People sometimes attempt to find scientific support for a teaching of their denomination, such as rapture theology. They write us wanting to use black holes or quantum mechanics to support a doctrinal interpretation. We have used scientific evidence to talk about the validity of biblical statements and the wisdom that we see in the Bible. However, is an error to look for scientific support for a denominational belief that is not biblical. God spoke through Isaiah: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” ( Isaiah 55:8-9).
People look for scientific support for something called “the rapture.” The word “rapture” is not found in any credible, heavily-used translation of the Bible. The word comes from a Greek term “harpazo” meaning “caught up.” First Thessalonians 4:17 shows that it developed from the Latin word “raptus” and was in the Vulgate a fourth-century Latin translation of the Bible. This use eventually evolved to the middle Latin word “raptura” and to the middle French “rapture.” Promoters of rapture theology refer to Acts 1:9-11 where Jesus was “taken up.” They even identify a place in Jerusalem where they claim this happened, but there is no archaeological support for that. The Greek word used in this verse is “epairo” meaning to be “taken up” not “harpazo” to be caught up.
Other passages where “harpazo” is used are Acts 8:39, 2 Corinthians 12:2 and Revelation 12:5. If you read through those verses you will see that what they describe is not a physical act or condition, but a spiritual one. In the 2 Corinthians passage, Paul expresses confusion about what he experienced, but making clear it was not a physical event. Whatever your view of what will happen when Jesus Christ comes again, you should not look for scientific support for it from archaeology, quantum mechanics, relativity, or any physical process. Rapture theology is not scientific.
Owen Olbricht in his book The Kingdom of the Messiah (ISBN 978-0-89916-853-1) says it well: “Our conclusions will determine what we believe concerning Jesus’ return, the end of the world, the judgment, and the nature of Jesus’ kingdom.” (Page 146).
He also comments on why this should not be an issue for us: “Even if we do not agree on teachings about the rapture, differing views should not divide us; for our understanding of the events that will take place when Jesus returns will not determine our eternal destiny. What will happen will happen, regardless of what we think. Understanding what we must do to prepare to face Jesus, when He comes to judge the living and the resurrected dead (2 Timothy 4:1), is what is important. Jesus said, ‘You too, be ready: for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.’ (Luke 12:40).” (Page 145.)
The message of the second coming is a spiritual message, not one to be investigated from any scientific field. The end of time and the dissolving of the physical cosmos may have cosmological implications, but the message is still spiritual.
— John N. Clayton © 2019