Friday, December 19, 2014

The rapture, unmanned cars, and absurd scenarios

I am reading through Craig Blomberg's commentary on Matthew, with varying degrees of enjoyment and profit.

Commenting on Matthew 24:40-41, he said this:
Some have seen a “secret rapture” in view here (in which believers mysteriously disappear from earth, leaving everyone else to wonder what happened), which often leads to absurd scenarios (e.g., the modern-day notion of cars suddenly without drivers). But the only coming of the Son of Man described so far has been the climactic universal return of Christ in v. 27. The imagery of vv. 38–41 does not suggest anything different.
[Craig Blomberg, Matthew, vol. 22, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 366.]
When the scare-quotes are used for "secret rapture," you know you're reading a detractor of the doctrine.

But what really catches my eye is his snorting at "absurd scenarios," like "cars suddenly without drivers." I pair that with brothers I hear sneering that they "don't believe in the rapture."

You don't? Then you're almost assuredly not a Christian.

Note: I did not say pre-tribulation rapture, or mid-tribulation rapture, or any other particular position on the timing of the rapture. Yet that's what I hear, again and again: "I don't believe in the rapture."

But if you're a Christian, you do believe in the rapture.

What is "the rapture"? It's the resurrection of believers, which involves raising the dead and glorifying those who are alive at that time (see 1 Cor 15:51-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Non-pretrib theologian Wayne Grudem defines it thus:
rapture: The “taking up” or snatching up (from Latin rapio, “seize, snatch, carry away”) of believers to be with Christ....
[Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 1253. Grudem concludes the sentence "when he returns to the earth," which is the point of contention.]
All Christians believe in this. This is not a point of division.

When does this happen, in relation to the Tribulation? Ah, that is where we part company.

But back to sneering Dr. Blomberg. If in conversation, I'd ask him: when Jesus comes and living believers are caught up to meet Him in the air... do cars exist? And, if they do, is it possible that some Christians will be driving cars? And if they are, and the Lord catches them away to meet him in the air...?

Well, if Dr. Blomberg thinks that an unmanned car is an "absurd scenario," then one can only assume that he thinks some sort of notice will be given in advance. Perhaps something like, "The rapture will occur in five minutes. Will genuine regenerate Christians please pull over to the side, park, and get out of their cars?"

Tell me: which one is the absurd scenario, again?


DJP said...

BTW, I don't love those bumper stickers. I don't have one. I wouldn't want one. If I had a bumper sticker, it'd be Gospelly.

THAT SAID, it just rankles me when sophisticates sneer at people who look to actual Biblical prophecy to be actually fulfilled in actual real history, and try to work out what the real-world impact could be.

Marie Peterson said...

I don't think that he's saying an unmanned car in an d of itself is an absurd scenario. I think he was simply pointing out that a road strewn with empty cars that people have to drive around or else crash into is an absurd scenario. But you (and he) bring up an interesting what extent will the Second Coming affect earth materially? Will there be cars on the New Earth? When He comes, death will be no more. So, if a surgeon is in the middle of heart surgery, I don't think the patient is necessarily going to die but come to his feet and appear before the throne in judgement. I hope that's orthodox ;)

Dwight Osborne said...

no Marie Peterson, your belief isn't orthodox. The rapture happens before Daniel's 70th week begins. Believers will be taken in whatever circumstances they are in at that moment. If your scenario occurs then woe be to the patient. And no the great white throne judgment doesn't occur until the end of the 1000-year reign of Christ on the earth. That's a full 1000 and at least 7 years after Jesus has come to remove the Christians from this sinful world.

DJP said...

Marie didn't say it was her belief, she's just trying to think it through.

If one equates the Rapture with the Second Coming to earth, yes, there are all sorts of problems. If you see the Rapture as preceding the Tribulation (as I do), those problems are solved — leaving other questions!

No position answers every question that could be asked.

Michael Coughlin said...

I don't like, I won't think through, or simply cannot fathom the implication or result of believing A, therefore A must be absurd.

Seems like with that attitude you might as well not be a Christian at all (and feel rational).

Good post.

Fr Joseph Wilson MSC said...

I am a bible believing Christian and have read the Scriptures thoroughly. I guess this is such an obvious question, but where is the word 'rapture' in the New Testament? If you say it is implicit, then you have also to accept doctrines like 'purgatory' since that is no less implicit in the New Testament. I never get a clear, unambiguous answer to this question. So I look forward to a biblical one. Thank you.

DJP said...

I'm truly surprised if no one has been able to answer that for you.

It's in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. The word ἁρπαγησόμεθα is translated "will be caught up" in the ESV. In the Latin Vulgate, the word is rapiemur, from rapio, whence ultimately "rapture."