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Developing a Systematic Messianic Theology
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Is the Rapture for Real?
Some Scriptures Commonly Used to Support
a Pre-Mil/Pre-Trib Rapture Theory

(And Why I Think They Fail to Support That View)
 

The Place of “the Church” in God’s Plan

Quite frankly, after having been a follower of Yeshua for going on 65 years, with well over 40 years in Christian ministry, since I have started reading and studying the Scriptures for what they actually say instead of for what I expect or want them to say, with great personal disappointment I now find that I no longer can believe that the world-wide organization that calls itself “the Church” holds any special place in God’s plan. I realize that’s extremely harsh, but I am forced to wonder if “the Church” is anything other than the world’s biggest cult. [Don’t stop reading yet. I think I have some good reasons.]

Of everything I have been taught about what the Church is, where the Church came from, and where the Church is going — from the time I was a toddler in Sunday School through my many years of seminary — very little can be clearly supported from Scripture when the Scripture is interpreted from the historical, grammatical, and cultural Jewish perspective that was held by the original authors and recipients of those Scriptures.

I am very concerned that, because of poor teaching and even worse exegesis, there are more people being eternally “lost” than “saved” through the “ministry” of the Church. Yes, I realize that there are some pastors and teachers who earnestly believe what they are teaching — I certainly did. Am I saying that it is impossible to be “saved by grace through faith, plus nothing”? No! Heaven forbid! But as Messiah’s own brother Ya'akov (the Church arbitrarily changed his name to James) clearly said, “Faith without action is useless” (James 2:14-26).

When He was asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” not once did Yeshua say, “Believe that I died for your sins and you will live with me forever.” No! In every instance he pointed the individual to the Torah and told them to obey Torah and they would inherit eternal life. (Mark 10:17, Luke 10:25, Luke 18:18) And now when anyone attempts to follow the Master’s teaching, the Church accuses them of Galatianism—trying to return to the “tyranny of the Law.”

I don’t believe that Yeshua or the Apostles either intended to or actually did start anything new; they only wanted to call Israel to repent—turn away from sin and turn back to God—so they could inherit the Kingdom of God. I believe that if Israel had heeded their call to repentance that the Kingdom of God would have been established in the first century. Yeshua and the Apostles were offering Israel an imminent onset of the Kingdom. Were they lying and offering Israel a false hope? God forbid!

The Jewish followers of Yeshua during the first century did not organize themselves as a recognizable organization outside of mainstream Judaism. They didn’t run through Judea building churches or even creating home churches. They didn’t “convert” to “Christianity.” They continued to live as Jews, continued participating in their local synagogues, continued to walk in accordance with God’s Torah, and they “continued faithfully and with a singleness of purpose to meet daily in the Temple” (Acts 2:46). They simply identified themselves as members of a new Jewish sect known as “the Way.” And that was the status of Messianic Judaism until the Messianic “heretics” were “cast out of the Synagogue” (excommunicated) by Chief Rabbi Akiva during the Bar-Kokhba Revolt (fought circa 132–136 CE).

When Jerusalem fell in 70 CE,  most of the existing sects of Judaism disappeared. The Temple was destroyed so there was no further function for the Sadducees (who ran the Temple); the Zealots were all killed, captured, or dispersed; the Qumran community of Essenes was overrun and destroyed. This left only two major sects: the Pharisees and the Messianics.

The Pharisees and Messianics maintained fellowship together in the Synagogue until the Bar-Kokhba Revolt. At that time Rabbi Akiva (the Chief Rabbi) declared that all who failed to recognize Shimon Bar-Kokhba as the Messiah were heretics. The followers of the true Messiah Yeshua could obviously not recognize a false messiah, which resulted in all true Messianic Believers being put out of Synagogue fellowship.

From 135 until 324, Pharisaical Judaism and Messianic Judaism went their separate ways. Pharisaical Judaism gradually evolved into today’s Rabbinical Judaism, and Messianic Judaism absorbed an ever-increasing number of Gentile Believers, until the Jewish Believers became a relatively small minority within what was still considered a “sect” of Judaism.

Up until the establishment of the Roman State Religion in 324, the synagogue remained the only existing “form” or “model” for both Messianic and non-Messianic Judaism. In 324, Emperor Constantine ascended to the Roman throne and immediately established his total control over both the religious and civil life of the Roman Empire by creating the blend of Messianic Judaism and Babylonian Paganism that was to become “the Church” at the Council of Nicea in 325.

