Many people wonder about the rapture. Is it real? When will it happen? Perhaps you’ve heard someone say that the word “rapture” isn’t even in the Bible, so why does it get talked about? Or maybe your pastor hasn’t talked about the rapture at all, and you’re wondering what I am on about here. Well, the rapture of the church is a big deal and it’s probably closer than we think so it seems worth exploring a bit. So the goal of this blog is a cursory discussion on the topic.
In a nutshell, the rapture is when Jesus comes for his church. The Apostle Paul described it this way: “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.” (1 Corinthians 15:52) No one knows the exact date or hour this will happen, but it will happen suddenly, in a moment, and it will happen quickly, in the blink of an eye. First the Christians who have died are raised, then we Christians still living are transformed.
As I mentioned, we do not know exactly when this happens, but we are correct to surmise that it occurs just before the seven year tribulation period. We can confidently come to this conclusion when we analyze the Biblical text as a whole and, in so doing, we see a promise that believers will be protected from the “time of testing” as in Revelation 3:10: “Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world.” Further, verses such as John 14:3 and Thessalonians 4:16-18 clearly do not include judgement as is found in other verses (ie: Matthew 13:34-50 and Revelation 19:11-21) about Christ’s second coming. From this we conclude the rapture is “pre-tribulation”.
But is the word “rapture” even in the Bible? Well, the word “Bible” isn’t even in the Bible, so maybe this question is more of a distraction than a legitimate inquiry. Still, the word we find in Scripture is “harpazō” which is a Greek word meaning “to snatch or catch away”. According to Vine’s expository dictionary this word conveys the idea of force suddenly exercised. It is used in several places, including Acts 8:39 in reference to Philip being “snatched away” by the Spirit of the Lord and in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 in reference to Paul being “caught up” to the third heaven. So we can dispel the argument that “rapture” is not in the Bible, for it is simply our modern word for harpazō.
The Bible tells us that “All Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3:16) so because the rapture is clearly mentioned in the Bible we know it is real. Philip was raptured to God in Acts 8:39; the Apostle Paul was raptured to the third heaven, and Christians fortunate enough to be living at the right time will one day be raptured to God without ever experiencing death. We, as followers of Jesus Christ, should find this very exciting! Paul wrote to those on Thessalonica: “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 believers 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.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18)
So we should find the coming rapture very encouraging and we can encourage one another by discussing and acknowledging the coming rapture as our blessed hope. Space does not allow me to discuss in great depth the reasons we have to believe the rapture is closer than ever, perhaps even likely in our lifetimes (depending on how old you are now), but one “super sign” happened when Israel became a nation again in 1948. As Jesus shared in Matthew 24:32-34: “Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things, you can know his return is very near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene until all these things take place.”
Mark 13:32 tells us “…no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.” So we do not set dates or make specific predictions, but when we do see the signs we have every reason to be hopeful, and if you watch closely, you will see the signs!
For further reading on the subject, I’m happy to recommend these resources:
Don Stewart: Educating Our World
Let us now eagerly await our blessed hope: “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.” (Philippians 3:20-21)
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