Monday, August 18, 2014

Why I Don't Believe in the Rapture

I don't believe in the Rapture, and quite frankly I'm a little tired of seeing and hearing about how we all need to make sure our lives are in order if we want to avoid the Tribulation.

I should pause here and add that it is a pre-tribulation and mid-tribulation rapture that I have a problem with. I fully believe that Christians will be snatched up and go meet Christ at His second coming - not His 1.5 coming.

Are Christians really so egotistical that they think that they will be whisked away and miss the truly terrible parts of the Tribulation? What then would be the purpose of the Tribulation?

Before we delve too deeply into this issue let me provide a little background.

If you have been reading this blog from the start then you should know that I grew up Protestant/Evangelical. If you haven't been reading this blog from the start, now you know.

During my teen years is when the Left Behind series came out, you know the books about how a bunch of people with porn star names missed the rapture and now have to struggle through the Tribulation. And something about a personalized hallmark Jesus was in there as well... ?

Any how, I read all of the books. Except for the prequels. Starwars taught me prequels are crap. OK I may have read one prequel, but I was pretty burned out by this point. I was especially burned out because I went to a private Christian School during the whole Y2K scare and our principle would tell us the rapture would happen on New Years day 2000 because Israel became a country in 1948 and Jesus said words about a generation dying at some point.

Sorry Dr. M. Also, sorry for not turning in that book report... ever...

So where was I? Oh yeah, Left Behind. Well the series ended after I joined the National Guard which was in 2003 so I guess they got lucky that God decided not to rapture the lot of us... God probably decided to hold off so we could see how the Tribulation Force defeated the evil Nicolai Carpathia.

Anyway, growing up as I did with a family of theologians I was aware that there were a few differences in thought over the whole rapture/Tribulation thing. I had mainly been taught pre-tribulation theory, meaning that ALL Christians would be raptured before the Tribulation, because Jesus loves us and would never let us suffer so much. There is also mid-tribulation theory, or that the rapture would happen in the middle of the Tribulation. I was also vaguely aware that some people denied that a rapture would even happen. Obviously, those in the last two camps were wrong because reasons.

There were also a bunch of other theories that dealt with other things that all hinged on what you believed about the rapture and the Tribulation.

Moving on.

In college there was a group of people who were selling a knock off book of the Left Behind series for like $5. If possible the names sounded even more like porn stars. But the fundamental difference is that this book taught that the rapture wasn't going to happen. In fact, the main character's wife leaves him and his family because she believes that she was supposed to be raptured at the start of the Tribulation/WW III. A lot of people go off to like Montana or something where Jesus is supposedly waiting to rapture them all, then they die from nuclear radiation. Long story short, the rapture doesn't happen and Christians have to suck it up during the Tribulation.

So which one of these groups is correct? Who is correct when it comes to the rapture?

Let us take a look at what the Early Church Fathers said about the rapture;

First up, pre-tribulation! ... ... ... Hmm strangely silent...

Ok, mid-tribulation! ... ... ... Also silent?

What about post tribulation? Still silent?

What? The word rapture can't be found in the Bible or any of the Early Church Fathers? Oh, that's just splitting hairs! Everyone knows that the English word rapture comes from the Latin raptus which is akin to the Greek harpazo meaning to seize, catch up, snatch, etc.

Let's take another look now that we have figured that out!

First, what scripture is used the most as a proof for the rapture? In my Googling the one I have seen the most often is 1 Thessalonians 4 : 17 which reads,

"17Then 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."(KJV)

St. Paul was a pretty smart guy, a lot of doctrine comes from what he wrote. Let's see if we can dig deeper, and by that I mean quote mine.

"...The paragraph which contains the first verse quoted above, I Thessalonians 4:17, forms the Epistle reading for funerals in Orthodox worship. The passage begins with 4:13. In preceding verses St. Paul has spoken of the necessity for holiness of life and for brotherly love among Christians (4:1-12). With verse 13 he turns to another topic, the fate of Christians after death. Misunderstandings on this issue had apparently caused needless distress and apprehension in the church at Thessalonika. It seems that some people believed that Christians who died before Christ’s return would somehow miss out on that glorious event. St. Paul seeks to calm their fears (vs. 13). He points out that as Christ returned from the dead at His Resurrection, so also, at the end of time, His followers who have died in the interim will be restored through resurrection (vs. 14). At the Second Coming, the Christian dead will be raised (vs. 16). Then they and the faithful who are still alive will be caught up into the clouds to welcome Christ as He descends (verses 15,17). Paul then discusses other matters relating to the Second Coming, beginning with the date it will occur.When we look at verse 17 in context, it is easy to see that is does not really support the doctrine of the Rapture. There is no reference to a Great Tribulation or to any other events preceding Christ’s Return. The verse refers to something that will happen as part of the Lord’s Coming. The course of events St. Paul presents is simple and straight-forward. At the time of the Second Coming, the dead will be raised, and all the faithful (the dead now restored and those still alive now transfigured) will ascend to be with Him as He comes down. This is the universal interpretation of the Fathers who see the verse as referring to the last days."(Orthodox Research Institute)

