What is ‘The Rapture’? – John Piper

Do you have a biblical view of what many choose to call ‘the Rapture’? Are you sure?

{A reader sent me a link (thank you Frances!) to this piece by John Piper. I thought it to be a very good view of what the Bible really does teach about the Return of our Lord. It is prime example of what comes from letting the clear and plain truths expressed in Scripture dictate our beliefs on a subject rather than being molded into the various ideologies forced by the wayward doctrines of man. Unfortunately brother Piper (a Calvinist) did not follow that same process concerning his view on OSAS. Some commentary on this will follow his description of the ‘Rapture’. P.B. }

Advent is a season for waiting. Of course, we are not waiting for the birth of Christ any longer. But we are awaiting the second advent of Christ, his return to earth. Those two advents are not far removed from one another, nor should they be. Christmas is a very fitting time to dwell on the return of Christ. But will Christ return in the future once or twice? It’s a good question from a listener named Nick.

“Pastor John, I know this is a huge debate, but I would love your thoughts. How many times is Jesus coming back? Is he coming back in the rapture (according to 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17) and then returning a second time to defeat Satan (according to Revelation 19:11–21)? Is Christ returning one more time, or two more times?”

Christ’s Return

My understanding of the New Testament is that Jesus promised he would return, and that in this returning, he would do a final rescue for those who are trusting him and a final judgment for those who are not believing in him. I don’t think there are two comings of Christ in the future, but only one.

Most of those who believe that Christ will come twice believe that the first return, the first of the two, is the coming of the Lord to snatch away the church out of the world, called the rapture. This would be a snatching away of the church back to heaven for seven years, usually, while the great tribulation happens on earth. Then, this is followed by a final — this is kind of the second stage — return of the Lord to establish his kingdom.

Now, I grew up in a home and a church that believed that view, called the pre-tribulation-rapture view. It is called that because there is a coming of Christ pre, or before, the tribulation, so that the church is taken out and spared that time of great suffering from the Lord at the end of the age.

Enduring the Trial

The more I studied this for myself — I can remember thinking about this even as a teenager — I just could not find two comings in the future for the Christian church. I once asked a very reputable Old Testament scholar — a really scholarly Old Testament scholar — who believed this view, “What’s the most important text that persuades you that before Christ comes in judgment, he will come earlier to take the church out of the world, and then only return in judgment years later — seven years later, or three and a half, maybe?”

His answer was unhesitating. He said, “Revelation 3:10.” It says this: “Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.” In other words, he thought that that verse taught that Christians would be taken out of the world before God brought a great trial, or tribulation, on the world. But does it?

God’s promise to keep us from the hour of trial probably doesn’t mean that we are taken out of the world, but rather that God will keep us from the faith-destroying effects of the hour of trial. He will guard us. He will protect our faith.

{HERE is an article on my take on Revelation 3:10. Paul Benson}

In fact, 1 Peter says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12). I don’t think it’s a New Testament teaching that God rescues his people from trial, but he protects them through trial.

Relief at Last

Now, that’s not a good enough answer to the view. The passages that settled the matter for me were 2 Thessalonians 1 and 2 Thessalonians 2. Both of these chapters talk about the coming of the Lord, the second coming, in a way that makes two comings — one to rescue and one to judge — extremely unlikely, if not impossible, in view of what these verses say.

Here’s 2 Thessalonians 1:6–8. Listen for how Paul treats the coming to give relief to Christians, and the coming to give affliction to unbelievers, as one coming — both relief for us and affliction at the same time. Here’s what it says:

God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us [so there’s the two things that are going happen] when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (2 Thessalonians 1:6–8)

Now, I think that very clearly teaches that Christ is coming again, and when he comes, he will repay unbelievers with affliction, and he will grant relief to believers. He says these two things happen “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven,” so this is one coming, not two. That’s the first text that persuaded me.

