Modern American Evangelical teaching holds that the living Church will be taken away from the Earth by the power of God, prior to the Great Tribulation. This will occur, it is thought, before the Second Coming of Jesus to Earth, sometime before or during the reign of the Antichrist, and before Jesus is visible to humanity. It is said to be secret, because will only affect the faithful believers, who will be translated to a heavenly place to meet up with Jesus and return with Him in Glory during the Parousia.
There are three main reasons given as support of this theory:
1 – THE SAINTS WILL BE TRANSFORMED AND ELEVATED IN THE AIR TO MEET JESUS
“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”
“Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.”
2 – SOME WILL BE TAKEN, SOME WILL BE LEFT AT THE END OF DAYS
“So will it be at the coming of the Son of Man. 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”
“I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.”
3 – THE CHURCH WILL NOT SUFFER GOD’S PUNISHMENT ON THE EARTH AT THE END OF DAYS
“For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”
“And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child, he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.”
As an overall, the Bible teaches of only one scatological appearance of Jesus at the end of days, in the Parousia or Second Coming (Matthew 16:27; 25:31-32), and in a universally visible manner, to divide the saints from the damned:
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, 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. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
(See also Matthew 16:27; 2Thessalonians 1:7; Hebrews 9:28; Revelation 1:7)
There is no suggestion anywhere in Scripture that a precedent scatological event, like the “Rapture”, in relation to the Second Coming of Jesus, will take place in any secret or concealed manner, at any time, apart from the Parousia itself.
INTERPRETATION OF THE PASSAGES THAT ALLEGEDLY SUPPORT THE “SECRET RAPTURE” DOCTRINE
Before continuing, it is necessary to explain the passages “Rapturist” use to defend their ideas:
1THESSALONIANS 4:16-17 AND 1CORINTHIANS 15:51-52
These two passages are closely related. 1 Thessalonians speaks of the moment when at the Parousia, the righteous will be resurrected in what the Bible calls “the First Resurrection” (Revelation 20:5); and together with those righteous found to be alive, they also will be glorified in immortality in “a blink of an eye”, and together with the resurrected, will be elevated in the air to receive Jesus coming in Glory, visible to all the planet (1Thessalonians 3:13).
All this will happen during the Parousia and in a visible form for the whole planet to see, and not prior to the Second Coming, or in secret. In fact, the texts themselves, identify these events with the Second Coming, and not before, according to the sequence of events parallel to Revelation 19:11 to 20:6. If 1Thessalonians 4:16-17, mentions the resurrection of the righteous to meet up Jesus in the air; and Revelation 20:5, speaks of this same resurrection during the visible Second Coming, then there is no reason why anyone would supposed this event would take place some other time that is not during the Second Coming.
MATTHEW 24:40-42 AND LUKE 17:34-35
These two passages also are part of a single narrative. They speak that by the time of the Parousia, when Lord Jesus appears in Glory, He will separate the righteous from the unrighteous from all corners of the Earth, in one single event, as He Himself said it in Matthew 24:30-31.
This “taking of one and leaving another”, is not a secret event apart from the Parousia, neither there is anything in Scripture that may suggests this. On the contrary, according to Matthew 24, this will take place in public view of the world (Matthew 24:30).
Paul honours the believing Thessalonians for having turned to God from idolatry, and their hope in Christ, who indeed has rescued them and all believers from the “Wrath to come”; that is, the Great Judgement and Eternal Punishment, not the temporal punishment of the Great Tribulation.
There is nothing in these shorts words to imagine this implies that the Church will not undergo the Great Tribulation, which is a time of trial and testing, not of punishment for the Church on Earth.
One of the most dealt passages in favour of the “Secret Rapture”.
However, this does not imply any rapture by itself, unless it is viewed with a pre-conceived idea of that doctrine.
In this vision, John; sees the Church of God, across the ages, from the times of the Patriarchs to the time of the Apostles and modern times, personified in the Woman with the 12 Stars, from whom is born the Messiah (Jesus)(Revelation 12:5). The visions shows John, how Satan has always tried to destroy God’s people, and even Christ Himself (Matthew 2:16); but YHWH has always protected His people on Earth, and He will do the same during the period of Tribulation during the reign of the Antichrist (Compare Revelation 12:6 with 11:1-3, 7; where the two witnesses preach for the same period of time before being killed by the Antichrist).
The woman, representing the Church being given wings to be taken away to the desert and protected, means that during the period of persecution, God will guide most of the Church to places outside the dominion of the Antichrist, even though a “wilderness”, but they will receive sustenance and protection from God during this period, but some of the believers who would remain in the cities, will suffer the persecution (Revelation 12:17).
If as this “taking away” is equivalent to the idea of “rapture” as Rapturist say, then there is no reason why the Church would be taken to the wilderness and not to paradise to be “forever with the Lord”, as 1Thessalonians say. By the text itself, it is clear the “wilderness” is not a pleasant place of rest, but a momentarily refuge only for the duration of the persecution but on this planet, not away from it.
At the time of the Second Coming in Glory, there will be a first resurrection of the Righteous, and a transformation in Glory of all those who will be alive at the time, and will be elevated in the air to receive Jesus Christ and his angels coming in
Glory and visibly for the whole world to see in awe.
This event will be public, and part of the Parousia. There is nothing in Scripture that may suggest these events will take care before the visibly return of Lord Jesus Christ.
The “Secret Rapture”, is a modern idea that flourished in the American Colonies, from non-conformist movements that came from the British Isles during the 19th century; and that gained power during the revivals of later times in the US. This doctrine does not belong to traditional Christian biblical teaching, neither is consistent with Scripture in anyway.
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