I wanted to open up the first discussion on the issue of the end times; specifically, the rapture. Should we buy into the Left Behind theology or is there another way to understand key verses such as:

I Thessalonians 4:16-17 “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: 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.” 

I Corinthians 15: 51 “Behold, I show 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 trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”

Please leave comments below and feel free to join the poll!!


2 thoughts on “The Rapture……Fact or Fiction?

  1. I have studied this issue carefully since taking a fourteen-lecture course on the Book of Revelation six years ago. When I began the course, I knew nothing about the book. The lecturer was of the school called “premillenial dispensationalists,” holdng that believers would be “raptured out” of the world before a seven-year tribulation during which Jews would have their own opportunity to be saved. He did not disclose that his view was not universal. I studied diligently, and tentatively bought the analysis, but when I got to the eleventh lecture, the lecturer said, “Of course, the ‘Last Trumpet’ mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 isn’t really the last trumpet.” My ears instantly perked up because I knew that this passage is the most complete explanation of the Last Judgment that Paul ever wrote. So I started doing some “outside reading.” I discovered that the lecturer was teaching an interpretation that did not exist prior to about 1830, when a small home Bible-study group led by a defrocked pastor named John Darby devised the theory that the tribulation was to be a short period of time in the far-off future that encompassed all the suffering that Jesus and the apostles predicted, and from which believers would be spared. I wondered why the church had managed to make it through nineteen centuries without this interpretation.
    The best book on this topic is Prof. Gregory Beale’s great work, “The Book of Revelation,” in the New International Greek Testament Commentary. He dissects virtually every word in the book, examines every view of the last judgment, and expresses his personal opinion (appropriately labeled). From that book I learned the importance of reading Revelation by comparing its verses to the hundreds of Old Testament allusions in it, plus comparing its teachings to Jesus’ teachings based on OT principles. I also learned that the idea of Christians being removed from the world before the tribulations prophesied by Jesus creates conflicts with many scriptural references that teach otherwise, especially those that teach the inevitability of believers suffering for Jesus’ sake.
    I do not pretend to know how the end times will actually occur. However, a strong argument can be made from the Biblical texts that the passage in Matthew 24 describing how one will be taken and another left is properly interpreted as the non-believers being snatched away and the believers “left behind.” After all, the world will be remade and the believers will remain there to enjoy being in the presence of the Lord forever, Rev. 21:1-15. The non-believers will be thrown into the “lake of fire.” More scriptural passages are reconciled by this event occurring on the last day of Matthew 24 and 1 Cor. 15 than by this the imaginative drawn-out process depicted by Tim LaHaye and the premillenial dispensationalists. It would seem that the popularity of the premillennial view is based upon wishful thinking of believers in our modern therapeutic society who want their belief system to include a “no suffering” policy for believers. This idea that our faith exempts us from trials and tribulations is completely the opposite of Jesus’ teachings to his own disciples, all of whom suffered for Him, as he had accurately prophesied to them. Likewise, Jesus specifically instructed all of us to expect, as His followers, trials and tribulations, including persecutions.
    It should also be noted that orthodox Christian theologians and thinkers have rejected premillennial dispensationalism. R.C. Sproul, Timothy Keller, C.S. Lewis, N.T. Wright, John Stott, Alister Begg, and most persuasively Martyn Lloyd-Jones, all have made powerful Scripture-based arguments against premillennial dispensationalism. Of course, the Reformationalists, including in particular Martin Luther and John Calvin, understood the Last Judgment in a completely different manner than Tim LaHaye. The reason that premillennial dispensationalism caught on in the USA (it is prevalent nowhere else), is that Dwight Moody did a tour of England when the idea was being circulated there, liked it, and imported it into his powerful evangelical ministry; it continues to dominate the thinking of the Moody Bible Institute and the programming of its media outlets. Interestingly, John Darby’s biggest opponent during his years of popularity was Charles Spurgeon.
    As Beale demonstrates exhaustively in his book, the numbers in the Book of Revelation, like virtually all of the images presented there, are symbolic. Numbers like “seven” and “one thousand” all had specific symbolic literary meanings understood by John’s readers then. For us to open up the Book of Revelation without being able to read that text as it was understood by First Centiury Jewish Christians is to substitute ignorance for truth.
    It is our lot in life to read the Bible without the enlightenment that was carried by all of the symbolism that is lost to us but present to those who first read it. We accept ambiguity in apparent contradictions in the text as we try to reconcile passages with seemingly conflicting ones. Continual prayerful study of the Bible and of its contexts is the best way to gain understanding.
    Interestingly, John Darby taught that the clergy should be abolished, since all believers are empowered by the Holy Spirit to read the Bible with full understanding of its message. Obviously, I do not subscribe to the theory that any man can pick up the Bible and with the help of the Holy Spirit completely understand any passage without further aid. If I believed otherwise, I wouldn’t be spending my time and money attending Seminary!

  2. Bobby, glad to have such a wise scholar (and a gentleman) post an intelligent reply. I think I am going to see some more replies before I jump in just yet 🙂

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