It is easy being an evangelical Christian in America. It’s probably the best time in the history of the faith to be an evangelical in America. Despite their own false promotion of victimization and persecution, evangelical Christians enjoy unprecedented wealth, freedom and political influence at home and abroad as never before.
They are forced to create this false narrative because Christians are supposed to suffer persecution and hardship not bathe in comfort and wealth. Solution: Create some fake enemies who are trying to steal your religious freedoms and some wicked people who are corrupting society, and suddenly you are “suffering for what is right” (1 Pet. 3:14).
Selective thinking; Theo-illogical
Evangelicals use the Bible to justify behavior or belief they want to condemn or to condone regardless if whether it is biblically accurate or not. Abortion and homosexuality are wrong. Materialism and wealth are good. One of the most interesting examples of manipulating the Bible to serve one’s owns views is The Rapture theory. It will be discussed last due to its profound implications on how evangelicals live and view Israel.
NOTE: Passages are quoted in full to allow the reader instant accessibility to interact with the text. Underlined and bold text added for emphasis.
24″Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.(Matthew 16:24-27, Also Mt. 10:38, Mk. 8:34-38, Lk. 9:23-26)
26“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”(Luke 14:26,27)
The intent of this article is to show how evangelicals engage in selective or compartmentalized thinking and subjectivism to justify changes in their moral or doctrinal stance through a misuse of certain biblical texts. Their motives range from keeping pace with society to avoid irrelevance and alienation, indulging their own biases and prejudices and reducing their own sacrifice (time, money, energy, success) and suffering (discipline, dedication, denial, humility) as Christians by instead optimizing comfort, pleasure, personal success and convenience.
Let’s begin by saying critical or free thinking is not evangelicalism’s brand. It does not put a premium on outside knowledge. It is a faith that traffics in physical and ideological “inbreeding.” Evangelicals insulate themselves from the world of science and rationality to protect certain core beliefs like inerrancy or the resurrection miracle. You might think this would make evangelicalism one of the most fixed belief systems in the world, but it does not. Evangelicals are prone to moral or doctrinal shifting as expediency dictates.
Second, evangelicalism is mostly (70-80%) repopulated by the offspring of its followers. Generational believers are children of evangelical or conservative Christians who are converted prior to adulthood from within the church. Infant or baptism dominates most of Christendom while kiddie converts are the evangelical norm. The overall impact of the lack of a dramatic adult conversion experience can result in a languid commitment to the faith. Being an evangelical is a way of life for most and synonymous with being American. How this relates to the first point is evangelicalism’s never ending compromise to biblical standards reflects the desires of the majority of its adherents. Unwilling to abandon the faith for fear of losing their eternal hope, instead they customize it to suit their own needs, desires and prejudices.
Kiddie conversions and baby baptisms
I get it. Parents were deathly afraid their children might be damned forever before they grow up and were saved (the biblical way). The genesis of both these practices has everything to do with fear and nothing to do with exegesis. So what? If it brings a mother or father peace of mind knowing their child’s place is secure in heaven, so be it. But it has no scriptural justification. On the down side, these coerced and unauthorized conversions breed complacency and insipidness in adult believers. Trapped in a faith by fear and without a strong incentive to aspire to strict biblical standards, compromise is sought wherever it can be found.
Briefly, nowhere in the New Testament are children targeted for conversion. Jesus famous, “Let the little children to come to me” (Mt. 19:17) is about blessing children them not saving them. “Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them.”(Mt. 19:13). In other passages, children are used as the standard of innocence for entrance to the kingdom (Mk. 10:13-16). One must remember these teachings are in the context of the messianic kingdom that has already begun to arrive, and one that will soon bring God’s wrath. Jesus was assuring those listening, children would be exempt from judgment. In the same way, sinners need repent and “become” like an innocent child or face judgment.
This is one example of inventing doctrine to support a belief. Evangelicals and other Christians use texts such as these to validate what they want to believe, namely, it’s acceptable to convert children to the faith. Becoming a believer is an informed, thoughtful decision requiring a baptism of repentance (see series discussing myths of salvation).
