Apologetics rapture_01

Published on March 22nd, 2011 | by Gary DeMar

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Why the Rapture is Not in Revelation

This article continues my brief review of Jeff Lasseigne’s Unlocking the Last Days. I’m not picking on Lasseigne. He’s not the only commentator to interpret Revelation in terms of what’s going on in our generation. Such an interpretive approach is pandemic in end-time speculative commentaries whose authors claim they interpret the most symbolic book of the Bible literally.

Thirty-five years ago Hal Lindsey wrote The Terminal Generation, a book that he said was about “hope.” Hope in what? Hope in the “ultimate trip,” the “evacuation,” when Jesus will return and “mysteriously and secretly snatch out all those who believe in Him personally”(1) in what has come to be known as the “rapture.” What have the people who read and embraced Lindsey’s view been doing for the past 35 years? In 1976, I was 26 years old. I’m now 60 with two children and three grandchildren. We were led to believe that the “rapture” would come before 1988, 40 years after the establishment of the Jewish State in 1948. Did people who bought into Lindsey’s prophetic paradigm ever think they would have grandchildren? What type of world has the terminal generation of the 1970s left for those being born today? Even some dispensationalists recognized the problem. Consider these comments written by David Schnittger 25 years ago:

Many in our camp have an all-pervasive negativism regarding the course of society and the impotence of God’s people to do anything about it. They will heartily affirm that Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth, and that this must indeed by The Terminal Generation; therefore, any attempt to influence society is ultimately hopeless. They adopt the pietistic platitude: “You don’t polish brass on a sinking ship.” Many pessimistic pretribbers cling to the humanists’ version of religious freedom; namely Christian social action and political impotence, self-imposed, as drowning men cling to a life preserver.(2)

Lasseigne follows a similar interpretive pattern made popular by prophecy writers who see their hope to be a great escape from this world and an indifference to the world that God described as “very good” (Gen. 1:31; 1 Tim. 4;4). While it’s true that Christians should not put their ultimate hope “in people, politics, or programs” (196), it’s also true that God doesn’t call on us to dismiss people, politics, or programs. Lindsey argued for a singular focus on our heavenly citizenship (Phil. 3:20)(3) with little regard for Paul’s consideration of his Roman citizenship (Acts 22:22–30) and the biblical designation of the civil magistrate as a “minister of God” (Rom. 13:4).

Like Lindsey and many who preceded and followed him in pronouncing their generation as “terminal,” Lasseigne is constrained by his dispensational hermeneutic to offer a worldview that is really an “upper-world worldview”:

Or as John MacArthur said, “Man’s efforts to bring about a better world . . . amount to little more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic to give everyone a better view as the ship sinks” (196).(4)

The “rapture” has been a convenient escape hatch for Christians. When times worsened, the “rapture” was preached with great vitality. Millions were assured that before all hell breaks loose that they would be taken to heaven to watch the Great Tribulation from up above the heavens so bright.

Lasseigne manufactures a “rapture” theology in Revelation 4:1–2. John told to “come up here” is thought to be a “symbolic picture of the rapture” (76). This is a common interpretation among dispensationalists. Lasseigne isn’t the first one to use it. Tim LaHaye made it the cornerstone of his Revelation rapture theology. For those who claim to interpret prophecy literally, Revelation 4:1-2 says nothing about the church being taken to heaven prior to a seven-year tribulation period, but LaHaye argues for it anyway even though the phrase “seven years” does not appear in Revelation.

