Does John 14 teach a Rapture?

Many people in an attempt to prove a rapture will often cite the NIV translation of John 14:3, “Take you” as a proof that we will rise up to meet Jesus. First off, that would be cool and I am hoping for that. But, I have to be honest to the Text and only teach what the Bible, in proper context, acutely says from actual word meanings inductive analysis, especially what did that term(s) mean to a first century Jew and Roman. What we do not what to do is disrespect God and His Word by seeking, “what I want it to mean for me.” Because we will then, draw wrong conclusions and as Bible teachers lead people astray. What we want to do is appropriate and effectual applications from the Text of God’s most holy Word, then grow ourselves and the people that God gives to disciple deeper to His heart and true Truth for His glory. 

So what is going on in John 14?  

The NIV states, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” Verse 3 

The NASB states, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” 

The Greek word is “paralambano”          it is a verb meaning “to take to,” as to take with one’s self, to join an associate or a companion (from Kittel’s “Theological Dictionary of the New Testament,” the definitive work in this matter). 

Remember context, this was Jesus’ “Farewell Discourse” where He gives His most passionate and important instructions to His Disciples and us. He was facing betrayal and He turns to His Disciples to comfort them and says; do not be afraid or troubled! Trust in God; trust in Me. He then gives them a picture of hope by showing them a glimpse of what Heaven will be like. He is giving us a picture of the greatest carrot on a stick for us, Heaven, is that inheritance God is promising us beyond our scope of understanding. How incredibly wondrous this must be; our place and security is in Heaven to come and our joy can then be declared and lived out.

He was imparting one of His most important messages, to trust in God. He was giving a call to a personal relationship-unity with conviction with Himself, The Christ. “Trust” is a command to step up to faith, our response to the call of God with conviction in Him through times of danger and fear. Jesus wants us to grasp a picture of a righteous person’s proper dependence upon Jesus as He is exemplified. That He is our Sanctuary; He is the Eternal God on whom we can rely and not only give our life to, but also live our life for (2 Sam. 2:3; Isa. 8:17; 28:16; Psalm 118:22; Isa. 8:14-18; 28:16; John 13:36; Heb. 2:13).

In addition, Jesus was communing the importance to the pursuit of righteousness as like with one journeys through the wilderness of the tough times of waiting and confusion-even suffering. He is giving us a beacon and we are to focus on Christ. That he is Truth in this context means He fulfills the Law and teachings of the Old Testament. That He is Life, there is no existence without Him and there is no salvation without His atonement, redemption, and grace. Christians were first called “the Way” (Ex. 16:33; Lev. 10:2; 16; Num. 17:5; Matt. 7:14; John 1:1-4, 14; 3:16-18; 5:26, 33; 11:25-26; 18:37; Acts 4:12; 9:2; 19:9, 23; Rom. 10:14-15; Eph. 2:8-9; Heb. 10:19-20;1 John 5:12).

 Consequently, “to take” means a call to join our Companion because He is Lord, and referring that Jesus is our only way, the gate and stairway to Heaven; there is no other way to God except through Him. The real intended meaning was about the resurrection of the dead leads to a new life, our life after death that Jesus is able to provide by His death and resurrection. This passage has nothing to do with a rapture, it is all about Christ and we are to focus on Him not trends, trivialities or speculations.

With the context of heaven, this can also refer to the Second Coming or the new age of the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God. But, moreover, this is about Jesus as our Rescuer and Redeemer; He took on our human nature but without our sinfulness, and remained pure to pay the debt for our sins. In the process, His human nature voluntarily became lower than the angels, but as Fully God He is superior to them in essence, power, purpose, and distinction (Rom. 1:4; Heb. 1:1-4; 2: 7, 14-15).

Yet, this passage has been greatly abused by many so-called pastors who read it out of context and inserted their own feelings as truth. Rather, this is an invitation to radical faith. Jesus is saying we can trust in Him totally and completely with all we have now and for our future. Because, He is not just preparing a place for us in eternity, He is preparing us for eternity too! What we go through is not just about sin in an unfair world, it is the building up of faith and being that display a beacon to a dimly lit world that needs His Light.

