Will You Be Left Behind?

Posted: November 17, 2011 in Uncategorized

This post is for those in our adult Sunday school who are studying the book of Revelation. This past week someone asked where the rapture fits into things. We didn’t have time to discuss it in class but here is the article by Brian Schwertley that I said I would post…

One of the most popular teachings today in Evangelical and Charismatic churches is the doctrine of the pretribulation rapture. The pretribulation rapture teaching is that there are two separate comings of Christ. The first coming is secret and occurs before the future seven-year tribulation. At this coming Jesus comes for the saints (i.e., all genuine believers) both living and dead. These saints meet the Lord in the air and then are taken to heaven to escape the horrible judgments that take place during the seven-year tribulation. At the end of the great tribulation Jesus returns to the earth with the saints. This coming is not secret but is observed by all. At this coming Christ crushes His opposition, judges mankind and sets up a one thousand year reign of saints upon the earth (the millennium). Some pretribulation advocates speak of two separate comings while others prefer to speak of one coming in two separate stages or phases (phase one is the secret rapture and phase two is the visible coming in judgment). Hal Lindsey likes to refer to the rapture as “the great snatch.” He writes: “The word for ‘caught up’ actually means to ‘snatch up,’ and that’s why I like to call this marvelous coming event ‘The Great Snatch’! It’s usually referred to as the ‘Rapture,’ from the Latin word rapere, which means to ‘take away’ or ‘snatch out.’”

Although the pretribulation rapture doctrine is very popular and is even considered so crucial to Christianity that it is made a test of a person’s orthodoxy in some denominations, Bible colleges and seminaries, the exegetical and theological arguments used by its advocates are all classic cases of forcing one’s theological presuppositions onto particular texts (eisegesis). The purpose of this brief study is to show that the pretribulation rapture theory is not plainly taught or directly stated in any place in Scripture, cannot be deduced from biblical teaching, contradicts the general teaching of the Bible regarding Christ’s second coming and was never taught in any branch of the church prior to 1830.

Whenever a Christian encounters a doctrine that has not been taught by anyone in any branch of Christ’s church for over eighteen centuries, one should be very suspect of that teaching. This fact in and of itself does not prove that the new teaching is false. But, it should definitely raise one’s suspicions, for if something is taught in Scripture, it is not unreasonable to expect at least a few theologians and exegetes to have discovered it before. The teaching of a secret pretribulation rapture is a doctrine that never existed before 1830. Did the pretribulation rapture come into existence by a careful exegesis of Scripture? No.

The first person to teach the doctrine was a young woman named Margaret Macdonald. Margaret was not a theologian or Bible expositor but was a prophetess in the Irvingite sect (the Catholic Apostolic Church). Christian journalist Dave MacPherson has written a book on the subject of the origin of the pre-tribulation rapture. He writes: “We have seen that a young Scottish girl named Margaret Macdonald had a private revelation in Port Glasgow, Scotland, in the early part of 1830 that a select group of Christians would be caught up to meet Christ in the air before the days of Antichrist. An eye-and-ear witness, Robert Norton M.D., preserved her handwritten account of her pre-trib rapture revelation in two of his books, and said it was the first time anyone ever split the second coming into two distinct parts or stages. His writings, along with much other Catholic Apostolic Church literature, have been hidden many decades from the mainstream of Evangelical thought and only recently surfaced. Margaret’s views were well-known to those who visited her home, among them John Darby of the Brethren. Within a few months her distinctive prophetic outlook was mirrored in the September, 1830 issue of The Morning Watch and the early Brethren assembly at Plymouth, England. Early disciples of the pre-trib interpretation often called it a new doctrine.”

John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), who was the leader of the Brethren movement and the “father of modern Dispensationalism,” took Margaret Macdonald’s new teaching on the rapture, made some changes (she taught a partial rapture of believers while he taught that all believers would be raptured) and incorporated it into his Dispensational understanding of Scripture and prophecy. Darby would spend the rest of his life speaking, writing and traveling, spreading the new rapture theory. The Plymouth Brethren openly admitted and were even proud of the fact that among their teachings were totally new ones which had never been taught by the church fathers, medieval scholastics, Protestant Reformers or the many commentators.

The person most responsible for the rather widespread acceptance of Pretribulationalism and Dispensationalism among Evangelicals is C.I. Scofield (1843-1921). Scofield published his Scofield Reference Bible in 1909. This Bible, which espoused the doctrines of Darby in its notes, became very popular in Fundamentalist circles. In the minds of many a Bible teacher, fundamentalist pastor and multitudes of professing Christians, Scofield’s notes were practically equated with the word of God itself. If a person did not adhere to the Dispensational, Pretribulational scheme he or she would almost automatically be labeled a modernist.

Today there is a whole plethora of books advocating the pretribulation rapture theory (i.e. the Left Behind series) and the Dispensational understanding of the end times. Given the fact that among professing Christians the pre-trib rapture is still wildly popular, a comparison of this theory with scriptural teaching is warranted. We will see that the typical arguments offered in favor of this theory are in conflict with the Bible.

For the rest of the artilce, which includes a thorough examination of key biblical texts, you can go to the following link:

http://www.graceonlinelibrary.org/eschatology/is-the-pretribulation-rapture-biblical-by-brian-schwertley/

I would also recommend the following lecture by Dr. Russell Moore entitled “Why I’m Not Pre-Trib but I Love Those Who Are”:

http://www.russellmoore.com/2010/04/23/why-im-not-pre-trib-but-i-love-those-who-are/

Finally, I also made reference to the following brief video summaries of the different millennial positions…

Amillennialism:

Post-Millennialism:

Historic Pre-Millennialism:

Dispensational Pre-Millennialism:

“The immense step from the Babe at Bethlehem to the living, reigning triumphant Lord Jesus, returning to earth for His own people – that is the glorious truth proclaimed throughout Scripture. As the bells ring out the joys of Christmas, may we also be alert for the final trumpet that will announce His return, when we shall always be with Him.” – Alan Redpath

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