Why I Don’t Believe in the Rapture

Why I Don’t Believe in the Rapture

Catholics do not believe in the Rapture. It’s not part of our eschatology, and it violates historic tradition on this matter. For that matter, the Eastern Orthodox don’t believe in the Rapture either, nor do the Coptic Christians, nor do non-Evangelical Protestants. In fact, the majority of Christians, throughout the world, do not believe in the Rapture. The doctrine is almost 100% exclusive to Evangelical Christianity, which is dominant in North America, and most of the English-speaking world. Before I go any further, I probably ought to clarify what I mean by the term “Rapture.”

Basically, the Rapture is a concept that’s very popular in Evangelical Protestantism (Evangelicalism). It’s derived from the teachings of John Nelson Darby, an Anglican minister who went rogue in the early 1800s and became one of the founders of an Evangelical sect called the Plymouth Brethren. The earliest recordings of the Rapture doctrine come from him. Prior to Darby, nobody had ever heard of the Rapture doctrine, and it was completely foreign to the writings of Christians prior to the nineteenth century. One of his disciples, in his later years, was a young lawyer by the name of Cyrus I Scofield, who later published the Scofield Reference Bible in the early twentieth century. Scofield included Darby’s Rapture notes in the margins of this publication. This Bible became extremely popular in Evangelical seminaries all over North America, mainly for its copious cross-references and notes. That is how the Rapture doctrine went from the obscure teachings of a British minister, to the prevailing eschatology of Evangelical Christianity in North America and around the world.

The word “Rapture” has become a household word in most regions of North America. Here’s the gist. The doctrine teaches that in the last 3 ½ to 7 years of world history, millions of people (all over the globe) will vanish, just before the arrival of the Antichrist and the events prophesied to unfold in the Book of Revelation (Apocalypse). They call these prophesied events the “Tribulation.” Those who vanished are immediately taken into heaven, body and soul, where they will wait out the Tribulation in paradise, before returning with Christ at the end of the world, to set up a theocratic kingdom on earth, with Jesus Christ as King, to last a thousand years.

It sounds great, right? All you have to do is believe in Jesus, and you too can be spared from the most difficult period of world history. You can avoid the Antichrist, persecution and martyrdom entirely. These people, taken in the Rapture, are called the “true Christians,” and they consist primarily of Evangelicals, perhaps a few mainstream Protestants, and maybe a few Catholics here and there, so long as they don’t “worship Mary” and such. Basically, Catholics need to reject a good portion of Catholic teaching in order to be considered worthy enough to be taken in the Rapture.

Those who are not taken in the Rapture are “left behind.” This is a term which refers to people who were not considered worthy to be taken in the Rapture. These people will have to endure the horrors of Antichrist, the Tribulation and probably martyrdom for 3 ½ to 7 years while they await the Second Coming of Christ. Those who are “left behind” will consist of non-Christians, some mainstream Protestants, and probably most Catholics. Now, this may not be how all Evangelical laypeople view the Rapture. I find the average Joe tends to be much more liberal about who gets taken in the Rapture. However, this is how the Rapture is taught from behind the pulpit in most Evangelical churches. 

Suffice it to say, Catholics cannot believe in the Rapture doctrine, mainly because it’s rubbish.

Here’s why…

There is nothing written in Scripture that specifically says there is a Rapture before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. One can find a plethora of Scripture passages that reference the Second Coming, and the events that will transpire before, during and after. However, one would be hard pressed to find a single passage that explicitly says Jesus will come to secretly snatch-away (Rapture) his Church some 3 ½ to 7 years before his official and public Return at the end of the world. In fact, every Biblical reference to the Church being taken up to meet him in the air is a reference to his Second Coming at the end of the world. The Scriptures are plain and clear on this. The two events are simultaneous – one in the same. Jesus Returns, and the Church rises up to meet him in the air. There is no space of time between the Church rising up and the Second Coming. Nothing in Scripture implies that, nothing at all. The Rapture doctrine not only lacks Biblical support, but it directly contradicts thousands of years of Christian tradition concerning the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. It’s just the eccentric teaching of a rogue Anglican minister that was picked up by a lawyer who published it in a Reference Bible. That’s it. That’s all there is to it. For all of the books, novels, movies and video games produced, the thousands of Evangelical pastors who have preached it, and the millions of Evangelicals who believe it, the doctrine has never been anything more than that. It’s a 200 year old doctrine, formulated by an obscure Anglican clergyman who forfeited his ministry to found yet another branch of Protestantism, made popular by a single lawyer who published a pretty handy Reference Bible about 100 years ago. 

