For the first five years of Eye of Prophecy blogsite, an article was published every Saturday.
Due in part to the increased mileage (some call it getting old … I prefer older!) on your administrator/author, I have found it necessary to throttle back a bit.
Nonetheless, as the Lord guides and provides, posts should continue periodically. Hopefully at least one each month … perhaps two.
This week’s post marks a milestone: the 7th anniversary (almost to the day) of the first Eye of Prophecy article published on 7-26-13. And what more fitting subject than the title of the first article: What is the Rapture?
Followed in August of that year by the Why, When, Who, and How of the Rapture. Of the 315 Eye of Prophecy posts to date, 50 are in the category of The Rapture. However, in this anniversary special, there will be only one sequel … Part II posted next week.
Other than the marvelous resurrection of Messiah Jesus some two thousand years ago, the Rapture will be the most extraordinary experience of human history—for those taken and for those left behind. Followed by one enormous episode after another over a period of seven years. Only to be eclipsed in magnitude by another stunning spectacle—the physical return of Jesus Christ to this earth.
There may not be any other Biblical prophecy that elicits such expectancy, while at the same time causes confusion with (some) Christians. Uncertainty that comes from misunderstanding some, most, or even all the essentials and dynamics of the Rapture. With the principal reason: inadequate consideration (scrutiny) and correlation (one with another) of the three powerful passages on the Rapture.
The term rapture equates to euphoria, ecstasy, excitement, exhilaration, and exultation. Good old-fashion joy. Rapture and its synonyms are nouns—which can be altered to adjectives, such as euphoric or exciting—that express our emotional state over an exceptional event.
But in Biblical prophecy (The) Rapture is also the event itself.
Some of the more neutral synonyms of confusion: misunderstanding, mix-up, mystification, and even mistakes. Regarding the Rapture, misperceptions are found among even the most sincere and astute Bible students, teachers, and scholars.
Is The Rapture an Essential or a Non-essential Tenet of the Christian Faith?
The answer: Both … I’ll explain.
A believer’s (correct or incorrect) view on any feature of the Rapture is not on the same level as truth/error over one of the essentials of the Christian faith. Such as found in the Apostle’s Creed. Or as summed up in the Apostle Paul’s magnificent Holy-Spirt inspired statement that salvation comes by faith (in Christ and his substitutionary death for our sins), not by works … Ephesians 2:8-9.
Good works are a result of redemption, not the means.
The Rapture events are neither the start nor the end of Biblical salvation, but rather the instrument to connect the remarkable beginning (born again … John Chapter 3) to the glorious end of our redemption (spiritual bodies equipped to live forever in heaven … I Corinthians Chapter 15).
Thus, it technically can be classified as a non-essential to the Christian faith. Notice I said “a” non-essential, as opposed to non-essential. There is a difference.
However, a crucial (essential) component of the Day of the Lord—Seven Year Tribulation; Physical Return of Jesus Christ; his Millennial Reign—is that the Rapture will take place BEFORE the Great Tribulation. What has been theologically classified as the Pre-Tribulation Rapture. With the opposing view (Mid-Tribulation or Post-Tribulation) a direct contradiction of one of the main reasons for the Rapture … protecting believers in Messiah Jesus from the Great Tribulation by removing them from harm’s way.
Putting it another way: Different views on the Rapture, including those that are incorrect, does not determine one’s eternal destiny. With, however, a clarified emphasis that non-essential (in general terms) does not mean that the essential (specific) features of the Rapture are insignificant or unnecessary to correctly comprehend and appreciate.
I am convinced that the Lord wants his people to be accurate regarding (especially the more prominent) Bible end-time events; to grasp the essentials of these prophecies. Of which the imminently pending Rapture is—in the opinion of many Bible teachers and students—the most significant for true believers in Messiah Jesus … Jew and Gentile alike. With the prophetically fulfilled 1948 rebirth and subsequent (soon-to-come) final restoration of Israel the most prominent prophecies concerning God’s plan (destiny) for Israel and the Jews
For several reasons, the Rapture will be a monumental milestone of human history; including the flashpoint catalyst to the seven-year treaty (Daniel 9) orchestrated by the Antichrist beast upon his reappearance from the Abyss (Revelation 17). Followed by the magnificent bodily return of Messiah Jesus to rescue Israel from utter defeat at the hands of Antichrist’s (Nero) ten-nation coalition. Which will include the final battle of Armageddon, in which this ten-kingdom alliance joins with their enemy (Kings of the East) to dare take on the King of all kings.
