This is a response to Dr. Jordan B. Cooper’s 5 Major Problems with the Rapture.
I watched Dr. Jordan B. Cooper’s video from a couple of years ago titled, “5 Problems with the Rapture.” Why did I watch a two year old video on the rapture from a Lutheran and write about it, you ask? I wanted a writing exercise. I also like Dr. Cooper. He’s a good follow on twitter, and a smart resource for church history topics, justification controversies, and whether someone is semi-Pelagian.
He opens by referring to Left Behind. Oh, this is a great start. Then he refers to those who predict the end of the world is coming soon. Look, I get it, the crazies latch on to dispensationalist ideas. The end of the world is dramatic, and we happen to be the camp that has detailed commentaries on Revelation. So far in his introduction, Dr. Cooper hasn’t mentioned any actual dispensationalist theologian, or even a dispensational denomination, like Calvary Chapel. No mention of Dallas Theological Seminary, no mention of John MacArthur, preachers like Greg Laurie, or any big name his listeners might recognize. Well, let’s hope he drops the straw men after his introduction, and deals with some serious defenders of the doctrine.
If you will recall, I addressed these opening shots at the rapture in my first article. Left Behind is indeed stupid and predicting when the end will come by exegeting the headlines has nothing to do with Godly dispensationalist teaching. With his introduction out of the way, let’s see what his five objections are.
1. “It’s not a historical teaching of the church”
Ah, classic. He mentions Darby and Scofield here, so, two actual dispensationalists. He admits that just because a doctrine is new does not mean it is wrong. Good for him. (By the way, when do we get to stop calling the 19th century new?) He warns —fairly— that the newness of ideas should make you hesitant to believe them.
I also addressed this objection in the previous article. Here, I’ll just say two things. One, Dispensationalists have made a strong case for why it took so long to recover the doctrine (see Renald E. Showers, There Really Is a Difference, for one such articulation). Two, a sound argument from scripture outweighs any argument from historical precedent. He’s a Lutheran. He should understand that. To his credit, he does! He turns to the Bible for the last four of his objections.
2. “There isn’t a secret rapture because 1 Thessalonians 4 teaches a very public event.”
He argues that 1 Thessalonians 4 describes a very public event, not a secret one. That is a straw man. A secret event is not a necessary feature of any Dispensationalists’ teaching on the rapture. While you could argue the shout, trumpet, and “voice of an archangel,” are heard by us but not by the world, it is not necessary to do so. The “secret” nature of the rapture is a red herring. The essence of the rapture is a rescue, an incursion into hostile territory to take the righteous off the earth before a time of unprecedented judgement. It’s a triumphant close to the great parenthesis of the church age. There is no reason for it to be any more hidden than Pentecost was. Has he read any dispensationalists on this topic or is he just basing his concept of it on the depiction in Left Behind?
He also objects claiming Paul calls this event the Day of the Lord. In response, I would recommend Walvoord’s treatment of the Thessalonian epistles, but really, just check out any serious Dispensational commentary on 1 Thessalonians. Paul shifts topics in chapter 5, verse 1. It is not necessary to call the event described in verse 17 part of the Day of the Lord. Having said that, since the Day of the Lord is the period from the Tribulation through the Millennium, a period of about 1007 years, you could just say the rapture begins this period.
3. “Luke 17 does not refer to the rapture”
We agree! Moving on…
No serious dispensationalist thinks Luke 17:34-37 says anything about the rapture. In fact, the gospels scarcely speak about the church, and this fact is part of the argument for dispensationalism. Dispensationalists argue the Olivet discourse is distinctly Jewish and does not concern the church at all, which means this objection only applies to the strawman: the bad pop culture version of the rapture.
4. “In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul just talks about one event. If there were two comings of Christ, this would be the place to explain it.”
This is by nature a weak argument, an argument from silence. Fitting the dispensational view of the end times into this chapter is not difficult. This passage does not offer a positive argument against the teaching of the rapture, and Dr. Cooper does not use it as one. Instead, he argues, surely Paul would take this opportunity to explain such a curious doctrine. But this just isn’t Paul’s occasion for writing. Paul is dealing with an audience unable to eat solid food (1 Cor 3:2), so he must deal with more fundamental topics. Topics like addressing the jaw-dropping fact that there are those among the Corinthians who say there is no resurrection of the dead at all! Paul’s burden in chapter 15 is the fact of the resurrection and its necessity for our faith and hope. If Paul had written an aside to explain the phases of Christ’s coming, it would only have distracted from his purpose.
5. “Jesus doesn’t teach it.”
Once again, we agree*. Dispensationalist theologians argue that the bulk of truths about the Church were revealed after the cross, by the ministry of the Holy Spirit through the apostles. While Jesus revealed a few principles in Matthew 16 and 18 (notice His use of the future tense), the Church is a mystery revealed in the New Testament, a “new man” (Eph 2:15), formed at Pentecost, and one not revealed under the Old Covenant. So, if Dispensationalists are right about the church (obviously Dr. Cooper will disagree), then we should not expect passages like the Olivet discourse to say anything about Christ’s coming for his church.
(*Mostly.) But Jesus does reveal it in John 14:3. One of the latest teachings of Jesus is the upper room discourse. This occurs after Israel has clearly rejected her messiah. The disciples are sad because Jesus has said He is leaving them and going to the Father. He comforts them by telling them something new: He does not repeat the Olivet Discourse and tell them about His glorious return to His throne, instead He tells them about an event much more intimate, and with a different destination. He says He goes to the Father to prepare a place for them to dwell and will come again and receive them to Himself. In other words, He is not describing, like in Luke 17 and Matthew 24, His coming to the earth to reign, but is describing Himself taking His disciples out of the world, to heaven. Sound familiar?
Dr. Jordan B. Cooper is a brilliant guy. Check out his youtube channel and follow him on twitter. However, I don’t think he understands the arguments for the rapture. His video is not a response to any serious dispensationalist, but rather a response to some bad misconceptions about the rapture.