LaHaye and company need a “rapture” to make their system work. “Inasmuch as John was the last remaining apostle and a member of the universal Church, his elevation to heaven is a picture of the Rapture of the Church just before the Tribulation begins.”(5) This is passed off as literal interpretation. LaHaye attempts to bolster his argument by noting that this is also a logical place to insert the pre-trib rapture since the Church “is not on the earth during the Tribulation.”(6) LaHaye continues:

There are sixteen references to the Church in Revelation 1-3,(7) whereas chapters 6-18, which cover the Tribulation, do not mention the Church once. The natural conclusion drawn from this is that the Church that was so prominent during its two thousand-year history (as predicted in chapters 2-3) is not mentioned in chapters 4-18 because those chapters describe the Tribulation, which the Church does not endure.(8)

The first three chapters of Revelation deal with seven literal churches (1:20), assemblies of Christians in Asia Minor that were founded and operated in the first century: the church in Ephesus (2:1), the church in Smyrna (2:8), the church in Pergamum (2:12), the church in Thyatira (2:18), the church in Sardis (3:1), the church in Philadelphia (3:7), and the church in Laodicea (3:14). In the first three chapters of Revelation, local churches are addressed, not the church generally. There is no reference to “the church” anywhere in Revelation.

Let’s continue to apply LaHaye’s logic of “the church” not being found after Revelation 3 to other New Testament books. The word “church” is not mentioned “in Mark, Luke, John, 2 Timothy, Titus, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, or Jude, and not until chapter 16 of Romans. Unless we are prepared to relegate large chunks of the NT to a limbo of irrelevance to the Church, we cannot make the mention or omission of the term ‘church’ a criterion for determining the applicability of a passage to saints of the present age.”(9)

If counting words is to be an interpretive key,(10) then LaHaye refutes his own argument. He along with Lasseigne finds the antichrist all over Revelation, but the word itself does not appear. In addition, there is no mention of a rebuilt temple or Jesus reigning on a throne from Jerusalem, the reinstitution of animal sacrifices, all supposedly in Revelation 20, and yet LaHaye and Lasseigne insist that these are found there.

The pre-trib “rapture” of the church is a theological necessity for dispensationalists—”the product of a deduction from one’s overall system of theology”—so God can once again deal with national Israel. But word counts leave us with something of a dilemma since the word Israel only appears once after the supposed rapture of the church, and not until Revelation 7:4! One would think that if the church is in view in the first three chapters because the words church and churches are used nineteen times, then shouldn’t we expect to find the word Israel used more than once after chapter three if this entire seven-year period is about God’s dealings with a future national Israel?

Once again we are left wondering how the keystone doctrine of dispensationalism is not found in the most comprehensive prophetic book in the Bible. George Eldon Ladd’s comments are to the point: “There is no reference in 4:1 to the rapture of the church; the language is addressed exclusively to John and refers to his reception of the revelations of the book.”(11)

You might remember “Wrong-Way Corrigan.” Douglas Corrigan (1907–1995) was an American aviator. He was nicknamed “Wrong Way” in 1938 after he flew from Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, New York, to Ireland, though his flight plan was filed to return to Long Beach, California. He claimed his unauthorized flight was due to a navigational error, caused by heavy cloud cover that obscured landmarks and low-light conditions, causing him to misread his compass. Lasseigne is like “Wrong Way Corrigan.” He has the skills to write popular expositions of the Bible, but the clear interpretive clues in Revelation are obscured by a heavy cloud cover of dispensational interpretive ambiguity.Endnotes:

  1. Hal Lindsey with C. C. Carlson, The Terminal Generation (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1976), 174.()
  2. David Schnittger, Christian Reconstruction from a Pretribulational Perspective (Oklahoma City, OK: Southwest Radio Church, 1986), 7.()
  3. Lindsey, The Terminal Generation, 174–175.()
  4. For the source of MacArthur’s sinking Titanic allusion, see, Revelation 12–22, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody, 2000), 84.()
  5. Tim LaHaye, Revelation Unveiled, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999), 99.()
  6. LaHaye, Revelation Unveiled, 100.()
  7. By my count, the words “church” and “churches” are used nineteen times in Revelation.()
  8. LaHaye, Revelation Unveiled, 100. LaHaye’s thesis and those who follow him (and there are many) is based on the unproven assumption that Revelation 2-3 covers “the church age, using seven historical churches to describe the entire age.” LaHaye abandons his “Golden Rule of Biblical Interpretation” for an interpretation of prophetic necessity. Specifically named churches in a particular geographical area are interpreted to mean seven eras of the Christian dispensation. Where are we told this in Revelation?()
  9. Robert H. Gundry, The Church and the Tribulation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1973), 78. Also see Gundry, First the Antichrist, 84-87.()
  10. If Bible interpretation is based on word counts, then the Book of Esther does not belong in the Bible: “There can be no doubt that the historicity and canonicity of Esther has been the most debated of all the Old Testament books. Even some Jewish scholars questioned its inclusion in the Old Testament because of the absence of God’s name.” (Edward G. Dobson, “Esther,” Liberty Bible Commentary: Old Testament, eds. Edward E. Hindson and Woodrow M. Kroll [Lynchburg, VA: The Old-Time Gospel Hour, 1982], 909).()
  11. George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1972), 72.()
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About the Author