Catholics should not be troubled by this, because it’s not our place to believe any of it. In fact, we should reject it outright. It not only contradicts the traditions of the Church on this topic, spanning 2,000 years, but it has zero support in the Scriptures. The passages Evangelicals use, to support their belief on the Rapture, either point directly to the Second Coming of Christ, or else they are interpretation blunders that they’ve given doctrinal weight to. When we consider the magnitude of this outright heresy, and the overwhelming number of Evangelicals who subscribe to it, the credibility of Evangelicalism itself should be questioned. That’s a big part of what happened to me. Once I discovered the outright Scripture-twisting needed to support the Rapture doctrine, and the utter simplicity of historical Christian teaching on the Second Coming, I was compelled to abandon my Evangelicalism entirely. I switched over to traditional Protestantism, in the form of Anglicanism, before eventually becoming Catholic.

Here is one common Bible passage used by Evangelicals to support their Rapture doctrine…

For this we tell you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will in no way precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with God’s trumpet. The dead in Christ will rise first, then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. So we will be with the Lord forever.

1 Thessalonians 4:15-17

Take a good look at this passage. Read it over a few times. Is there anything in here that indicates a massive separation of time between believers being “caught up” and the Return of Christ? No. The plain-sense reading of that passage seems to indicate the two features (being caught up to Christ, and descent of Christ from heaven) are one simultaneous event. Don’t take my word for it. Read it again. Read it in any Bible translation version you want. Read it in the original Greek if you like. Knock yourself out! Enjoy! Read it over and over again. If you see anything in that passage indicating a massive separation of time between believers being “caught up” and Jesus Christ descending from heaven, let me know. Because as far as I’m concerned, it just isn’t there.

Here are some more Biblical passages Evangelicals use to support their Rapture doctrine…

Behold, I tell you a mystery. We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must become imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable body will have become imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then what is written will happen: “Death is swallowed up in victory. “Death, where is your sting? Hades, where is your victory?”

1 Corinthians 15:51-55

But immediately after the suffering of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken; and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky. Then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. He will send out his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together his chosen ones from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other… But no one knows of that day and hour, not even the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

Matthew 24:29-31, 36

But you watch. Behold, I have told you all things beforehand. But in those days, after that oppression, the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. Then he will send out his angels, and will gather together his chosen ones from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the sky… But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

Mark 13:23-27, 32

Once again, the plain-sense reading of these passages seems to be pretty clear. They concern the Second Coming of Christ at the end of the world. They give vivid descriptions of what that will be like, and it sounds amazing! But there is nothing in here to indicate a massive amount of time, spanning 3 ½ to 7 years, between the Second Coming of Christ, and the resurrection of the dead in Christ, and the coming together of all believers to meet him in the air. Once again, the plain-sense reading of these passages seems to indicate a singular, multifaceted event, where everything happens simultaneously. There is nothing here to indicate two separate events, where believers are caught-up (raptured) in one event, then 3 ½ to 7 years pass, before the Second Coming happens in another event. Don’t take my word for it. Read those passages again. See for yourself. If you can spot anything that indicates a span of time separating the resurrection and ascension of believers, from the Second Coming of Christ, please let me know. Because I’ve been reading these passages for over thirty years, and I still have yet to see it.

Now we move on to the so-called “proof text” Evangelicals use to back their Rapture doctrine. Here, they say, is proof positive that there is a separation of events between the catching-up (rapture) of true Christians, and the Second Coming…

But no one knows of that day and hour, not even the angels of heaven, but my Father only. As the days of Noah were, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ship, and they didn’t know until the flood came and took them all away, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and one will be left. Watch therefore, for you don’t know in what hour your Lord comes. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what watch of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched, and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore also be ready, for in an hour that you don’t expect, the Son of Man will come.

Matthew 24:36-44

As you can see, a plain-sense reading of this passage would seem to indicate that there will come an event when some people will be taken away, and others will be “left behind.” The implication here, so Evangelicals tell us, is that God is taking away true believers to heaven, while those who are not Christians, or false believers, will be “left behind.” Thus, they triumphantly declare, the Rapture and Second Coming are two completely different events, separated by a span of time. Namely because, if some are “left behind,” what else could they be “left behind” for, other than the Tribulation of Antichrist.

Hold on there, not so fast! Let’s take a closer look at that passage, shall we? What did Jesus say in this passage, BEFORE he started talking about people getting “taken” and others left behind? He was talking about the Great Flood of Noah, right? What exactly did Jesus say about that? Read the passage again. He said people carried on with their normal business, and then the Great Flood came and took them all away. Whoa! Hold on there a second. Just reading this passage in the plain-sense, without injecting our own personal biases, or Darby’s Rapture doctrine, Jesus himself compared being taken away with being swept away in the Great Flood? He compared being taken away with judgement? Don’t take my word for it. Read it again. See for yourself. Based on the context of Jesus’ own comparison/analogy, how can being “taken away” mean anything other than judgement? How can it mean anything other than some kind of punishment? It’s a serious question. Read the passage again. See for yourself.

