes the Return of Christ, and The Rapture?; How shall Christ Return?, but these three verses are the ‘heart of my arguement’. My thesis is this: That just as the Catholics invented the doctrine of purgatory, so evangelicals have unscripturally invented the doctrine of the ‘rapture.’ I’d like you to refute these points by showing me the plain biblical basis for teaching the rapture doctrine from scripture.
I remind common readers that this is not an issue of when we WANT to be delivered from the world, but when the bible declares we can expect to be. Thinking that we can change the timing of something God has set eternally in His Word through prayer is fruitless, and a railing against the Truth. The bible declares of the last days that those who recieve not the love of the Truth shall be decieved, and damned (2 Thess 2:10-12). What God’s Word says is True, not what we WANT to believe. If we believe only those who tell us what we want to hear, we have heaped to ourselves teachers, having itching ears.
2 Tim 4:3
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers having itching ears.
Okay, now for my three verses (please refute them, and show me wrong, I too, want to be raptured before the tribulation):
In 1 Thess 4:14 – 5:11 (that ye may read the full context) Paul is plainly speaking of the resurrection of the dead (or the ‘rapture’ as many say). At the end of verse 16 Paul declares these words: AND THE DEAD IN CHRIST SHALL RISE FIRST.
This is my first (and I believe most conclusive) verse as to whether there is an event seperate from the resurrection, which we could call the ‘rapture.’
Here Paul says PLAINLY – there is no question as to what he says here, the words and the phrasing are not ambiguous (and he affirms it in the following verse) – that the DEAD rise FIRST. That is, before ANY OTHER PERSON, OR PEOPLE TO BE CAUGHT UP TO HEAVEN, FIRST will be the DEAD in Christ.
If there remains ANY confusion on this point, Paul clarifies it in the proceeding verse:
‘THEN [that is AFTER the dead] we which are alive, and remain shall be caught up together WITH THEM [with whom? With those who were dead in Christ, and preceded the living] in the clouds to, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord.’
Now, as the plain statement of scripture unambiguously declares that the DEAD will be the FIRST to rise, how and where can we find a loophole in scripture to deny this statement, and teach that living Christians will be caught up in a pre-resurrection ‘rapture’?
In the light of this one statement, I can see no possible way that we could teach there will be a pre-resurrection event – or any event separate from the resurrection of the dead – in which LIVING Christians in the earth are caught up BEFORE the dead.
This is my first doctrinal challenge, I want a direct response to this question: ‘Does Paul, here, leave any loophole in which we could argue that living saints will be ‘caught up’ BEFORE the resurrection of the dead?’
From my perspective of the plain statement of scripture I do not believe that there is any way we could claim that there is a seperate event which precedes the resurrection of the dead that we could call the ‘rapture.’ I believe that to do so would be an outright denial of the plain, clearly stated Word of God – HERESY. (Theologians, please refute me, I am convinced – correct me so that I have time to repent of my false teaching.)
Having established that the dead rise first, and there is no preceeding event of living souls caught up to Christ before the resurrection of the dead, let’s set our sights on the timing of the resurrection of the dead. Is it before the tribulation, during, or after?
Again, I will reference the plain statement of Paul to the Thessalonians; this time SECOND Thessalonians. Now, if you read (or are familiar with) the full context of the passage I just quoted (1 Thess 4:14-5:11), you will notice that at the begining of chapter 5, Paul does not addresses the timing of this resurrection event. In fact, he says he has no reason to address that topic because that time comes as a ‘thief in the night,’ (1 Thess. 5:1 & 2) meaning – as Jesus had sad – ‘no man knows the day, or the hour’ (Matt 24:36; Mark 13:32).
Regardless of the fact that Paul refuses to address the timing of the resurrection IN THIS passage, some of the weightiest pro-rapture arguments come from the beginning of 1 Thess 5 (ironic as we’ve already established from chapter 4 that he is speaking of the resurrection of the dead, not some separate ‘rapture’ event).
People often use 1 Thess 5 to teach the ‘imminent return’ of Christ (that is the teaching that the ‘rapture’ could happen at any moment) – however, this is due to a misunderstanding of what he is saying (which I will show in a momment). If we read the passage without understanding, or with a pre-conceived ‘rapture’ bias it would (I think) be easy to believe that Paul may be advocating belief in the ‘imminent return.’
My next passage of scripture, is 2 Thessalonians chapter 2.