Jesus illustrated the degrees of love in the story of his anointment by a woman who had “a sinful life.” She entered the house of a Pharisee, Simon, with whom Jesus was dining. She washed his feet with her tears, kissed them and anointed them with perfume in an act of supreme humility. When the Pharisee chided Jesus for allowing “a sinner” to touch him, “a prophet.” In response Jesus told him a parable about two men being forgiven their debt by a moneylender, one had owed a lot, the other a little. He posed the question to Simon, “Now which of them will love him more?”
“47Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little. 48Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”(Lk. 747,48)
I use this story by way of application to show the difference between those raised as Christians and those who were not. Many evangelicals have never experienced a life of sin in the real world perhaps being isolated within the evangelical culture where they have always been generally good like the Pharisee. Those who convert as adults usually do so out of a sense of desperation or through a crisis experience. The difference can be measured by the depth of gratitude each shows. It is interesting to note, Jesus forgave her after her actions which could only be described as pre-salvation repentance. Her place in the kingdom was assured.
Evangelicalism is becoming less homogenous each day. The differences among them can range from doctrinal to practical. Evangelicals hold opposing beliefs on a wide variety of issues yet all claim to follow a literal interpretation of the same book (?). Evangelicals are free to develop their own evangelical world view that reflects their beliefs either on a personal level or that of an entire church. For various reasons, they determine what they want the Bible to say and then adjust their interpretation to match this belief. Then using this mental grid they filter and sort the outside world and its influences into God’s truth and the Devil’s lies to reinforce this ideology. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t expose the darker side of such fluid thinking.
Evangelicals have made abortion their marquee issue for fifty years. You would think it was unequivocally condemned throughout the Bible especially by Jesus considering the attention it is given. This singular issue may be the reason Donald Trump was elected President in 2016. So do evangelicals have a case for their staunch opposition to it?
Abortion is indirectly mentioned in Exodus 21:22-25 where a pregnant woman delivers early as a result of a traumatic blow by a man. The pivotal phrase, “She has a miscarriage” is changed by evangelicals to read, “She gives birth prematurely” insinuating a live birth. The latter rendering violates the inherent logic of the entire passage.
First, it ignores the focus which is the life of the mother not her unborn. The fetus is viewed as property requiring monetary reparation in the event of “its” death through personal injury suffered at the hands of another. It adds confusion raising multiple questions such as how infrequent would “no serious injury” occur after a pregnant women is struck so hard she gives birth prematurely to a living baby with primitive medical treatment!? And, what if she miscarries having been pregnant two months, does that constitute murder? And why if there is “no serious injury” (singular) would there be a fine unless this refers to the mother and the restitution to the miscarriage of a fetus?
Second, it is clear from the passage she deliberately intervenes in a fight between her husband and a man when she is injured. If there is “no serious injury” why would she be awarded a settlement?
(Note: I have written extensively on this topic in a previous post citing multiple texts to support this position)
When evangelicals via The Moral Majority coopted the abortion issue from Catholics half a century ago, it was done for political not theological reasons. Evangelicals were forced to justify their position from the scriptures where none specifically existed. Despite this passage being interpreted prior to this by evangelicals (!) as “miscarriage,” they altered its meaning to support their new position.
This moral shifting has occurred multiple times throughout its history. Divorce is a fairly common place and not vehemently opposed despite it often leading to remarriage which is deemed adultery (Mt. 5:32). Evangelicals changed their minds on this because it seemed to unfairly restrict women who were suffering from abusive husbands or emotional abandonment. The Bible makes no provision and makes it a matter of redemptive faith (Mt. 19:8,9).
Forbidding divorce with the same vehemence as abortion would have catastrophic effects on American evangelicalism. Men and women would leave the church in droves looking for a more “sympathetic” body of believers. Financially and numerically would suffer irreparably.
