Most Christians today are looking for an any-minute rapture that’ll shuffle them off this mortal coil, into the sky to be with the Lord in Heaven, or, in the words of John G. Magee, Jr., to slip “the surly bonds of earth” and “touch the face of God.” And while they hold to this hypothesis as a fundamental of the Faith, many are now waking up to something more.
Personally, I’ve never believed in the rapture (at least not as it is commonly taught) but not for the reasons you may think. Obviously, there are many reasonable arguments against it and, while I’ve studied them all, they are not the reasons I question it. Below, is a list of a few counterarguments to the rapture I’d like to highlight that includes a few additional points I’ve never heard addressed, at least not in the way I will. As you proceed, perhaps you’ll notice a theme that will draw you past the mere text into what I can only describe as the knife edge of “astonishment”.
Consider the following points…
- Jesus prayed we would not be taken “out of the world” in John 17:15 and 20. As Williams Barclay’s Commentary says, “The first essential is to note that Jesus did not pray that his disciples should be taken out of this world. He never prayed that they might find escape; he prayed that they might find victory.” Jesus promised us that in this world we would face tribulation and that we can take courage (not “fly away oh glory”) for He has overcome the world (John 16:33). Remember, God didn’t “rapture” Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego before they were thrown into the fiery furnace but walked with them in and through the fire so that they were unharmed and emerged without even the smell of smoke on them (see Daniel 3:16-28). And also, God didn’t “rapture” Daniel before he was thrown into the lions den but preserved him so that he emerged unharmed (see Daniel 6:1-23). This reality of thriving in the midst of trouble is a theme throughout scripture and history.
- The idea of being raptured so as to avoid tribulations of any kind stifles maturation, as James 1:2-4 (AMP) makes clear: “Consider it WHOLLY JOYFUL, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of ANY sort or fall into various temptations. Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience. But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing.” Of course, this is but one of many passages that affirms this point as a universal Kingdom principle.
- A careful reading of Matthew 24:36-39 and Luke 17:26-27 shows that Noah and his family were “left behind” to inherit the earth, while the wicked were “taken away” and “destroyed”. By the way, Proverbs carries a consistent theme of the righteous remaining and the wicked being “taken” — visit my “Writings” page and click on “Christ’s Coming in Proverbs” for more on this.
- The consequences of believing in a rapture are much more dangerous than not believing in it. Why? Well, the idea of leaving the planet (especially as it regards an any-minute, pre-tribulation rapture) disconnects believers — consciously, unconsciously or subconsciously — from their role and responsibility as “the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13), “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14-16) and the leaven of the Kingdom (Matthew 13:33), thereby disengaging Christians politically, culturally, economically, educationally, etc. While many are looking for future events to occur, Jesus has given us gifts, talents, abilities, and a purpose, calling us to be about our Father’s business (Luke 2:49; 19:11-27) so we can reign as kings and priests on the earth (Revelation 1:6; 5:9-10).
- The rapture of the Church off the planet is not the historic teaching of the Church. In fact, it was unheard of prior to the 19th century and was popularized in the 20th century. To learn where the rapture-removal idea actually came from, click here.
- The list of failed “end times” predictions, including the rapture, is enormous, providing a never-ending embarrassment to the Church. If the old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” is true, who is infinitely shamed after being fooled 100s of times?
- First Thessalonians 4:17 (KJV), which says that those who are alive and remain shall “…be caught up… in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air…”, is not talking about being physically caught up into the sky or outer space. First, the Greek word for “caught up” (Strong’s G726) means “to seize” and is used in Acts 8:39 and Second Corinthians 12:2 where Phillip and Paul were both “seized” by the Spirit but never left the planet. Second, the Greek word for “clouds” (Strong’s G3507) speaks of clouds that can either be around us (see Matthew 17:5, Mark 9:7 and Luke 9:34-35) or above us (see Luke 12:54; 1 Corinthians 10:1). Third, the Greek word for “air” (Strong’s G109) in this verse is “(to breathe unconsciously, i.e. respire; by analogy, to blow); ‘air’ (as naturally circumambient)“. The word “circumambient” means “surrounding”, speaking of the air all around you right now as you read this, the same air you breathe (respire) unconsciously all the time, that you inhale and exhale (Note: The higher you go, the thinner this kind of air gets, meaning there’s none in outer space.). This is the same “air” the anti-Paul mob in Acts 22 was throwing dust into (see verse 23); the same “air” Paul referenced in First Corinthians 9:26 that fighters use for shadow boxing; the same “air” Paul said we speak into (1 Corinthians 14:9). (To dig deeper into this word, click here.) So, “the Lord in the air” means this is the same air God IS IN RIGHT NOW — think about that! Note: There are only two Greek words for “air” in the New Testament. The first (Strong’s G109) was covered above. The second (Strong’s G3772) is ouranos, which means “(…the idea of elevation); the sky; by extension, heaven (as the abode of God); by implication, happiness, power, eternity; specially, the Gospel (Christianity):—air, heaven(-ly), sky.” (To dig deeper into this word, click here.) This is the same “air” the birds fly in (Matthew 8:20) and the same “air” we observe weather in (Matthew 16:2; Luke 12:56). Clearly, the Greek understanding of “air” is much more involved than its English counterpart. Why have we assumed First Thessalonians 4:17 is talking about being taken into the sky above us (ouranos) instead of into the air all around us and in our lungs (aēr)? How many other beliefs do we have based on transposed definitions? To dig deeper into First Thessalonians 4:13-17, view this PDF and/or video.
