Will You Be Caught Away to Heaven?
MANY people believe that they will go to heaven when they die. But some think that they will be caught away to heaven in what is called the rapture. Is that your expectation?
The rapture is “the sudden disappearance of millions and millions of people without so much as a trace of where they went!” So said one Protestant evangelist. According to the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, the term “rapture” refers to “the church being united with Christ at his second coming.”
Some find it disturbing to think of leaving friends and family members behind to meet Jesus Christ. Yet, many believe that the rapture must occur. Will it take place? If so, when?
Varied Views of the Rapture
The Bible shows that before the start of Christ’s promised Thousand Year Reign, there will be a period called the “great tribulation.” Said Jesus: “Then there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.” (Matthew 24:21; Revelation 20:6) Some place the rapture ahead of the great tribulation. Others expect it during that time. Still others think that the rapture will come after that unparalleled distress.
The posttribulation view was predominant until the early 19th century. Then, in England there developed a movement headed by a former Church of Ireland clergyman, John Nelson Darby. He and like-minded Anglicans became known as the Brethren. From his Plymouth base, Darby traveled to preach in Switzerland and elsewhere in Europe. He asserted that Christ’s return would occur in two stages. It would begin with a secret rapture, in which the “saints” would be caught away before a seven-year period of tribulation devastated the earth. Then Christ would appear visibly, accompanied by these “saints,” and together they would rule on earth for a thousand years.
Darby stressed the need to be separate from the world, and those sharing his views eventually became known as the Exclusive Brethren. B. W. Newton headed a different faction that believed in the rapture but not in a pretribulation one. Posttribulation advocate Alexander Reese maintained that “the Secret-Rapture theories are a menace to the hope of Christ’s Coming.”
Pretribulationists believe that this difference in viewpoint is serious enough to affect “the nature of [their] hope in relation to the coming of Christ.” Others place confidence in a “partial rapture theory,” believing that those who are most loyal to Christ will be raptured first and the more worldly will be taken later.
Many evangelical groups herald an imminent rapture of faithful Christians. In view of differing opinions, however, a booklet published by Britain’s Elim Pentecostal Church says: “Whilst we subscribe to a broad outline of events related to the return of the Lord Jesus . . . , freedom is allowed in the interpreting of prophecy according to the conviction of the individual. Many accept a non-dogmatic position, patiently waiting for the events themselves to unfold the prophetic programme.”