The Rapture

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There’s a lot of controversy that surrounds The Last Sacrifice. One of the controversies is with regard to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and my view on the rapture. In fact, not long ago Gavin, a listener to the Bible Answer Man broadcast, wrote me a very nice letter in which he pointed out that he’s concerned about my views regarding the rapture. This is what he says:

“I’ve been listening to you for several years and I have enjoyed your conservative teaching and your insights. Also, your warnings when you feel like other brothers in the faith are going down the wrong path. I think this is a correct biblical admonition. But I’ve been very concerned when I hear you say that you do not believe in the rapture of the church or that it has already happened.”

Well, Gavin, I don’t know precisely where this misunderstanding of my views originated. I do know, however, of a couple of instances where it has been widely disseminated. One was an appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America where the host, Bill Weir, introduced the segment by saying that “We’ve all heard of the wildly popular Left Behind books. They’ve sold millions of copies, predicting the impending rapture. But now there’s a new series by the same publisher that says the rapture has already happened and the Antichrist was the first century Emperor Nero.” Well, I do believe that Nero was the beast, however, I’ve never said that the rapture has already happened. This is misinformation widely disseminated by Tim LaHaye — in fact, in a newspaper article that opened with the question “What if the Rapture has Already Happened?” and ran in the Dallas Morning News in 2004 and then in a number of other newspapers around the country. And this newspaper reported that Tim LaHaye said I believe the “nonsense that Christ came back in AD 68.” I tried to correct this information by writing a letter to the editor, and in that letter I pointed out that Tim LaHaye’s assertion that I subscribe to the nonsense that Christ came back in AD 68 is surely one of his most creative works of fiction. Such a notion is not even hinted at in The Last Disciple series nor have I ever made that kind of a statement in any other forum. Dr. LaHaye simply manufactured this assertion out of whole cloth.

Not only that, but I have never suggested that the rapture has already taken place. In fact, unlike the Left Behind series which is based on the pretribulational rapture theory that was posited and popularized by John Nelson Darby in the 19th century, The Last Disciple series is centered on the great and glorious truth of resurrection. I should also note that Gavin, in his letter, provided a fairly substantial list of Scripture passages which allegedly support a secret coming of Christ prior to the Second Coming of Christ. A couple of those passages were passages such as 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-52. In reality, however, these passages clearly, in my view, point to the resurrection of believers, not to the secret rapture of the church. So what I affirm, Gavin, is taught in Scripture and it’s codified in the Christian creeds. Jesus is coming again, the dead will be resurrected, and the problem of sin will be fully and finally resolved.

When I say that Jesus is coming again, remember that every time you hear the word “coming” in Scripture you don’t have to assume that that has to do specifically with the Second Coming of Christ. Sometimes it does because Hebrews says that Jesus is coming a second time. However, it doesn’t always have to do with the Second Coming because “coming” is used as a judgment metaphor in Scripture as well. So when Jesus said to Caiaphas in the court that’s condemning him to death “But I say to all of you, in the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven,” a biblically illiterate person might have missed the import of his words, but Caiaphas and the council did not. If ever there was a razor-sharp metaphor, this was it, and it cut Caiaphas and the court condemning Christ to the quick. They understood that in saying he was the Son of Man that would come on the clouds of heaven, Jesus was making an overt reference to his coronation as the Son of Man in Daniel’s vision. You’ll remember that vision in Daniel 7. And in doing so he was not only claiming to be the preexistent sovereign of the universe, but he was prophesying that he would vindicate his claim before the very court that was now condemning him to death. As Caiaphas well knew, clouds were — as I mentioned a few moments ago — a common, Old Testament symbol that pointed to God as the sovereign Judge of the nations. Like the Old Testament prophets Jesus employs that symbolism of clouds to warn his hearers that as judgment fell on Egypt, so too judgment would befall Jerusalem.

Now, there’s one other point. The coming on clouds judgment metaphor is clearly not directed to a 21st century audience, as Tim LaHaye presumes. It was intended for Caiaphas and the 1st century crowd that was condemning Christ to death. Jesus himself said that. He said “I say to all of you, in the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” The generation that crucified Christ would see the very day that he was exalted and enthroned at the right hand of the Mighty One.

So, Gavin, here is the problem. Tim LaHaye simply misunderstands the metaphors that are used in Scripture, and that has caused him to not only misconstrue the words of Jesus but to misrepresent me in the media. His words to the Dallas Morning News that I believe the nonsense that Christ came back in AD 68 would have been precluded if he would have had a simple understanding of biblical metaphors.

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