In the press leading up to the new Nicholas Cage movie, Left Behind, I came across an interesting quote from someone described as a Christian philosopher. Now I am not quite sure what that is, but it can’t be good. Philosophers work in the field of philosophy, a word handed down by the Greeks (philosophia) which literally means “love of wisdom”. If that is truly the focus of this person’s endeavors, all would be well, since wisdom comes from God and is far superior to even the greatest knowledge of men. (Proverbs 2:1-15, 1 Corinthians 1:17-31, 3:18-20, James 5:1-8). However in practice, philosophy often gets stuck in the reasoning and foolishness of men. That would be very bad. Its the traditions and ideas of men that has led to so much confusion concerning God’s Word. Its the religious that have so confused the simplicity of the Gospel, and given us so many interpretations to divide the Body. God’s Word, His Truth, is designed to unite Believers. God is not the author of division, confusion, and strife. (1 Corinthians 14:33) Its the enemy that has twisted and confused God’s Word from the very beginning, causing the downfall of so many. (Genesis 3:1-4, 2 Corinthians 11:1-3) The enemy has the greatest success turning people away from God’s Truth, His Word, by working through religion.
Where is the wise man (the philosopher)? Where is the scribe (the scholar)? Where is the investigator (the logician, the debater) of this present time and age? Has not God shown up the nonsense and the folly of this world’s wisdom?
(1 Corinthians 1:20 <AMP>)
Let no person deceive himself. If anyone among you supposes that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool [let him discard his worldly discernment and recognize himself as dull, stupid, and foolish, without true learning and scholarship], that he may become [really] wise. For this world’s wisdom is foolishness (absurdity and stupidity) with God, for it is written, He lays hold of the wise in their [own] craftiness; And again, The Lord knows the thoughts and reasonings of the [humanly] wise and recognizes how futile they are.
(1 Corinthians 3:18-20 <AMP>)
I have not read any of the Left Behind books. I generally don’t do fiction, preferring to stick with the Bible and Christian teaching during my reading time. And I don’t think I ever saw any of the original Left Behind movies from start to finish. I have nothing against the series, or the new movie. Considering what generally comes out of Hollywood, even a mediocre film on a Biblical topic can only be an improvement. Now if it gets the Noah treatment, I may change my opinion.
In his comments, this Christian philosopher was concerned that Christians might be misled by the theology found in the Left Behind movie, specifically the Rapture. He called it a “popular theory” and then implied it was John Darby’s creation, later widely spread by the Scofield Reference Bible. And he added it was a misinterpretation of 1 and 2 Thessalonians. I usually don’t rely on movies as my basis for faith, or even philosophers. God gave us His Word and the Holy Spirit to answer all these questions and to establish our faith. (Psalm 119:103-105, John 16:13-15, 17:14-20, Romans 10:17, 2 Timothy 2:14-15, Hebrews 4:12)
Critics suggest that the concept of a rapture is foreign to the Bible. However, there is clear precedent in God’s Word for people who have been taken alive to Heaven – Enoch (Genesis 5:21-24, Hebrews 11:5-6), Elijah (2 Kings 2:1-18), the dead saints after Jesus’ resurrection (Matthew 27:52-53, 1 Corinthians 15:20-23, Ephesians 4:8-10), and the ascension of Jesus (Mark 16:19, Luke 24:44-53). There will be raptures during the Tribulation – the great multitude, the 144,00 Jews, and the Two Witnesses – see Revelation, as a discussion of these events is beyond the scope of this post.
