In continuing with an End Times study, this week will cover the mysterious Rapture:
1. Read Matthew chapter 24:
Verse 22: "And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened."
Consider: If the "elect" were to be carried away by the rapture, there would be no concern for them during the end time events and no need to mention them in this scripture passage. However, in Jesus' own words, it is for the sake of the "elect" that the days of the tribulation are shortened.
Verse 37: "But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be."
Consider: During the flood, Noah and his family were not raptured away from the terrible scene. Instead, they had been prepared by God's Word on how to deal with the worldwide judgement that was to come. Because they were prepared, they endured to the end.
2. Read 1 Corinthians 15:
Verses 51 and 52: "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 will be changed."
Consider: If all are changed, how has the church come to believe only the true believers of Jesus will be raptured from this verse and how has the word "changed" morphed into a word to denote being "raptured"? Historically, prior to the rapture theory, this scripture passage was believed to signify that ALL people, the elect and non-elect (including those who had already experienced death), would be changed at the last trumpet sound into new immortal bodies prepared to be given a sentence of the eternal fate, either eternal life or eternal separation from God.
3. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:1-4, a letter written to followers of Jesus by Paul, but pay close attention to verse 4:
"But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day (end time events) should overtake you as a thief."
Consider: The term brethren, obviously, indicates followers of Jesus. The verse does NOT state the brethren will not be overtaken, but that the brethren will not be overtaken by surprise as a thief that comes in the night. In other words, the "brethren", because of the Word of God, have been prepared for what is to come.
4. 1 Thessalonians 4:
Verses 13-18: "But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 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. Therefore, comfort one another with these words."
Consider: When taken in context, Paul was speaking to the Thessalonian church, who were concerned about the saints who had died prior to Jesus' resurrection. Paul was comforting them by offering assurance that following the defeat of death at Jesus' resurrection, all of the dead saints of old were resurrected as well. In other words, their spirits, which had been disrobed of their bodies at death, were raised and caught up with Jesus in the spiritual realm following His death and resurrection.
Because Paul preached and believed he would see the return of Jesus during his lifetime, when he said "we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air", he was probably expressing that their bodies would equally be disrobed of human flesh at the return of the Messiah, and that they too would enter the spiritual realm. The "rapture"then, according to Paul, would describe the event when our physical bodies are disengaged from our spiritual bodies....moving from the state of mortality to immortality either through death or by way of the second coming.
5. Luke 21:25-28: "There will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time, they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
Hebrews 9:28: "So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and He will appear a second time nto to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him."
Consider: Jesus came once to be the world's needed blood sacrifice to once and for all pay mankind's sin debt. At His second-coming, He will separate His followers from those who have chosen to follow evil, and will ultimately set up His eternal Kingdom on earth. First coming is mentioned in scripture. Second coming is mentioned in scripture. A third coming, or rapture, is not mentioned.
6. The rapture theory was not taught or embraced until the late 1700's and early 1800's, so it is a fairly new concept.
The church, as a whole, teaches "theory" today, but packages it as "doctrine" in order to sell it as absolute truth when in actuality, "doctrine" personifies sinful man's best effort to understand God's Word within the context of personal bias, prejudice, church tradition and preconceived notions.
A dangerous weapon attacked the scriptures in 1551 when verses were added to God's Word. Up until this point, scripture was divided into books and was read as a whole. When numbered verses were added, preachers and teachers of scripture began to master the art of Homiletics, which is derived from Greek philosophy and rhetoric. Greek orators of their day, called Sophists, were able to preach whole "sermonettes" on one or two verses taken from Homer while standing behind a pulpit or sitting on a stage. They became so studied in "style" and "deliverance", it is said they could work up a crowd into a frenzy while expounding on only one or two verses. Today, Homiletics is taught regularly in seminary....and most pulpits are filled with teachers who preach entire sermons on one or two verses of scripture. As a result, much of the framework of scripture is lost resulting in theories (such as the rapture) becoming accepted and unquestioned.
The rapture is dangerously accepted by many in the church today who wholeheartedly believe the theory without putting much study into the subject. If incorrect, what will those believers do when they are caught off guard like the parable of the virgins who ran out of oil in Matthew 25? The message is twofold: Do not rely on a pastor to teach you what scripture says...read for yourself! AND, be Prepared!