Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Rapture Theology, Our Greatest Heresy

Through the years, the church, of which I am a part, has faced many heresies, not the least of which was its support of racism.  The old Southern Presbyterian Church, called the Confederate Church, was born on December 6, 1861 in Augusta, Georgia.  The biggest issue facing the nation at that time was slavery. What should be the role of the church?  James H. Thornwell, one of the forefathers of my denomination, sidestepped the whole problem when he addressed the first meeting of the General Assembly by declaring slavery beyond the authority of the church:

In the first place, we would have it distinctly understood that, in our ecclesiastical capacity, we are neither the friends nor the foes of slavery; that is to say, we have no commission either to propagate or abolish it. The policy of its existence is a question which exclusively belongs to the state. We have no right, as a church to enjoin it as a duty, or condemn it as a sin…The social, civil, political problems connected with this subject transcend our sphere, as God has not entrusted to his Church the organization of society, nor the allotment of individuals to their various stations.[1]

Refusal to address that heresy is an embarrassment which continues until this day.

Also, I think of the heresy of nationalism.  I have never been comfortable with putting the American flag in the sanctuary because it seems almost inevitable for the average member of my congregations to identify the mission of the church with the success of America.  They quote, ”My country, right or wrong.” However, they seldom quote the rest of it,  “My country, right or wrong. When right, to be kept right, when wrong, to be made right”  The failure of the church to address the unchristian actions of the United States has allowed such ungodly policies as condoning torture, tolerating poverty and polluting the atmosphere.  Not only will the church’s silence on these matters lead to the downfall of America, it will eventually corrode the soul of the church.

Heresies abound, and the church has survived them. However, it is painful to see the church so anemic when facing the heresy of Zionism. I am not thinking of the five million Jewish Zionists.  That is a Jewish heresy, but that is a problem to be addressed by the Jewish community.   I have in mind the fifty million so called Christian Zionists, the CZs, who are far more Z then C.,  those who support the state of Israel, right or wrong. More specifically, they promote the idea that God gave  Palestine to the Jews, therefore anything Israel does to claim that divine donation is of God, including the theft of land and water, robbing Palestinians of their livelihood and dignity, and the indiscriminate bombing of unarmed civilian men, women and children.  I fear that after the Palestinians have been wiped out, all the church will have left is a guilty conscience and our children asking us, “How could you have let it happen?” It will not do to simply say, “We did not know.”

Stephen Sizar, author of several books on Christian Zionism says:

It is my conclusion after more than 10 years of postgraduate research that Christian Zionism is the largest, most controversial and most destructive lobby within Christianity. It bears primary responsibility for perpetuating tensions in the Middle East, justifying Israel’s apartheid colonialist agenda and for undermining the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.[2]

And it is all based on the heresy of Rapture Theology. So:


I start by confessing that I am neither a Biblical scholar nor a church historian. But, one does not have to be an expert to recognize the danger of the Rapture Theology promoted by the Christian Zionists.

Most Christians had never heard of Rapture Theology until very recently. Suddenly, it seems that the mega-television churches have become afflicted with a terminal case of “end of the world” madness.  

According to the CZs,  (Christian Zionists)  seven weeks before the second coming and final judgment, true Christians will be “raptured up to heaven.”  From there, they will watch those left behind suffer “tribulation” and war as the tribulation army will fight against the anti-Christ, usually defined as Obama, Khrushchev, the  United Nations or more recently, Islam.   After seven years, Jesus will return to Jerusalem to fight the great battle of Armageddon. Of course,  Jesus wins and rules for a thousand years from his throne in Jerusalem, at which time, every person gets judged. Most of “them” will go to hell.


In 1882, a man named John Nelson Darby, after finding little success in Britain, came to America during the time of the “Great Awakening.” He preached that God has two people, Jews and Christians, but only one, the Jews, has an everlasting covenant with God.  That in itself would have been harmless enough, but Darby goes on to proclaim that Jesus will return twice, first to rapture his true believers to safety and then to war with the anti-Christ. After his victory, Jesus will rule from Jerusalem for a thousand years before the final judgment.   I hasten to point out that no where do our Christian creeds or the  Bible describe Jesus as returning twice. So, where did Darby get his information?

He claims that it came from I Thessalonians 4:16-17.

 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord.

The believers of Thessalonica were concerned about their loved ones who were already dead and what will happen to them when Jesus returns?  Paul says, Not to worry. Then like declaring a doxology, he explains, They will rise first, to meet Jesus in the air, then it will be our turn.

