One way to get Christians to disengage from what’s happening culturally, politically, economically, and educationally is to assure them that we are living in the last days and we will be rescued by the rapture of the church before a period of Great Tribulation. This doctrine has been popular with Christians for decades. Hal Lindsey made it popular with the 1970 publication of The Late Great Planet Earth that predicted the “rapture” of the church would take place 40 years from the reestablishment of the nation of Israel in 1948. For those who are counting, that was to be 1988. Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel was even more dogmatic about the prophetic reality of the claim.
While the promotion of the “rapture” doctrine can’t be blamed for all of society’s ills, it has had an effect on how millions of Christians evaluate and respond to current events. Many believe that we are living in the last days and Jesus is coming soon to “rapture” His church because the world is a “sinking Titanic,” and the “rapture” is the only solution. Such a belief has had an impact.
Dr. Mark Hitchcock has written a free eBook for Dallas Theological Seminary with the title The Truth and Timing of the Rapture that has been promoted on Facebook. When Hitchcock writes about the “rapture,” he is referring to a pre-tribulation “rapture of the Church” prior to the start of the long-postponed 70th week of Daniel’s “70 weeks of years” prophecy found in Daniel 9:24–27. He writes:
The first view of the rapture is the pre-tribulational view, which teaches that believers are going to be caught up before the Tribulation, or the seventieth week of Daniel 9.1
The pre-tribulation rapture position depends on the 70th week of the “70 weeks of years” prophecy to be separated from the other 69 weeks. If the Bible does not teach such a separation, then the pre-tribulation rapture is a false doctrine. Read the passage for yourself and see if there is any mention of anyone being “raptured”— taken to heaven—for any reason. You will not find the doctrine.
Hitchcock describes four rapture interpretations but is an advocate for the pre-tribulation view. According to the pre-tribulation rapture position, we are presently living in the “Church Age,” a period of time that is said to have been instituted by God when Israel refused to accept Jesus as its long-promised Messiah.
What many Christians do not know is that the pre-tribulation rapture view is dependent on separating the 70th week (consisting of 7 years) from the other 69 weeks (483 years) and inserting a timeless parenthesis (now nearly 2000 years long) between the 69th and 70th weeks. I suspect that most Christians who hold to the pre-tribulation rapture position could not explain its details or defend it biblically. All they’ve heard is how they will be “raptured” before a period of tribulation takes place that will bring untold hardship of billions of people, but they’re not really sure how this doctrine was created. They’ve heard about the “rapture” for so long that they believe it is a fundamental doctrine of the Church. It isn’t. The fact that there are five different rapture views with no single verse supporting any one of them should make anyone who holds the position to take the time to study the topic before claiming it’s “in the Bible.”