Could the antiRapturists Be Right?
Vol: 49 Issue: 22 Saturday, October 22, 2005
Could the antiRapturists Be Right?
Did you ever wonder whether or not the Rapture detractors might be right when they make their arguments against what they deride as the ‘Great Escape’?
I mean, when you sit right down and explain to someone what the Rapture is all about, doesn’t it occasionally make you wince?
Don’t you ever wonder whether or not the Rapture really WAS an invention of J.N. Darby in the early 1800’s as the preterists often argue? And don’t you sometimes wonder, if the Rapture is such a key component of Bible doctrine, why there are so many mainstream Christian denominations that neither teach nor believe in it?
Dispensationalists make up but a tiny minority of the professing Church, while almost all mainstream Protestant and Catholic Churches ignore Bible prophecy as irrelevant. Indeed, the world’s largest Christian denomination, the Roman Catholic Church, denies any possibility of a Rapture at any time. Catholicism teaches that, even saved people still have unforgiven sins at the time of their deaths.
Purgatory, according to the Catholic encyclopedia, is a ” place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God’s grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions. ”
Depending on one’s sins, one could spend hundreds, or even thousands of years, in Purgatory, unless some living person prays you out of there by obtaining from the Church something called a ‘Plenary Indulgence’.
A Rapture of the Church cannot therefore exist, without first eliminating the doctrine of Purgatory.
Christian Reconstructionism, which represents the majority of mainstrean theological thought, teaches that all Bible prophecy was fulfilled with the Destruction of the Temple in AD 70.
It teaches that Jesus will not return again until the Second Coming and His Second Coming will not occur until Christianity becomes the world’s dominant religion and the world itself is prepared by the Church to accept Him when He comes.
If one sits down with a Christian Reconstructionist to discuss the major doctrines of the Church, including salvation, sin and the Deity of Christ, one discovers that the proponents of that doctrine are as sincere as you and I, and love the Lord as much as you and I.
They are as well-versed in Scripture as you and I and are as confident of their understanding as you and I. Moreover, and maybe most importantly, they are as sincere and unshakeable in their beliefs as you and I.
So, we return to the central question. Since they represent the majority of the professing Church, and are as studied, as certain and as sincere as you and I are, is it possible that maybe they are right, as well?
After all, each of us claims to serve the same Jesus and each of us uses the same Bible to gain our understanding of both Jesus and our faith. But we reach entirely different conclusions from our studies.
And things that are different are not the same.
When applied to a sinner seeking forgiveness for his sins and trusting in Jesus for salvation, sincerity is an essential element. One cannot fool God. But sincerity is no substitute for scholarship, and one can be sincere and be sincerely wrong.
The doctrine of the Rapture, when expressed out loud and described to an unbeliever, sounds almost like a science-fiction story or a religious fable. Especially when one is articulating it to a skeptic.
Until one compares it to the more mainstream interpretations. They share a common denominator that, to a discerning Christian, leaves no doubt as to which view is in error.
Note that Catholics must finish paying for their sins in Purgatory before they can enter heaven. And whether or not they enter at all depends on their state of grace at the time of their death. Whether or not they make it to Purgatory depends on their own works, and when they get out is conditional on their making their own payment for sin.
Note that Reconstructionism demands that man purify himself by his actions and conduct, thereby influencing the world for good until eventually, all men turn to Christ, at which time, the Lord will return. Jesus can’t come back to the world until we human beings make it a fit place for Him to set Foot on.
Both views subtly deny His Deity, while elevating man to the place where he plays a role in his own salvation. The forgiveness of Christ is not all sufficient and His power is limited and conditional upon human behavior.
Jesus cannot keep you after salvation unless you are somehow able to keep from sinning from there on in. If you sin hard enough, you will sin yourself out of His Hands, in spite of His promise;
“And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My Hand. My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s Hand.” (John 10:28-29)
Man cannot help but want to play a role in his own salvation. It is a matter of pride. The very first time it rears its head in human history is in the Garden of Eden. Compare the First Lie with the doctrine of conditional salvation:
“And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)
Starting back to front, is it possible for a fallible human being to know good from evil? We can know right from wrong, but good and evil are not actions, they are outcomes, and only God knows outcomes. One can give a bum on the street some money for food. That is a good thing.
The bum spends the money on crack cocaine, and then kills an innocent person while under the influence. That’s an evil thing.
Both events sprang from your gift of money. Was giving the bum the money a good thing, or an evil thing? Right and wrong are obvious. Good and evil are the provinces of God.
But according to Reconstructionism, the world is too evil a place for the Lord to return to, and it is the role to the Church to make it ‘good’.
The next lie, in reverse order, is that ‘we shall be as gods’. James writes that, “There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy . . .” (James 4:12) Salvation is the sole province of God.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)
Note there are two elements to this verse, ‘grace’ and ‘faith’. One of them is a ‘gift of God’. Which? Is it ‘grace’? Only if one redefines an action to become a thing. ‘Grace’ means ‘a gift’.
One cannot give grace AS a gift. It is not a thing, it is the extension OF a thing. Which brings us to the second element, the element of ‘faith’.
FAITH is the gift of God, not grace, which is the extension of the gift itself. That means that even that saving faith is not of ourselves, but is God’s gift to us. Our role as an active participant in our salvation is therefore excluded. We are not ‘as gods’ — no matter how sincerely we want to believe otherwise.
The third lie, in reverse order, is that by straying away from the Word of God, ‘our eyes will be opened’ to truths that would have otherwise escaped us.
Note that when the serpent asked Eve to repeat God’s prohibition, she replied, “of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” (Genesis 3:3) God never told her not to ‘touch it’ — she added that part, which provided the serpent with all the leeway he needed to cast doubt on her understanding of the rest.
“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired TO MAKE ONE WISE, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat . . ” (Genesis 3:6)
Returning to the original question, is it possible that our understanding of eternal security is wrong and that the mainstream was right all along? That there is no Rapture, that Bible prophecy was all fulfilled already, and that we are simply seeking some mythical “Great Escape?”
After all, they argue, why should one generation, out of all those who came before, be chosen as the generation that will never die? It is a compelling argument. Viewed that way, it doesn’t really seem fair. Who do we think we are?
The Rapture is as earned and deserved as our salvation, which we obtained through God’s extension of grace whereby He gifted us with saving faith. That saving faith is in the unearned remission of our sins which was obtained on our behalf on Calvary’s Cross.
We’ve explored the Scriptures that clearly promise a coming Rapture, and examined all the various views at one point or another. A pretribulation Rapture of the Church is in harmony with the Scriptures for the last days. Fairness, insofar as mankind views fairness, is irrelevant.
‘Fairness’ as we understand fairness, would be when each of us pays our own way. But all of us are saved on the understanding that Jesus was condemned ‘unfairly’ for sin and His payment was therefore acceptable payment for our own sins.
Faith in Christ means faith in Christ, not in men, or in our own actions, or in what we believe sounds fair.
“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:1-3)