This article is a response to one of our fellow Bloggers who recently wrote an article on why he believes there will be no future Rapture of the Church, which if re-worded, would mean no translation from earth to heaven of all believers, both from the Old Testament and the New, all believers who lived and died in the past and all believers who will be alive at the time of the event. Since there is a forum of comments, mostly agreeing with the author, it looks to me that there is wide support.
Therefore I wish to present why I do believe in a future translation, or Rapture, of all Christian believers sometime in the future which only God knows. Unfortunately, there had been attempts by advocates to guess the date of this event, the failure of it happening on such dates bringing disrepute to the doctrine, both from Christians and atheists alike, and the likes of "The Rapture Generation" highlighted by the likes of Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye becoming the butt of ridicule.
The idea of the Rapture originated from Plymouth Brethren John Darby who developed the "Dispensation Theory" which is to say, that the Bible divides the whole of human history into seven time periods, each period emphasising a facet in God's dealing with mankind. Although I have already shown what these periods were, it is worth highlighting them here:
1. Innocence - From the Creation of Man to the Fall
2. Conscience - From the Expulsion to the Flood.
3. Human Government - From the Flood to the call of Abraham.
4. Promise - From Abraham to the Exodus.
5. The Law - From Mt Sinai to the Crucifixion.
6. Grace - From the Resurrection to the Second Coming of Christ.
7. Kingdom - From the Second Coming to the Last Judgement and end of history.
Although there are seven divisions of time listed here, each period known as a dispensation personally I believe that there is only one dispensation - the Dispensation of Grace. In other words, from the Fall of Man in the beginning, to the end of history, a person has always had his sins forgiven by the unmerited mercy of God, through faith alone. This was as much true with Abel and Enoch as well as with Moses at Mt Sinai and with all true Christian believers today. The whole of Hebrews chapter 11 emphasise this single dispensation of grace through faith alone.
However, looking at how the doctrine of Dispensationalism originated, its history here is very controversial! It was Jesuit Francisco Ribera who in 1590 defended the Papacy from Protestants accusing the Church as being the Beast of Revelation 17 with the Pope as Antichrist. This form of accusation began with Martin Luther and John Calvin and their followers, who came to the conclusion after reading and studying the Bible for themselves. So Jesuit Riberia, who of course, was a Roman Catholic, used the Bible to formulate that the Antichrist was not the Pope, but a politician who will rise to power near the end of human history - from his standpoint in time, far into the future. Ribera's associate, fellow Roman Catholic Cardinal Bellarmine, backed Ribera's research and conclusions.
It was Plymouth Brethren John Nelson Darby who turned to Ribera's thesis of the future Antichrist as the foundation to build his Dispensationalist theory, which includes a future Rapture of the Church. But this is why this makes the whole issue rather colourful. It occurred in the early 19th Century, a time when there was a heavy anti-Catholic sentiment among Protestants, something which was the result of Luther's and Calvin's conclusions reached in studying the Bible. The church structure in which Darby led and worshipped was against the clergy/laity division, against tradition, against the display of crosses and other works of art, against the liturgy, against the adoration of Mary and certainly against the Roman Catechism of worship and service format, along with the rejection of the Pope and his authority - all of these accepted as the mainstream of Catholic church structure. Therefore Darby's acceptance of Ribera's thesis of a future Antichrist and then using it as a foundation to build his own Dispensationalist structure would have been extremely ironic, being so unlikely if not impossible - unless Darby recognised a high level of Biblical truth within Ribera's works, which would come to the admission that God spoke through the Roman Catholic Jesuit, much maligned by the Protestants of the day.
But although I recognise Darby, Scofield and even Ribera's works as valid, my advocacy of the Rapture is based on a very important issue, and it is this:-
If God has not finished with the nation of Israel, and he has future plans for the Jews, then the Rapture of the Church will occur. But If God had forever finished with Israel, and the Church had replaced Israel, then the Rapture need not occur.
There is an intrinsic relationship between Israel and the Rapture. Does God have plans for the Jews in a national sense, or not? If not, and the Church as replaced Israel (a thesis known as Replacement Theory) then we have no need to be concerned about a future Rapture. But even if the Replacement Theory is proved to be correct, the fact that two "Raptures" or translations, had already taken place in human history. I am, of course, referring to the translations of Enoch and Elijah, the only two men in the whole of history to be taken alive to Heaven. The case of Enoch is endorsed in the 11th chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews (verse 5).
