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21 August 2019

What Rapture?

John is shown New Jerusalem
The subject of the “rapture” most often raises the issue of whether it will occur just before the beginning of the Tribulation, at its midpoint, or at its end (the pre-, mid- and post-tribulation positions). But this misses the real point – nowhere do the writers of the New Testament even mention the term “rapture.”
By “rapture” is meant the removal of Christians from the earth and their transportation to heaven, whether this is so the church may escape tribulation or some other reason. As with the term, nowhere does the New Testament describe a day when believers are removed from the earth to a nonphysical and timeless realm, whether as resurrected saints or disembodied spirits.
The doctrine of the rapture is almost completely dependent on its interpretation of one passage – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. But to find the “rapture” in it, proponents must make a couple of assumptions.
 First, after meeting the saints “in the air” as he descends from heaven, that he pulls a U-turn and heads back to heaven with his saints, something the passage never says. It ends with the statement, “and so will we be with the Lord forevermore,” but never states where that is. Paul could just as easily have conceived of the saints accompanying Jesus to the earth as he continued his descent.
Second, the pre-tribulation position sees the passage as evidence that this is a separate “coming” of Jesus from his arrival in glory at the end of the age. This is because says nothing about the judgment of the wicked, or anything else about their fate. But that is nothing more than an argument from silence; false logic.
Further, this line of reasoning ignores the larger context of Paul’s two letters to the Thessalonians. In the very next chapter, he warns that the unprepared will be overtaken by this very same day, “like a thief in the night.” In 2 Thessaloanians1:5-10, the day Jesus is revealed from heaven will mean vindication to the righteous but everlasting destruction to the wicked.
Jesus is Coming, not going
Another problem is the consistent picture of Christ’s “coming” painted by the New Testament. Jesus is always said to be “coming,” not “going”; returning, not departing. When any direction is provided, he is coming “from heaven” to descend to the earth. This holds true when different Greek verbs are used (e.g., “revealed from heaven”). For example:
[Matthew 16:27] – “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.
[Matthew 24:30] – “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
[Matthew 25:31] – “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory.”
[Matthew 26:64] – “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”
[Acts 1:11] – “Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”
[2 Thessalonians 1:7] – “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels.”
[Revelation 1:7] – “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.”
[1 Corinthians 15:23] – “But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.”
[1 Thessalonians 1:10] – “And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.”
[1 Thessalonians 4:16] – “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.”
One Coming, not Two
Every passage without exception that refers to the future coming of Jesus is always in the singular. That is, one and only one “coming” or “revelation” of Jesus is mentioned, never two (or more).
What is to Occur
No single passage covers every aspect of the “coming” of Jesus but, viewed as a whole, certain consistent aspects emerge.
The most comprehensive list is provided by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:20-28. The “coming” or Parousia of the Lord will include the resurrection of the dead, the cessation of death (the “last enemy”), the subjugation of all hostile powers, the consummation of the kingdom, and the transformation of saints still alive from mortality to immortality.
That event results in the separation of the righteous from the unrighteous (Matthew 13:30, 25:31-46). That day will mean joy to the prepared but disaster to the unprepared. The latter will be overwhelmed by it like a “thief in the night” (Matthew 25:13, Luke 12:33-39, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6).
The “revelation” of the Lord from heaven will mean vindication and glory for his people, but “everlasting punishment” for the unrighteous that persecuted them (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). At the “coming” or Parousia of Jesus, the “man of lawlessness” will be destroyed by the Lord (2 Thessalonians 2:8-10).
The coming Day of the Lord will produce the end of the old created order and the inauguration of the new heavens and the new earth (2 Peter 3:30-12).
Related to the sequence of events to occur ON THAT DAY, is their finality. Death will cease from that time. The old order will disappear to be replaced by the New Creation. Resurrected believers will be with the Lord “forevermore” after that day. The unrighteous will receive “everlasting” punishment and separation from the presence of the Lord; that day will mean “wrath” for the wicked (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10, 2 Thessalonians 2:5-10).
The finality of that day leaves no room for several other popular interpretations, especially that of a Millennium in which death and sin still occur, however rare.
New Testament Hope – Resurrection, New Creation
Christian hope is not in escape from the created order or transportation to an invisible and immaterial realm, but in the bodily resurrection and New Creation.
The gospel is about redemption, not abandonment and this includes the bodily resurrection of the righteous dead (e.g., John 5:29, Romans 6:5, 8:19-25, 1 Corinthians 15:20-28, Philippians 3:10, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Directly related to the concept of bodily resurrection is that of the new creation. Even now, the entire created order is groaning in anticipation of the resurrection of the sons of God; that day will mean nothing less than a new creation (Romans 8:19-25). The coming or Parousia of Jesus means nothing less than a new heaven and new earth (2 Peter 3:10).
At the end of the book, New Jerusalem DESCENDS from heaven to the new earth. The saints do not ascend to it; it comes down to them. In this city the redeemed live forever in the presence of God and the Lamb, free from all sorrow and suffering (Revelation 21:1 – 22:5).
In short, not only does Scripture never mention a “rapture,” this popular idea is incompatible with the biblical hope found on the pages of the New Testament.

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