Following the Council of Nicea, from which all the Jewish Elders were specifically “uninvited,” all members of the new Roman Church, which de facto included all citizens of the Empire, were given the choice of renouncing all traces of their Jewish heritage or being put to death. And until the rebirth of Messianic Judaism in 1967, that remained just about the only choice for Jews who accepted Yeshua as their Messiah — convert to Gentile “Christianity” and renounce all Jewish heritage, or renounce Messiah and be permitted to remain in the Jewish community.

Now the Church universally teaches that the Torah, God’s loving instruction, has been abolished and is no longer of any value. It is a part of  that obsolete Jewish religion. The Church totally disregards, Yeshua’s clear teaching that “whoever disobeys the least of these mitzvot [the 613 commandments of Torah] and teaches others to do so will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever obeys them and so teaches will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matt. 5:19). If we are to take Yeshua at His word, the entire Church is “the least in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

The Church has systematically removed from itself everything that reminds it that it was once an exclusively Jewish movement, having created anti-Semitism as its rule for existence (see Anti-Semitic Decrees and Anti-Semitism in the Church). They conveniently totally forget that they claim to follow the Jewish Messiah! In all but the very rare Christian congregation, any Jew who comes to faith in Messiah and affiliates with the Church is expected to put off all Jewish tradition and live as a Gentile; some congregations go so far as to require the new member to demonstrate disdain for the Torah by eating “unclean” foods! The Church in general holds anything “Jewish” in contempt. To try to retain any trace of “Jewishness” is considered “Galatianism.” And yet Yeshua said:

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. … Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine [His fellow Jews], even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ … Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; … Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these [again, His fellow Jews], you did not do it to Me.”  These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-45)

The Church has tuned its back on its Hebrew origins and wandered off into significant error, even paganism. It has:

  1. Accepted the church councils as Divine Authority, placing the “traditions of men” as higher authority that the Scriptures.

  2. Abandoned the true Gospel that was preached first by John the Immerser, and then by Yeshua, and then by the Apostles: “Repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand!” They have turned instead to an easy, no-responsibility, no obligation false “gospel” that offers free fire insurance by saying, “If you want to go to heaven, all you have to do is believe that Jesus died for your sins.” (Some add the requirement of being baptized.)

  3. Changed the dates of Scriptural Holy Days and given them new meaning:

• Changed Seventh Day Sabbath to Sunday, the “venerable day of the Roman sun god”

• Changed Passover to “Good Friday”

• Changed First Fruits of Barley (Resurrection Day) to “Easter,” a fertility celebration named in honor of the goddess Ishtar (aka Astarte, Asherot, Diana of the Ephesians, and many other names), even using her fertility symbols of flowers and bunnies

• Changed the birthday of Messiah from the Feast of Tabernacles to the pagan winter solstice (renaming the Roman feast Saturnalia to Christmas)

  4. Claimed Torah (God's loving instruction) is not valid as a standard of righteousness for Christians

  5. Presented Messiah Yeshua (“Jesus,” they can’t even get His name right!) to the world as effeminate, non-Jewish, and a violator of Torah[1]

  6. Turned the glory of Messiah over to Popes; installed Mary as the “Queen of Heaven” (replacing the false goddess who has traditionally held that title under various names, including Ishtar, Astarte, Asherot, and Diana of the Ephesians

  7. Given more importance to Paul’s words than Yeshua’s words [2];

  8. Routinely forced Messianic Jews into Gentile assimilation to be accepted in the Church

  9. Replaced biblical Israel with non-biblical concept of “Church” [3]

10. Usurped Israel’s place as God’s Bride, calling itself “the Bride of Christ.” If Yeshua is God, and God hates divorce, how then how has He divorced Israel and married “the Church” unless He expects those who call themselves “the Church” to be, in fact, part of His Bride Israel?

11. Stolen Israel’s birthright and assumed for itself, with no corresponding obligation, all of God’s promises and covenants that are eternally for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

12. Made Anti-Semitism commonplace in the Church: named the Jews "Christ-killers" and relegated them to a rejected people

Moreover, even though God allowed His chosen people and His true Bride, Israel, to suffer the tribulation of the Holocaust, the apostate “Church” teaches that for some reason He is going to whisk all the “Christians” off to the safety of “heaven” before the Antichrist begins persecuting them. I can no longer believe that to be true. Even as I write this (September 2015), the Islamic Caliphate—which I believe to be the confederation that comes against Israel in the quickly approaching “End Times”—is crucifying, burning, and  beheading (Rev. 20:4) Christians throughout the Middle East. Has the “Tribulation Period” already begun?