Gary is a graduate of Western Michigan University (1973) and earned his M.Div. at Reformed Theological Seminary in 1979. He is the author of countless essays, news articles, and more than 27 book titles, His most recent book is Exposing the Real Last Days Scoffers. Gary lives in Marietta, Georgia, with his wife, Carol. They have two married sons and four grandchildren, Gary and Carol are members of Midway Presbyterian Church (PCA).



24 Responses to Why the Rapture is Not in Revelation

  1. David Lowman says:

    Post-Tribulation?

    You bet!!!

    Nearly 2,000 year “post” as of right now….

  2. val says:

    The woman of Revelation 12 …
    God is very precise: A woman delivers the true word John1:1, Rev 12:5, Rev 12:13 who restores Acts 3:21 all things to the world before Christ’s return. This woman exposes the lies of Satan who has deceived the whole world Rev 12:9. This woman creates a new thing in the earth by fulfilling God’s promise to Eve Gen 3:15, Jer 31:22, Isa 14:16. She is like unto Moses Acts 3:22, Num 12:3 and she is also like Elijah Matt 17:11 for her witness alone turns the hearts of the fathers to the children Mal 4:5-6 to prepare a people for the Lords return before the great and dreadful day of the Lord Matt 17:3, Luke 9:30. Moses and Elijah are together with the word Matt 17:3. They are all three in this one woman. Woe on those who will not hear Acts 3:23 the true word of God commanded to be written and delivered to the world free of charge, as a witness, at the heel of time from the wilderness Rev 12:6. This true word delivered turns the hearts of the fathers to the children of God by giving the truth that not one child of God will be put in a hell fire no matter what their sins. It never entered the heart or mind of God to ever do such a thing Jer 7:31, Jer 19:5. God created evil Isa 45:7 to teach his children the knowledge of good and evil Rom 8:7, Gen 3:22 so that at their resurrection they become a god Matt 22:29-30, Ps 82:6. Prove all things. Be a workman that needeth not to be ashamed. You cannot rightly judge what this woman has written unless you read all first Pro 18:13 http://thegoodtale.wordpress.com Time is short.

  3. Brett says:

    Having been led down the pre-Trib, mid-Trib and every other Trib path by supposed experts, and being convinced each was right when listening to their song and dance, I eventually decided that I would read the bible myself and see what it says without having someone selectively feed their version to me, based on their questionable interpretations of scripture.

    having no template to fill or presupposition to back up, I eventually realized that only a post-Trib version fits the bible. Revelation doesn’t mention the Rapture, but you CAN deduce where it happens, based on just a handful of verses. Let me explain…

    First, we know from this verse the order of the rapture events…

    1 Thessalonians 4:15-17
    For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

    it also says it will happen “at the last trump”.

    and from these verses, we see that it happens AFTER the tribulation…

    Matthew 23:29-31
    Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: 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. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

    Mark 13:24-27
    But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.

    That in itself should dispel the pre-Trib logic.

    But going back to Revelation, we know that the rapture can’t happen until the dead in Christ are raised. If you look at chapter 6, you can see that it hasn’t happened yet because the martyrs of Seal 5 are told to ‘rest yet for a little season”…

    Revelation 6:9-11
    And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.

