The First Century Rapture
By Arthur Melanson
We have some writings from the nineteenth century that hold to the literal rapture view, but recently two new books arrived. The first is, Expectations Demand A First Century Rapture by Edward E. Stevens. The second is, Taken To Heaven in AD 70! by Ian D. Harding. These excellent books have rekindled the interest of preterists everywhere. The rapture, in its first century setting, is a current hot topic.
And it should be! Just as God broke through the darkness of false futurism, He is now showing the reality of His Second Coming and the provision for those alive at His Coming. As always, we see this in the Bible. It was there waiting to be seen all the time.
I have a preterist friend who wrote a little book on the rapture of Christians. He took the opposite view on the fate of the living believers in AD 70. He said they could not see resurrection until they first died. He said this repeatedly. It seems an odd thing to say in light of Paul's words: "Listen! I will unfold a mystery: we shall not all die, but we shall all be changed . . ." (1 Cor. 15:51 NEB) A plain reading of the text doesn't allow for believers to remain mortal at the resurrection and the rapture. There is another flaw in my friend's theory. Believers remaining on earth in mortal bodies after the Parousia would die at different times. Paul says all believers, dead and alive, gather at the same time. That time is the time of the last trumpet. "For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." (1 Cor. 15:52) The change, Paul tells us, takes place in a moment-in the twinkling of an eye.
Jesus said He would gather together His elect at the sound of the trumpet. This trumpet call is of utmost importance. The trumpet call is God's time of summons. We should not lightly dismiss it. The idea of Christians continuing in mortality after God's designated summons to glory is unbiblical and unbelieving.
My nonrapturous friend is not alone in his interpretation of these end time events. Others feel the same way. Many preterists associate "the rapture" with the futurism they left behind. Others, and this is not just preterist Christians, shy away from the supernatural acts of God. They forget that God is a supernatural Being.
We are grateful for the recent books by Stevens and Harding. These publications are letting light into one of the darkest corners of preterism. The teachings of Jesus play a key role in guiding the preterist Christian to a correct understanding of the first century rapture. Many of Jesus' parables reveal the truth of the literal catching away of believers-the parable of the wheat and tares, the parable of the dragnet, the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, etc.
More importantly, though, we have the promises of Jesus to His disciples. "I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also." Some disciples were still alive at the Lord's Parousia as Jesus foretold. (Mt. 16:28) He gathered them into glory as the trumpet sounded. In Jesus' prayer in John 17, Jesus prays "And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was." Later in the same prayer Jesus makes this amazing request: "Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world." (John 17:24)
No where in this text, or any other Bible text, is there the intimation that living believers in the first century have to live out their fleshly lives before entering glory. Just the opposite is true-they change at the trump of God becoming immortal in the twinkling of an eye.
What do YOU think ?
Date: 20 May 2007
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