The Rapture of the church is a major doctrine in ScriptureNow what does IMG mean by "major doctrine"? If the rapture is a major doctrine, then what is a minor doctrine? I would agree that using the terminology "major doctrine" should get someone in trouble. It is en vogue among evangelicals and fundamentalists to refer to a biblical teaching as a major doctrine. "Major doctrine" itself wasn't used before the twentieth century. I haven't found it. I would be surprised if you did. Now a discussion about whether a doctrine is major or minor has become major.
A doctrine itself today might not be major, while the doctrine of ranking doctrines as major or minor is major. It seems to be essential to qualify whether a doctrine is major or minor. You will struggle to find anything of the sort in history and I think it is forced to do so. If you read here much, you know I think that this is an attack on the truth. Truth itself has become bifurcated, this the bifurcation of truth that Nancy Pearcey writes about in her Total Truth. Truth has been marginalized by separating it from the rest of the truth -- this is not how God and the Bible function.
Rapture teaching is unique teaching for sure. Ecclesiology and eschatology were badly perverted by Roman Catholicism, the state church, and it wasn't reformed with the Protestants. They kept their state churches and their amillennial eschatology, systematized by covenant theology. Catholic doctrine arose from mixing the truth with pagan philosophy and allegorical interpretation to justify wrong practice. To vindicate political domination it invented amillennialism and then defended it with its own concocted system of interpretation.
Rapture doctrine proceeds from a plain reading of scripture. One attack is the lack of history. This is often the same attack on biblical church doctrine. Neither disappeared from history, but they are difficult to defend with history. You will read a lot of Roman Catholic eschatology and ecclesiology in history. By the way, you'll also have a hard time defending justification by faith with history. I'm pretty sure that people won't consider that a "minor doctrine."
A literal interpretation has been called premillennialism. A pretty good guide to determining a system of interpretation comes down to whether you think the millennium is 1000 years or not, when scripture says it is a thousand years. Good evidence for the 1000 year reign of Christ is that the Bible says the kingdom of Jesus Christ is 1000 years. Jesus returns before (previous to, "pre") the kingdom begins, since He sets up the kingdom and so He reigns for a thousand years. If you say that a thousand year kingdom isn't a thousand years, you aren't taking that literally.
In Acts 1:6, the disciples asked Jesus, "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" The disciples believed Jesus would restore the kingdom. He didn't argue with their belief. He just wouldn't tell them the timing of it (1:7). However, they were premillennialists. They expected Jesus would precede His kingdom.
Rapture teaching, like premillennialism, just comes from reading the Bible, and usually the rapture is a sub-category of premillennialism.
I see at least three explicit New Testament passages on the rapture: John 14:1-6, Philippians 3:14-21, and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Those three fit in with everything else that scripture teaches. They are congruous with everything else. They teach the rapture itself and they help make sense of, sort of fill in the gap for, other eschatological doctrine in the Bible. They answer questions one might have when he is considering everything scripture teaches about end times.
Certain phrases or statements in the above three passages on the rapture indicate something different than the second coming, such as: "shall rise," "caught up," "in the clouds," "meet the Lord in the air," "high calling of God in Christ Jesus," and "come again, and receive you unto myself." They describe being called up to meet the Lord in the air. Those fit nicely with what the angels said after Jesus' ascension in Acts 1:11:
Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.Revelation 1:7 says:
Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.It's difficult to speak for anyone who overlooked this through church history, but it would be better for us today to stop missing this teaching. It's there in the Bible. More could be said as to evidence for it.
It's hot today among evangelicals and fundamentalists to poo-poo the rapture. It's mocked by reformed types in part over the cheesy rapture films through the years. One blatant effort, I remember, was the N. D. Wilson parody, Right Behind. Wilson went on to produce or write his own cheesy movies ripe for satire.
Elijah went up in a chariot in a whirlwind. Jesus went up through the clouds. Paul was caught up into the third heaven. Isaiah while on earth saw the Lord high and lifted up on his throne. While on earth John saw a glorified Jesus in heaven and fell on his face before Him.
FOI and IMG and David Levy writing that the rapture was a major doctrine drew knee jerk commentary. Someone replied like an E. E. Cummings poem:
The Rapture is when we go upRetractions and dodges started. It's how really easy it is, what he wrote. No, I didn't mean the rapture wasn't major. I mean. Wait a minute. I meant.
The Second Coming is when He comes down
if you believe we will go up, you believe in the rapture
if you don't believe we will go up, you don't believe the Bible
I would agree that Levy should not have called the biblical teaching on the rapture a major doctrine. It is a doctrine. A doctrine. Unless every teaching is major, the rapture teaching isn't major.
I could be walking along the street and as I fly upward, except that it's the twinkling of an eye, I'm thinking very quickly, this isn't major. Major doctrines are something else besides being snatched out of this world into the presence of God. Everything about my life changes because of the truth of this event. It's not major.
The major-doctrine doctrine is what's minor. It's non existent, which is very minor. The first time I see "major doctrine" appear in history comes in 1911 on p. 350 of The Bulletin of the American Economic Association:
The Socialist party of America the lineage of which is more clearly German than English attaches importance to the materialistic interpretation of history and to the doctrine of the class war as, jointly, both indicating and justifying the only method by which, they say, socialism can be installed, namely, by the organization of those persons who do not possess property into a political party which acting independently of all other parties, will have as its sole aim the establishment of socialism. Their belief is that persons possessing property will inevitably, with exceptions so few as to be negligible, by their material interests be led to oppose socialism; while the non possessors, also with only few and negligible exceptions, must ultimately, when they understand the case, become class-conscious and approve socialism. This is not the time to discuss the validity of those beliefs, nor the correctness of that simple division of society into two classes.
I must point out however that this major doctrine of the Socialist political party in America--a doctrine to which applicants for party membership are usually asked to subscribe--has no place in any of the definitions of socialism which I have received.I don't find "major doctrine" used in a theological sense until 1930. I don't find it, but my not finding it says that it was at least not in use until at least the 1930s. How could that be major?
Today, if you want to attack a teaching of scripture, just call it a minor doctrine. The list of major is shrinking and the list of minor is growing, and the list of disappearing doctrines is even faster growing than the list of minors.