I have been having a discussion with a great group of guys about some questions of the faith and one that came up was about the Pre-Tribulation Rapture. It is a bit of a jumble, but I thought it was interesting so dive in if you are interested.
If I am summarizing correctly, the question was:
If it is a non-essential of the faith, it has nothing to do with salvation and the costs of being wrong on the issue are high why do I teach it?
I am going to copy some of my responses there as to the why I believe it, but the answer to why I teach it is simple — I believe that it is what the Bible says.
As a pastor who teaches expositionally, I go through the Bible in order, verse by verse, book by book to teach as much of God’s Word as I can. I don’t believe that it is my job to pick and choose what verses to teach on and what to avoid. I start a book and then with the Lord’s help start in chapter 1 and teach until I am done. God chose what to put in the Bible and as His oh so weak servant, I am obligated to pass on what He says. So when I get to a passage that talks about treating your leaders well, which makes me really uncomfortable, or that talk about controversial issues of the day that I would rather not talk about, I suck it up, pray it up and teach what the Bible says rather than what I would want to talk about because it make me feel good.
With a passage like 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18, I also consider it my job not just to teach what I believe is the proper reading of the passage but to also lay out to some extent the other legitimate readings so that each of the people listening can be informed of what the verses say, what the positions are and why I believe that one position is correct. With a Bible literate church, this is a pretty easy process as most people already know what I am talking about and have chosen to be at the church because they agree on major issues.
Since just about every Christian denomination believes in the Rapture at some point, it is not a point of contention among those holding different positions unless people choose to make it one.
A follow up question was what about if a mid-tribulation rapture or post-tribulation rapture takes place? Won’t Christians get lost to the anti-christ in the process if they are hoping on the Rapture and it does not come.
My short answer is not possible — the reason, God’s Holy Spirit. Jesus says that He is going to send the Comforter to Us — one like Him and it will be better for us when He comes. Paul says that we are temples of God, indwelled by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is referred to as our earnest deposit or seal guaranteeing Jesus return for us – He is in us and with us. He makes sure that we belong to Jesus and as Jesus promised, that no one can snatch us out of Jesus’ Hand. We are given eternal life by Jesus — by definition it is eternal life or it is not.
In the case that I am wrong and the Rapture happens later than I believe, the One, Holy, Eternal God will see me and every other believer through anything that comes, correcting me along the way. How do I know this?
Because He is the Good Shepherd and I am just a dumb sheep. My relationship with Him has never been predicated on me being awesome anyway.
Here is the rest of my response dealing with Why I believe as well:
[B]The verses most specifically talking about the rapture or “harpazo” is 1Thess 4 14-17. But people omit to read on to vs 18…which says comfort one another with these words.[/B]
I taught through 1 Thessalonians recently and this is a huge point along with understanding what the Tribulation is and how that relates to the character of God.
We are currently in what is commonly called the Age of Grace or Church Age — the time period where God is offering to the World the free grace of Jesus guaranteed by His blood on the Cross. When Jesus was crucified, God poured out His wrath, the cup of suffering that Jesus talks about in Gethsemane, on Jesus as a substitute for us. Jesus takes the Wrath that we deserve and as a result we are no longer creatures of wrath, enemies of Jesus, but are His brothers.
But much like the time period that was present when Noah was building the Ark and the door to the Ark stood open for 100 plus years, anyone can see what is coming and walk through the doorway – Jesus and be saved. If you notice in Genesis though, Noah does not close the door, it says specifically God closed the door — time was up and judgment was coming.
When that day comes when time is up and judgment comes, it will not be fallen nature causing calamity or man causing bad thinks, it will be God pouring out his wrath upon the earth in a way that the earth has never seen. God made it so easy to accept what Jesus did, but now man has to pay for every single sin and act of rebellion against God. 1/3 of the earth will perish in the initial period of the tribulation before it really even gets going — 100 pound hailstones, earthquakes that flatten mountains and demon locusts etc.
Even here, God will send an angel around the earth to proclaim the Gospel and a multitude of people will be saved, He is still offering escape, but man will shake His fist at God’s wrath until the bitter end. But the important part is God is punishing the disobedient by pouring out His Wrath on them as perfect Judge. BTW — God’ wrath is defined as an emotional reaction to great unrighteousness — it is free from the vindictiveness and sinfulness that man’s wrath is filled with.
If we have accepted Jesus then we are children of God adopted into His family and forgiven of our sins — because Jesus already took the wrath for us there is no reason for us to be here while God pours out His wrath.
In the sermon I compared it with Dam Busters raid of WWII — famous raid that blew up german dams and flooded the Ruhr valley with billions of gallons of water and knocked out German production for a time. In that raid, the majority of those killed by the flooding were POW’s who were being used as slave labor by the Germans. The allied flyers, the good guys, did not know that the POW’s were there and even if they did, there was nothing that they could have done to get the POW’s, the good guys, out of the way of the huge torrent of water that was coming. If the good guys could have gotten the other good guys out of the way without compromising the mission they certainly would have — they are good guys after all.
God in His Nature is our Perfect Father — He is the ultimate good guy for us. He knows where each of His Children are every moment of the day and since we don’t need to be here, He will snatch us out of the path of that torrent of judgment before it arrives.
1 Thessalonians 1:
For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
and my favorite Romans 5:9-10
9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
Jesus was punished so that we don’t have to be. To have us go through the punishment of the world along with those who reject Jesus does not make sense to me as a result.
1 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians are the clearest verses that deal with the Rapture:
1 Corinthians 15:
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”h
55“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”i
56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 4:
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17[B]After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. [/B]And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Notice this mode of removal contradicts how Jesus is going to return at His Second Coming, it says that He will land on the Mount of Olives among other things, and matches Acts 1:
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? [B]This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.[/B]
The word we translate as caught up is originally harpazo, referenced above — in the latin it was rapturo or the word from which we get the term Rapture and it describes an event that is very different in logistics than the description of the Second Coming.
So I believe that it is consistent with the Scriptures and with God’s Character and His plan of Salvation for Him to take His Childre aside out of danger for a time, to catch them up or snatch them away from danger while He deals with the disobedient.