Saturday, May 21, 2011

Why The Rapture Didn’t Happen Today and it Probably Never Will

I suppose, because of my post title, the cat is out of the bag on my eschatology. So I’ll start this post right off the bat saying, it’s my conviction that there will be no rapture of the Church. I believe the overwhelming weight of biblical evidence in no way shape or form supports a phased approach of the coming of the Lord. Let me explain why.

Firstly (I love that word) if we study the history of this idea we will find that this whole notion of the rapture is a relatively new idea, this fact alone should cause us to pause.

There is some debate as to who came up with this idea originally but most credit it to John Darby. Darby revealed his eschatological view and outlined his idea on this so called “rapture” at the Powerscourt Conference in 1831.

It is very difficult to find any evidence of ”rapture” eschatology prior to Darby’s teaching it beginning in 1831.

So why has it become mainstream?
Well the answer is simple. The Christian church has lost its foundation and connection to the roots of Judaism. Most of our modern Christianity has taken a direction influenced highly by the enlightenment age. Because of this the Christian story has been disconnected from the Jewish story. Something God never intended.

So the challenge and the question we are faced with is, if for almost a thousand years after Jesus showed up not a single person believed in this “rapture” idea, why do so many believe it today?

Again it goes back to the story. The bible has within its construct a meta-narrative. To highly summarize the meta-narrative within Judaism it’s this:

God created all things Good, Satan and the powers distorted that good, God in His grace and mercy has not abandoned His creation to destruction and chaos but instead put a plan in place that would eventually lead to the reconciliation and redemption of all things. That plan began with Abraham.

In Judaism this is referred to as the "Tikkun Olam" or the repair of the world.

Jesus and the Church flow out of this reality, which will end up with heaven coming to earth, the original place God intended to dwell. This was the goal from the very beginning. That God would dwell with man and the whole of creation would be a holy temple.

So the flaw in Darby’s theology and the one this absurd end of the world talk is wrapped up in, is rooted in a non-biblical belief that all of reality is about somewhere else and not about this place, this earth, and this humanity. The idea that we will all go off to a distant spiritual reality is an idea we get from Plato not from the bible.

We have a guarantee from the creator that he will put it all back together, or as N.T Wright states “put the world to rights.” He doesn’t need to exile his church to do this, in fact that would be counter to the way God has always done things.

God uses “agents” to accomplish His purposes, to remove His followers and Kingdom agents would fly in the face of how he created things to work in this world. The way He created things to work was that His followers are His hands and feet in the world and the mechanisms by how his will gets done. His will is to reconcile and renew all things, this earth, this humanity not to destroy it. Therefore we have a job to do, participate in new creation, rush the future renewed world into the present anyway we can. Love Wins!

The only thing that gives me concern, that I hope I am wrong about, is that in my thinking it would seem logical that the world is probably going to have to mess itself up quite a bit more. In essence things may have to become much worse before they get better.

To quote Martin Luther “If I knew Jesus was coming back tomorrow I’d go plant a tree.”

So let’s embrace the greater reality to participate in new creation, this Tikkun Olam, right now in this present reality. Let's let God worry about the future and more importantly let's make those people's lives around us better instead of worse.


Kurt Willems said...

Excellent as always! Couldnt agree more Dan...

Dan Martin said...

Don't give me credit, Kurt. That is Ben Bajarin's first addition to the blog. Ben has just joined me as co-author and will be taking the lead on a creative redesign. He'll also be kicking me in the backside to write more often! ;{)

John said...


I thought I corrected this error of yours last year, so I guess this is going to be "secondly." The idea that Darby invented the rapture construct is not supported in the literaure.

- John L. Bray offered $500.00 to anyone who come up with evidence in the literature prior to McDonald He lost the bet to himself by researching and finding The Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty – Emmanuel Lacunza (1812) had taught rapture eschatology.

So Bray offered the $500 again. Again, he found and wrote about a work published in England in 1742 with the teaching of the rapture. There have been a lot of writings.

To date, the most ancient mention is a sermon by Ephraem The Syrian who stated in a Byzantine text – On the Last Times, the Antichrist and the End of the World ~ 370 AD

“for all the saints and Elect of God are gathered, prior to the tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins.”

The same author discusses the concept of Daniel’s 69th week ended with the Rejection/Crucifixion and the 70th week consisted of a rapture, the rule of the anti-Christ and the final return of Christ.

While this does not prove Rapture Eschatology, it certainly counters your point that it was originated by Darby.

John Hannigan

Ben Bajarin said...

John, this is why I said very difficult. Now to flesh that out further I surveyed three resident historians at well known and respected seminaries whom I have access to and asked this question.

Yes everyone agreed Darby made it popular, thanks much to his emphasis on dispensationalism. What I was told about those mentions prior were that none of them were taken seriously by anyone who has a grip on sound doctrine and did not make it into mainstream because it was considered crazy talk.

So in essence there was no credible voice who backed it up with a sound exegesis until Darby.

