There is so much misinformation regarding the understanding of the Rapture and what it means to be “Left Behind.” From ALL SIDES. So let me get into it.
First of all, I keep running into this nonsense from those who deny the doctrine of the Rapture:
The doctrine of the secret rapture emerged during the early 19th century through the teachings of John Nelson Darby (1800–1882). Darby was one of the early leaders of the Plymouth Brethren movement, and his teachings became known as “dispensationalism.”
This notion relies upon the idea that the teaching of the Rapture of believers prior to the Tribulation never arose in Christianity until well into the 19th century. And therefore it clearly has to be false.
If you believe that premise, I sure hope you don’t fly on airplanes or benefit from modern surgical techniques. Or use a computer or have anything whatsoever to do with the modern world. I mean, I hope you’re Amish.
One of the problems with this “The secret Rapture never existed prior to the 19th century and therefore it is clearly wrong” view is that the Bible ITSELF declares the following through the end-times prophet Daniel:
But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased. — Daniel 12:4
Shut up the words of Bible prophecy until the time of the end, WHEN KNOWLEDGE SHALL BE INCREASED.
Unless you’re either Amish or an abject hypocrite, anyway.
If you believe in the increase of knowledge, have the consistency to realize that we’re assured of an increase in prophetic knowledge as well. If not, shut up. Because you’ve got a lot of chores to do, such as saddling your horse, milking your cow and whatever weird thing you’re doing with that sheep.
The second problem with this premise that the teaching of the secret Rapture never existed until the 19th century is that it is simply a lie.
First of all, it is rather easy to factually demonstrate that this teaching was being taught LONG before the naysayers claim. As just one example, Joseph Mede (1586-1638) wrote a commentary about the Book of Revelation that was THE most popular book of his era outside of the Holy Bible itself. Do you notice that the man lived in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries? And he very clearly teaches what we’re assured was NEVER TAUGHT prior to well into the nineteenth century. James H. Frere (1779-1866) and William Cuninghame (1775-1849) likewise taught a doctrine that we’re snidely lectured never existed until decades years after their death.
Those who tell you that the doctrine of the secret Rapture was invented by John Nelson Darby in the mid-to-late 1800s are documented liars and they are far more agents of Satan than they are agents of Christ. Period. You don’t lie like that in the name of truth.
But the doctrine of the Rapture exists long before even those Christian scholars such as Mede. As I’ve documented before:
You might want to get a clue and realize that pre-millennialism is a) quite a bit older than the 19th century; and b) is quite a bit more attested by VERY recent scholarship than your ridiculous “19th century” garbage. Let me assure you that I have quite a few books in my own personal library about the rapture and the pre-millennialism that the rapture is part of, which date quite late into the 20th century and even into the 21st. Charles Darby is little more than a footnote in the presentation of this quite contemporary (as well as quite ancient) eschatology.
Pre-millennialism is the dominant eschatology in the Protestant church today, in terms of number of Christians who embrace it.
Let’s go to the fact that the word “rapture” (to seize or snatch) was translated from the Greek word “Harpazo” in 1 Thess 1:10 (which has the same meaning as the Latin “rapturo”) in his Latin Vulgate in 385. Just a LITTLE before the time you deceitfully claim, I’m afraid.
Let’s go to the writings of men such as Ephaim the Syrian, who wrote about 373 in a book entitled, “Antichrist and the End of the World”:
”We ought to understand thoroughly, therefore my brothers, what is imminent or overhanging. Already there have been hungers and plagues, violent movement of nations and sins, which have been predicted by the Lord.
Let us prepare ourselves for the meeting of the Lord Christ so that He may draw us from the confusion which overwhelms the world. Believe you me, dearest brothers, because the coming of the Lord is nigh. Believe you me, because the end of the world is at hand. Believe me because it is the very last time. Because all Saints and the elect of the Lord are gathered together before the Tribulation which is about to come and are taken to the Lord in order that they may not see at any time the confusion that overwhelms the world because of our sins.”
That’s just one particularly clear example from the Church Fathers. Papias – companion of Polycarp, the disciple of the apostle John – believed in the literal earthly pre-millennial doctrine. As did Papias, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Methodius, Commodianus, and Lactanitus, Apollinaris of Laodicea, Melito of Sardis, Jerome, Gennadius, Hippolytus of Rome, Nepos, Ambrose of Milan, as well as others. Pre-millenialism was in fact the dominant view of the church for the first few centuries. It is the oldest eschatological view.
