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The Rapture is the popular term used to describe one aspect of the Lord's return as presented by the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. The word "rapture" comes from the Latin rapere used by the Latin Vulgate to translate the Greek word harpazo in this verse, which is rendered by the phrase "caught up" in most english translations. See below:
- "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: Then we which are alive, and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." (1 Thess. 4:16-17, KJV)
It is the term used primarily in Dispensationalism to refer to the "catching up" of believers who are alive at the Lord's return, which they see as an event preceding the Lord's "official" second coming, and the setting up of his millennial Kingdom on earth. Only within dispensational premillennialism does one find the idea of a "rapture" distinct from the second coming. The timing of the rapture is associated with a final period of Tribulation anticipated by Scripture.
The majority view taught in dispensationalism, is referred to as the Pre-Tribulation Rapture. This is the belief that the Rapture will occur at the beginning of the "70th Week of Daniel," interpreted as the final seven years of this age. In this view, believers will be translated into immortal bodies in the Rapture before the great persecutions by the Antichrist and seven-years of Tribulation.
According to this view, the Christian Church (that existed prior to this seven year period) has no vital role in Daniel's seventieth week and is therefore removed from the scene while God completes his program for Israel. The pre-trib rapture is is the view popularized through the work of dispensational preachers such as Hal Lindsey and Timothy LaHaye in his recent Left Behind novel series.
Another view found in dispensational thought is that believers will remain on Earth for the first half of the Tribulation and will be raptured at the mid-point of the seven-year Tribulation, which is the start of the Great Tribulation.
The other main view is termed the Post Tribulation Rapture. This view admits the concept of "rapture" from 1 Thessalonians, but does not see a significant intervening period (months or years) between the rapture and the "second coming" of Christ.
"The post-trib view is the only rapture view which sees only a single future coming of Jesus. All other rapture views, pre-trib, mid-trib, and pre-wrath, see the rapture and resurrection prior to the second coming of Jesus by months or years. While these rapture views see the rapture as a means to take the Church to heaven to escape God's wrath, the post-trib view sees the rapture as a mechanism to gather together believers from both heaven and earth in a single location with Christ, to be revealed with Him in glory to the world at His coming."
Criticism of a separate "rapture"Edit
The doctrine of the rapture as an event separate from the general resurrection is a fairly recent doctrinal development within the scope of Church's historic body of belief. Prior to 1830 most of the 'rapture texts' were regarded as referring to the General Resurrection. This was especially the case with the 1 Thessalonians 4 passage which was primarily regarded as referring to the resurrection rather than a rapture. In support of this more traditional interpretation, the expression "and the dead in Christ shall rise first" (1 Thess. 4:16) is seen as a clear reference to resurrection instead of a rapture. Thus, being "caught up" (1 Thess. 4:17) is understood as being translated or transformed into God's glorious presence ("clouds", v. 17).
Some Reformed theologians are still favourable of using the term "rapture" but insist on making a very clear distinction between rapture as a synonym for resurrection and what Dispensationalists propose by the term. The Dispensational proposal makes the rapture an escape from a yet-future tribulation period. John Stott calls this idea "escapism" in his book Issues Facing Christians Today (2006, 4th ed.). He goes on to write that the Dispensational concept of a "secret rapture" is one of the most destructive doctrines gripping the Evangelical Church today. It thwarts planning, hinders social involvement, and gives Christians a gloomy outlook for the future, says Stott.
Other alleged rapture-texts, such as "Matt. 24:40 - Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left, when taken in context (especially Christ's statement in Matthew 24:34) are seen by some Preterists as predictions of the Roman catapault bombardment of Jerusalem during the 42 month seige of Jerusalem from late 66-70 AD, not to a rapture. In fact, despite the Dispensational claims that the predictions in Matthew 24 are to yet-future, centring on a secret-rapture, an exegesis of this passage reveals that this is not only unlikely, but biblically and historically impossible (cf. The Most Embarrassing Verse In The Bible).
Some suggest abandonment not just of the term, but of the dispensational concept as well in order to return to a more traditional and Reformed understanding of 1 Thessalonians 4 as referring to the General Resurrection (cf. Why The Rapture Has Ruptured).
God of loveEdit
Other branches of Christianity see God primarily as a God of Love. This applies especially to Liberal Christianity. Christian Universalism teaches that there are no unsaved. All souls will get to Heaven eventually. The idea of rapture and tribulation might be consistent with Christian Universalism. If it happens Christian Universalists teach that even those who do badly during the tribulation will be saved later.