I'll probably write a post to address the gross mis-understadings of revelation in modern day interpretation. Also a new idea.

I'll highlight key parts of historical exegesis and context that make sense of key passages as well as how all though not prophetic about the future more of a warning about things in the future. Beware of Anti-Christ like behavior, and do not succumb to the empire etc.. In essence its a book more about hope than fear or damnation. God will put the world to rights!

Dan Martin said...

While this does not prove Rapture Eschatology, it certainly counters your point that it was originated by Darby.

John, I appreciate your closing with this comment. You allude to a point that I believe is overlooked all too often in theological circles...and that is that nothing else is Scripture. While it is instructive to consider the perspectives of various historic writers, including those we now describe as "Church Fathers," we dare never lose sight of the fact that doctrine/dogma (insofar as it's appropriate at all) may only be derived from Scripture itself. Patristic sources are authoritative as references to historic thought, but with regard to doctrine they must be subjected to the Scriptural lens as surely as ideas that come from you or me.

Thanks for keeping this in perspective...I'm sorry we can no longer hash this stuff out in person!

Kurt Willems said...

Now to give credit where its due...

Ben, this post kicks @$$!

Fernando Villamar said...

"So the flaw in Darby’s theology and the one this absurd end of the world talk is wrapped up in, is rooted in a non-biblical belief that all of reality is about somewhere else and not about this place, this earth, and this humanity. The idea that we will all go off to a distant spiritual reality is an idea we get from Plato not from the bible."

If it wasn't for Plato and Kant, religion and any epistemology based on faith in mystical nonsense would have died a long time ago. It's quite entertaining to see a mystic call out another mystic for being unconcerned with reality.

Dan Martin said...

If it wasn't for Plato and Kant, religion and any epistemology based on faith in mystical nonsense would have died a long time ago.

I don't know about that, Fernando. People were looking to gods of various sorts long before Plato (and certainly before & since Kant). Although you may find it all nonsense, the reality is that a whole lot of people have seen otherwise over the millenia.

Nevertheless, I won't try to defend our "mystical" thoughts against your objections; a large part of my hope is that some day we can actually get enough fellow "mystics" to live out the concrete realities of the life Jesus modeled and commanded. If we ever do that, you'll have plenty of tangible evidence to weigh. Frankly, the burden of proof rests with those of us who claim the faith...and we've done a pretty lousy job of representing it so far. For this truth I give you (and God) my sincere regrets.

Ben Bajarin said...

Fernando, hows it going. Come have a beer at my house soon.

Needless to say I am certain I completely agree with all of your critiques of institutional religion. I am assuming you believe the world would be a better place without religious fanatics.

I'd have to say I certainly agree that there are many, like the ones who started this whole end of the world fiasco, who are so out of touch with this world that they are irrelevant to it. I agree the world is better off without them and I wish they had been raptured.

The bottom line however is mystic or not there are a lot of people who because of their faith, namely in Jesus, who have dedicated their lives to the things Jesus was about. Like brining water to the thirsty, food to the hungry, fighting for those on the underside of power, standing up to those who abuse power, fighting poverty and systemic oppression and lots more.

These are the kinds of things God cares about and the types of things true faith in God would manifest.

I agree with Dan that the church owes the world an apology. We have given the world an incorrect picture of God because of our actions, ultimately the church in this time period may be held accountable for that.

But I am optimistic that things could change, that Jesus followers can be inspired to make this world better and not worse. Solely based on the idea that Jesus stood for sacrificial love.

When you see sacrificial love in action it is very difficult to argue that a belief that brings about that kind of action is even remotely a bad thing.

Every idea, philosophy, system, religion etc has its flaws. Those flaws are called people. It's not the idea its how people, because of pride, desire of power, greed etc distort that idea that screws it up.

Dan Martin said...

@Fernando Villamar, you may be interested in two posts I wrote last fall regarding the ugliness the church has presented to the world:

The Gospel According to Heinlein and

An Open Letter to Christopher Hitchens

Rocky2 said...

Hi all, you might enjoy Googling "Pretrib Rapture Diehards," "Pretrib Rapture Secrets," "Deceiving and Being Deceived" by D.M., and "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty." Oh, and "The Real Manuel Lacunza" and "Catholics Did NOT Invent the Rapture" also.

Traveler Andrew Sheets said...

Nailing this to your door: Matthew 24:50,51:

Dan Martin said...

@Traveller, it's called a "parable." That means it's got a point to tell, and not every literal detail is real life.

Rocky2 said...

