Two major passages in the Bible support the rapture theory. Viewed side-by-side they do not appear much different at first, but both must be compared for a proper interpretation. Typically, I use Matthew 24:36-44 as the base for this study. But Matthew left one important verse standing out as an island, distanced from the others in a very cryptic manner. Luke 17 includes this verse among the other "rapture" texts where it rightly belongs.
First of all, let me say that I am a Seventh-day Adventist Christian and I do believe in the secret rapture! Oh, it's a secret alright! So secret most theologians are missing the truth in all the fog of error that surrounds this critical issue. In fact, two major truths, seemingly unrelated when actually closely integrated, have been buried in the mire of misunderstanding. Let's start with a peek into Webster's dictionary:
|rap 3 - v.t. 1. rapped or rapt, rapping. 1. Archaic. a. to carry off; transport. b. to transport with rapture. 2. Obs. To seize for oneself; snatch.|
|rapacious - adj. 1.given to seizing for plunder or the satisfaction of greed. 2. inordinately greedy; predatory; extortionate: a rapacious disposition. 3. (of animals) subsisting by the capture of living prey; predacious.... see RAPE.|
|rape - n., v., raped, raping. 1. the act of seizing and carrying off by force. 2. the act of physically forcing a woman to have sexual intercourse. 3. See statutory rape. 4. to seize, take, or carry off by force. 5. to plunder (a place).|
|rapt - adj. 1. deeply engrossed or absorbed: rapt in thought. 2. transported with emotion; enraptured: rapt with joy. 3. showing or proceeding from rapture: a rapt smile. 4. carried off spiritually to another place, sphere of existence, etc. [ME (ptp.) < L rapt(us) seized, carried off (ptp. of rapere), equiv. to rap- (see RAPE) + tus ptp. suffix] -raptly, adv. -raptness, n.|
Actually, none of these words appear in the Bible. But most people typically think of rapture in a positive light of being lifted to heaven in great ecstasy and joy. The darker roots of the word "rapture" are completely ignored. The word "rape" originated from the same root as "rapture". It is a taking by force. But let's get back to the Bible!
Matthew 24:28 must be decoded before going on to the rest of the passage. Perhaps that is why in this chapter it precedes the other verses. "For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together." Cryptic, isn't it? So we must unravel it as a true detective would. Fortunately, the Bible contains its own code-breaking keys.
Starting with "carcase" we realize that a carcase is a dead, lifeless body. As these prophetic words were Jesus' own, we must compare to some of His other words on the same subject. Remember that in Jesus' mind, Lazarus, already entombed, was not "dead" but rather "asleep". So what does it mean to Him if someone is "dead"? Matthew 10:28 holds a clue: "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." The body, as with Lazarus, may be dead and six feet under, but because of the relationship held with Christ before death, He views the person as alive, knowing that He will yet be able to return life to the body. In Jesus' mind then, "dead" can only be one thing-spiritually dead. This helps us to see other passages in a whole new light as well: "let the dead bury their dead." In other words, let those who are not alive in the Spirit bury those they consider to be dead. And His most scathing rebuke of the Pharisees again portrays these spiritually dead men as being "like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness." So when you think "carcase", think "spiritually dead".
Now what do the "eagles" represent? Several places in scripture refer to birds as eating the dead flesh of men. Jesus' parable of the sower shows that birds came and stole the seed of the gospel out of the hearts of men. But the best definition statement is found in Revelation 18:2: "...Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird." Three things are compared here as of on equal plane: devils, foul spirits, and unclean, hateful birds. Eagles, ravens, crows, vultures and all raptors (birds of prey) would certainly fit the description of hateful and unclean. Consequently, they represent the devil and his angels.
At last we can more clearly understand Matthew 24:28. In a paraphrase, "Wherever the spiritually dead are, there will their captors, the demons, be." The raptors secretly steal by their deceptions the hearts of men, rapturing them to the dragon's lair.
Now the idea of the rapture originates in verses 40 and 41: "Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left." Once again we must compare scripture with scripture to build a correct understanding of this. Without a good foundation, many quickly build up a doctrine on a few intriguing verses.
Enter Luke 17:34-37. "I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. And they [the disciples] answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together."
It must be noted here that the verse in Luke uses a different Greek word for "body" than was translated as "carcase" in Matthew. The word actually implies a living body, not a dead one. Christ spoke on two separate occasions the same idea, and the two texts side-by-side help us to see the richer meaning. What we see as a living body (as implied in Luke) God may see as a dead carcase (as Matthew recorded).
