Why Do So Many People Believe in the Rapture?


Norfolk, VA                                                  September 26, 2004


1 Thessalonians 4:16


“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: 17Then 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. 18Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”




Forty years prior to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 the Lord Jesus Christ warned that in the midst of the great tribulation period which would come upon the generation to which He spoke (Mark 13:30) false Christ’s and false prophets would arise to speak of His secret silent return. The purpose of this teaching would be in order to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect (Mark 13:22). “But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things.”  It is instructive to note the only time the word “secret” is used in connection with the coming of Christ it is used in negative way—“believe them not.” This point is made because there is The System called Dispensationalism that advocates a secret silent coming of Christ. “Believe them not.”

As Jesus predicted there were false Messiahs who appeared such as John Levi of Gischala. The historical record states, “Now as Josephus was thus engaged in the administration of the affairs of Galilee, there arose a treacherous person, a man of Gischala, the son of Levi, whose name was John.”  John was a man full of ambitions. He saw that he could make a name for himself by going to Jerusalem to rally the people to resist the Romans. “On John’s arrival, the whole populace of Jerusalem turned out, crying for news of events outside.”  Seizing the moment John “went round urging them [the citizens of Jerusalem] one and all to war by false hopes, making out that Roman power was feeble, exaggerating Jewish strength, and ridiculing the ignorance of those who were worried.” Said John, “Not even if they grew wings could the Romans ever get over the walls of Jerusalem, after being so severely mauled in their attacks on Galilean villages and wearing out their engines against flimsy walls.”

Amazingly enough, many people believed the words of John. The people in fear hoped against hope and the power and influence of John son of Levi escalated. He was the Man of the Hour. He was to be the Savior of the Jewish people. Or so many thought. In the end John was overthrown and his power was broken but not before he had misled many into thinking he was the Messiah.

Like the Jews of old who followed anyone who pretended to know something about the return of Christ many today are falling into great error, we believe, by following after those who pretend to know that Christ is “here” or is coming “there” in 1975, 1981, 1988, etc. With great authority God’s people are being told that this is the Terminal Generation and that the coming of Christ is imminent.

According to modern Dispensational teaching the next event on the prophetic calendar is the Rapture of the Church which will lead to the revelation of the Anti-Christ. The Anti-Christ will give a plausible explanation for the disappearance of millions of Christians. Being a charismatic leader with a strong personality the Anti-Christ will win the confidence of the world especially after war breaks out in the Middle East and he is able to make peace for Israel.

Unfortunately, as the story line goes, the Anti-Christ cannot be trusted for his will to power is without boundaries. He marks on the forehead of people his number, which is 666. No one can buy or sell except they agree to worship this Beast. The political treaty the Anti-Christ has made with Israel will be broken after only 3 ½ years. This breaking of the treaty will then lead the nations of the world to converge upon Israel for the great Battle of Armageddon. It will be a violent and bloody conflict. Blood will flow freely to the height of a horse’s bridle.

The evidence for all this teaching and more is said to be rooted in Scripture. However, if these things are taught in Scripture they are not taught clearly. In other words the average reader of the Bible cannot just go to the Word, open it up and see these prophecies clearly set forth. Nevertheless, trusting those who believe they have the gift of prophetic insight millions are embracing something they cannot comprehend for themselves.

Unlike the Bearans who searched the Scriptures to see whether or not the things Paul taught were rooted in the Word, God’s people accept what they cannot conceive. Acts 17:11-12 “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”

My question is this: “Why do so many people believe in the Rapture of the Church, the rise of Anti-Christ, a peace treaty to be made with Israel, the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple, the revival of the ancient Rome empire, and the battle of Armageddon including China and Russia when none of these concepts are clearly and simply set forth in plain language in the Bible?” “Why are Christians not willing to be more like the Bereans and less like the Jews of old who followed the madman named John Levi of Gischala?”

Apart from not being clearly taught in the Scriptures the main points of Dispensational teaching are of dubious origin. A great search has been launched to discover when the Church first began to hear that the second coming of Christ was not really one great event for all that believe (Heb. 9:28), but was to take place in two stages separated by an interval of time.

President John F. Kennedy once remarked that failure is an orphan while success has many claimants. Since Dispensational teaching has been successful in capturing the imaginations of men and changing historic Christian doctrine it has many parents. For example, John Nelson Darby claims he received his revelation of the Rapture in 1827 when he realized the distinction between Israel and the Church

Critics of John Darby accuse him of taking his prophetic ideas from Edward Irving, a Presbyterian pastor in London.