We believers will ride to victory with Christ during his final conquest of all that is evil (Revelation 17:14 & 19:11-21). Then Messiah Jesus will rule the Kingdom of God from Jerusalem, accompanied by believers reigning with him over all the earth (Revelation 20:4-6).
The seven essentials of the Rapture in this week’s and next week’s Eye of Prophecy article will be a condensed summary of a few previous articles that clarified, correlated, and/or corrected one or more features of the Rapture in depth.
The first three essentials will be presented in this week’s post. To examine misunderstandings including outright errors (made mostly by unbelievers or believers who have studied little about the Rapture) which have been rationally and responsibly refuted by several Bible commentators, including myself. The last four will be examined next week in Part II. Those that even mainstream Bible prophecy pundits have inexactly or insufficiently presented since Bible prophecy exploded on the scene in the 1960s.
In those four essentials, I have proposed an alternative application to the stunning Scriptural passages that deal specifically with how the Rapture will unfold … in what manner and approximate duration of time. Accordingly, whether those left behind will both see and hear what happens. And whether all children at/below the age of innocence will be taken in the Rapture.
Essential Number One: The Rapture Is Real
In the past few decades (especially since Y2K), we have seen and heard many unbelievers do precisely what the Apostle Peter said they would do during the end times. Just as bad, if not worse: the increasing apathy of some Christians concerning the last days—an indifference that rivals the mindset and (live-for-only-the-present) lifestyle of unbelievers.
“Most importantly (the Apostle Peter said it was/is important!), I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, ‘What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created’” (II Peter 3:3-4, parenthesis mine).
Denial or even disregard of the obvious (Rapture) may be the most puzzling, if not provocative inaccuracy of all.
This view held by some believers (especially those who are amillennial … who do not believe in the literal 1,000-year reign of Messiah Jesus on earth) is not only surprising.
It is inexplicable.
And then, what do they do with the extraordinarily clear Bible passages on the Rapture: (I Thessalonians Chapter 4; I Corinthians Chapter 15; Matthew Chapters 24-25; Luke Chapter 17)?
The defense of this denial most often used is that the passages are symbolic or “spiritual” rather than literal. But figurative of what? Or that the word Rapture is not found in the Bible. Please see Eye of Prophecy post: Biblical Terms Not In The Bible … Are They Biblical? (posted 3-10-18).
In a moment we will peruse these pivotal passages in their New Testament chronological order. With a reminder that there are Old Testament precedents that prophetically preview and parallel the Rapture. For instance: the whisking away of Enoch and Elijah to heaven without either man dying first. And the removal of Noah (and family) and Lot (and family) out of harm’s way before God poured out his judgment, globally, then regionally.
But first, an excerpt from the first Eye of Prophecy article ever posted: What is the Rapture? (In italics):
Where in the Bible do we find the term, Rapture? We don’t, so you can stop searching for the word in Scripture…. 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?
…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 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…”
*Note: A brief interruption of the excerpt with this observation: Not that the inspiration of Scripture from the Holy Spirit to the respective authors is insignificant. It is of utmost importance (II Timothy 3:16-17). Yet in similar fashion to the many times when God spoke directly to Old Testament prophets, Jesus himself disclosed this amazing prophetic truth “directly” to Paul. Which is another rock-solid confirmation that the Rapture will take place.
Back to the excerpt:
The Greek word translated “caught up” in the I Thessalonians 4 passage is harpazo, which literally means to seize or snatch away….
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!”
In 1st century chronological order of the disclosure, beginning with Jesus himself, we find three powerful purposes for the Rapture, as contained in the following three passages. Though close to, they are not technically (the same as) the seven essentials or features or characteristics of the Rapture covered in this and next week’s article. Rather, they are what can better be described as the dynamics of the Rapture. They are supernatural actions that literally separate believers from unbelievers: resurrection (from the grave); transformation (to immortal spiritual bodies); and transportation (to heaven).
The Phenomenon of Those Left Behind (A Warning): “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquests and parties and weddings right up to time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes. Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left” (Matthew 24:37-41).
