A Question I Was Asked:

'Is the "Rapture" Really Comparable to the Trinity?'

The Question:

'I was looking at one of those 'Bible questions answered' pages on the internet (not yours), and somebody asked the guy if it was really true that the word "rapture" does not even occur in the Bible. The Bible guy answered it like this: "Yes, it is true that the word 'rapture' never occurs in Scripture but neither does the phrase "Holy Trinity" but we still must accept both as biblical doctrine. I am not convinced that this comparison stacks up. What do you think?'

My Reply:

My! That is just amazing! I'll say that that does not 'stack up,' as you put it. Now let us be clear about this: Prior to about 1830, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (which is the only Scripture which can reasonably be claimed to support a 'rapture'), was accepted as a reference to the resurrection (as it still is by those Christians who do not accept Dispensationalism). The concept of a rapture never appeared in any of the great creeds or statements of faith. Why? Because the concept requires rather a lot to be read into... just one Scripture. The cardinal rule of good biblical doctrinal interpretation is to look for corroborating and supporting Scriptures to validate any serious biblical doctrine; you can do that with justification, the atonement, the resurrection and all the major Christian doctrines - you will find page after page of corroborating Scripture!

All sound biblical hermeneutics is based on never attempting to establish a Christian doctrine without wide scriptural support. Now, is it true that the phrase "The Holy Trinity" is not mentioned in the Bible either? Yes, it is true, but the differences between the two examples are really absolutely huge; whereas the word 'rapture' never occurs in any major faith confession or creed, the Trinity appears in just about every single major one! Why? It is very simple: The Bible tells us about God; indeed a God who will demand obedience. If we are going to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ to others, many questions will come up about God, His make-up, and what He demands of men and women. The Bible is plain that Jesus is God, as is the 'Father.' But it does not stop there: the Holy Spirit ('Holy Ghost' was the old English term), is also revealed to be divine within Holy Scripture. So the Scriptures are not few which establish that 'God' comprises Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The fact that God - according to the Scriptures (not according to anything else) - comprises three persons cannot be avoided by any serious Bible student, so the 'church fathers' felt it necessary to define this as the Trinity. Why? Largely because sects and schisms were soon at work attempting to pervert Scriptural teaching and several perverse and unscriptural notions of 'God' soon arose. Very wisely, the 'church fathers' said, 'We need to define exactly how God is explained within Scripture, and then hold to this as the Christian standard.' They were absolutely correct! The Holy Trinity, then, was probably first defined in an attempt to keep the early false teachers at bay (Arius, for example, who was quickly at work in trying to re-define the biblical God in his own peculiarly Arian way. An interpretation, by the way, which is even now 'alive and kicking' within the 'Jehovah's Witnesses' cult).

Cyrus Scofield

Cyrus Scofield (1843-1921), the US attorney for Kansas, turned congregational minister. His Bible course became the basis of his Scofield Reference Bible which was first published in 1909. This 'reference Bible' comprised the King James Scriptures accompanied by Scofield's own notes; but Scofield's notes rarely drew on previous Bible scholarship, but unashamedly taught Dispensationalism, a theology that was largely conceived in the early nineteenth century by the Anglo-Irish John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), who like Scofield, was originally trained as a lawyer.

So while it is true that the term 'Holy Trinity' never occurs within Scripture, the Scriptures are very clear that God comprises the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and the word Trinity simply recognises this! There is never any attempt to establish a major doctrine on scant evidence anywhere in this!

Regarding the 'rapture,' while it might be said that this is a reasonable scriptural theory, more than that it could never be, and certainly not a biblical doctrine. So to compare the Trinity with the 'rapture' is a very, very poor comparison indeed. The Scriptures are very many which speak of God, Who He is, and how He operates, while, on the other hand, the concept of a 'rapture' really only rests upon one verse in the entire Bible. Christians of a particular school (yes, they are genuine Christians, 'Dispensationalism' does not amount to being a cult or a sect) place a particular interpretation on that verse, but they do so with virtually no support from anywhere else in Holy Scripture. Now, I have often said that the 'rapture' teaching came from J.N. Darby, well that is largely true, although maybe not entirely. Darby popularised the concept and built it into his Dispensationalism, but there is strong evidence that he himself originally picked it up from another English sect called the Irvingites. But it was Darby who took his new theology to the United States where it was picked up and massively popularized through the Scofield Reference Bible.

In general terms, Jesus did not seem to envisage miraculously lifting His people out of this world at some future point when He said,

'Mr prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.' (John 17:15,NIV).

I could say a lot more about Darby and Darbyism but I think that covers the specific question: the Holy Trinity cannot by any stretching of one's imagination be compared to the teaching on the rapture!

Robin A. Brace, 2007.