“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 (1 Thessalonians 4:17).”
This week we are continuing our examination of the false doctrine of Premillennialism that is at the core of the upcoming movie Left Behind. Again this dogma asserts that Jesus will secretly rapture the righteous out of the world and allow seven years of tribulation to ensue on earth before coming to establish a thousand year reign on earth.
One of the bewitching features of this belief system is that of the rapture that is prominently showcased in the book series and, certainly, in the movie. Planes crashing without pilots, driverless cars careening recklessly, family members suddenly disappear from their homes without a trace. This is what is taught by Premillennialists (PMs) and central to the Left Behind plot lines. According to their teaching the righteous living will be secretly raptured invisibly raised up in the clouds to meet Jesus along with the righteous dead. Left behind are the wicked living. But is this idea of the rapture taught in the Bible?
Firstly, the notion that Christ will have a secret return before His final coming is not new and it is not taught in the Bible. Charles T. Russell of the Jehovah’s Witnesses prophesied that Christ would return in 1914. When it didn’t occur they simply claimed He returned invisibly. PMs teaching on the rapture isn’t much different. But the Bible clearly teaches that when He returns there will be no mistake about it – He will return loudly and visibly to everyone – both the living and the dead will know it.
When He returns you won’t be able to miss it because it will be announced by a shout of the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Kinda like one of those horns at the end of a period in basketball, except so loud it will literally wake the dead (John 5:28). Far from a secret return His appearing will be accompanied by blazing fire (2 Thessalonians 1:8) that is so great that the earth and all of the elements will be burned up (2 Peter 3:10). An invisible return? Far from it as every eye will see Him (Revelation 1:7).
While PMs teach a secret resurrection of the righteous that will occur seven years before the resurrection of the wicked dead Jesus said that “the HOUR is coming in which ALL who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation (John 5:28-29).” Jesus tells us nothing of a seven year gap between the resurrection of these two groups but instead teaches that they will occur in the very same hour.
The central element of the Left Behind books and movie franchise of a secret rapture is not at all supported by the Bible. While it may be entertaining, it is false and must be gently pointed out to those who truly want to understand what the Bible instructs us. After all, Paul gave instructions on this to the church at Thessalonica so that they could comfort one another (1 Thessalonians 4:18).
For those who have not obeyed the gospel His return will be cause for great anguish and mourning (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). But for those who have obeyed, reenacting His death, burial, and resurrection in the waters of baptism we share in the promise of His resurrection – both spiritually and physically (Romans 6:5). Whether you are alive at that moment or already passed from this life you have the same hope of meeting Him in the clouds on that day to be with Him forever. Those are indeed words of comfort.
“Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen (Revelation 1:7).”