The same scoffers who deny the doctrine of the secret Rapture of Christ of all believers prior to the Tribulation also deny the Premillennial theology from which the Rapture flows. But again, as I’ve pointed out:
The early church overwhelmingly held a view called “chiliasm” (which is the Greek word for “Millennium”), a view which directly embraced a literal seven year period known as the Great Tribulation, followed by the return of Christ to rule and reign for a millennium. Robert P. Lightner writes, “It is generally agreed by students of the early church that premillennialism was the view held by many in the post-apostolic age. That it is the oldest of the three millennial views is seldom debated….”
Tell you what: if you close your eyes hard enough, you can’t see a dang thing. You’re blind.
These scoffers are themselves evidence that we’re in the end times:
Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” — 2 Peter 3:3-4
And here the scoffers and mockers are, right on cue.
Now, the fact that the Church Fathers were documented teaching this doctrine soon after the close of the New Testament canon, the fact that what I believe as a Premillennial, secret-Rapture-believing Christian is the EARLIEST view of the Christian Church, does not guarantee that it is the correct view. Anymore than if it were the LAST one taught would guarantee that it is the false view. But it does assure anyone who cares about the truth that the people who are lecturing us otherwise are liars as well as scoffers and mockers.
And you ought to give the Premillennial, secret-Rapture view a chance.
My major belief in the Rapture has nothing whatsoever to do with what Christian teacher believed in it when; it has to do with what the Bible teaches.
Let’s consider the Book of Revelation. The word “church” or the plural “churches” occurs NINETEEN TIMES in the first three chapters of Revelation. Then St. John – representing the experience of Christians on earth – is commanded to “come up here.” And the church NEVER AGAIN APPEARS ON EARTH until chapter 22. That is a fact that the scoffers and mockers and liars don’t want you to contemplate. But where is the church during the Tribulation? It is in heaven. It is NOT on earth following the rapture in which believers “come up here.”
They don’t want you to contemplate that Christ, in one of his references to the church prior to the command to “come up here,” promises believers:
Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. — Revelation 3:10
That comforts me, because I know that I will be kept from the hour of testing – which is very clearly the Tribulation that the rest of the Book of Revelation describes – that shall come upon all of those who dwell on the earth who did not know Jesus at the time of the Rapture. I know I’ll be in heaven with Christ Jesus following the Rapture that is so widely denied and mocked.
As for the rest of you, enjoy your Antichrist. He’ll be showing up in Revelation chapter six. Sorry, but I won’t be around to tell you, “Ha ha, told you so.” Because Revelation 4:1 will be my cue to leave.
The “Christians” who deny and mock the Rapture are the from the same schools and basically the same “Christians” who mocked John Nelson Darby for pointing out that the Bible declared that there would be a national Israel. We said there would be; the naysayers claimed there wouldn’t be. This becomes incredibly important as we consider the rival theories. In [her?] dismissive piece about the secret Rapture, which I quote from at the beginning of this article, Jeramie Rinne says:
Darby’s dispensationalism distinguished sharply between Israel and the church. The former was earthly, he believed, and the latter heavenly. God had two distinct peoples and separate plans for each. Thus Darby understood Old Testament prophecies as applying only to Israel, the earthly people of God. Rather than “spiritualizing” such prophecies, he expected a literal fulfillment of God’s promises to literal Israel. So when, according to dispensational thought, would God fulfill his prophecies to Israel? During the millennium (Rev. 20:1–8) after Jesus’ second coming.
So in order for God to resume these plans for Israel, Darby believed, God would first need to remove the church from the world. Hence arose the need for the secret rapture. Darby had in effect proposed something new: a two-stage return of Jesus. Jesus would first come to “rapture” the church, and then return again in visible glory.1
I submit that Rinne is being incredibly disingenuous. Because it desperately needs to be pointed out that when Darby wrote in the 19th century, national “EARTHLY” Israel did not exist and in fact had not existed for nearly two thousand years. And Rinne’s side mocked and dismissed Darby’s side when he argued that God’s Word guaranteed that national “earthly” Israel would be reborn.
It was one of the greatest miracles of the 20th century that a nation that had been dead for two millennia was reborn. And reborn in a single day – May 14, 1948 – precisely according to the prophecies that Darby was proven to have interpreted rightly and Rinne’s side was proven to have interpreted wrongly.