The departure of the Church before the Tribulation is not a “popular theory” any more than justification by faith was after Luther came along. They are both clearly found in God’s Word when rightly divided. The fact that organized religion ran the show for the last 2000 years, more concerned with heresy hunting, temporal power, and genocidal crusades waged even against Believers, rather than God’s Word, does not diminish the Truth rediscovered by folks who came later. Paul received this revelation, taught it, and shared it in his writing long before Darby, Scofield, Luther, or any other religious institution or teacher came along. Paul’s letters reveal three great Truths: the Church is One Body – the Body of Christ with Jesus as the Head, the Return of Christ for His Body, and Justification By Faith – the Age of Grace. Almost immediately these were discarded and replaced by religious ideas and practices, the beggarly elements and rudiments of the world that Paul confronts in Galatians and Colossians. Paul tells Timothy that all in Asia turned away from his teaching towards the end of his ministry. (2 Timothy 1:15) Contrast that with Paul’s success in the same area earlier in his career. (Acts 19:10-11)
No matter how much the enemy attempted to bury God’s Word in monasteries and keep it out of the hands of people, the Holy Spirit continued to work through folks of extraordinary faith, even some courageously paying the ultimate price, to return God’s Word to the people so they could joyfully receive and be blessed by His Truth. Paul’s revelation was always there, but the religious chose tradition over God’s Word. Instead of preaching the Word, religion devolved to the point that torture and threat of death were used as tools for evangelism. In an environment ruled by fear, its difficult for faith to take root and flourish. Thankfully, God made a way. The Light of Truth emerged from the Dark Ages, overwhelming the superstition of the past. The Bible was widely translated and distributed. Now, anyone can have their own personal copy printed in their own language. God is so GOOD!
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)
There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
(Hebrews 4:9-13 <KJV>)
Having a Bible on the shelf is not enough. You must read it, study it, and devour it. And you must be careful to rightly divide it. The Bible is written FOR the Church, but not all of it is ABOUT the Church. Paul’s letters, especially Romans through 2 Thessalonians, are written TO, ABOUT, AND FOR the Church. It is there you find God’s complete revelation for the EKKLESIA of the Age of Grace, the Body of Christ. Until this understanding sinks in, the Bible will be a confusing and challenging document, especially if you attempt to insert the Church where it does not belong.
The focus of the Old Testament is the nation of Israel. In the Gospels, Jesus is ministering under the Law to the Jewish people living under the Law. (Galatians 4:3-7) Acts is a transition time, Israel rejects the Kingdom, and the Age of Grace begins. (Acts 28:23-31) Revelation picks up at the end of the Age of Grace, the Church is in Heaven with Jesus, so the focus is squarely on Israel, and the nations that remain. To rightly divide the Truth, you must know to whom the book is written, its purpose, and the dispensation or age. There are three groups defined in Paul’s letters – Jews, Gentiles (Nations), and the Church (Body of Christ). (1 Corinthians 10:32) During this dispensation, you must know to which group you belong, and which group is addressed in the Word. The Body of Christ is unique in that it includes folks from both Jews and Gentiles, but they are assimilated into one Body with a new relationship with God. In the Body of Christ, the wall that separated people, and the division sown by the enemy, has been removed. (Romans 3:21-31, 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, Galatians 3:25-29, Ephesians 3:1-6, Colossians 3:8-11)
For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
(Galatians 3:26-29 <KJV>)
John writes in his Gospel, “…these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:30-31) There is much Truth to glean from the Gospels, but once you believe in Jesus, you now have LIFE, and have a relationship with your Heavenly Father. To fully discover who you are in Christ, you turn to Paul’s letters. This is where you separate Truth from “popular theories.” It is impossible to understand God’s plan to save the Church, unless you first understand His relationship with the Body of Christ.
I quote E. W. Bullinger because I can’t write it any better than this:
It is useless to teach Christians the truths connected with the Lord’s Coming until they have learned the truths in the other Epistles. Until they know and understand from Romans what they are by nature, and what God has made them to be IN Christ Jesus, — sons and heirs, joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17); until they know and understand that even now God has “blessed them with all spiritual blessing in the heaven – lies IN Christ” (Ephesians 1:3), they have no place for, and no understanding of, the truths concerning His return from heaven.
To sum up : — The saved sinner is shown
IN ROMANS, as dead and risen with Christ:
IN EPHESIANS, as seated in the heavenlies IN Christ:
IN THESSALONIANS, in glory for ever with Christ.