The context of Jesus’ words here is clearly one of judgement. Those who are “taken away” are taken into judgement. They’re being punished. While those who are “left behind” are being spared. Based on Jesus’ own analogy here, you actually WANT to be “left behind.” You don’t want to be “taken away.”

But if there is any doubt here, the plain-sense reading of being “taken away” as judgement is backed by Luke’s version of the same discourse. In this version, the Apostles ask Jesus to explain himself. Let’s read and see what his response is…

Being asked by the Pharisees when God’s Kingdom would come, he answered them, “God’s Kingdom doesn’t come with observation; neither will they say, ‘Look, here!’ or, ‘Look, there!’ for behold, God’s Kingdom is within you.”

He said to the disciples, “The days will come when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. They will tell you, ‘Look, here!’ or ‘Look, there!’ Don’t go away or follow after them, for as the lightning, when it flashes out of one part under the sky, shines to another part under the sky; so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first, he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. As it was in the days of Noah, even so it will also be in the days of the Son of Man. They ate, they drank, they married, and they were given in marriage until the day that Noah entered into the ship, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, even as it was in the days of Lot: they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but in the day that Lot went out from Sodom, it rained fire and sulfur from the sky and destroyed them all. It will be the same way in the day that the Son of Man is revealed. In that day, he who will be on the housetop and his goods in the house, let him not go down to take them away. Let him who is in the field likewise not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever seeks to save his life loses it, but whoever loses his life preserves it. I tell you, in that night there will be two people in one bed. One will be taken and the other will be left. There will be two grinding grain together. One will be taken and the other will be left.”

They, answering, asked him, “Where, Lord?”

He said to them, “Where the body is, there the vultures will also be gathered together.”

Luke 17:20-37

Did you catch that? Where are they taken, Lord? Jesus answers; to a place where the buzzards will feast on their corpses. 

In both versions of this discourse, in both Matthew’s gospel and Luke’s gospel, Jesus prefaces his “taken away” analogy to the Great Flood of Noah. Any plain-sense reading of this discourse should alert the reader to the prospect that whatever follows isn’t going to be good. The Great Flood was a bad deal, wherein millions of souls perished, as they were swept away by the deluge, and only Noah and his family were “left behind.” The same goes for Lot and his daughters. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were completely destroyed by fire, and only Lot and his daughters were “left behind.”

Then Jesus begins to talk about his Coming, and how some will be “taken” and others will be “left behind.” In Luke’s gospel, however, his Apostles explicitly ask him, where will they be taken? Jesus replies they will be taken to a place where the buzzards will feast on their flesh. This is the plain-sense reading of these passages. So it seems, according to my plain-sense interpretation of these passages, that we actually want to be “left behind,” because being “taken away” implies something really, really bad. Do you doubt my plain-sense interpretation? That’s cool. Go ahead and doubt it. I encourage you to doubt it. Please do! Instead, just go back and read the passages for yourself again, as many times as you like, in any Bible translation you like, and tell me if you come up with a different interpretation that supports the Rapture doctrine. I don’t think you will, but you’re welcome to try. 

The last so-called “proof” Evangelicals will often use to back their Rapture doctrine is a singular, and obscure verse in the Book of Revelation…

After these things I looked and saw a door opened in heaven, and the first voice that I heard, like a trumpet speaking with me, was one saying, “Come up here, and I will show you the things which must happen after this.”

Revelation 4:1

Here in this chapter we see a symbolic view of heaven. I say “symbolic” here, only because there are no words to describe the glory of heaven. The phrase “come up here” is misinterpreted by many Evangelicals as a reference to the Rapture. This is because the voice has the sound of a trumpet, and they cross-reference this to St Paul’s warning that the Second Coming of Christ will be announced with the sound of a trumpet. This is accompanied by the phrase in this verse, “things which must take place after this.” 

Evangelicals then recall their own misinterpretation of the seven churches, of the previous two chapters, as “seven church ages” in Christian history. So in their estimation, since this passage now says “after this,” they presume the following text refers to the future Tribulation period.

At best, this is shoddy Biblical exegesis. It would seem that many Evangelicals are oblivious to the fact that God uses a trumpet sound to announce many things in Scripture. If we look back to the first chapter of the Revelation, we can see that John already heard this trumpet-voice in his vision of Christ. Does that mean the Rapture happened then too? Are there two Raptures now?