So St. Paul seems to being saying that the dead faithful and the living faithful will go up to meet Jesus at His second coming. Not that the living faithful will suddenly disappear? Interesting! What do the Church Fathers mentioned above have to say regarding this?

"Why does St. Paul speak of an ascension of the righteous? The Fathers suggest at least three answers to this question. St. Gregory of Nyssa says that the ascension is a natural consequence of the purity of the transfigured resurrection body: “ … this change which takes place...when the resurrection trumpet sounds which awakens the dead in an instant transforms those who are left alive to incorruptibility according to the likeness of those who have undergone the resurrection change, so that the bulk of the flesh is no longer heavy nor does its weight hold them down to earth, but they rise up through the air …” St. John Chrysostom and others say that it is to provide Christ with a proper escort for His appearance on earth and to demonstrate His favor toward the faithful. “If He is about to descend, why shall we be taken up? For the sake of honor. When a king enters a city, those who are in his favor go out to meet him, but the condemned await their judge inside. Or, when a loving father comes, his children, and also those worthy of being his children, are taken out in a chariot to see and kiss him, but the servants who have offended him remain indoors. So we are carried out upon a chariot to our Father … See how great our honor is? As He descends we go out to meet Him, and what is more blessed, we shall be with Him always” (Homily 8 on Thessalonians).The third opinion is that St. Paul’s words should be taken symbolically. St. Ambrose and St. Jerome, for example, suggest that the verse does not speak of a real physical ascent at all, nor does it even refer to the Second Coming. What the Apostle means is that the righteous, even when living in the body, are already with Christ in heaven. St. Methodius of Olympus presents a more acceptable symbolic interpretation. He agrees that the passage refers to the Second Coming, but he contends that “the dead” and “the living” do not mean different types of people. The dead, in his view, are our bodies; “those who are alive” are our souls. These will be reunited at the resurrection and then carried up to meet Christ.Let us summarize what we have found so far. St. Paul does speak of a sort of rapture, in the sense of a carrying up into the sky of the righteous at the time of the Second Coming. The Fathers generally agree on that. But St. Paul and the Fathers see this as an event which accompanies Christ’s return and immediately precedes the Judgment and the establishment of the Kingdom."(Orthodox Research Institute)

So, being transfigured into new bodies and not weighed down by impurity we rise up to meet Jesus, as good and faithful servants we rise up to meet our King, or our bodies and souls are reunited and then rise up to meet Christ. In any event none of those are happening until the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. 

But is there anything else that the Early Church can tell us about the rapture?

"In fact, the Seven Ecumenical Councils (325-787 A.D.) in which the essential truths of the Christian faith were defined never mention a rapture. Yet Evangelical Christians and Pentecostals keep using obscure passages of the Book of Revelation which purport to give a detailed timetable of what will happen at the end of the world, despite the fact that Jesus Himself warned that no man knows either the day or the hour when the Son of Man shall return."(Mystagogy)

Oh... not even the Ecumenical Councils mentioned a rapture? But that is like a period of 740ish years from the time of Christ. Surely there must be some mention of this phenomenon that is so wide spread today?

So when was this rapture thing first mentioned?

Well apparently back in the early 1990's a certain Grant Jeffrey found some manuscripts by Saint Ephraim (AD 306 - 373). Mr. Jeffrey then had the manuscripts translated and discovered that they alluded to the rapture.

" In 1994, Grant R. Jeffrey discovered some ancient manuscripts of Ephraem. Following are some key excerpts of that text. The translation was done by Professor Cameron Rhoades, of Tyndale Theological Seminary, at the request of Mr. Jeffrey."(

Well that sounds promising right? I mean a manuscript from about the 4th century from a pretty important saint. For those that don't know, St. Ephraim was a 4th century hymn writer and theologian. So this shows a pretty ancient teaching of the Rapture, right?