You cannot read Paul’s letters and miss the clear implications – His Church is not appointed to wrath. (1 Thessalonians 1:10, 5:9-10) Believers will meet Jesus in the clouds and be forever with him. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) In the twinkling of an eye our bodies will be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51-58) And Jesus will take you to the place he has prepared for you – one of many mansions in his Father’s house. (John 14:1-3, see also John 11:20-26). The antichrist is restrained while the Body of Christ remains on Earth. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-17)
Much of the doubt and confusion about the Rapture comes from not discerning the differences between two key events – Jesus coming for his Body, and the 2nd Advent, his return to the Earth at the end of the Tribulation.
The Rapture/Coming of Christ For His Church/Blessed Hope – Before the Tribulation begins, Jesus will descend with a shout, the dead in Christ, and those alive at his coming, will both meet him in the clouds. This event is never described as judgment, nor is wrath associated with it. The Rapture is never described as happening in darkness, or coming on people as a thief in the night. It is a glorious event for those participating – the redemption of their bodies and spending eternity with Christ. Those that remain will not see Jesus, or hear him. They will only see the results of the departure of the Church. Christ comes FOR his saints to save them from the wrath to come. Here are a few Scripture references: Luke 21:36, John 11:20-27, 14:1-3, 1 Corinthians 15:19-26, 15:51-58, Ephesians 2:1-22, 5:23-27, Philippians 3:20-21, Colossians 3:1-4, 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8, 2:19-20, 3:13, 4:13-18, 5:1-9, 5:23, Titus 2:11-15, Hebrews 10:34-37, 1 John 2:24-29, 3:1-3.
The 2nd Advent/Day of the Lord – At the end of the 7 years of Tribulation Jesus will come back to Earth landing on the Mount of Olives with great power. All the world will see him – something unimaginable just 50 years ago. Christ comes WITH his saints and angels to destroy the ungodly. Here are a few Scripture references: Daniel 2:44-45, Daniel 7:13-14, Zechariah 14:1-9, Matthew 24:29-31, Luke 21:25-33, 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10, 2:8, Jude 1:14-15, Revelation 1:7, 19:11-21.
Carefully read the passages in context. You will note that very little mention is made of the Rapture of the Church in the Old Testament and the Gospels. Jesus was ministering to the Jews, and the revelation of the Mystery had not yet been given. He does, however, drop a couple of hints. Most of his teaching on the End is focused on the Tribulation and the 2nd Advent, which will be relevant to the Jews living at that time.
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
(Ephesians 2:4-9 <KJV>)
Much of our understanding of the End Times events comes from Revelation. This book is FOR the Church, but not TO OR ABOUT it. The book was written to servants, a name that is unique to Israel and rarely to be seen in the Church letters, where one is neither Jew or Greek, but one body, children of God, joint heirs with Jesus. The Pauline Epistles overflow with Love and Grace, and there is no condemnation, no judgment, and no wrath. Consider that for a moment – did God change, or the folks that are the subject of the promises? There are almost 300 Old Testament references in Revelation, three times the number found in Matthew and Hebrews – the two uniquely Jewish books in the New Testament. The focus is Daniel’s 70th week/Jacob’s Trouble, fulfilling God’s plan for His chosen people, and the remaining nations. You have to really contort to place the Body of Christ into the Revelation narrative. Something I tried for way too many frustrating years, attempting to square my Heavenly Father who is Love, with the God of wrath and judgment found in Revelation. It can’t be done unless you rightly divide the Word, correctly understanding the subject of the prophecies, and the age.