God established a specific schedule of times that all His people were to set aside to meet with Him:

 • The Sabbath (Lev 23:3)

 • Passover & Unleavened bread (Lev 23:5-7)

 • First Fruits (Lev 23:10,11)

 • Feast of Weeks, also known as Pentecost (Lev 23:15,16)

 • Trumpets (Lev 23:24,25)

 • Atonement (Lev 23:27-30)

 • Tabernacles (Lev 23:34-36)

ADONAI said to Moshe, “Tell the people of Isra'el: ‘The designated times of ADONAI which you are to proclaim as holy convocations are My designated times. Work is to be done on six days; but the seventh day is a Shabbat of complete rest, a holy convocation; you are not to do any kind of work; it is a Shabbat for ADONAI, even in your homes. These are the designated times of ADONAI, the holy convocations you are to proclaim at their designated times’” (Lev 23:1-4, emphasis added).

But the Church arrogantly says to the Creator and Emperor of the Universe: “We don’t care what You say. We don’t have to come to You on Your terms. We will come to You on our own terms: Christmas, Easter, Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night are our designated times!”

God sent Israel into Babylon for 40 years and into the Diaspora for 1,878 years for her arrogance, and He struck down the sons of the first High Priest Aaron because they arrogantly approached the Altar of God in a manner other than as He had prescribed (Leviticus 10:1-2). Yet the Church believes that she will be “raptured” in spite of her arrogance and disobedience!

The Apostasy and Its Cure

Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, (2 Thessalonians 2:3 NAS

But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, (1 Timothy 4:1 NAS)

I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely, For My anger has turned away from them. (Hosea 14:4 NAS)

Rav Sha'ul clearly says to the Thessalonians and to Timothy that there will be a time of apostasy. But Hosea says that God will heal that apostasy. I believe that “the Church” is that apostasy, beginning with the establishment of the Roman State Religion in 325 CE and continuing to the present. Furthermore, I believe that the resurgence of Messianic Judaism starting in 1967 is the beginning of that cure.
 



Origin of the Rapture in Replacement Theology

The idea of a “Rapture” is a relatively new doctrine that only began to be developed by 17th-century Puritans. First and foremost, I have come to the opinion that the entire concept of the “Rapture of the Church” is based upon a serious compounding of errors that are based in Replacement Theology, so let's discuss that first.

In a nutshell, Replacement Theology (held by all dispensational theologians and most Christian churches) holds that God, Who never changes (Num. 3:19; Mal. 3:6; Jas. 1:17):

• has set aside His eternal and unchangeable Torah (2Kings 17:37; Psalm 1:2; Psalm 119:44; Psalm 119:142; Jer.  31:33; Micah 4:2; Matt. 5:17-20; Rom. 2:13; Rom. 3:31

• has changed the conditions by which one is declared righteous and enters into a covenant relationships with God;

• has divorced His bride Israel and taken a new bride, the Church;

• has repealed, revoked, abrogated, and dissolved all of the eternal and irrevocable covenants that He made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and with their “descendants forever”;

• has transferred all of the blessings and benefits, but absolutely none of the responsibilities, of those covenants to “the Church.”

See the article “Replacement Theology” for a more extensive discussion of that subject.

Etymology

The word “rapture” never occurs in Scripture. The entire concept is based on one single word in 1Thess 4:17:

Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up (arpazo, harpadzo) together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.

Harpadzo means:
   1. to seize, carry off by force
   2. to seize on, claim for one's self eagerly
   3. to snatch out or away

Harpadzo in translated in the New American Standard Bible as: carry off, caught, snatch, snatched away, snatches, snatches away, snatching, take away by force, and take by force. It indicates to be taken by surprise in a sudden event, and is used in this way in Acts 8:39, 2Corinthians 12:2-4 and Revelation 12:5.

