The word rapture comes from the Latin rapiemur and means “we shall be caught up”. Although the word rapture does not appear in the Bible, we based our concept of it on a passage in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, in which he encouraged the believers:
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (4:16-18 NASB, emphasis mine).
This catching away of the saints was to take place secretly, at least as far as unbelievers were concerned. Only believers, it was thought, would be able to witness the appearing of the Lord. Suddenly, Jesus was to appear for us, and in a twinkling of an eye we would be gone, whisked off the ground to meet the Lord in the sky. The dead in Christ, believers who had died prior to His coming, would rise first and together we would all meet Him in the air. From there He would take us to live with Him eternally. Later, Christ would return again, this time in power and glory to judge the word and set up His eternal kingdom. Some Christians who agreed on a pretribulational Rapture had more difficulty agreeing on just how much time would elapse before Christ’s final return – some thought it to be after the one thousand years of peace predicted in Revelation 20:3, others thought it might be before that millennium – but all pretrib preachers and teachers were confident of Christ’s final victory over Satan and the Lord’s return for His people.
Many Christians plastered bumper stickers on their cars with slogans such as, “If Jesus comes, this car will be driverless.” Pastors sometimes quipped, “If the Rapture takes place while I am preaching, you’ll have to get someone else to finish this sermon.” Christians often joked, “Imagine what a mess it’s going to be when the Rapture occurs – when millions of people don’t show up for work the day after the Rapture because we are all in heaven!” Those with a more morbid outlook fretted over what would happen to planes being piloted by Christians, or buses being driven by Christians, or patients being operated on by Christian doctors at the moment the Rapture takes place. Planes spinning out of control, buses careening off highways, and patients left to die on the operating table were part of the down side to the Rapture.
Although most of my pretribulational mentors were relatively unknown, some of the more recognizable names associated with pretribulational Rapture position include C.E. Scofield, whose notes in the Scofield Bible influenced many of the preachers of my generation; Hal Lindsey, whose book The Late Great Planet Earth did much the same for many laypeople; John F. Walvoord, a Dallas Theological Seminary professor whose book The Rapture Question has impacted many who have studied the issue from a more scholarly approach; and Charles C. Ryrie, whose study Bible was one of the best-selling study Bibles in the 1980s.
(To Be Continued)
Will We Go Through the Tribulation? – Part 1
Will We Go Through the Tribulation? – Part 2
Will We Go Through the Tribulation? – Part 3
Will We Go Through the Tribulation? – Part 5
Will We Go Through the Tribulation? – Part 6
Will We Go Through the Tribulation? – Part 7
Will We Go Through the Tribulation? – Part 8
Will We Go Through the Tribulation? – Part 9
Will We Go Through the Tribulation? – Part 10
Will We Go Through the Tribulation? – Part 11
Excerpt from Prosperity and the Coming Apocalypse
Published in 1998