I can remember sitting through sermons on the Last Days, and college lectures on Revelation with a certain unease. I experienced a little cognitive dissonance attempting to square the religious teaching I had heard growing up concerning the End Times, with the God I had come to know in the New Testament, especially the Body of Christ’s new relationship with the Father as described in the Pauline Epistles. This takes me back to the earlier point. You will struggle understanding the who, what, when, where, and why of the Rapture until you know Paul’s revelation to the Church. Ask yourself what kind of parent wants their child to suffer? Why would you think your Heavenly Father wants His kids to suffer the wrath to come? That is reserved for the unrighteous. Believers are made righteous by faith. They are free from condemnation. They are spiritually already in Heaven waiting for the Blessed Hope, the redemption of their bodies. (Romans 5:1-5, 8:1-17, 22-25, Ephesians 2:1-10)
Ask yourself this, if Believers are the Body of Christ, with Jesus as the Head, would not the Body be with the Head both spiritually and physically at the end of the Age?
Not too long ago everyone was in a tizzy over a group claiming the rapture was going to happen on a certain day. People have been wrongly predicting, and misunderstanding the End Times for 2,000 years. I am a Christian, a Believer, and I fully expect to join Jesus in the sky when he comes for his Body, but I don’t expect it tomorrow. I could go into all the Biblical reasons why, but this is probably not the time for that. I enjoy studying this subject and will be following up with additional posts explaining the sequence of events.
When people make predictions, its more likely to discourage the faithful when it fails to manifest. Unless you have a very specific Word from God, I would keep predictions between you and your Heavenly Father. Making predictions is risky, but you are not to be ignorant of the signs, times and seasons. The Earth is reaching the end of the 6th day (6,000 years of this generation). Remember, Genesis is an account of a RECREATION of the world. There was a world that existed before this one that was ruled by angels, specifically Lucifer, that was destroyed, covered with water and shrouded in darkness. At the start of Genesis, the earth is in darkness, covered with water and destroyed in judgment. The original Hebrew reads it became void and without form. (Genesis 1:2, Jeremiah 4:23-28, Isaiah 14:12-14, Ezekiel 28:11-17, 2 Peter 3:5-7). It was in this world that then was that the fossil record belongs. The Creation story is a profile of this generation, six days (6,000 years), and one day of rest (1,000 years). The Bible is loaded with shadows and types that profile the End Times – Noah, Lot, Joshua at Jericho, many parables of Jesus, and his Transfiguration. And you have to be blind not to notice the fulfillment of prophecy – most notably, the restoration of Israel as a nation.
Here is something else to consider. In Hebrews 11:6, Paul writes, “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
Everything God promises is received by faith, trusting His Word. There seems to be a connection between the rapture, and faith. I have often wondered if Christians who do not believe in the coming of Christ for His Body might be left behind. I don’t know the answer, nor do I want to find out the hard way. Its better to search God’s Word and know the Truth. Don’t be left behind.
Only God knows the specific date and time of the Rapture. However, consider a Biblical precedent – the prophets knew the exact day that Elijah was to be taken to heaven. (2 Kings 2:1-12) Elijah represents the Church (the righteous living at the coming of Christ) that will be taken just before the Tribulation begins. He is seen with Moses (representing the righteous dead) on the mountain during the transfiguration of Jesus vision. Jesus was accompanied up the mountain by Peter, James, and John, who were the only Disciples allowed with him at the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter. Matthew and Mark note that after exactly six days, they went up the mountain together. Luke in a parallel passage says about 8 days – meaning he did not have all the details. If these are all a bunch of coincidences, there sure seems to be a bunch of them in the Bible. (Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:1-10, Luke 9:28-36, 2 Peter 1:16-21)
My advice for Believers on the fence? Don’t miss out. The Blessed Hope (Rapture) is planned by God to protect His children from the wrath to come. It is a gift. If you don’t believe, and scoff at the notion, you may end up like the children of Israel – dying in the wilderness, and never reaching the Promised Land.
Don’t take my word for it, or the opinions of theologians or pastors, and not even the advice of a Christian philosopher. Dig into the Word and see the Truth for yourself. Let the Holy Spirit reveal God’s plan to you. Read Paul’s letters to the Church and understand who you are in Christ, and see the plan Jesus has for his Body. Its Good News!!
May God Richly Bless You!
End of Part 1