    But jumping all the way to chapter 20, we see who has been raised at “the first resurrection”…

    Revelation 20:4-5
    4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
    5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.

    Look close. People who were killed during the great tribulation… including those who refused to take the mark or worship the Antichrist’s image… are involved. That happens during the latter part of the tribulation. So we now have evidence backing up the claims by Matthew and Mark of “after the tribulation”.

    But when exactly does the rapture take place in Revelation? In chapter 14, which describes Christ’s physical presence on the earth. And the specific reference point is Revelation 14:13.

    Revelation 14:13
    And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.

    Here’s what it’s saying… Anyone who dies from then on (after they have physical evidence of Christ’s existence) and accepting Him as their Lord is considered ‘blessed’. But they will be judged on their works during the sheep/goat judgement which occurs after the Millennial Reign.

    This does not apply to anyone who has died believing in Christ prior to that moment. The difference is that Christ wasn’t physically on the earth. People who believed in Him before He showed up were relying on faith, not evidence. So they will be resurrected and are the ones shown reigning during the Millennial Reign in chapter 20.

    And we already determined that the rapture happens immediately after the dead in Christ are raised. So the rapture has to happen in chapter 14.

    And looking at the chronology, chapter 14 events happen right after the last Trumpet is sounded at the end of chapter 11. Again, it perfectly fits the descriptions from 1 Corinthians, 1 Thessalonians, Mark and Matthew.

    So buckle up, christians. We’re in for a very bumpy ride.

  4. John Cosman says:

    One of the biggest holes in the pre-tribulation rapture theory for me is the teaching that when the rapture happens, the Holy Spirit is taken from the earth making way for the anti-Christ and beginning the 7 year tribulation. Out of this period of tribulation, we see a great multitude in heaven worshiping before the throne (Rev 7). How did these people get saved if the Holy Spirit was taken from the earth? The Holy Spirit is the one who convicts men of sin. If there is no conviction, there is no godly sorrow, no repentence and therefore no salvation. If there is no Holy Spirit on earth, then how is He to seal these tribulation saints for the day of redemption? The obvious answer is that he won’t. The pre-trib teachers continue on to say that to get saved during the tribulation, you must refuse the mark of the beast and be beheaded for the testimony of Jesus (Rev 20). This is not the gospel. This is a gospel of works. It depends on what man does, not on the work that Jesus finished on the cross. The problem is a mis-identification of ‘he that letteth’ in 2Th 2:7. Paul never identifies him. He says that he taught who he was and he tells the Thessalonians that they know who he is. From here, how do they extrapolate that it is the Holy Spirit that he is talking about? I think the correct answer to who he is is found in Daniel chapter 12. Daniel prophesied about “a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time”. Coincidentally, this is nearly the same language that Jesus used in telling his disciples about the tribulation — hmmm. From that we can make a correlation between the two scriptures. So, what precedes the time of trouble in Daniel? Michael, ‘the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people’, the angelic protector of Israel, stands up. I looked the Hebrew word that is used there up once, I don’t remember what it was, but I do remember that it can me stand up, arise, or rise up. To rise up could mean that he leaves the earth. Perhaps, he is the one that is taken out of the way to allow the mystery of iniquity to do its work.

  5. Vicki says:

    I truly appreciate this article. I hope you will expand on Revelations. A lot of Christians I know believe in the rapture. I have always been uncomfortable with that interpretation because of Jesus’ comment that his return would be in the life time of many of that generation. And Christ’s return was to be “soon,” whereas the end was unknown. Also, based on my reading of the Bible, it says that only the father knows when the end will come, not even the son.
    Again, I hope you will expand on this theme because many Revelation interpretations claim that the majority of Revelations is symbolism. One interpretation of Revelations I read said some keys for interpreting the symbolism have been lost over the years.
    Again, thank you for this article.

  6. Francis Gumerlock says:

    Good article, Gary. Thank you.