Keep in mind, that the study of eschatology can be important, but, compared to issues such as prayer, Bible study, who Christ is, basic doctrine, faith development, living in the Spirit, and growing in character and service to our neighbors and people in need, it really is not that important for us to know or to teach! It is OK to disagree with non essential doctrine, as long as we do not divide over it!

Revelation Interpretive Difficulties

This book of Scripture is called “apocalyptic” writing, and it is a form of prophecy. Apocalyptic writing is a type of literature that warns us of future events but in which the full meaning is hidden to us for the time being. Apocalyptic writing is almost a secret, giving us glimpses through the use of symbols and imagery of what is to come. We may not know the meanings now, but time will reveal it.

The key to unlocking these imageries is seeking what they meant back then, to the early church, to the first century Jew and Christian and how the churches in Asia Minor would have understood them, not what they mean in a current newspaper, 2000 years removed, which also removes any cultural or language understandings.

Apocalyptic writing is found in Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Zechariah, and Matthew as well as in Revelation. Prophecy, as literature and meaning for us today, contains past, present, and future events. Examples include the many prophecies concerning Jesus that already have been fulfilled, and parts of Daniel and Revelation, as well as Matthew 24 that will yet come to pass. Prophecy does not always follow a clear logical and systematic pattern, often jumping from thought to idea to another point and so forth. It also may jump over large periods of time. Thus, in Prophecy, we need to be aware of two essential forms of language.

First there is the Literal (Didactic). This is the simple and direct meaning, or in other words, what it says is what it means. It has a plain meaning. Zechariah, chapter seven is a good example, as are much of Isaiah and Jeremiah. The imagery had a clear meaning to the people to whom it was first presented, so don’t jump to conclusions or read in what is not there. If you get frustrated with it, put it aside. Most Bible scholars debate the meaning, so it is improbable that you will have a clear insight. Some people are not ready or able to comprehend this part of the Bible; if so, that is OK! Focus on the parts of Revelation that are crystal clear.

The second form of language is the Figurative (Predictive). This is the category into which most of prophecy and thus Revelation falls. We are to always view prophesy with the attitude that it has a plain meaning until we have clear and compelling reasons to place it in the figurative category.

Our task is to determine the points and ideas that apply today and point to tomorrow.

The bottom line is that it will happen at some point in history, and come to pass in a literal and plain way. We may not understand it until it is right on top of us. Daniel 7-12; Joel 2; Isaiah 11; and Zech. 4 are clear examples of figurative language. Furthermore, some of the language in Revelation is “word pictures” that John is trying to describe in their language and culture as well as technology, such as Daniel, chapter seven, and many parts of Revelation. For example, if he was describing events we might see in our lifetime, how would he describe a helicopter if he had never heard of or seen one? For most parts of Revelation, John was using imagery from Ezekiel, Daniel, and other Jewish literature that they would have known. Unfortunately, today few of some so called Bible scholars who write the popular books are even aware that there is an Old Testament, let alone how to inductively read it.

The key to the understanding of Revelation is in the Old Testament!

Apocalyptic writing can also be cryptic and symbolic such as the fish which was a secret greeting to see if another person was a Christian, too. When we come to words that seem peculiar to our modern minds such as stars, the first-century Jews would know that it meant “angels.” Lampstands meant “churches;” the phrase, wife of the Lamb meant “Jerusalem,” and the great prostitute was a covert slogan to refer to “Nero” or any corrupt leader in power. Babylon was referring to Rome (Rev. 1:20; 17:1-5, 18; 21:9-10). Consequently, the inscription key is understanding the Old Testament and Jewish customs and thought, not today’s newspaper headlines!

It is important to note that 28% of the Old Testament is prophecy, most of which came to pass in the life and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. The New Testament has over 20% prophecy too, of which most (although this is debated) have not yet come to pass. Thus, prophecy is important because God has dedicated a significant portion of His Word to it.