Those prophetic words of Messiah Jesus are part of his lengthy explanation of signs and events of the last days. And are in the context of the exponential increase in natural disasters, false prophets and messiahs, persecution of Jews and Christians, rampant sin, before (birth pains) and especially during the Great Tribulation. Followed by his physical return to earth, “with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30). The flashpoint of which will be those who are taken (Rapture of believers) before God’s second and final judgment of the entire earth.
Those left behind will be “swept away” (in the Seal, Trumpet, & Bowl judgements).
Resurrection of Dead Believers & Catching Up of All Believers: “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).
In this preeminent Rapture passage the Apostle Paul discloses the astounding sequence of events, to include (by means of confirmation of the resurrection) dead believers first raised to life, then they and living believers “caught up” (literally rising together) in the clouds to meet the Lord.
Unless the Scriptural text is clearly and exclusively symbolic, or specifically interprets an image of something, or explains the imagery by such words as like, many scholars (including me) contend that the word or phrase or passage should be taken literally. For one thing it is far less confusing to understand the verse or verses literally. For another thing, a figurative interpretation could often have two or more meanings. Which one is correct?
This is particularly true when the Bible is conveying dynamic events … past, present, or future. Seldom is the action itself figurative. When it is, it’s presented as a simile. Such as: “He fought like a lion.”
Jesus said if anyone wanted to be his follower, he/she must “take up your cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). The cross in this case was figurative (a figure of speech). But it also could be and sometimes was/is literal … for the many who have been martyred for their faith in and obedience to Messiah Jesus.
(Depiction of Simon carrying the cross when Jesus could no longer carry it. A scene from 2004 movie, The Passion of the Christ)
On the other hand, when describing beings (human or angelic or even sometimes Messiah Jesus, e.g. sword coming from his mouth with the sword representing His Word) symbolism—particularly in prophecy—is sometimes utilized. Such as the Antichrist characterized as a beast (Revelation) or a little horn (Daniel). However, what the Antichrist beast does (action) is literal.
Then there are the plain crystal-clear metaphors, e.g. Jesus is “the bread of life.”
There is nothing (repeat for emphasis … “nothing”) in the I Thessalonians 4 passage or any other passage on the Rapture to suggest symbolism of any kind. On the contrary: the (Lord’s) descension from heaven, the shout, the voice of the angel, the trumpet call, dead believers rising from their grave, then they and living believers “caught up” to meet the Lord in the air; all are literal … as real as anything could be.
Transformation of Believers Bodies From Mortal to Immortal (Spiritual Bodies): “But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed” (I Corinthians 15:51-52).
This third dramatic dynamic of the Rapture also confirms that the dead in Christ will be raised.
However, in this passage, the Apostle Paul adds what he didn’t tell us in I Thessalonians 4: all believers—those raised and those alive at the Rapture—will be “transformed” to immortal or “spiritual bodies” (I Corinthians 15:40-46). And it will take place in an instant … blink of an eye.
In one of the four essentials in next week’s Part II article we’ll again see that it’s only the transfiguration itself that takes place in a nanosecond; with the entire sequence of the Rapture itself, beginning with Jesus’s descending in the clouds, covering several minutes.
*Note: A reminder before we continue with the remaining Rapture essentials. These Part I & Part II articles are but a summary of the Rapture features that are examined in much more detail through several prior Eye of Prophecy articles. In that regard, a composite list of the seven essentials will be summarized at the end of next week’s article. Just in case you wanted to print-out this “nutshell” list for future reference.
Also, a reminder that—with a modified exception (as close as it gets to doctrinally requiring a Pre-Tribulation Rapture) of the next essential, Number Two—the component features of the Rapture itself is something that should not separate true believers to the point of division. That for the following well-known paradigm (and only this paradigm or purpose) the Rapture would best fit into the non-essentials category:
To also remember that there are accurate (versus inaccurate) applications to Biblical prophecies.
That every prophecy is vital to the Christian faith, even if there is a difference of opinion over some prophecies.
However, there will be no “I told you so(s)” when we believers get to heaven in our new undefiled spiritual bodies!
Essential Number Two: The Rapture Precedes The Great Tribulation
As indicated, this feature of the Rapture is often referred to as the Pre-Tribulation Rapture. As opposed to the Rapture taking place at the end of the Tribulation or part way through it.