Other examples include: materialism which barely registers a blip on evangelical’s radar as sinful despite Jesus’ repeatedly railing against it. In back to back teachings, Luke includes the story of the “Rich Fool” who plans to accumulate long term wealth so he could, “Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry,” but dies suddenly (Lk. 12:19b). This is followed up by a warning against obsession with food and clothing instead of trust in God to provide for one’s needs.
31″But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well… 33″Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”(Luke 12:31, 33-34)
The sticky topic of the role of women in the home and church is another example of shifting position, despite seemingly clear biblical injunctions against it (1 Cor. 14:34,35) rooted in the pre-fall creative order of man and woman and Eve’s culpability in the fall of Adam. Associated to this is the role of a wife’s submission to her husband (Tit. 2:15, 1 Pet. 3:1).
11’A woman a should learn in quietness and full submission. 12I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”(1 Timothy 2:11-15)
The ontological argument based on Galatians 3:28 suggests equality of essence between men and women while maintaining specific gender role differences. Christians made a similar argument during slavery when blacks began converting to Christianity. Slave owners while happily stressing equality “in Christ;” nevertheless, were equally emphatic in maintaining clear class distinction. Yet evangelicals have turned a blind eye to biblically based gender inequality (a wise move!) because social evolution has made it impossible to enforce.
Other topics we will only mention include: working or playing on Sunday, gambling, drinking, sexually suggestive dancing or dress and political involvement which were once seen as the devil’s playground. Evangelicalism has been far more conformist than they would ever admit because profit not piety is the primary motivation. Evangelicals are virtually indistinguishable from the non regenerate world except in self righteous verbiage.
These are micro issues when compared to the greatest example of macro adjustment Christianity has ever seen.
“The Bible does not interpret itself,” is a fundamental principle of hermeneutics. The readers ultimate goal is to determine authorial intent which can be a challenge. In the case of the evangelical reader, they place a Christian “template” over the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) because it is thought to be full of predictions and allusions about Jesus. The greatest innovator of this method of interpretation was the Apostle Paul. He pulled off the greatest example of misdirection Christianity has ever seen.
Despite the tradition of Jesus and his apostles who promoted an exclusively Jewish gospel. Paul was able to offer the same promises to pagan Gentiles without any legal requirements using the prophetic writings to justify it, law free salvation.
Without Paul’s contribution to Christianity, it would have fizzled out by the end of the first century. Jewish Christianity’s survival depended on Jesus’ return as heavenly messiah. He failed to live up to Jewish expectations three times. First, during Passover week when he announced his role as, “King of the Jews.” Second, when he failed to restore Israel after his alleged resurrection during Pentecost (Acts 1:6). Third, when he did not return as heavenly messiah when Jerusalem fell in 70AD (Lk. 9:27).
The synoptic gospels are desperate attempts by the writers to stem the tide of defections by Jewish Christians and combat lethargy. Dire warnings of punishment for unpreparedness and promises of Jesus sudden unexpected return were popular parable themes.
27For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”(Matthew 24:27.
5″The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.”(Matthew 25:5)
The parable of “The Ten Virgins” illustrates the dangers of Jesus (the bridegroom) finding his followers (the virgins) asleep and unprepared.
47“The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”(Luke 12:47,48)
It is generally accepted the context of these parables is an earthly kingdom to which Jesus returns and finds his servants in various states of preparedness. The are judged according to their faithfulness. Some of these parables are difficult to interpret such as the one above where all the servants receive “blows,” some just less than others. Or the parable of “The Sheep and the Goats” (Mt. 25:31-46) where salvation is dependent on acts of righteousness? Evangelicals are forced to concoct disjointed theories to reconcile these with their view of a judgement and work free salvation?
In the parable of “The Bags of Gold” (Mt. 25:14-30), the author through Jesus closes with these words.
28“ ‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’“(Matthew 25:28-30)
The reason evangelicals struggle with these verses is because they can’t accept the writers focus was on Jesus return to establish an earthly kingdom in their lifetime consistent with Judaism. The exception being the messiah would be divine and come from heaven to inaugurate the kingdom.