- “Throughout the universe, there is no such direction as ‘up.’ If the American and Australian saints were simultaneously caught ‘up’ (vertically), the Church would go flying off the planet in all directions.” (From “Whose Right It Is” by Dr. Kelley Varner) With that said, doesn’t it seem odd that our omnipresent God, Who is everywhere at the same time — an eternal characteristic of Who He is that makes Him, in part, so omnipotent (all powerful) — is somehow everywhere except on earth so that we have to leave the planet to go to where He is?
- Why do we need to be raptured up into the sky or outer space to be with God when Christ is “WITHIN and AMONG“ us (Colossians 1:27 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition), Jesus (and all the fullness of God IN Him (Colossians 1:19)) is IN us (John 6:56; 15:5; 17:23, 26; 2 Corinthians 13:5; Revelation 3:20) and WITH us (Matthew 28:20), the fullness of the Godhead is IN us (John 1:16; Ephesians 1:23 and 3:19; Colossians 2:9-10 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition), and the Kingdom of God is IN us (Luke 17:20-21)? We are God’s home (John 14:23) and temple (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16). Thanks to Jesus’ Finished Work, God’s ageless desire to dwell WITH us (Exodus 25:8; 29:45), to tabernacle with us (Ezekiel 37:27), to walk IN, WITH and AMONG us, so that He can be our God and we can be His people (Leviticus 26:12; Jeremiah 31:1), has been fulfilled (filled to the full).
- Why do we need to be raptured up into the sky or outer space to be with God when we are already IN and WITH Jesus where He is (John 17:24; Acts 17:28; Ephesians 2:6-7; Colossians 2:9-10; 3:1-3; Revelation 3:21)? Indeed, we are IN the Lord (Acts 17:27-28; Ephesians 2:21), IN the Father (1 Corinthians 8:6; 1 John 2:24), IN Christ Jesus the Lord (Colossians 2:6-7), IN Jesus Christ (1 John 5:20), IN Christ, IN God (1 John 4:13-16) and WITH Christ IN God (Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 3:3). Please excuse my redundancies here, but perhaps the New Testament is redundant for a reason.
- We don’t have to die or be raptured to “go to Heaven”. Why? For three reasons: (1) John the Baptist preached “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:1-2). (2) Jesus Himself preached “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:14-15; 12:28, 34; Luke 11:20; 21:31). Then, (3) Jesus told His disciples, as well as the 72, to preach “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matthew 10:7; Luke 10:9, 11). Indeed, the Kingdom of God arrived to Jesus’ generation before they expected it (see Matthew 12:28 in the Amplified Bible, Classic Edition), which begs the question: Since Jesus said the Kingdom “cometh not with observation” (King James Version) and “does not come with signs to be observed or with visible display” but is within us and all around us (Luke 17:20-21 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition), could it be that we too need to “repent” (change our mind and think differently) on this matter? Why do we keep hearing teachings and ideas that present the Kingdom as a literal, physical place in some distance location in the future, instead of bringing its spiritual reality near as John, Jesus, the disciples and the 72 did? Didn’t Jesus rebuke the religious leaders for shutting up the Kingdom of God against men, for refusing to enter themselves while keeping others out who were trying to enter? (see Matthew 23:13) And didn’t He encourage us to press into and receive His Kingdom as a child? (Mark 10:14-15; Luke 16:16; 18:16-17) [For a deeper study on the present reality of God and His Kingdom within us, click here.]
- While religion isolates the Glory of God to sacred spaces (i.e. church buildings), the afterlife, and/or future “end times” events like the rapture or second coming of Christ, “the whole earth IS full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3 KJV). The discerning know this is true. Like Jacob in Genesis 28, who, after a heavenly encounter, recognized and acknowledged a rock in the desert as “the house of God” and “the gate of Heaven”, the discerning have embraced the world around them as being filled and flooded with the Sacred Presence of God Himself. And, inasmuch as they are present in each moment, they sense this reality everyday. “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven” (Matthew 6:10 KJV) is their prayer and portion, regardless of what comes against them or surrounds them or seeks to harm them. “As He is so are we in this earth” (1 John 4:17 KJV) is who they are because Jesus said so, not because they feel it or because they’re having a good day but because He said so.