[Saw this related bit on the net]

Pretrib Rapture Pride

Pretrib rapture promoters like Thomas Ice give the impression they know more than the early Church Fathers, the Reformers, the greatest Greek New Testament scholars including those who produced the KJV Bible, the founders of their favorite Bible schools, and even their own mentors!
Ice's mentor, Dallas Sem. president John Walvoord, couldn't find anyone holding to pretrib before 1830 - and Walvoord called John Darby and his Brethren followers "the early pretribulationists" (RQ, pp. 160-62). Ice belittles Walvoord and claims that several pre-1830 persons, including "Pseudo-Ephraem" and a "Rev. Morgan Edwards," taught a pretrib rapture. Even though the first one viewed Antichrist's arrival as the only "imminent" event, Ice (and Grant Jeffrey) audaciously claim he expected an "imminent" pretrib rapture! And Ice (and John Bray) have covered up Edwards' historicism which made a pretrib rapture impossible! Google "Morgan Edwards' Rapture View" and journalist/historian Dave MacPherson's "Deceiving and Being Deceived" for documentation on these and similar historical distortions.
The same pretrib defenders, when combing ancient books, deviously read "pretrib" into phrases like "before Armageddon," "before the final conflagration," and "escape all these things"!
BTW, the KJV translators' other writings found in London's famed British Library (where MacPherson has researched) don't have even a hint of pretrib rapturism. Is it possible that Ice etc. have found pretrib "proof" in the KJV that its translators never found?
Pretrib merchandisers like Ice claim that nothing is better pretrib proof than Rev. 3:10. They also cover up "Famous Rapture Watchers" (on Google) which shows how the greatest Greek NT scholars of all time interpreted it.
Pretrib didn't flourish in America much before the 1909 Scofield Bible which has pretribby "explanatory notes" in its margins. Not seen in the margins was jailed forger Scofield's criminal record throughout his life that David Lutzweiler has documented in his recent book "The Praise of Folly" which is available online.
Biola University's doctrinal statement says Christ's return is "premillennial" and "before the Tribulation." Although universities stand for "academic freedom," Biola has added these narrow, restrictive phrases - non-essentials the founders purposely didn't include in their original doctrinal statement when Biola was just a small Bible institute! And other Christian schools have also belittled their founders.
Ice, BTW, has a "Ph.D" issued by a tiny Texas school that wasn't authorized to issue degrees! Ice now says that he's working on another "Ph.D" via the University of Wales in Britain.

Irv said...

Rev. John Bray is mentioned above. An eye-opening piece on him I saw lately on Joe Ortiz' blog on which there is an item titled "Is John Bray a PINO?"

Irv said...

[Greets, Nailing it to the door. Enjoy this little item I just spotted on the net.]


by Dave MacPherson

John Bray's 1982 booklet "The Origin of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Teaching" claimed that 18th century Jesuit priest Manuel Lacunza originated the pretrib rapture in his 1812 work "The Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty." Bray stated Lacunza saw a 45-day period between a rapture and Christ's touchdown on earth - a 45-day period Bray viewed as "tribulation" days.
But Lacunza was only saying that the "day of the Lord" would be at least 45 days long - the difference between the 1290 days and the 1335 days in Dan. 12. Somehow Bray failed to note that those 45 days could not begin until the tribulation days were "concluded" (Vol. II, p. 250) - and Bray may have been influenced by those who erroneously believe that the "day of the Lord" INCLUDES the tribulation!
Not only did Lacunza begin his 45 days AT the joint rapture/second coming, but he even had the raptured ones back on earth DURING those 45 days (Vol. II, pp. 262-3) to minister to "the relics [trib survivors] of all nations" [see Isa. 18:2] during the cleanup of Antichrist's rubble (similar to the cleaning up of New York's Twin Towers' rubble before new buildings could be built)!
In Vol. I (p. 83) Lacunza writes that "the nineteenth chapter [of Revelation] speaks of the coming of the Lord in glory and majesty, which Christians with one consent do wait for."
On pp. 99-100, after quoting I Thess. 4:13-18, Lacunza quotes Matt. 24:30 and then comments: "If you compare this text with that of St. Paul, you shall find no other difference than this, that those who are to arise on the coming of the Lord, the apostle nameth those who are dead in Christ, who sleep in Jesus; and the Lord nameth them his elect."
And in Vol. I (p. 113) Lacunza again quotes I Thess. 4 and Matt. 24 like this: "...He shall descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we who are alive, &c. and it appears to me, that you will find St. Paul and the Gospel speaking one and the same thing: He shall send his angels and they shall gather his elect from the four winds; who can be no other than those very ones who are in Christ, who sleep in Jesus."
Interestingly, even Tim LaHaye's 1992 book "No Fear of the Storm" admits on p. 169 that "Lacunza never taught a pre-Trib Rapture!"
For more on Bray and his other groundless claims, Google "Is John Bray a PINO?," "Morgan Edwards' Rapture View," "Catholics Did NOT Invent the Rapture," "John Darby Did NOT Invent the Rapture," "Margaret Macdonald's Rapture Chart," "Edward Irving Vs. John Darby," and "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty."
Finally, since the earliest pretrib rapture promoters were overwhelmingly anti-Catholic, it's not likely they would have adopted anything from a Catholic!

Dan Martin said...

@Irv and @Rocky2, thanks for your comments. I do think it helps to flesh out the historical narrative.

By the way, though, this blog moved from blogspot to my own hosted site my own hosted site about 3-4 years ago ... you'll find more current stuff there.