Again, do not read in what is not there!

Introduction to the Book of Revelation, PI

Have you ever wondered what the book of Revelation is all about?

Minus the nonsense and feeble theories we theologians (not to mention the sensationalists) seem to come up with, what is its purpose for you now concerning how you live and lead your life? Revelation is a much debated and often misunderstood book. It seems foreboding and unattainable to some, while being over-simplified and twisted by others. But, it does have honest, truthful, and literal meanings for us now. And, simply put, we can know about Revelation, as it is about God’s power and purpose and how His plan will come about in our lives now and in a time to come.

Revelation is and has been the most controversial and difficult to understand book of the Bible. It has met its readers and redactors with suspensions, fears, and apprehension, as well as with excitement that fascinates and at the same time both confounds and awes us.

Why is this so? Revelation is unique; it is not Gospel, nor is it instruction and doctrine, although it contains all of these. It is poetic with seemly vague and elusive imagery that has sustained suffering Christians in all generations with consolation, encouragement, and hope as well as warnings of how things are and of things that are to come. Revelation and its truth are as precious and timeless as the rest of Scripture, if not even more so (Rev.1:9; 22:16).

This is a very difficult book to interpret and many gifted scholars over the centuries have taken very different views of it. This has cased divisions and conflicts that were needless and without purpose that, ironically, only served to give glory to the devil‘s ways while distracting us from its main purpose. To escalate this, many current sensationalists like to reinterpret Revelation to fit the latest news headlines and their own whims. Thus, I do not take my venture into Revelation lightly. In fact, having studied this book intensely for over 25 years in addition to all my degrees, readings, research, and experience has not prepared me for this quest. To think otherwise would be significantly arrogant. I approach this study as a fellow learner and as a humble student as I would with any of God’s beloved books.

My intention here is to stimulate your thinking and provide you with an honest and open look in to the book of Revelation from an Exegetical and Inductive perspective. I seek to honor the science and art of careful biblical interpretation and analysis. We will discover that John, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has given us something that is very important and clear for us to understand today, not just in the future.

That means I will seek to come to the text without preconceived, theological agendas or personal, eschatological viewpoints.

Rather, I will be carefully researching word meanings and historical examination as well as context and comparing with other passages in Daniel, Ezekiel, and the teaching of our Lord from the Gospels. Besides, you may discover that Revelation has a deeper purpose for us today on how to watch, build, manage, and do our churches better! Thus, I will not sate the usual viewpoints and trends of the day, try to argue my view, or twist Scripture to fit my theological education or denominational agendas. Rather, my aim is to challenge the current thinking by seeking facts and honestly examining what God’s inerrant Word says in context and in truth.

Thus, my other intention is to challenge myself and perhaps your thinking, too, concerning end time events and theories and to seek sound reason and Scripture, not myths, traditions, or popular theorems.

However, I want to state up front that whatever theory to which you or I subscribe is not as important as our love for the Lord and our desire for authentic spiritual growth. These are the things that are truly and eternally important! Arguing over conjecture or spurious, elusive doctrine does not bring glory to Christ; it only proves Satan!

Warning: a lot of Christian writers love to embellish on this subject and give their own version of what will happen. But, the scores of books that have been written in the last hundred years have not panned out in their theories. It is “their” theories, not ones based on fact or careful study of Scripture. The Bible clearly tells us we do not have access to that information, for no one will know the time… (Mark 13:14-37).

Will There Be a Rapture?

Yes and no! Yes, Christ is coming back and we will meet Him and it will be spectacular and no words or speculations could ever describe it effectively, especially not in the way most books and TV preachers have sensationalized it. There has been a lot of debate over what the rapture is all about. Most Christians today think it is fact and only seek to argue its particulars or just go by feelings. However in fact, it is not a biblical idea or even a word in the Bible. In fact, even the concept is not in the Bible although it seems so from a simple English reading of the 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 passage.

