Wednesday, July 6, 2011

*BEST OF DTB #95* Questions regarding the rapture

A good friend, a godly man, called me with some honest questions regarding the doctrine of the rapture. His questions were actually insightful and showed me that he is truly seeking the truth on this matter. I gave him my best summation, then promised I would follow with Scriptural support of my position. My friend's name is Rodney.

This is an important issue of our time and one that I feel should be addressed. Therefore, I have decided to make public, my response to my friend.

The doctrine of a rapture of the church was born in 1830, as the result of an alleged vision by a young girl named Margaret McDonald, a disciple of a Church of Scotland minister named Edward Irving.

McDonald stated that it was revealed to her that Christ would return in two stages. The first was an invisible stage where the righteous would be taken to heaven and then, later, in Judgement against the unrighteous.

Irving held to the belief that all Christians would manifest the charismatic spiritual gifts of the infant church, of prophesy and speaking in tongues. As a result of the chaos of some of his church gatherings, he was dismissed from the church of Scotland and went on to become the father of modern Pentecostalism. Irving would go on to say that "voices from heaven" instructed him to preach this doctrine. I will not speculate on what he actually heard or didn't hear. I can only give the irrefutable facts.

  1. Prior to Irving and McDonald's testimony, there had never been a historical figure that suggested this doctrine.
  2. The Bible is clear on these kinds of new doctrines;
    Galatians 1
    6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel-- 7 not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8* But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, If any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.

Some have speculated that Irving's views were shaped by the 1827 writings of a Spanish Jesuit priest. Whether this is true or not cannot be known. What we do know, for a fact, is that the belief in a rapture of the church is less than 200 years old, by even the most generous estimation of it's origin. So, this is a doctrine that has emerged in the last 10% of the duration of the time from the birth of Christ So, the only question that remains is whether an infallible Biblical case can be made in support of this doctrine. As I will soon show you, it certainly cannot.

John Darby, founder of The Plymouth Brethren movement became fascinated by Irving's new doctrine and traveled to Scotland to interview him.

Darby's devotion to this doctrine, led him to search for Scriptural support. Believing he had found support for this doctrine, in Matthew 24 and 1 Thessalonians 4, his theories caught the attention of Cyrus Scofield, he published the same in the cross-notes of Scofield Reference Bible

This was, essentially, the beginning of the modern dispensationalist movement and would lead to an almost unbroken succession of date setters for Jesus Christ's return including the Jehovah Witnesses, the Seventh Day Adventists and the recent fanatic who predicted Christ's return on May 21st of this year.

The guy who really put the rapture doctrine on the map is one of the most famously wrong date setters in American history. I mention his famously wrong prediction because it strikes to the very heart of how very wrong this interpretation of Matthew's 24th chapter is and why it doesn't support a rapture doctrine at all.

The man's name is Hal Lindsey and his work The late Great Planet Earth revolutionized the way the people looked at the end times and the Book of Revelation (to great detriment, I'm afraid).

Lindsey is the man responsible for taking Dispensationalism from the extreme to the mainstream but he interprets Matthew 24 very wrongly.

To understand Matthew's 24th chapter is difficult but if you cling fast to Our Lord's own words, and do a bit of research, you can come to get it.

So, let's start there-

Taking the chapter apart, piece by piece, we start with verses 1 and 2, and a pretty straightforward account;

Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2 But he answered them, "You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down."

So, even as the disciples are marveling at the amazing buildings of the Jewish Temple, Jesus is predicting it's utter destruction. Do not lose sight of this. Jesus first prediction deals solely with the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

To the people of Jerusalem in Jesus' day, this would be more unthinkable than the destruction of the Titanic or the World Trade Center was to our time.

So, The disciples ask Him when this will occur but they don't stop there. They add two additional questions. Read carefully.
3* As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, "Tell us, 1when will this be, and 2what will be the sign of your coming and 3of the close of the age?"
  1. When will this be? That is, when will the Temple be destroyed?
  2. What will be the sign of your coming? That is, the sign of the second coming.
  3. The close of the age. That is, the end of the world.

If you fail to recognize that these three questions are asked in order and answered in order, you reduce Matthew 24 to a frustrating and unsolvable mass of contradictions. However, if you follow this model, Jesus was, indeed, promising to return twice but not in a Rapture and then Judgement. He is promising to return twice in Judgement, first on the city of Jerusalem and then, on the world. The first Judgement would occur within a specific period of time and the second, at the end of the age at a time we do not know.

Read along and you will see. Jesus takes the longest amount of time to answer question 1 and, if you are not careful, you might think this is an end-times prophecy. However, He actually assures us that it isn't. Allow me to walk you through it and please pay close attention. My commentary is in Bold Red. This may be a little long-winded but it is important, so I can tie it all together.