What the CZs fail to point out is that there is no suggestion in this, or any other Biblical text, that Jesus gathers a crowd unto himself and reverses direction. It was the custom in those days to go out and meet a king, a dignitary, or bridegroom (Mt. 25:6, Acts 28)  and escort him into the city. But, they never changed directions and go off with their king.  

Most significantly, Darby’s goal is for Christians to escape the world and its problems, not to redeem it.  To him, the role of Jesus is to judge sinners, not forgive them.  For 1800  years, no Christian theologian ever saw this “coming in two stages.”

In 1909, Cyrus Scofield came out with his Bible, complete with footnotes supporting  Rapture Theology. Scofield saw the Bible as composed of seven water tight eras which he called dispensations.  We are now living in the sixth department. In fact, the church, according to Scofield’s footnotes, is but a parenthesis, no longer relevant when the rapture occurs.

Then, in 1970, Hal Lindsey shocked the Christian world with his book, The  Late Great Planet Earth. Lindsey was absolutely certain that the rapture was just around the corner and that Israel was its focus. How did he know?  He took three verses out of Matthew.

From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branches becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. (24: 32-35).

Wow!, said Lindsey. The fig tree must mean Israel, and by tender branches, Matthew must be referring to the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. Thus, Israel is the fulfillment of Biblical prophesy. If a generation can be thought of as 40 years, that means that the rapture, with Jesus coming to Jerusalem, will take place in 1988.  He sold millions of copies.   When 1988 passed without the rapture, he simply revised his timetable and sold more books identifying Russia as the anti-Christ.  Today, he says the anti-Christ is an Arab and that the rapture is "coming soon".

More recently, in the 1990s, the Left Behind, series by Tim LaHaye, hit the market
selling 64 million copies.  You can still go into any book store and ask for Left Behind
The sales person will say, “Of course, we have them. The fiction department is right over
there.”  Not only is LaHaye’s book fiction, his theology is also fiction.  The word rapture
is found no where in the Old or New Testaments.  Look to the signs, he says; wars,
tsunami, Katrina, militarism and Israel’s expansionism. It’s all God’s will. It all leads to
the Rapture. 

John Hagee, is quoted as saying, “God’s plan is to destroy the earth and there is nothing we can do to stop it”
Hal Lindsey, “I grieve over the lost world. Our hope is in the Rapture”“
Jack Van Impe, “Armageddon cannot be avoided.”

Rapture Theology does not make the world better. It seeks to save a chosen few out of the world.  Look at all of the above and you will find little concern for the poor. Some even oppose welfare ministries as being contrary to God’s plan. 

Matthew tells of two men working in the field, suddenly one is taken and the other is left behind.  But what the CZs fail to acknowledge is that the one taken was taken in judgment. (14:39-42)  Being “left behind” is actually the desired fate. Being “taken” would mean being carried off by dark forces like a death squad.

There is no Biblical teaching that the church will be raptured off the earth before Jesus comes to Israel.  Tim LaHaye,  points out that the last time the church is mentioned in the Book of Revelation is in chapter 4, verse 1.  Therefore he concludes that the church must have been raptured.  However, “saints” are very much present throughout the entire book.

In fact, the basic message of the Book of Revelation is that God hears the cry of the “saints,” and will come to them. 

The entire Bible is about justice, not about stealing land and water from Palestinians.  The Book of Revelation pulls back the curtain on Roman power and attacks Roman oppression. It was written for the little people and it warns us of the consequences of failing to feed the hungry and defend the oppressed. The prophets condemned injustice and greed. They advocated for the poor and widows. They did not proclaim a play by play of the future judgments of God.

Many point out that the Book of Revelation is about a Lamb who conquered by shedding his own blood, not shedding the blood of others, it’s about terror defeated, not terror inflicted.

While dispensationalists make the claim that raptured saints are part of the “army of heaven” that returns to earth with Jesus to fight in Revelation 19:14 in what they call the “Glorious Appearing,” this claim is not substantiated in Revelation… and amazingly, no actual attack or war is ever pictured.[3] 

Daniel 9:25-27 says that when the anointed one comes, “sacrifices shall cease.”  Again, the CZs reason that for sacrifices to cease, they must, in fact, be taking place. They declare that everyone knows that the only proper place for a Jew to make a sacrifice is in the temple in Jerusalem.  But, the temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70CE.  Thus, for Jesus to come again, the temple must be rebuilt and it must be rebuilt on the temple mount on the exact spot where Muslims now worship in the Al-Aqsa Mosque.  So, we hear conversations about destroying the Dome of the Rock and building another temple so Jesus will have a landing place in Jerusalem. Some CZ churches actually send money to a group called the “Temple Mount Faithful,” who are committed to doing exactly that, to blowing up the Islamic Mosque in Jerusalem, even at the risk of a Third World War.  We also hear our politicians declaring that Jerusalem must never be divided and let’s move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.  It’s OK to keep three million Palestinians under brutal occupation, create the largest refugee population on earth, steal land and water, kill and drive out native Palestinians, it’s all a matter of prophesy. (or campaign contributions).       

