When did the idea of the rapture originate? Many claim this teaching originated with a man named John Darby who lived in the early nineteenth century. They insist the idea of Jesus’ appearing for His church started with visions of a woman acquainted with Darby.
Those who oppose our beliefs in a pretribulation rapture fill up social media and the Internet with stories mocking the rapture as something no one believed until the nineteenth century. They discredit it based on its recent appearance in the life of the church.
So, is our belief in the rapture relatively new in church history? No, absolutely not! As will see in the following sections, saints in the early days of the church looked for Jesus’ appearing to take away His church ahead of a time of tribulation on the earth. The doctrine existed long before people began calling it “the rapture” during the 1800’s.
I recently read an article by Bert Farias on the Charisma News website entitled The Corruption of American Christianity: The Evil Agenda to Destroy America. In it, the writer shows how Marxist and Communist ideologies have gained a foothold in many churches and denominations throughout the United States.
The following quote from the piece sums it up well, “A subversive effort by the leftist leaning liberals to infiltrate the Church and turn people away from the real gospel and true doctrine is gaining momentum in this hour. The purpose of this agenda is to sway the church toward a radical political movement and the spread of socialism in our nation.”
Through a mixture of truth and error, the promoters of this leftist agenda not only sabotage the Gospel, but also the scriptural purpose of the church.
But why do some Christians fall for such errors while others immediately see the subversive intent of such ideologies? Why do so many elevate a purely social agenda above the Gospel? These questions repeatedly came to my mind as I read the article.
Do you know that Satan attacked the doctrine of the rapture almost as soon as the ink was dry on Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians? In 1 Thessalonians 4 and 5, the apostle wrote about the rapture promising the young believers in Thessalonica that Jesus would come for them before the future time of wrath, which we refer to as the tribulation.
Shortly after that someone posing as Paul, or one of his team, sent a message to the young church telling them that the day of the Lord (the tribulation) had already begun. This put these new Christians into a fear-induced frenzy as it not only contradicted what the apostle had earlier written to them, but meant they would experience the terrors of the tribulation.
When I was a pastor, I loved performing weddings. I remember seeing the joy on everyone’s face when the big day arrived.
Now, and I hesitantly admit this, I enjoy watching romantic movies on the Hallmark channel, along with my wife of course, that sometimes lead up to a wedding. In these shows, we see all the excitement and exuberance of the happy couple although Hallmark always tosses in a few troublesome problems to keep viewers hooked (we anxiously wait to see what will happen but really never doubt the happy outcome).
Weddings are typically times of excitement to which both the future husband and wife joyously anticipate.
I believe this is why Jesus used words reminiscent of the first century AD Jewish wedding customs when He first mentioned His return to take believers back to His Father’s house, known today as the rapture (see John 14:1-3).
While in college at John Brown University, I read Hal Lindsey’s book The Late Great Planet Earth. His book greatly heightened my interest in prophecy to the point where I expected the rapture to occur at any moment, yes even way back in the 1970’s.
Late one afternoon I dozed off after hours of reading and studying. Suddenly, the sound of a trumpet awoke me from a deep sleep. For a moment, I thought “this is it; I am going to meet Jesus in the air.” After a second or two I realized the trumpet fanfare came from someone warming up for a nearby rehearsal. It was not the trumpet sound of 1 Thessalonians 4, which still remains a joyous future hope for all of Jesus’ followers.
However, I know many people today do not take kindly to the idea of the rapture. They either fear it or disdain it for a variety of reasons. It’s certainly a source of unpopularity for those who teach or write about it; I know this from experience.
Is there a way to view the rapture differently, as something positive and loving?
Pull up a chair, pour some coffee (or your morning beverage of choice), and let’s spend some time with Habakkuk. I believe he can ease our burden in the light of what’s happening in the world around us (even it’s past time for your coffee).
Habakkuk complained about many of the same things we see all around us in world today. That’s why the Lord’s response to him is so especially relevant for us!
“Haven’t we already looked at this prophet and what the Lord had to say?” you might ask. Yes, but if you are anything like me you need a fresh reminder of not only the prophet’s complaint, but also of the Lord’s response.
As his wife and those closest to him gathered around his bedside one evening, they believed this would be the last time they would see him in this life. Louis Talbot, the longtime president of Biola University and driving force behind the formation of Talbot Theological Seminary, was in the hospital suffering from pneumonia. Many in the room, including Carol his wife, believed he would not survive the night.
Seeing the tears stream down the face of his wife, Talbot responded with these words, “What’s the matter with you? For this I was born. For this I’ve lived all my life—to see my Savior face to face. It will be all glory. I can hardly wait.”[i] Louis Talbot so longed to see Jesus that the thought of dying filled him with joy rather than fear because death meant he would soon be with his Savior.
Louis Talbot did not die that night, although for a moment the next morning he thought he had died and was in heaven.
Immigration remains a hot topic in America. Caravans of migrants are traveling up through Mexico hoping to break into the United States. Some believe we should let them all in and take care of them. After all, isn’t that the “Christian” thing to do?
Others support President Trump in sending the military to protect our border. Our nation has long been a haven for asylum seekers and immigrants, but there is a process for those seeking to enter our nation. Those in the caravan who are truly in need can enter our country according to our laws for asylum seekers and for immigrants.
Why are believers so divided on this issue? I believe this comes from confusing the role of government with that of our responsibility to help the needy.
We live in an age of instant access. If I want to see the latest weather forecast, I instantly bring it up on my smart phone. If I want something warmed up, it only takes a few seconds in the microwave.
Perhaps this is why waiting is so difficult for us, especially when it comes to waiting for something that was promised us two thousand years ago. As we see biblical prophecy springing to life in our world against the backdrop of wickedness and violence we often ask, “How much longer, Lord?”
The Apostle Peter long ago predicted that as a result of our long wait people would scoff at our continuing faith in the Lord’s soon return asking, “Where is the promise of his coming?” (2 Pet. 3:3-4).
Through all the ups and downs of my life, these words from Lamentations 3:22-25 have remained dear to my heart, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. . . . The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.”
The Hebrew word for “steadfast love” is chesed. You might see it translated “lovingkindness” or just “kindness” in other versions. It’s difficult for one English word or phrase to capture its total meaning in the original. In Scripture, chesed is used almost exclusively for the Lord’s enduring covenant relationship with His people and His never-ending faithfulness and unfailing love for all who belong to Him.
The promises and blessings of Lamentations 3:22-25 belong to those within this special covenant relationship with the Lord. In Jeremiah’s day this was Israel. Today, it applies to all those in Christ by virtue of the new covenant. . . .