Not so fast. This manuscript is actually from a psuedo-Ephraim dating from about the 8th century. Ah, so rapture theory was taught then? Not so fast! It seems that there is a Latin translation and a Syriac translation. The Latin translation seems to borrow heavily from a psuedo-Methodius. Now both of these manuscripts are about the end times, and in fact Wikipedia has a whole page dedicated to the two translations. I went ahead and read them.

Now the Syriac translation reads like your basic apocalypse, all death and destruction, great apostasy, no one gets out alive. The surviving Christians will meet Christ in the air as we previously discussed in this post.

The Latin translation read almost like a different text (because it is). But it still reads mainly like your everyday apocalypse. Here is the quote that most love to use to prove their early date of rapture teaching:

" "Woe to those who desire to see the day of the Lord!" 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. "(Wikipedia)

Seems pretty legit right. That quote comes from the second section of the Latin translation for those who click the link. But further down, in the fourth section we see this quote:

" In those days people shall not be buried, neither Christian, nor heretic, neither Jew, nor pagan, because of fear and dread there is not one who buries them; because all people, while they are fleeing, ignore them."

Now if we take in to the account of the Syriac translation as well with such quotes as:

" Nation will rise up against nation And kingdom against kingdom.Lawlessness will be sovereign on earth And the defiled will pursue after the saints." (Wikipedia)


" People will openly apostatize And augment the left side; The righteous ones will suffer indignities From those who belong to the side of the sinners."

So we see from both of these translations that there will be Christians (saints, righteous) after all of this terrible tribulation type stuff is going on. A further analysis will reveal that both of these psuedo-Ephraim manuscripts were written during the time that Islam was spreading and many Christians were being killed at the hands of Muslims. Surely the authors of both of these manuscripts thought that the end times were very near, what with horrific persecutions happening all around the Middle-East. These manuscripts in no way describe a rapture before a tribulation because they were written during the tribulation they describe (notice the mention of Hagar's son, i.e. Ishmael, i.e. Muslims).

But one thing is for certain, neither of these manuscripts were written by the actual Saint Ephraim. Anybody who tries to use this source as proof of an early rapture teaching is knowingly leading others astray.

We have established that the Early Church did not teach a pre-tribulation rapture - also, the Western Roman Church did not teach a pre-tribulation rapture theory after the schism - so where did this teaching come from? When was it first taught?

" Its origins are in the counter reformation move of Papal Rome in the 16th century after Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the church door in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517. It is less well known that the pope at that time authorized three Jesuit Priests to reinterpret Daniel’s 70 weeks of prophecy; the Book of Revelation; and Ezekiel. The goal of these jesuits was to take the heat of the reformation away from the papacy and the protestant association of the Anti-Christ with the pope.   The three Jesuits were:

Francisco Ribera (1537-1591) of Salamanca,Luis de Alcazar (1554-1621) of Seville, andCardinal Roberto Bellarmine (1542-1621).

The doctrine  – called futurism  – which would later become ‘the rapture’ originated and was submitted by Francisco Ribera in 1585. His Apocalyptic Commentary was on the grand points of Babylon and the Anti-Christ which are now known as the rapture doctrine." (Preacher's Institute)

So we see that the Latin Church, in trying to take the heat off of the Pope, whom the Protestants saw as the Anti-Christ, inadvertently came up with the theory of futurism. However, the work was deemed to be flawed and the Pope ordered it buried.

But futurism and a pre-tribulation rapture aren't the same thing.

"Unfortunately, over 200 years later a librarian to the Archbishop of Canterbury by the name of S. R. Maitland (1792-1866) was appointed to be the Keeper of the Manuscripts at Lambeth Palace, in London, England. In his duties, Dr. Maitland came across Francisco Ribera’s rapture theology and he had it republished for the sake of interest in early 1826 with follow ups in 1829 and 1830.

This was spurred along with the Oxford Tracts that were published in 1833 to try and deprotestantize the Church of England.   John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) (A Leader of the Plymouth Brethren) became a follower of S.R. Maitland’s prophetic endeavors and was persuaded. Darby’s influence in the seminaries of Europe combined with 7 tours of the United States changed the eschatological view of the ministers which had the trickle down effect into the churches." (Preacher's Institute)

Ah, so it's starting to become a little more clear now. We are seeing how this doctrine is taking form...

"Another contributor to the rapture ideology came through Emmanuel Lacunza (1731-1801), a Jesuit priest from Chile. Lacunza wrote the “Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty” around 1791. It was later published in London in 1827. The book was attributed to a fictitious author name Rabbi Juan Josafat BenEzra.

