Mr. Preterist: “Did you know the word rapture is not in the Bible?”
Mr. Futurist: “The word Bible is not in the Bible. What’s your point?”
Mr. Preterist: “My point is it’s silly to suggest the Lord is going to remove the church from a tribulation that’s not going to happen.”
Mr. Futurist: “Doesn’t sound silly to me. I would very much like to avoid the great tribulation.”
Mr. Preterist: “Haven’t you been paying attention? The tribulation already happened. Jesus said it won’t happen again. You’re not calling the Lord a liar, are you?”
Mr. Futurist: “In Matthew 24 Jesus said there would be two men in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be working at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left.”
Mr. Preterist: “And you think this is a rapture? What are you going to do next? Suggest we watch Left Behind?”
Mr. Futurist: “Who said anything about being left behind?”
Mr. Preterist: “Isn’t that what happens to unbelievers? The saints get whisked to heaven on the rapture elevator while everyone else is left behind to go through hell on earth?”
Mr. Futurist: “Whoa, slow down. The saints are caught up to meet the Lord on his return. It’s like going to the airport to greet a friend. You meet your friend then turn around and come home again.”
Mr. Preterist: “Where is that in the Bible?”
Mr. Futurist: “About ten verses away, in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. At midnight the cry goes out that the bridegroom is coming, the wise virgins go out to meet him, and together they return.”
This Mr. Futurist sounds like a sensible man, but he has futurist friends who believe Jesus returns twice. Apparently, there are two Second Comings. In the first, Jesus comes to fetch the saints before returning immediately to heaven. Then in the second Second Coming (or the first Third Coming?), he returns to earth to stay. So Jesus comes down, goes up, then comes down again. SMH. This yo-yo theology sounds like the plot of a bad movie. Jesus is coming again, but only once.
But at midnight there was a shout, “Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” Then … the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast, and the door was shut. (Matthew 25:6, 10)
Jesus is the bridegroom, and the wise virgins are those who are watching and ready for his arrival. He comes, they meet him on the way and then come with him to the feast.
Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17)
The parable of the wise virgins is a picture of the second or final coming when, “Our Lord Jesus comes with all his saints” (1 Thessalonians 3:13). It’s also a picture of the rapture. True, the word rapture doesn’t appear in our English Bibles, but it’s sort of in the Latin Bible, which was the Bible the church used for about a 1,000 years.
Paul didn’t write in Latin, of course, but in Greek, and the word he used means to seize or snatch away. To be raptured is to be taken or caught up.
Mr. Preterist: “Paul was describing the resurrection. We don’t need a fancy word for it.”
A resurrection is what happens to dead people. Jesus comes and the dead rise, but the rapture is for those “who are alive and remain.” Think of a raptor coming down and seizing its prey. We’ll be snatched or plucked like field mice.
Mr. Preterist: “How horrifying!”
Okay, that may not be the best picture. Think of Philip on the desert road. One moment he was baptizing the Ethiopian; the next he was snatched away by the Spirit (Acts 8:39). It’s the same word that Paul used. It means the rapture will be sudden and disruptive. Boom! And you’re gone.
When does this happen? We’ll find out in the next post.
Extracted from chapter 36 of Paul Ellis’s new book AD70 and the End of the World.