RAPTURE! (What, Why, When, Who & How)
WHAT is the Rapture?
On a scale of 1-10, where do you think your knowledge of the Rapture falls? With 1 representing virtually no knowledge, except maybe hearing the word once or twice. Or some might select 10, meaning they know, or think they know, everything there is to know about this mysterious, but spectacular event that could happen any day, even while you’re reading this article! Wherever you fall on the scale, by the time we finish the five articles on the Rapture, I’m hoping that your number will increase exponentially … the lower the number, the more room for moving up the ladder. So, let’s start moving!
Where in the Bible do we find the term, Rapture? We don’t, so you can stop searching for the word in Scripture (seriously, I would encourage all followers of this blog to, whenever possible, read the blog articles with a Bible by your side). Are you surprised that such a Biblically oriented word, one that has been heard or spoken by many Christians and non-Christians alike, isn’t even in the Bible?
Well, you don’t need to be so flabbergasted (is there any sillier word in the English language than flabbergasted!) because the term, Rapture, is derived from a Latin word, raptus (to carry off or away), and the Bible was not written in Latin. Rather, the original language of the Old Testament is Hebrew and the original New Testament was written in Greek. Although the English word itself is not found in the pages of Scripture, the concept and truth of it certainly is. In fact the Apostle Paul attributes this amazing disclosure as coming from the Lord Jesus, himself, as found in I Thessalonians 4:15, “We tell you this directly from the Lord…”
The Greek word translated “caught up” found in the following passage is harpazo, which literally means to seize or snatch away (quickly). “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words” (I Thessalonians 4: 16-18, italics to emphasize the Greek word, harpazo).
Yet the English word “Rapture” is entirely appropriate as a one-word description of the remarkable prophetic proclamations found in I Thessalonians 4 and I Corinthians 15. Remember, the word Rapture is not a direct translation of the Greek word, although it is a very close transliteration of the Latin word; rather it is a substitute or alternative or expanded way to describe emotionally or spiritually what is taking place. One of the definitions for rapture found in Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary is, “a mystical experience in which the spirit is exalted to a knowledge of divine things,” and a companion definition is, “an expression or manifestation of ecstasy or passion.”
Thus, we have a captivating combination of the original Latin and Greek words, which is accurately rendered “caught up” in most English translations of the Bible. These words convey the dynamics of the actual time/space sequence involved in this literal transfiguration of the Christian’s physical body, with the spiritual joy, emotional bliss, and mental delight in what is taking place. Those who have accepted Christ as their personal Savior (both the dead and the living), will experience the highest degree of spiritual and physical euphoria possible, as we will be instantly changed and then transported to heaven, there to be with our Lord and King forever. As the sayings go, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” And, “What a way to go!”
Two Separate Events:
Time/space in this blog or even in the following four weekly articles on the Rapture, does not permit an in-depth study concerning three different views of when (not date/time; rather in proximity to the Great Tribulation) the Rapture will occur, i.e. Pre-tribulation, Mid-tribulation, or Post-tribulation Rapture of believers. Plus, numerous books and articles have been written about these three interpretations. By far, the heaviest weight and proper application of Biblical passages support a Pre-Tribulation catching up of believers (which is my position); but it’s not theological suicide nor total irresponsibility to hold onto the other two opinions.
We do, however, need to understand that there are two distinct events that comprise what is commonly called, “The Second Coming of Christ,” or, “The Day of the Lord.” And, to know with utmost certainty that His Second Advent (arrival) is every bit as certain as his First Appearance on the earth. The Bible is full of forecasts for both advents. Because the dozens of Old Testament prophecies about his birth, life, death, burial, and resurrection came to pass in the first century, we can be just as sure that the hundreds of predictions (both Old and New Testament) of Messiah’s return will come to pass … hopefully, in the very near future!
The Bible contains meticulous details of people, places, dates and events. Moreover, secular historical records as well as archeological discoveries demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt that what the God of the Bible (the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) says he will do, he does. What he says will happen … happens. This is no less true for the Rapture (Part I or the first phase of the Second Coming) and the actual Glorious Appearing of Christ on the earth itself (Part II of the Second Coming). Many, including some Christians, confuse or combine these two specific, but separate events.
Scripture presents some dynamic details, sequence, and results of the Rapture contrasted to many other Biblical passages that describe Messiah’s majestic physical return to the earth; thus, affirming that there are two events. A generalized sketch of these verses is accurately summarized by Bible teachers/scholars as follows: In the Rapture, Jesus will come (in the clouds/air) for his followers. In his physical return to earth at the end of the Great Tribulation, Jesus will actually return with the believers. I will refer to only one of these passages to help us grasp the significance that there are two distinct occurrences (separated by several years of actual time) that constitute the “Second Coming of Jesus Christ.”
A Fascinating Illustration by Jesus, Himself:
“That night two people will be asleep in one bed; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be grinding flour together at the mill; one will be taken, the other left” (Luke 17: 34-35). There are no better words or means to relay exactly what will transpire at the Rapture than these words from Jesus. The Lord’s explanation of this glorious event is in marked contrast to his physical return to the Mount of Olives when he majestically steps foot again on the earth, as explicitly described in many Old and New Testament passages.
Again, to repeat for emphasis: Both events will be totally amazing, but they are, and will remain, separate … one from the other. At the bodily return of Christ, no one is “taken” from the earth; rather, the Bible announces that Jesus will return to rescue Israel from annihilation, to complete the destruction of the nations/armies aligned against Christ, including capture of the Antichrist, and to prevent what would otherwise result in an apocalyptic extinction of the human race (see Matthew 24:22); then to establish his Kingdom of righteousness, justice and peace on the earth.
Taken or Left Behind:
In these two examples from Jesus, the one (those) taken in the Rapture is a precise parallel to what happened at Noah’s flood and when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. That is, respectively, Noah and Lot and their families were taken out of harm’s way before God unleashed his judgment on those left behind. Also, as Enoch was taken directly to heaven (without dying) prior to the Great Flood; so it will be with believers alive at the Rapture. They will be removed from the earth, as Scripture is clear that true Christians are not destined to go through the Great Tribulation … the final outpouring of God’s wrath on the earth.
The actual illustrations that Jesus used are very intriguing. For instance, he says, “That night two people….” Then the following scene is that of two woman working at a mill. This strongly implies that the Rapture will, indeed, be a world-wide event. Why? Many people will be taken at night, while others will be taken during the day–on the other side of the world, while they’re at work!
In the next article posted on 8-3-13, we’ll take a look at the WHY of the Rapture.
Things to Ponder:
– Is there anything else in Jesus’ examples found in Luke 17 (or Matthew 24:40-41) that might trigger a comment or question?
– Do you see the difference (two events) between the Rapture and the descent of Christ to the earth at the end of the Tribulation? If so, or not so, why?
– What do you think about the Rapture and/or what does it mean to you?