Killing the Lawless One

Then, 2 Thessalonians reads,

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. (2 Thessalonians 2:1–2)

Someone had said to these Christians that the day of the Lord had already come, and Paul is arguing that can’t be. Now, how easy it would’ve been for him to say, “It can’t be because I’m still here. I haven’t been raptured away.” But he didn’t say that. That’s not what he said. He said, “Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day [the Lord’s day that he just referred to] will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction” (2 Thessalonians 2:2–3).

Then look at 2 Thessalonians 2:8: “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.”

Just like in chapter 1, there is one coming, and Paul says it hasn’t happened yet because the man of lawlessness — that is, the antichrist — has not been revealed. When that happens, then he said the second coming will happen, and it won’t be to snatch Christians away, but to kill the lawless one with the breath of his mouth and the appearance of his coming.

Raptured

Now, Nick refers to the rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4, wondering if that refers to a first of two comings followed by a later one. Here are the key verses:

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17)

That’s sometimes called the rapture. No problem. I’ve got no problem calling it the rapture. Then Paul concludes, “And so we will always be with the Lord.”

Now, my understanding of these verses, and I don’t see any reason to think otherwise, is that, yes, we will indeed rise to meet the Lord in the air. That’s what it says. It’s like a great welcoming crowd. Then, we will descend with him in his triumphant arrival.

Come, Lord Jesus

I recalled how stunned I was when I was around 23 years old and I saw for the first time that the word meet — “caught up to meet the Lord in the air” — is used two other times in the New Testament: Matthew 25:6 and Acts 28:15.

In both of these places, it is a group of people going out to meet someone and accompanying them back into the place you just went out from. All my thoughts about this being a rising to meet the Lord in the air and then returning to heaven for seven years evaporated. That’s just not the intention of that verse.

It’s a rapture in that sense that we rise to meet the Lord in the air, and then like a great band of welcoming, we come back with him for his established judgment and rule.

My answer is that there is one great, glorious second coming of the Lord in our future. He will come once more to give relief to his church and judgment to his adversaries and to establish his kingdom. And I say, as I’m sure we all do with the early church, the next-to-last verse of the Bible: “Come, Lord Jesus.”

John Piper – desiringgod.org

 

COMMENTARY BY PAUL BENSON

As I stated earlier it saddens me that brother Piper did not take the same simplistic approach (I’ll just go with what the Bible plainly says) concerning the false teachings of John Calvin. In my own opinion the doctrine of Eternal Security is one of the most damaging falsehoods to ever be imposed upon the Body of Christ. It is not a biblical teaching – it is a construct of man.

Though I do not espouse the doctrine of OSAS I do very much realize that my current standing in Christ has a lot more to do with the keeping power of the Father (and his corrective chastening!) than any ability or efforts of my own. The LORD is truly my deliverer; and his Grace that abides in me is my victory and my strength. My life is truly a testimony, only not to my own faithfulness but to the faithfulness of my Savior.

In my early walk years of legalistic hypocrisy and a continual falling to sin gave way to an extended wilderness experience as a backslidden wretch. A wilderness from which I emerged ‘leaning on my beloved’, realizing I could not walk this path any other way. I laugh when I hear people refer to faith as a crutch! I reply: Yes it is! And how wonderful that God would offer that assistance to those who recognize their need for it. I am not ashamed to admit I am that crippled man in need of a crutch.

But though the Scriptures teach the Lord is our stay and our strength they do NOT teach we cannot depart from saving faith!

To me the issue is settled quite simply by this fact: If it were impossible to apostatize the Scriptures would NOT contain the MANY warnings of doing so; nor would they contain examples of those who have done so! Both are quite evident in the New Testament writings if we choose to accept what is plainly and clearly written instead of ignoring (or explaining away) those verses that contradict our pet doctrines.

Beware of the claim that followers of Christ cannot fall away. It is a FALSE DOCTRINE!

