There is false teaching…and then there is just dumb teaching.
One of those teachings is the idea that one day there will be a secret rapture of Christians. You’ve probably heard this one before. Yet another sensational “Left Behind” movie came out last year in the ever lucrative, but dumb, rapture line of rapture books and rapture movies: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrXe8YDbzYs.
The basic idea here is that Jesus will come back secretly and all the Christians will be sucked into his presence in safety before the tribulation (seven year tribulation) begins on the earth. The problem is that you won’t find a secret rapture of Christians anywhere in the Bible. It’s a myth.
The only text that really tells us about the rapture is 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (ESV)
What that means is that when Jesus will come back only once. At the end of a long period of tribulation, the trumpet will sound and the Lord will descend and we will rise to meet him. Then it’s game over. No tribulation after – just the reign of Christ on earth.
Now wait, wait, wait, you say! “What about where Jesus says, ‘I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world….’” Well look again at what is going on in Revelation 3:10. It is not a promise of being exempt from trial and difficulty – rather, Jesus is promising to will keep us through it all. The same way, every day, he is keeping his saints through persecution, cancer, divorcing parents…
Now wait, wait, wait, you say! “What about where Jesus says, ‘Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming…’” (Matt 24:40-42 ESV) Again, look a little closer. In the four verses leading up to this Jesus talks about Noah and when some were taken and some were left. In Noah’s day it was the ungodly that were taken to judgment. In other words, at the second coming there will be some taken to judgment and some delivered through it. And I sure don’t want to be taken – I want to be left behind!
You see this pre-tribulational rapture view originated in the 1820s to 1830s in England. Did you catch that? This Rapture Theology, that has swept North America by storm, has only be held to by a sliver of Christians in the history of the church. You can look for it – but not a single teacher or leader or writer prior to the 1820s ever believed or wrote on a pre-trib rapture. None of the church fathers. None on the monks, popes, bishops. Not a single one.
Sorry – but you gotta dump your left behind, dispensational, rapture views. They are historically and biblically unjustifiable.
The reason this is important is two-fold. First, so you can stop buying all these silly books. Seriously man! And second, so that you brace yourself for suffering. The Christian life is not easy. During the tribulation, God will be judging the world and the world, in turn, will be judging Christians. Yes, God will “keep us through the hour of tribulation” but he won’t evacuate us from the earth. And that, my friends, is the whole logic of the book of revelation and the whole logic of the cross – the ones who reign with Christ are the ones who “loved not their lives even unto death.” (Revelation 12:11 ESV). Christian conquering happens by dying. The cross precedes crown.
So suffer well. Conquer well. Reject this American-dream-health-and-wealth-theology that says God will always prosper you in every aspect, area, and avenue of your life. Nope. The crown is given to those who take up the cross. So take it up. To live is Christ – to die is gain.