A friend of mine once gave me a disc of a talk given by the Catholic Apologist John Martignoni. If you aren’t familiar with Mr. Martignoni’s work, you should be. He is an inspiration to people like me who don’t have theology degrees, but yet aspire to be apologists.
Anyway, the talk my friend gave me was on the Protestant belief in the Rapture. Most of you will probably be familiar with this belief. Protestants think that Jesus will, at some point, take all of the “true Christians” into Heaven. The “true Christians” will simply disappear. There is a lot of disagreement among Protestants as to when the Rapture will happen, and if there will be one or more.
There does appear to be some scriptural evidence for a rapture of some sort. But does the Bible speak of a rapture in the way Protestants believe in it? Will “true Christians” really just disappear from the Earth to be with Jesus in Heaven?
As usual, I will not address every passage of Scripture used by Protestants to defend the Rapture. Such would make this post far too long. Besides, a close examination of some of the passages will reveal that they are really describing the Second Coming of Christ, and not a rapture. We will focus on just a few of the passages.
Perhaps the most often cited passage of Scripture in regards to the Rapture is Matthew 24. In verses 36-44 Jesus describes how people will just disappear from the Earth. This might appear to prove the Rapture, but let us not be so quick in coming to this decision.
Matthew 24:38-9 says it will be just like the days of Noah. Now, Protestants claim the Rapture will take all of the “true Christians” from Earth, leaving only unbelievers and “bad Christians” on Earth. Yet, is that what happened during the days of Noah? According to Scripture, Noah and his family were the only holy people on the Earth. They were saved from the deluge, and only the evil were left!
Another oft-quoted passage comes from 1 Thessalonians 4. This chapter does mention Christians who are living on the Earth being “caught up in the air” to meet Jesus. Surely this passage proves the Rapture?
Sorry to say, but 1 Thessalonians 4 actually tends to disprove the Rapture as Protestants typically believe in it. Verses 13-7 depict Jesus coming to Earth, and those who are alive “meet Him in the air”. This is no a depiction of Christians disappearing from the Earth. No, it is a depiction of an ancient custom taking place.
In the ancient world, whenever an important person like a king visited a city, the people would throw open the city gates and meet the official at some distance from the city. The people would then accompany the official into the city. This is what 1 Thessalonians 4 depicts. Jesus doesn’t catch us in the air, and then turn around, taking us to Heaven. No, Jesus brings us to meet Him in the air so we can accompany Him to Heaven!
There are many more passages we could examine, but I do not intend for this to be an exhaustive examination. What we have seen is that two of the most frequently quoted passages of Scripture in defense of the Rapture are not what they seem. Instead, these passages seem to suggest that, in the end, only the good will be “left behind”.
If you would like to do more research, I will suggest two books. One is “The Rapture Trap” by Paul Thigpen. The other is “Will Catholics be ‘Left Behind'” by Greg Olsen.
Peace in Christ,
David J. Pollard
American Catholic Solidarity