Question: What Are Some “Do’s and Don’ts That We Should Keep In Mind When Studying The Subject Of The Rapture?
Answer:The “rapture” refers to the doctrine that the church, the true believers in Jesus Christ will be “caught up” from the earth to meet the Lord in the air. Again we emphasize that this refers to the genuine believers in Jesus; not merely people who attend church or have some family background in Christianity.
At that time their physical bodies will be transformed from natural, corruptible and mortal bodies to spiritual, incorruptible, and immortal bodies. These raptured believers will forever be in the presence of the Lord.
While the Bible teaches that such an event will take place there is disagreement among Bible believers as to its timing. Therefore, it is important that we have an understanding of the various ways in which Christians view this issue.
However, before we look into the question of the timing of the rapture of the church there are a number of preliminary matters which need to be addressed. Indeed, there are a number of “do’s and don’ts” which need to be stressed when examining this question. They are as follows.
1. We Need To Correctly Frame The Issue
Any question regarding the rapture of the church must be properly stated or “framed.” It is important that we understand the precise issues as well as why people hold to the various positions which they embrace.
Therefore, whether we agree with them or not, we should take the time to know why each position believes what they believe. Consequently, we must examine the best arguments which are put forward for each side.
This being the case it will not do to find the weakest arguments for one particular point of view and then attempt to refute them. On the contrary we should attempt to find the most persuasive arguments which each side offers and then interact with them. The fact that some people have offered poor or simplistic arguments in the past should not be an issue. We don’t want to seek out the worst arguments each side proposes. Instead we want to find the best. Only then can we come to a proper conclusion on the matter.
Therefore, we should not cite only selective verses or passages which promote our particular position while deliberately ignoring other passages which may contradict what we believe. Full disclosure is absolutely essential.
2. We Should Not Predetermine The Outcome Of Our Study
In looking at this question, as to what the Bible teaches about the rapture of the church, our goal should be to discover the truth of the matter. Thus, the outcome should not be pre-determined before we examine all of the evidence. If the evidence leads us to a different position than what we have previously held, then we must change our position; we should not try to change the evidence! While this may not be easy to do it is something that must be done if we are going to be intellectually honest.
3. We Must Put This Question Into Proper Perspective
Once we understand this issue we must then put it into proper perspective. There are two extremes in which we must avoid. The first sees this matter of the rapture of the church as of little or no importance. Basically, people who hold this view look at the question of the rapture and its timing as irrelevant to everyday life. There are more important matters which deserve our attention. Thus, this biblical doctrine receives little or no consideration.
The other extreme sees this doctrine as primary; it is one of the central beliefs of the faith. The timing of the rapture is placed alongside the Person and work of Jesus Christ, the nature of the Bible and the doctrine of salvation as an essential point of Christian teaching.
Neither of these extreme approaches is correct. The answer lies somewhere in the middle.
As we noted in an earlier question, we will find that this issue is certainly not irrelevant. If the believers are taken out of the world before the time when God’s wrath is poured out on humanity, then we should be looking to the coming of Christ to deliver us from this period.
On the other hand, if Christians are going to experience this horrific time, and suffer to some degree with the unbelievers, then we must prepare for such a period. Consequently, believers in Christ will conduct themselves differently depending upon their view of the timing of the rapture of the church. This issue is not unimportant.
Having said this we do not want to go to the other extreme. As we examine the New Testament we do not find the timing of the rapture as being the prime focus of the preaching and teaching of Christ and His apostles. Indeed, apart from a few specific references, we do not find the issue of the rapture of the church mentioned at all. Therefore, the key is to try and find the right balance when studying and discussing this issue. This is not always easy to do.
4. We Must Not Make This Issue A Test Of Fellowship
This cannot be stressed too strongly. After our study of this subject, or perhaps even before we have made a serious study of the topic, we may have a view which we sincerely and deeply hold. There is nothing wrong with this.
However, what is wrong is to make our particular view the basis on which we associate with other Christians. While it is probably important that we go to a particular church that holds the same view as we do on this subject, it is certainly not essential. This is an important matter but there are a number of other issues which are of greater importance. The timing of the rapture is not the gospel! This should never be forgotten.
5. We Must Realize That There Are No Quick,Easy Answers To This Issue
No particular view of end-time events is without problems. Thus, as far as coming to conclusions about the timing of the rapture is concerned, we must understand that there is no simple answer to this question, neither is there any quick solution. If there were then all Christians would be in agreement on this topic. The fact that godly men and women disagree on this matter should make this clear.
Almost everyone agrees that there is no single verse or passage that gives an undeniable or irrefutable answer to this question of the timing of the rapture. Any answer must be derived from studying the totality of Scripture. We cannot pick one verse here and other verse there in an attempt to construct this doctrine. It is an issue that demands our serious study.