What makes this feature doctrinally essential to the Christian faith is the clear Scriptural evidence (fact) that believers are not subject to the end-times wrath of God which will be poured out it all its fury during the Great Tribulation. A primary purpose of the Rapture is to spare living believers from this terrible time of one colossal catastrophe after another. Jesus himself said: “For there will be greater anguish than at any time since the world began. In fact, unless that time of calamity is shortened, not a single person will survive. But it will be shortened for the sake of God’s chosen ones (Israel and the Jews)” (Matthew 24:21-22, parenthesis mine).
Immediately following the amazing passage on the Rapture in I Thessalonians 4, Paul continues the subject of the Day of the Lord (consisting of the Tribulation, then Millennial Reign of Christ to reverse all the terror and turmoil of the Great Tribulation) by warning of the disaster that will befall the unsaved … much like Jesus’s description that we just read.
Said Paul: “When people are saying, ‘Everything is peaceful and secure,’ then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape” (I Thessalonians 5:3).
Then just a few verses later while still on the same subject, Paul penned this pivotal and precious promise to affirm what could be argued as the main purpose of the Rapture, i.e. taking believers from the earth and sparing us from the Tribulation. “For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever” (I Thessalonians 5:9-10).
Moreover, the resurrection of dead believers and subsequent transformation of their bodies and the bodies of living believers into imperishable bodies is vitally necessary so that, “we can live with him forever.” In that regard, the transfiguration itself could be considered a secondary (albeit extraordinarily significant means-to-an-end) event to the “snatching away” from the earth aspect of the Rapture. For the express purpose of taking us out of harm’s way.
In fact, the Rapture is the trigger point; the catalyst from which the Tribulation will commence and continue for seven years.
Here is an excerpt from Eye of Prophecy article: Why the Rapture (A Revisit). Posted 11-5-16.
“For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us” (I Thessalonians 5:9). By virtue of this verse’s proximity to the Rapture verses in Chapter 4, it clearly puts it in the context of the soon-to-follow Great Tribulation; with both direct and indirect affirmation that believers will be spared from God’s final dispensing of justice on the wickedness of a world gone mad.
Thus, when Christians use the term, “saved,” we are not only referring to being saved from the justly deserved penalty of our sins which is eternal separation from God; but also for the generation alive at the time of the Rapture being “saved” or rescued from the unimaginable deceit, violence, death, and horror perpetrated by the Antichrist, followed rapidly by God’s justice directed to a very depraved, and rebellious world.
It will be the second, and final, time in history that God will effectively say, “Enough is enough.”
After thousands of years in which God has exercised great patience, it will be time for God to finally pour out his wrath on a corrupt world that has twisted the truth of the Gospel, has blatantly rejected Jesus as Savior and Messiah, has thumbed their noses at their Creator–the true and living God–and has yielded all their loyalty and worship to the Antichrist.
But thanks be to the love, grace, and mercy of God, he has chosen to spare the bride of Christ (believers) from this dreadful apocalypse….
For more detailed analysis, you might want to refer to the following Eye of Prophecy articles: The Rapture / Before or After The Great Tribulation? (posted 9-7-19); Will Believers Go Through The Great Tribulation? Part I & II (June 2019).
The next essential facet of the Rapture flows from Essential Number Two:
Essential Number Three: The Rapture & Physical Return of Christ Are Different Events
The following exceprt is from: Messiah’s Return & The Rapture (Same or Separate Events?) Posted 12-3-16:
Perhaps the biggest distinction between the Rapture and the Return of Messiah to the earth is found in the respective purpose they serve. Rapture is exclusively for the Church, the body of Christ, consisting of all Jews and Gentiles who have placed their faith in our Jewish Messiah, Jesus. The Second Coming of Christ to the earth is for the preliminary purpose of rescuing Israel from destruction and the Jews from annihilation at the hands of the Antichrist. In doing so, Jesus will destroy the armies of Antichrist; thereby, completing the wrath of God on a very wicked world.
Then, towards the end of that article:
The Rapture and the Return of Messiah Are not “Yo-Yo” Events
Although the Biblical evidence is conclusive, we can also rely on the common sense of it all. Or in reverse, the nonsensical notion of being caught up to meet the Lord in the clouds/air, only to immediately go back down to the earth with the Lord to dispense the final wrath of the Lamb at the final battle of Armageddon.
