Monday, April 16, 2012

Yes, you do believe in the rapture

Have you ever heard someone say, "There's no such thing as the rapture"? Maybe you, yourself have said or believe the same thing: the rapture is a myth. Some will go so far as to say that not only is it a myth, but it was created in the 1800's by John Nelson Darby (not true, but that's a subject for another day). And, how many times have I read, "No passage in the Bible uses the word "Rapture""?

Fellow Lutherans, and all you mainline Christians out there, listen up. If you believe in the Bible, you believe in the rapture. The "rapture" is when Jesus catches away the believers into the air and takes them to be with Himself. Granted, a strange idea, but completely biblical. It comes from these verses:

1 Thessalonians 4:16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After 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. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.

That word, translated "caught up" is harpazō (här-pä'-zō). It means: 
1) to seize, carry off by force
2) to seize on, claim for one's self eagerly
3) to snatch out or away

Kind of an odd thing, actually - but, it's the same word used here:

Acts 8:39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.

and here:

2 Corinthians 12:2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. 3 And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 4 was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. 

It's sudden. It's unexpected. It's harpazō.

Harpazo is a Greek word. It was the language of the day. However, as time went on, Latin became the language of the civilized world. So, in the early 5th century (early 400's), Jerome translated both the Old and New Testament into Latin. When he came to Paul's passage in Thessalonians, he translated harpazō as rapiemur or rapturo (Rapiemur and rapturo are two forms of the same verb, viz: rapio, rapere, rapui, raptus - "to catch or seize". Rapiemur is the first person, plural, future, indicative, passive. Rapturo is the future active participle. as here):

1 Thessalonians 4:17 deinde nos qui vivimus qui relinquimur simul rapiemur cum illis in nubibus obviam Domino in aera et sic semper cum Domino erimus. 

That word in the Latin Vulgate, rapturo, became simply "rapture." So, those people who say that "rapture" is not found in the Bible are either revealing their ignorance or have something else they want to fight about. 

So, if you believe in the Bible, you believe in the rapture. What you may MEAN to say, is that you disagree with the rapture as presented in the "Left Behind" books - where Jesus comes, takes away the believers, and leaves everyone else to face horrible tribulation. That view of the rapture is called "Pre-Tribulational", meaning "before the tribulation." There are lots of other views, including "Post Trib," "Mid-Trib", "Pre-Wrath" "Rapture after no trib" and others. 

I've studied end times for a very long time. I've studied the rapture for a very long time. In all honesty, I've probably studied the whole end times issue more than 90% of the pastors out there. I want to say something in love. When I first studied the rapture, it was perfectly obvious that it was post trib. But, when I went back to it and studied it some more, I thought that mid trib or pre wrath might be closer to the truth. Then, I studied it more and became convinced that it was pre trib. In fact, it was obviously pre trib. Then, I studied it some more and realized that even partial rapture (a very controversial view) might have some elements of truth to it. So, I studied it some more (we are talking about 15 years of study here), and decided that I don't know what view is right. They may all be partially true. They may all be at least partially false. I just don't know.

One thing I DO know - those people who say that it's absolutely this or absolutely that - to the point where they say that everything else is unbiblical, haven't studied it enough. Don't be one of them. You may disagree with a view with your current understanding, but unless you are God, you don't know exactly how it's going to happen. Treat your brothers and sisters who have different views with love. Don't call them heretics. Don't call their views heresy.

And, by all means, don't go out and buy books like "The Rapture Exposed" by Barbara Rossing. She not only thinks that there is no rapture (we are not EVER caught away into the air to be with Jesus), but, in fact, thinks there is no literal second coming at all and that Revelation is really about environmentalism and healing the world. Good grief.

Jesus IS coming. And, one day, (if you are trusting Him as your savior), you WILL be caught up into the air to be with Him forevermore. We're supposed to encourage each other with this idea - that this world is not forever, and that Jesus really is coming for us. Suddenly. Unexpectedly.

Maybe you can't bring yourself to say Rapture. That's OK. Call it the Harpazo. Call it the "Catching away." Or, just say, "When Jesus comes to take us to be with Him. . ." Just don't say it's not in the Bible. Don't belittle people who have different timing views. Trust me, we're all going to be surprised by something on that day.  

That day, when Jesus comes for us, is a day to look forward to. There may be some very difficult days leading up to that time, but He is with us. He will lead us, protect us and keep us on His path. And, when that day finally comes, we will be with Him, forever and ever. No more good-byes, ever again.

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