Others, however, suggest that a fifth-teen year old girl named Margaret MacDonald of Port Glasgow, Scotland should be credited to have originated the concept of the Rapture in 1830 which was picked up by the Brethren Movement and made their own.

Some Church historians credit Emmanuel Lacunza, a Jesuit Catholic priest of first teaching a two stage coming of Christ separated by a period of time in 1812 in his book “The Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty.”

Another book published in England in 1788 (but written c. 1742-44) purports to have taught the pre-tribulation Rapture before Lacunza.

Who ever is to be credited with the seed thought that the coming of Christ is to be in two stages separated by a period of time, that person has done the cause of Christ much harm and has brought great confusion into the Church. In light of this a second question arises. “Why do so many people believe in the Rapture of the Church when the language used to describe that and the Second Coming is incredulous and non-sensible.At no other time do people talk about going somewhere in two stages separated by a period of time and calling everything one event.

I used to go to Fort Worth to see my son Adam who once served on a naval base in that city. Image the reaction to this conversation at the end of the first visit. “Adam, I am going to come back a second time. However, my coming will be in two stages separated by several years. In the first phase of my return I will draw near the city in secret with a great shout and then disappear but in the second phases you will plainly see me.”

If Adam understood what I was saying I would be worried about him. If he did not comprehend what I had said I would be more impressed for it means he realizes that my words were non-sensible.

Apart from the inability to see the prophetic teachings of Dispensationalism clearly in the Scriptures like the Bereans and apart from the fact the language used to describe the System of belief is non-sensible there is another concern. The Rapture theory makes God the Father out to be less than truthful. If that is shocking it is meant to be but it is also a fact. Relatively few people understand where the belief in a seven-year tribulation period comes from so let me try to tell you.

The story begins in Daniel 9:24-27. Daniel was but a young boy when he was taken into captivity together with three other Hebrew youths of nobility Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah-at the first deportation of the people of Judah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim (604 BC).

Daniel and his companions were obliged to enter the service of the royal court of Babylon, on which occasion he received the Chaldean name Belteshazzar, according to the Eastern custom of taking a new name when a change took place in one's condition of life, and more especially if personal liberty was affected (2 Kings 23:34; 24:17).

Daniel, like Joseph, gained the favor of his guardian and was allowed by him to carry out his wise intention of abstaining from unclean food and idolatrous ceremonies (Dan 1:8-16). His prudent conduct and absolute refusal to comply with heathen customs were crowned with the divine blessing and had important results.

After three years of training Daniel was presented to the king. Shortly afterward he had an opportunity to exercise his peculiar gift (2 Kings 1:17) of interpreting dreams-not only recalling the forgotten vision of the king but also revealing its meaning (2:14-45).

As a reward Daniel was made "ruler over the whole province of Babylon" and "chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon" (2:48). Later he interpreted another of Nebuchadnezzar's dreams to the effect that he was to lose for a time his throne but was to be restored to it after his humiliation had been completed (chap. 4). Under the unworthy successors of Nebuchadnezzar Daniel appears to have occupied an inferior position (Dan 8:27); no longer was he the "chief of the magicians" (4:8-9). He was sent to live a quiet and obscure life in Susa (8:2). 

But all that was to change. In the first year of King Belshazzar (7:1), about 555 BC, Daniel was both alarmed and comforted by a remarkable vision (chap. 7), followed by another two years later (chap. 8), which disclosed to him the future course of events and the ultimate fate of the most powerful empires of the world, in particular their relations to the kingdom of God and its development to the great consummation.

Word of his prophetic gift began to circulate once more. And so it was that Daniel was brought in to interpret the handwriting on the wall that disturbed the feast of Belshazzar (Dan 5:10-28), and, notwithstanding his bold denunciation of the king, the latter appointed him the "third ruler in the kingdom" (5:29).

After the fall of Babylon Darius ascended the throne of the dominant kingdom in the Middle East and made Daniel the first of the "three commissioners" of the new Persian empire (6:2). In deep humiliation and prostration of spirit Daniel then prayed to the Lord in the name of his people for forgiveness of their sins and for the divine mercy in their behalf; and the answering promises that he received far exceeded the tenor of his prayer, for the visions of the seer were extended to the end of Judaism (chap. 9). (The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)

Of particular concern in these visions is the fact that a timetable was given to Daniel. The prophet was told “that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times” (Dan. 9:24-27). When the executive order was given to the Jews to return to their land and rebuild Jerusalem, from that moment forward it would be 490 years and then the Messiah would come.

