Friday, August 8, 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 to 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."

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?
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