I came across an advertisement this past week for a soon to be released book titled “Unraptured: How End Times Theology Gets it Wrong”. So, I took a look at the description.
“Teetering on the brink of irrelevancy in a world rocked by refugee crises, climate change, war and rumors of war, the church cannot afford to focus on the end times instead of following Jesus in the here and now. Unraptured uses these signs of the times to help readers reorient their understanding of the gospel around loving and caring for the least of these.”
In reading this description, I could not help but notice the irony of the last sentence, speaking about caring for the least of these. This is a reference to Matthew 25:31 – 46:
“When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”
For the “Jesus’ words only” crowd, and the “Red-Letter Christians”, notice that in my red letter edition, this is in red. So that we are all on the same page, the “words of red” indicate these to be the words that the Lord Jesus actually spoke. Now my perspective on this, I am not fond of “red-letter editions”, although that is what I own and use. The entirety of the Scripture is the Word of God and should be revered as such. The whole Bible should be red (read)!
So the irony? It is from Matthew 25! From the “Olivet Discourse”! From the very discourse, this “second sermon on the mount” where the Lord Jesus Christ (“words of Jesus” anyone?) is giving a lesson on “end times theology”! It is following Matthew 24, which is also ALL RED! Christ, in the shadow of the cross, is focusing on end times!¹
This is obviously a book written by the Scripturally ignorant for the Scripturally ignorant. I cannot think to say it any other way.
There is also, of course, in the description that I read, a statement and a question:
“The word rapture is not in the Bible. So how did we build a whole theology around it?
Let us address the statement on the word rapture first. Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines the English word rapture in its first definition in the following way:
RAP’TURE, noun [Latin raptus, rapio.]
1. A seizing by violence. [Little used.]
With the acknowledgement in the brackets that this is little used, it is the primary definition. The third definition is telling as well:
3. Rapidity with violence; a hurrying along with velocity; as rolling with torrent rapture
Another interesting related word is rapt:
RAPT, participle passive [from rap.] Transported; ravished.RAPT, verb transitive To transport or ravish. [Not legitimate or in use.]
RAPT, noun1. An ecstasy; a trance.
2. Rapidity. [Not in use.]
So, granting that the word is not in the English Bible that we carry, the concept absolutely is:
1 Thessalonians 4:13 – 18 — “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
“For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
The word translated “caught up” here is the Greek word harpázō. Strong’s Definition is the following:
ἁρπάζω harpázō, har-pad’-zo; to seize (in various applications):—catch (away, up), pluck, pull, take (by force).
A lot like the English word rapture in its first definition I would say. I added a page on this site when I first started it in 2016 on this word, and it will be helpful to take a look at this simple study to understand this term. Click on the link below to see the biblical usage of this word:
Now, the Bible does not teach in any way that “end-times theology” is a distraction. There is a right use of this theology:
Titus 2:11 – 14 — “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”
Notice that the Apostle Paul states that grace teaches us to live … LOOKING FOR THAT BLESSED HOPE!
And how do we do that? We live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world. But that does not move our gaze away from that hope. It is that hope that bears us along. As much as we would love to do good in this present world, the Apostle also has this to say about where our real place of living is:
Philippians 3:17 – 21 — “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.”
So let us take our cues from the Apostle Paul, who the Lord called “a chosen vessel unto Me” (Acts 9:15, notice the red letters), and keep our gaze where it should be.
Now if you are not certain that should the Lord come to catch us away (rapture us) today, and you are not 100% sure you will be counted among those in Christ, you can be sure. The gospel that we need to “reorient our understanding” to is this, the gospel by which we are saved:
1 Corinthians 15:3 – 4 — “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures…”
All those who believe this gospel, whether, as the apostle calls, awake or asleep, whether we have already died, or are alive and remain, will have part in this glorious resurrection to life eternal with our Lord in heaven. Believe this gospel, and live with hope!
- Matthew 24 is not in any way about the rapture event that is discussed in 1 Thessalonians 4. Matthew 24 is about the Lord’s return to earth to take possession of it as His Kingdom, and He will rule and reign over it. The rapture event is Christ taking believers to heaven to be with Him there. Things that are different are not the same. The point is the “end-times theology” statement. Both the rapture and our Lord’s return to earth are end-times theology.
- Work Cited: Hunt, Zach. Unraptured: How End Times Theology Gets It Wrong. Herald Press, 2019.
Husband, father, engineer...Enjoys fishing, archery, guitar, running, and lifting, but most of all reading and studying God's Word.