Blessing and peace upon those who love our Christ;

Paul Benson

http://www.paulbenson.me

 

Author: Paul Benson

My Website is at www.paulbenson.me. My blog 'Let's Get It Right!' is at pbenson.me.

7 thoughts on “What is ‘The Rapture’? – John Piper”

  1. Which church? To which “called out” group would this apply to? Are we talking about the church in the wilderness? How about the Pentecostal church? How about the “body of Christ?” Are all promises terrestrial? Are there celestial promises? Exactly which location(s) do the redeemed populate? If all gospels are the same, why does Paul refer to “his evangel?” Are all “gospels” the same? Should it be the gospel “to” the circumcision and the gospel “to” the uncircumcision? If they are all the same…what was Paul doing telling the Jerusalem church something they already knew?

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    1. Hi John;
      There is only ONE called out group: it is the Body of Christ! The ‘one new man’ that was brought into being by the ‘one true gospel’. Your multiple gospels and multiple brides for God and multiple residences for God’s multiple chosen groups are all a by-product of the false teachings of John Nelson Darby (aka the father of Dispensationalism). Sadly, you have been led astray by the wisdom of man exalted above the true teachings of the Scriptures.

      Apart from a believing remnant, unbelieving Israel was CUT OFF from her election! Through the work of our Christ all who are born of the Spirit and place their trust in his Blood are joined unto that believing remnant of Jews in their status as God’s elect; and those Jews who turn from their unbelief and embrace the Savior will be grafted back into that elect group. God has no other people! Your hyper-dispensational theology is a false theology! Again, I would point you to the following articles:

      https://pbenson.me/2018/04/10/has-dispensational-theology-corrupted-your-understanding-of-gods-ways/

      Series on Dispensational error:
      https://pbenson.me/2018/04/17/the-ostrich-theory-uncovering-the-errors-of-dispensationalism-part-i/

      Thanks for the visit and the comment;
      Paul Benson

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    2. Hi John;
      We are the Body of Christ because Christ dwells in us. All who are born-again and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, whether Jew or Gentile, and in whatever century they live(d), are members of that Body – including the original apostles and followers of Christ who saw him crucified.

      To be true to Scripture we must acknowledge this Body came into being when believers were first indwelt by his Spirit. Most would say that happened on that Acts 2 Pentecost (others might point out the Scriptures say the Spirit of Christ dwelt in the O.T. prophets.)

      In another sense you could say the Body of Christ began with the promise of God to Abraham:

      Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. 8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. 9 So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. Galatians 3:7-9

      Notice Paul did not say ‘a gospel’ or ‘one of the gospels’ but he said THE GOSPEL was preached to Abraham. Not the ‘gospel to the Jews’ or ‘the gospel to the Gentiles’ but THE GOSPEL! The wonderful truth that man can be reconciled to God through the death of his Son IS THE GOSPEL (GOOD NEWS)! That offer of reconciliation is the same to Jew and Gentile alike. To propose there was/are two different gospels is foolishness!

      In another sense you could trace the origins of the Body of Christ to the very foundations of the world:

      Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: :4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: :5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, Ephesians 1:3-5

      This elect Body of Christ (Jew and Gentile), and their future role as joint-heirs with Christ, was God’s plan from the foundation of the world. It was NOT ‘plan B’ as Darby’s error (and yours) claims!

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  2. Elementary and foundational doctrine from the beginning of the church, Heb 6v 1-3…the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment(WRATH). Jesus describes this day in Matt 13 v 36-43, parable of the wheat and tares. John gets this one right. Calvinism, not.

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    1. Patrick Brixen, when you say “John gets this one right. Calvinism not,” are you referring to tares falling from grace; that is, OSAS being wrong? And how did John get it right?

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    2. Hi CT;
      I believe Patrick was affirming Piper’s refusal of the pre-trib hoax and disagreeing with his acceptance of Calvinistic theology in regard to salvation.
      Blessings;
      Paul Benson

      Liked by 1 person

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