Rapture

Rapture

[rap-cher]

The Rapture is a prophesied event in Christian eschatology, in which Christians will be gathered together at the return of Christ; even Christians who have died are to be resurrected to participate in the coming of Christ.

The primary passage for the Rapture is 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, in which Paul cites "the word of the Lord" about the return of Jesus to gather his saints. Although all Christian denominations believe in this event there are two primary views regarding the relationship of this event with end time prophecy:

  1. Amillenialists (such as Roman Catholics, and others), Postmillenialists (such as Presbyterians, and others), and historic Premillenialists (such as Calvinistic Baptists, and others) hold that the return of Christ will be a single, public event. All passages regarding the return of Christ, such as Matthew 24:29-31, 1Thessalonians 4:15-17, Revelation 1:7, etc, describe the return of Jesus in the clouds amidst trumpets, angelic activity, heavenly signs, a resurrection, and a gathering of saints. Although some (such as Amillenialists) take this event to be figurative, rather than literal, these three groups maintain that passages regarding the return of Christ describe a single event, and that the "word of the Lord" cited by Paul in 1Thessalonians 4:15-17 is the Olivet Discourse which Matthew separately describes in Matthew 24:29-31.
  2. Dispensationalist Premillenialists (such as many Evangelicals) hold the return of Christ to be in two stages. 1Thessalonians 4:15-17 is seen to be a preliminary event to the return described in Matthew 24:29-31. Although both describe a return of Jesus in the clouds with angelic activity, trumpets, heavenly signs, and a gathering of the saints, these are seen to be two separate events, the first unseen, and the second public. Dispensationalists are divided, however, on whether the first event comes before a period of Tribulation, or midway through it.

Etymology

"Rapture", when used in eschatological terms, is an English word used in place of the Latin word raptus, taken from the Vulgate of 1 Thessalonians 4:17. In Koine Greek, this word is harpazo, which means "caught up" or "taken away".

Doctrinal history

The Catholic and Orthodox churches as well as the Reformed denominations have no tradition of a preliminary return of Christ and reject the doctrine, in part because they cannot find any reference to it among any of the early Church fathers and find its biblical foundation as not solid.. Some also reject it because they interpret prophetic scriptures in either an amillennial or postmillennial fashion, as being more spiritual than physical.

Proponents of a preliminary rapture insist that the doctrine of amillennialism originated with Alexandrian scholars such as Clement and Origen and was later brought wholly into Roman Catholic dogma by Augustine. Thus, the church up until then held to premillennial views, which see an impending apocalypse from which the church will be rescued after being raptured by the Lord. This is even extrapolated by some to mean that the early church espoused pretribulationism.

Some Pre-Tribulation proponents maintain that the earliest known extra-Biblical reference to the "Pre-Tribulation" rapture is from a sermon falsely attributed to the fourth-century Church Father Ephraem the Syrian, which says, "For all the saints and Elect of God are gathered, prior to the tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins. However, the interpretation of this writing, as supporting Pre-Tribulation rapture, is debated.

There exists at least one 18th century and two 19th century Pre-Tribulation references, in a book published in 1788, in the writings of a Catholic priest Emmanuel Lacunza in 1812, and by John Nelson Darby himself in 1827. However, both the book published in 1788 and the writings of Lacunza have opposing views regarding their interpretations, as well.

The rise in belief in the "Pre-Tribulation" rapture is sometimes attributed to a 15-year old Scottish-Irish girl named Margaret McDonald (a follower of Edward Irving), who in 1830 had a vision that was later published in 1861.

The popularization of the term is associated with teaching of John Nelson Darby, prominent among the Plymouth Brethren, and the rise of premillennialism and dispensationalism in English-speaking churches at the end of the 19th century. In 1908, the doctrine of the rapture was further popularized by an evangelist named William Eugene Blackstone, whose book, Jesus Is Coming, sold more than one million copies. The first known appearance of the theological use of the word "rapture" in print occurs with the Scofield Reference Bible of 1909.

In 1957, John Walvoord, a theologian at Dallas Theological Seminary, authored a book, "The Rapture Question," that gave theological support to the Pre-Tribulation rapture; this book eventually sold over 65,000 copies. In 1958, J. Dwight Pentecost authored another book supporting the Pre-Tribulation rapture, Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology, that sold 215,000 copies.

