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Why I No Longer Believe In A 'Rapture' (As It's Commonly Taught)

If my previous entries on Bible prophecy didn't make me some enemies, then this one surely will.

Not that I want enemies, of course, and I don't mean to be contentious either, but I know it will be "controversial" since I'm going after Evangelicalism's sacred cow known simply as the "Rapture" or the belief that Jesus will come back one day to take from this earth all the "true believers" while He leaves the "pretenders"/"Christians-In-Name-Only" and the non-believers behind (a.k.a. the "left behind") to share in the same fate, which is having to living through the "Tribulation" and "Great Tribulation" with the Antichrist and his demonic forces running wild worldwide.

Sorry, that was one really long run-on sentence, but it's an accurate description of what many Christians believe; what I once believed so passionately.

Let me start off by saying that I was completely seduced by this type of teaching on the Rapture. I think I once had an entire row on my bookshelf devoted entirely to books on the Rapture and I devoured them!

In fact, of the hundreds of times I wrote about the Rapture over the course of 5 years for that old Look Up Fellowship blog (yes, hundreds!), the gist was generally the same.



 
Feast Of Trumpets To Call Us Home? 
Why am I a Pre-Tribulation believer? Because even though I can see that all the major views on the subject of the Rapture have some merit to them, for me, the Pre-Trib position has the most merit. And so, here we are, on the cusp of Rosh Hashanah 2012, and I’m giddy with anticipation and excitement right now! Giddy for His saints (believers), but heartbroken for His enemies (non-believers). 
As a watchful, prayerful student of Bible prophecy, I absolutely love this time of year. Isn’t that how we’re all supposed to embrace this season? We are commanded to watch and pray and to look for His coming with an expectant, joyful heart at all times. I’ll speak for myself and tell you that that’s how I try to face each and every day. Sure, it’s easier some days more than others, but the key is that we try by recalling who we are in Christ and the hope we have in a future with Him for all of eternity. However, this particular year seems ripe for a harvest of wheat (Matthew3:12), doesn’t it? I mean, geo-political events from around the world amongst other things (a.k.a. "signs of the times") are not to be ignored. Could this really be it? Yes, it could be. Check out this awesome Bible study about Rosh Hashanah, the Feast of Trumpets, the Jewish Wedding Feast, the Shofar, and the Rapture I just finished listening to. Grab your Bible and get comfortable and soak in His presence through His holy Word as it’s presented in this nearly 2-hour sermon. There’s so much information here that it’s probably best if I just share it and get out of the way. 
My dear friends, we know it will occur during Rosh Hashanah/Feast of Trumpets. We just don’t know what year it will occur. This could be the year! Keep looking up (Luke 21:28)!


Yep, I actually wrote that nonsense. Simply more concrete proof that "sincerity" and "good intentions" do not automatically equal Biblical truth

One of the very last things I wrote and published about the Rapture (right around the time I was first being exposed to what being a Confessional Lutheran meant as well as what we believe, teach, and confess) was this little entry that obviously demonstrated the "identity crisis" and struggle I was having internally at the time.



Missouri, We Have A Problem... (2012-11-27 15:56) 
As many of you know, I’m a confessional Lutheran who belongs to an LCMS church. As this humble online ministry makes clear, I’m also an eschatologist, or student of end times Bible prophecy. So, needless to say, you can imagine my immediate concern upon learning the following as published on the LCMS website.


From The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod website: 
Q. Does The LutheranChurch–Missouri Synodbelieve in the rapture? 
A. The answer to your question depends on what you mean by "the rapture." The English word "rapture" is derived from the Latin translation of the verb "caught up" in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 (rapiemur). Lutherans certainly believe what Paul teaches in this passage, namely, that those who are still living on earth when Christ returns visibly on the last day "will be caught up" ("raptured") together with "the dead in Christ" to "meet the Lord in the air." Some Christians teach, however, that the "rapture" will take place not on the last day but in connection with an "invisible" coming of Christ occurring before a seven-year period of "tribulation" on earth, allowing Christians to "escape" this tribulation and then later return to earth for a literal "1000 year reign of Christ." Lutherans do not believe that these teachings are based on a proper understanding of Scripture. Scripture teaches that all Christians will endure varying degrees of "tribulation" until the last day, that Christ will return only once (visibly) to "catchup" ("rapture") all believers, living and dead, into heaven, and that all believers will reign forever with him in heaven. Lutherans understand the "1000 years" of Revelation 20:11-15 to be a figurative reference to Christ’s reign here and now in the hearts and lives of believers, which will culminate in our reigning with Christ forever in heaven following his return on the last day. 
["Historical Amillennialism"]


Clearly, I was on the fence at that point (as the title of that post clearly indicates), but what could possibly make such a staunch proponent of the Rapture of Christ's Church like me turn my back on the teaching entirely to the point where I now write against the idea?

Well, after reading that Q&A from the LCMS website over-and-over-again, it was hard for me to ignore it since it made more sense than what I had believed for so long and it was all supported by a plain, simple reading of holy Scripture in context too.


From A Lutheran Response To The 'Left Behind' Series 
In these unsettling times when absolute truth claims are an increasingly rare commodity in Western culture, the Left Behind appeal to certain future events offers an anchor. In the midst of increasing threats of terrorism and chaos, millions of people are looking to these novels to provide answers to some of today’s most pressing questions. Where are the events in the Middle East finally taking us? Will there be an all-out worldwide nuclear war? And what about the predictions of an all-out social, environmental and economic meltdown? Through their interaction with these books many people believe they have discovered answers to these questions, as well as comfort, strength and inspiration for Christian living. They are offered the assurance that God is at work in the world, judgment is coming and Christ will return soon. To be sure, these books have heightened awareness of such end-time topics as the millennium, the rapture, the Antichrist and Armageddon. Yet the ideas expressed in the Left Behind series are in many ways contrary to the teaching of Holy Scripture. Though containing a fictional story line, the books promote a theology that is, in important respects, at odds with the biblical revelation.