When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away. The eunuch saw no more of him, because he continued on his way - full of joy. (Acts 8:39)

I know a man in union with the Messiah who fourteen years ago was snatched up to the third heaven; whether he was in the body or outside the body I don't know, God knows. And I know that such a man - whether in the body or apart from the body I don't know, God knows - was snatched into Gan-'Eden (the Hebrew term for Paradise, literally Garden of Eden) and heard things that cannot be put into words, things unlawful for a human being to utter. (2Cor. 12:2-4)

She gave birth to a son, a male child, the one who will rule all the nations with a staff of iron. But her child was snatched up (the Ascension) to God and his throne; (Rev. 12:5.)

The word rapture itself comes from the Latin word rapiemur, as the Vulgate translates the Greek harpadzo.

History of the Doctrine

The earliest record of the concept of the rapture in connection with premillennialism was expressed by the 17th-century American Puritan father and son Increase and Cotton Mather. They held to the idea that believers would be caught up in the air, followed by judgments on the Earth, and then the millennium. The term rapture was used by Philip Doddridge and John Gill in their New Testament commentaries, with the idea that believers would be caught up prior to judgment on the Earth and Jesus’ second coming.

John Nelson Darby first proposed and popularized the pre-tribulation rapture in 1827. This view was accepted among many other Plymouth Brethren movements in England. Darby and other prominent Brethren were part of the Brethren Movement which impacted American Christianity, especially with movements and teachings associated with Christian eschatology and fundamentalism, primarily through their writings. Popular books also contributed to acceptance of the pre-tribulation rapture, including William Eugene Blackstone’s book Jesus is Coming published in 1878 and which sold more than 1.3 million copies, and the Scofield Reference Bible, published in 1909 and 1919 and revised in 1967 (the Scofield Reference Bible was the standard text used by the first seminary I attended).

The early church fathers, the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox churches, the Anglican Communion, and many Protestant  denominations have no tradition of a preliminary return of Christ and reject the doctrine of the Rapture.

Scripture Passages Used

“For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” [1Thess. 5:9]

It makes very little sense to try to use this verse to support a “rapture,” even though the context is in a discussion of the coming “Day of the Lord,” the time of judgment that is to come. We need to take a look at the entire context, remembering that chapter and verse divisions are not part of Scripture, but only “bookmarks” that have been added by editors to make it easier to find and/or refer to a particular passage. I am leaving the numbers in place for reference.

Sanctification and Love

1 Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. 2 For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. 7For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. 8So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you. 9Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; 10for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, 11and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, 12so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.

Those Who Died in Christ

13But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep (died, see John 11:11-14, for example) in Jesus. 15For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet (shofar) of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4)

The Day of the Lord

1Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. 2For you yourselves know full well that the Day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. 3While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. 4But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; 5for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; 6so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. 7For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. 8But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. 9For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. 11Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.

Christian Conduct

12But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, 13and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. 14We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. (1Thess 5:1-14)

As nearly as I can determine from the Scriptures there will be two resurrections or regenerations (as in the NASB). The first resurrection, of which Messiah was Himself the “first fruits,” will apparently be of the Elect from both before and after the Lord’s own resurrection for them to take part in the Millennial Kingdom. Among those will certainly be the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to whom the promise of the Land of Israel from the Nile River to the Euphrates River was made but not yet received. David also, according to prophecy, will rule over all of that Land from his throne in Israel. To the Emissaries Yeshua said, “in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28)

Yeshua will certainly reign for a thousand years, and it certainly appears the Patriarchs and Emissaries will reign during this period.

1Next I saw an angel coming down from heaven, who had the key to the Abyss and a great chain in his hand. 2He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan [the Adversary], and chained him up for a thousand years. 3He threw him into the Abyss, locked it and sealed it over him; so that he could not deceive the nations any more until the thousand years were over. After that, he has to be set free for a little while.

4Then I saw thrones, and those seated on them received authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for testifying about Yeshua and proclaiming the Word of God, also those who had not worshipped the beast or its image and had not received the mark on their foreheads and on their hands. They came to life and ruled with the Messiah for a thousand years. 5(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were over.) This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed and holy is anyone who has a part in the first resurrection; over him the second death has no power. On the contrary, they will be cohanim of God and of the Messiah, and they will rule with him for the thousand years (Revelation 20:1-6, emphasis added).

However, the fact that there will be a resurrection and a thousand-year reign of Messiah does not support the idea of a “rapture.”