Edward Irving (1792-1834) contended that it was the work of a converted Jew and proved that even the Jewish scholars embraced a pre-tribulation rapture line of thought. It wasn’t long until he had persuaded others to follow his line of thought which gave birth to the Irvingites. However, when chaotic disturbances arose in Irving’s services during the manifestations of these “gifts”, the Church of Scotland took action, dismissing Irving from his position as minister in 1832.

In 1830 during one of Irving’s sessions before his dismissal, a young Scottish girl, named Margaret MacDonald, fell into a trance. After several hours of “vision” and “prophesying” she revealed that Christ’s return would occur in two phases, not just one. Christ would first come visibly to only the righteous, then He would come a second time to execute wrath on the unrighteous in the nations. This rapture was promoted by Irving claiming he, too, had heard a voice from heaven commanding him to teach it.   In March 1830, in Port Glasgow, Scotland, 15 year old Margaret McDonald made claim of her visions. Robert Norton published Margaret’s visions and prophecies in a book entitled, “The Restoration of Apostles and Prophets in the Catholic Apostolic Church” (London, 1861)." (Preacher's Institute)

Now we have another Jesuit priest writing and another Protestant minister reading the writing. Now this erroneous teaching lead to a 15 year old girl having "visions" and her pastor also hearing a voice telling him to preach this new doctrine.

I want to add that during this time when a 15 year old girl was having visions and her pastor heard voices telling him to preach a new doctrine we also have Joseph Smith founding Mormonism in America, Ellen G. White had "visions" which lead to the Seventh Day Adventist, and John Wilson had dreams which lead to British-Israelism. Yes, all of these new doctrines came about through "visions" or "dreams" and they all popped up around the same time. But I'm sure that they have nothing to do with the other.

Back on track.

So how did this doctrine spread from just this group of Irvingites?

"There is good evidence that John Nelson Darby, the father of modern dispensationalism, visited Margaret Macdonald in her home during her ecstatic episodes. He began to teach the rapture as a result, provided the idea with theological underpinings necessary for it to be considered legitimate, and his teachings were embraced by the Plymouth Brethren.

Darby’s teachings were embraced radically by Cyrus Ingerson Scofield (1843-1921). Scofield adopted Darby’s (Ribera’s) school of prophetic thought into the Scofield Reference Bible of 1909 which was heralded at that time as the “book of books”, and continues to legitimize this false teaching in the eyes of many protestants." (Preacher's Institute)

Ah, now we've come to it! So the Roman Catholic Church - in trying to stem the Protestants - came up with the doctrine of futurism, which holds to a type of rapture theory, but realizing it's flaws puts the whole thing behind them. Then, someone digs up the work, is impressed with it and runs with it making the rapture theory it's own monster, and one of his followers is influential enough to change how the seminaries and other protestant churches teach.

Another Jesuit priest writes and is published under a Jewish pseudonym and a Protestant preacher mistakenly thinks the Jews agree with a pre-tribulation rapture. Then one of his followers has visions about this (he hears a voice telling him to preach it) and the influential preacher from above catches wind and then the doctrine is put in a study Bible... It's in a footnote, it must be true!

Remember earlier when I mentioned pre-tribulation and mid-tribulation rapture and how there are many theories as to what exactly was going to happen? Well the same thing was true back when this all started.

"Although the modern day view of every believer being taken away in a rapture is different from all of the thoughts that came before it, there is little doubt to it’s error.

Lacunza asserted that only those believers that partake of the sacrament of the Eucharist would be raptured;
Margaret McDonald said the rapture would only take those that were filled with the Holy Spirit;
and Norton claimed that only those that had been sealed with the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands would be raptured.

As you might imagine, confusion ensued." (Preacher's Institute)

But it really doesn't matter if you believe that those sealed with the Holy Spirit will be raptured, those who are spirit filled, or only those who have partake of the Eucharist.

What matters is who developed the doctrine, or rather how and when. There was just chaos, no unified Church coming together in a council as we see in scripture and history. There was no accepted Apostolic teaching, but a clear tradition of man. The fact that we don't even see the rapture doctrine until 1800 years after Christ should throw up huge red flags, but many evangelicals and fundamentalists try everything they can to prove a doctrine that is just not supported by the Scriptures or the Church!

That is why I don't believe in the Rapture. It is not in the Bible, it was never taught by Jesus, His disciples or the Church. It is clearly a man made tradition.
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