Is There A Secret Resurrection?
The term rapture is an English word derived from the Greek word harpazó: which means to seize, catch up, or snatch away as mentioned in the Bible verses found in 1st Thessalonians 4:17.
16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
A deeper word study of this verse does not reveal anything that would tell us that the rapture (resurrection) is secret. One has to add other scriptures to construct a “secret resurrection” scenario. As we examine what Jesus had to say, we will find clarity as to when the rapture happens.
A popular concept of the rapture is that Jesus, without warning, will secretly return one day to resurrect or snatch away all of the Christians (living and dead) with him back to Heaven and this will usher in an era called The Great Tribulation when a satanically inspired global ruler (the Anti-Christ) will take over the world. Of course some Christians believe the rapture might happen after the Great Tribulation. You can study the various views of the tribulation on your own. Others, including myself, believe that the Great Tribulation included the period of history that ended with the destruction of the temple in AD 70, and there’s much historical evidence to support this. Jesus also told us exactly when the tribulation would happen, which can examine in another article.
The rapture topic, among many Christians, is one that has a controversial beginning, some say it is based on a young girl’s dream then later introduced into the dispensational doctrine popularized by John Nelson Darby. And finally, the doctrine became embedded in the curriculum of evangelical and Pentecostal seminaries legitimized in footnotes found in the Scofield Reference Bible of 1909 and became widely accepted throughout the Western evangelical world. The Scofield Study Bible is still in print today.
No doubt the “rapture doctrine” has been a divisive topic, especially among evangelicals. If you do a deeper study of church history however, most evangelicals will be surprised to find that the concept or doctrine of the secret rapture didn’t even exist before the 1800’s.
There is still some debate about the exact details of where, when and how the “rapture doctrine” began. And it is not the purpose of this article to explore that debate…but what we do know is how the doctrine has negatively impacted the Christian worldview of the future and diverted the mission of the church.
During the 1970’s, The Jesus Revolution (as depicted in the recent film) and it’s impact gradually faded when the rapture doctrine became popularized by such authors as Hal Lindsey in his book “The Late Great Planet Earth”, when Lindsey predicted that the rapture would take place in 1978. Many Jesus Revolution students left colleges, gave up future plans and dropped out of society believing that the rapture could happen soon or at least by 1978. Many other Bible teachers, radio and TV evangelists also made predictions of when Christ would return based on their own, self-proclaimed theological schemes. Later the secret rapture concept was published as a series of novels written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins and later made into Hollywood motion pictures LEFT BEHIND series with an audience of millions. At this writing, a new film will be released in the series called, THE RISE OF THE ANTICHRIST.
From the Garden of Eden to the present day, everywhere Truth gets proclaimed, the devil has an anti-truth campaign.
What Did Jesus Say About The Rapture?
So often when I read articles and books dealing with this subject, there is no mention of the scriptures that actually reveal what Christ had to say about the rapture, or more accurately, the resurrection. Do a search in the Left Behind and Late Great Planet Earth books and tell me what you find that discusses or even mentions these verses. Interestingly enough, a search of the following verses in the Scofield Reference Bible have no accompanying study notes or comments about the last day.
First, we know there will be a resurrection.
I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. Acts 24:15
This verse says, there is “a” single resurrection for both the just and unjust… not multiple occurrences, nor two separate resurrections.
Next, when we explore Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John chapter 6, we find further explanation of when the exact day of the resurrection will take place.
And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. John 6:39
This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.” John 6:40
No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. John 6:44
Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood [holy communion] have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; John 6:54
Later in John 11:23-24, Martha and Jesus are talking about her brother Lazarus who had just died.
23Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Lesser known scriptures from Job in the Old Testament, give a prophetic and very descriptive view of the resurrection. [Wycliffe Bible Translation]
For I know, that my redeemer liveth, and in the last day I shall rise from the earth; (For I know, that my redeemer liveth, and on the last day he shall rise to my defense;) 26 and again I shall be (en)compassed with my skin, and in my flesh I shall see God, my saviour. Job 19:25-26
In the verse above, the Hebrew for ‘last day’ in context means the last of time. (Strong’s Hebrew 314)
For those who like the scriptures referenced in John chapters 6 & 11 translated from the Greek, “raise up” (anasteso) means to stand up, as to raise from the dead, and the word last (eschate) in all these verses means… the furthest, final, last. Finally, the word day in Greek (hermera) means the period from sunrise to sunset.
This is not speaking of the “last days” plural or the “last days” before Jerusalem fell and the temple was destroyed by the Romans, nor is it the traditional teaching of “end times”.
Otherwise, Jesus is saying the resurrection is on the last day of history, there is no more time, it’s the last tick on the clock, there are no more days, it is the furthest day on the calendar. The resurrection is not during history and not before any other events, but on the last sunrise-to-sunset day of history. One cannot interpret fairly and with integrity any other way.
What About Judgement Day?
There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. John 12:48
Another translation says:
The one who rejects me and does not receive my word has a judge; on the last day the word that I have spoken will serve as judge.
So why have a judgement on the last day, if the “unjust” haven’t been raised yet? (as some suggest)
These scriptures settle the issue of timing. The exact resurrection/rapture and judgement day all happen on the last day of history, after which (or even simultaneously) time shall be no more. You cannot view these verses through the lens of the popular rapture doctrine as it has been repeated for decades rather, you need to start with these verses of Christ’s actual declaration “I will raise them up”, in order to properly interpret the timing of all other New Testament verses concerning the resurrection. (Check your own favorite translation as well).
After reading these verses, it became clear to me that Jesus’ emphasis and frequency with which he stated this truth in John was meant to clear up any future confusion that the LAST DAY is the last day of what we know as time. This is not an arbitrary day in the middle of some other schema. You cannot interpret the last day phrase any other way without imposing your own presuppositions or filtered through your favorite, learned doctrine. Even Martha understood this truth in John 11:24
So, What About The First Resurrection Mentioned In Revelation?
All believers who receive Christ, symbolized by baptism, become new creatures in Christ over which the second death holds no power. So, the first resurrection is salvation as represented by the act of baptism, when and where our sins are buried and we are raised to new life in Christ. There are many, many verses on this subject, but for the sake of space, I will quote a couple. See Romans 6:4 which says:
We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. Romans 6:4
For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:6
If we are honestly using scripture to interpret scripture without any forced timeline, it becomes clear that the first resurrection is spiritual and the final physical resurrection, along with the Judgement, are all a part of the last day of history.
This transition on the last day into an eternal timeline will also bring in the merging of Heaven and earth and the consummation of the Kingdom within the realm of the New Creation.
Once we get clarity on the timing of the resurrection/rapture and judgment… it changes everything that we may have thought we knew about the timing of Christ’s return and our future.
Even though we do not know the exact day on the calendar when The Last Day will happen, we do know there are key milestones that must take place before Christ returns. We will examine those milestones as stated in scripture in another article.
I pray that the Holy Spirit will bring us into all truth and into the unity of the faith. (Ephesians 4:13) We have only just begun to understand the victorious future that Christ has in mind for his church between now and the “last day”. Time to get to work, we’re not going anywhere yet.
In another article, we’ll examine the timing in Matthew 24.. “and then the end shall come”. This and other articles are published in a blog titled Take Another Look, Rethinking Your Worldview. These articles can also be delivered via a free subscription at richgermaine.substack.com
Greek references included are from the Interlinear Greek New Testament at BibleHub.com, and various translations from The Bible Gateway.com. I encourage you to research them for yourself.
Resources for further study: (Amazon affiliate links)