Is the Rapture for Real?

The doctrine of known as "The Rapture" that evolved out of the teachings of J. N. Darby are still very prevalent today in evangelical churches and common understanding of the nominal Christians.  In a nutshell, the Scofield Bible notes teach that, preceding the coming of Messiah, there will be a seven-year period of great tribulation (suffering) on earth.  But the saints of Messiah will not experience this great tribulation, for at the beginning, all sincere believers will be transformed into spirit beings and meet Messiah in the atmosphere or sky. 

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What is the Rapture?

The word "rapture" comes from the Vulgate (Latin) version of

I Thessalonians 4:16 - 17: For Yahweh himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel's call and with the sound of Elohim's trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Messiah will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up (harpagesometha) in the clouds together with them to meet Yahweh in the air; and so we will be with Yahweh forever.

The doctrine developed to supply an answer for those "perplexed about the comparative position of believers who had died before [Messiah's coming} and those who are still alive" (Guthrie, New Testament Theology). It has a two-fold function: to unite survivors with the coming Lord and to transform them into the resurrected state as the rest.

The word "rapture" is an English transliteration of the Latin word rapio, rapere, raptum, meaning "to seize and carry off." The Greek of the same passage is harpagesometha and means "will be seized." The KJV translates, "shall be caught up."

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Codex Sinaiticus

New Testament:

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The earliest, oldest New Testament text has finally been released to the public.  You may read the Codex Sinaiticus online - but only if you know Greek!  To read it inCodex Sinaiticus New Testament H T Anderson English English, you need the only English translation we know.  The H. T. Anderson English Translation of the Codex Sinaiticus, with the three extra early New Testament books and the Sonnini Manuscript of Acts 29 included, and the original absences of certain verses (put in there later by the 'church') is now available only at here.  

THIS IS NOT A CHEAP, SCANNED-IN FACSIMILE. This is a first edition of the text published in easy-to-read Georgia font with plenty of room between verses for your notes.2 points between verses, hard or soft cover.

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How did this teaching develop?

The father of the rapture was Manuel de Lecunza y Diaz, born in Chile in 1731. He became a Jesuit priest in Spain. Jesuits were expelled from Spain in 1767 due to their brutality and uncontrollability. Lecunza fled to Imola, Italy where he masqueraded as a converted Jew by the name of Rabbi ben Ezra. Here he wrote The Coming Messiah in Glory and Ecstasy. He theorized the Church would be “raptured” to assist with judging the earth for that 45 days before Messiah's coming. He based his teaching of the Rapture on Dan 12:11-12. Lecunza died in 1801; his book was translated into English in 1821. (As a Jesuit reading the Latin Bible, we see how he came upon the Latin rapio.

John Nelson Darby (1800-82), dissatisfied with the Church of Ireland, formed his own church, the Plymouth Brethren around 1830. He moved to England to further his movement, and discovered Lecunza's book, and "came to an understanding of this new truth [of the rapture]." He added to this the idea that Daniel's 70th week (Dan 9:26-27) was POSTPONED until the end of the dispensation of the church, to become a 7-year tribulation period. Such teaching of rapture and tribulation were not popular until Darby went to America and met Cyrus I. Scofield.

Cyrus I. Scofield (1843 - 1921) was so taken with Darby's modification of Lecunza's ideas, that he incorporated much of Darby's system of into his Bible study notes, which he published in 1917. Many of the notable Bible scholars of the day refuted the 7-year tribulation and rapture as "fanciful" and 3 members of Scofield's revision team quit over the inclusion of these false doctrines (including C. R. Eerdman of Princeton). Nevertheless, the Scofield Bible became the most popular Bible and study system of the 20th century. The doctrines espoused in his notes became popular as well.

In the 1930's, Professor Ironside of Moody Bible Institute began to support the view and several other well-known fundamentalist seminaries including Dallas Theological Seminary jumped on the bandwagon.


What Does Scripture Actually Teach About the Rapture?

The doctrine of known as "The Rapture" that evolved out of the teachings of J. N. Darby are still very prevalent today in evangelical churches and common understanding of the nominal Christians. In a nutshell, the Scofield Bible notes teach that, preceding the coming of Messiah, there will be a seven-year period of great tribulation (suffering) on earth. But the saints of Messiah will not experience this great tribulation, for at the beginning, all sincere believers will be transformed into spirit beings and meet Messiah in the atmosphere or sky. This idea is commonly known as "The Pre-tribulation Rapture of the Church."

Although the evangelical church teaches the Pre-tribulation Rapture almost exclusively, Scripture proves it to be a false doctrine. The danger of it lies in its false sense of security. If one is saved out of tribulation, one need not prepare for it. Because the Pre-tribulation Rapture it is accepted by powerful preachers and churches, church people have been lulled into a false and selfish sense of security, blinding the church to the realities of the present world tribulation.

