16. Rapture : Myth or truth ? (Part 1 of the Rapture series.)

The exegesis ( critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially of Scripture ) about Rapture are all contradictory because those who regard it as a myth ( a widely held but false belief or idea), claim that the idea of a Rapture has no historical precedent (an earlier event or action that is regarded as an example or guide to be considered in subsequent similar circumstances) while others who believe it to be the truth, seem to  differ in their understanding about the timing of the Rapture;  whether Christ’s return will occur as one or as two events. Those who assert a pre-tribulation Rapture see them as two events, holding the view  that the rapture will precede the  second coming of Christ whereas those who  assert a post-tribulation rapture see it as one event, at the second coming of Christ. Those who are critics of  the  pre-tribulation Rapture claim that this doctrine was not around for 1800 years but it is a relatively new doctrine among the American Evangelical Protestants since the nineteenth century. (They assert that this teaching was popularized extensively in the 1830s by John Nelson Darby, who had been influenced by Margaret McDonald, a teenage girl who had a vision of a pre-tribulation Rapture during the revival in Glasgow, Scotland. Darby who was one of the founders of the Plymouth Brethren, went to investigate this revival and was convinced about this teaching about Rapture though not about the manifestations of the Spirit that took place there. He eventually brought this teaching to the United States where he met the great Evangelist  DL Moody, who then became the world wide disseminator of this theology of dispensationalism and pre tribulation Rapture. It was further popularized in the United States in the early 20th century by the wide circulation of the Scofield study Bible and later on the novels and films  based on these novels captured the Christian imagination.) The critics of this theology also assert that it is a layman’s interpretation of Scriptures,  without  proper understanding of the original Hebrew and Greek texts. But that is not a prerequisite to understand the truth because Jesus himself said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to little children.” ( Luke 10:21) Amen.

What we have to find out is whether this teaching has a Scriptural precedent and not just a historical precedent,  because many a fact overlooked by the previous generations  have been rediscovered by the next. If it does have a Scriptural precedent, then the origins of this teaching can be traced back to the early church; to the Apostles and even to Christ himself ! However, our search for the truth immediately uncovers the fact that the word ‘Rapture’ doesn’t exist in any of the English translations of the Bible. Instead we find  the  Greek word harpazō (Ancient Greek: ἁρπάζω, meaning ‘to snatch away’ or ‘to seize’) as used in  Paul’s  first Epistle to the Thessalonians to describe the event in which believers in Christ will be snatched away from earth into the air. ‘According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that … we who are still alive and are left will be [caught up] together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.’ (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17) The Greek word ‘harpazō’ has also been used several times in the new testament to describe other similar situations. For instance, the book of Acts says, ‘the Spirit of the Lord suddenly [harpazō – took away] Philip and the eunuch did not see him again …’ ( Acts 8:39) In another instance, Paul says : ‘I know a man in Christ  who was [harpazō – caught up] to the third heaven. Whether in the body or apart from the body, I do not know … was [harpazō – caught up] to paradise.’ ( 2 Corinthians 12:2-4) And yet in another instance John wrote: ‘A great and wondrous sign  appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with a sun … she was pregnant and … was about to give birth … the dragon stood in front of the woman … so that he might devour her child the moment it was born …  she gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule the world with an iron sceptre. And her child was [harpazō – snatched up] to God and to his throne.’ ( Revelation 12:1-6) In this context, it could mean the ascension of Jesus Christ, as mentioned in Acts 1:9 and/or could mean the first fruits of the Church being snatched up to heaven to keep them from the reach of the enemy. In addition to all these verbal reference are  the graphic details of the escape some had from God’s judgement, which further strengthens our belief in Rapture. The waters of judgement prophesied by Noah came upon the world and all mankind perished but Noah and those with him in the Ark were kept from the rising waters. (Genesis 7:23) The judgement foretold to Abraham came upon Sodom and Gomorrah, reducing these cities to ashes  but Lot and his family fled to the mountains and  were kept from the rain of sulphur.( Gen 19:17-25) The judgement prophesied by Moses came upon Egypt and devastated the land but the Israelites in Goshen were kept from the plagues. (Exodus 8:22,9:7,10:23,11:7) The judgement feared by the people of Jericho came upon them and leveled the wall and their city but Rahab and those with her inside the house were kept because she tied the scarlet cord to the window in keeping with the oath made by the two spies sent by Joshua. ( Joshua 2:8-21, 6:22-25)
The four instances mentioned above about those who escaped God’s judgement have one thing in common: they were all taken out from the theatre of action. But then in most cases the theatre of action was limited to a region as in the case of Sodom, Egypt and Jericho and those who were objects of his mercy ( Ro 9 :22-23) were either shifted to another location, as in case of Lot and Rahab or were already in another location, as in case of the Israelites in Goshen, whereas during the floods, the theatre of action was worldwide and Noah and those with him in the Ark were lifted up above the waters of judgement. ‘… by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire being kept for the day of judgement and destruction of ungodly men.’ ( 2 Pt 3:6-7) In that case, the objects of his mercy will have to be removed from the theatre of action, which is the entire world, to keep them from the flames of judgement. Would you like to be trapped in it or escape from it ? All these incidents are in agreement with what is said in Scripture: ‘For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ ( 1 Thessalonians 5:10) Jesus himself prophesied about the impending judgement when he said: “For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch and pray that you may be able to ESCAPE ( Greek: ekpheugō means to escape or slip through ) all that is about to happen and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” ( Luke 21:35-36) So how are you supposed to escape? By Rapture?

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