31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left…46“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”(Matthew 25:31-33,46)
Here’s the big picture. Jewish followers are exhorted to anticipate Jesus sudden return at any time. In the meantime they are to live their lives with this expectation. They are not to stop working and wait but are to continue to make money to help those in need. In the parable, “The Bags of Gold” Jesus/Matthew stresses the need to use the resources God has given you to prosper so when Jesus returns you will be rewarded. Those who become unproductive and simply wait for the master’s return are punished severely.
26“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. 28“ ‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’“(Matthew 25:26-30)
Another problem plaguing Jewish Christians was an attitude of resignation. Jesus had not returned so many followers resumed their previous lives. The parable of the “Rich Fool” (Lk. 12:13-21) describes a man who decides after a large harvest to tear down his old little barns and build new bigger ones, so he could store his grain for several years. Jesus is warning against accumulating wealth for oneself instead of sharing it with others. If he was generous, he would have no need for bigger barns.
15″Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions... 20“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’21“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”(Luke 12:15,20,21)
Jesus followed this story up with a discussion about “setting your heart” on what you are going to eat, drink or wear.
29″And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30″For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. 32“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”(Luke 12:29-34)
To those Jewish followers of Jesus living in Israel, they were enjoined to give of their possession to help those in need and not worry about their own personal comforts. They are to remember God takes care of a little sparrows and they are “much more valuable … than birds.”
The son of man would return and immediately take inventory. He would separate the “sheep and goats” or “wheat and tares” burning those unqualified to enter the kingdom. Then he would evaluate his servants according to their faithful responsibility and judge them accordingly.
45″But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk 46The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.”(Luke 12:45,46, see also 20:9)
5″The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.”(Matthew 25:5)
19“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.”(Matthew 25:19)
In this Luke’s parable Jesus is unequivocal those “servants” (believers) who become lackadaisical due to their “masters” (Jesus) protracted delay (“a long time”) and engage in revelry will be judged as “unbelievers.” Matthew includes the similar “a long time” concept in his parables, “The Ten Virgins and the Bridegroom” and the “Bags of Gold” for similar emphasis.
Evangelicals have replaced the well attested teaching of “The Second Coming of Jesus” with a completely fabricated teaching called, “The Rapture.” We will discuss it at some length to illustrate how inconsistent evangelicals are in their commitment to honest biblical exegesis because of the consequences it brings.
The “Secret” Rapture everybody will see
Many American evangelicals espouse The Rapture Theory. They believe none of Jesus’ teaching about his Second Coming applies to them directly, because NONE of them will be on earth on that day. They will all be in heaven with glorified bodies and will return WITH Jesus when he officially returns after The Great Seven Year Tribulation. Next will be The Battle/Campaign of Armageddon when Jesus and his heavenly forces destroy the evil armies of earth consigning them to judgment. Likewise, Satan and his minions are cast into the Lake of Fire. This will usher in The Millennial Kingdom for one thousand years which will be populated by an odd assortment of people who include glorified Christians from the Rapture, converted Jews and Gentiles without glorified bodies (?). At the end of the Millennium there will be a bunch of people who despite being born and living in the glorious Millennial kingdom and seeing Jesus with their eyes refuse to become Christians. They alone with all dead non Christians will be part of the Final Judgement. Then comes the creation of The New Heavens and Earth.
The best word to describe evangelical eschatology is “convoluted.” Because of their insistence on the analogy of faith (all scripture is non contradictory and subject to harmonization), they are obligated to make every passage of scripture in both the Hebrew and Christian Bible “fit together” like one giant jigsaw puzzle of the Last Days, a monumental endeavor. Add to this the Rapture theory invention and it gets more confusing.
Using the same metaphor, I would compare it to taking twenty similar but different puzzles and putting all the pieces in one big box, shaking it and then trying to fit every piece together, an impossible task.
