Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Will the Church Be Raptured from Tribulation?

I was raised with the idea that the believers in Christ would be delivered from the "day of wrath" described in apocalyptic passages (Daniel 12; Revelation 6-9, 15-16, 20 for starters) by being "caught up together with the Lord in the clouds," an event known as "the rapture" in Christian jargon.
"I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left." (words of Jesus, Luke 17:34-35, NIV)
Sounds just like the rapture depicted in popular literature like "Left Behind," right? Well, look at the verses immediately preceding and following, and you'll get a different picture. Here's an example:
"Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all." (words of Jesus, Luke 17:26-27, NIV)
The ones taken are the wicked, not the righteous! The idea of the righteous being zipped away into thin air is NOT what is being conveyed here. However, notice that the destruction comes AFTER Noah entered the ark, and in verses 28-29, AFTER Lot left Sodom. So, there may be some evidence that the righteous are protected or set apart before God pours out his wrath on the earth. This, though, would mean that the righteous would still be on the earth!

Also, Paul tells us that two things must happen before we see the coming of the LORD. In 2 Thessalonians 2, he tells us that before Jesus returns to gather his church, (1) there will be a great falling away, and (2) the man of lawlessness will be revealed. The next verse goes on to say that this man of lawlessness will set himself up in the temple, which is an event that biblical scholars mark at the beginning of the Great Tribulation (which last for a period of 3 and 1/2 years). So, if Paul meant that the church would simply see the man of lawlessness in the public eye, then that leaves room for Jesus to return before the 7-year tribulation. But, if Paul was trying to say that the church would see the man of lawlessness establish himself in the temple, then that would mean Jesus would gather his church together after the 7 years had already started. So, that would leave either a mid- or post-tribulation rapture as a possibility.

As I've been doing research, I've become skeptical of whether there is actually a rapture at all. I know Paul says we will be caught up in the clouds in the twinkling of an eye, but maybe he's using some sort of apocalyptic language that implies that we will be gathered in judgment or something (since clouds often carry the meaning of judgment in the Old Testament). Currently my thought is that either there is no "rapture" at all (in the Evangelical sense of the word), or that the rapture occurs sometime right before or after the Great Tribulation. All I know is that I don't want to be one of the 10 virgins who ran out of oil in the middle of the night and ended up missing the bridegroom's return.

If anyone has any thoughts on this, feel free to comment.

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