The disciples asked Jesus where each of the afore mentioned individuals should be taken. Wouldn't you want to know too? It was all too mysterious for them. They had no clue what He was talking about. Jesus' answer to them probably quelled their curiousity, yet giving them no more understanding than that the taken ones were to die.
The Greek word for "taken", paralambano, which both Matthew and Luke used for these "rapture" texts lends itself to a confusing array of possibilities. On the one hand scholars have interpreted it as an intimate allying oneself with another, as a friend, while on the other hand it can mean to take up or take away. Note that the word "taken" in verse 39 clearly carries the meaning of taken in destruction but it is not the same Greek word.
On "taken" and "the rapture," books are written. But the word "left" has lived up to its meaning! Fortunately, the Greek word aphiemi, translated "left", puts its weight more decidedly together on one side. Since no one would argue that the "taken" and "left" of the rapture texts are synonomous, once we see the meaning of one we should be safe in selecting the other for the opposite intent.
With few exceptions, aphiemi is translated positively: to forgive, leave, allow, permit, let go, send away. Of the 146 occurrences in the New Testament, 52 times it appears in English in some form of "leave", 47 times as "forgive", 14 as "suffer", 8 as "let", 6 as "forsake", 6 as "let alone", and the remainder a variety. Doing the math reveals that over two thirds exist in a positive or neutral tone, and that no other form carries more than 5 percent of the total.
God reserves unto Himself those whom He has forgiven, whose minds are stayed on Him. He calls His chosen ones the "remnant" or those who remain, who are left on His side among all the inhabitants of this world. See God's terminology demonstrated in a sampling of Old and New Testament scriptures:
"And every living substance was destroyed...and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark." (Genesis 7:23) "And he took it...with the edge of the sword...he left none remaining." (Joshua 10:39) "There was not any left to breathe." (Joshua 11:11) "And David smote the land, and left neither man nor woman alive." (1 Samuel 27:9) "So shall they quench my coal which is left, and shall not leave to my husband neither name nor remainder." (2 Samuel 14:7) "And Elijah said...I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away. And the LORD said unto him...Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal..." (1 Kings 19:14-18) "Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and ...I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand...." (Romans 11:3-4) "Then we which are alive and remain...." (1 Thessalonians 4:17)
In all of these passages, I would choose to be among those "left," wouldn't you? The only question remaining now is, "When will all of this take place?"
"But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." (Matthew 24:36) Of what day and hour? Too often we jump to a conclusion before completing a full investigation. Keep reading, the thought isn't finished yet...here comes the explanation.
"But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark..." (verses 37-38). Here is the hour spoken of, the hour of probation's close.
Jesus compares Noah's day with the end of time. While His hearers well knew the events surrounding the deluge, preempting any further explanation, we need to refer to the Genesis account of it to refresh our knowledge before continuing.
"In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah's wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark." (Genesis 7:13) Three verses later we read, "...and the Lord shut him in."
So, the day Jesus referred to was the very day that the door to the ark was shut by God, sealing the fate of those outside. Their doom was sure...yet they did not know it! "...And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be."
The flood came seven days after God shut the door. "And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth." (Genesis 7:10) The door to the faithless' probation had closed full seven days before they were aware their judgment. In the same way, according to Jesus' words, the people in the last days will be unready, unaware of the judgment to befall them. They may be looking to be ready in the day of judgment, yet be totally oblivious to the fact that the day of judgment will come and go without their knowledge, and that when Christ comes in the clouds of glory it is already too late.
Many people believe that Matthew 24:36 proves we can not know when Christ will come to take us to heaven. That is simply untrue. It proves no such thing. Jesus was not even referring to the second advent.
In God's view, His most important coming to us is in the form of sealing, or of judging-to see whether we shall receive His seal, or if we show ourselves unfit for salvation. He knows that if we are found true, in the great day of His coming we will join in the great reunion of His people with Him. The stress test has already passed, it merely remains to hand out the diplomas, so to speak. The "second coming," then, is of lesser importance to God than that of His coming to close the books for each of us individually. Our probation's close holds a greater note of finality than any other event of our life; the door's slam on the ark rings louder than the flood.
Noah and his family remained on the earth after all others were taken away in the flood. They were "left behind!" Those who are forgiven of God are the same ones left remaining. I want to be left--left alive in God's sight when all others have been destroyed for lack of knowledge.