Perhaps you’ve noticed a through-line (namely in points 7-12) — that this idea of a rapture into “heaven above” puts distance in our minds and hearts between us and the Lord, Who made us one with Him in every way (To see just how united you are to Him, please click here.). So many of our songs and sermons affirm that God is near and yet also communicate a desire for Him to come, unintentionally producing a duality and cognitive dissonance (double-mindedness) that, on the one hand, breeds confusion and, on the other hand, neutralizes and even robs us of our intimacy, identity, freedom, confidence, meaning and authority in Him. Our whole existence as the Body only works as long as we are one with our Head, and disconnection destroys us, just as a physical body dies when separated from the head.
The belief that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father in Heaven is absolutely true but, as you’ve seen, Heaven is within and all around us. So then, when we talk or sing about God and Heaven as being physically somewhere above us, while pointing and/or looking skyward (with some even claiming God and Heaven are near or beyond the Milky Way), longing dreamily for that day when we will “go to heaven”, it seems we need, as John and Jesus said, to “repent” (change the way we think about this).
Personally, anytime I hear something that puts any sort of space between God and His people, I baulk — it’s almost like a physical pain shoots through my chest and makes me want to shout in protest with tears. Jesus’ death rent and tore down every veil and wall between Him and us and yet we keep repairing them, without knowing what we’re doing to ourselves.
As the Holy Spirit renews my mind to see just how near He is, life, in general, becomes much more meaningful and manageable as we walk together (within each other) through the ups and down of daily life. His whispers and nudges upgrade me every time. Whether I’m at work, on the road, at home or anywhere else, being conscious of just how truly WITHIN me He is empowers me to love, to be patient, to be kind and to forgive, regardless of what I’m dealing with. And when I lose sight of His nearness, it’s amazing the transformation I encounter when I let Him turn my mind back to this reality that’s so much more than a mere concept (Romans 12:2).
Our beliefs determine our behavior. What we think dictates our words and actions. To the degree we believe God is distant, our communication and conduct will be influenced. Insofar as we think the Kingdom is inside and all around us, we will be enhanced in how we live and express Kingdom realities in everyday life.
Think about it, if all you’re senses were quickened right now to see and feel God and all the glories of His Kingdom within and all around you, just as Elisha’s servant’s eyes were opened in Second Kings 6, you would be immediately transformed in your thinking, which would change how you talk and behave. Everything about you would be different. With all the assumed distance gone between you and Him, all the aloofness, stiffness and restraint within you would be gone as well [Note: “Aloofness, stiffness and restraint” are actually synonyms of “distance”.].
When Elisha prayed for his servant, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see”, he immediately looked around and saw the hills full of the hosts of Heaven (2 Kings 6:17).
And this has been my prayer – a prayer I hope you will pray as well.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Bless you.
Here are some quotes that have really affirmed this truth inside me…
“Earth is crammed with heaven and every bush is aflame with the fire of God! But only those who see take off their shoes. The rest just pick the berries.” Margaret Browning
“The great illusion that we must all overcome is the illusion of separateness… [the only task of true religion is] to reconnect people to their original identity ‘hidden with Christ in God’ (Colossians 3:3)… Disconnected people will do stupid things. But it is the state of believed or chosen autonomy that must be addressed; it is any life lived outside ‘the garden’ that is the core and foundational meaning of sin. We cannot ever get worthy, but we can get reconnected to our Source… Sin is primarily describing a state of living outside of union, when the part poses as the Whole. It’s the loss of any inner experience of who you are in God. That ‘who‘ is nothing you can earn or obtain. It’s nothing you can accomplish or work up to. Why? Because you’ve already got it. The biblical revelation is about awakening, not accomplishing. It is about realization and not performance principles. You cannot get there, you can only be there, but that foundational Being-in-God, for some reason, is too hard to believe, and too good to be true. Only the humble can receive it, because it affirms more about God than it does about us… Union with God is really about awareness and realignment, a Copernican revolution of the mind and heart that is sometimes called conversion. (Sixteenth-century Copernicus, of course, was the first to claim that the world revolves around the sun, not vice versa, a truly shocking revelation!) From conversion, that deep and wondrous inner knowing, a whole new set of behaviors and lifestyle will surely follow.” (Page 29-30 of “Things Hidden” by Richard Rohr)
“Heaven is filled with absolute, perfect, confidence in God. This world is filled with absolute mistrust. And you and I will always reflect the nature of the world we are most aware of. What you live conscious of is what you will reproduce in the world around you. I try to live in such a way that nothing ever gets bigger in my awareness than my conscious awareness of the presence of God in and upon me. I don’t care what the problem is; if it’s an international crisis or a personal issue, the moment that problem gets bigger than my awareness of the presence of God on me, then I will live in reaction to a problem.” Bill Johnson
“For the believer, most closed heavens are between the ears.” Bill Johnson
“God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on gasoline, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other… God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
“When Christian’s say the Christ-life is in them… when they speak of being in Christ or of Christ being in them… they mean that Christ is actually operating through them, that the whole mass of Christians are the physical organism through which Christ acts, that we are His fingers and muscles, the cells of His Body… Christians are Christ’s Body, the organism through which He works. Every addition to that Body enables Him to do more. If you want to help those outside, you must add your own little cell to the Body of Christ Who alone can help them.” C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity