Does the NT affirm a rapture of the church? – Brief 11


Question: Does the NT affirm a rapture of the church?


The New Testament does not affirm a rapture of the church. The rapture is a teaching that God will remove believers, i.e. the church, before the tribulation and the Second Coming of Jesus (McGrath, 461). This view is primarily associated with pretribulation premillennial dispensationalists (McGrath, 461).

Those who teach a “rapture” base this on an understanding that 1 Thessalonians 4:15-7 teaches that believers will be “caught up in the clouds” with Christ (McGrath, 455). Dispensationalists teach that the rapture is different than the Second Coming and they are separated by the Great Tribulation (Horton, 951). Some have described the rapture as a “secret rapture” or a “secret coming” since it could occur at any moment (Erickson, 1197). The rapture is when Christ “comes for” the church and the Second Coming is when Christ “comes with” the church after the Great Tribulation (Erickson, 1197). This teaching could be said to really present a second and third coming or a second coming that occurs in two phases (Erickson, 1225).

This theory of the rapture is not consistent with the teachings of the New Testament. First, Paul is attempting to encourage and correct the Thessalonians who were confused about Christ return (1 Thess. 4.13, 18). They were confused about what would happen to those who believers who had already died when Christ returns (Schriener, 818). Second, the “coming of the Lord” will not be a secret event. There will be a “cry of command” from the archangel and the “sound of the trumpet of God” (1 Thess. 4.16). Jesus teaches that his return will be as “lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west” (Matt. 24.27). Jesus will come “on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory and send out his angels with a loud trumpet call” to gather his elect (Matt. 24.30-31). Third, Jesus said that “all the tribes of the earth” will see his return not just those who believe (Matt. 4.30). Fourth, Jesus teaches in Matthew 24 that some of the elect will be present during the tribulation which contradicts the teaching that the rapture keeps the church out of the tribulation (Erickson, 1225).

The “secret rapture” of the church was first formulated by John Nelson Darby in the nineteenth century (Horton, 954). Therefore this view has only been around for the last two hundred years. The reason that pretribulation premillennial dispensationalism and its teaching of the rapture has achieved a significant foothold in the United State is primarily due to Cyrus I. Scofield’s notes in the Scofield Reference Bible (McGrath,  455).

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1998.

Horton, Michael Scott. The Christian Faith: a Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011.

McGrath, Alister E. Christian Theology: an Introduction. Chichester, West Sussex, U.K.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

Schreiner, Thomas R. New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008.


2 Responses to “Does the NT affirm a rapture of the church? – Brief 11”

  1. 1 Chester

    (Kevin: Good blog. Seen this? I ran into it while glued to my computer.)


    How can the “rapture” be “imminent”? Acts 3:21 says that Jesus “must” stay in heaven (He’s now at the Father’s “right hand,” Acts 2:34) “until the times of restitution of all things” which includes, says Scofield, “the restoration of the theocracy under David’s Son” which obviously can’t begin before or during Antichrist’s reign. (“The Rapture Question,” by long time No. 1 pretrib authority John Walvoord, didn’t dare to even list, in its scripture index, these too-hot-to-handle verses!) Since Jesus can’t even leave heaven before the tribulation ends, which is also when His foes are finally put down (made His “footstool,” Acts 2:35), the rapture therefore can’t take place before the end of the trib! (The same Acts verses were also too hot for John Darby – the so-called “father of dispensationalism” – to list in the scripture index in his “Letters” which covers Acts 2 and 3 much more comprehensively than Walvoord’s!)
    Paul explains the “times and the seasons” (I Thess. 5:1) of the catching up (I Thess. 4:17) as the “day of the Lord” (5:2) which FOLLOWS the posttrib sun/moon darkening (Matt. 24:29; Acts 2:20) WHEN “sudden destruction” (5:3) of the wicked occurs! The “rest” for “all them that believe” is also tied to such destruction in II Thess. 1:6-10! (If the wicked are destroyed before or during the trib, who’d be left alive to serve the Antichrist?) Paul also ties the change-into-immortality “rapture” (I Cor. 15:52) to the posttrib end of “death” (15:54). (Will death be ended before or during the trib? Of course not! And vs. 54 is also tied to Isa. 25:8 which is Israel’s posttrib resurrection!)
    Many are unaware that before 1830 all Christians had always viewed I Thess. 4’s “catching up” as an integral part of the final second coming to earth. In 1830 this “rapture” was stretched forward and turned into a separate coming of Christ. To further strengthen their novel view, which the mass of evangelical scholars rejected throughout the 1800s, pretrib teachers in the early 1900s began to stretch forward the “day of the Lord” (what Darby and Scofield never dared to do) and hook it up with their already-stretched-forward “rapture.” Many leading evangelical scholars still weren’t convinced of pretrib, so some pretrib teachers then began teaching that the “falling away” of II Thess. 2:3 is really a pretrib rapture (the same as saying that the “rapture” in 2:3 must happen before the “rapture” ["gathering"] in 2:1 can happen – the height of desperation!).
    Here are some Google articles on the 182-year-old pretrib rapture view: “Pretrib Rapture Politics,” “Pretrib Rapture Scholar Wannabes,” “Famous Rapture Watchers,” “Pretrib Rapture Diehards,” “X-Raying Margaret,” “Edward Irving is Unnerving,” “Thomas Ice (Bloopers),” “Walvoord Melts Ice,” “Wily Jeffrey,” “The Rapture Index (Mad Theology),” “America’s Pretrib Rapture Traffickers,” “Roots of (Warlike) Christian Zionism,” “Scholars Weigh My Research,” “Pretrib Hypocrisy,” “Thieves’ Marketing,” “Appendix F: Thou Shalt Not Steal,” “Pretrib Rapture Secrecy,” “Deceiving and Being Deceived,” and “Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty” – all by the author of the extremely accurate and highly endorsed book “The Rapture Plot” (see Armageddon Books).

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