© 1999 James A. Fowler

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I. Biblical usage of the word "rapture"

    A. The Bible does not use the word "rapture"
         1. Not found in Biblical concordance
         2. Not found in Biblical dictionaries or encyclopedias
    B. English word "rapture" derived from Latin word rapio (rapere, raptus)
         1. Meaning: to carry away, to be caught up, to snatch, seize, pluck, drag away, carry off, abduct,               plunder, ravish, rape
         2. English word "rape" derived from this Latin root
    C. English usage of word "rapture"
         1. General usage: "carried away with emotion, ecstasy, passion"
         2. Theological usage: "caught up in clouds to meet the Lord"
              a. Recent theological origin
                   (1) Emphasized in premillennial/dispensational theology since middle of nineteenth                          century
                   (2) Not found as definition in Webster's Collegiate Dict.
              b. Questionable choice of English word as equivalence for Biblical reference.
    D. Singular Biblical passage that refers to being "caught up" at end time.
         1. I Thess. 4:17 - "we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the               clouds to meet the Lord in the air..."
         2. Greek word for "caught up" is harpazo - used 13 times in N.T.
              a. translated "snatch" - Matt. 13:19; Jn. 10:12,28,29; Acts 8:39; Jude 23
              b. translated "take by force" - Matt. 11:12; Jn. 6:15; Acts 23:10
              c. translated "caught up"- II Cor. 12:2,4; I Thess 4:17; Rev. 12:5
         3. Contextual interpretation of I Thess. 4:13-18
              a. Not an attempt to outline sequential events of final times
              b. Context of concern, consolation, condolence, comfort
              c. Paul explains
                  (1) the hope (confident expectation) of the Christian
                  (2) the resurrection of the body of the Christian
                  (3) the equal opportunity of those who have died and those who remain
                  (4) those remaining alive are "caught up"
                  (5) the comfort that Christians have in these realities

II. "Rapture" in premillennial/dispensational eschatology and theology

    A. The "catching up" of believers, the Church, was separated in time from the Second Coming of          Jesus Christ to earth in the teaching of the Plymouth Brethren of Britain, creating a two-phase          Second Coming of Christ.
         1. Rapture - Jesus' coming for His saints
         2. Revelation - Jesus' coming with His saints
    B. Illustrations

    C. History of this interpretation
         1. Margaret MacDonald (1830) - personal prophecy in Glasgow
         2. Edward Irving (1832) - Scottish charismatic preacher
         3. John Nelson Darby - Irish lawyer and Plymouth Brethren leader
         4. James H. Brookes - American Presbyterian preacher
         5. Dwight L. Moody - Moody Bible Institute
         6. C.I. Scofield - Scofield Bible
         7. Dallas Theological Seminary (Chafer, Ironside, Ryrie, Walvoord)
         8. Hal Lindsey - Late, Great Planet Earth
         9. Popular interpretation of fundamentalist evangelicals
    D. Variant opinions of the time of "rapture" among premillennialists
         1. Pre-tribulation rapture - church removed from tribulation
         2. Mid-tribulation rapture - church removed prior to severe tribulation
         3. Pre-wrath rapture - (variant of mid-tribulation rapture)
         4. Post-tribulation rapture - church endures tribulation
         5. Partial tribulation - faithful remnant of Christians removed at beginning of tribulation;               others removed later
    E. Elements of "rapture" in pretribulation, premillennial dispensationalism
         1. Two-phase second-coming
         2. Imminence - any time, any moment, soon coming
         3. Silent, secret, invisible disappearance of Christians

III. Concluding observations concerning the "rapture"

    A. Affirming the reality of being "caught up with Christ" (I Thess. 4:17)
         1. Semantic irrelevance of using the word "rapture"
         2. Maintaining the hope of Christ's return
    B. Questioning the elements of pretribulational premillennial "rapture"
         1. Inadequate basis for two-phase Second Coming
              a. "caught up," "meet," descend" same time period
              b. final judgment
         2. Inadequate basis for imminence of expectation
              a. His return is impending
              b. His return will be sudden, unannounced
              c. Christians are to be expectant, prepared, waiting and watching
         3. Inadequate basis for secret rapture
              a. His return will be public
              b. His return will be visible
         4. Inadequate basis for silent rapture
              a. His return will be with shout
              b. His return will be with trumpet
         5. Improper claims of new revelation
    C. Avoiding the effects of pretribulational premillennial "rapture"
         1. divisiveness, intolerance, disunity
         2. arrogance, pride, superiority, gnosticism
         3. escapist mentality, avoidance, withdrawal
         4. negative attitude toward society; disengaged
         5. inadequate ecclesiology; ghetto mentality; church relegated to tossing out life-savers



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