So popular and widely spread is the doctrine of the secret rapture among evangelical Protestants today, that one could be forgiven for believing that this doctrine has its platform firmly based upon the Word of God and was established by the Protestant Reformers of the sixteenth century. But neither supposition is valid.
If you examine the writings of the early Christians, you will discover no such belief or teaching of a secret rapture as having been held by the early Christians. A similar result you will find when researching the teachings of the mighty protestant Reformers of the sixteenth century.
It is important that we examine the basis of the doctrine of the secret rapture, because this doctrine was unknown before the nineteenth century and did not become a pillar doctrine within evangelical Protestantism until the first half of the twentieth century.
In the last few years, the number-one promoter of the secret rapture idea has been the New York Times bestselling Left Behind series, coauthored by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. A high-speed, 12-book sequence of novels about the end times.
The doctrine of the secret rapture is intimately connected with the restoration of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, the rise of the antichrist, the Second Coming of Christ and the millennium. Those propounding this doctrine believe that the church (God’s faithful saints) will be secretly taken to heaven by Jesus just prior to the time of tribulation. Those rap- tured will escape this terrible period upon earth which will commence with the establishment of the antichrist in Jerusalem. During the terrible persecution by the antichrist, many will turn to Christ prior to His return with the raptured saints. This terrible time of trouble will conclude, it is asserted, after a period of seven literal years when Christ will return with the raptured ones and destroy antichrist. With the destruction of antichrist our Lord and Savior will then set up His kingdom on earth for a period of one thousand years.
The real questions we have to ask is Will the Church disappear? Does the Bible really teach vanishing Christians?
In order to commence our study of the doctrine of the secret rapture it is wise to seek its origin in the history of the church of God. It will come as a surprise to most Christians who have accepted the doctrine of the secret rapture, that it was founded in the nation of Chile by a Jesuit priest of Spanish descent, Manuel de Lacunza y Dias. He was born in 1731 and died in 1801.
Manuel de Lacunza wrote the book, The Coming of the Messiah in Glory and Maj- esty, which was first published posthumously in Spain in the year 1812. Lacunza wrote his book under the pseudonym, Rabbi Juan Josafat Ben- Ezra. Thus he purported to be a Jewish rabbi, using this nom de plume in order to escape the censure of Rome.
In Manuel de Lacunza’s book The Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty.
Lacunza theorized that the Church would be taken (secretly raptured) to be
with the Lord some 45 days before Jesus’ final return to Earth.
The doctrine of the rapture made very little progress during the nineteenth century. However, it was in that century that one who was to become its most effective proponent accepted that doctrine. His name was John Nelson Darby; his profession, an English Anglican priest. Darby had been early caught up in the Oxford movement which commenced in the 1820s and 1830s at the University of Oxford. John Henry Newman, who later de- serted the Anglican faith and died a Roman Catholic cardinal, emerged as the leader of the Oxford Movement.
The Oxford University Press first published the Scofield Reference Bible in 1909. This Bible was enthusiastically promoted and sold through- out the United States. Especially did it become a popular purchase of those Christians residing in the southern states of the United States. This Scofield Reference Bible did more than any other agent to spread the false concept of the secret rapture and the false teaching of the antichrist being an evil individual that’s to come in the future.
The question we have to ask is: is there really anything secret about the coming of Christ to get his people? Dose the apostle Paul who described the second coming of Christ to the church in Thessalonians describe a secret silent return of Jesus Christ before an apocalyptic seven-year tribulation?
Let’s take a look at what the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonians about the second coming of Christ.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
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.
The majority of Evangelical churches today interpret this event as silent and secret, yet doesn’t it seem rather loud and visible? There is a shout, a voice, a trumpet. Have you ever heard of a silent trumpet? The truth is, 1 Thessalonians 4:16 is one of the noisiest verses in the Bible! Look carefully: Jesus Christ comes down from Heaven shouting and blowing a trumpet. The dead rise. Then true believers are “caught up”.
The popular evangelical ministers of today who teach the secret rapture interpret “caught up” to mean disappear because this view fits their tightly-meshed prophetic sys- tem, yet it must be admitted that the text doesn’t say this.
Another misinterpreted text by evangelicals to promote the false secret rapture teaching is
1 Thessalonians 5:2.
For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.
The apostle Paul immediately after his solemn prediction of Christ’s return as a midnight thief, wrote to true believers: “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness” (1 Thessalonians 5:4-5).
Let us,take a look at another important bible passage that will help us understand the manner of Christ second coming. Two thousand years ago, at the end of His earthly life, Jesus Christ was also “taken up,” (Acts 1:9). This doesn’t mean He disappeared, leaving His clothes on earth. Instead, in full view of His wondering disciples, “while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. This event was highly visible. Luke said Jesus Christ was “taken up,” and then clouds are mentioned, just like Paul wrote about believers being “caught up…in the clouds.” In Thessalonians.
Notice carefully the full context of Acts 1:9:
Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you have seen Him go into heaven”.
