Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"Rapture" v. "Second Coming"

Let's try to clarify some muddy waters. The Christian Church has historically believed in the Second Coming of Christ, but the idea of the "Rapture" is a fairly new innovation in Christian theology. The earlier creeds of the church - the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed - both embrace the belief in the Second Coming explicitly.

The Apostles' Creed concludes a litany of beliefs regarding Jesus with these words: "... the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick [living] and the dead."

The Nicene Creed also connects the Second Coming with the resurrection and ascension of Christ: "On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end."

I like to think of creeds as snapshots of the ongoing and ever-moving life of the church. These two creed are among the earliest post-biblical creeds that we have and have been generally accepted as reliable expositions of the Scriptures by most of the church throughout its history. What they envision is that - without being specific regarding when or how - Christ will come again as the judge of humankind, both living and dead. What is important in these creeds is that the Second Coming is of one cloth with the incarnation, life, teachings, sufferings, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus' First Coming. It is the "consummation" of the story of salvation.

There is no mention of a "rapture" in these creeds. Some of the folks who embrace the doctrine of the "rapture" will tell you that it is because in the latter days God has given us insight into the Scriptures that our forebears did not have. I would argue that there is no mention of the "rapture" because a belief in the "rapture" is not a constitutive Christian belief. I'm not saying that those who believe in the "rapture" are not Christians. I am saying that one who is a Christian does not necessarily believe in the "rapture."

While they are intended to be related, the "rapture" and the Second Coming are different things. This week, I'll take a break from the "Harold Camping Watch" and talk about the differences between the "Rapture" and the Second Coming for a bit. It won't be as entertaining, but I would greatly welcome your input as we all strive to be faithful together.


  1. From 30AD until present, billions of Christians have been swayed by various doomsday prophecies. Since day one, Jesus predicted then end of the world within his generation! Even the apocalyptic beliefs of the very first Christians have been proved to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that Jesus’ follower all expected the Second Coming within their own lifetime. And, worse still, they had a reason. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their perception of the coming end where he would “arrive in the clouds” in their “generation would not pass until these things happened(Mt 24:34; Mk 13:30; Lk 21:32). I also put a link to a list of failed human prophecies up until the 1920′s at the bottom of this post. These prophesies usually revolve around various biblical books of Old Testament Prophecy, the Book of Revelation and a mishmash of current events(often related to Israel). Check out some famous apocalypse winners like “Late Great Planet Earth” by Hal Lindsey or “88 Reasons Why the World Will End in 1988″. And be sure not to forget the plethora of failed Jehovah Witness prophecies. You’d think they’d give up on the second or third try. Harold Camping’s reasoning for why million of believers would dematerialize and go to a happy place to spend eternity with an all knowing creator can be seen on this little sheet of paper to the right. Unfortunately critical thinking does not seem to be a strong point for him or his followers. Did anyone sit back and ask the question, “why do I believe what I believe” or “Do I have sufficient evidence”?

  2. Hi Doodie. Thanks for writing. I agree with almost everything you say in your comment - as do many people of the Christian faith.

    I put a little distance between what the Scriptures say that Jesus said and what Jesus actually said. I also think the various writers and interpreters of the Scriptures speak about the Second Coming in many different ways. That is, in fact, what I am trying to explore in this blog.

    So, I agree with your observations, mostly. One problem I have with the likes of Lindsey, Camping, etc. - besides their sheer arrogance - is that they act as if the Scriptures all say the same thing regarding the Second Coming - and that simply isn't so. At the same time, I can't critique the gospels/Jesus as if they all say the same thing either. I need to keep in mind that there are several and complex ways that the Scriptures speak of the end times. Again, that's what I'm trying to do in the blog, as well as in my book by the same name coming out later this summer.
    Thanks for your input and for your critical thinking.

  3. Thanks again Mark for another great article that will help me in my teaching of Revelation at PW next Wednesday

  4. Hal Lindsey's Pretrib Rapture "Proof"

    Is Hal Lindsey's proof for a pretrib rapture "100 proof" - that is, 100 percent Biblical?
    In "The Late Great Planet Earth" (p. 143) Lindsey gives his "chief reason" for pretrib: "If the Rapture took place at the same time as the second coming, there would be no mortals left who would be believers" - that is, no believers still alive who could enter the millennium and repopulate the earth.
    We don't know if Lindsey's amnesia is voluntary or involuntary, but earlier (p. 54), while focusing on chapters 12 through 14 of Zechariah, Lindsey sees "a remnant of Jews in Jerusalem" who are mortals who will become believing mortals at the second coming and then become repopulating mortals!
    During the same discussion of Zech. 12-14 Lindsey overlooks some of the final verses in Zech. 14. They reveal that some of the tribulation survivors "of all the nations which came against Jerusalem" will refuse to go there "to worship the King, the Lord of hosts." Here's what will happen to those "heathen" rebels: "upon them shall be no rain."
    So the facts about the repopulating mortals, in unbelieving as well as believing ranks, cancel out Lindsey's "chief reason" for opposing a joint rapture/second coming - the ONLY rapture view to be found in official theology books and organized churches prior to 1830!
    (See historian Dave MacPherson's "The Rapture Plot," the most accurate and most highly endorsed book on pretrib rapture history - available by calling 800.643.4645. Also Google "Pretrib Rapture Stealth," "Pretrib Rapture Pride," "Pretrib Rapture Secrecy," "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty" and "Evangelicals Use Occult Deception.")
    Although Hal Lindsey claims that his "Late Great" didn't set a date for Christ's return, many of his followers - including copycats Bill Maupin ("1981") and Edgar Whisenant ("1988") - did view Lindsey as a date-setter, and his later book "The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon" (the sort of title that date-setters and their ga-ga groupies love) became another fizzle - unless we're still living in the 1980s!
    In Old Testament days false prophets were stoned to death. Today they're just stoned!


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