Why the Rapture and Santa are Both Fairy Tales: a theological explanation

The RaptureAre you still believing that the world is getting worse and worse, and that one day you’ll get raptured out of here?

Well, there’s good news and bad news: the bad news first: you’re not going anywhere. Good news? Well, the world is actually getting better and better.

Recently I wrote a piece about the ways that believing in the rapture creates poor social ethics, which may actually create destructive forces in the world (you can read the original article here). In response that article I have received e-mails from many readers asking for a deeper theological explanation as to why they should abandon their belief in the rapture, so this post will briefly explain why you should abandon this view.

First, as discussed in my previous article, belief in the “secret rapture of the church” is not part of historic, orthodox Christianity. This position was completely invented by John Nelson Darby in the 1800’s, and caught on in the US around the time of the first world war. Prior to Darby, the idea that there would be a secret rapture of the church did not exist, so it is important to understand that this belief is very, very new on the historic scene of Christianity.

However, simply being new theology isn’t reason alone to reject it– new theology is developed all the time, and it’s always good to find new ways to see and understand God. This theology, as I explained in my previous piece, is incredibly dangerous because of how it impacts our social ethics and serves as a deterrent to investing in long-term social progress. Instead, there are sound theological and biblical grounds to completely dismiss the rapture and everything that typically gets lumped into the end times nonsense so much of us grew up on.

rapture1992First, it is important to understand that in some ways, it is difficult to refute the concept of a secret rapture of the church because there aren’t any verses to refute– the concept does not appear in the Bible. Believers who embrace rapture/end times doctrine are actually following the teachings of Darby instead of Jesus, so they don’t have any smoking guns from the Bible that one can refute. As I’ve said before, there are no verses in the Bible which describe Kirk Cameron assembling a post-rapture tribulation force– I can’t refute what doesn’t exist in the Bible to begin with.

Before we actually tackle the rapture, it’s important to understand that rapture theology flows out of theology of a “great tribulation” which actually is described in scripture. Jesus describes the “great tribulation” in Matthew 24, which Jesus states will be (a) regional not global (he tells them to go to the mountains outside the city to find safety) (b) would happen during the lives of the people he was talking to (“this generation”) and (c) would happen at the same time as the destruction of the temple, which occurred in AD 70. Furthermore, Jesus promised that things would be so bad during the tribulation that resulted in the destruction of the temple, that the world would never be that bad again. So, from a straight reading of the passage, we see that the “tribulation” is a past event, and that because this is a past event, we can accept what Jesus says when he promises things will never get that bad again. Furthermore, there is no verse in all of the Old or New Testaments which state there will be a 7 year tribulation– even believers in the tribulation admit this.

Furthermore, the verses and reasoning rapture believers use to justify their un-biblical position are weak at best. Here’s the argument, and why it’s outlandish:

The only passage end timers have which may appear to support the rapture is 1 Thess 4:13-18, which they claim describes the rapture:

“13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

However, when one actually reads the passage and accepts it at face value, one notices that it doesn’t teach any sort of secret rapture where millions of people disappear. Instead, it teaches of an event when Christ returns that happens in plain view of everyone, following a loud trumpet call of God. And, it doesn’t describe people being taken away, but rather people welcoming Christ back to the earth.

There’s nothing secret about it– this is a very PUBLIC event. The rapture you’ve been taught? That’s something that happens in secret.

The way Paul describes this is by way of comparison for his audience; many would have understood that this is word imagery of children running to the end of the driveway to welcome back a parent who has been gone. It is NOT describing planes falling out of the air and Kirk Cameron trying to find his next meal.

The next argument they will use is an argument of word-thing-fallacy. It is argued by MacAurther and others that since the word “church” appears multiple times in the first three chapters of Revelation but never after, it is to be assumed that the church is gone– which necessitates a “rapture” (term rapture is not in the Greek scriptures, though it is used in the LXX to describe the event in 1 Thess 4). So, this argument claims that simply because the “word” is not there this is part and parcel to saying the “thing” is not there. This is faulty, faulty logic to build theology on– we are only able to go based upon what is in scripture, one cannot just make up their own explanations and call it orthodox truth.

The only other verse that could be seen as remotely compelling is John 14:3 when Jesus tells his disciples that he will “come again”.

raptured3To which, my reply is: thank you Captain Obvious. We know that Jesus is coming again– the point is, that Jesus will come again in plain view for everyone to see, and that those who remain will welcome him back with a high-five in the sky. That’s a far cry from taxi’s careening of the George Washington Bridge, and folks on earth trying to figure out what just happened.

In short, believers argue that a secret rapture is “implied” in scripture. And, I would caution anyone on building an entire worldview on something they think is “implied” in an ancient document which quite often, is unclear on many matters.

The secret rapture of the church? It’s just not in the cards– it’s not taught in scripture. The only way to believe it is to choose to read into scripture what your grandma taught you, instead of taking scripture at face value.

And, while Grandma’s are nice, their theology is frequently off.

If you’d like to read a quick book by a conservative, evangelical scholar which will debunk the rapture in three moves or less (and can be read in an afternoon), I suggest this one here.

In closing, I leave you with a beautiful rendition of Fall to Pieces with Slash… because, well… I don’t want you to be worried that you’ll miss the rapture and fall to pieces.

You won’t, because the rapture isn’t happening– we’ll both be back here tomorrow.

But, truth is, I still believe in Santa.