  7. Mimi7789 says:

    Good article here Gary.
    I used to believe in this stuff but now it’s beginning to get old fast. Alot of Christians are going to question whether the rapture is real.
    Thanks to God for leading me to the truth. I told Him “God….if preterism makes me a better Christian….I will allow it in my life and claim it as truth.” Praise God for you Gary.
    I may lose friends over Preterism but it doesn’t matter….as long as I have Christ on my side.
    I already lost a friend over this. Not to say that I’m still not her friend but she said that this whole preterism thing is a lie and that’s it’s wrong. But thank God I had a another friend who agreed with me.
    She said “Sara….I can’t say if you are right or wrong….you follow your heart.” That’s a true friend right there!

    God Bless you Gary Demar. I’m reading your book….Last Days Madness. It’s good. Thanks for writing it. I hope the next book to get is “Is Jesus Coming Back Soon?”

  8. Ish Vargas says:

    @Michael Moseley Sr, why would you say that? Please explain.
    Thanks.

  9. Michael Moseley, Sr. says:

    I am trying to figure out if you are a Christian. From what I read from your comments you are not. So what you have written seems to be irrelevant.

    • Michael Keene says:

      Comments like yours are exactly the sort of thing that makes those who believe dispensationalism seem like a bunch of fools. The definition of “Christian” has absolutely NOTHING to do with one’s own eschatological beliefs. It is not an essential of the Christian faith. Like most dispies, you equate criticism and a logical and Biblical examination of “end-times prophecy” to be un-Christian. I suggest you define what it means to be a Christian before you attack your brother. Classic dispy – “I don’t like what you said, you nothing else you say matters.” Pathetic. Grow up.

    • Gary DeMar says:

      To Michael Moseley, Sr.: On what do you base your assertion that I am not a Christian? Is it because I can’t find a so-called rapture in Revelation? If this is your criterion for what defines a Christian, then no one before 1830 was a Christian. I don’t see the irrelevancy at taking a close look at what the Bible says on a topic (Acts 17:11). It’s people like you who give Christianity a bad name.

  10. Dawn Silber says:

    Great article. As someone who grew up being taught all the dispensational theology I have a great interest in hearing good biblically sound critiques of it.

    On a side note, this picture reminds me of something I have always wondered. Even though I was raised in the pre-trib, pre-mil, disp. belief, I never thought to ask this question before. Why is it that depictions of the rapture always entail leaving behind clothes and other physical items? Why are they not leaving behind their bodies as well? Do they believe they are getting their resurrected bodies at the Rapture? If so I’m not sure how they could defend that biblically.

    From a creative standpoint I think it would be much more dramatic if at the rapture there were millions of corpses laying around. This would easily contribute to the misery of the tribulation. Plus it would give the anit-christ an easy way of explaining away the “disappearance” of all the Christians. Maybe I should write Tim LaHaye and see what he thinks :)

    • Brett says:

      Dawn, I think your answer is found in 1 Corinthians 15:51-54

      51: Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
      052: In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
      053: For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
      054: So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

      Our earthly bodies are corruptible. They decay and are susceptible to earthly desires and sin. We need to ‘exchange’ them for bodies that last forever. This happens during the Rapture. We won’t need any physical items because all our needs will be provided by the LORD.

      And my understanding of the Rapture is that it happens at the end of the Tribulation, at the time of Christ’s arrival. So there won’t be any question as to what happened to all the christians.

      If you write Tim LaHaye, I’m quite sure his answer would be to sell you his books. Money makes the pre-Trib world go ’round.

  11. Thomas M. Largen says:

    The article never mentions why the rapture isn’t mentioned in Revelation. Shouldn’t the title reflect the contents?

  12. Denver says:

    Looking at published sermons from the 16 and 17 hundreds, it is obvious that the teaching of the rapture, tribulation, end o’ the world, et. al., ad infinitum, has only been with Christianity since the middle of the 19th century.

    It is a false teaching, when compared to the teachings that preceded it.

  13. Micah Martin says:

    Gary,

    Great critic of the modern “Church, come rescue us” mentality. Just one question. Who at AV stripped down to their skivvies so you could get your “raptured suit” picture and what bet did they lose. :)

    Have a great week!
    Micah

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