The Rapture is considered by many evangelicals to be on par with one’s commitment to the doctrine of inerrancy. I cannot think of a more blatant contradiction. Belief in the Rapture is many things but it is certainly not biblical (And this coming from someone who graduated from Moody Bible Institute and Dallas Theological Seminary no less!)
Evangelicals read these parables and others with indifference due to their belief in the Rapture. Ostensibly, they maintain it is the most theologically plausible theory but actually it exonerates them from judgment and suffering of any kind. It is their escape clause. This erroneous teaching finds no support in the New Testament. It hangs on a misinterpretation of a passage in 1 Thessalonians.
13″Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming [‘parousia’] of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16For 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. 17After 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.“(1 Thessalonians 4:13-17)
1″Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night“(1 Thessalonians 5:1,2).
Before we begin, let me say, I get it. I’ve been there. I believed what my teachers and professors told me. Why wouldn’t I? They were far more educated and experienced than I was. I trusted them to be “experts” on the Bible. The fact I had questions only meant I did not possess enough knowledge (yet) to resolve them. It would take me almost eight years of intensive theological training before I began to have the theological confidence to investigate these matters for myself.
How many evangelicals ever acquire sufficient biblical knowledge to be able to properly evaluate the legitimacy of this or any other teaching? They put their trust in those who put their trust in God, as they had. Christianity is built on trusting the Bible not questioning it. Then after years of a steady diet of dispensational teaching and preaching, they equate it with “true” Biblical faith. Forcing an evangelical to question such doctrines is unsettling to their faith. It is much easier to tow the party line than to rock the boat in which they are riding.
A-millennialists and Post-millennialists are considered my many to be liberal Christians who don’t adhere to strict literal inerrancy and may not be saved. Evangelicals are fiercely dispensational even though most have no idea why.
Evangelicals believe what they want to believe. Period. They have been conditioned to think about their faith, the Bible, Jesus, the world, Christianity, the media, science and whatever else in a narrow and specific way. Trying to dissuade an evangelical about the biblicalness of the Rapture is like trying to bring down the Washington monument with a pick hammer. It’s possible but it would take considerable time, effort and most of all willingness.
I will show how untenable this belief is and why it is, but it will make little difference to most. The Rapture theory is embedded in the evangelical psyche like baseball, hotdogs and apple pie. It is part of what it means to be an evangelical. So why bring it up? It is a future hope with immense consequences in the present.
My purpose in these articles is always twofold. My primary objective is to expose Christianity as a fraudulent religion based on ancient superstition and belief in a divinely inspired book without rational warrant. My secondary objective is to demonstrate evangelicalism as an inauthentic representation of biblical Christianity that claims one thing and practices another, namely, a literal historical interpretation of the Bible. Belief in the Rapture is one of the clearest examples of evangelicals unwillingness to abandon a false teaching regardless of how compelling the evidence is.
The Rapture “Buffer Zone”
Introducing a pre-emptive partial secret return by Jesus has far reaching implications. There is a lot at stake other than maintaining the integrity of the biblical text. Without the Rapture, Israel is abandoned by God. The Rapture gives Jews a seven year grace period to become Christians and escape the final judgment. Without the Rapture, the Church replaces Israel. This violates the promises of a restored Israel scattered throughout the Hebrew prophetic writings. Without the Rapture, Christians seem to endure tribulation and suffering before Jesus returns. The parables take on new meaning warning of the perils of current Christian unfaithfulness, unproductively, slothfulness and foolishness.
Eliminating the Rapture forces Christians to be vigilant and diligent in maintaining the highest standards of responsibility to the faith. Is it really surprising they would adamantly reject the findings of those who would challenge it?
22″For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes,[‘parousia‘] those who belong to him. 24Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.”(1 Corinthians 15:22-24, comp. with Matt. 24:3,27.30,37,39,43; 25:31)
50″I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52in 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. 53For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”[Isaiah 25:8] 55“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”[Hosea 13:14](1 Corinthians 15:50-55, see also 2 Cor. 5:1-10)
Rapturists link these two passages in 1 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians because of their similarities, so both will be considered in our analysis.