Furthermore, any conclusion that is arrived at must be able to account for all of the objections brought against it. The theory must be able to give reasonable answers to specific questions.
As we have already indicated, we are convinced that the Pre-Tribulation theory is the view that best fits with all of the facts. While we believe that the Pre-Tribulation rapture view is the correct position we are well aware that godly people can and do disagree with our conclusion. Indeed, some individuals may use the same facts to come to an entirely different conclusion. Again we want to emphasize that we have no problem with this.
6. We Must Not Think We Have All The Answers To This Question
While this point can be applied to any biblical subject under discussion it seems especially appropriate here. Too many people claim to have all the answers with respect to the question of the timing of the rapture. This includes people on every side of this issue!
Obviously everyone cannot be correct as to the timing of this coming event. Somebody has to be wrong. Human nature is such that we think we have the correct answer while the other person has the wrong answer. While that may indeed be the case, it is also possible that the other person has the correct answer and we are the ones which are wrong! We always have to allow for this possibility.
Even if we believe we have the correct answer on this question it is still our Christian duty to graciously and lovingly treat others who disagree with our conclusions. We should not assume that we are more intelligent or more spiritual than those who hold differing perspectives.
Unfortunately, there is way too much name-calling going on from people on all sides of this issue. This should not be our approach in tackling this question. We need to discuss the issues surrounding this event with a large dose of Christian charity. This is what pleases the Lord.
7. Scripture Alone Must Be Our Guide
This last point is crucial. What solves this question is not what certain people may have taught in the history of the church or what we think current events may be telling us. While we may look at what others in the past have said about this issue, as well as what is presently going on in the world, the ultimate authority is the Scripture and the Scripture alone.
Every conclusion concerning the doctrine of the rapture of the church must come from the Bible and only from the Bible. The teaching of God’s Word on this subject is the only thing which really matters.
These “do’s and don’ts” should be kept in mind as we go about examining this particular issue, the rapture of the church.
Summary To Question 4 What Are Some “Do’s and Don’ts That We Should Keep In Mind When Studying The Subject Of The Rapture?
The rapture or translation of the church speaks of a time when the Lord snatches up the true believers in Jesus Christ who are on the earth and immediately brings them into His presence. In a moment, in a blink of an eye, they are changed from mortal, sinful beings to immortal beings with a perfect glorified body. These raptured believers will forever be with the Lord.
While this doctrine is taught in Scripture, there are many issues regarding the rapture of the church in which Bible-believers are divided. Indeed, there is no consensus of opinion about this event. This being the case there are a number of important things we should take notice of as we approach our study of this issue.
First, we should attempt to understand or frame this issue the best way in which we can. In other words, we should do our best to correctly understand why people have differing points of view. Thus, we must look at the most convincing arguments each position offers and make our decision as to what we believe based upon the best evidence available.
In doing so, we should be intellectually honest and not pre-determine our conclusion before we examine all the facts. If we discover the facts contradict a position we have previously held, then we need to go with the facts.
Next, we should have this issue in proper perspective. It is important as to what we will conclude about the timing of the rapture because, among other things, it will affect the way in which we conduct our Christian life as well as prepare for the future. The timing of the rapture is not an irrelevant issue.
On the other hand, it is not the gospel. The Great Commission from Jesus Christ is that we preach the good news about Him and teach His truth to all nations. This message is that He had died for the sins of the world, was buried, and that He rose from the dead three days later. Forgiveness of sin only comes from Him. This is the message Jesus commanded us to proclaim. Thus, we must put this matter of the rapture of the church into proper perspective giving it the right amount of attention it deserves.
While we may have a particular conviction as to which view of the timing of the rapture is correct, we should not make our position as a determining factor as to which Christians we will, or will not, associate with. All true Christians are our brothers and our sisters and should be treated as such. We should not have an “us versus them” mentality when it comes to this topic.
We should also realize that there are no easy answers to this question. Indeed, if there were a simple answer then all Christians would be in agreement. The fact that they are not unified in this matter should keep us humble when we discuss the issue with others.
No matter how much we understand about this topic there are always new things we can learn. The issues are complex. Consequently we should not think that we have all the answers. We never will. That is why we must keep on studying God’s Word!
Whatever position we ultimately decide to take on this subject, it is important that we should treat others who see things differently graciously and with Christian love. There is no place for name-calling when discussing this topic. None whatsoever! The Lord is pleased only when issues such as these are discussed in a Christlike manner. This should be our goal.
Finally, this issue can only be decided from the teachings of the Bible. No outside source should be given equal authority. Thus, while it is proper to discover what those in the history of the church may have said about this topic, or what current events may be telling us, the only thing which really matters is what God’s Word says. On this basis alone, this question must be decided.
This question is from my book “The Rapture” now available in Amazon Kindle and ITunes (see product page)