In the meantime, enjoy this tune: 

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  • https://twitter.com/authentic8info authentic8

    Other explanations given for this passage, “one will be taken and the other left”, are that they refer to the judgement of God during the invasion and destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. The surrounding context (comparisons to Noah’s flood, Lot’s wife) and the cryptic Luke 17:37 would appear to imply something negative was intended by Jesus – the idea being that some would be destroyed and some saved but that it would be random and unstoppable such as would be in an invasion scenario. In either case, I cannot see rapture scenario as described by “end-timers” implied anywhere in this passage unless you have already predetermined it to be there.

  • Irv Spielberg

    [Greets, Patheos. The following appeared on my web screen. Enjoy.]

    Evangelicals Use Occult Deception !

    Heard of the coming blood moons? Is the pretrib rapture symbolized by anything in the heavens?

    Hal Lindsey, influenced by occult astrology, asserts on p. 124 in “The
    Late Great Planet Earth” that the famous Sphinx in Egypt has the head of
    a “woman” – even though encyclopedias say it’s the head of a “man”!
    Hal’s plagiarism on that page of a 19th century British theologian is
    his acceptance of the occult Virgo-to-Leo theory – a “Christian” zodiac
    arbitrarily starting with Virgo (Virgin Mary) and ending with Leo
    (Christ returning as “Lion,” Rev. 5:5).
    Those who swallow this
    guesswork often see Ursa Minor (part of Cancer which precedes Leo) as a
    heavenly “symbol” of a pretrib rapture!
    Pretribs also insist on
    separating the “church” from “Israel” – but when you aren’t looking (or
    thinking) they blithely “prove” pretrib by the Jewish feasts in
    Leviticus, the stages of a Hebrew wedding (Google “Pretrib Rapture: A
    Staged Event”), and the one “taken” and the other “left” in “Jewish”
    Matthew 24!
    Amazingly, Jewishness (and even anti-Jewishness) has
    been uncovered even in pretrib dispensationalism’s 19th century
    foundation (Google “Roots of Warlike Christian Zionism”)!
    The
    current “blood moons” craze (promoted by lunar persons including rock
    musician Scottie Clarke and John Hagee) is tied to – you guessed it –
    the same Jewish feast days.
    Yes, there’s something colored red
    in the future of the church, but I don’t have moons in mind. What will
    really turn red will be the collective faces of many when it finally
    dawns on them that their any-moment fly-away was nothing more than an
    end time hoax!

  • Laura ‘Maevey’ Thornton

    Good writing….. Beautiful video… Love Myles Kennedy…. ;)

  • Kyle Russell

    There is no such thing whatsoever in the Holy Bible that speaks of a so-called “Secret Rapture”, 7 year tribulation period, or Jesus coming back on earth to establish a 1000 year kingdom on earth. Yes, Jesus will come back a second time, there is no doubt about that. Jesus’ coming will be PUBLIC NOT SECRET. Verses that back up this proof are: 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” A couple of things to consider in this prophecy of the end times, the Lord will descend from heaven “with a shout” with a voice of the “archangel” and with the “trump of God”. This is not indicating a secret rapture but a highly audio, and visible second coming. In Matthew 24:27 , “For as the lightning comes out of the east, and shines even to the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” Again, we see a highly visible second coming of the Lord as there is nothing to indicate otherwise, continuing on…”And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels, with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to another” Matthew 24:30,31. In conclusion, the prophecy of the end times contained in Scripture is a literal, loud, visible, and glorious second coming of Christ.
    Do remember the story of the flood? You know where Noah and his family with two animals of each kind were saved from the flood. Everything else was destroyed by the flood. Well the Bible compares Christ’s Second coming to the days of Noah, and the flood…Let’s read the text, “But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be, For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” Once Christ comes back, the Scriptures say the wicked will be destroyed, just like the flood. No seven year tribulation, no ruling on Earth a thousand years before this is about to occur. No second chance at all.
    Now another thing to note here and I quote, “And knew not until the flood came” which is telling us that the Lord’s Second coming will not be known as far as “when” it will occur, but just like when the flood did occur everyone knew about it, so shall Christ’s Second Coming. The timing of the event is generally referred to as a “thief in the night”. It also says basically the same thing in Mathew 24:36. It’s been pretty straight forward so far, now addressing the confusion that associates itself with this event. In Matthew 24:40, “Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken and the other left.” Many have held on to the word “then” to attempt to make Christ’s second coming as a multiple event within the end times. It’s a popular belief nowadays, unlike the past, as many of you may already are familiar with the doctrine, where Jesus takes His people out of the world secretly then puts them back in again after the tribulation, and once again Jesus comes back with His people to reign on Earth for a thousand years, and finally takes His people out of the world for the final judgment. Hardly sounds like a Second Coming in a literal sense described in Mathew 24. But as we seen in the previous verses, this is not the case…So the question remains, when is “then” mentioned in Matthew 24:40?
    Here is the answer, “One shall be taken” and “one shall be left” happens at the visible (vs. 27 ), audible (vs. 31), glorious (vs. 30) flood-like (vs. 37-39) Second Coming of Jesus Christ! And just like in Noah’s day, “when” the event finally does happen everyone will know the end of the world is occurring, and there will be no second chances. Sadly, those that are left will perish! However, God’s people will rejoice in that day as they will be alive and forever with the Lord! Amen

  • Ray Rempel

    As a fellow Santa enthusiast, I am happy that you still have Santa in your heart. Quite religious you know. In my life He is The Wholly Saint Nicholas.