The purpose of the 6th Dispensation was to procure a Bride for Jesus so that the Meaning of Life could be fulfilled. The Bride of Christ consists of those who accept Salvation, and allow themselves to be sanctified through Grace.
After the 6th Dispensation ends, Jesus promised to return for His Bride.
Here comes the Groom
The method by which Jesus claims His Bride constitutes one of the strangest and most controversial doctrines in Christianity.
We saw in an earlier post that the ancient Jewish wedding process was an earthly model for this.
After the betrothal, the groom would return to his father’s house for an indeterminate time to prepare an addition in which the new couple would live. During this time, the Bride would be in a constant state of preparation in anticipation for the groom’s return.
The groom would return unexpectedly, usually in the middle of the night, accompanied by his groomsmen to whisk his new bride away to the father’s house where they would consummate the marriage and have a seven day wedding feast.
Again, this was the HUMAN model of these events.
How would Jesus do the real thing?
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
Behold, I tell 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 trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 1 Corinthians 15:51 – 53
So basically at some point in the (near?) future, Jesus will come “down” from heaven (I put down in quotes because Heaven isn’t in the sky so much as in a higher dimension – I’ll elaborate in the next paragraph) with a shout and a trumpet blast. Then all faithful believers in the Church, dead and alive, will be zapped away to be with Jesus.
Not only will the Church be teleported away, they will be given nifty new immortal bodies!
Apparently these new bodies will be like Jesus’ post resurrection form which among other things allowed Him to appear and disappear from the material world at will, and enter a room without passing through the walls – which requires existing in a higher dimensional plane than the three spatial dimensions (height, width, and depth) which we currently experience.
This all sounds crazy, right?
Absolutely! Especially in our current era where we see very little supernatural phenomenon, and secular scientists arrogantly believe that they have, or can explain everything in naturalistic terms. We have very little concept of the miraculous.
This has rendered the Rapture a source of derision and a means through which people cast aspersions on the veracity of Christianity, particularly prophecy (as the Bible predicted).
The idea of millions (possibly an optimistic assumption) of Christians suddenly going *poof* and leaving behind a pile of clothes is certainly odd (to say the least), but the Biblical evidence for the event is difficult to ignore.
Of course, that doesn’t stop dedicated skeptics (religious and secular) from trying to dismiss the doctrine. Here are the two primary objections to the Rapture:
Objection #1 – The word “rapture” (as well as the concept) are not found in the bible.
The first part of this objection is the same kind of semantic silliness that people use to deny the Trinity.Just because a colloquial word or phrase doesn’t appear in the Bible, does not mean the CONCEPT doesn’t exist.
There are plenty of words and phrases that are commonly used to describe proven and accepted Biblical doctrines that do not appear verbatim in the scriptures such as “Virgin Birth”, “Blood Atonement”, “Original Sin”, and “Trinity”.
Hell, the word “Bible” isn’t in the Bible, but its existence is self-evident.
However, in the case of the Rapture, both the word AND the concept can be found – if you know how to look.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:17, the English phrase “caught up” translates the Greek word “harpazo”, which means “to seize upon with force” or “to snatch up.”
Those who claim that the word “rapture” isn’t in their Bible do so because they aren’t using the Latin translation from the Vulgate (one of the oldest Bibles in existence), in which harpazo is translated “rapiemur” the future tense of “rapio” which has the SAME definition of being “caught up” (“Raptus” is the past participle of rapio, and our English words “rapt” and “rapture” stem from this past participle). So there!
The concept of people being “raptured” is also clear, not only from the passages in Thessalonians and Corinthians, but also Genesis 5:24, 2 Kings 2:11, Acts 1, Matthew 24:31, Revelation 11, and elsewhere.
To ignore all this evidence is intentional obtuseness (also known as comparative thinking).
Objection #2 – The doctrine of the Rapture of the Church was invented by Darby in the 1800’s
This objection is just as silly as the first in its own way. Proponents state that the concept of the Rapture was created by an English preacher named John Darby around 1830.
Since the Apostle Paul first wrote about the Rapture in his epistle to the Thessalonians in 52 AD, I can only assume that these folks believe that Darby hopped into his horse-drawn DeLorean, jumped back in time to the first century, and convinced Paul of the veracity of the Rapture sometime before Paul’s journey to Thessalonica.