This may give a clue to the identity of the two witnesses narrated in Revelation chapter 11. These two will be killed by the future Antichrist after 42 months of ministry within the city of Jerusalem. One popular theory is that Moses will be one of the witnesses. I don't hold to that idea. The reason being would be that Moses would have to die twice, the first at the foot of Mount Nebo some 3,600 years ago, then again in the future at Jerusalem. No man had ever gone through such an ordeal, not even the Lord Jesus himself. Enoch qualifies as the ideal candidate, alongside Elijah, both have yet to experience physical death. But the point is: The Rapture is not beyond God's capabilities!
So why the Rapture? Well, let's go back to the beginning.
Because God loves mankind despite being sinful, he had chosen to give an area of land to Abraham, which is to be passed to Isaac and then Jacob, who was renamed Israel, the father of a new nation which will always bear his name. When the fledgling nation was in Egypt, they became slaves to Pharaoh, from whom God delivered through Moses. Later King Solomon son of David, built the first Temple on Mount Moriah, just north of the city of Jerusalem. With the completion of the Temple, God has made a conditional promise that there will always be a descendant to reign in the throne of his father David, as long as each King stays close to God and keep his Commandments. (1 Kings 9:1-9, 2 Chronicles 7:11-22).
But the condition was not met by either Solomon himself or by most of his subsequent kings. By 586BC King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon razed Jerusalem to the ground, destroying both the city and Temple while the exiles were carried off to Babylon. This was the end of Israel as a Kingdom, and it will not be restored until after the second coming of Christ.
Jeremiah the prophet lamented over the destruction of his beloved city, even to the extent of writing a canticle, The Lamentations of Jeremiah. But God gave him some reassurances that if a man can count all the stars in heaven, or disrupt the rotation of the Earth, then will God forever abandon Israel for all what they has done (Jeremiah 31, the whole chapter). In verses 33 and 34, after the nation had been restored and all the exiles and of the Diaspora had returned to the land God had given to Abraham, there is a promise that God will renew the heart of every Israelite across the whole nation. This has not happened yet. In fact, the regeneration of the heart can only come about through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ their Messiah. To this day, the vast majority of the Jews remains in unbelief.
Then there is a large chunk of Scripture that makes up the last twelve chapters of the book of Ezekiel. This section alone occupies 15 pages of my KJV Bible, compared with the whole of the first letter to the Corinthians, which occupies 13 pages, and the whole of Romans, which also occupies 13 pages. In other words, the last twelve chapters of Ezekiel is longer than any of the New Testament epistles. Yet these chapters, as seen by many Christians who advocate the Replacement Theory, are not only ignored, but the truthfulness of these chapters seemingly denied.
What do these chapters tell us? That God has sworn to protect and glorify his own name, and for his own name's sake, he will bring back all the children of Israel to their homeland. This was written soon after the city of Jerusalem was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, and it does not fit in with the return of the exiles under Ezra and Nehemiah. This was because the vast majority of Jews remained where they were resettled, and were known as the Diaspora, still very much in force during the time of Pentecost of Acts 2.
Ezekiel chapters 36-39 gives the detail of all the Jews returning to their homeland. In 36:24-27 Ezekiel specifies the cleansing of each person's heart and the sprinkling of clean water, the removal of the heart of stone to be replaced with one of flesh. This is the regeneration, nationwide, of the heart which comes only through faith in Christ, confirming Jeremiah's prophecies. Along with the promise of heart cleansing, the restored nation will once more be a Kingdom, with Jesus himself as the King. (Ezekiel 37:21-25).
From chapter 40 onwards, Ezekiel gives a thorough description of a future Temple. Future from our own standpoint in time, because it does not fit with the Temple built by Ezra, which was embellished by Herod the Great before the birth of Christ. For a start, there will be no curtain separating the Holy of Holies from the rest of the structure, but a pair of beautifully panelled doors. Then in 43:1-7 we have the glory of the Lord enter the Temple from the east gate, his body parts (soles of his feet) described in verse 7, strongly indicating a risen and glorified Lord Jesus. This did not happen at the second Temple built by Ezra. Also, a river flows out of the Temple precinct to nourish the land of Judea and to sweeten the water of the Dead Sea, so that this presently desolate salt lake will become a habitation of fishes.
