A Newsletter of Opinion on Current Australian Christianity

Archive for November, 2013

What is the Rapture?

The biblical teaching of the Rapture has possibly become the most misunderstood and criticised of all Christian doctrines, resulting in many Christians having little or no proper understanding of it.

Some have been taught that the doctrine of the Rapture is an invention of the 19th Century.  Far from it!

Jesus declares in Luke 21:36:

‘Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.’

Many times the Bible gives us examples of how God provides His people a way of escape from His wrath; in fact 1 Thess. 5:9 tells us clearly that we as believers are not appointed to suffer God’s wrath, and 1 Thess 1:10 tells us that it is Jesus who will deliver us from the wrath to come.

Some Christians dismiss the Rapture on the false premise that it is believed only by Christians who are desperate to escape persecution. But history shows us that the Lord has always allowed His Church to be persecuted at certain times and places.  The Rapture will occur not to deliver us from man’s persecution, but from God’s wrath.

We Will Be  ‘Caught Up’

The mysterious event known in English as the Rapture is most clearly presented in 1 Thess 4:13-18, which encourages the grieving Christians that, at the “harpazo”, or “great catching up”, they will be reunited with those who have died in Christ before them.

‘And the dead in Christ will 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.’  [verses 16b & 17]

At the Rapture, living believers will be “caught up” in the air, into the clouds, in a moment of time to join the Lord.

I believe Paul specifically used the words “clouds” and “air” to emphasise the actual physical nature of this event, and to draw our attention to the fact that there are other examples in Scripture of people having already been “caught up”.  These include Enoch, Elijah,  Paul, and Jesus at His ascension.

The Second Coming of Christ, which will happen some time after the Rapture, is described in totally different language from the description of the Rapture.

In 1 Thess 4, Paul described this distinct and separate event.

And when Jesus spoke of His return He did so in a way the disciples would be very familiar with; the Jewish marriage custom. Most of them were young men expecting to be married themselves later, and so were interested.

The Jewish Marriage Customs

The first step in the Jewish marriage custom was the betrothal, involving the set-up of a marriage covenant. The prospective bridegroom would go to the house of the father of the woman he intended to marry.

He would then agree on the dowry he must pay for the bride.  This established the marriage covenant between bride and bridegroom.

From that moment on the bride was declared to be consecrated or set apart for her bridegroom.

As a symbol of the marriage covenant being established, they would drink from a cup of wine. After this, the groom would leave the home of the bride and return to his father’s house where he would prepare living accommodation in his father’s house for him and his bride to live in.

You can’t avoid seeing the parallel already, can you?

At the end of this period of separation between bride and groom, the groom would return and take his bride back to the living accommodation he had prepared. The taking of the bride usually occurred at night.  She was usually ready, but often surprised!

 

The Wedding Supper

The groom, best man and other male escorts would lead a torchlight procession from the groom’s house to the bride’s house. The groom’s arrival would be preceded by a shout to forewarn the bride to be prepared.

The groom would then take his bride back to his father’s house, where they would find their wedding guests already waiting. Shortly after arrival back at the father’s house, the groom and his bride would be escorted by members of the wedding party to the bridal chamber, where they would consummate the marriage that had been agreed earlier.

The consummation would then be announced to the wedding party, who would then celebrate the wedding for the next seven days. However, during the seven days of wedding festivities the bride would remain hidden in the bridal chamber.

At the end of the seven days the groom would bring his bride out of the wedding chamber and present her to the wedding party.

I am indebted to Moriel Ministries for providing this information.  The parts I have underlined above show how they relate as types of the future Rapture of the Church.

So What?

Seeing types of a prophetic event in the Scriptures does not establish a doctrine as much as illustrate it.

It would seem strange that Jesus would relate His coming FOR His Church [His bride] to the marriage customs unless there were strong links that would have been obvious to His Jewish listeners.

This is not about reading something into the text that is not there, as is the habit of some.  This is an example of a real, future event illustrated by a custom that had existed for many years by the time Jesus used it.

As such, it was His description of how His love for His chosen bride [the Church] was to be consummated in heaven at the Rapture.  We should encourage one another with these words, as Paul said.

 

 

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