Parousia (coming, presence, arrival, advent) is used generally of someone’s arrival and also in the New Testament of Jesus “coming” (Matthew 24:3, 27, 37, 39; 1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:1,8,9; James 5:7,8; 2 Peter 1:16; 3:4,12; 1 John 2:28). Traditionally, it has only referred to Jesus Second Coming and most mainline non evangelical churches support this view, but evangelicals have coopted it for Jesus’ partial appearance when he returns to “snatch away” his saints. This return is characterized as “secret” because it can’t technically qualify as Jesus’ official second return. However, the sudden departure of hundreds of millions of Christians is anything but secret. Furthermore, in this age of smartphones, this event would be widely captured on video.
The church at Thessalonica (c. 45-50AD) were grief stricken over the death of loved ones. Jesus’ delayed return caused some Christians to wonder what was to be the fate of “those who sleep in death.” Paul offers consolation assuring them, the “dead in Christ will rise first” allaying any fears they will be left behind.
(The topic of “soul sleep” undermines the erroneous Christian concept of a heaven currently filled with departed loved ones. Repeatedly, the dead are said to be “asleep” awaiting the final resurrection and their souls reunification with their bodies. Passages such as this affirm there can be no bodies presently in heaven. The only possibility would be a disembodied spirit which is seldom entertained by evangelicals)
The writer while describing Jesus return (“parousia”) is faced with several logistic and optic problems. If Jesus is descending and the bodies of the dead and living in Christ need to be glorified (enfleshed and put back together in some cases), how will this happen? Where do they all meet and in what state? If they wait until Jesus has “landed” they would be rising out of tombs as Skeltons and being reconstituted while walking, running or floating (?) to him. Where are their souls in the meantime (see parenthesis above). What about living Christians? Would people witness the transformation of a living person into a glorified body before their eyes?
Paul after having considered the issues came up with an elegant solution. The bodies rise from their graves and undergo the transformation to a glorified body in midair. Then all living Christians rise and are transformed into incorruptible bodies. All converge at a single point in the sky to “meet the Lord in the air.” Then they return to earth ( it never says return to heaven either just, “be with the Lord forever”) in these new bodies to populate the messianic kingdom. It’s the only solution, visually and practically, to an otherwise difficult problem.
It should be noted, immediately following this passage (there are no verse or chapter divisions in the original manuscript), Paul talks about the “Day of the Lord”(1 Thessalonica. 5:2) as synonymous with the parousia of Jesus in terms reminiscent of Matthew 24:43 and 2 Peter 3:10 which unmistakable refer to the Second Coming.
The passage below has been used by some to support the Rapture. An honest appraisal shows the Rapture is not in view.
36“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.“(Matthew 24:36-41)
Notwithstanding, some have made a fortune of misinterpreting and misleading evangelicals with this text, it is obvious the one being “taken away” (vs. 40) is being judged in the same way those in Noah’s day were “took…away” by the flood (vs. 39). This is in keeping with the Judaistic concept of an earthly Messianic kingdom where the subjects remain and the “goats” are removed from the righteous land of Israel.
The current Christian concept of a spiritual heaven grew out of Gentile Christianity which eventually supplanted the prophetic ideal of a literal earthly restored nation. It was obvious to all after the Fall of Jerusalem (70AD), a spiritualized version of the kingdom free of carnality was required for this new version of non Jewish Christianity.
Evangelicals adamantly support a principle of interpretation that maintains clear passage of scripture must be used to clarify unclear passages. In this case, evangelicals reverse their position. Without the “support” of 1 Corinthians, the Rapture theory would not exist. Furthermore, without 1 Thessalonians, 1 Corinthians is an obvious reference to Jesus dramatic return (trumpet and multiple resurrections of dead bodies being revivified and glorified).