During the 1970s, the rapture became popular in wider circles, in part due to the books of Hal Lindsey, including The Late Great Planet Earth, which has reportedly sold between 15 million and 35 million copies and by the movie "A Thief in the Night" which based its title on the scriptural reference 1 Thessalonians 5:2. Lindsey proclaimed that the rapture was imminent, an idea that he based on world conditions at the time. The Cold War and the European Economic Community figured prominently in his predictions of impending Armageddon. Other aspects of 1970s global politics were seen as having been predicted in the Bible. Lindsey suggested, for example, that the seven-headed beast with ten horns, cited in the Book of Revelation, was the European Economic Community, a forebear of the European Union, which at the time aspired to ten nations; it now has 27 member states.

In 1995, the doctrine of the Pre-Tribulation rapture was further popularized by Tim LaHaye's book series, Left Behind, which sold tens of millions of copies and was made into several movies.

The doctrine of the rapture continues to be an important component in fundamentalist Christian eschatology today. Many Christians continue to feel that world conditions point to the rapture, Tribulation, and return of Christ occurring soon. And yet virtually all the Christians of the Reformation, including Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Calvinists, and so on believed Revelation was living Church history, with some of it already having occurred and some of it to occur. All those denominations plus many more believed that the pope was the man of sin mentioned in the bible, and put such in their statements on doctrine. Many believe the Reformation itself was a God ordained event.

Scriptural basis

Supporters of the doctrine of the rapture generally proof-text the following primary sources[13] in the New Testament (the following are quoted from the NKJV): "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 to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also." (John 14:2–3) "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself." (Philippians 3:20-21) "And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell 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 trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will 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 has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?"" (1 Corinthians 15:49–55) Note that the saying that is quoted toward the end of these passages comes from the Old Testament as follows: "Death is swallowed up in victory" is from Isaiah 25:8 and "O Death, where is your sting?" is found in Hosea 13:14. "For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord." (1 Thessalonians 4:15–17) "Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way." (2 Thessalonians 2:1-7)

Timing

One of the tenets of the dispensationalist interpretation of Bible prophecy is that in the prophecy of 70 weeks from the book of Daniel between the 69th and 70th weeks there is a break, lasting an unspecified period of time. Thus, the 70th week of seven years has not yet occurred. This seven-year period will mark the end of the current dispensation, and is referred to as the Tribulation. There is considerable debate among Christians who believe in the rapture regarding the timing of the rapture relative to the Tribulation. Most views hold that Christian believers will be either removed from, or protected from the judgment of God's wrath.

Pre-Tribulation

The Pre-Tribulation rapture is the view that the rapture will occur before the beginning of the Tribulation period. According to this view, the Christian Church that existed prior to that seven-year period has no vital role during the seven years of Tribulation, and will therefore be removed. Many people who accept Christ after the rapture will be martyred for their faith during the Tribulation (Rev 20:4). Saint John the Divine, which some believe is the apostle John, is seen in Revelation 4:1 as representing the Church caught up to Heaven. John hears the Trumpet and a voice that says, "Come up hither", and he is translated in the Spirit to Heaven and then sees what will happen for those left on earth. The Pre-Tribulation rapture is the most widely held position among American evangelical Christians. It has become popular in recent years around the world and through the work of dispensational preachers such as Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost, Tim LaHaye, Dr. J. Vernon McGee, Chuck Smith, Dr. Chuck Missler, Jack Van Impe, and Dr. Grant Jeffrey.

Some who believe in a Pre-Tribulation rapture warn that the rapture is imminent, saying that all of the prophecies concerning the latter days have been fulfilled to the extent that the rapture could take place at any moment. Others suggest that certain requirements must first be met before a rapture can occur, such as these:

  1. The nations of the world must unify their currency onto a universal standard.
  2. There will be peace in Israel (Ezekiel 38).
  3. There will be a one-world government, to correspond to the 7th beast of Revelation, prior to the Antichrist's 8th beast government.
  4. The Jewish temple in Jerusalem must be rebuilt in its original place.
  5. Observance of Old Testament commandments concerning animal sacrifices must be reinstated.
  6. There will be a great falling away and the Antichrist will be revealed.

Mid-Tribulation

A minority view, with few proponents today, is that the rapture happens half-way through the seven-year Tribulation. This view is supported by the 7th chapter of Daniel (Verse 25), where it says the saints will be given over to tribulation for "time, times, and half a time" which is interpreted to mean 3.5 years. That is, half way through the seven years of the tribulation. At this juncture, the Antichrist commits the "abomination of desolation" by desecrating the Jerusalem temple (to be built on what is now called The Temple Mount.)

