Dispensationalists teach that Christ is coming a second time to take all the saints both living and dead up in the sky where they will be with Him for seven years. They call this the ‘Rapture’.
The purpose of the rapture is to deliver the righteous from the terrible tribulation which will be poured out on all the unrighteous during this seven-year period of time.
Our English word rapture comes from the Latin word raptus. The Greek word is harpazp, which means ‘caught up’ or ‘taken away’. This will be a sudden and mysterious disappearance of the church.
Those who are alive will be caught up in the sky, ‘clouds’ and all saints in the graves will also be caught up with the Lord. They will ‘hover’ over the earth invisible for seven years.
The time that the rapture will occur varies among dispensationalists. Some say it will be at the beginning of the seven years of tribulation while others say it will come at the midpoint of this period. This block of seven years is to proceed the thousand-year reign of Christ in Jerusalem.
At the end of the seven years, Christ is to descend with all his saints. He will then set up his kingdom and the saints will rule with him by being placed in high positions all over the earth.
With all the wars and turmoil taking place on the earth each generation sees and thinks there is clear evidence that the tribulation is about to begin thus everyone should be ready for the rapture to take place at any time.
This is very exciting to many. While they will not be caught up in heaven itself, they will be with the Lord in the sky above the earth. From this vantage point, they will be able to observe the tribulation taking place on the earth. The thought of suddenly without warning being snatched up into the sky by the Lord can sound very sensational and exciting.
The main proof text for their rapture doctrine is found in Thessalonians.
A careful reading of this scripture will reveal that it does not teach the rapture doctrine. Note the following observations.
First, the word ‘rapture’ does not occur in the passage. The fact is the word ‘rapture’ is not found anywhere in any of the translations of the Bible.
Second, not one word is said about ‘hovering’ over the earth for seven years.
Third, Paul plainly says that the dead in Christ will rise first. Then he says those who are alive at the time will be caught up next to meet the Lord in the air. The order of being caught up is just the opposite of the rapture doctrine.
This passage written to the Thessalonians deals with a concern they had for their loved ones who had already died. They had the impression that their dead loved ones would be left behind in their graves when Christ returned. Paul is assuring them that the dead in Christ rise first, before the living when Christ returns.
Fourth, when we meet the Lord in the air we will ‘ever be with the Lord’. Paul did not say it would be for seven years but ‘ever be,’ which means always, eternal, forever, not just seven years.
Obviously, Paul is speaking of the end of the world and the great general resurrection of both faithful and wicked and not some theory about hovering in the sky. This will be the second and only return of the Lord.
‘Ever be’ also destroys the theory that those in the rapture will come back again to earth to reign with the Lord for a thousand years. If they are to ‘ever be’ with the Lord in the heavens, then there is no time allowed for them to return back to the earth again.
Fifth, nothing about this event suggests it will be secret or mysterious as the rapture doctrine claims. This return of the Lord will be accomplished by a ‘shout,’ with ‘the voice of the archangel’ and “the trumpet of God.” This will be anything but secret.
Dispensationalists also use Jude as proving a third return of Christ. This supposedly will occur after the rapture (His second return) and just before He is to begin a reign of a thousand years. Notice the wording of this passage.
A careful reading of these two verses puts the judgment a thousand years ahead of the dispensationalist theory. According to their theory, the judgment of the ‘ungodly’ will not take place until after the thousand-year reign. Notice that the Lord will come to execute judgment ‘upon all’ in the above passage.
If this passage applies to a third return, then according to Jude the judgment will take place immediately when Christ returns. Thus, Jude has the wicked being judged a thousand years before the millennial theory allows for the judgment of the wicked.
The theory that this is a preliminary judgement of the nations will not hold up, as nations are not mentioned in the verse. It is the ungodly, not nations that are to be judged.
The theory of two future comings with the rapture between would really require four comings.
First, there would be the coming of Christ into the world as an infant, John 34:6.
Second, there would be the coming for His saints, ‘rapture’.
Third, there would be His coming with His saints to begin the thousand-year reign in Jerusalem on David’s throne.
Fourth, He is supposed to come to judge the unrighteous. This is an impossible theory with absolutely no Biblical basis whatsoever.
What does the Bible teach about the return of Christ?
First, the Lord has gone to prepare a place for His faithful disciples.
Second, He will return a second time only. He will take the faithful with Him to heaven for eternity and the wicked will be condemned to an eternal hell.
Third, the earth will be burned up.
The conclusion to all the above is that there is no room in the scriptures for four comings of the Lord with a period of seven years between the second and third comings.
There is no room for a thousand-year period between an unproven third and forth coming. All this goes beyond what the Bible teaches.