Rapture, Rupture or Resurrection

By David Embury

Rapture, Rupture or Resurrection – which is it? This much we know, the Resurrection being a concurrent even with Christ's Judgment Coming signalled the completion of the redemptive program [Heb 9:28]. Logic, therefore, dictates that no resurrection equates to no redemption, at least not in its fullest sense. Scripture indicates that the end, being the 2nd Coming or "Parousia" is a concurrent event with the Resurrection, the Judgment and the Kingdom. It is impossible to have one apart from the others occurring – when one happens they all happen; they are all constituent elements of the AD70 Parousia of Jesus Christ:

2Tim 4:1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will[melloμελλω = is about to] judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom.

Paul affirms that the Resurrection was the Hope of Israel:

Act 23:6 But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, "Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!"

Act 24:15 I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be [melloμελλω = is about to be] a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.

Act 26:6-8 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope's sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises [egeireiεγειρει (present tense) = is raising] the dead?

Act 28:20 For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain."

The promise of Resurrection made "to our fathers" clearly shows that this was an Old Testament teaching. So where does it come from? Amongst others, Ezekiel chapter 37 is a key passage. Verse 13 says: "Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves." This was the net effect of this fulfilment was the New Covenant in Christ – the resurrection to new covenantal life [Rom 6:4-5; Phil 3:10].

There is much dispute in Christendom today as to the nature of the resurrection, but this is nothing new – even the Pharisees and Sadducees were at loggerheads over this issue. One thing is certain though, whether the Pharisees or Sadducees believed in it or not, their concept of the resurrection was that of a physical nature. Most of modern Christendom also thinks in terms of "physicality" when it comes to the resurrection, however, is this scripturally valid? Covenant eschatology believes not.

A "literal" understanding does not always necessitate a "physical" end, for example, Jesus most definitely meant it when he said "you must be born again" – he quite literally meant what he saying, it was an imperative. But Nicodemus' literalistic and straight-jacketed thinking totally missed the true reality and full import of what Jesus was actually saying – his head was in the realm of physicality i.e., he conceived Jesus' literal words as a natural or temporal event, as opposed to the literal relational reality of covenantal rebirth [Jn 3:9-12].

Other leaders of Israel stumbled in their attempt to trap Jesus on this issue of resurrection – as Jesus said: "You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God". As the first-century church grew, resurrection also became an issue, as is seen in the case of the Thessalonians:

2Thess 2:1-2 Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.

And in particular Paul's warning to Timothy about Hymenaeus and Philetus:

2Tim 2:16-18 But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some.

Paul certainly challenged this false doctrine of Hymenaeus and Philetus who were "saying the resurrection is already past" and so turning some from the faith. His reasoning was quite simple:

If the 1st-century church expected Christ's 2nd Coming to be an earth destroying, time ending, history terminating event, then how was it possible for some if at all any, to possibly be deceived? IF what they were looking for was a physical event all someone had to do was look around and ask "what's changed!?" – physically nothing! In other words, if the resurrection was to be a "literal physical event" it would be self-evident, everything "physically" would be changed – a remade world; people popping up through open graves; no more physical death. Yet all the living were still present, none had been raptured away, none of the graves were ruptured, and others were still dying – no tangible resurrection. Again, had things been physically reconstituted it would have been self-evident. However, there is no record of such things occurring. Strange considering some were saying "the resurrection is already past" and some others being duped were believing it.

Obviously, 1st-century believers had a concept and belief as to the nature of the resurrection that is foreign to much of the popular present-day 'Left Behind' teaching. The first-fruits believers [Jas 1:18] understood that Jesus' kingdom did not come with observation [Lk 17:20]; they came to understand that His kingdom wasn't to be of this "fleshly" world [Jn 18:36]; in fact Jesus even rejects such a notion – had he wanted THAT it was there for the taking [Jn 6:15]. Indeed, flesh and blood i.e., "the natural order" could not enter it [1Cor 15:50]. The 1st-century believers came to realise that Christ's kingdom was spiritual, covenantal and relationally in nature, and only entered through the rebirth; a spiritual reality – looking not to the seen but to the unseen [2Cor 4:18].

Based on Paul's constant warnings against reversion or "going back" to law observance for righteousness it is quite plausible that the likes of Hymenaeus and Philetus were actually Judaizers and not Gnostics as some postulate. Hymenaeus and Philetus were causing a lot of trouble, and like much of Paul's opposition these Judaizers were, in fact, believers "zealous for the law" [Act 21:20; 15:1, 5, 24]. Now Paul never challenges Hymenaeus or Philetus' concept or belief as to the nature of the 2nd Coming, he does, however, challenge their timing of it.

Had Hymenaeus and Philetus been correct about the Resurrection being past [from their perspective], then adherence to the law could have been seen as a legitimate requirement of faith as the Law was still operative [Act 21:23-24; Heb 13:10] and the Temple still standing, though neither post Calvary had any redeeming virtue or value [Heb 8:13]. The writer of Hebrews declares: "the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing" Heb 9:8. While the Temple stood Israel's redemption was yet incomplete. Christ's Parousia – encompassing the Resurrection, the Judgment and the Kingdom was the definitive and culminating manifestation and completion of the long-awaited promised deliverance of Israel – this was a new covenantal reality. And this is the crux of the issue – had the resurrection been past, then "the cross of Christ should be made of no effect" 1Cor 1:17 and merely relegated to "add-on" status instead of the age changing covenant renewing event that it was.

Judaizers wanted covenant change without regeneration, they wanted covenant renewal without losing their religious trappings of circumcision, law observance, earthly city, temple, priesthood and sacrificial system etc. These were all vested interests and vestiges of the "old world" that Jesus prophesied [Mt 24, Mk 13, Lk 17, 21] were coming to an end. Had these Mosaic remnants remained AND the resurrection being past THEN clearly Paul's eschatological "dying and rising" in Christ as per Romans 6 was complete, yet this cuts right across Paul's "being raised" in resurrection life in that eschatological and transitional generation, something that he writes in 1Corinthians 15 and Philippians 3 as being present tense realities – thus fullness HAD NOT come; such would only be the case with the Parousia.

What has been touted as the rapture has been ruptured, for it was in fact the resurrection, and this all occurred in the AD70 destruction of Jerusalem which was the outward sign of end of the old covenant Mosaic age. And those ones believing and surviving to the end [Mt 24:13] was this assurance given:

1Pet 1:5 …who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.