Prewrath

The prewrath rapture view is that the tribulation of the church begins toward the latter part of the seven-year period, being Daniel's 70th week, when the Antichrist is revealed in the temple. The great Tribulation, according to this view, is of the Antichrist against the church at this time. The duration of this tribulation is unknown, except that it begins and ends during the second half of Daniel's 70th week. References from Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 are used as evidence that this tribulation will be cut short by the coming of Christ to deliver the righteous by means of rapture, which will occur after the sixth seal is opened and the Sun is darkened and the moon is turned to blood. However, by this point many Christians will have been slaughtered as martyrs by the Antichrist. After the rapture comes God's seventh-seal wrath of trumpets and bowls (a.k.a. "the Day of the Lord"). The Day of the Lord's wrath against the ungodly will follow for the remainder of the seven years.

Post-Tribulation

The Post-Tribulation rapture (or "Post-Trib") view places the rapture at the end of the Tribulation period, based on passages such as 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, seen as quoting the words of "the Lord" as indicated in Matthew 24:29-31 (see table below). From this perspective, Christian believers will be on the earth as witnesses to Christ during the entire seven years, until the last day of the tribulation period.

Post-Tribulation advocates find no scriptural support for the so-called "Yo-Yo Theory", which they describe as the first-Second Coming of Christ in the clouds for the rapture and then coming back again for a second-Second Coming (sometimes called the Second Coming in two parts or the Second and Third Coming). However, the pre-trib believers would say that they do not support two comings of Christ. The first is for the Church (and not a return)- then Christ will return to the Earth to set up the millennial kingdom. The Rapture is not considered to be the coming of Christ but a specific snatching away of the Church.

The Post-Tribulation view brings Christ's "appearing" and his "coming" together in one all-encompassing, grand event. Matthew 24:29–31; "Immediately after the tribulation of those days…they shall gather together his elect…", is cited as a foundational scripture for this view. Pat Robertson describes the end times this way in his 1995 novel The End of the Age. Another supporting scripture is John 17:15-16, where Jesus prays that the Father not take his (Jesus') disciples from the earth, but that he (the Father) would nevertheless "keep them from the evil one." This is taken to preclude a Pre-Trib or a Mid-Trib rapture to heaven at any time. Prominent authors supporting this view are Walter Ralston Martin, John Piper, George Eldon Ladd, Robert H. Gundry, and Douglas Moo.

Matthew 24:29-31 ASV 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 ASV
Matthew 24:29 But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun shall 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 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 on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he shall send forth 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. 1 Thessalonians 4:15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we that are alive, that are left unto the coming of the Lord, shall in no wise precede them that are fallen asleep. 16 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; 17 then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Pan-Trib position

This is a lesser-known position that maintains that the Scriptures are intentionally unclear about the relationship of the rapture to the Tribulation. As a result, believers could anticipate the return of Jesus to the clouds at any moment while yet watching for the rise of the Antichrist. This position claims to harmonize two seemingly contradictory threads, and believing that things will 'pan-out' in the end. This position, with it's pun title, is often announced as a means of changing the subject during an eschatological debate.

Date setting

Generally, believers in the rapture of the church no longer make predictions regarding the exact timing of the event itself. The primary scripture reference cited for this position is Matthew 24:36, where Jesus is quoted saying; "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone" (NASB). Gary Demar has jokingly challenged "date setters" to sign a contract turning over all their assets to him on the day after they claim the Rapture is to occur (he has written a book, Last Days Madness, endorsing the preterist position and challenges many of the popular ideas of Bible prophecy).

Any individual or religious group that has dogmatically predicted the day of the rapture, referred to as "date setting", has been thoroughly embarrassed and discredited, as the predicted date of fulfillment came and went without event. Some of these individuals and groups have offered excuses and "corrected" target dates, while others have simply released a reinterpretation of the meaning of the scripture to fit their current predicament, and then explained that although the prediction appeared to have not come true, in reality it had been completely accurate and fulfilled, albeit in a different way than many had expected. Conversely, many of those who believe that the precise date of the rapture cannot be known, do affirm that the specific time frame that immediately precedes the rapture event can be known. This time frame is often referred to as "the season". The primary section of scripture cited for this position is Matthew 24:32-35; where Jesus is quoted teaching the parable of the fig tree, which is proposed as the key that unlocks the understanding of the general timing of the rapture, as well as the surrounding prophecies listed in the sections of scripture that precede and follow this parable.

