Jerry C. Brewer
You’ve probably seen the bumper sticker that says, “In case of rapture this car will be unmanned.” While that is cute and catchy, it teaches a false doctrine. People like Paul Crouch, Kenneth Copeland and Jack Van Impe speak of “The Rapture” while thousands of their television viewers sit enthralled. But the doctrine of a so-called “rapture” is wholly without Biblical foundation. In fact, the word “rapture” cannot even be found in the Bible.
This false notion of a rapture is simple. Its advocates claim that the righteous living and dead will be taken to heaven at the second coming of Christ, while the wicked will be left on earth for a period of tribulation. That false notion has not only made the authors of the “Left Behind” series a lot of money, but it’s also duped many people into believing something the Bible doesn’t teach. They base their speculation on Second Thessalonians 4:13-18 which says,
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 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.
This passage says, “the dead in Christ shall rise first.” But the question is, “Rise before whom or what?” Does Paul mean that the dead in Christ shall be raised before the wicked? No. The resurrection of the wicked and righteous together, which Jesus addressed in John 5:28-29, is not under consideration in these verses. Paul is here comforting them concerning Christians who had died—those who were “asleep in Jesus.” His point is that the living should not sorrow as those who have no hope, because when Jesus comes again he will bring with him all who sleep in him—the dead in Christ. Paul is assuring them that their dead loved ones will not be left in the grave. The Thessalonians had the false idea that the dead would miss out on heaven when Christ returns and that only the living would be there. But Paul says the living shall not “prevent them which are asleep”—ascend into heaven ahead of, or before, those who have died before the Lord’s return.
His point is that the dead in Christ shall rise first—before the living in Christ ascend—and they shall all ascend together to meet the Lord in the air. Neither the wicked, a millennial period, a so-called “rapture” nor a tribulation period is under consideration in these verses. There are no such things to be found within the pages of the New Testament. Those “Left Behind” books ought to be left behind, and they will be by those who know and love the truth of God’s word.