A Question I Was Asked:
"Will the Rapture Occur at the Coming of Christ or Before the Great Tribulation?"

Millions of American Christians Accept Darbyism and the Rapture Teaching - But Can These Teachings Still Be Maintained?



My Reply to the Question:

Your reference to a rapture indicates that you come from a section of Christianity which has accepted the teachings of J.N. Darby. Darby's teachings became known as 'Dispensationalism' - actually his teachings would probably have remained quite obscure but for the fact that they were accepted 'hook, line and sinker' by Cyrus Scofield (1843-1921) who put them at the heart of his 'Scofield Reference Bible' and this book became very popular, especially within the United States. The book comprised a KJV Bible with Scofield's reference notes appearing on the same page as the inspired text.
Traditional evangelical Christianity never taught a rapture and the teaching is very new (19th century).
This is an area of doctrine where we say that Christians must be allowed honest differences of opinion ('dispensationalism' does not amount to being a cult), but since I do not accept the teaching of a rapture (the word never occurs in the Bible and Paul encourages Christians to look forward to the Second Coming and to the Resurrection - not to a so-called 'rapture') then I am not a good person to ask when any perceived "rapture" will take place.

The widespread acceptance of the rapture teaching in the United States often surprises Christians from other countries, a huge majority of whom have never accepted Darbyism (or, dispensationalism). The Scofield Reference Bible, though as popular as ever in the United States, is still not read very much outside of north America, and Scofield's biblical understanding is often viewed as being highly suspect by the very best evangelical scholars, which is not to doubt the man's obvious sincerity. Scofield, by the way, had received no biblical/theological teaching from anywhere and was actually an attorney. Modern dispensationalism, as taught in such fundamentalist bastions as Dallas Theological Seminary, has modified the Darby/Scofield influence to some extent. Meanwhile it is now possible to buy a Scofield Reference Bible with NIV text, if one prefers it.

Apart from the concept of a rapture, my other problems with Darbyism include the insistence that the Bible should be divided up into 7 dispensations during which (according to the theory) God has dealt with mankind in 7 different ways; I find no evidence of this and I have been a student of the Bible for 40 years. As I look through the pages of Scripture, I certainly find the presence of several covenants but I find that the Old Covenant becomes the primary focus of the Old Testament and the New Covenant becomes the primary focus of the New Testament. Indeed Scripture reveals that the New Covenant is the major covenant of the entire Bible since it is this Covenant which finally and fully reveals the grace of Christ and how men and women may be fully restored to God through Him.
I also have a problem with dispensationalism's doctrine that God continues to deal quite separately and distinctly with Israel and the Church. The New Testament introduces the teaching that Christians become 'Spiritual Jews' and spiritual sons and daughters of Abraham and, in complete contrast to the Old Testament, is virtually silent about national Israel (Romans 2:28-29; Galatians 6:16; Ephesians 2:11-12; 1 Peter 2:9-10). I will not go further and state why I think the rapture teaching is wrong because that goes beyond what you asked me, but I will just say that no major doctrine or teaching should ever be established on just one or two Scriptures which may be less clear that we would wish. The major doctrines - such as the Atonement, Justification, the Second Coming and the Resurrection are based on numerous Scriptures. Put all those Scriptures together and you have a very clear teaching.

In your e mail, you also mention the 'Great Tribulation' which, again, is capable of more than one interpretation.
May I - with respect - encourage you to avoid all extremist interpretations of prophecy and to focus on what the New Testament shows is essential: walking in the Faith of our Lord Jesus Christ and longing for the day of His appearing. I believe that the Second Coming of our Lord could be very close and that is when the Resurrection of the Dead will occur; be very wary of teachings which set a timetable of events "which must happen first" - No! Christ could return very soon indeed! I know of few teachings more dangerous than the anticipation of a schedule of events which one expects to occur and one feels must occur before the Second Coming, especially when, as is too often the case, that "schedule of events" is based on a flawed understanding of prophecy.
Robin A. Brace, 2006.



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