The Pre-trib "Rapture", Myth or Fact?
A subject that has come up quite a few times recently in various articles, is the belief by certain Christians in 'The Pre-trib Rapture'. For those of you who have not heard of this belief before, as I understand it, this "Rapture" is a time in the future when Jesus will return to earth and all previously 'Saved' Christians (approx 5-10% of the population) will be taken up to Heaven in a new form, leaving behind all the unsaved ones to wonder where all the missing millions of people have vanished to. Okay, this is slightly oversimplifying the case, but there seem to be varying opinions on what happens to those who apparently remain 'unsaved' and are stuck here on earth, including suggestions of 7 years of Tribulation, the Antichrist, an option to have a second chance to accept Christ as the Saviour, etc.
Now this struck me a rather unfair on all those poor Souls who cannot possibly accept Jesus as their Saviour because they live in some obscure or Ancient long lost tribe and have never even heard of Jesus. It also seems rather harsh on the people who follow other religions such as Buddhism, Paganism, etc, and have shown love and respect throughout their lives for other people and God's creatures, yet they would be denied a place in Heaven simply because the God they chose to believe in was not Christ, or was not the Christ we see from today's interpretations of the Bible, (contrary to popular misconceptions, Pagans are not Atheists and do believe in a God or Goddess and frequently Christ too). I decided this was a subject worth following up on to see where this belief in 'The Rapture' started, and I am fascinated by what I have found.
I would also be interested to hear other comments from either Christians or non-Christians on this subject, as at this point I freely admit I am no expert on the subject, although I am curious as to how and why this belief has become so popular when it seems so cruel on the majority who have done nothing wrong except not be Evangelical Christians.
It also seems a large part of the beliefs in what will happen should the Pre-trib "Rapture" occur have been taken literally from the series of 'Left Behind' books by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.
Question : "My friends' church tells her Jesus will come again and all who believe in him will be raptured. The pastor teaches her that at this rapture people will be lifted up immediately into Heaven with Jesus at the second coming. If they are driving a car, or piloting a plane, or even having a baby, they will go, and the plane would crash, the car will keep on going without them, and the baby would go with them. Everyone left will have to suffer through a series of tribulations that are interpreted from the book of Revelations very literally and horribly. What does Jesus say about the rapture, and about the series of books titled Left Behind, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins?"
Answer: I have no problem with people reading these books, as long as they consider them to be works of religious fiction. I do, however, have a problem with the fact that millions of people have read these books and have either taken them literally and believe they give a true account of what could happen or have become so confused by these books that they don’t know what to believe.
Let me make a very clear statement. The idea of the rapture, as described in the Left Behind books and described by certain fundamentalist churches especially in the United States, is completely fictional. It has absolutely no basis in reality.
It would be too mild to say that this idea was based on a misinterpretation of the Bible. In reality, this mindset is inspired, one might say engineered, by dark forces in a deliberate attempt, and I might say a desperate attempt, to keep the largest possible number of Christians in the fear-based mindset in which they have been trapped for almost 2,000 years.
The definition of the "Rapture" according to http://www.religioustolerance.org/rapture3.htm
Conservative Theologians and Believers: Most Evangelical Christians believe that the Rapture, will happen sometime in the near future. All previously saved Christians, totaling perhaps 5 to 10% of the world's population, will suddenly have their bodies converted into a different form that they will wear for all eternity in Heaven. They will rise vertically into the air. Many believe that they will pass right through ceilings, roofs of cars, etc. to meet Jesus Christ in the sky. The vast majority of humans will be left behind. There will be extensive devastation on planes, trains and automobiles as their pilots, engineers and drivers suddenly disappear and the vehicles crash. The bodies of Christian believers who have died during the previous two millennia will be reconstituted into their original bodies which will then also be converted to spirit bodies. They will rise out of their graves and ascend to meet Jesus. Apparently the spirit bodies do not require oxygen to sustain themselves, because there is little air above 30,000 feet.
Liberal Theoligans however believe the Tribulation belief to be a fascinating myth or vision. The elements of the story:
Jesus descending in the sky.
Believers rising to meet him.
Parts of dead bodies, some individual organic molecules, somehow reconstituting themselves into their previous form.
Bodies being changed instantly from their physical form to some type of spiritual form.
are simply a beautiful fantasy without any grounding in reality
What Defines Being 'Saved'?
This is another quandary, as the Bible tends to be somewhat vague on this point.
Paul generally wrote that people are saved as a result of believing in the resurrection of Jesus.
The author(s) of the Gospel of John said that one must believe that Jesus is the Son of God in order to be saved.
Jesus, as reported in the synoptic Gospels, appears to have given two main paths to salvation:
One can be saved by performing good works, or
You can be saved by adopting a simple life of poverty and following Jesus' example.
Other passages say that a person is saved, and her/his sins forgiven, through baptism
And so we have a chaotic situation today where some denominations say that salvation is attained by:
Church rituals (particularly baptism and -- in the Catholic churches -- confession),
Jesus status as the only begotten Son of God,
Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior,
Or by some combination of the above.
