In a small group Bible study I was once leading, someone mentioned how glad he was that the Rapture would soon take place. Surely the world is moving towards Armageddon. The world has to be coming to an end. There is too much bloodshed and violence in the Middle East. ISIS is on the rise. The Muslims are on the march. Death and despair is everywhere. How nice it is to know the church shall escape the great tribulation to come.
Upon hearing that, my heart was stirred. Perhaps this could be a teachable moment. With that in mind, I responded by saying that perhaps the popular concept of the Rapture theory should be reconsidered in light of Scripture.
I proceeded to go through the concern of many Christians about the Rapture theory. Though wildly popular, the idea of a the church being rescued from tribulation seven years prior to the Lord’s Second Advent is simply not found in any clear text of Scripture. The idea of the Rapture as a separate event from the Second Coming of Christ was unheard of until around 1830. Certainly, there is no clear Biblical text that states Christians shall escape tribulation. In fact, just the opposite is taught.
Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Paul taught that, “we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). The Rapture theory is actually a third coming of Christ, which Hebrews 9:28 does not allow. “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Heb. 9:28).
The angels said that there is to be no secret silent coming of Christ, as advocates of the Rapture theory propose. “Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Jesus did not go secretly, suddenly, or silently into heaven. Nor will he come secretly or silently. Jesus will come with the shout of the voice of the archangel. The trumpet of God shall sound. The dead shall rise. The King will return in Glory.
When I finished sharing the concerns of many Christians to the Rapture theory, the man immediately responded, “Well, we shall just have to agree to disagree.” Rather engage in a Biblical dialogue, discussion was immediately shut down.
This is not an unusual response when Christians disagree on a point of theology. I replied, “My friend, truth cannot be dismissed so easily. The Word of God cannot be set aside like that. Either the Bible teaches the Dispensational theory of the Rapture, or it does not.”
Imagine what would have happened if Jesus had said to the Pharisees of His day, “I see that you do not agree with my teaching. I guess we shall just have to agree to disagree.”
When Paul confronted Peter for siding with the Judaizers, and bringing Christians back under the Law, the apostle did not say, “Peter, you and I have a difference about the place of the Law in the life of the believer. I guess we shall just have to agree to disagree on this important matter.”
When the truth that the earth moved around the sun came into conflict with the teaching of the Medieval Church over this matter, truth prevailed. Men of faith prevailed. They did not say, “I guess we shall just have to agree to disagree over this issue.”
What then should be done when Christians disagree over religious dogma? I would suggest the following.
First, commit together to a study of the Scriptures. Go to the Word of God. Literally open the Bible, and read the text in question. Do not argue about the Bible. Open the Scriptures. I invited the man to open his Bible to 1 Thessalonians 4, and share which verse teaches that Christians shall disappear from the earth for seven years, and then return with Christ for His third coming. Of course there is nothing in the Bible that teaches such an idea.
Second, agree to submit to the authority of the Bible. Many people are more interested in defending their system of theology, than in embracing the simplicity of Scripture. It is possible to make a good presuppositional argument for something. However, when the Scriptures are opened they often challenge the theological system that has been constructed.
Third, be teachable. I am willing to listen to any person’s position, provided they will give me a chapter and verse from the Bible for what they believe. If a Mormon wants to tell me that as man is God, once was, and that as God is, man may become, I am willing to listen, provided He tells me specifically, from the Bible, he found such a fantastic teaching. The Mormons are god makers. That idea appeals to the flesh. However, what I want to know is what the Bible says.
Fourth, be gentle and gracious throughout the conversation. “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man” (Col. 4:6).
Fifth, it is the will of the Lord there be unity among His people. Strive for Christian doctrinal unity when possible. Strive with others who are willing to study, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13).
Finally remember that only the Holy Spirit can teach a person spiritual truths. Sometimes, there are spiritual causalities. There are people who are not teachable. Paul understood this, and said, “A man that is a heretic after the first and second admonition reject” (Titus 3:10).
While Christians will continue to divide, as they hold diverse and strong opinions, dialogue should not quickly be shut down. Rather, Christians should try to listen to one another, study the Scriptures together, agree to submit to the Lordship of Christ, and allow sound doctrine to be the determining factor for faith and practice.