FaithView: March 1, 2019

Joe Torosian
Senior Pastor
Burbank Faith Nazarene

By Joe Torosian

If you spent any time in the church in the late 1970s or early 1980s…You may have heard a testimony like this during a Sunday service just before the end of the year.

“The Lord’s been good to us this year. Our family has been blessed, and, of course, we’re really believing this is the year the Lord’s coming back.”

And you may have heard a Christian celebrity or, even, your own Pastor say something along these lines when attempting to encourage you about the future.

“The Lord is doing amazing things. We are literally seeing the Bible come to life all around us. Oh, it’s an exciting time to be alive! And the next great event on the prophetic calendar is the Rapture of the church. It’s close, it could happen at any moment. Be ready!”

And you may have seen a panel discussion on TBN with Hal Lindsey, and Paul and Jan Crouch. And Lindsey may have said something like this…

“It’s really amazing, Paul, we’ve never seen the things we are seeing now. At no time in history has there been a period where all the technology and all the geopolitical alliances have been in place as they are currently. And, of course, all of this gains greater importance with Israel becoming a nation again in 1948.”

…Or…

On a hot summer, Sunday night at church…you may have seen a movie with a spouse waking up alone in bed…A cast with big curlers, long sideburns, and a screeching opening credit song saying: “There’s no time to change your mind, the Son has come, and you’ve been left behind…You’ve been left behind.”—(Lyrics by Larry Norman)

You might even have seen sequels where guillotines were used on the people who became Christians after being “left behind.”

After the film…People, scared to death, filled the altars and prayed to get right with God. So that when the time came…They wouldn’t be “left behind.”

Sound familiar?

Been there, done that, bought that tee shirt. So much so that when I was a youth pastor, I ran a series of night games called: Night of Tribulation, Night of Revelation, Night of Elimination, and Night of Persecution.

All of these were based on the teens (over 80 when I invited other churches to join my group) being “left behind” after the Rapture. Their goal was to find the Christian underground while keeping themselves from the Unity Police, who would arrest them and try to get them to take the Mark of the Beast.

These evenings were so insane, successful, and memorable enough that nearly three decades later people will still talk to me about them. (Especially the night the Baptist Church called the cops on us for making too much noise.)

Everything was about the Rapture. It was the central theme of everything we did because we weren’t going to be sticking around much longer. So we had to get people saved and ready for that big moment.

I can go into the weeds and add another 5,000 words to this column and talk about the origins of Rapture Theology in the early 19th Century. From a Jesuit Priest to a woman with a vision, to Scottish ministers, to the Millerites—who in the early 1840s went to a hilltop and waited for the Lord to take them away.

In a nutshell, Rapture Theology caught fire around 1830 and was solidified with the publication of the Scofield Reference Bible in 1909. Where the commentary supported a pre-tribulation Rapture. By that time Moody Bible Institute in Chicago was subscribing to Rapture Theology, and in the 1920s Dallas Theological Seminary bought in.

From catching fire, Rapture Theology then went fully nuclear with the publication of Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth in 1970. The book was not just a bestseller, but a mega-mega-mega bestseller. It was short, it was tight, and it was reader friendly. Better still, Lindsey was able to employ current/contemporary headlines alongside scripture.

If old enough to remember–or young and curious enough to have studied–you know what that period was like. At that time—in the middle of the Cold war, the Vietnam War, people worried about the population bomb, the beginnings of the environmental movement and the doom it was predicting, earthquakes, and moral decay coming out of the 1960s—the church was ripe for someone to bring hope. For someone to come in with simple language and share that Jesus was coming to rescue them.

People were wowed. So wowed that it became absolute dogma.

How wowed? So wowed that in most—if not all—denominational circles in the United States, Rapture Theology (Dispensational/Premillennialism) was exclusively taught. Any other view of End Times prophecy (eschatology) was treated and trashed like a public school scoffing at creation being taught alongside evolution.

No other view was presented…So much so that ministers, ordained elders, (even in the Church of the Church of the Nazarene) served decades without even knowing another position was possible. Rapture Theology was taught as if it were part of the Big Five (Trinity, Virgin Birth, Resurrection, Atonement, Scripture).

Lindsey’s excellent (dubious) work hinges on 1948. That being the year Israel became a nation again. He takes Matthew 24:32-34: 

32.) Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near.

33.) Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.

34.) I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.

Lindsey is likening the fig tree to Israel, and because it became a nation again in 1948, he argues that “this” generation (our generation) will not pass away until all of these things have come to pass.

(“All these things” being the doom and gloom Jesus was talking about in chapter 24.)

So in scriptures, we see a Bible generation as being about 40 years…with some debate…but most would agree with 40 years. Lindsey does the math and concludes that if Israel became a nation again in 1948, then there will be only 40 years—1988—until “all these things” come to pass.

While never setting a date, Lindsey skillfully creates a timetable that sets a date but also doesn’t set a date. As if to express; “I’m just saying, but I’m not really saying…”

With everything expected to be done by 1988, Rapture Fever was boiling in 1981. In the timetable, seven years later would be 1988 and the perfect fulfillment of a 40-year generation passing.

Lindsey released another book around 1980 called: The 1980’s Countdown to Armageddon.” I actually ordered this book in a pre-Amazon world when I was in high school. Yes, I had Rapture Fever as well. 

In the book, Lindsey was careful not to set a specific date but just to allude to 1988. Thus providing himself wiggle room.

“The decade of the 1980s could very well be the last decade of history as we know it.”—Lindsey (“Countdown to Armageddon,” page 8.) 

Calvary Chapel superstar Pastor Chuck Smith (great preacher/solid minister) preached that 1981 would be the year of the Rapture.

Thousands of pastors in thousands of churches preached the Rapture was coming. It was “the next event on the Prophetic Calendar.”

Except…Well, you know the story…

But the Rapture was still coming…

More books continued to come out including… 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988 by Edgar C. Whisenant. Whisenant asserted the Rapture would occur between September 11 and September 13 of that year.

Whisenant famously said: “Only if the Bible is in error am I wrong, and I say that to every preacher in town.”

88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988 sold 4.5 million copies. 

When the event didn’t occur Whisenant published 89 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1989 and then, 93 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1993 which was followed by 94 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1994.

These books kept making bank although with diminishing returns. It wasn’t until the publication of 97 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1997 that anything coming out of Whisenant’s mouth or off his keyboard was considered useless.

However, Whisenant wasn’t following a prophetic pattern much different than Hal Lindsey’s or even Tim LaHaye’s. He just wasn’t agile enough in his pronouncements and got burned.

So let’s look at the scriptures that positively show us that there will be a Rapture event. For such a doctrinal/foundational event there certainly must be evidence of the coming Rapture in scriptures.

Let’s start with Matthew 24:32-34

1.) Matthew 32-34

32.) Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near.

33.) Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.

34.) I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.

In previous FaithViews we shared/advanced/argued that Jesus was talking about the destruction of Jerusalem in Matthew 24. Lindsey/Rapture Theology asserts that Jesus goes from talking to his present/1st Century audience to us 2,000 years later. And one of the examples is the fig tree in verse 32.

But the turning of the fig tree into something more than a simple explanation that summer is near, backfires on those pushing Rapture Theology. First, the olive tree is more symbolic of Israel. Look at the nation’s emblem it has a menorah surround by olive branches. (Some would even argue the pomegranate, but I digress.)

Second, Jesus is using an illustration to tell people to be ready. The signs—the things he previously described in chapter 24—would be like the fig tree beginning to bloom. No significance on the fig tree itself, just the example of it blooming and knowing summer is near.

And if the fig tree is the end all symbol of Israel, then there should be a problem with Matthew 21:18-19—Especially if you want to get into symbolism.

Matthew 21:18-19

18.) Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry.

19.) Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.

If you want to go there…Can you see a parallel between the withered fig tree (symbol of Israel/Judaism) and the end of the Old Covenant, the end of the Temple? That emphasis on never bearing fruit again is chilling in light of 70 AD.

2.) Matthew 24:40-41 

“Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and the other left.”—(NIV).

Again, look at the context of Matthew 24. Jesus is talking about the destruction of Jerusalem. 

In our Rapture Theology, we’ve reversed the view of this passage. The one taken is the one saved by the Lord…and the one “left behind” is the one that is doomed. That is not what is being said here. In the context of this passage the one “left behind” is the one who is saved. The one who is taken is the one who is killed.