To be fair, the primary objection is that Darby taught that the Rapture would occur before the time of apocalyptic judgment known as the Tribulation (which we will begin to examine two posts from now) and this doctrine allegedly was not mentioned or taught by any Christian, teacher, pastor, or scholar before Darby. Therefore it’s a “new doctrine” and likely heretical.
Nobody taught the Rapture? Really?
First of all, the idea that NO ONE taught about the Rapture of the Church simply isn’t true. Paul clearly taught it (so did some guy names Jesus).
The entire reason for the second epistle to the Thessalonians was to address that church’s fear that the Tribulation had started (due to increased Roman persecution) and Jesus had NOT returned for them. So obviously they were not expecting to be on earth during the Tribulation. If they were wrong in this belief, Paul would have offered correction. Instead he gave them reassurances!
Also, in His letter to the church at Philadelphia, Jesus EXPLICITLY promised that they would be kept from the time of the Tribulation. There are several other passages that allude to this and we will look at some of them in the next post.
Furthermore, there are strong reasons to doubt that the concept of the Rapture was excluded from church doctrine between the time of the New Testament and Darby.
But for the sake of argument let’s say that none of the so-called “Church Fathers” or subsequent Bible teachers in the early and medieval church taught the Rapture. SO WHAT?
Doctrine is based on what is IN the Bible, NOT what men in a certain era CHOSE to teach from the Bible.
And IF the Rapture was not taught regularly during certain eras of the Church then that’s the fault of the men who were SUPPOSED to teach the Bible, NOT Darby’s, and certainly not Paul’s!
IF the early Church didn’t teach the Rapture, why not?
I can’t say for sure, but I have a theory. As we saw in the posts on Church history, the early Church and the medieval church fell into compromise with the word and became dominated by religious mystics whose goal was to amass temporal influence and power.
The idea that Jesus would return to claim his Bride, and depose and judge the world’s evil rulers likely would not have been terribly popular with the evil rulers.
So the compromising church probably thought it was in their best interests NOT to promote that idea (and the mystics who later took over the church would obviously see little merit in it either). And over the centuries, the doctrine may have atrophied.
Rapture-Deniers have Ulterior motives
It’s also not a coincidence that most folks who deny the Rapture of the Church, also embrace other quasi-biblical doctrines that benefit from the denial, such as Dominionism – the idea that the Church must conquer the world in the name of Christ before Jesus can return (a concept not found in the Bible and one that totally denies the Kingdom God promised Abraham and the Jews (the 7th Dispensation)).
And then there’s the “Replacement Theology” faction – a truly weird (but numerically significant) group who believe that the Church replaced Israel as God’s chosen people (which blatantly contradicts Romans 9, 10, and 11) and inherited all the blessings that God gave the Jews in Deuteronomy 28 (interestingly, they don’t seem as eager to accept the curses God pronounced on the Jews in the same chapter).
Many of them also believe that the 10 tribes of northern Israel who were exiled for disobedience somehow ended up in Europe and eventually became (Caucasian) Americans.
Google the “10 lost tribes”. You’ll find a ton of wacky (and poorly designed) websites written by some very…interesting (and perpetually angry) people.
Sadly these folks make the same mistake as the Pharisees in Jesus’ time; they embrace the verses and concepts that support their position, while denying, minimizing and ridiculing, verses and doctrines to the contrary.
But isn’t it possible that I’m doing the same thing I’m accusing the Rapture-deniers of (promoting my own view at the exclusion of others)?
That argument MIGHT have merit, IF my position was that there is ONLY one correct view of the Rapture.
But it’s not. Let me explain.
The controversy about whether or not the Rapture is Biblical (which we addressed in this post) is just ONE disputed aspect of the doctrine, and arguably not even the most controversial.
No, the most heated debate is not IF there is a Rapture, but WHEN it will occur.
There are those who believe the Rapture will occur before the Tribulation, those who think the Rapture happens in the middle of the Tribulation, and those who put the Rapture at the end of the Tribulation (the Dominionists and Replacement Theologists generally fall into this latter group).
Who’s right and who’s wrong? ALL OF THEM!
Each group is right in what they affirm about the Rapture, but they are ALL wrong in what they deny. I’ll explain in the next post.
Remember to subscribe to this blog to receive new posts when they are published