Here we have holy angels—in the form of men in white robes—explain- ing the simple truth about Jesus Christ’s return. They told the disciples that just as Jesus was literally and visibly “taken up” into the clouds, even so would He “come in like manner as [they had seen] Him go into heaven.”
Jesus Himself left no doubt whatsoever as to the visibility of His Return. He warned His disciples against the deception of a secret coming by comparing it to the visibility of the lightning, which “comes from the east and shines as far as the west” (Matt 24:26-27). Christ added: “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” (Matt 24:30).
The same truth is emphatically expressed in majestic language in Revelation 1:7: “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, every one who pierced him; and all the tribes of the earth will wail on account of him.”3 The simple grandeur of these words attests to a personal Coming of Christ which will be universally visible to every human being.
The notion of an invisible Coming of Christ, perceived only through the eye of faith, as taught by Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as the idea of a secret Coming of Christ to rapture away the living souls from the earth, as held by many dispensationalists, is foreign to Biblical thought.
Let’s take a look at another bible passage this text that we will look at in (Matthew 24:40-42) is probably the second most quoted Scripture in the Bible used to support the secret rapture doctrine the context Matthew 24 begins with Christ sitting upon the Mount of Olives. His “disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?’ ” (Matthew 24:3) Obviously, the disciples were thinking about Jesus’ return and the end of the world.
In response to His disciples inquiry, Christ’s very first words were, “Take heed that no one deceives you” (Matthew 24:4). The forcefulness of this response should hit us like a hurricane! Why? Because it clearly implies that when it comes to this exact topic of His “coming” Jesus knew there was going to be a great deal of deception false doctrines being taught about his second coming.
“Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming”.
Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left” verse 40 is interpreted to mean the secret rapture those who are “taken” will vanish without a trace, leaving only their clothes, shoes while those who are “left” will have to endure a horrific seven-year tribulation and face the antichrist. But is this really what Christ is saying?
To understand the meaning of Jesus saying we have to remember Jesus said in the previous verses (see verses 37–39) “It will be just like Noah’s day”. Now think about it. Did Noah and his family vanish before the flood? No, they walked visibly into the ark. And what about those who were left behind or out side of the ark did they have a second chance? No. They were left out side of the ark and died in the flood.
After saying, “the flood came, and took them all away,” Jesus made His power-packed point, “so also will the coming Greek word [Parousia] of the Son of Man be” (verse 39). Understanding this simple truth leaves no room for the secret rapture ongoing saga about “tribulation believers” resisting the antichrist during a post-rapture seven-year period. Why not? Because those who are “taken” are transported up at the “coming,” or “Parousia,” which applies to the final second coming of Jesus Christ!
Will God s Church Escape Tribulation?
One of the main emphasis on the doctrine of the secret rapture is that God will not allow His people (the church) to go through the tribulation. But this teaching totally contradicts the historical facts that God’s people have gone through intense suffering. All the disciples of Jesus, except John, were brutally murdered. Thousands of early Christians were torn to shreds by wild dogs inside the Coliseum. Millions of others were horribly tortured by the Inquisition and burnt to ashes during the Dark Ages (more on this later). Believers in Russia and China have suffered terribly under communism.
Jesus told His followers, “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). Paul told his early Christian con- verts, “…we must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22, emphasis added). Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica, “…we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure” (2 Thessalonians 1:4).
On the lonely isle of Patmos, John was our “companion in tribulation” (Revelation 1:9). Jesus told His church in Smyrna, “I know your works [and] tribulation…” (Revelation 2:9). In the light of these Scriptures, the idea of Christians escaping tribulation is a false illusion of the secret rapture doctrine.
The prophet John in vision saw the Church is on Earth at the time of the final test for the world at the time of the mark of the beast. The prophet John saw the beast will make “war with the saints” (13:7) then he was shown “the faith of the saints” (13:10) who keep “the faith of Jesus” (14:12).
Protection in the Midst of Tribulation.
Christ never promised His Church a pretribulation rapture out of this world. Rather He promised protection in the midst of tribulation. In His petition to His Father He said: “I do not pray that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15). Similarly to the Church in Philadelphia, Christ promises: “I will keep you from the hour of trial which is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell upon the earth” (Rev 3:10). If the Church was absent from this earth during the hour of testing, there would be no necessity of divine protection.
Misinterpretation of Daniel 9:24-27.
Dispensationalists that teach the secret rapture dissect the one prophecy contained in this passage into two distinct prophecies. In verse 26 of Daniel 9 they see the first prophecy predicting the death of the Messiah after the sixty-ninth week but not in the seventieth.
In verse 27 they find a second prophecy predicting the rise of an antichrist more than nineteen centuries after the death of Christ. This antichrist is supposed to be a Roman dictator who will rise out of the European Common Market. He will make a covenant with the Jews “for one week,” that is, for the seven years of the seventieth week.
