UPDATE (March 27, 2014): In light of the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, the Rapture people are at it again. The most prominent speculation comes from Billy Graham’s own daughter, Ruth Graham Lotz, who writes in her blog:
Is this worldwide sense of shock and helplessness, of questions and confusion, of fear and grief, a glimpse of things to come? Is this a small snapshot of what the entire world will experience the day after the rapture of the church? … And on that day, the world will be asking, Where have all the people gone? Not just 239 of us, but millions of us.
No worries, Mrs. Graham-Lotz. Disappearing people, crashing planes, trains and cars, will be the LEAST of man’s problems on that day. Because that DAY is JUDGMENT DAY, when all unbelievers will cower in fear at the appearance of the Warrior-Judge of the Universe, Christ himself, in vengeance against his enemies. In stark terror, they will call to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb” (Rv 6:16).
That day will be the last day. No more second chances in a so-called Tribulation Period. From the time of his earthly ministry, Jesus had warned his people, “In the world you will have tribulation” (Jn 16:33). The tribulation for his people will end on their resurrection on the last day, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day“ (Jn 6:39, 40, 44, 54).
Expect no more days after the “Rapture” on the LAST day (which is no “secret,” by the way). Eternity starts after the last day! Would Jesus call it the last day if there were 7 years of tribulation and 1,000 years of millennial reign that follow it?
Dr. Kim Riddlebarger, Senior Pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Anaheim, California, has a series of teachings on the end times called Amillennialism 101. In this lecture, he discusses the so-called Secret “Rapture.” Click here to stream the audio lecture.
Dr. Riddlebarger points out several inconsistencies and errors of this popular dispensationalist teaching, particularly on 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18:
1. The “end times” or “last days” is not just a 7-year-period leading up to a “secret” Rapture. The “last days” begun 2,000 years ago when Christ first came. Don’t believe it? Read Peter’s own words in Acts 2:16-17 and the clear assertion by Hebrews 1:1-2. These last days will continue and end in a “last day,” the day Christ returns.
2. This teaching has been around in America less than 150 years. Never in the history of the church was a “secret” Rapture taught until John Darby introduced it in England starting in the 1830s.
3. Dispensationalists teach that God’s salvation focus is Israel and not the church. The salvation of Gentiles like us is only an afterthought, a Plan B, in God’s mind, because the Jews rejected Christ. Christians will be taken out of the earth so that God can concentrate in saving Israel.
4. Far from being “secret,” the Rapture is “really, really loud” and visible to all. Paul says about the Rapture, “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” (1 Thess 4:16). This is a big problem for dispensationalists who advocate a literal interpretation of the Bible, but selectively avoid the literal interpretation of passages like this one. “Of course, only believers will hear this loud trumpet,” they would say. Really?
5. Not only believers, but unbelievers as well, are resurrected on Rapture day. Read 2 Thess 1:5-10, where Paul says that when Christ comes again “to be marveled at among all who have believed,” he will also “[inflict] vengeance” on the wicked. Judgment Day happens at the same time as the Rapture. See also these clear passages about a general resurrection of both believers and unbelievers: Dan 12:2-3; Parables of the Wheat and Weeds, Dragnet (Matt 13); Parables of the Ten Virgins, Talents, and Sheep and Goats (Matt 25); John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15. Where is dispensationalism’s 1,007-year gap between the two resurrections in these texts?
6. The New Testament interprets the Old Testament, not the other way around. OT promises of the restoration of Israel’s land and Temple were fulfilled in history, but all those fulfillments are typological of the final fulfillment, Christ’s first and second comings. In fact, most OT promises to national Israel were interpreted by the NT writers as being fulfilled by Christ and the church.
For example, “Out of Egypt I called my Son” in Hosea 11:1 refers to Israel’s redemption from Egypt, but Matthew reinterprets it as the child Jesus coming back from Egypt, i.e., Jesus is the new Israel of God. The rebuilding of David’s “fallen tent” in Amos 9:11-12 refers to the restoration of the northern kingdom of Israel from the Assyrian exile, but James reinterprets it as the building of God’s kingdom which includes not only Jews but Gentiles as well (Acts 2:13-17; see also John 2:19-21).
First published July 14, 2009
Next week: The Tribulation