Some notable rapture predictions include the following:

  • 1792 - Shakers calculated this date.
  • 1844 - William Miller predicted Christ would return between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844, then revised his prediction, claiming to have miscalculated Scripture, to October 22, 1844. Miller's theology gave rise to the Advent movement.
  • 1977 - William M. Branham prophesied that the Rapture would take place in 1977.
  • 1981 - Chuck Smith undogmatically predicted that Jesus would likely return by 1981.
  • 1988 - Publication of 88 Reasons why the Rapture is in 1988, by Edgar C. Whisenant.
  • 1989 - Publication of The final shout: Rapture report 1989, by Edgar Whisenant. More predictions by this author appeared for 1992, 1995, and other years.
  • 1992 - Korean group "Mission for the Coming Days" predicted October 28, 1992 as the date for the rapture.
  • 1993 - Seven years before the year 2000. The rapture would have to start to allow for seven years of the Tribulation before the Return in 2000. Multiple predictions.
  • 1994 - Pastor John Hinkle of Christ Church in Los Angeles predicted June 9, 1994. Radio evangelist Harold Camping predicted September 27, 1994.
  • 2011 - Harold Camping's revised prediction has May 21, 2011 as the date of the rapture.
  • 2060 - Sir Isaac Newton undogmatically proposed, based upon his calculations using figures from the book of Daniel, that the rapture could happen no earlier than 2060.

Cultural references

Movies

The first full-fledged rapture movie was A Thief in the Night. That film was followed by three sequels and a novel, and set up the genre of the rapture film. With only a few exceptions the genre died out by the end of the 1970s only to resurface again in the 1990s with such films as Apocalypse, Revelation, The Rapture, Left Behind: The Movie, and The Omega Code. Cloud Ten Pictures specializes in making end-time films.

In 2002, Dirk Been and Joel Klug (former "Survivor" cast members) starred in the movie Gone, which is about three lawyers who are left behind in the Philippines. The film was nominated for 'Best Christian Movie of the Year' by Christian Beats magazine and was seen on the Dove Awards on national TV. "Gone" went on to be seen by an estimated 1.2 million people. It was written and directed by Tim Chey.

Books

In 1950, the novel Raptured by Ernest Angley was published. It's a fictional novel based on the accounts foretold in the books of Daniel and Revelation. The novel focuses on a man whose mother is raptured along with other Christians, while he is left behind in the tribulation period.

Robert Heinlein's 1984 book, Job: A Comedy of Justice described the troubles of a Christian man called Alex, who is moved from parallel world to parallel world, accompanied by his lover Margrethe. Halfway through the book, the Rapture occurs and Alex is taken up, but Margrethe is left behind because she is a pagan. The rest of the book describes Alex's attempts to bypass the rules and save his true love. The book is a prolonged dig at evangelical Christian beliefs and has some detailed theology in it, but ultimately sends it up.

In 1995, Left Behind was published. The rapture is a major component of the premise of the book and its various spin-offs. These books greatly revived public interest in this concept. The plot of the book was used as a basis for a 2000 movie and a 2006 video game.

In Mark E. Rogers' book The Dead, published in 2001, those chosen for salvation disappear in a blinding flash of light. It is possible for people who have been left behind to redeem themselves in the eyes of God; those who do are immediately raptured. Sacrificing oneself to help others is one way of being redeemed. Some characters are actually under attack by reanimated corpses, or by Legion himself, at the time of their rapture. The blinding flash of light totally disorients the corpses who witness it, rendering them incapable of any action at all for a short time. The humans are literally "caught up" "in an instant" by God.

Daniel J. Gansle's book, "Rapture Redux: Living With Hope and Purpose in the Last Days" (Infinity Publishing, 2007) tackles the contentious question of whether dominionist evangelicals have gone too far in supporting war in the middle east (Iraq in particular) in order to hasten the Rapture and the return of Christ. The book also delves into how UFOs tie in with ancient biblical prophecies, the spiritual condition of the church just before the Rapture, Rapture timing theories, a fictional look into the post-Rapture world, and how the transforming belief in the Rapture doctrine is available to Christians today.