4 And Jesus answered them,
Very important. Jesus is directly answering the disciples question. Understand this as Jesus speaking personally to them about what they will see and what are their instructions. Resist the temptation to see an end-times prophecy where there is none. If you follow the words closely, it is very clear that Jesus answers each of the 3 questions in order.
"Take heed that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and they will lead many astray. 6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet.
As you will see, the end that Jesus refers to here is still the end of the city of Jerusalem. His discourse on the end of the world comes later.
7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: 8 all this is but the beginning of the birth-pangs.
These events are recorded as having occurred in the time leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem.

9* "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake.
Here he is predicting the martyrdom of the Apostles. Only John definitely escaped this end, surviving miraculously, the attempt on his life. Both Peter and Paul, were dead before the Temple was destroyed as was James.
10 And then many will fall away, * and betray one another, and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because wickedness is multiplied, most men's love will grow cold. 13* But he who endures to the end will be saved. 14* And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come.
It is very tempting to interpret "preached throughout the whole world" as meaning the whole world according to our reckoning but the following 20 verses make it very clear that this is not the case. Continue to pay close attention and you will see this. Remember that, for the Jews of Jesus time, what was under Roman rule was the whole world.

15 "So when you see the desolating sacrilege spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains;
What Jesus says here is inescapable and attempts to escape it have ranged from the misinformed to the absurd. Jesus, in referring to Daniel, is giving us a very specific timeline on when these events will commence and you have to make Jesus a liar to propose they refer to the end times. It refers to a specific event, a specific time and a specific people in a specific place. It refers to the Holy place. At that time, only the Temple would have qualified. Further, it specifically instructs those in Judea to flee to the mountains when the abomination Daniel spoke of is seen. The Bible is clear about that, as well, telling us precisely when this will occur.
The prophecy is recorded in the 9th chapter of Daniel and is a prophecy given to Daniel by the Angel Gabriel.

24 "Seventy weeks of years are decreed concerning your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place.

A week of years= 7 years. Therefore, 70 weeks of years is 490 years by the Jewish calendar or 476 years by our reckoning. After that time the sacrifice ends, so do the prophets, the Messiah is brought in and the Jewish religion comes to an end, culminating with the end of the city of Jerusalem.

25 Know therefore and understand that from the going forth of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks.

That decree was made by King Artaxerxes of Persia approx. 443 BC and the rise of Ezra the prophet, about seven years later, fulfills the first week of years, up to 436 BC.

Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 26 And after the sixty-two weeks, *an anointed one shall be cut off, and shall have nothing;

Literally translated, "the Christ", this takes us forward another 62 x 7 years, that is 434 Jewish years or about 428 years by our reckoning. When the prophesy is converted to days, it takes us to April 3rd, 33 AD. The date of a known eclipse and a Friday immediately preceding the Passover.

To say that this fulfills the "the Christ is cut down" part of the prophecy goes without saying. April 3rd, 33 AD is the date of the crucifixion.

and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its * end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war; desolations are decreed. 27* And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week; and for half of the week he shall cause sacrifice and offering to cease; and upon the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator."

Now, once again, the prophecy is pretty straightforward and it is impossible to make this an end-times prophecy honestly. Yet, inexplicably, they do JUST THAT. Lindsey, and others have speculated that a sort of ''stopwatch" is clicked, separating week 69 from week 70. He proposes that Daniel's 70th week is fulfilled in the end times. There, of course, is zero Scriptural evidence to support such nonsense. They literally created this interpretation out of thin air in order to futurize Daniel's 70th week. However, such an interpretation makes Gabriel a liar in verse 24! Seventy weeks means SEVENTY WEEKS.
Reading this prophesy correctly shows that the beginning of the events leading to the end of the city of Jerusalem begin at the halfway mark of the 70th week. This takes us to 37 AD and the placement of the bust of Zeus Olympus on the temple wing by the Roman emperor Caligula. This is the Abomination that leads to desolation. In other words, precisely the desolating abomination Jesus spoke of.
It was at that point that the fate of the city of Jerusalem was sealed. It's destruction was sealed and it's destruction was no longer a question of if but only of when. This is why, returning to Matthew 24, we see Jesus exhorting people to get out of that city and quick.
17let him who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house; 18 and let him who is in the field not turn back to take his mantle. 19 And alas for those who are with child and for those who give suck in those days! 20 Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a sabbath. 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been shortened, no human being would be saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23 Then if any one says to you, 'Lo, here is the Christ!' or 'There he is!' do not believe it. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 Lo, I have told you beforehand. 26* So, if they say to you, 'Lo, he is in the wilderness,' do not go out; if they say, 'Lo, he is in the inner rooms,' do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of man. 28* Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together.