One might argue that different faith groups are all equally correct. What they have done is to concentrate on some salvation passages in the Bible, interpreting them as true. Then they either ignore other passages, interpret them symbolically, or attributing unusual meanings to them. And so, diverse faith groups end up with entirely different criteria for salvation.
In addition, Christian faith groups differ on:
Whether a person, once saved, can lose their salvation, and
Whether a non-Christian can be saved.
Some of the other information I have come across also makes very interesting reading, and does cast a serious doubt on the Pre-trib "Rapture" belief system.
Apparently the Pharisees developed a program of teaching new converts to Phariseeism and wrote a five and one half million word document called the Babylonian Talmud upon which they based their religion.
What does all this have to do with a supposed “[pre-tribulation] Rapture?”
"The assumption that the Christian religion was a departure from the sect of the Pharisees is only partly true. The Christian religion did reject the Talmuds, but a more deadly plot was hatched against the followers of Jesus: infiltration by a Pharisee whose primary task was to destroy the followers of Jesus by torture and death.
But on his way to carry out his mission he had a new idea. His plot included injecting his own interpretations (a Pharisee trick) and replacing the teachings of Jesus and the apostles with rituals, practices, and traditions that were “less burdensome.” This, of course, is Saul Paulus, one of the most highly trained Pharisees of his day. A brilliant man who brought in deadly heresies that resulted in the creation of new religion that drew followers to him and away from Jesus and the apostles.
From overly zealous revival preachers in the 1800s, comes the idea of the “Rapture.” This idea was never a part of Christianity prior to that time.
The Hebrew Scriptures, the Book of Enoch, the book of Revelation, and Jesus’ prophecies and teachings only tell about the resurrection. These all refer to the people coming back to life in new mortal bodies or in immortal bodies."
The pre-trib "Rapture" concept was manufactured in the 1800s in an 18 year old Plymouth Brethren girl's dream, told to her Pastor, John Darby, and then relayed to C. I. Scofield who bought into the dream as revealed truth. Scofield placed this pre-tribulation rapture notion as a footnote in his popular Bible, hence the spread of the myth. However, just the opposite is biblical truth. In Matthew 24:29-3l, for instance, the rapture ("gathering together") is placed in the same time frame as the open second coming of Jesus Christ. And all of this is "after the tribulation" (verse 29).
A forum I found that is also well worth reading can be found at: http://www.godlikeproductions.com/forum1/message667250/pg1
This forum includes many posts regarding the validity of the "Rapture" claims, and one of the posts basically claims to 'End the Pre-trib Rapture Debate using Bible verses'.
Other Internet Forum Quotes:
:"It has always amazed me that 'The Rapture' has become such a mainstream component of western religion. I find it difficult to believe that anyone who has actually read the Bible could put so much weight in the idea."
"The Rapture Cult was started by failed Anglican Priest Nelson Darby in the mid-1800s. It was a get-out-of-tribulation-free cult. Soul candy. Tastes great but has no substance and is definitely not good for ya. Sorry kiddos but there is no 'get out of tribulations free' card. Jesus Prayed – ‘I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one’ – John 17:15 Those who ‘suffer with Him (for His sake) through the terrors of the last days will at that time ‘also be glorified with Him’ (Romans 8:17) the one ‘who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13; see also 10:22)"
"Well ... considering that there are 2 billion Christians on this planet and that only a relative handful actually believe in the rapture cult .. I have to disagree with the statement 'many .... agree upon the notion of a rapture'. Of the 2 billion christians on the planet, it's just a handful of fundamentalists - Baptists, Church of Christ, Pentacostals, etc. - that actually follow the rapture cult. That's a very small percentage of Christians. Most dismiss it"
"Don't dismiss Matthew 24:29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: 30: and Then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven and Then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. Notice the words AFTER THE TRIBULATION. Not Before."
There are plenty more equally interesting posts on the same site if anyone wants to take the time to go and have a look for themselves.
My Personal Conclusion
I have now read a vast amount on the topic of the Pre-trib Rapture, and I have to conclude that for me there is insufficient evidence to back it up as a likely future event. In fact there seems to be a large amount of very relevant evidence that seems to indicate it is purely an idea that has been adopted in recent times, and that if there is going to be a Rapture, it is not going to be a Pre-trib one.
My personal views are that a loving God and Christ would not leave those left behind to torture and torment either simply because they called God by another name, or had never heard or known of Jesus. Most logically there would be an opportunity for them to go to Heaven with the rest of the souls. As to what this opportunity would consist of is hard to judge, as it would seem a huge catching up exercise for anyone who had never heard of Jesus to suddenly have to learn all about him all at once and then make an instant decision on whether to follow him or not and discard their own beliefs.
I tend to feel that most Gods that are worshipped by other religions are simply other incarnations of Jesus, but in a form that each culture would find acceptable. Same Soul/Spirit, but different bodies and skin colours according to the part of the world where he was to be their Saviour. After all, it is hard to imagine trying to get a culture to believe that this man that had turned up with completely different coloured skin to themselves was their new Saviour, (as if the job wasn't already hard enough with the same coloured skin!!!).
I openly await your thoughts and opinions on this subject, and any further information you would like to add to it.
Thank you for reading.