The “Rapture” was first introduced in the United States by an Irish evangelist named John Darby. This was based upon his interpretation of several scriptures, including 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, Matthew 24:30-36 and 24:40-41, John 14:1-3, Acts 1:9-11, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 and 5:2, Phillipiians 3:20-21, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 and 2 Peter 3:10.
The verses above refer to being “caught up in the air to meet the Lord.” There are also verses about the dead rising first, one person being taken while another is left, and Jesus coming like a “thief in the night.”
A preacher named William Blackstone, who lived between 1841 and 1935, wrote a book called Jesus is Coming, endorsing John Darby’s Rapture principle. This book gave the Rapture doctrine huge impetus in many Protestant worship communities.
During the time of the Jesus Movement in the ’60s and ’70s and the inception of countless non-denominational churches, many of the songs sung in church at that time were about the Rapture.
Then Hal Lindsey wrote The Late Great Planet Earth, that placed “Rapture Theology” against a backdrop of current worldwide events. Mr. Lindsey was certain that the Rapture was imminent.
Into the Present:
Subsequently, there were movies about the Rapture, including a four-part series, with the first film being aptly named A Thief in the Night, and another film in 1991 entitled The Rapture.
Protestant minister, Tim LaHaye, and Jerry Jenkins, the former editor of Moody Magazine, an offshoot of the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, penned a Left Behind series of novels that became immensely popular with modern Christians.
And here we are in the year 2014.
Based Upon One Man’s Interpretation:
The Catholic and Orthodox Churches reject Darby’s Rapture theory. So do the Anglicans and the Episcopalians. Many of the mainline Protestant denominations reject the Rapture doctrine, as well.
A great number of nondenominational and fundamentalist churches do believe in the Rapture. Their acceptance of the Rapture is based on the belief that the believers in Christ will be taken out of the world prior to the Great Tribulation, which — they are certain — is imminent in the 21st Century.
The Bible verse that they use as one of their proof texts is the one in Matthew 24 that talks about the coming of the Lord being similar to the days of Noah and the days of Lot. They believe that the believers will be plucked out of an evil world in the Rapture of the Church, leaving the nonbelievers to face the Great Tribulation.
The problem with these examples, however, is that the evil people were taken, and the righteous people were left.
The Matthew 24 rationale contradicts the 1 Thessalonians text that says those who are “left” meet Jesus in the air.
What to Do?
I am not going to base my Bible interpretation on a man-made concept that is barely 300 years old. The early Church Fathers had never even heard of it. Nor had the Protestant Reformers in the 16th Century.
The verses in the Bible that refer to being “caught up in the air to meet the Lord” are about the Second Coming of Christ. Manipulating selected Bible verses to prove-up an invented doctrine is shaky hermeneutics.
Here’s what the Bible says about the Second Coming:
“At the signal given by the voice of the Archangel and the trumpet of God, the Lord himself will come down from heaven; those who have died in Christ will be the first to rise, and only after that shall we who remain alive be taken up in the clouds, together with them, to meet the Lord in the air. This is the way we shall be with the Lord forever.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
I am certain that the originators of the doctrine of the Rapture were 100 percent sincere in presenting what they believed was the truth. But as Christians, we are to rightly divide the Word of God to avoid missing the mark.