Turning from the textual problems with the Rapture theory to one of common sense now. If this incredible event were true, Jesus second coming which is reiterated throughout the New Testament becomes anti-climactic and largely insignificant to anybody alive today. Evangelicals who hold to the Rapture theory, believe prior to Jesus Second Coming, every true believer, alive and dead (read mostly evangelicals), will be raptured to meet Jesus in the sky and return to heaven for exactly seven years while the Great Tribulation occurs. Then Jesus and all his heavenly followers return for his real Second Coming, the first one being a secret partial coming. At this time all the non Christians (Muslims mostly, Buddhists, Sikhs, Catholics, Hindus) are judged and banished to a Christ-less eternity of pain and suffering.
Here’s the issue when one reads the gospels which ONLY refer to Jesus Second Coming. Those being judged are exclusively Gentiles since all Christians were raptured seven years prior and “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26). The common theme throughout the parables about Jesus’ coming is being alert because it will be sudden and unexpected. It defies reason to think if hundreds of millions of people were literally drawn into the sky simultaneously to disappear into the heavens with the glorified son of God, those remaining on earth might not become theologically curious.
I would think the focus of the world would be on what just happened, what else is going to happen and most importantly, WHEN is it going to happen? Evangelicals books on the End Times would be more precious than gold as people scrambled for answers fearing God’s coming wrath. Presumably someone would hit upon the “Seven Years of Tribulation” motif. A countdown clock would be started to mark the time of his return. How is Jesus’ return the surprise it’s supposed to be?
36“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.“(Matthew 24:36)
It is the height of presumption to think after the Rapture, neither the angels of Jesus himself will know when he will return– again!
Furthermore, in Jesus’ final days before his death, he dedicated most of his teaching to a generation of Gentiles thousands of years in the future who are not believers. They will be responsible for reading these parables, concluding they are the main thrust and becoming Christians before the seven years elapses. Do the parables support this view? Not a bit.
The parables describe those who were already faithful but some became complacent, lazy, unfaithful, irresponsible or lax in their duties. But according to evangelicals, the Rapture “snatches up” every single believer leaving only unbelievers. The parables contradict this explicitly by assuming it was because their master was away “a long time” that they became lethargic. Is it really plausible to think someone who becomes a Christian after seeing evangelicals raptured will find seven years too long a time to wait and become lazy? Doesn’t the fact they converted because of the Rapture suggests they will remain faithful at least for seven years? The timing of these parables suggests there were “Christians” when he left which there will not be after the Rapture when these parables go into effect.
The classic sheep and goats parable unravels in light of the Rapture. The “sheep” are “the righteous” (Mt. 25:37) who have performed acts of charity such as clothing the poor, feeding the hungry and visiting the prisoner. It is on this basis alone they take their “inheritance, the kingdom prepared for [them] since the creation of the world” (Mt. 25:34b). This scenario fits perfectly with the Judaistic concept of righteous deeds equal salvation but conflicts with the Christian concept of faith alone not through works of the law. Evangelicals who take this view are forced to conclude Jesus is introducing a Christian concept of imputed righteousness and Gentile inclusion.
A fundamental teaching among American evangelicals is Israel’s special place in God’s program. They believe all Jews alive at the time of the Rapture will acknowledge Jesus as messiah.
The New Testament is unanimous in declaring Jesus return will be an unexpected surprise. A secret rapture of hundreds of millions of Christians might be a hint to the rest of the world something bigger is coming, especially since all the evangelical literature on eschatology describes it as seven years later.
29“Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”(Luke 18:29,30)
Luke is writing with a view of those who have converted to the faith as a result of the hype surrounding the Fall of Jerusalem. No doubt many families were fractured by the fanaticism of messianic fervor. Luke tries to pacify them with promises of blessings and rewards now and when Jesus does return.
However, this entire discussion is moot because the gospel writers’ foreboding was in vain. Jesus never returned.
This raises a particularly difficult question. So who are these directed to if the Bible is divinely inspired and absolutely true?
