This article is not intended to be an in depth study of this particular End-Time event. Viewers are encouraged to do extra study on their own to enhance their understanding of End-Times. What is the rapture and when will it come? These two questions are being asked more and more in today's spiritual conversations.
The word rapture is from the Latin word which translates from the Greek word harpazo which means "to suddenly remove or snatch away." Other places the word is used is in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 when Paul has his "third heaven experience", and in Revelation 12:5 concerning Jesus ascension to heaven.(1)
The rapture is an event that some people believe is still to come. It involves all believers who have put their faith and trust in what Jesus did on the cross including His resurrection, and confess with their mouths that He is their Lord (Christians). It teaches that at some point all Christians will be miraculously removed from earth. They will be raptured or "caught up" in the sky with Jesus at the speed of the "twinkling of an eye." Since Jesus remains in the sky and doesn't come down to earth this event is NOT to be considered His second return to earth. That comes later.
The answer is "nobody knows." This is important to understand because while it doesn't help by giving you a prophetic date it does help by telling you what NOT to look for and who Not to listen to. Jesus Christ himself did not know the answer when this question was asked and no human knows the answer either. This information is reserved for the Father alone. If someone tells you they think they know when the rapture will occur they are in effect saying, even though Jesus didn't know, I know. Is this where you really want to get your spiritual advice? While there are clues to the timing of the coming tribulation period the rapture could come at any time.
When specifically asked about the timing of end time events Jesus responded with this answer.
No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father (Matthew 24:36).
It wasn't just a single end time event that Jesus was speaking about here but several end time events. While the date is not specifically given there are signs given as indicators of when things are near.
There is an interesting commentary that is popular with the End Time prophecy commentators. Jesus teaches us that this event will take place as in the days of Noah's Ark (Matthew 24:36-41). This means that right up until the rapture, most of the world will simply live in the way that it wants to. Since nothing needs to happen prophetically before the rapture can take place and it will come as in the days of Noah then it may come when we least expect it.
Sometimes you may here someone say that "the way things are going, we may be raptured sooner than you think." That's because some Christians seem to think that conditions on earth have to get bad enough for the rapture to happen. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Rapture has no preconditions to it. It can happen at any moment. Conditions do not have to get bad enough for the Rapture to occur. This includes whenever Israel goes to war or whatever conditions may be prevailing in the Middle East. In fact, a hint we have regarding conditions on earth and the Rapture are found in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24:36-41). In these passages, the Rapture occurs when conditions on earth are pretty much normal. People are going about their daily affairs. Not too many disasters. Not too much prosperity. In other words, when you least expect it.(2)
I Thessalonians 4:15-18 helps to support this idea with scripture:
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18).
This verse teaches us that the rapture involves both those believers already dead (sleeping) going first in the rapture: For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
It also involves those currently alive who are raptured immediately after them: Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
1 Thessalonians 1:10 ...Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come. Here Paul states that Jesus is rescuing believers out of the wrath to come. The idea is not emergence out of, but rather protection from entrance into divine wrath.(1)
Not everyone who is a believer in Jesus embraces the idea of there being an end time rapture. Some churches teach it and some don't. Some very educated respected bible teachers and preachers have different opinions on this subject. Because it is an eschatological (future study of end times) event it is understandable that there is a difference of interpretation and opinion. We have that already occurring with historical events. It's also important to understand that this issue should not be a dividing issue for the body of Christ. If you Christian brother or sister doesn't see it the way you do, respect that.
Taking a position on the rapture doesn't effect ones standing before God. It only gives a different viewpoint on what is still to come, not on what Jesus did for us on the cross. If anything, God welcomes the different opinions because with them should come a striving to know the truth which should include a closer examination of God's word which He loves. Of course there is a truth behind all this and seeking God's truth is always the right thing to do. Pray for wisdom, understanding and discretion concerning end time revelation and let God take it from there.
There are events similar to the rapture that have occurred in the Old Testament. Consider these two. The first one happened to Enoch. "And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him" (Gen. 5:24).
The second happened to Elijah and had a witness (Elisha) "Then it came about as they were going along and talking, that behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven." (2 Kings 2:11)
Since God allowed these two men to go to heaven without physical death, we can know that this could occur in our generation also.
