The rapture and end-times as a whole is easily the most confusing aspect of Christianity. Christians have had evolving ideas over time and most recently have ben infatuated with the end-time portrayal seen in Left Behind, a book series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. Popular to this portrayal is the notion of the rapture. But do Pentecostals believe in the rapture?
Do Pentecostals believe in the rapture? For the most part, yes. While it is impossible to nail down any one eschatology for a single group, the majority of Pentecostals seem to be premillennial dispensationalists. This means that most Pentecostals believe in a pretribulation rapture.
But we need to answer a couple questions about that. What is eschatology? What is dispensationalism and what is the difference between premillennial and postmillennial? And what exactly is the rapture? I’m going to answer some of these questions below.
Eschatology is the theology of “last things”. Essentially, eschatology concerns itself with death, heaven, and the end times of the earth. The Biblical book of Revelation is generally regarded as the authority on Christian eschatology. In the book, the apostle John sees many visions given to him by God. These visions are highly stylized and symbolic, making them incredibly difficult to interpret throughout the years.
Christians know that there is going to be a second coming of Christ. We can see this from verses like Matthew 24:42: “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come”, John 14:3: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am”, and even Mark 8:38 which says, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels”.
The debate is not about whether Christ really will return, rather it is about what those times will look like. Will Christians be raptured away? Will there be a mark of the beast? What happens after the world is made new? These are all questions that eschatology is concerned with.
So, What is the Rapture?
The rapture is a theological concept that was popularized in the 1830’s by a man named John Nelson Darby. While Darby did not invent the view of dispensationalism and the rapture, he is the reason it gained so much popularity in the United States and would become adopted by many evangelical groups.
The rapture is concerned with the Christian life during the end-times. To be raptured would mean that God takes the Christian up into heaven in order to spare them the horrors seen during the end of days.
Despite its explosive popularity in most evangelical circles, rapture theology is based entirely on a single verse. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 says, “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so, we will be with the Lord forever”. Darby and others took this to mean that God would literally take people from the earth into heaven.
While many other denominations and churches would agree that one day all believers will be united with Christ, it is worth mentioning that this specific vision of the rapture is unique to evangelical circles. Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Reformed Protestants, and Lutherans would most likely all deny the notion of a dispensationalist rapture.
What is Dispensationalism?
Dispensationalism is the broader theology on which the rapture is based. It is a broad narrative interpretation that spans across the Bible and human history. Dispensationalism is the belief that history is divided into phases or dispensations of God. That God had very specific duties in mind for each of these phases, and that each phase has a focus.
These dispensations may vary widely from Christian to Christian, ranging anywhere from three to eight dispensations. But all would state that God has put out phases in which humanity is supposed to steward and grow. The last phase in dispensationalism is always the one-thousand-year reign of Christ.
An average seven-phase dispensation would look something like:
- From Adam to the Fall
- From the Fall to the Flood
- From the Flood to the Tower of Babel
- From Abraham to Moses
- From Moses to Jesus
- From Jesus to the Rapture (what we would currently be in)
- From the Rapture through the one-thousand-year reign of Christ.
Millennialism is the belief in the literal one-thousand-year reign of Christ. It comes entirely from Revelation 20:1-4:
“1 And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. 2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. 3 He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. 4 I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. Theyhad not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.”
Most the early church supported millennialism. While there were a few church fathers who disagreed with millennialism and offered alternatives, the Church never took an official stance at any ecumenical councils. Therefore, almost all Christian eschatological interpretations are permissible under current Orthodoxy. Today, Catholic teaching highly discourages millennialism.
Premillennialism would state that the coming of Christ has yet to occur. When it does occur, Christ will reign physically on earth before the final judgement.
Postmillennialism would state that Christs coming happens after the millennium and would be concurrent with the final judgement.
Amillennialism denies a literal one-thousand-year rain and would state that Jesus’ reign is figuratively through the church today.
Pre, Mid, and Post-tribulation?
The tribulation is a period of time where humanity will endure great hardship. People when talking about the rapture and tribulation are usually broken up into three camps:
- Pre-tribulation rapture states that Christians will be raptured into heaven before the start of the tribulation. That we will be safe from any and all disasters.
- Mid-tribulation rapture states that we will need to endure some or half of the tribulation, but that we will be raptured and spared the worst of it.
- Post-tribulation states that Christians will be forced to endure the entirety of the tribulation. People belonging to this camp believe that the rapture will happen after the tribulation so that Christians can help bring about the reign of Christ.
What do Pentecostals Believe?
Pentecostals tend to be premillennial dispensationalists. Therefore, if you were to ask a random Pentecostal on the street, they would probably tell you that they believe the final dispensation is coming, Christians will be raptured before the tribulation, and then Christ will physically reign on earth for one-thousand years.
If you are interested in learning about other Religions in the world, then check out this book on World’s Religions on Amazon.