*************************************************

The "Rapture" Doctrine 
Some Evangelicals regard 1 Thessalonians 4:17 as a description of a secret return of Christ, which will take place before Christ's second coming in judgment. The passage actually describes the manner of Christ's return in judgment, when He will raise the dead. The events accord with the Creed's order and summary, "He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in ... the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting." The point is that we will be gathered together at the resurrection, the dead as well as the living, when Christ returns. Paul's teaching is about the resurrection and not a secret return of Christ. Paul comforts the Thessalonians, saying that the dead in Christ will be the first to taste the resurrection and come with the risen Christ. At the second coming, we will all be together once more. 
*- Lutheran Study Bible


Until recently, I never saw how the popular views about the End Times and the Rapture teach a "secret return of Christ" as well as a "second plan of salvation" too, which are both perversions of the Gospel itself (Galatians 1:6-10).

I recommend reading THIS and THEN THIS for a little background to help answer any remaining questions you might have.

Simply put, I now see that the Rapture (as commonly believed, taught, and confessed in mainstream Christianity today) is not Biblical.

I thought about my own faith formation in regards to this topic today when I read about a prominent Baptist -- yes, a Baptist! -- who was getting all sorts of attention when he came out and said exactly the same thing.


Craig: Rapture Theology Is Not Biblical 
Several months before “Left Behind” opens in theaters, a prominent Christian philosopher is reminding the American church that the movie’s claims about the rapture are false. 
“This doctrine is not really found in the book of Revelation. If you read the book of Revelation, you won’t find any mention of the rapture there,” said William Craig, a Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology and Professor of Philosophy at Houston Baptist University. 
Instead, Craig says, the idea of the rapture comes from a “misinterpretation of 1 and 2 Thessalonians where Paul is describing the coming of the Lord and resurrection of the dead, which will occur at His coming.” 
“If you compare what Paul says there to what Jesus says about the End Times, Paul uses the same vocabulary, the same phraseology. I think it’s very plausible that Paul is talking about the same event that Jesus predicted, namely the visible coming of the Son of Man at the end of human history to usher in his kingdom,” said Craig. “But proponents of the rapture view, say that Paul is not at all talking about the second coming of the Christ there. What he’s really talking about is this invisible preliminary secret return of Christ to snatch believers out of the world before the great tribulation occurs. I think there’s no textual warrant for that at all.”


Normally, such an assertion wouldn't get much publicity outside of the Christian Blogosphere, but because the latest remake of the "Left Behind" movies starring Nicolas Cage is scheduled to hit theaters soon, it has legs and has people talking.

Of course, Tim LaHaye, author of the bestselling "Left Behind" book series (of which the movie is based) chimed in with his rebuttal.

The strange thing is that it seems as if the study of end times Bible prophecy is becoming much more mainstream and popular today since the "Left Behind" flick isn't the only one to hit theaters soon. Another new movie, "The Remaining," follows those left behind after the Rapture in a terrifying, action-packed, thriller.

Unlike the popular "Left Behind" franchise or even the HBO original program "The Leftovers," those who are called to be with the Lord in "The Remaining" leave their physical bodies behind. A trailer for the film shows people slumping to the ground, their eyes a haunting, grey color. Naturally, the film's production company said that this newest portrayal is the more accurate depiction of the Rapture.

Putting the finger-pointing and verbal gymnastics aside, what's the real deal though? Why should you even consider what I have to say about all of this whether I used to believe in the Rapture myself or not? Well, you shouldn't. You should consider God's Word on the matter.


"Oh, come on, Jeff! Isn't that what anyone who enters this debate already truly believes they're doing?"


Fair enough.

Look, I know that people on both sides of this debate feel that that's precisely what they have always done. I get that. So, all I want to do is share with you what it was that I heard preached, and then what it was that I read later on (in an attempt to justify what I heard preached about this teaching), that had a huge impact on getting me to change my mind to the point where I now believe something completely different about all of this than what I used to believe about it.

In a Lutheran layman's terms. I no longer believe in a "Rapture" as it's commonly taught.

Instead, I believe in the same kind of "rapture" that St. Paul wrote about -- otherwise known as the "Second Coming" -- and one that will occur at a time the divinely inspired apostle said it would.




NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 3 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours! 

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About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

2 comments

  1. Hi: Great blog. I found an interesting piece on the web titled "The Pretrib Rapture Jackpot" which you may like. Lord bless.

    ReplyDelete
  2. We see one story trough whole of history, if the pre-trib rapture doesn't exist why didn't God left Noah, Lot, Rehab and others go trough tribulation when the Lord executed judgement upon the ungodly? They are all (among other meanings) pictures of the things to come. God will deal seperatly with Israel and the Church, like he always did. Just look at what the term until the times of the gentiles would mean? We are not the Jews, so technically we're gentiles. We are saved by faith, why would God put us trough a tribulation to test our faith, isn't he the one who holds our salvation or could we actualy obtain it? We can't, we'd mess everything up. Friend i suggest you to look up Independant Baptist teachings and compare them to Lutheran teachings and then let the Bible speak which would be more biblical. Also I would advise you to look up the history of Lutheran church.


    Be blessed in Jesus name

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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