This covenant is supposed to enable the Jews to rebuild their temple and to reinstitute their ancient sacrificial services. In the midst of this seven-year period (“half of the week”), however, the Roman antichrist will allegedly break the covenant; he “shall cause sacrifice and offering to cease,” and will take “his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thess 2:4). By these acts he will bring about “the abominations” mentioned by Daniel (9:27) and referred to by Christ (“desolating sacrilege”—Matt 24:15-16). See J. B. Payne, “The Goal of Daniel’s Seventy Weeks,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (June, 1978), p. 109.
Un warranted Time-Gap.
This interpretation we just looked at suffers from three major flaws. First, it breaks the unity of the seventy-week prophecy by introducing a time gap of almost twenty centuries between the sixty-nine weeks and seventieth week. Nowhere does Gabriel imply a gap among the three periods constituting the seventy weeks: seven weeks, sixty-two weeks, and one week. These three time units are presented as a continuous, consecutive and unbreakable unity as indicated by the fact that they are first given in verse 24 as one basic period of “seventy weeks.”
The Messiah who in verse 26 is simply “cut off,” in verse 27 “shall make a strong covenant with many for one week; and for half of the week he shall cause sacrifice and offering to cease.” Both of these acts were fulfilled by Christ when He confirmed God’s covenant by instituting the Lord’s Supper (Matt 26:28) and when He brought to an end the validity of the sacrificial system through the rending asunder of the curtain of the temple at the time of His death (Matt 27:51; cf. Heb 10:9).
The desolator, who in verse 26 destroys the city and the temple, comes in verse 27 “upon the wing of abominations” to make “desolate.” By this language is described the complete destruction of the temple by the Roman General Titus in A.D. 70.
The weakness of the dispensationalist secret rapture doctrine is the interpretation of Daniel 9:27 it disregards Jesus’ application of Daniel’s desolating abomination to His own immediate future. Christ’s prediction regarding “the desolating sacrilege spoken of by the prophet Daniel” (Matt 24:15) is clearly paraphrased by Luke as “Jerusalem surrounded by armies” (Luke 21:20).
Historically, the vast majority of well-respected Bible scholars have not applied Daniel 9:27 to a seven-year period of tribula- tion at all. Neither have they interpreted the “he” as referring to a future Antichrist. Instead, they applied it to Jesus Christ.
Notice what the world-famous Bible commentary written by Matthew Henry says about Daniel 9:27: “By offering himself a sacrifice once and for all he [Jesus] shall put an end to all the Levitical sacrifices”. See Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. IV—Isaiah to Malachi, Complete Edition, (New York, NY: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1712) 1094-1095, notes on Daniel 9:27.
Matthew Henry applied Daniel 9:27 to Christ, not antichrist. Another famous commentary written by British Methodist Adam Clarke says that during Daniel 9:27’s “term of seven years,” Jesus Himself would “confirm or ratify the new covenant with mankind.”See The Holy Bible with a Commentary and Critical Notes by Adam Clarke, Vol. IV—Isaiah to Malachi, (New York, NY: Abingdon-Cokesbury, written about 1825) 602, notes on Daniel 9:27.
Another dusty Bible commentary reveals: “He shall confirm the covenant—Christ. The confirmation of the covenant is assigned to Him.”See Rev. Robert Jamieson, Rev. A.R. Fausset, and Rev. David Brown, A Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, Complete Edition, (Hartford, CT: S.S. Scranton Company: 1871) 641, notes on Daniel 9:27.
In the words of that 1846 Presbyterian publication,
The seventy weeks of Daniel therefore, have certainly ended many centuries ago. We are not to look to the future for the fulfillment of these predictions. We must look to the past. And if to the past; where is there one who can have any adequate claims to being the subject of these prophecies, but Jesus? He, and he only can claim them; and to him they most certainly refer.
See Cassels, Christ and Antichrist, 49.
The major reason why the Jewish nation as a whole failed to receive its Messiah was because its scholars misinterpreted Daniel 9:27. They failed to see Jesus Christ as the predicted One who would die in the midst of the 70th week! Amazingly, the exact same thing is happening today. Sincere Christian scholars are now misapplying the very same prophecy.
The above considerations suffice to show that the prophecies of Daniel 9:26-27 offer no support whatsoever for the dispensationalist belief in the rebuilding of the tribulation Temple. Besides being devoid of any prophetic support, this belief ignores several theological and practical objections.
The irresponsible method of Evangelical churches today using Scripture to construct a fictitious End- time scenario can cause feverish excitement but ultimately it will only lead to sore disappointments. To avoid such disappointments we must base our faith in the imminent Coming of our Lord, not on a fictitious End-time scenario, but on the factual outworking of God’s redemptive activity, manifested in us and in the world around us.
The dispensational interpretation consistent literalism” and the distinction between Israel and the Church, have contributed to the construction of a sensational but senseless scenario of End-time events.
The purpose of this study is to help sincere people recover the true Biblical view and nature of end time events and the coming of Christ, and thus dispel the spiritual darkness perpetrated by centuries of false teachings.This is the challenge of Advent Messenger Church church to fulfill this holy work by divine grace.
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