Television

On May 8, 2005, in Episode 19 in season 16 of The Simpsons titled "Thank God It's Doomsday", Homer predicts the rapture. After seeing a movie titled Left Below (a parody of Left Behind), he becomes paranoid and predicts that the rapture will occur at 3:15 p.m. on May 18. In another episode, Simpsons Bible Stories, the Simpsons fall asleep in church and wake up to find the Rapture occurring. Along with The Flanders family, Lisa is raised up to Heaven, but Homer pulls her back down so she can go to Hell with the rest of the family.

In the Drawn Together episode "Lost in Parking Space, Part One", Princess Clara, a devout Christian, warns her unconcerned housemates that the rapture is coming, even going so far as to contact a rapture hotline run by Kirk Cameron (star of Left Behind: The Movie). When her housemates later run off to the mall without her, she fears they have been taken off to heaven and she has been left behind.

"Rapture" is the twelfth episode of the third season from the science fiction television series, Battlestar Galactica. In this episode Athena commits suicide in order to be reborn (raptured) on a Cylon ship.

In the Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode "Kidney Car", Master Shake is seen wearing a racing helmet upon returning from a demolition derby in which he wrecked Carl's car. When questioned about the purpose of the helmet by a suspicious Carl, Shake claims it is "For the Rapture".

In the second episode of the fourth season of HBO's "Six Feet Under" titled "In Case of Rapture", a 49 year old Christian woman called Dorothy Sheedy abandons her vehicle which displays a bumper sticker "I BRAKE FOR THE RAPTURE!" having witnessed the accidental liberation of numerous helium filled 'sex dolls' from the back of a truck. As they float off into the atmosphere she mistakes this event for the Rapture falsely perceiving them in heavenly white gowns and rushes into the middle of a busy road that she may join them in their ascent to Heaven, whereupon she is hit by a vehicle and instantly killed. Her husband is never aware of the reason for her running into the traffic but benignly accepts her death as God's will without question or curiosity.

Music

At the height of the Jesus Movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the rapture figured prominently in popular songs by secular artists, such as "Are You Ready?" by Pacific Gas & Electric (#14 in August 1970) and "In the Year 2525" by Zager and Evans (#1 in July 1969). Also at that time, the song "I Wish We'd All Been Ready" was written and performed by Larry Norman, one of the founders of the nascent "Jesus Rock" movement in the early 70s. Other examples of apocalyptic themes like the rapture, the Anti-Christ, Armageddon and The Second Coming of Christ in Norman's writing are: "U.F.O." from the 1976 album "In Another Land", Six Sixty Six" from the same album and "Messiah" from Stop This Flight. Examples of apocalyptic themes in Bob Dylan's writing are "When He Returns" from the 1979 album Slow Train Coming and - quoting 1 Corinthians 15:49–55 - Ye Shall Be Changed, released on The Bootleg Series, Vols. 1-3: Rare And Unreleased, 1961-1991. Other songs about the Christian end times include "Goin' by the Book", "The Man Comes Around" by Johnny Cash, from the album American IV: The Man Comes Around, released in 2002, and "Tribulation" by Charlie Daniels. Noel Gallagher also refers to the rapture twice on the Oasis album Dig Out Your Soul, first on "The Turning" ("Then come on, when the Rapture takes me, Will you be by my side?") and also on the following track "Waiting For The Rapture". Sufjan Steve's CHICAGO may also be considered a Rapture song.

Internet

On August 2, 2001, humorist Elroy Willis posted a Usenet article titled; "Mistaken Rapture Kills Arkansas Woman". This fictional, satirical story about a woman who causes a traffic accident and is killed when she believes the rapture has started, circulated widely on the Internet and was believed by many people to be a description of an actual incident. Elements of the story appeared in an episode of the HBO television drama Six Feet Under, and a slightly modified version of the story was reprinted in the US tabloid newspaper Weekly World News. The story continues to circulate by electronic mail as a chain letter.

One organization, the Rapture Fund, is offering a "Rapture Will" that provides terms by which a Christian can transfer his or her estate to the Rapture Fund in the event of the Rapture. The organization's website indicates that funds are to be used for publication of the Gospel during the Tribulation.

Video Games

In the videogame BioShock the underwater city is called Rapture, named by its creator as a mockery of common belief. The name of the city also has an ironic quality, as the protagonist descends from the world above water to place a 'judgement' of sorts on the people of the city.

In Final Fantasy VIII, the special spell Rapture is available to Selphie Tilmitt when she reaches her limit break. This spell destroys all enemies by giving them wings and sending them directly to heaven.

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