You’ve just got to say more here. Not only did national “earthly” Israel not exist, but the land that had once been Israel was a complete and utter and desolate WASTELAND inhabited only by a few nomads. Mark Twain lived during the same period of time as Darby, and he described the land as it was in 1869:
“No landscape exists that is more tiresome to the eye than that which bounds the approaches to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is mournful, dreary, and lifeless. Palestine sits in sackloth and ashes”.
If this were a scientific laboratory and one scientist predicted an astounding thing that other scientists mocked and dismissed, and then the astounding thing happened exactly as it was predicted it would happen, you would be an absolute moron to believe the scoffing scientists. Just for what it’s worth.
But these people simply do now have the power of truth in them to ever admit that they were wrong and maybe they ought to go back to the drawing board. And so they literally mock with even greater foolishness than before.
Basically, the rival theologies which inspire the Rapture-mockers are Amillennialism and Postmillennialism. They arose from the teaching of Augustine in the fifth century, when Augustine was realizing that a literal interpretation of Scripture made no sense because Israel had been destroyed and it didn’t look like it was ever coming back. And so you had to mythologize the Bible to make any sense out of it.
And they depend on their system rather than on the Bible. And if the facts don’t fit the system, so much the worse for the facts.
And in terms of Christianity, what they lacked was something that true Christians ought to have, something called “faith.” Believing so that they can see rightly, rather than seeing so that they could believe wrongly.
The funniest thing is that it was actually Augustine himself who wrote the words, “Credo ut intellegiam” (“I believe in order that I may understand”). It is a true shame the man couldn’t follow his own advice or he would have recognized by faith that God was not finished with Israel and that Israel was mentioned in last days prophecy and that therefore there would be an Israel in the last days.
So they are wrong both in terms of their faith and in terms of the facts.
But John Nelson Darby – and those who came before him in his tradition – certainly had the faith in the God of the Bible and His control of the affairs of men. And so he was entirely right about the birth of Israel and he is just as right about the secret Rapture that the same Bible says is coming. Darby did not “invent” the teaching of the secret Rapture; it had existed for the entire history of the Church. What he did is systematize the premillennial teachings based on a literal, grammatical-historical hermeneutic that the other views dismissed. His system turned out to be right and theirs is simply wrong.
Now, having hammered away at the scoffers who mock the secret Rapture of Christ in spite of the fact that Jesus warned them “I come as a thief” in passages like Matthew 24:43 (and see 1 Thessalonians 5:2 and 2 Peter 3:10) and that He will come in an hour that they do not think He will come (v. 44), allow me now to examine what is wrong with the proponents of “Left Behind.”
Please consider Matthew 24 and understand the flow of thought that proceeds from Jesus’ teaching.
The discourse begins with the disciples asking Jesus, “What will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3). And Jesus proceeds to explain to them what will happen prior to His glorious coming as King of kings and as Lord of lords according to Revelation 19:16. Jesus says that deception will be the hallmark of the last days, being ultimately manifested in false messiahs (v. 5). We’re foretold that there will be wars and rumors of wars (v. 6). We’re told that race will rise up against race and people group will rise up against people group, and that famines and earthquakes will be the norm rather than the exception (v. 7). And that these signs will begin to become worse and worse and closer and closer together, like birth pangs (v. 8). We’re told that persecution of Christians and even martyrdom will become commonplace (v. 9). And that there will be great apostasy as people who once claimed to be Christians prove that they never truly believed (v. 10).
And amidst a time of great false teaching, what had been the Law will be spurned and rejected (think protecting the life of babies; think homosexuals marrying one another that are viewed as being every bit as valid as the marriage that God ordained between one man and one woman). See verses 11-13.
And we’re told that amidst all these frightening and disheartening signs, that missionaries will somehow continue their work until the gospel of Jesus is preached in every single language of every single people on earth (v. 14).
Now, these things are happening right now. And they will get worse and worse during the Tribulation. In the case of worldwide preaching of the Gospel, consider the two witnesses and the 144,000. They will finish the job that missionaries prior to the Tribulation began and they will preach the gospel to the whole world. See for example Revelation chapter 7. But when we get to Jesus’ prophecy of the Abomination that causes desolation in verse 15, we realize that this is a specific act that the future Antichrist will perform in the future Temple which will be rebuilt according to Revelation chapter 11. That temple is being prepared this very day (see the Jewish organization that is working toward that day).
Now, you might glance up at the quote from 373 AD by Ephaim the Syrian and understand that one of the reasons that there are more “last days whackos” today than there were in the past is precisely because things have truly become much more dangerous and of much greater magnitude. Ephaim the Syrian saw a frightening world. But it was a world that did not have nuclear weapons or global jihadist terrorism. So you can start to understand why “Left Behind” might be more of a recent phenomena than it used to be because Jesus Himself explained it would be exactly so.
