It would be fair to argue that one of the most divisive doctrines of Scripture for the last days would that of the Rapture of the Church. Specifically, the timing of the Rapture, rather than whether the Bible teaches a Rapture.
To begin with the Rapture of the Church is the 'Blessed Hope' for believers.
The New Testament speaks of a 'mystery' in which Paul writes that 'we shall not all sleep', (or die), but that 'we shall be changed' (1 Corinthians 15:53).
In his letter to the church at Thesslonica, Paul writes, "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words." (1 Thess 4:16-17)
That is the Rapture of the Church. The bodies of those who are 'dead in Christ' -- deceased believers, will be resurrected. Those believers in Christ still alive will immediately be translated bodily from the earth to 'meet the Lord in the air'.
When Jesus ascended bodily to heaven in the presence of the Apostles, an angel appeared to them, saying, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven." Acts 1:11
And it was Jesus Himself Who promised, "In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." (John 14:2-3)
Although the doctrine of the Rapture of the Church is the Christian's 'Blessed Hope', in these last days it has become a doctrine of division within the Body.
We've seen some of the most vitriolic diatribes imaginable take place in our forums over the question of when the Rapture occurs. There are three basic schools of thought on the Rapture.
The first is the Pretribulation Rapture. Those who hold to this belief expect that Christians will be raptured before the Tribulation period begins.
The second view is the Mid-Tribulation Rapture, (as well as a similar view called the pre-wrath Rapture). They expect the Rapture to occur at the mid-point in the Tribulation, or before the beginning of the Great Tribulation that is the last half of the 7 years of Jacob's Trouble.
Finally, there is the Post-Tribulation which holds to the view that the Church goes through the entire seven year Tribulation Period, but then is raptured at the end of the Tribulation, just before the 2nd Coming of Christ.
All three schools of thought do have some points of common agreement. They all believe that,
1) the 2nd Coming of Christ is a separate event from the Rapture, and,
2) that there will be a Rapture of Christians BEFORE the 2nd Coming.
As I said, the timing of this event is a subject of great division among Christians. Those who take the post-trib view think that pre-tribbers are preaching a 'Great Escape' that won't happen.
They believe that teaching a pre-trib Rapture does a disservice to the Church and when the Tribulation comes, Christians expecting a 'Great Escape' will not be prepared to endure and might succumb to the Mark of the Beast.
Consequently, to many who hold the post-trib view, pre-tribbers are false prophets preaching a lie of Satan. Judging from my emails, some from that camp believe pre-trib teachers are deliberately spreading error.
Those who hold the mid-trib or pre-wrath have espoused similar views. I find it interesting that I seldom encounter mid-tribbers engaged in battle with post-tribbers. Most of the forum fights I've witnessed have the mid and post crowd on one side, with pre-tribbers on the other.
So, which view is right? In each of the next three issues of the Omega Letter Intelligence Digest, we will look at what the Bible says regarding each view. You can make up your mind for yourself which view lines up best with Scripture.
As we progress through the study, it is important to keep one thing in mind. The issue of interest is WHEN He is coming, but the issue of importance is WHO it is that is coming, and why. 'When' is important, but of secondary interest. People holding all three views are equally saved if they have put their faith in the Jesus Who is coming to begin with.
Whether or not the Church participates in the Tribulation or is Raptured before it begins is a matter of eschatological (doctrine of end-time events and chronology) interpretation and of much less eternal importance than the doctrine of soteriology (salvation). It IS important, but it is proportional.
Members of all three schools of thought will be Raptured at the same time, whether they expect to be or not. That's just how it is. It shouldn't be as devisive an issue as it has become. Lots of churches are afraid to touch it for that reason.
The entire controversy, as divisive as it is, is unique to this generation. In previous generations, it was just an interesting point of doctrine for which there were several interpretations.
In this generation, it has been elevated almost to the level of salvation in doctrinal importance. Check the message boards that debate the Rapture. (Wear a helmet).
By itself, that fact should set off alarm bells in the back of your head. The fact it is the hottest topic in the Church today sends a signal. Because this IS a debate for the last days.
Over the next three issues, we'll discuss the purpose of the Tribulation period, specific promises made to the Church Age, what Jesus said about the Tribulation period and what the Bible says about the 2nd Coming of Christ.
When we're finished, I don't expect to have changed anybody's view, but instead hope to provide you with reasons you can tick off for why you hold it.
"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:" (1st Peter 3:15)