Rapture. A term that seems to elicit any number of responses ranging from wholehearted acceptance and anticipation to adamant pronouncements of all who believe in it being heretical and unsaved. Some say that the Bible is filled with passages alluding to the rapture, and others say it is a new idea that surfaced in the 1800’s, even arguing that the word “rapture” isn’t even in the Bible. Of those who do believe in a rapture there are three different views surrounding it’s timing, some saying it is pre-tribulation, others mid-tribulation, and still others post-tribulation. What do you believe? And, do you know why you believe what you do?
It is true that the word “rapture” is not found in most English Bibles, but on the other hand neither is “trinity” or “millennium”, terms that are generally accepted as doctrinally sound. The word rapture comes from the Latin word, “rapturo”, which is used to translate the Greek word “harpazo” found in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. The Greek word “harpazo” means to seize, to snatch up, or to take away by force, either spiritually or physically. In the context of 1 Thessalonians 4:17, and the corresponding scripture in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, it is clear that “harpazo” is being used in the context of a physical, bodily removal of the followers of Christ. There are some who try to say that what the Apostle Paul is referring to in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 is a spiritual, euphoric type of experience, but a closer look at the text would indicate it is actually a literal, physical, bodily removal yet to be experienced.
Some argue that there is no Biblical precedence alluding to the rapture, especially in the Old Testament, but this is not true. Understanding where the word rapture comes from, how that it is a Latin translation of the Greek word “harpazo”, and what “harpazo” literally means, we can see examples of this with Enoch who was translated into Heaven (Genesis 5:21-24; Hebrews 11:5), Elijah who was caught up in a whirlwind taking him to Heaven (2 Kings 2:11-12), and in the New Testament Phillip being physically transported from one location to another (Acts 8:39-40). It is also believed by some that Moses’ ascent up Mount Sinai to meet with God has numerous parallels with, and is a picture of, the rapture. So, we can see from Scripture that, despite our lack of understanding regarding how it can happen, it is not only possible but has in fact happened to individual’s multiple times throughout the Bible.
But what about the fact that we don’t see any mention of it prior to the 1800’s, with the exception to what we see Scripturally? At the time Israel was not a nation, and as a result Scripture that pointed to a tribulation period, a millennium reign of Christ, and a rapture were discounted as anything but literal. That is until Israel became a nation, something that Jesus pointed to in Matthew 24:32-35. Now that Israel has become a nation, we can now see scripture being fulfilled in a very literal way, which also tells us to view Biblical end time prophecy as a literal fulfillment yet to come.
From what we’ve briefly covered so far, it is evident that the idea of the rapture is a Biblical truth. I’ve heard it said that the person who doesn’t believe in the rapture doesn’t really believe the Bible, and I think that is a pretty sound argument. But what about the timing of the rapture? When will it happen? As I mentioned earlier, there are three main views regarding the timing of the rapture. There are others, but for the most part they closely resemble one of the main three. Before we get into the different views, let’s take a quick look at a period of time these different views revolve around, and that is the tribulation period.
The tribulation period refers to the last of 70 weeks mentioned by the prophet Daniel in Daniel 9:24-27. In prophetic terms, a week is interpreted as a period of 7 years, and we can read more of what those last seven years will be like in the Book of Revelation. In Daniel 9:27, we are told that the tribulation period, the last of the 70 weeks, actually begins when the anti-Christ confirms a treaty with many, and it is believed by most scholars that Israel is the primary country this treaty is made with. This passage also tells us that in the middle of this period of time, 3 ½ years from its beginning, the anti-Christ will bring an end to sacrifices and offerings, which coincides with what we read in Revelation 13. The bulk of the Book of Revelation focuses on the events of this period of time, which is filled with judgments from God to an unbelieving and unrepentant people who are hostile towards God and His people. This period of time ends when Jesus returns to earth to defeat the anti-Christ and his prophet.
One of the views regarding the timing of the rapture is known as post-tribulation. This view suggests that the rapture of the church, the bride of Christ, happens at the conclusion of the tribulation period, possibly after the seventh trumpet sounds. The idea is that the church will have to endure much persecution and trials through this period of time, all in the process of making ourselves ready for Christ.
Another view is what is known as mid-tribulation. This view suggests that the rapture of the church takes place in the middle of the tribulation period, just prior to what we know as the great tribulation which takes place during the last 3 ½ years of the tribulation period. The idea is that the church will have to endure severe persecution the first 3 ½ years, but that it will be raptured up prior to God pouring out His wrath upon the inhabitants of earth at that time.
The last view that is popular among Christians regarding the rapture is what is known as the pre-tribulation rapture. This view suggests that the rapture of the church actually takes place prior to the start of the tribulation period. The idea is that Jesus will come back to spare His followers from having to go through the tribulation period, a time of severe persecution and testing.
Each of the above views use scripture to support their positions, and in some cases even the same scriptures from a different perspective. However, I believe that the argument in favor of a pre-tribulation rapture is much stronger than any of the other two views combined, and I will attempt to briefly explain why that is in subsequent blogs. No matter what one’s position is in regards to the timing of the rapture, the most important thing to remember is that we need to make sure we are ready when that time comes. Are you ready for what we read about in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18? If you are not ready to be caught up to meet Jesus in the clouds, this is the time to get ready. The first steps in getting ready to meet Him is to surrender one’s life to Jesus, to repent of and to turn away from all past and present sin, asking Jesus to forgive you of those sins. Your decision to give your life to Jesus cannot be a private decision, but instead it is vitally important that you make that decision known to others (Matthew 10:32-33), and your life needs to reflect that. Seek out a Bible believing and preaching church, read and study the Bible, pray, and seek out Godly friends.
John Johansson (Pastor John)