Monday, April 27, 2015

Rapture Revolutionized; What If Christians Are Not Raptured?

            If you believe that Christ will return invisibly to snatch away the church (the living and the dead, who will be resurrected), you believe in the doctrine of rapture. You would also believe that God will give glorified bodies to all raptured believers of Christ so to live with HIM unto eternity.

            Your belief would include the great tribulation - a future seven year period of extraordinary suffering for mankind (need not be a literal seven year period). With reference to the timing of rapture and the great tribulation, you could believe that rapture would be: (we shall only consider the three major views)

            Pre Tribulational (rapture before the tribulation period)


            Post Tribulational (rapture at the end of tribulation)


            Mid Tribulational (rapture during the midpoint of the tribulation)

            Rapture is a rather recent view. Rapture was initially propagated by John Darby in 1827. A majority of Christians believe in Pre-tribulational rapture.

            Miraculous is always exciting. Rapture is miraculous, for it alludes to believers being supernaturally snatched away from this world.

            Apart from the church’s teaching, the doctrine of rapture has been popularized through movies, such as “Left Behind.” Those who have been greatly impacted by these movies as well as the teachings consider rapture to be an essential doctrine of Historic Christianity.  But is it so?

            Dr. William Lane Craig, an acclaimed and an accomplished Christian philosopher, expressed his public disagreement with the rapture theology.1 His disagreement was based on his hermeneutical consideration of the following verses that apparently espouse rapture: Mark 13:19-20, 24-27; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; 1 Corinthians 15: 22-26, 51-55, and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-8. 2

            When such a sharp theological disagreement occurs at the highest academic realm, how would lay Christians respond?

            An average Christian mind would respond through a few pertinent questions:

            1. Should I [continue to] believe in rapture?

            2. What would happen to me if there will be no rapture?

            3. If I would not be raptured, then am I doomed to suffer during the terrible period of tribulation?

            Primarily, there are essential and non-essential doctrines in Historic Christianity. How do we identify an essential doctrine?

            Dr. Norman Geisler defines essential doctrine as, “First, the doctrine must concern and be connected to our salvation; that is, it must be salvific. Second, its connection to our salvation must be crucial; that is, it must be so tied to our salvation that if it were not true, our salvation as God revealed it would not be possible.” 3

            For instance, Christ’s divinity or faith in Christ is an essential doctrine. But baptism by water is not an essential doctrine.

            In other words, water baptism is not a means to our salvation. However, we cannot agree to disagree about Christ’s divinity. As Christians, if we believe that Christ is not God, then we are not Christians. We may as well consider ourselves as people of other religion or atheists or agnostics, since they do not believe that Christ is God.

            Therefore, while certain doctrines are considered essential to Historic Christianity, there are other doctrines that are non-essential. Rapture falls under the non-essential category because it is not connected to our salvation.

            Rapture does not hinder man’s relationship with God or salvation in any possible manner. Rapture merely espouses the snatching away of the believer from this world and into God’s presence. The crucial aspect of rapture is not the act of being raptured (snatched away), but the fact that the person is a believer of Christ.

            Faith in Christ gains salvation (it is not the faith that Christ is one among the many gods, but the faith that saves man is the faith that Christ is the only [way to] God whose redemptive sacrifice saves man of his sins). If man rejects Christ, then he rejects himself from God’s presence. So faith in Christ is an essential doctrine.

            Therefore, even if the doctrine of rapture is incorrect, Dr. Craig affirmed that it would not affect believers’ relationship with Christ or their salvation, “I think that the rapture doctrine is wrong, but that’s not going to inhibit anyone’s relationship with God.”4 Dr. Craig’s statement reflects the notion that rapture is a non-essential doctrine in Historic Christianity.

            What if there is no such thing as rapture? Would a believer of Christ be with God nevertheless? Of course!

            Pre-tribulational rapture espouses the snatching away of the believers of Christ from the impending gory of the great tribulation. But the mid-tribulational and post-tribulational rapture includes the believers of Christ in the gory of the great tribulation. Whatever the case may be, believers of Christ will either go through the great tribulation or not.

            Since rapture is a subset of Christ’s second coming, let us observe rapture from the vantage point of the Lord’s second coming. There are then two stages of Christ’s second coming.

            The first possible stage is the rapture, which is the “coming for” the saints. The second stage of the Lord’s second coming is the “coming with” the saints. The great tribulation separates these two stages.

            Even if rapture does not occur, it is certain that the Lord will come again!

            Effectively, if rapture does not occur, then the Lord’s second coming will occur in one stage or as a single event.

            However which way you look at it, when the Lord returns again in all HIS glory, the believers of Christ will be with the Lord forever in their glorified bodies. So rapture really does not matter!    

            If rapture does not occur, then the believers would be included in the great tribulation. In this scenario, Christians should just be ready for this inclusion (cf. 2 Corinthians 12: 9).

            Would those who disagree with rapture be termed heretics or would those who profess to rapture be considered heretics? In the words of Dr. Craig, “A heretic is someone who has a doctrinal error so serious that it separates him from salvation” 5

                Whether you believe in rapture or not, there is no doctrinal error that separates you from salvation. As said earlier, faith in Christ is mandatory to one’s salvation. Rapture is not essential to man’s salvation. So ‘heresy’ is not something that we should be concerned about in this context.

            However, it is rather unfortunate that Christian denominations have warred over non-essential doctrines, such as rapture and water baptism. Spiritual pride is one major reason for this sad reality. So we continue to pray that God would enable us to follow this maxim, “In essentials unity, nonessentials liberty, and in all things charity.” Amen.



2 For an extensive rebuttal of the doctrine of rapture, please visit these links:

Link 1:

Link 2:




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