29* "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken; 30 then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; 31 and he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Once again, it is easy to say that this points to the end times unless you understand that the sun and moon being darkened and the stars falling from heaven, and the powers of heaven being shaken are referring symbolically to the violent fury being poured about on the city of Jerusalem. Jesus is coming here, on the clouds of heaven, in retribution against the city of Jerusalem. In verses 32 to 35, He leaves no doubt.

32 "From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates.
Hal Lindsey points out, and is correct in pointing out that the fig tree represents the nation of Israel. Curiously, though, he misses Matthew 21

18 In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he was hungry. 19 And seeing a fig tree by the wayside he went to it, and found nothing on it but leaves only. And he said to it, "May no fruit ever come from you again!" And the fig tree withered at once. 20* When the disciples saw it they marveled, saying, "How did the fig tree wither at once?" 21* And Jesus answered them, "Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and never doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' it will be done. 22* And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith."

Jesus statement to know he is near, at the very gates, is speaking specifically to the gates of the city of Jerusalem. Remember that Jesus said these desolations are decreed from the moment the abomination of desolation (the bust of Zeus) is placed on the temple wing. He now gives us a firm promise of how soon they will come to completion.
34* Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all these things take place. 35* Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
Verse 34 clinches it. Jesus is testifying that everything He has spoken of since verse 4 takes place in the current generation. The word generation comes from the Greek genea and denotes a period of about 40 years. So, the only way to properly interpret this prophecy is that it is fulfilled within 40 years of the time Jesus made it. This would mean no later than 73 AD. The city of Jerusalem and it's Temple, and all the Priests within it, were destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans, exactly as Jesus predicted.

Luke 21

20* "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it; 22 for these are days of vengeance, to fulfil all that is written. 23* Alas for those who are with child and for those who give suck in those days! For great distress shall be upon the earth and wrath upon this people; 24* they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led captive among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

Thus, all 70 weeks of Daniel's prophecy were fulfilled. There was no stopwatch. Only be inserting the wholly unsupported stopwatch theory, is Lindsey able to manipulate the text to be referring to the end times. Lindsey then re-starts his stopwatch at the date the UN recognized the Nation of Israel (1948). Lindsey then totally misinterprets the following;

30 then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; 31 and he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

The earth is to mourn because the Lord is coming in vengeance against the City of Jerusalem. In fact, the Jewish historian Josephus actually records that figures were seen in the clouds! Misinterpreting this to be a gathering up of the saints, a rapture, Lindsey adds the 40 years for a generation, and predicts that Jesus would rapture the church in 1988. One of the most famously wrong predictions in history.

Just as Jesus prescribes a definite time-frame (one generation) for His first return (Judgement against Jerusalem, not a Rapture), He is just as clear to distinguish it from His second coming.

36* "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, * but the Father only. 37* As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man. 40* Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left. 42* Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43* * But know this, that if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
You see the distinction? When will Jerusalem fall? Within one generation. When will Jesus return? No one knows- not even the angels of heaven. And the Final Judgement (question 3) follows immediately after

45* "Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master when he comes will find so doing. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, 'My master is delayed,' 49* and begins to beat his fellow servants, and eats and drinks with the drunken, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, 51* and will punish him, and put him with the hypocrites; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.

So, the sentences 40 Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left, that people like Lindsey refer to as referring to a rapture, and Tim Lahaye has made a fortune off of with his left behind book series, do not refer to a rapture at all but to what will occur at the second coming. In fact, Jesus, Himself compares it to the days of Noah. In the days of Noah, the ones who were taken were the evil. So, it will be this time.

Now, let's look at the other chapter, used to defend this doctrine 1 Thessalonians chapter 4. Again, my commentary is in Bold Red.

13* But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14* For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep.
That clinches it right there. The dead in Christ must rise first and that happens on the last day (John 6: 39-40, 44, 54)

* For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel's call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; 17 then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

Notice that those who are alive are called up in the sky to meet the Lord. The terminology speaks to meeting or welcoming. The people will actually escort Him back to earth where Judgement will commence. This meeting of the Lord is actually expounded upon in 2 Thessalonians 2 where we are told that this cannot happen until the Anti-Christ comes first. Paul calls him the son of perdition (literally, the son of hell)

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him, we beg you, brethren, 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition.
Anti-Christ is a specific person. The rapture is impossible.
  1. Anti-Christ must come before Christ's return.
  2. The dead must rise first when He returns.

I hope this helped.

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