I have been wanting to write about the rapture for a few years, but have not felt the okay from the Spirit until now.  So I am a little excited about this post 🙂

I was raised in the Baptist church, and the idea that there were those in the church who did not believe there will one day be a rapture was a bit of a surprise to me.  When I went off to a Christian college, and sat through a theology class where they told us that their denomination didn’t believe in a rapture of the church because it is only found in one verse in the Bible, I was dumbfounded.  My thought was then, and still is, “So it is okay to say that an idea in the Bible is not true because there is only one verse.”  That is a very slippery slope no Christian should set foot upon.  NEVER disqualify ANY Scripture, EVER.  When you do, you disqualify the very Word of God.  Remember that ALL SCRIPTURE IS INSPIRED BY GOD (2 Timothy 3:16).  But enough of that soap box.

I want to go back to the base argument that the rapture is only mentioned once, because that is also an erroneous statement.  I will go through a number of those passages shortly.

The first thing I want to do is explain the word itself.  Rapture comes from the Latin word rapio.  The same word in Greek is harpazo.  According to Wikipedia’s definition of the word, it means to catch up or take away.  Thayer’s Greek Lexicon expands on that definition for the word harpazo:  to seize, carry off by force; to seize on, claim for one’s self eagerly; to snatch out or away.  And Strong’s defines harpazo as: to seize, catch away/up, pluck, pull, take by force.  Now lets look at some of the passages where it is seen.

Acts 8:39 (NKJV) – “Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Phillip away, so that the eunich saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.”

Matthew 13:19 (NKJV) – “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart.  This is he who received seed by the wayside.”

John 6:15 (NKJV) – “Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.”

John 10:12 (NKJV) – “But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches  the sheep and scatters them.”

Acts 23:10 (NKJV) – “Now when there arose a great dissension, the commander, fearing lest Paul might be pulled to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him by force from among them, and bring him into the barracks.”

2 Corinthians 12:3-4 (NKJV) – “And I know such a man–whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows–how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.”

Here’s a favorite one.  John 10:28-29 (NKJV) – “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out  of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all and no one is able to snatch them out  of My Father’s hand.”

As you can see from these passages, the word harpazo is used several times in the Bible, and is used in varying contexts, some spiritual, some physical, some good, some bad.  The point is that it is not a word that is used only once.

I’m sure you noticed that I didn’t list any verses using harpazo in reference to the church body.  Well of course I saved the best for last 🙂  Let’s take a look at Scripture passages that do talk about the rapture, harpazo, taking up of the Church.  Not all of them have the exact word in them, but all point to the same event.

Generally the first passage referred to regarding the rapture is 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17.  We will look at that one, but I want to go back further in the history of the New Testament first.

I’d like to start by looking at where the Church will go when Yeshua (the Hebrew name of Jesus) raptures it.  Look at John 14:2-3 (NKJV) – “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myselfthat where I am, there you may be also.

One of the arguments I have heard against the rapture of the Church is this:  why would He come back part way from heaven, only to go back again.  I have also heard that because there is no rapture, this verse then must mean that Jesus will gather us to meet Him, and then we will go directly to reigning with Him during the millenium, or thousand year reign, on earth.

In order to truly understand the meaning of this passage, one must understand Jewish custom.  In these verses, Yeshua, who was speaking to His Jewish disciples, was making reference to a wedding ceremony.  Jesus often referred to His followers as His bride.  This is the context in which we must read these words.  Jewish weddings happened in 2 stages.  In the first stage, the bride would be betrothed, or would commit herself to marrying the groom.  After the betrothal, both would go back to their respective father’s homes.  The bride would prepare her wedding attire, and the groom would pay the bride price (Yeshua’s death on the cross), and  prepare a place for her, a home where they would live together.  When the home was completed, the groom would go to the bride’s father’s home, physically pick up the bride, who didn’t know when he was coming, and carry her to his father’s home where they would consummate the marriage and celebrate the wedding feast, which lasted 7 days.  Jesus’s disciples understood this analogy when He spoke it to them.  He was going to prepare a place for us, and then come to take us to be with Him there.

How do we know that this place that Jesus is preparing for us is in heaven, and not on earth?  First of all, because we know where Jesus went after His death and resurrection.  Acts 1:9 says – “Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.”  Oh!  Did you catch that harpazo?  Luke 24:51 says – “Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven.”  So the bride will be taken up/snached up/carried away by the groom to the home that He has prepared for us in heaven.

