Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Pre-Tribulation Rapture: Fact or Fiction?

As a brand new Jesus-follower in the early 1970s a lot of us bought into Hal Lindsay's book The Late, Great Planet Earth, with its teaching that there will be a pre-tribulation rapture. I bought into this, but had not studied the Scriptures about this and had not read scholars who thought Lindsay had the Bible wrong.

Later in my Christian life I changed my mind about this, and for years now have been convinced that the Bible does not teach a pre-trib rapture. Here are some reasons why, taken from New Testament scholar Craig Keener. I know there are Christians who buy into the "left behind" idea. You are still my brothers and sisters in Christ. And we both agree that the Lord is coming!

Here are two reasons why I do not think the Bible teaches a pre-tribulation rapture.

1. Not one single biblical text or verse supports the idea of a "rapture." Keener writes:

"No unambiguous passage supports Christians being "raptured" before the tribulation. The Book of Revelation describes sufferings, many of which characterize much of the world we live in. But while Revelation depicts God protecting at least some of his people from his own judgment, it nowhere mentions Christians being removed. Revelation's first full description of Jesus's coming, as well as its first mention of what many construe as Christians' resurrection ("the first resurrection") appear toward the end of the book (Revelation 19:11-16; 20:4-5). Throughout Revelation's middle section, God's servants suffer on earth and, after death, worship in heaven."

2. No biblical scholar held a "rapture" view prior to 1830. Keener writes:

"The view was held by none of the church fathers, none of the Reformers such as Luther or Calvin, none of the leaders in various evangelical revival movements such as John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, or Charles Finney. I am reasonably certain that today the majority of evangelical biblical scholars (as well as virtually all other Christian biblical scholars) reject it." (Keener, "Left Behind")

Two biblical scholars I greatly value and look to are Dr. Michael Brown and Dr. Craig Keener. Neither of them believes the Bible supports the idea of a pre-tribulation rapture. Here is Brown's 2-hour audio interview about this

Keener says "Ask yourself this question: 'If I hadn't been taught either way, would I distinguish the rapture from the Second Coming, or would I see it all as one event?'" Let's go back to Scripture and see what Scripture actually has to say about all of this.