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Saturday, January 12, 2008

When Did The Doctrine Of The Rapture Begin?

A couple of weeks ago a reader left a comment on another post asking about the history/origin of the doctrine of the rapture. Here I am finally getting around to answering their questions.

The person commenting indicated that there were some who claim, "that it is a Catholic doctrine - put forth by the Roman Catholic church...and therefore, cannot be believed because of other false doctrines of the Roman Catholic church."

A couple of things about this statement. Just because it is a Roman Catholic Doctrine does not mean it is not true. The Roman Catholic church is not the standard for truth either positively or negatively but the Scripture. Just because it is the position of the Catholic church does not mean it is wrong. For example they are right about abortion. Because they believe abortion is wrong does not mean that it is right.

Also, the rapture is not Roman Catholic doctrine. Roman Catholics are amillennialist in their theology which means they do not believe in a rapture as that term is commonly used. They believe in a single resurrection and a general judgment. Consequently many of the Protestant denominations having been given birth by the Roman Catholic church are amillennial in their theology as well.

The rapture is not, if I understand correctly, Roman Catholic doctrine.

The person commenting also asked, "When did this doctrine begin?"

Well, it should come as no surprise that I believe that the doctrine begins in the pages of the New Testament. To my knowledge those who do not believe in the Rapture of the saints are always amillennial. Those who do believe in a millennial kingdom are divided on the time frame of the rapture. Pre-tribulation, Post-tribulation, Mid-tribulation, etc. . . .

The person commenting writes, I believe in the spirit of inquiry, "Both sides of the argument are well represented by Scripture."

Both sides cannot be well represented by Scripture. The Scripture cannot teach both that there is a rapture and there is not a rapture. Again those who do not believe in the rapture are amillennial in their eschatology. Amillennialism is the result of the method of biblical interpretation used. Amillennialism is the result of departing from the grammatical/historical method of Bible interpretation. Amillennialist embrace a spiritualizing method of interpretation when it comes to prophecy. The primary reason we know that this is an illegitimate method of interpretation in relation to prophecy is because much of Bible prophecy has already been fulfilled. Thus we are provided with the luxury of evaluating in what way it was fulfilled. It was always fulfilled literally. We thus conclude that that which is yet to be fulfilled will also be fulfilled literally. So we are compelled to apply the grammatical-historical method of interpretation to prophecy as well. When we do so we are left with the reality of a millennial kingdom and a rapture. Then it is simply a matter of when the rapture happens, but not if it will happen.

In short:
The doctrine of the rapture is found in the pages of the New Testament.
The rapture is not a part of Roman Catholic theology.
Only one argument is well supported in Scripture if we stay with a grammatical/historical interpretation of Scripture.
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