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  My "Take" on the Current Rapture-of-the-Church Craze
by J. Grant Swank, Pastor
04
December 2002

Is there really a pre-tribulation rapture of Christians, as Hollywood movies and many of our religious leaders are currently claiming?


The secular bookstores carry bestsellers sporting it. The secular theaters are showing movies sporting. TV talk shows interview religious figures sporting it. It's out of the churches and into the marketplace.

It's the Rapture Craze. Armageddon's there. AntiChrist is, too. So the secret scoop-up of the church is right there--before all global hell breaks loose. The righteous will miss the awful stuff, for sure. Jesus will take them off the planet's surface into heaven before bad times hit the Earth big time.

A recent Sunday morning's religious broadcasting showed a group of believers jumping up and down, rejoicing as they were getting in practice for the rapture! The "rapture jump" is now "in"?

If so, this is horrifying foolishness! Mark it down as biblical truth: There is no pre-tribulation rapture.

However, untold thousands believe in the "secret rapture of the church" prior to the tribulation period. This is because untold thousands don't want to have to think of suffering through a tribulation time frame. The late Corrie ten Boom called this pre-trib rapture teaching the "American doctrine." Go figure.

The belief in a secret rapture of believers before the tribulation is also because of a best-seller, "The Late, Great Planet Earth," by Hal Lindsey which was set loose in the l960s. It has been a paperback aggressively pushed by practically every evangelical / fundamentalist engine going.

Theologians, videos, films and preachers bolster up this myth with their earnest preachings and teachings.

Yet this is nothing but a myth, accented as much by certain theologically conservative Protestant segments similar unto the Roman Catholic underlining of the immaculate conception of Mary. Nevertheless, if there is no biblical support for such a Mariology teaching, it is bogus. Likewise, the pre-tribulation rapture teaching is bogus.

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). That is it in a nutshell!

Yet pre-tribulation rapturists sidestep this clear passage for more oblique passages. The latter are twisted and turned in order to fit into the "American doctrine." Yet such twisting is not sound exegesis. And for biblically-riveted evangelicals and fundamentalists to commit this drastic error is bordering on the horrific.

All other passages in Scripture relating to the "gathering together unto Him" must refer back to the literal time line provided by Jesus in Matthew 24.

One must not use a symbolic passage in the Book of Revelation or any other symbolically- based section of the Bible by which to draw a pre-tribulation rapture doctrine.

Further, one must not take words of the apostle Paul so as to insert them opportunistically into a conjured pre-tribulation string of Scripture references. Yet this has been done ad infinitum.

Instead, Jesus' literalism of Matthew 24 must be used as the benchmark for all other "gathering together" themes of Scripture.

One starts with literalism and moves into symbolism when seeking to understand Scripture; it is not the other way around.

During the 1970s and 1980s there was much written and preached about a pre-tribulation rapture. This has wound down some in the last decade or so. Why?

Today, with the world situation being what it is, there is not that much risk-taking in preaching dogmatically the pre-tribulation rapture. Why?

Is it because there are many who are beginning to question its validity? Is it because the world state is so uncertain that to go out on a limb with a false hope may ricochet?

One wonders, with world events progressively becoming more and more anti-Christian, why the pre-tribulation rapture persons are not celebrating each dawn as the day when Jesus may return to earth.

Such is not the phenomenon on a large scale. Furthermore, it may be because the next generation has not bought into this notion.

In any case, it is a myth, a legend of conservative Protestantism's own conjuring and has no base in the Holy Scriptures.

Yet these very Protestants are the ones who ardently point out the myths of Catholicism while holding to some of their own myths. Both segments of Christendom need to do some serious housecleaning of manufactured legends in order to return to the simple Bible truths; otherwise, the church suffers from severe lack of knowledge.

What is so frightening about holding to a pre-tribulation rapture? It is more than mere academic quibbling. Holding to such a notion is drastically weakening the church worldwide.

The church should be preparing for spiritual battle against the most evil forces arrayed by hell.

Instead, the church is languishing with a false hope. This is all orchestrated by the demonic powers in order to eventuate in a limp army of believers. And to see that through in this age of laxity in religion does not take much on the part of the dark powers. In addition, the apostate segment of religion is doing its fair share of blackening truth.

Does it take much intelligence to realize that there are awesomely wretched days yet ahead for the righteous remnant?

Those who are not strong will drop--fall away, as biblically predicted. They will be too numerous to contemplate.

But for those who are truly into carrying the daily cross there will be nothing able to thwart their zeal for Christ.

Already the remnant is being strengthened by the Spirit of light. He is gathering His own together in the power of the resurrection and the might of the revealed Word. There numbers are few; but their ardor before the Father is lovingly honored.

Set your vision upon the difficulties yet to be. They are but the trials permitted by the coming Christ.

At the close of the tribulation period, then there will be the gathering together of the believers from the four corners of the earth. They will greet Jesus in the clouds as He descends through space, having left the right hand of the Father in heaven.

The gathering together ("rapture") and the second advent then will be realized as one and the same event occurring at the end of the tribulation time frame. Jesus' declaration in Matthew 24:29-3l states it clearly.

Email J. Grant Swank

BIO

Joseph Grant Swank, Jr., Pastor, New Hope Church, Windham ME

Graduate of accredited college (BA) and seminary (M Div) with graduate work at Harvard Divinity School.

Married for 41 years with 3 adult children.

Author of 5 books and over 2000 articles in various Protestant and Catholic
magazines, journals and newspapers. Writer of weekly religion column for
PORTLAND PRESS HERALD newspaper, Portland ME.

Hobbies: Traveling to South America, Europe, Middle East, Canada; writing;
watercolor painting; meeting new friends.

Current occupations: Pastor; Teacher at Alternative Learning School for
at-risk youths.

Pastorates: Calgary, Alberta; Indianapolis IN; Akron OH; Fishkill NY;
Manchester CT; Walpole MA; Windham ME.

Winner of First Prize Writing Contest which yielded a three-week guided tour
of the Middle East.

Columnist for websites: MensNewsDaily.com, IntellectualConservative.com, MichNews.com,
Chalcedon.com, rePUNK.com, ConservativeTruth.com, FreeRepublic.com (USO Canteen Chapel link), WoundedShepherds.com (Insights link).