The Last Shofar (Trumpet)

Look, I will tell you a secret — not all of us will die! But we will all be changed! It will take but a moment, the blink of an eye, at the final shofar. For the shofar will sound, and the dead will be raised to live forever, and we too will be changed. (1Cor. 15:51-52)

Rav Sha'ul says that although not everybody will die, everybody will be changed from mortality to immortality. Compare:

For this material which can decay must be clothed with imperishability, this which is mortal must be clothed with immortality. When what decays puts on imperishability and what is mortal puts on immortality, then this passage in the Tanakh will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1Cor. 15:53-54)

He is discussing the victory over death and our final transformation into the nature of Messiah.

Dear friends, we are God's children now; and it has not yet been made clear what we will become. We do know that when he appears, we will be like him; because we will see him as he really is. (1 John 3:2)

As far as the timing of this change is concerned, it will not be a gradual change, but it will be instantaneous, “in the blink of an eye.” And it will occur “at the final shofar.” Since the shofar was sounded to call worshipers to the Temple for worship, he may possibly mean when we die and are called to our final rest in Messiah (the final final shofar).

If, however, this transformation occurs at the sounding of the seventh and last angel’s shofar in Yochanan's vision of the Day of ADONAI, then it will occur at the end of the Great Tribulation (the Time of Jacob’s [Israel’s] Troubles), not as a “rapture” before or at the beginning of the Tribulation.

The seventh angel sounded his shofar; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and his Messiah, and he will rule forever and ever!" (Revelation 11:15)

“But immediately following the trouble of those times, the sun will grow dark, the moon will stop shining (Is 13:10; 24:23; Ezek 32:7; Joel 2:10, 31; 3:15f; Amos 5:20; 8:9; Zeph 1:15; Matt 24:29-35; Acts 2:20; Rev 6:12-17; 8:12), the stars will fall from the sky (Is 34:4; Rev 6:13), and the powers in heaven will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man (Matt 24:3; Rev 1:7) will appear in the sky, all the tribes of the Land will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven (Dan 7:13; Matt 16:27; 24:3, 37, 39) with tremendous power and glory. He will send out his angels (Matt 13:41) with a great shofar (Ex 19:16; Deut 30:4; Is 27:13; Zech 9:14; 1 Cor 15:52; 1 Thess 4:16; Heb 12:19; Rev 8:2; 11:15); and they will gather together his chosen people (Matt 24:22) from the four winds (Dan 7:2; Zech 2:6; Rev 7:1), from one end of heaven to the other. (Matt. 24:29-31)

Having taken all these things into consideration, I still cannot see that the Scriptures support the Church’s idea of a “Rapture.” So the passage upon which the entire idea is based is 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17:

13Now, brothers, we want you to know the truth about those who have died; otherwise, you might become sad the way other people 14do who have nothing to hope for. For since we believe that Yeshua died and rose again, we also believe that in the same way God, through Yeshua, will take with him those who have died. 15When we say this, we base it on the Lord's own word: we who remain alive when the Lord comes will certainly not take precedence over those who have died. 16For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a rousing cry, with a call from one of the ruling angels, and with God's shofar; those who died united with the Messiah will be the first to rise; 17then we who are left still alive will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and thus we will always be with the Lord.

The word in the Greek New Testament translated as “rise” in verse 16 (first to rise) is anistemi (anistemi) — exactly the same word that is used to record Yeshua’s words “rise again” in Mark 8:31; 10:34; Luke 18:33; and Luke 24:46) speaking of His own resurrection and in John 11:24 when Martha says to Yeshua, “I know that he [Lazarus] will rise again [be resurrected] in the resurrection on the last day.” The same word is used in Mark 12:23 when the Pharisees were trying to trick Yeshua by asking Him “when they rise again” in the resurrection, whose wife would be the woman who had married seven men. The word has nothing whatsoever to with rising up into the air, but with being resurrected from the dead. So we can see “that those who died united with the Messiah will be the first to rise” again in the resurrection.

That leaves us with one more verse, the verse that started it all, to deal with:

… then we who are left still alive will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and thus we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thess 4:17)

If all the righteous are to be in Israel during Messiah’s thousand-year reign, it may be that this verse is simply referring to an ingathering to Israel to be with Messiah.