Evangelical proponents of the Rapture will double-down at this point, correctly observing that the word “church” does not appear in the Book of Revelation again until the nineteenth chapter. Therefore, in their estimation, this “proves” that the Church has been removed from the world during the 3 ½ to 7 year Tribulation in the Last Days, only to return to earth with Christ at his Second Coming later. Of course, there is a problem with proving something from the negative. The lack of a word really doesn’t prove anything. By the same token, we could say the exact same thing about the name Jesus, which does not appear in the Book of Revelation until Chapter 12. So does that mean all these other symbolic references to Christ are not really references to Jesus Christ at all? If we follow the Evangelical logic of negative proof, then we have to assume so. Thus, the image of the man described in Revelation Chapter 1 was really somebody else. Nope! I’m not buying it, since the plain-sense reading of Revelation Chapter 1 is a clear representation of Jesus Christ. In other words, in order to support this radical Evangelical interpretation of Revelation 4:1, we must do violence to the entire Book of Revelation, and force interpretations where they don’t make sense, breaking our own rules of interpretation as we go along.

Negative proof is no proof at all. The phrases “come up here” and “things which must take place after this” are exactly what they sound like. The author is simply called to come witness the scene in heaven. It means nothing more. The reference to time, “after this,” simply means after the first vision of Jesus Christ and his message to the seven types of churches on earth. Anything more is reading into the text.

Evangelicals really don’t have much more to support their Rapture doctrine in the way of actual Scripture. There are mountains of books, Bible commentaries, and opinion heaped upon opinion, which could take years to read them all. I’ve read most of them. None of them, however, actually prove anything. It’s all just one vast echo-chamber, propagating and reverberating the obscure opinion of a rogue Anglican minister, who left Anglicanism some 200 years ago, to pursue a newly budding Evangelical form of Protestantism, that has since blossomed into thousands of new and independent churches, nearly all of them espousing his Rapture doctrine. 

I used to be part of one such Evangelical affiliation called Calvary Chapel, which is heavily into the Rapture doctrine. Like many new Evangelical organizations, this particular church was practically founded on the Rapture doctrine. I left it in the late 1990s for a more classical Protestant church where such bizarre interpretations of Scripture are not found. That classical Protestant church was Anglican, the form of Christianity that John Nelson Darby abandoned to pursue Evangelicalism. Eventually I became Catholic. There are many reasons for that, which I won’t get into here.

If you’re an Evangelical who is just now discovering the insanity of the Rapture doctrine, please allow me to encourage you to do something…

First, do your own homework. Don’t take my word on it. Actually read all the so-called “proof” passages for the Rapture doctrine, in their context, and read them in a plain-sense way. 

Second, once you’ve decided that the Rapture is a false doctrine, you need to get away from any church that’s teaching it. If they’ve flubbed up that teaching of Christ so badly, who knows what other teachings of Christ they’re getting wrong. Get out! Go somewhere else.

Third, while I would of course encourage you to consider the Catholic Church (I am a Catholic, so you can’t blame me for trying), if you’re just not ready for that, I completely understand. I wasn’t ready for such a big leap myself back in the late 1990s. So, I get it. Instead, if the Catholic Church is just too much for you, I would encourage you to instead consider the type of Christianity that is most common to the English-speaking people throughout history. By this I mean Anglicanism. If you’re going toward Anglicanism, then you’re going away from John Nelson Darby and his Evangelical Rapture doctrine. Remember, Darby (the inventor of the Rapture doctrine) had to leave the Anglican Church before he could formulate it or promote it. Now I would never steer you toward a liberal Anglican denomination, so The Episcopal Church is OUT, and so is the Anglican Church of Canada. Instead I’m going to recommend two Anglican jurisdictions in North America that should give you exactly what you’re looking for — an expression of Protestant Christianity that is firmly established in the English-speaking world, by English-speaking people, and primarily for English-speaking people. These are the Anglican Church in North America which leans more Protestant/Reformed in style, and the Anglican Church in America which leans more catholic in style. Beyond that, I would only recommend conservative Methodism, which is a direct spin-off of Anglicanism. Because the United Methodist Church has decided to follow The Episcopal Church into liberal modernism, I am recommending the newly established conservative Methodist church instead. The Global Methodist Church is currently in formation, and their website may be down until their official launch in 2022, but you can find some of their churches here. In these churches, both Anglican and Methodist, you will find the most ancient customs and teachings of the historic Christian faith, going back more than a millennium, specifically geared for English-speaking people with a British cultural heritage (UK, US, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa). In these three churches, you’ll be safe from the Rapture doctrine, and most other bizarre misinterpretations of Scripture for that matter.

Fourth, tell your Evangelical family and friends about this. Maybe share this article with them. Explain to them the problems with the Rapture doctrine, and how any church that espouses it is perverting the teaching of Jesus Christ on his Second Coming. If they’re perverting this teaching, they are likely perverting other teachings of Christ, whether they realize it or not.

Fifth, be sure to get a copy of my new book “The Last Days,” which is available for pre-order now in Kindle, and will be available both in print and Kindle on March 25, 2022. You can get a copy here.

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