Monday, April 28, 2008

The Rapture: Did Paul Teach This Doctrine In 1 Thessalonians? reviews the prevalent dispensational position with a critique:

The RaptureSummary of Walvoord’s Rapture Doctrine from 1 Thessalonians

Critique of Walvoord’s Rapture View

The 2nd coming of Christ in 1 Thess. & Matt.24[17]

Christ returns - 1 Thess. 4:16; Matt. 24:30
from heaven - 1 Thess. 4:16; Matt. 24:30
accompanied by angels - 1 Thess. 4:16; Matt. 24:31
with a trumpet of God - 1 Thess. 4:16; Matt. 24:31
believers gathered to Christ - 1 Thess. 4:17; Matt. 24:31; 40-41
in clouds - 1 Thess. 4:17; Matt. 24:30
time unknown - 1 Thess. 5:1-2; Matt. 24:36
coming like a thief - 1 Thess. 5:2, 4; Matt. 24:43
unbelievers unaware of coming judgment - 1 Thess. 5:3; Matt. 24:37-39
judgment like a mother’s birth pangs - 1 Thess. 5:3; Matt. 24:8
believers not deceived - 1 Thess. 5:4-5; Matt. 24:43
believers to be watchful - 1 Thess. 5:6; Matt. 24:37-39
warning v. drunkenness - 1 Thess. 5:7; Matt. 24:49

Conclusions and Observations

"It seems that Walvoord may have believed that his view of a separate coming of Christ to rapture living saints distinct from “the second coming of Christ” is obvious enough in passages such as 1 Thess. 4:17 that it was enough to assert or assume that this is so without providing sufficient exegetical evidence. For example, Walvoord states, “When some of the Thessalonians died, it raised the question of what would happen to them when the living were raptured. They apparently had the idea that the resurrection of the dead in Christ would not occur at the Rapture but would be sometime later. How much they understood about the coming Tribulation and the second coming of Christ is not clear in Thessalonians. When they asked Timothy to clear up this difficulty, he was unable to do so and brought this question, along with other theological questions, to Paul, and Paul answers them in 1 Thessalonians. The experience of the Thessalonian Christians make quite clear that they were expecting Christ to come at any time but did not anticipate going through the Tribulation because no mention is made of it.”[20]

Walvoord seems to write this section as if the Thessalonians presupposed his understanding of the pre-tribulational Rapture. He claims in the above-mentioned quote that the Thessalonians were probably wondering what would happen to those who will be “raptured” and may have wondered if the resurrection of the dead in Christ would occur separately from “the Rapture” as if the Rapture were a commonly held belief of the believers at Thessalonica. He even seems to indicate that questions concerning the Rapture were part of the reason why Paul wrote this letter to the Thessalonians.

It does not appear to me that the Rapture can be found in the text of 1 Thessalonians apart from presupposing the existence of such a doctrine. If it is indeed impossible to discern the reality of the Rapture from this text then it appears that Walvoord, among many others, may have read his understanding of the Rapture into the passage as he attempted to explain the occasion of Paul’s teachings in 1 Thess. 4:13-18. This would be highly problematic for his view since it is this verse that Dr. Walvoord points to for clear teaching on the subject.

My study of the Rapture and the second coming of Christ is certainly not as extensive as that of a longtime Bible teacher such as Dr. Walvoord. However, based upon my study of the matter to date, it is my humble opinion that there is little to no evidence in Scripture for a coming of Christ to rapture believers from the earth that precedes and is distinct from the second coming of Christ. It is my understanding that Paul’s reference to the coming of Christ in 1 Thess. 4 is concerning the second coming of Christ".

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