He spoke them to an exclusively Jewish audience if we believe the Bible. But Jews have never made any significant profession of faith in Jesus as Messiah and won’t until Jesus’ Second Coming, according to evangelicals. Therefore, they can’t be intended for Gentiles since there is no indication of this bifurcation of Christianity; it had not happened yet. The absence of any disciples at the tomb proves they had no idea about a future Millennial kingdom. In other words, the gospel writers envisioned the arrival of the heavenly Christ and his messianic kingdom within their lifetime.
34″Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”(Matthew 24:34, also Mk. 13:30, Lk. 21:32)
27“Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”(Luke 9:27, also Mt. 16:28)
Christians cannot accept this view because it undermines biblical authority. Neither Jesus nor the kingdom arrived as promised. In attempt to salvage the Bible’s credibility, some propose a spiritualized kingdom view while others offer the “dual prophecy fulfillment” theory. The former suggests the kingdom arrived invisibly (Amillennialism) and the latter the predictions of Matthew 24 were only partly fulfilled and await a future complete fulfillment. Both amount to theological sophistry.
The “Judgement Seat” (‘bematos’) of Christ
Evangelical Christians have had a falsehood whispered in their ears for decades. It’s this: “You never have to fear God’s judgment now that you’re a Christian.” If I were still a Christian, I would preach this lie comes from the pit of hell and the lips of Satan. Nothing has contributed more to the insipidness of evangelicalism than the removal of the fear of God’s judgment.
1″For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, 3because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. 6Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7For we live by faith, not by sight. 8We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. 11Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.”(2 Corinthians 5:1-11)
The idea Christians are exempt from punishment is inferred not explicitly stated. The doctrine of eternal security or perseverance of the saints underlies this belief. Theologically it makes sense Jesus salvation protects a believer from judgment. What is in play is not the destiny of one’s soul but God’s respectability. The parable of the “Unmerciful Servant” (Mt. 18:21-35), the “Wicked Servant” (Mt. 24:45-51), the “Ten Virgins” (Mt. 25: ) and “Bags of Gold” (Mt. 25: ) illustrate different aspects of punishment that awaits a follower of Jesus who fails to remain faithful.
Realistically, as long as you are living in obedience to God and fulfilling your obligations as a Christian, you have nothing to worry about whether there is punishment or not. It is precisely because evangelicals are looking to indulge their vices, compromise their morality and avoid sacrifice and commitment they cling tenaciously to the artificial teaching of the Rapture. I would argue, if you really believe in the reality of the events described, you would err on the side of total obedience rather than risk chastisement or worse.
Rapturism is escapism. It is a cowardly teaching providing false hope and security. It gives evangelicals an excuse to shirk their Christian responsibility and ignore divine accountability. It is playing with fire if you believe the Bible.
The Rapture has no place in sound biblical exegesis. 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17 can be easily and smoothly reconciled with the well documented doctrine of the Second Coming of Jesus which pervades the New Testament. The passage in 1 Corinthians is only joined to 1 Thessalonians out of necessity because of similarity of language. Likewise, it perfectly dovetails with the Second Coming teaching. Nothing in either passage is incompatible with other texts.
Abandoning the Rapture would remove evangelicals “buffer zone” which exempts them from persecution and suffering prior to Jesus’ return. If there is no Rapture, a myriad of biblical texts become immediately impactful to evangelicals. Instead of being whisked away to heavenly bliss as divine spectators of the Great Tribulation and Final Judgment, they become participants. And where and how they spend eternity is based on the degree of faithfulness they have exercised on earth prior to Jesus return.
The Rapture also adds seven years to the “salvation clock” which stops when Jesus returns. The tribulation period allows for “all Israel to be saved” (Rom. 11:26) which many evangelicals interpret as Israel’s collective salvation. With no Rapture, all Jews are condemned to hell who did not become Christians. The problem with this view is evangelicals are already insistent the Rapture is secret and in no way the Second Coming yet somehow it has a profound effect on Israel but the rest of the world is in the dark. It is nonsensical but necessary to current Christian Zionistic beliefs.