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There's No Secret Rapture, Right? Part 1


I have some friends who believe in the rapture. But I know that as Seventh-day Adventists we believe in the second coming of Christ. I don’t know which scriptures support our teaching, though. And my friends seem to believe in the Bible too. So which texts can I use to prove the Second Coming rather than the secret rapture?

Steve Answers:

As Seventh-day Adventists we look to the Bible for our beliefs. And it sounds as if you want to do that too.But people can prove almost anything using just one “proof” text—especially when they take it out of context. So be sure to read texts in context (consider what the verses before and after the text say).And don’t build a major belief on just one text. If it’s a major belief to God, you can expect to read about it in more than one place in the Bible.

Now, this might surprise you, but I actually believe in the rapture! Why? Because the Bible says it will happen. The Bible also explains how it will happen.The word “rapture” is found in only one passage:

1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17. It reads, “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”

The phrase “caught up” is the translation of the Latin word for “rapture.” While I believe in the rapture because it’s mentioned in the Bible, I certainly don’t believe that it will be “secret.” How can it be secret when it’s going to be preceded by a loud command, the voice of an archangel, and the trumpet call of God?

But let’s see how this belief came about in the first place. About 500 years ago people were accusing a church leader of being the antichrist. So one church scholar named Franciscos Ribera came up with a plan to divert attention from the accusation. He started teaching that Daniel’s 70-week prophecy (see Daniel 9) would end with a seven-year period of tribulation sometime in the future. And that’s when the antichrist would be revealed.

Later (about 100 years ago) a lawyer named John Darby added the concept of dispensations (different chapters in the history of the world). He taught that at the end of the world (during the last week of Daniel’s 70-week prophecy), Christ’s church would be secretly “raptured” away to heaven. Then the Jews, who had to remain on earth, would get their chapter in history, a final time of tribulation in which to choose Christ.

That led to Cyrus Scofield including ideas about the secret rapture in his notes in The Scofield Reference Bible, which he published in 1909. People reading his notes began to accept his comments as part of Scripture.

Then in the 1970s Hal Lindsey published a best-selling book called The Late Great Planet Earth. In it he popularized the secret rapture by showing it as an attractive way for the world to end—God’s people getting raptured from this earth before the time of tribulation.

Nowadays many Christian theologians, authors, and professors believe in the secret rapture—followed by seven years of tribulation, followed by Christ’s visible second coming. But while it sounds comfortable to be raptured and not have to go through any time of trouble, this theory just doesn’t fit with what the rest of the Bible says about Jesus’ second coming. We’ll talk more about that next week.

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