Look at the preceding verses (Matt. 37-39):

“For the coming of the son of man will be just like it was in the days of Noah— just like in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage until the day Noah entered the Ark—and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away. The coming of the son of man will be just like that.”

In the days of Noah, the righteous weren’t taken away. The wicked were taken away. Jesus is explaining that his coming (Jerusalem/70 AD) will be just like the days of Noah. History notes that the Roman army’s final approach to Jerusalem was much like this with indiscriminate killings taking place.

“A study of the history of the Roman-Jewish War reveals that from 67-70 AD the Roman armies swept through Judea and Galilee massacring large populations. In this way, they were “taken” by the Romans. Finally, Rome laid siege on Jerusalem for five months and burned that city with fire.”—Adam Maarschalk, in summation on his website.

Missed is the fact much of scripture talks about the Lord protecting his people through hardship rather than taking them away. During the flood, Noah and his family were in the ark. Daniel was protected in the lions’ den. The three in the fiery furnace. The fortuitous earthquakes and appearances of angels in the New Testament.

Much can be said and is said about these verses in varying ways. The only thing that would be wrong to say is that one opinion is conclusive. It is open to wide interpretation, but not something to base a dogma—Rapture Theology—on.

3.) Revelation 4:1

This is another passage used to support Rapture Theology.

Because it is so simple and consistent with Gary DeMar & Dr. Kenneth Gentry, I’m going to cut and paste Jonathan Welton’s response to this in his book “Raptureless.” (Welton provides all of “Raptureless” free of charge on his website raptureless.wordpress.com)

Revelation 4:1

“After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this” (NKJV).

“This verse is not a metaphor; it is a record. John was not telling his readers that they would be sucked up before the throne, but that he was! John was not speaking of the rapture. Many have said that John was speaking of the rapture because the Church is not mentioned anymore between Revelation 4 and 19. Yet this is not true because Christians are mentioned eleven times between Revelation 4 and 19 (see Rev. 5:8; 8:3-4; 11:18; 13:7,10; 14:12; 16:6; 17:6; 18:24; 19:8).”—Jonathan Welton

To say because the church is not mentioned after chapter three, that it must mean Revelation 4:1 is describing the Rapture is ridiculous.

Paul doesn’t use the word “church” in 2 Timothy or Titus. Second Peter does not use the word “church.” And the word “Church” is not found in 1 John, 2 John or Jude. Would we say none of these letters are for, to, or about the church?

And if you want to get technical, John is not writing to “The Church”…John is writing specifically to the seven churches in Revelation and not the church universal. He’s writing directly to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. …And hitting them over the head about their own distinct local church issues.

4.) 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

In regards to this passage, we discussed it in the February 15th edition of FaithView. This is not a description of the Rapture but of the physical Second Coming of Christ and the final judgment.

In conclusion…(Hooray! Hooray!! Hooray!!!)

You know what you find when you look for specific scriptures regarding the Rapture? You find NO specific scriptures regarding the Rapture.

At best—at best—you can make an ambiguous argument for these passages I’ve just mentioned but nothing to build a foundational theology around.

And isn’t that funny? The Rapture, the central event of all our End Times discussions, doesn’t have one—just one—scripture that declares it as a fact.

By comparison…If we don’t have John 3:16, if we don’t have the Resurrection accounts in all four Gospels…we have NOTHING foundational to declare about our faith. But those scriptures exist, they are clear and direct.

Even John MacArthur, in a sermon from September 29, 2010, posted on YouTube, says evidence for the Rapture of the church is implicit, not explicit in scripture…And he goes on to cite some of the scriptures I’ve listed above.

Wow…wow…wow…And we’ve based everything on this lousy theology. And when I say everything, I mean everything from our politics, culture, education, spiritual, and emotional outlooks. As well as our plans for the future. (More on that next week.)

To find a Rapture we have to read into the scripture and make it fit our existing theological view. As opposed to understanding what the scriptures clearly state and placing our views in submission with the truth of the Word.

If you’d like to complain about this column, Joe T. can be reached at jtbank1964@yahoo.com

One thought on “FaithView: March 1, 2019

  1. Do you think our brother Tim is having a conniption fit? I’m a little confused, but I’d like to hear more about this subject.

    Like

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