Do you believe in the rapture? “What’s that,” he said? …that we are all going to rise up in the air and be taken to heaven? “Really? Where is that in the Bible,” my professor responded. A seminary professor told me this years ago and I thought he was nuts! At the same time, I was the deer in front of the headlights. So, I did my research and tried for months to prove him wrong—to no avail. After all, most of my mentors on this subject, like Ray Steadman and Walter Martin, were confident and assured that a seven year tribulation and a Rapture would occur; the only debate, as they and I saw it, was what the order and timing was. My other main mentor, Francis Schaeffer, did not consider this a worthy subject; he was an Amillenialist and Reformed and left it there for more effectual pursuits. Perhaps I should have done the same, but I could not leave this alone. It has to be true; if not, why are so many good people teaching this?

So I engaged this subject enthusiastically and aggressively. I wanted to see for myself. I read all the passages and the books on the Rapture I could. I could not find where in the Bible we could get a Rapture.

Yes, I know the passages that Hal Lindsey and others like Scofield used, the ones taught by so many preachers as dogmatic and even essential. The passages used to support a Rapture and a seven year tribulation said nothing to support this. “Why,” I asked, “were they teaching this? How can they rationalize it?” I came to the conclusion, after a lot of homework, that they just did not do their homework well. I found that the only way to come up with a Rapture was to read it into the Bible, because it just is not there. Yes, I was disturbed and confused.

So I spent months in the Fuller Library pouring over all the books—original Greek, scholarly references, and all that anyone had ever said of it. I hunted what is clearly said in God’s Word, using the Inductive techniques I taught in seminars at that time. I wanted to find not what was popular in my theological tradition, but what was biblical and effectual for our faith. Yes, this was tough; a lot of sleepless nights and struggle were spent to look at what I thought I already knew so well. And, this did not stop as a paper; I then spent another ten years carefully researching all the popular end-times scenarios.

The Rule of Exegetical Eschatology

What is Exegetical Eschatology?

This is a from of interpreting “Apocalyptic” writing from what the Bible from what is plainly says, meaning “to draw from.” This is for serious or critical examination of a text of Scripture for the purpose of explanation, clarification, and interpretation.

For the authentic Christian, it provides a better framework of God’s principles and can be a shredder for its critics—as in those who oppose faith and reason or the Truth of Christ and His principles. This is done by examining the facts, details, and essence of a Bible text before making any conclusions. This means we engage the text with careful exegesis, uninhibited by theological prejudice, with an inductive process with open minds to discover God’s lessons for us. What does the original language, genre, and cultural analysis do, considering the original hearers of this work? What did that term mean to John and those seven churches, or what was Jesus saying in Matthew chapter twenty-four, not just what we may think it means today.Otherwise, our preconceived ideas will form our opinions rather than what the Word actually says.

This is how the Reformers, Calvin and Luther, did their studies (although they subscribed to the Historicist view), as well as Augustine (who was mostly a Futurist, but not like the Futurists today) and other great men. They were seeking His revealed truth inductively, applying literal interpretation (if the genre allows), and historical and grammatical exegesis, not mere human speculations and traditions. This is what we seek to do at Into Thy Word.www.intothyword.org

Thus, Biblical Eschatology looks at the whole text in its context and pulls out facts, examining the particulars, facts, and essence of a Bible text before making any assumptions or conclusions. Then, it interprets and applies them.

There are no false teachings or misleading ideas with this method as long as the exegete is honest to the text. The goal is sound, Biblical Theology from the honest exegesis of the Scriptures—not traditions but pure unadulterated truth—not one’s theological framework, but rather biblical truth (see Understanding Apocalyptic Literature for more information).

What does this all have to do with Christianty or church leadership? The sad fact is that too many of our churches are spending too much time and energy on speculative theology while completely ignoring the calls and commands of Christ. While we invent these particulars of nonsense, too many people go un-reached and thus un-discipled because of our foolishness. Let’s stop the nonsense and focus on that to which God has clearly and assuredly called us!