But up to this point in Jesus’ teaching, describing false prophets and wars and earthquakes and famines, we know we’ve always seen all of these things throughout history. Now Jesus begins to describe things that clearly have not happened yet.
In verse 15, Jesus describes a future abomination of desolation in the Temple in Jerusalem. That Temple was destroyed in 70 AD and has not since been rebuilt. There will have to be a future Temple for this new abomination to take place. And Jesus warns a future generation of Jews living in Jerusalem to flee the moment they hear that the coming Antichrist has entered the holy of holies and declares himself to be God.
The place to which Jews will flee has already been prepared. It is called Petra (and see here). It is also possible many Jews will also successfully flee to Bozrah. When they flee from the Antichrist, Revelation tells us that God will supernaturally seal them in with an earthquake and keep them safe until the Messiah – that’s Jesus – returns to deliver them.
Jesus declares in verse 21, “for then there will be a great tribulation, such as has never occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall.” It will be so terrible that if God Himself did not shorten these days, no human life will be left on earth (v. 22).
Then Jesus describes His own future return (as King of kings and as Lord of lords) in verses 29-30.
What is fascinating here is that every single human being will witness this return/coming of Christ.
Which strikes me as being just a little bit different from when He comes as a thief in the night.
This leads us to the “Left Behind” passage. We’re told that “the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah” (v. 37). Well, what were the days of Noah like? They were a time of judgment and culminated in the judgment of the Flood.
Now let’s consider the “Left Behind” passage in that context:
Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. — Matthew 24:40
Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. — Matthew 24:41
Question: When will the one man in the field be taken? When will the woman grinding be taken? Answer: AFTER Jesus has returned as King of kings, that’s when.
Matthew 24:40-41 presents a vivid picture of what Matthew 24:31 teaches. Let’s consider that verse of a Christ who has returned in glory sending out His angels:
“And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. — Matthew 24:31
Jesus also discusses such a “gathering” in the next chapter in Matthew 25:31-33
“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. “All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.
And we’re told in the following verses (vv. 34-46) that the sheep that will be gathered to Christ’s right are righteous/believers and that the goats that will be gathered to His left are wicked/unbelievers.
So when does this event – the separation of the sheep from the goats, in which two men will be working in a field and two women will be grinding and one will be taken and the other left (behind), – happen?
It will happen at the end of the Tribulation after Jesus’ return as King of kings and Lord of lords, and just prior to the 1,000-year reign of Christ on earth known as the Millennium.
We will see a dramatic reversal of the Rapture, in which believers are raptured (the Greek word ‘harpazo’ translated in the Latin as ‘rapturo’ means “to seize by force, to suddenly and decisively snatch up“) and removed from earth prior to the Tribulation; because at then end of the age after Christ returns as King of kings, it will be the wicked who are taken in judgment and the righteous who will be “left behind” to repopulate the earth during the Millennium.
It’s a mirror image. In the first Rapture believers are taken and unbelievers will be left on the world to go through the time of testing that Revelation 3:10 describes as coming upon the whole world; in the second one, it will be the unbelievers who will be taken in judgment. And it is the Christian saints who were converted by the two witnesses and the 144,000 who physically survived the Great Tribulation who will be “left behind” to repopulate the earth with their Messiah ruling and reigning on earth from His Throne in Jerusalem.
That is what is actually being described by Jesus in the “Left Behind” passage of Matthew 24:40-41, rather than the Rapture of the Church that will precede the Tribulation.
As a biblical Christian, I believe in BOTH “raptures.” And I am ready for the first one. Because it will be for me and for mine.
The people who mock and deny the doctrine of the Rapture of the Church are asserting that nothing has changed, nothing is getting worse, everything is going to keep going on as it always has. But anyone with a brain in his or her head ought to realize that things are getting worse – and that they are getting worse very much like birth pangs – that we’re living in an age where the phrase “signs of the times” ought to take on a whole new meaning from any generation that ever lived before, and that the world is being prepared for something that is coming and coming soon.
There’s a quote that seems particularly appropriate here: “Free your mind and your body will follow.” Put your trust in Jesus and you will one day suddenly find your body rushing upward to meet Him in the air at the Rapture.
I hope to see you in the air at the Rapture. And if you happen to recognize me, please fly by me on your way to Jesus and say hi.