Isaiah said: “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” (Exodus 19:4)

Between June 1949 and September 1950, Israel ran a secret operation known as Operation Magic Carpet. During that time, 380 flights were made between Yemen and Israel, rescuing more than 49,000 Jews from Arab countries where they were being oppressed. When the Jews being rescued boarded the planes that would airlift them to Israel, they were sure that the messiah had come. They had never seen planes before, and to them, these were the ‘eagles’ prophesized about in the book of Isaiah: “They will soar on wings like eagles” (Isaiah 40:31). To the Jews of Yemen, those airplanes were God’s eagles that would carry them home. And that’s how Operation Magic Carpet became more popularly known as Operation Wings of Eagles.
Internet article “On Wings of Eagles”
holylandmoments.org/uncategorized/on-wings-of-eagles-3
accessed 09/06/15
On May 24, 1991, in a record-breaking airlift of 36 planes, the Israeli Air Force smuggled more than 14,000 Ethiopian Jews from Addis Ababa International Airport to Israel. It was a Herculean task in many ways, not only because C-130 Hercules planes were used in the operation, but because the job was so enormous, unprecedented, and almost incomprehensible. … Wenda and the 14,000 other Ethiopian Jews transported to Israel in May 1991 are believed to be descendants of King Solomon. Cut off from the rest of the world for centuries, they thought they were the only Jews in the world. Still, they practiced Judaism, always believing that they would someday return to Zion.
Internet article “On Eagles' Wings: Operation Solomon”
behrmanhouse.com/RL/on-eagles-wings-operation-solomon
accessed 09/06/15

These two major airlifts of Jews from the Diaspora were are considered by many to be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s “eagles’ wings” prophecy.

Similarly, it may very well be that the fulfillment of 1 Thess 4:17 will be a massive airlift of Messianic Believers from the Diaspora to Israel at the beginning of Messiah’s Kingdom. Whether the means of that airlift are natural or supernatural remains to be seen.

 

The Bottom Line

The “bottom line” of this discussion for me (you don’t need to agree) is this: I think the “rapture” teaching is a convenient tool used by (mostly) evangelicals to frighten people into joining “the church” and increasing their membership numbers. What the “rapture” teaching essentially says is this:

Hell on earth is coming soon. God is going to pour his wrath on the earth, and especially on those terrible Jews who killed His Son, and He's going to use the Antichrist to do it. People are going to be tricked into getting the number “666” tattooed on their body or have a microchip with that number implanted in their skin. Everyone who doesn’t get that tattoo or microchip is going to be beheaded, crucified, or tortured to death in the most terrible ways possible. The world is going to be destroyed by fire, flood, horrible diseases, and invasion by demons who look like big locusts. You really don’t want to be there when it happens.

But we have “good news” for you. We can give you a free ticket out of all this terror. If you will just join our church, then right before all these terrible things happen, Jesus will come and “beam you up” to heaven where you can ride out this storm in comfort and safety. To join our church all you have to do say the magic words in public that you believe that Jesus is the Christ and that you accept Him as your personal savior, then we will dunk you in a tub of water or sprinkle a few drops of water on your forehead. That’s all there is to it.

And here’s even better news. You don’t have to worry about living a righteous life as God commands, because Jesus took care of all that oppressive “Law” stuff for you. You can go ahead and do pretty much whatever you want and live pretty much however you want to, as long as you follow the rules of our congregation so you don't get kicked out.

However, there is one catch. There’s a time limit. If you don’t join our church before the “rapture,” then you are going to go through hell on earth, and after you are tortured to death by the Antichrist, you get to spend all of eternity in hell wishing you had taken our free offer.

I reject this message because I simply cannot find sufficient information in the Scriptures to support the position.

 


The position presented in this article is in total opposition to what I used
to believe and teach, so a lot more study is going to need to go into this
before I am satisfied I have reached a satisfactory explanation.

____________

  1. The “Jesus” of the Church is a gross caricature of the historical Yeshua of Nazareth. According to the Church, “Jesus was a good Christian boy who went to church every Sunday.” [HERE] The Church teaches that He abandoned the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and started a new religion. He blatantly violated Torah and taught others to do so; He “nailed the Law (Torah) to His cross.” That presents Him to the Jewish community as a false prophet who must be rejected as Messiah! [RETURN]

  2. I actually had a discussion with a member of my church and was discussing a particular teaching in one of Kefa‘s (Peter’s) letters. That person told me that whatever Peter wrote was irrelevant because Paul, not Peter, was the “Apostle to the Gentiles” and therefore Gentile Christians should accept only his writings as authoritative. [RETURN]

  3. This is the heretical teaching known as “Replacement Theology.” [RETURN]

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