The Secret Rapture hits the Big Screen, Part 1
“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (First Thessalonians 4:16-18, ESV)
“…and he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the living and the dead” (from The Nicene Creed)
“At the last day, such as are found alive shall not die, but be changed; and all the dead shall be raised up, with the selfsame bodies, and none other (although with different qualities), which shall be united again to their souls forever.” (Westminster Confession of Faith 32.2)
On Friday, October 3, 2014 the false doctrine of the secret rapture will hit the big screen as the movie “Left Behind,” featuring famous actor Nicolas Cage, comes to a theater near you. This movie is based upon the popular “Left Behind” book series written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. The doctrine of the secret rapture, in its “pretribulational” form at least, basically teaches that Christ will one day come back secretly and invisibly to remove believers from the earth before a seven year Tribulation period, dominated by the Antichrist, is unleashed upon the earth. According to this prophetic scheme, Christ will return at the end of the Tribulation period to defeat Antichrist at the Battle of Armaggedon and to set up His millenial kingdom, where He will reign on earth from Jerusalem for a literal 1,000 years. At the end of the millenium Satan will be loosed and a great apostasy and rebellion against Christ’s rule will occur, which Christ will quickly put down by force, and which will be followed by the great white throne Judgment, and the eternal state.
According to the doctrine of the secret rapture, on the day of the rapture all believers on earth will suddenly disappear, leaving the world in a state of chaos and open to the rule of Antichrist. If you happen to be an unbeliever, on rapture day you better hope that you are not flying on a plane piloted by Christian pilots, for your pilots will suddenly disappear and your plane left to crash. Plane crashes, car crashes, people vanishing into thin air, and overall chaos will be the feature of rapture day, according to popular scenarios of the rapture event. This is a prophetic scheme made for the movies, and the Christian book market has demonstrated time and again that the sensationalism of this doctrine can be quite profitable.
The problem with the doctrine of the secret rapture which undergirds sensationalistic, apocalyptic movies like “Left Behind” is that it is completely unbiblical. God’s Word nowhere teaches the doctrine of a secret rapture, where Christ will secretly come for HIs church and where believers will suddenly disappear into thin air and the only ones left will be unbelievers. On the contrary, one of the major texts that promoters of the secret rapture doctrine appeal to (namely, First Thessalonians 4:13-18) indicates that our Lord’s second coming for His church will not be a secret, quiet event. On the contrary, it is depicted as a very loud event, where the glorified Lord Jesus Christ descends from heaven with a “cry of command” (1 Thess. 4:16, ESV; NKJV translates it as “with a shout”) and “with the sound of the trumpet of God” (v. 16, ESV). The future coming of Christ for His church will be a very public, very visible, very loud event!
Furthermore, the secret rapture doctrine actually teaches that there are three comings of Christ: His Incarnation and birth at Bethlehem, His future secret coming to rapture the church, and His final manifestation on the Judgment Day. But God’s Word teaches only two advents of Christ: His first advent having already taken place when Jesus was born, and His second advent to be a future, public, world-impacting event where Jesus will come again in glory to judge all mankind, both the righteous and the wicked (see John 5:28-29; Acts 1:10-11), and to usher in the new heavens and new earth (Second Peter 3:10-13).
I fear that this new Left Behind movie will be prove to be yet another occasion for unbelievers to mock and ridicule Christianity, for I suspect that our biblically-and-theologically-illiterate culture will wrongly assume that the movie accurately depicts what all Christians and all Christian churches have always believed, which is simply not the case. While some believers may be excited and view this new movie as an opportunity for gospel witness, I fear that it will ultimately serve to make Christians look silly. It is time for God’s people to “leave behind” the secret rapture doctrine as promoted by sensationalistic works like the Left Behind book series and movie.