Then the priests who minister to the Lord will be the sons of Zadok, a descendant of Aaron. Now if this is all future from now, then it must be said that God has, and will preserve the descendants of Zadok, and it is well to say that Zadok's offspring are with us today! This is backed by the allotments given to all eleven tribes of Israel, something which never took place again after the Exile. Therefore it is safe to conclude that all twelve tribes of Israel are with us today, and only God knows which tribe every Jew belongs to.
Now, if we are to believe that there will be a future Temple to be built in Jerusalem, this present some massive problems. First of all, why should a Temple be built anyway? Did not Jesus Christ atone for all sin for all time? If so, then why the need for more sacrifices?
Now I will be honest here. I do not know why this Temple will be required. But this is a case of believing the Word of God, and submitting to what it says. If the Bible teaches that a future Temple will be built, then who am I to argue? This is a case where I must bow the knee, and my soul to yield to the authority of God's revelation. Trying to argue intellectually would be utterly foolish and bring no lasting fruit.
Then there is another big problem - the Islamic Dome of the Rock sitting spot on where the Temple will be. We know that in no way will the Arabs allow any Jews to lay their fingers on that mosque.
The Dome stood on Temple Mount for the last 600 years. As long as it stands, the Jews were not able to build the third Temple and offer sacrifices. I believe that God allowed this arrangement while the Bride of Christ, which is the Church, reaches its fulfilment. Only when the Church as reached the exact predetermined number will God allow the Temple to be built, and then come to rule the restored Kingdom of Israel from the Throne of David, which will be located within the Holy of Holies of the Temple itself.
When I spent a few months in Israel back in 1994, working as a volunteer at a Christian Conference Centre, I took the opportunity to look at a scale model of the Temple the Jewish people had in mind to build. The model was on public display within Jerusalem Old City, in the Jewish Quarter. There were a number of Orthodox Jews who were against the construction of the Temple but general public opinion seem to be highly favoured of the idea, hence the display.
But there were, and are, two obstacles blocking the project. One is the presence of the Church here on earth. It is to this, at present, where God is ministering, building a people for himself who will make up the Bride of Christ. When she is ready, she will be called up to heaven to marry her Groom. We call this calling to the wedding of the Lamb's Bride the "Rapture".
Then secondly, right on the site where the Temple needs to be built, stands the Islamic Dome of the Rock. This must be demolished, or at least relocated before any construction of the Jewish Temple can even begin. There is no way, at present, that the Arabs would even consider such an idea. Also, where at present, there is much disunity among themselves in the Muslim world, the very threat to the Dome of the Rock would quickly unite the entire Arab population to push Israel into the sea. It could even start a world war.
Therefore it must take an event of huge global proportions to get the Arabs to change their minds. This event is so terrifying, that global pandemonium will seize everyone still alive. The sudden disappearance of millions of people across the globe. The consequences of this will be so dreadful that countless multitudes will go insane due to unrestrained panic. The common explanation for this sudden phenomenon most likely to be an abduction of the human population by extraterrestrials to serve as slaves on another planet. Suddenly those who had remained behind are under the mercy of a power they have absolutely no control. Who will be next? Will more be snatched off this planet to populate another as slaves? It is then that a statesman will suddenly arise who will claim to be the intercessor between the remaining mankind and the alien power. The people will understand that they will be safe if they submit to this man. And he will instruct the Jews to demolish the Dome of the Rock to make way for the Temple, and not a single Arab will oppose him. His motive to build the Temple will be purely selfish. As he sees the construction taking place, this statesman anticipates the day he will stand at the imposing entrance and proclaim himself to be God! (See 2 Thessalonians 2:2-4.)
This, of course is just a scenario, but one that could be close to reality. But for Israel to take centre stage again, the Christian Church must be removed, and so it shall, to present herself as the glorious Bride, dressed in white and adorned for the Groom who will accept her as his own.
Maybe who knows, perhaps Ribera, Darby and Scofield did see something in the Bible after all, the restoration of Israel as a Kingdom once more.