(It might be worth discussing what kind of POWER is retained by Bible teachers who teach the Rapture, knowing its history.)


Rapture Primary Proof Text


Look at the primary proof-text for a rapture of the church:

(1 Thessalonians 4:15-17) Quoniam ipse Dominus in iussu et in voce archangeli et in tuba Dei descendet de caelo et mortui qui in Christo sunt resurgent primi deinde nos qui vivimus qui relinquimur simul rapiemur cum illis in nubibus obviam Domino in aera et sic semper cum Domino erimus itaque consolamini invicem in verbis istis.

Indeed, this scripture tells us that believers dead and alive will rise into the atmosphere (descendet de caelo) to be with Messiah. But when? At the trumpet of Elohim (tuba Dei). (Let us remember that “GΦD” never blows a trumpet, but the Elohim of Yahweh does). Revelation tells us there are seven trumpets. Which one is the rapture trumpet? We look to a parallel passage to find out.

1 Corinthians 15:51-52) Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, {52} In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.


Paul is now more explicit about the time – at the last trump. Here both living and dead will be changed – resurrected. This entire chapter is devoted to resurrection. It is the very same thing Paul mentioned in the previous passage. So the trumpet of 1 Thessalonians 4:16 is the same as the trump of 1 Corinthians 15:52: it is the final one.


What Yahshua Says About the Last Trump

Let's look now to Yahshua for his take on the last trump, and the order of things before “the rapture.”

Matthew 24 {21} For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. ... {29}Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. ... {31} And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Yahshua also speaks of a rapture, or better, "gathering of the elect," at the time of the last (great) trumpet. But first, there will be an unprecedented tribulation, powers will be shaken, then the trumpet will sound, then there will be a gathering in the sky – all in that order. The gathering is the last thing that happens in this series, not the first. It comes after tribulation, not before.


The Final Trumpet and the Reign of Messiah

Many today say that the rapture takes place followed by seven years of tribulation under an antichrist-style dictator on earth. But scripture clearly shows that the tribulation of earth is completed when the trumpet sounds and the gathering takes place. Reinforcing this viewpoint is Revelation 11:15, which tells exactly what happens after the final (seventh) trumpet:

Revelation 11:15 KJV And the seventh angel sounded (the final trumpet); and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our YHWH, and of his Messiah; and he shall reign for ever and ever.

After the final trumpet, Messiah appears to reign over the kingdoms of the earth.


The Two Witnesses

The end-time tribulation and gathering (rapture) is played out allegorically in the story of the two witnesses of Revelation 11.

Revelation 11 {3} And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. {4} These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the Elohim of the earth. ...

The identities of these witnesses have mystified Bible teachers. But finding their identities is a simple matter. Among other clues, we have the dead giveaway – they are two candlesticks – two end-time groups or "churches" (assemblies) (1:20) – those who

(1) revere the commandments of Yahweh and
(2) hold the testimony of Yahshua (Revelation 1:2, 1:9, 12:17);

namely, lost Israel (7:1-3) and those of the world who proclaim salvation in Yahshua (Revelation 7:9-10).

Next is described the martyrdom of the Witnesses:

Revelation 11) {7} And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.

The Beast in this connotation is Satan using his own children to do the dirty work. The saints of Yahweh will be overcome and killed. Next, their resurrection, or "rapture," is described:

Revelation 11:{11} And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from Elohim entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. {12} And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.
 

PLEASE READ: Those who have lived in the 20th century have been witness to the martyrdoms of multiple millions of hopeful Jews and true Messianic believers all over the world. While contented religious hobbyists in our country await their rapture, hundreds of thousands are being killed for their faith in other countries. While comfortable believers in our country are enjoying a full measure of safety, beleaguered believers in other countries are "being killed all the day long" for their testimony. American believers have a vague notion that persecution is coming. Yet our idea of persecution is usually limited to the issue of school prayer or church rights. What is currently happening in Sudan, Algeria or Nigeria could never happen here! (Nobody much even knows what is happening to believers in Sudan.)

The Pre-Tribulation Rapture becomes a perfect reason for doing nothing. Still, why would American believers want to be raptured? They’ve got their heaven on earth in America.
 

Paul’s Lively Hope

A note on the Apostle and the Rapture. Remember, Paul wrote these words: "Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up ... in the clouds." Paul fully expected to be caught up in the clouds to meet Yahshua along with the believers at Thessalonica. However, church tradition tells us that Paul died in the tribulation of Nero. The lively hope of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture didn’t materialize. Nevertheless, we have no doubt that Paul, like the two witnesses of Revelation 7, was immediately glorified, and will be on hand with the other watchful saints at the last trumpet, as we who likewise die for Yahshua in our day shall.


by Jackson Snyder, May 5, 1999

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