I have been getting a lot of questions about this one. We've heard about it on the news lately and there seems to be billboards all over the country talking about it (although, I don't know if anything like this is being done in other countries. If so, I'm certain it's not to the extreme that it is in America).
Or, more correctly, the so-called 'rapture'. The reason for the 'so-called' and the quote around the word 'rapture' is that, now get this...
The rapture is not true.
In fact, it was not even in the vocabulary of the church until the early to mid 1800s (although there is supposed to be a text from as early as the late 1700s). Now think about this for a moment. This joyous experience was not even on the lips of the followers of Jesus for over 1800 years. None of the apostles talked or wrote about it (we'll get to some of the biblical texts in a moment). None of the church Fathers or Mothers wrote about it. None of the churches councils ever made declarations on it or wrote creeds about it. This should make us really pause for just one moment at least.
'But what about when Jesus said...'
'Or when Paul wrote...'
Let's look at some of those passages very briefly.
In Matthews Gospel, after blasting the religious elite of his day (Matthew 23), Jesus said, 'Your house is left to you deserted' and stormed out of the Temple (23.38; CEB). I'm sure you could have heard a pin drop. And the the yelling begins! Quickly the disciples follow Jesus. Not really sure that they heard him properly, they point out the buildings of the Temple with all of the beautiful stones, gold, etc. (Matthew 24.1). Jesus responds, 'Do you see all these things? I assure that no stone will be left on another. Everything will be demolished' (24.2), and then goes off to the Mount of Olives. Yeah, they had heard him correctly. Their Temple would be destroyed. The world as they knew it would be coming to an end. They only had one question on their minds - when? (24.3; I know that Matthew's Gospel has three questions, but when compared to Mark and Luke, you can see their main concern was when the Temple would be destroyed).
Now notice Jesus response to them, 'Watch out that no one deceives you' (24.4). Jesus was talking about the Temple that he and his disciples visited daily. He told them that that very Temple would be destroyed. To make certain of this, they pointed to the Temple they just left. He clearly stated that their Temple would be demolished. They ask him when it will happen and Jesus warns them not to be deceived. There is no way, in good conscience, that we can take these words and think that Jesus was really talking about us and our time. None whatsoever. As my good friends recently said, 'Words mean something!'
Throughout the rest of the chapter, Jesus uses the personal pronoun 'you' more than twenty times (depending on which translation you use). If we were standing on that mountain with them, there is no way we would have thought Jesus meant other followers, thousands of years in the future, when he kept saying 'you' and looking at us! And yet that is what people would have us believe.
'But what about the signs - the sun going dark, the stars falling from heaven, etc.?'
All of those things have happened repeatedly throughout the Jewish Scriptures. Over and over again, when a powerful nation falls, the prophets of old used cataclysmic language to talk about its demise. Isaiah 34.1-5 is a classic example. In that passage, mountains are drenched in blood, the heavens melt away, the stars fall from the sky, etc. etc. That prophecy was against Edom (verse 5) and none of those things literally happened. Certainly, the nation was destroyed, but none of the 'end of the world' events took place. The language is poetic language describing the 'end of the world' for the nation of Edom. That is exactly the same thing that Jesus and the New Testament writers did. They were prophets warning about the 'end of the world' for the first century Jewish nation. And, just as Jesus said that his contemporary 'generation won’t pass away until all these things happen' and Paul wrote that the 'end of time' had come upon them, their predictions came true within their generation.
In Paul's letter to the Thessalonians, where the infamous passage occurs (and the context is clearly about the resurrection), he talks about going out (or being 'taken up') to where Jesus is. The scene that Paul paints is of a king coming to a city. The people run out to meet the king. But the people don't stay outside the city! They come with the king in to the city. And that's exactly what we see in Revelation 21.
In that passage, the realm of God (referred to as the New Jerusalem) actually comes down to the realm of humanity! The two realms become one place.
'But what about the Antichrist?'
Well, the only place that the antichrist is mentioned is in 1John 2.18. There 'John' wrote, 'Little children, it is the last hour. Just as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have appeared. This is how we know it is the last hour.' There are a couple of things that needed to be pointed out here. First, 'John' was writing to followers of Jesus in the first century - not us today. Second, 'John' wrote that it was the 'last hour'. Please let that sink in. We have been told for years that we are living in the 'last days' and yet, right here in the Bible, the very Bible that some claim plainly teaches about the 'rapture', the Bible plainly states that it was the 'last hour' - not today, but then. Lastly, 'John' wrote that 'antichrists' were a reality when that letter was written.
We could go through each passage (and I have already started doing that a while back but am still working on it), but the Bible is quite clear. There is no 'rapture'. The last 'days' were about the War of the Jews in 66-70 CE when the Temple was destroyed. The antichrist was a reality in the first century.
I hope that clears some of this up. And, if you want to have more of a conversation about this, please leave a question or comment below.
In the Love of the Three in One,