Is the RAPTURE a “Jewish Event?”
Have Gentiles and Even Jews Missed an Important Point!
By T. Peterson, Ph.D.
Should Gentiles take heed of the Jewish High Holy Days?
What might the Jewish faithful be unaware of concerning the High Holy Days?
Is it possible the world is in
for a really interesting surprise? Maybe! Consider this:
There’s been some controversy within Christian and Messianic congregations about the suggestion of a future event called the ‘rapture.’ Some say it’s a biblical concept supported by the Bible’s text, others don’t see how it could be so. Recent popular fiction books based on the concept of a rapture (series entitle ‘Left Behind’) have generated sales in the millions. Let’s use an example to illustrate the issue and then let’s venture a whole new look at what the discussion might really be all about! Then you decide!
We need an ‘opposing point of view’ for contrast. Actually, we’ll use a friendly source for this illustration. The Spring 2003 edition of Foundational Teachings carries a lead article entitled “LEFT BEHIND - SOME WILL BE; THE IMPORTANT QUESTION IS WHEN?” by Charles P. Schmitt. (Immanuel’s Church).
If you sit in a study session with Mr. Schmitt you will soon realize that he goes to great measures to search out background material. His eyes are on seeking an accurate presentation for what is in both the Scriptures and in observations made by others over time. Good research often brings great rewards and the assurance of reaching proper conclusions. To this end we give considerable credit to Charles Schmitt. So, take note we use his writings here as an example not for the sake of criticism – he could very well be correct in what we quote below. But we think there remains one considerable point to be made. And maybe the quotation below is plagued by historical bias without proper reference to the best interpretation. That possibility is why this article was written!
Consider a potential mistake that Gentiles may have made because they are not thinking about the Jewish roots and Jewish context to the biblical writings they use as a base to their theistic thinking. This is a key point we are highlighting here. This leads to something remarkable! Read through some doubts to find another perhaps missed and more relevant perspective ... in a Jewish context relevant to all who read Scripture.
The following quotation taken from the article cited above presents some very interesting points concerning a ‘rapture’ of believing persons at some point before the biblical tribulation or end time events:
“LaHaye and Jenkins have based their books on the theory that seven years before the glorious return of our Lord Jesus Christ, faithful Christians will be secretly raptured – translated, caught up to heaven. This understanding has been known as the “pre-tribulation rapture.” Legitimate concerns about the pre-tribulation rapture are that it rests upon questionable biblical interpretation and, historically, it found its way into the evangelical mainstream only in the mid-1800s. Millions of godly, evangelical believers for almost 1,800 years did not believe in a pre-tribulation rapture – among these, men of apostolic stature, such as John and Charles Wesley, Charles Spurgeon, Matthew Henry, John Knox, John Hus, William Carey, John Calvin, Isaac Newton, George Whitfield, A.B. Simpson, George Mueller (who is reported to have stated, “If you can show me a trumpet after the last [1 Corinthians 15:52] and a resurrection before the first [Revelation 20:4-5], then I can believe this new doctrine.”), John Newton, Jonathan Edwards, John Wycliffe, John Bunyan, and many others. And as far as the post-apostolic, early Church Fathers go, they apparently did not believe in a pre-tribulation rapture either! They write:
“Then shall the race of men come into the fire of proving trial and many be made to stumble and fall. But those who remain established in their faith shall be saved under the very curse” (Didache; 16:5). “Happy ye who endure the great tribulation that is coming on … “ (Hermas; Chapter II, Vision II).
First, we question to what extent all Gentile thinkers – especially
those noted in the quotation above – ever considered the Jewish roots
to the biblical text. Were they thinking and reading like Jewish thinkers
and writers from the First Century CE or as Gentiles in days long past the
time of the Messiah? We are aware that Yeshua, that is Jesus of Nazareth,
is a Jewish figure, that as the Jewish Messiah, came to search out the ‘lost
sheep of the house of Israel.’ In fact the Brit Hadashah (New Covenant)
notes this very point. Salvation for Gentiles is then in turn ‘of
the Jews’ that were chosen to share the news about Messiah and God’s
promise of eternal life.
Second, there is a pre-Tribulation rapture, where Messianic believers are caught up to join Messiah above the earth, then there will be no body of believing persons left on the earth. At least until reality sinks in and then a new body of believing persons will form, but they will be part of a group left behind for a time. They will be: “those who remain established in their faith shall be saved under the very curse” as indicated above. The church, as of the moment of a rapture, is removed from the earth. We are not certain that new believing persons, those coming to faith after the rapture event, form any counterpoint to prevent the interpretation for a rapture.
If the church or body of believers is raptured, then how is it that this takes place “at the last trumpet” – a last trumpet also comes at the end of the tribulation period. The common criticism is how can one have a last trumpet before the first trumpet that is described in Revelation. Well, again think in relative terms of the Jewishness of the historical context. First, as we note elsewhere at WindowView.org, the Jewish High Holy Days also depict a series of Messianic events. Each festival or feast has not only a former significance, like Passover and the Exodus from Egypt, but a Messianic significance, like as in the Passover Lamb that the Lord himself represents in the First Century CE (at the Passover feast). Pentecost is the time when the Jewish people received the Law at Mount Sinai. But that same date many hundreds of years later is the time when the Ruach Ha Kodesh (Holy Spirit) descended on the Jewish talmidim (the disciples to Yeshua). The Law was being replaced by the Spirit, itself a significant Messianic event for believers until the return of Messiah himself.