In 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul points out that the Thessalonians had come to believe in the ‘imminent return’ doctrine, which may even have been due to his previous letter, as he points out. He corrects the doctrine in no uncertain terms:
2 Thess 2
1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by  the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and  by our gathering together unto him [What is Paul talking about? He defines it: 1. the coming of Jesus Christ, 2. our gathering together unto Him. Here Paul is PLAINLY speaking of the resurrection of the dead. If not, what other interpretation can there be? Please show me, ministers – I yearn not to fall short of the Truth of God!],
2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us [Paul references that they may even have misinterpretted something he said, or wrote – perhaps 1 Thessalonians 5], AS THAT THE DAY OF CHRIST IS AT HAND. [Paul clearly defines, and negates the faulty doctrine: the idea that the day of Christ is ‘at hand,’ i.e. ‘within grasp’ ‘immediate’ – that it could happen at any moment. Paul is directly speaking to the ‘imminent return’ doctrine, which the Thessalonians had come to believe, whether by misinterpreting his own writings, or by false report.]
3 LET NO MAN DECEIVE YOU BY ANY MEANS: for THAT DAY SHALL NOT COME, except there come  a falling away first, and  that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
Here is plain statement of scripture regarding the timing of the resurrection of the dead. Paul speaks in EMPHATIC language – he seems to clearly believe that the ‘imminent return’ is a DANGEROUS doctrine for the Thessalonians to believe, and admonishes them sternly not to be decieved by anyone who would advocate such an heresy:
LET NO MAN DECEIVE YOU BY ANY MEANS: for THAT DAY SHALL NOT COME, except there come  a falling away first, and  that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
Now, this writing is Paul, the apostle to the gentiles. He has been caught up to the third heaven, and heard spiritual secrets unlawful to be uttered among men. Has he emphatically, and straitly charged the Church of God NOT TO BELIEVE in a resurrection that comes PRIOR to the revealing of the antichrist, or am I misinterpretting the plain statement of scripture? What theological loophole can we find to dodge the straight command of God’s anointed apostle to the gentiles?
Paul goes on to say – regarding the return of Christ in 2 Thess 2:6
6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.
He says, now that I have explained it you know why the return of the Lord tarries – because – as he had said there must first be 1) a great falling away, and 2) the antichrist be revealed (v.3). (By all means, read the full chapter of 2 Thess. 2, and correct my misinterpretations.)
These plain statement of Paul declaring Christ’s coming and the resurrection of the dead affirms the word that Jesus Christ, Himself, had already declared regarding His return and the resurrection of the dead.
My third passage of scripture regarding the timing of the resurrection of the dead is the plain teaching of Jesus Christ on the topic from Matthew 24. In verses 4-14, Jesus describes the ‘beginning sorrows,’ or ‘birth pain’ period of the latter days, THEN in verses 15-25 He describes what He calls the ‘LAST DAYS’ which begin with the abomination of desolation standing where it ought not (I cover the passage in greater detail in my first post on the subject.) In verses 27 and 28, Jesus gives two parables, declaring that His return will be blatantly obvious, and apparent to the whole world (thus again – there can be no ‘secret’ return of Christ wherein only saved living saints see Him, and are ‘raptured’ up to Him – EVERY eye will see Him (Rev 1:7). <- That’s not one of my verses, but no charge for the extra point ;))
Then Jesus describes plainly His return, and the resurrection of the dead:
29 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:
30 And THEN [AFTER the tribulation] 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.
31 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.
Now, according to Paul the resurrection of the dead takes place AFTER the great falling away, and the rise of the antichrist (in fact if you read the context of the entire chapter (2 Thess. 2) you will see that Paul speaks not only of the RISE of antichrist preceding the resurrection, but the full reign of the antichrist because he describes the Lord’s return (which correlates with the resurrection) as destroying the antichrist.
In the first known full teaching from the mouth of Jesus Christ regarding the latter days, Jesus, Himself, gives no indication that there will be a ‘catching up’ of living saints in the earth throughout the tribulation. He declared that AFTER THE TRIBULATION He would return and call the saints together unto Himself from the ‘four winds.’
If Jesus Christ declares that His return, and the resurrection take place AFTER the tribulation (and Paul confirms this in 2 Thess. 2), how can anyone continue to teach a pre-tribulation resurrection? That is a direct denial of the words of Jesus Christ.
Here is my final summary (please correct me theologians and ministers for surely many have greater wisdom than I):
- No one will be raised, or caught up before the resurrection of the dead for: ‘the dead in Christ shall rise first.’ (1 Thess. 4:16 & 17) There is therefore no event of living saints being caught up prior to the resurrection of the dead which we could independently label the ‘rapture.’
- The return of Christ, and the resurrection of the dead happens AFTER the ‘falling away,’ the ‘rise of antichrist,’ (2 Thess. 2:3) AND the full tribulation (or ‘last days’ as Jesus puts it) period (Matt. 24:29-31) as verified by both Paul the apostle to the gentiles, and Jesus Christ the living Word of God.
Once again: I would like to hear BIBLICAL evidence that refutes the scriptures that I have presented here. It will have to be plain statements from scripture as I used, not ambiguous passages accompanied with amorphous logic to prove the point.