All phases of the Second Coming of Christ will take place in real time and space (place), not virtual time or reality. Among other things, how is it possible for the wedding feast with our Savior to take place before we return with Christ at the final battle of Armageddon, if we’re caught up to heaven at the same time Christ is coming down to the earth? Revelation is crystal clear that believers will celebrate the wedding feast with Messiah BEFORE Jesus returns to do battle at Armageddon.
Believers will not meet Christ going (up) and coming (down) all at once. That makes no sense at all. That would be like an elevator full of employees going up to meet their boss with the unmistakable understanding that he is waiting for them in the Penthouse Suite having prepared a great Christmas party for them. Only for the boss to change his mind after they arrive, and then take the elevator back down with all the guests to first “take care of business” below.
Praise and thanks to God … born again believers will sit out the tribulation! There will be seven years between our elevator rides!
As indicated: I and other Bible scholars/teachers have confirmed and defended these three essentials of the Rapture (especially #2). Scripture convincedly supports the Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church and a clear (7-year Tribulation) gap between the Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ when he sets foot on the Mount of Olives, from where he ascended to heaven some 2000 years ago.
Don’t miss next week’s final four features of the Rapture. They are those given as insight to me by the Lord for the purpose of correlating, clarifying, and perhaps even correcting a few of the details of what will (soon) be the most spectacular event in human history since the resurrection of Messiah Jesus from the grave.
Even if you have already read them in previous Eye of Prophecy articles, it will be a good review.
Things to Ponder
Although I infrequently provide an excerpt from a prior Eye of Prophecy article in the final Things to Ponder section of every post, it would be fitting to do so this week … given the 7th anniversary of this blog site and the topic.
From: The Tremendous Transfiguration of Believers (posted 7-23-16).
“Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light” (Matthew 17:1-2, NASB).
Normally I would have quoted the above passage from the New Living Translation; all Scriptural references in Eye of Prophecy articles are from the NLT, unless otherwise designated. In Matthew 17, the NLT uses the English word, transformed, which is the same word it uses in the I Corinthians 15 passage concerning the change of our earthly bodies to spiritual bodies at the Rapture. The reason I chose the NASB (which translates the Greek word to transfigured) is because that Greek word is different than the word, allesso, found in I Corinthians 15.
Although the meanings are substantially similar (transformation or transfiguration … both are accurate and appropriate), the Greek word used in the exceptional scene we just read is, metamorphoo. Which makes the saying, “It’s all Greek to me,” not entirely true! There are several Greek words that are nearly identical to their transliterated English counterpart. This is one of those words. So what is the English word? You’re right: It is metamorphosis.
Webster’s definition of metamorphosis: “change of physical form, structure, or substance (especially) by supernatural means; striking alteration in appearance, character, or circumstances.”
Which is why the English word, transfiguration, is the better description of the astounding change in Jesus’s appearance on what most Bible scholars refer to as the Mount of Transfiguration.
Transfiguration is defined by Webster’s Dictionary at two different levels. The first level is more closely akin to transform, which is: change in form or appearance. But the second (higher) level of transfiguration is defined as: “an exalting, glorifying, or spiritual change.” In fact, Webster’s cites the transfiguration of Christ as an example. As noted, both definitions for metamorphosis and transfigured directly attribute this kind of “striking, exalted, glorified” change to one that is supernatural … by (the power of) God.
Which is exactly what Jesus experienced on the Mount of Transfiguration. It was a preliminary divine demonstration that Jesus was fully God and fully man. It was also a stunning “preview of coming attractions.” The greatest of which was the resurrection of Messiah Jesus in a new glorified body; one that was exalted even above and beyond the human body he was born with. It was a spiritual, heavenly body that could never die.
Although our great God and Savior, Messiah Jesus, is far above us in every way (for all the reasons found in Scripture), God has promised born again believers that we, too, will someday be graciously given the same kind of eternal, indestructible body like Jesus has; whether we have died before Jesus returns or are still alive.
How great is that!
Yes, we will be transformed at the Rapture, but at the higher level of transfigured! Immediately after the transfiguration of our mortal earthly bodies to heavenly spiritual bodies, we will be “transported” directly to heaven. The change in our bodies and in our address and living quarters will involve a “transition.”
While we’re still in Webster’s Dictionary (at least I am), let’s also define, transition: “A passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another; a movement … from one form … to another; an abrupt change in energy state or level…”
I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for my transfiguration and transition!
And away we go!