In the cycle of High Holy Days there are as yet ‘unfulfilled” days in terms of the Messianic parallel. In this regard it’s Rosh Hashanah that comes next. And to the Gentile mind this is simply a Jewish New Year. But remember, this day is also the Feast of Trumpets. During the festivities on that occasion, several trumpets – really rams horns, the schofar – are given a great blast. During a formal Rosh Hashanah service these schofar blasts lead to a LAST TRUMPET in a series of trumpet calls. That not only happens to be a last trumpet, it also happens every year. This is literally a ‘last trumpet’ that can come before the first! While we cannot be certain when, it is entirely possible that at some time in the future, the last trumpet to signify the rapture will come at Rosh Hashanah. Gentiles and unbelieving Jews might miss this point! We are leaving the possibility open!
And why else might there be a rapture to take away the body of believers (i.e., the church) into heaven. Again, you have to think like a Jewish person back in the First Century. The Jewish wedding had certain traditional steps back then that are not observed today. What are the steps? Briefly:
1) Courting the Bride (Messiah comes to earth to seek out Israel)
2) Fetching the Bride (at a future time see text, the Bride is gathered by the Bridegroom and brought to himself, to his home)
3) The wedding (attended only by those immediate to the event)
4) The wedding feast (attended by a broader audience, with additional guests)
We acknowledge the writings and teachings of Dr. Arnold Fructenbaum here. His book (Footsteps of the Messiah) and web site for Ariel Ministries actually gives a longer account of this series of steps in the Jewish wedding. The prophetic parallels are more completely described by his book and web pages.
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While we might embrace doubts about the rapture based on the historical views as given in the account above by Charles Schmitt, we now face the prospect of finding a clue to a mystery in the Bible itself. The book of Revelation places the body of believers in heaven at a point in time to participate in a wedding. The body of believers (i.e. church) represent the Bride and the Messiah is the Bridegroom. It’s very important to note these terms are used in the biblical text. The Bridegroom does not descent to earth for this event, so the Bride goes to the Messiah and not the other way around. The wedding occurs as the tribulation period unfolds on earth, but the wedding is not on earth. The troubles of the tribulation parallel the ten terrible days that bridge between the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Here is a complete parallel. During these times of trial on earth something unique takes place in the heavens above. The rapture conveys the Bride (a fetching step) to the Bridegroom in preparation for this extra-terrestrial event. The fetching step is the rapture. It parallels the ancient pattern of the Jewish wedding. This pattern is not followed today, but then the Scriptures reflect what was common in the day or their writing. You have to put it in context. Then it’s clear what is happening!
There are other objections as to the mechanics to what the prophesies seem to project for future events. But like the rapture, we may find that reasons rooted in a Jewish context solve the problems with previous interpretations.
But let’s also return to the cautious research of Charles Schmitt. You will find him saying in spite of any doubts, he has no objection to a rapture taking place at any time! He’s kept an open mind. Dr. Fruchtenbaum will tell you the rapture is imminent (it could happen just about anytime now). Both of these Bible scholars would caution all of us in one way: The rapture is not an event upon which anyone should base their faith. Rapture or not, biblical faith is grounded in other more serious aspects of a relationship with the Lord. Should we live to the day when rapture takes place, it may well come at Rosh Hashanah. It would be the wedding step that brings the Bride to the Bridegroom (in this case to heaven) for the wedding that is described in the biblical text.
The real point in all that is presented here is simple. There is a Jewish context to the Bible. To better understand the meanings of what is written in the ancient text requires a Jewish interpretation. Jews today have to go back in time to gather that context and Gentiles just simply have to grasp the Jewishness of it all together!
Not getting it in context leaves one with commentaries that miss the mark and this potentially creates confusion! We hope this helps open everyone to thinking in the proper context!
For those who still may ask what sense there is to be found in a rapture event ... we venture one added thought. The world today has long since observed the direct presence of the LORD. Only the House of Israel in the wilderness, after Egypt, and in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem had the presence of the Holy One there with them.
The masses today live in what can only seem an absolute absence of God. Like in the days of Sodom and Gomorra, when Lot was told to leave, there was a moment ahead of destruction when someone knew what was about to happen. And Lot was told why. To make a long story short, the rapture seems like a parallel story. A lawless self indulgence has been cast across the earth. The material life has lead to a lack of stewardship and the global changes we see. There is a physical and moral decline.
Removing those who have established a relationship with the Living Word serves notice to all who remain behind. Will the din of the material life leave many unimpressed with the rapture of the faithful. Certainly the absence of obvious believers will be a sign post. Those who observe the significance of the event itself have a chance at the one promise that life puts before all of us, the promise that there is more to this life alone! Life eternal. Who will be awakened by the absence generated by the rapture. Would you? Think about it.
This article by
www.WindowView.org © 2005