I am sure that all of you have heard of, read or watched the “Left Behind Series”. The left behind series starts with what they call the rapture where all of the Christian faithful disappear and are taken to heaven. This being the start of a 7 year tribulation period which at the end of the seven years is the second coming of Christ. I hate to disappoint everyone looking forward to any type of rapture separate from the second coming but this idea of a rapture was invented by a British religious figure named John Nelson Darby (1800-1882). Darby’s pre-tribulational view of the rapture was then picked up by a man named C.I. Scofield, who taught the view in the footnotes of his Scofield Reference Bible, which was widely distributed in England and America. Many Protestants who read the Scofield Reference Bible uncritically accepted what its footnotes said and adopted the pre-tribulational view, even though no Christian had heard of it in the previous 1800 years of Church history.
A couple verses that people who hold this view use to support their position are.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 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. 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.
I Corinthians 15:51-53 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.
Take a close look at these verses, particularly at the parts that talk about a trumpet being sounded, the coming of the lord and being caught up together. Now read the following 3 verses looking for the three things just mentioned.
Matthew 24:29-31“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Mark 13:24-27 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for (that day will not come) until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God.
Did you notice that when the trumpet is sounded, the people are gathered to Jesus at his coming and it is after the tribulation and at the second coming of Christ? Being caught up together with Jesus in the clouds is what they are calling the rapture but it is at the same time of the second coming not at some secret time before then. Remember Jesus said that he would return one last time not twice. It is also interesting to notice that 1 Cor 15:52 it says the rapture is suppose to take place at the “last trumpet” however we read in Revelation chapter 8-11 about 7 trumpets being blown during the great tribulation which is suppose to be after the rapture. How can the last trumpet be the first trumpet? Also if you look back to 1 Cor 15:51-53 and look at the next two verses (54, 55) notice what it says. 1 Cor 15:54-55 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." "O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?"
It talks about death ending. When does death end? At the second coming. These verses contradict the dispensational theology because just after the pre tribulational rapture death just begins. It isn’t swallowed up in victory it is unleashed and will claim very many people.
In describing Jesus’ return, Paul combines imagery drawn from two sources. From biblical apocalyptic (e.g., Dan 7:13), he gets the coming on the clouds of heaven with the angelic trumpets. From his Greco-Roman experience, he gets the imagery of an arrival of a king on a state visit (in Greek, parousia); where a joyful multitude goes out to meet him on the road and accompany him back to the city. We even see this going out to meet the king on his return home in 1 Sam 30:21 where David’s soldiers go and meet David on his return.
One problem a pre trib view is that people apply distinctions inconsistently. For instance, they claim that parousia in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 refers to the rapture, but that the same word in 1 Thessalonians 3:13 describes the Second Coming.
Even Martha understood that the faithful would rise on the last day at the resurrection. Jesus doesn’t correct her and say you will rise in the rapture then seven years later you will be given your resurrection body.
John 11:23-24 Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day."
Two more verses dispensationalist use to support a pre-trib rapture are Mt 24:37-39, Lk 17:26-30.
Mt 24:37-39 As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man.
Lk 17:26-30 As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of man. They ate, they drank, they married, they were given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise as it was in the days of Lot--they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom fire and sulphur rained from heaven and destroyed them all-- so will it be on the day when the Son of man is revealed.
If you look closely at these verses you will see that the second coming of Jesus will be like in the days of Noah and Lot. Read carefully in Matthew 24 to see who was taken and who was left. The dispensationalist says that like the rapture Noah was taken out and saved from destruction. Read the context it says that the people were eating and drinking and marrying and they did not know until the flood came and swept them away. See who was taken here. It was the bad guys who were taken and Noah was left behind. The same is with Lot. Lot was left behind and the workers of iniquity were taken. That fits exactly with what Jesus said in Mt 13:37-43.
Mt 13:37-43 He answered, "He who sows the good seed is the Son of man; the field is the world, and the good seed means the sons of the kingdom; the weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
Notice that the evildoers are taken first like weeds and the righteous are left. Another verse dispensationalist use is Lk 17:34-36. This is the famous verse that says one will be taken and the other left. If you ask the dispensationalist where they were taken, they will say to heaven of course but if you look at the very next verse (verse 37), the apostles ask Jesus where they are taken and Jesus’ answer doesn’t paint a rosy picture of heaven.
Lk 17:34-37 I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken and the other left." Then they asked him, "Where, Lord?" He said to them, "Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather."
We see further evidence that Christians are on earth until the second coming in Dan 7:25 and Dan 8:24. In these verses Daniel talks about Christians being persecuted by the antichrist. According to a pre trib rapture view the Christians are taken out before the antichrist shows up. Jesus in Mt 24:9-24 mentions the antichrist persecuting the elect. In Rev 7:9-14 we see martyrs who came out of the tribulation period. In all of these verses the Christians should already be in heaven and there is no mention that these people are a remnant who came to faith after a rapture.
So we see that both scripture and Church history show that the idea of a rapture separate from the second coming is not something we should be looking for.