What about the Rapture?
One of the key components of dispensational premillennialism is the teaching that there will be an event called the rapture. The rapture is believed to be a time when the Lord will secretly remove his faithful people from the earth before or while the wrath of God is poured out upon the world. Proponents claim that the wrath or tribulation will last for seven years and then the Lord will return to reign as king in Jerusalem for 1000 years.
The rapture is based on the presupposition that the Lord must reign on earth and set up the physical throne of David in Jerusalem. For that reason, anything associated with that teaching must be rejected. The Lord is currently reigning on the throne of David at the right hand of God (Acts 2:29-36).
It is no surprise that the word rapture is never found in the Bible. The word rapture is from a Latin word that means to “snatch up”. Those who purport the view will look to 1 Thessalonians 4:17, specifically the phrase “caught up”, and say that it teaches the concept of the rapture.
The problem for this assertion is the greek word for “caught up” is not a word that means a secret taking. Context is necessary to see whether it is a secret or something that is done openly. For instance in Acts 23:10, as Paul was in great danger of being killed by the Jews, the Bible says that soldiers were sent to “take him by force” and bring him to the castle. That is the same word as “caught up” in 1 Thess 4:17.
Did they secretly go into the mob and remove Paul? Did they “rapture him”? If that is the way we define 1 Thess 4:17, that has to be the way we define Acts 23:10.
You would rightly say, “But the context in Acts doesn’t allow for it to be secret”. And you would be absolutely correct in that thought. But the context surrounding 1 Thess 4:17 doesn’t allow for a secret taking either. Notice verse 16, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God”. Does that signify a secret snatching? No. This event will be loud because “every eye will see him”(Rev 1:7).
People will say, “ok but Paul doesn’t really address the wicked in that context. This is a special event just for the faithful”. But before we get to the first part of the response, it must be understood that Paul is addressing a specific question or misunderstanding concerning that day. In answering a specific question, he is not obligated to go through the entire sequence of events at the second coming of Christ.
If I play offense on a football team and I ask a specific question about a play we are going to run, the coach isn’t going to go over the entire game-plan and the intricate details of plays our defense is going to run. He will answer the specific question. There are a lot of things that aren’t discussed in 1 Thessalonians but the silence on those issues does not negate what scripture clearly teaches elsewhere.
But Paul actually does take time to address the wicked on that day. In 5:2-10 He makes it clear that on that day the wicked will be caught off guard, that they will not escape, and will face the wrath of God. He is speaking of the same event. Now is he talking about them facing 7 years of tribulation?
He clears up all questions we might have in his second letter. In 2 Thess 1:7-10, He says on “that day”, it will be a terrible day for all those who have not obeyed the gospel as they will be punished with “everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord”. Notice the everlasting destruction. Glaringly silent is a seven year period of tribulation.
On “that day” there won’t be a secret rapture of the faithful. There will be a loud awesome arrival of the King. On that day, every knee will bow at his arrival. The dead in Christ will rise first, then those who are living will be changed in the twinkling of the eye (1 Cor 15:53). Those who have obeyed the gospel will meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess 4:17). The world and its elements will be burned up (2 Pet 3:10). And we will all be judged according to the word of God (John 12:48, 5:28-29, Acts 24:15). The righteous will be admitted into heaven and the wicked will be cast into eternal Hell (Matt 25:31-46).
There is one hope (Eph 4:5). That hope is realized in the Lord’s return. The doctrine of the rapture makes two hopes.
Do you have hope for that day, or do you have dread? Have you obeyed the gospel? Have you been washed in the blood of the sinless Lamb of God? Have you been baptized and had your sins washed away(Acts 22:16)? The one hope of salvation is only in one Church (Eph 1:22-23; 4:4; 5:23). Have you been added by Christ to His one Church (Acts 2:47)?
The Lord pleads with you. He is not willing that any should perish. He wants all to come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9).