Christian Zionists make numerous tours to the “Holy land” every year and never talk to a Palestinian, not even to a fellow Christian. 


Why? Because this heresy is driving our U.S. foreign policy

Yet, Fifty million CZs claim to be speaking for real Christianity as they promote Rapture Theology.  The question is, can the church survive 50 million heretics?  Probably, but the Palestinians certainly will not. And what will we be worth, if we do and they don’t?

                                                                                                Thomas L. Are
                                                                                                October 24, 2013

[1] Maurice W. Armstrong, Lefferts A. Loetcher, and Charles A. Anderson, ed., The Presbyterian Enterprise: Source of American Presbyterian History, (Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1961) p. 215
[2] Stephen Sizar, Christan Zionism: The New Heresy that Undermines Middle East peace.  (See
[3] See Barbara Rossing, The Rapture Exposed. (Basic Books, 2004) p.  p. 121.


  1. I agree with you that the Rapture Theology is a heresy. I was in a cult in the mid-70's to early 80's and they set a date for June 1981 for the rapture and all of the prophecies to happen. I didn't know it was cult. Thank you.

  2. Greatest Hebrew-Christian Scholars NOT Pretrib!

    by Dave MacPherson

    Jews as well as Christians can cover up facts about the money-making pretrib rapture.
    I have in mind Dr. Michael Rydelnik, a widely heard voice on the Moody Radio Network who calls himself either a Hebrew-Christian or a Jewish-Christian - take your choice.
    Rydelnik just returned from another trip to Israel and couldn't wait to use his melodious radio voice to keep his listeners in their expectant state of rapturous stupor.
    In order to help shore up the worldwide collapsing of the pillar of sand known as pretrib he started off by daring to say that when the tribulation starts, the "day of the Lord" will also be happening!
    Rydelnik thus covered up the fact that neither J. N. Darby nor C. I. Scofield (D. L. Moody's colleague!) dared to stretch forward the posttrib "day of the Lord" (and tie it to their already stretched-forward rapture) in order to sustain their latter-day pretrib escapism - evidence that Christian Zionists like Rydelnik can sharply disagree with earlier Zionists!
    Scofield, for example, states in his Rev. 19 notes that the same "day" is preceded by the posttrib "cosmical disturbances (Joel 2.1-12; Mt. 24.29; Acts 2.19, 20; Rev. 6.12-17)." (In Rydelnik's case, the future posttrib sun/moon darkening has been preceded by his own scholarship darkening.)
    There are historical persons that Rydelnik and other modern pretrib rapture Zionists love to cover up: eminent Hebrew-Christian scholars of the past, all of whom were NOT pretrib!
    While names like Biesenthal, Caspari, Delitzsch, Neander, Rabinowitz, and Schereschewsky are practically unknown by most Christians, the names of Baron, Edersheim, and Saphir are much more recognizable.
    David Baron ("The Visions and Prophecies of Zechariah," p. 323) wrote that Paul "spoke of 'the blessed hope and the appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ' (Tit. ii.13), for then the hope as regards the church, and Israel, and the world, will be fully realised."
    Alfred Edersheim, who expected only one future coming of Christ for judgment, stated in "The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah," Vol. II, pp. 451-2: "We shall best succeed, not by going out of the world, but by being watchful in it."
    Adolph Saphir ("The Epistle to the Hebrews," pp. 95-6) spoke of "the advent of the Messiah, which is yet in the future, to which both the believing synagogue and the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ are looking, when He is to be manifested in great power, and to be acknowledged as King of the whole earth."
    Nowadays the Mideast is constantly in the news. Some feel that Israel can do no wrong while others are convinced that Israel can do nothing right. There are pretrib teachers who even believe that Israel has a special "covenant" with God apart from the Gospel.
    And Christians are learning at the same time that a person can disagree with Mideast policies without being viewed as anti-Semitic or hateful. BTW, if pretribs love Jews and Israel as much as they say they do, why don't they want to be on earth during the time of "Jacob's trouble" to love and comfort Jewish persons?
    Finally, Google "Pretrib Rapture: A Staged Event," "John Darby Did NOT Invent the Rapture," "The Unoriginal John Darby," "Pretrib Rapture Stealth," "Pretrib Rapture Pride," "Pretrib Hypocrisy," and "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty."

    {Spied the above on the big WWW. Enjoy.}