Rapture Mania

Commentary by Jack Kelley

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (2 Timothy 4:3)

As a management consultant I was often asked how much employees should know about the workings of their company, especially in financial matters. My advice was always the same. If you don’t tell them the truth, they’ll make up their own version and it will be detrimental to the company’s profits.

For example, after taxes your neighborhood super market may only get to keep as little as 1/2 of one penny for every dollar’s worth of sales. That means it takes $200 in sales to net them one dollar of profit. Admittedly, this is one of the lowest returns on sales in the business world. The average is 3-5 cents on the dollar. But according to surveys, the public thinks the average business makes a 35% profit on sales. They think it would only take $3 in sales to generate one dollar of profit. So would an employee be more concerned about wasting (or stealing) a dollar’s worth of inventory or supplies if he believed it only took $3 in sales to make up for it, or if he knew that it takes $200?

“People can’t tolerate a vacuum of information” I said, “Better they should know the truth than be susceptible to fantasy.”

History Written In Advance

“I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols. See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.” (Isaiah 42:8-9)

The Lord has always used advance disclosure to validate Himself. We call it prophecy. Knowing the end from the beginning, He told His people things that hadn’t happened, so that when they did, they would know that He is Who He claims to be. Since we know the truth about Him, we’re not susceptible to fantasy.

But there’s one area where the Lord has not been crystal clear where End Times events are concerned and that’s the timing of the Rapture. For this reason the most outlandish formulas surface whenever world events take a significant turn for the worse, as people look for reasons to believe our time here is nearly up. Many of these formulas can be easily debunked with only a tiny bit of knowledge and discernment, but for some reason they gain traction in the Christian community because of our desire to believe what our itching ears want to hear. Not knowing the truth about the timing of the Rapture, we’re susceptible to fantasy.

I’ll ignore the dates arrived at by the cults and kooks and focus only on things taught by believers. Probably the most notorious of these was the booklet entitled “88 Reasons Why The Rapture Will Be In 1988” by Edgar C. Whisenant, but the latest example I’ve run across has to do with Noah and the Flood. It goes like this.

Genesis 7:11 says that Noah and his family went into the Ark on the 17th day of the 2nd month. Using Rosh Hashannah as the beginning of the Jewish year, someone calculated that the 17th day of the 2nd month would correspond to November 8th of this year. They also determined that Noah died 2006 years after Adam and declared that because the Rapture of the Church would be “as in the days of Noah” the Church would be raptured on Nov. 8, 2006. It didn’t happen.

Do Your Homework

Anyone willing to do a little studying could have predicted the outcome. In the first place, Matt. 24:37-39 says, “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”

From beginning to end, the context of Matt. 24 in general and this portion in particular is the second coming, not the rapture.

Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. (Matt. 24:40-41)

As we’ve demonstrated before, the word that’s translated taken here actually means received, and the one translated left means to put away. In the Rapture, some are received, to be sure, but none are put away. Those not received unto the Lord are simply left in place to endure the end times judgments. Verses 40 and 41 describe tribulation survivors left standing when the Lord returns. The believers are received into the Kingdom and the unbelievers are put away into the place of judgment.

The really mind boggling thing about the Nov. 8 concoction is that because of the context, only those who see the Rapture and the 2nd Coming as simultaneous events can justify interpreting verses 40 and 41 as rapture verses, and even they have to overlook the primary meanings of the Greek words there. But the Nov. 8 proponents apparently used this passage to justify a pre-trib Rapture. What were they thinking?

As It Was In The Days Of Noah

Jesus said that the day of His coming would resemble the events of Noah’s flood. Before the flood, He said, people were going about their lives right up to the day Noah entered the Ark. Then the flood came and took them all away. All means everyone. Noah and His family were taken away in the Ark and emerged in a new world. The flood took the rest away to their judgment.

Before the Lord’s return, people will be going about their lives right up to the day of His return. Then He’ll judge them and send them all away. Again, all means everyone. Believing Tribulation survivors, having entered into the “Ark of our Salvation” will be received into the Kingdom. The rest will be put away for judgment.

The “Days of Noah” can also be interpreted in a broader sense as a model of the End Times. In the Days of Noah there was the unbelieving world that perished in the Flood, Noah and his family who were preserved through the Flood, and Enoch who was taken live into Heaven before the Flood. At the End of the Age the unbelieving world will perish as a result of the Tribulation judgments. The remnant of Israel will be preserved through these judgments, and the Church will be taken live into heaven before they begin.

But this is a wider view than can be supported by Matt. 24:37-41 alone. There the Lord was referring specifically to the Day of His Return.

What’s Your Point?

My point in all this to remind us that we shouldn’t take anything any Bible teacher says at face value, no matter how credentialed he or she might be, and no matter how much we’d like to believe what’s being said. Wishing won’t make it so. Like the Bereans, we should receive the message with great eagerness but examine the Scriptures every day to see if what’s being said is true. (Acts 17:11)

The more we learn about what enduring the End times judgments will entail, and the closer we get to the time of their coming, the scarier things can be for us. But here’s where faith comes into play. The Lord has promised to rescue us from their time and place and from any relation to them (1 Thes. 1:10) and we have to be content with that.

He admonished us to be aware of the general times in which we live, and to avoid being taken off guard, but also told us that we wouldn’t know the exact time of our deliverance. When we get caught up in bad doctrine, no matter how well intended, we demonstrate the weakness of our faith, not its strength. Our even weaker brothers and sisters get discouraged and lose heart, and the unbelieving world laughs us to scorn when our incorrectly selected time comes and goes.

What Time Is It?

I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. (Romans 11:25)

The Greek word translated full number in this verse is a nautical term and was used to describe the number of sailors and soldiers required to operate a ship. Until he had a crew of sufficient size the captain couldn’t leave port, so he had to recruit the “full number” of crewmen. The Greek word translated into the phrase “come in” refers to a destination.

I believe their use in Romans 11:25 means that the Church has a pre-determined membership, the “full number”, and when that number is reached we’ll depart for our destination. If so, that means that the Rapture is a number specific event, not a date specific one. This may be the simplest reason of all why we can’t know the exact day or hour. Maybe there isn’t one.

The idea of variable timing isn’t without precedent in Scripture. When Jesus warned the Jews living in Israel at the end of the age to flee when they see the abomination that causes desolation, He told them to pray that their flight wouldn’t be in winter or on the Sabbath. (Matt. 24:20) Does that mean that although the event is certain to happen, the date is not fixed? Would the Lord have them pray for something so important in vain? Remember, Jews can only take 1000 steps on the Sabbath, and then they have to stop or risk breaking the Law. And Judean winters can be miserable. (I was there for the worst one in 150 years on my first trip to Israel in 1994.)

If that’s the case, and we do have some say over the timing, then the best way to hasten our departure is to help the “captain” by recruiting more “crewmen”. If each one of us brought one with us, we could double the size of the Church almost overnight. Then maybe the Rapture would come next week. And if it didn’t, at least we’d have a bunch of excited new believers around instead of having discouraged some more of the ones we already have with another failed rapture date. Isn’t that a better strategy than falling for one more “sure-fire” formula for the date of the Rapture? Selah 11-18-06