Although there are many Christians who believe in a rapture event there is a difference of opinion when this rapture will occur concerning its relationship to the tribulation period. There are at least three different viewpoint here, the Pre-Tribulation view, Mid-Tribulation view and the Post-Tribulation view. Both the Mid-Trib. and Post-Trib. views imply the church will go through at least part of the tribulation period. The Pre-Trib view implies the rapture will take place before the tribulation period begins. The Pre-Trib is the primary view point being looked at in this article.
Many Christians have an understanding that the seven year tribulation period will be the most terrible time ever in human history. It is hard for some of these people to believe that God would allow his bride , the church, to go through this event. Therefore they believe the church will be removed or raptured before it begins.
One popular support theory relies on what the scripture doesn't say, its silence. Consider what popular prophecy teachers Tim LaHaye and Richard Mayhue teach concerning scriptural support.
"The common New Testament term for church (Greek, ekklesia) is used 19 times in Revelation 1-3, which deals with the historical church of the first century. However, Revelation uses church once more-at the very end (22:16), where John returns to addressing the first-century church. Most interesting is the fact that nowhere during the Tribulation period is the term church used in reference to believers on earth.
John's shift from his detailed instructions for the church to his absolute silence about the church for many chapters is remarkable and totally unexpected if in fact the church continued into the Tribulation. If the church were to experience the Tribulation (the 70th week of Daniel 9), then surely the most detailed study of Tribulation events would include instructions for the church. But it doesn't. The only explanation for this frequent mention of the church in Revelation 1-3 and total absence of the church on earth until Revelation 22:16 is a pre-tribulation rapture, which will relocate the church from earth to heaven prior to Tribulation."(1)
For more on a Pre-Tribulation Rapture viewpoint please read Nine Reasons For A Pre-Tribulation Rapture.
"Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.
Some Bible scholars teach that this verse from the Old Testament helps to support the idea that this rescue or escape refers to the rapture and embraces the Pre-Tribulation view.
"For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thessalonians 5:9).
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed -- in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).
Here the word mystery is interpreted by John MacArthur to mean "The apostle now reveals that Christians who are alive when the Lord returns will not have to die (sleep) in order for their bodies to be changed. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 as noted above explains what happens next.(3)
Here is a list of possible events that are to happen at the time of the rapture (Rapture-Events).
John MacArthur puts it this way. The marvelous truth that the Lord Jesus Christ will return to gather believers to Himself is based on three unshakable pillars.; the death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ and the revelation of Christ.(4)
John MacArthur also points out that the Thessalonians feared that the day of the Lord had come. Paul's letter to them (2 Thess. 2:15) indicates that Paul had taught them that the rapture of the church pre-cedes the final wrath of God, including the tribulation and the day of the Lord. If he had taught them they were to go through those judgment periods, they would have been rejoicing because being in them would have meant that the Lord's coming was near. Clearly Paul taught them that they would be taken up before those times, thus their confusion when they felt like they were in them.(5)
The rapture is sometimes referred to as "the blessed hope" (Titus 2:13). This is because we are to find comfort in knowing what is ahead for us and our loved ones who have died (fallen asleep) knowing Christ as their savior.
One of the greatest things about the rapture is it allows us to live a life of anticipating the return of Jesus. We should not be preoccupied with setting dates or become irresponsible while we are waiting. We should find ourselves actively engaged in service for His honor and His glory in His kingdom.
Jesus himself became the first rapture of the New Testament when He ascended into heaven. He was "the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:20).
If you are thinking that the Pre-Trib rapture view is something new consider this. Ultimately, biblical truth must be determined by the clear teaching of scripture, not how that teaching has been perceived throughout history.
The word "rapture" is not in the bible. Is is used as the equivalent of being "caught up" from earth, to in the sky, with Christ.
The metaphor of a thief coming is never used to refer to the Rapture of the church. It describes the coming of the Lord in judgment at the end of the thousand-year kingdom of Christ on earth (2 Peter 3:10). A thief coming is not a hopeful, joyful event of deliverance, but an unexpected calamity.(6)
JewishRoots.Net pages related to the Rapture include:
Other recommended pages include:
1). The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy (Tim Lahaye and Ed Hindson). p. 309-320.
2). HaDavar Messianic Ministries, Sept. 2006 Newsletter. (HaDavar.org).
3). The MacArthur New Testament Commentary on 1 Corinthians p. 443.
4). The MacArthur New Testament Commentary 1&2 Thessalonians p.127.
5). The MacArthur New Testament Commentary 1&2 Thessalonians p.268.
6). The MacArthur New Testament Commentary 1&2 Thessalonians p.143-146.