The Rapture – Indisputable Christian Heresy

As I was driving one day I encountered a bumper sticker admonishing me:

“WARNING! In the event of Rapture, this car will be driverless.”

The strange belief in the Rapture teaches that some day (sooner rather than later), without warning, born-again Christians will begin to float up from the freeway, abandoned vehicles careening wildly. There will be airliners in the sky suddenly with no one at the controls! Presumably, God is removing these favored ones from earth to spare them the tribulation of the Anti-Christ which the rest of us will have to endure.

Unfortunately the Rapture has been promoted widely by the Left Behind series of books that have sold over 70 million copies.

The Rapture represents a radical misinterpretation of Scripture. I remember watching “Sixty Minutes”a year ago and was appalled to hear the announcer say that “the Rapture is an unmistakenly Christian doctrine”. It is not!

It is a serious distortion of Scripture.

It is astonishing that a belief so contrary to Scripture and the tradition of the Church could be propagated by so-called “Christians”.

According to the Bible and according to the belief not only of Orthodox Christians but also of the Roman Catholic and most Protestant mainline churches, the true Rapture will not be secret; it will be the great and very visible Second Coming of Jesus at the end of the world. That is the one and only “Rapture”. It will not be a separate, secret event but one that every eye shall see (1 Thess. 4:16-17).

The word rapture is not found in Scripture but hearkens to 1 Thess. 4:17 where St. Paul says that when the Lord comes again

“we who are alive…shall be caught up…in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.”

This “being caught up…in the clouds”—arpagisometha in Greek, is translated by some as “raptured”. The word itself is not found in Orthodox theology.

The notion of a rapture in which Christ comes unseen to take believers away secretly, and only later comes back again for everyone else publicly—this whole teaching is quite novel. It was almost unheard of until John Nelson Darby formulated it in the 1800s as part of a new approach to the Bible, sometimes called “dispensationalism”.

The purpose of the “Rapture” is to protect the elect from the tribulations of the end times. Yet Jesus said nothing about sparing anyone from tribulation. In fact, He said,

“In the world you have tribulation, but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.”

Nowhere did Jesus ever say that He would return secretly to rapture the elect. Rather, He promised to be with His elect in all tribulations.

“Lo, I am with you always. I will never leave you or forsake you.”

He even had something good to say about being persecuted:

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:10)…

Darby taught as dogma that when the Scriptures reveal that the Lord will reign on earth for a thousand years (Rev. 20:4), this figure is to be taken literally, rather than as a symbol for eternity as we believe. The Council of Ephesus in A.D. 431 condemned as heresy this teaching which is called chialiasmos (millenianism or 1000 years).

In fact, the Seven Ecumenical Councils (325-787 A.D.) in which the essential truths of the Christian faith were defined never mention a rapture. Yet evangelical Christians and Pentecostals keep using obscure passages of the book of Revelation which purport to give a detailed timetable of what will happen at the end of the world, despite the fact that Jesus Himself warned that no man knows either the day or the hour when the Son of Man shall return.

A major problem with the Rapture is that it ends up teaching not two but three comings of Jesus—first His birth in Bethlehem; second, His secret coming to snatch away (rapture) the “born-again”; and third, His coming at the end of the world to judge the living and the dead and to reign in glory. Yet only two not three comings of Christ are mentioned in the Bible. We have the clearest definition of this in the Nicene Creed when we confess that

“the Lord Jesus Christ…will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. His Kingdom will have no end…. I expect the resurrection of the dead. And the life of the ages to come.”

There is no mention of a “Rapture”…

I can think of no better words to conclude than those of Jesus when He speaks of the one and only “Rapture”, the Second Coming:

“Be on guard. Be alert! You do not know when that time will come…keep watch…if he comes suddenly, do not let Him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: Watch!” (Mark 13:32-37).

Read the whole piece by Fr Anthony M. Coniaris at Ad Orientem here.


6 thoughts on “The Rapture – Indisputable Christian Heresy

  1. I guess I am a “heretic” 😉 , for I believe and follow a certain Pre-Millennial doctrine. We should note that the early church had many really that followed a literal Millenarian doctrine also: Ireneaus, Justin (Martyr), Papias, Tertullian.. the list is long so I will not place all. And later some Anglicans and English (note the great Joseph Mede). And here too were, Thomas Goodwin, and even Sir Isaac Newton. And of course the late 19th and early 20th century, there were many Anglicans, perhaps one of the most well known was Henry Alford, noted editor of the Greek New Testament. Yes, we can tie some of this to the movement of Zionism, and the movement of the Jewish people to their land. And then of course the making of Modern Israel in 1948, etc. We simply cannot overlook this great and profound historic reality! And it appears it is now going to be historically and politically centered in our world! And for us who believe this, it will in time move the world into an eschatological end! (Zech. 14 / Rev. 1:7, etc.)

    I am myself Historic Pre-Mill/post trib., though I am drawn close to the so-called Progressive Dispensationalism, note here the classic work of Dr.’s Blaising and Bock, and their book: Progressive Dispensationalism. And also Dr. Robert Saucy’s now classic book: The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism: The Interface Between Dispensational & Non-Dispensational Theology.

    Let’s not throw out ‘the baby with the bath water’ here over this subject!

      1. Yeah, that’s the most popular Reformation position also. However, even the Catholic Church has had some Pre-Mill people and theolog’s along the way. We should have some humility here, in our theological and biblical studies! But one thing most be certain, Christ is Coming literally to this earth, for both His people, and to judge the world! And if we have hearts and ‘eyes to see’, it is closer today and in every generation!

        “He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” (Rev. 22:20, NKJV)

      2. At some point, I think, the Catholic Church judged that premillennialism could not be safely taught – though the issue hasn’t been dogmatically defined (cf. CCC 676). But yes, it’s indeed all about being ready… spiritually.

      3. Yes, I have friends and people both Reformed/Reformational, and Catholic, and too Orthodox. That think I am a bit over literal here, but we simply must be “in” and thinking over the Word of God! I will perhaps not see the Second Coming of Christ myself? But, no matter I will be there somehow with and In Christ! 🙂

  2. And oh btw, ‘The Rapture’ (“our gathering together to Him” – 2 Thess. 2:1), is not a wrong doctrine, but its “timing”. It comes with the Second Coming itself!

    “Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him.”

Post a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s