It’s not about the rapture
“It’s not about the rapture” may well be a provocative title to suck you in! Fasten your seat-belts and let’s get stuck in.
Healing of the ten lepers
Firstly Jesus heals 10 lepers as he travels through the mixed Jewish and Gentile area between Samaria and Galilee. Only one of them comes back to thank Jesus – and he is a foreigner, a Gentile. Sadly miracles don’t always result in disciples, but we know that from the parable of the sower.
The coming of the kingdom
The Pharisees are looking for deliverance from the Roman occupation. They knew that Jerusalem had fallen because of the disobedience of the Jews. They are meticulous in their obedience so that the coming Messiah will come and set them free from Rome. They have already rejected Jesus as that long awaited Messiah and so want to publicly discredit him yet again with Jesus’ thoughts on the coming kingdom.
The Pharisees have rejected Jesus’ first coming, so Jesus’ answer focuses on that. The kingdom has come, in the person of Jesus. It’s right in front of you – “in the midst of you” is the better ESV translation, “in you” is not a great translation as it clearly wasn’t in the Pharisees. Jesus’ point is that the kingdom of God comes whenever anyone honours the King – it’s not an earthly overthrow, observable as the people rise up and boot out the Romans. It comes as people follow Jesus, as people are healed and as people are set free from demonic oppression.
In verse 22 Jesus is talking to the disciples, who have accepted his first coming, so He talks of His second coming. The kingdom of God has come and will finally be fullfilled, or consummated, when Jesus returns. When Jesus returns it will be obvious to all – in King’s Lynn, Boston, New Delhi and Moscow. Just as lightning flashes light up the whole sky, it will be obvious to all. So anyone who says He has come, or He is this person or that person, is talking nonsense. The following verses speak of it being a surprise – people are eating and drinking, going about their normal life and suddenly he comes. Note the reference to Noah’s day – when the wicked are taken (destroyed) and the righteous (Noah and his family) are left. Then the reference to Lot and his wife – the wicked of Sodom are taken.
So in verses 34-35 where Jesus says one is taken and one is left, this clearly is not the rapture. The rapture is a fairly modern (19th Century) idea of a secret return of Christ to take the righteous out of the coming tribulation. It was popularised by the Scofield Bible and, in 1990s, the Left Behind book series and a truly awful Nicholas Cage film!
In this passage the ones who are taken are the wicked. The righteous are left behind! The people taken in Noah and Lot’s days in the preceding verses are the wicked, not the righteous. The disciples ask where do the ones taken go? Jesus answers “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.” Clearly the ones taken are not in paradise!
This passage clearly teaches one return of Christ, that is completely visible to all, not a secret first, second coming before the real deal 1000 years later (if you are a pre-tribulation, pre-millenial rapture kind of person). The passage of course doesn’t give us the whole picture, but it does build to the whole picture that the wicked will be judged and go to hell and the righteous will be on a renewed earth reigning with Jesus in perfection forever more. Hallelujah. Come Lord Jesus!
If you have been (in my view) wrongly taught about the rapture, let me recommend two free short books…
Meanwhile let’s live an abundant life as we wait and seek to bring as many as possible into the Kingdom of God by demonstrating and defining the good news of Jesus to them.