However, according to Dispensational teaching God did not give the Jews 490 years on schedule as He promised. Rather, God gave the Jews 483 years of human history and then “suspended” time until the Church could come into existence and be removed. With the removal of the Church the prophetic clock will start to “tick” again and then, finally, God will keep His word to ancient Israel.

While this is an intriguing position to take it does make God out to be less than truthful for if accurate it means that God promised the Jews 490 years and only gave them 483 years.

I suggest that rather than break the prophetic word—which Jesus said cannot be broken (John 10:35) – the Scriptures be accepted by faith that God kept His word and after 490 years, in the fullness of time, Christ came (Eph. 1:10).

Now the third question is his: “Why do so many people believe in a system that makes God out to be less than truthful?”

In a more charitable spirit it can be said that people believe in the Rapture of the Church and all of Dispensational teaching for a variety of reasons, some nobler than others.

Many Christians are convinced that Dispensational teaching reflects the doctrine of Scripture. Because so many passages of the Bible are alluded to in Dispensational teaching it is easy to see why this would be the case.

Some Christians believe Dispensational teaching because they have been taught it all their lives and do not want to test the spirits to see if they are of God nor to search the Scriptures as is commanded.

Other Christians are simply willing to trust their spiritual leaders not to misled them.

There are additional reasons for a system of belief contrary to the historic Christian faith. It is possible for God’s people to be misled by erroneous teaching. Gal 1:6-7 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.

One form of judgment God renders is to allow people to believe a lie. 2 Thess 2:11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:

Satan knows how to make doctrine appear to be an enlightened position. 2 Cor 11:15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

Without doubt one of the cleverest ways that Satan transforms truth is by alluding to passages of Scripture that tend to support a position but upon examination has nothing to do with the topic of discussion. Let me give two example.

First, it is a fundamental position of Dispensational teaching that God has two people, two plans and two programs, one for the Jews and another for the Church. “Israel is Israel, the Church is the Church and never the two shall meet.” At this point 1 Corinthians 10:32 is often quoted. “Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:”

From 1 Corinthians 10:32 it is taught that God has a plan for Israel distinct from the Church. This plan involves seven years of Tribulation, a peace treaty with the Anti-Christ, and all the rest. However, in context, eschatology is not in view in 1 Corinthians 10:32 nor is there some special plans for national Israel that is being discussed. What is taught is that Christians should be careful not to offend anyone by causing the conscience to be violated.

Another example of taking a passage and making it mean something it does not is Revelation 4:1. According to Dispensational thinking John, representing the Church, is “raptured” into heaven before the outpouring of divine wrath on earth. Therefore, it is argued, the Church must be removed during the Tribulation passage. The problem with this teaching is that nothing of the sort is taught.

No where in Scripture is it ever said that John is a type of the church. John was in the spirit on the Lord’s Day. While his soul was allowed to see a vision his body remained fixed firmly on the earth.

Furthermore, to suggest that the Church is not found in chapters 4-19 of the book of the Revelation or during the tribulation period borders on the incredulous.

·       Christians are addressed in chapter 6:11 as fellow servants.


·       Christians are called brethren in chapter 6:11.


·       Those saints who die during the tribulation period are called “the dead who die in the Lord” in chapter 14:13.


·       The church is found in chapter 14 for we read of “the saints” in verse 12 and in Revelation 15:6 and again in 17:6. The church is the called, chosen, and faithful of Revelation 17:14.


·       To teach that the Church is not found in Revelation 4-19 because it is “raptured” out of the way is something not in Scripture.

The conclusion of the matter is this. In every local assembly there is a mixture of truth and error.  However, when error begins to overshadow the historic Christian faith and transform what has been articulated since the days of the apostles, such error has to be challenged. God wants His people to study and to stay close to His Word. May the Lord give us grace to contend for the faith while resisting being misled.Why indeed do so many people believe in the Rapture when the victorious life and the Second Coming of Christ are truths to be treasured?”

Does it matter what one believes? The short answer is “Yes!” because the honor of God is at stake, the faith of individuals is at stake and the integrity of the Bible is at stake. May the Lord grant His people wisdom to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 1:1-3).