It should also be noted that, aside from the home that Messiah is presently making for us in heaven, there is also reference to the Church’s presence in heaven during the time of Great Tribulation in Revelation 19:6-8 which says – “And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, ‘Alleluia!  For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!  Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.’  And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”

After the marriage of the Lamb, Yeshua will return to earth to set up His kingdom, and the armies in heaven will be with Him.  Who are the armies?  The saints, His bride.  Look at the words.  Revelation 19:11-15a – “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse.  And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.  His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns.  He had a name written that no one knew except Himself.  He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.  And the armies of heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.  Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations.  And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron.”  (A long passage to point to one line, but I couldn’t leave out the impressive description of Yeshua.)  See the words used to describe the armies of heaven.  They are clothed in fine linen, white and clean.  These are the same words used to describe the bride of the Lamb just a few verses earlier (arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright).

Now let’s look at how the Church will get to heaven.  I want to go back to Acts 1.  The disciples had just witnessed Yeshua being raptured up to heaven and are standing there gawking up at the sky when two angels appear and say to them (vs 11), “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven?  This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”  This is the same thing we see in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, and I quote it here from the New King James Version.  “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.”

Another reference to this passage is found in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.  1 Corinthians 15:50-53 – “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does corruption inherit incorruption.  Behold, I tell you a mystery:  We will 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 incorruptable, and we shall be changed.  For this corruptable must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”  In 1 Thessalonians Paul tells believers that we will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air.  Here in 1 Corinthians, he expands on that by telling us that our bodies will be changed at that time from corruptable, mortal bodies to incorruptable, immortal bodies since the former cannot inherit, live in, heaven.

If we are to take the Bible as God’s Word, full of His truth, we must look at these passages and agree that the Church will be raptured, taken up, caught up, snatched away to heaven, by the groom to the place He is preparing for His bride, where we will celebrate the wedding feast of the Lamb, and from where we will return, clothed in fine linen, riding on white horses, to be with Yeshua when He sets up His reign on earth after the Great Tribulation.

This has been a very full post, but I want to address the when of the rapture because Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians to “comfort one another with these words.”  But what comfort is there if the rapture comes after the Great Tribulation and we must all live through it?  So let’s look at a couple of things with this in mind.

First, if the rapture happened at the end of the Tribulation, we would go to heaven, then turn around and come right back down for the millenial kingdom.  What then would the purpose be of the home that Yeshua is making for us?  And when would we celebrate the wedding feast of the Lamb?  Remember, too, that the time that the bride is at the place prepared for her at the groom’s father’s house is a week, 7 days celebrating the marriage feast.  The Great Tribulation is 7 years.  The analogy is not coincidental.  Since the bride did not arrive half way through the wedding feast, but at the beginning, it can also be understood that the Church will be raptured at the beginning of the 7 years’ of tribulation.

Let’s quickly look at some other passages that help to give us the hope and assurance of the rapture and the deliverance from the Great Tribulation.

Go all the way back to Deuteronomy where Moses prophesies much about the future of Israel.  In chapter 32:21 God says this – “They [Israel] have provoked Me to jealousy by what is not God; they have moved Me to anger by their foolish idols.  But I will provoke them to jealousy by those who are not a nation; I will move them to anger by a foolish nation.”  The foolish nation, and those who are not a nation are the Gentiles, to whom God would bring salvation after the Judean leadership rejected Jesus.  Paul also quotes this in Romans 10:19.  What would provoke Israel to jealousy for God?  I’ll tell you.

Just yesterday I was reading comments on a Facebook post about a Jewish man who had become a follower of Messiah.  He commented time and again about how Judaism was just a show.  That the actions the people took, the feasts and holidays were in appearance only, not acts of the heart, and not a lifestyle.  A very traditional, and obviously orthodox Jewish woman, argued in multiple strains of conversation.  Her perspective as a Jewish person in DNA and in faith is that God is the only god (she is right), and that salvation is for the Jews only.  Worship of Yeshua is idolatry in her mind.  What would make this woman, and the whole  nation of Israel so jealous of God that they are driven to anger?  Obviously not the Christian faith, or the followers of Yeshua.  What would cause the nation of Israel to become so jealous that they would turn their hearts once again to true worship of God?  What do you suppose is going to be Israel’s reaction when millions of people around the world disappear, and they begin to realize that the people who disappeared are the Christian Church?  Won’t they react like the brother of the prodigal son?  I was here all this time, yet You throw a feast for this one?

God also promises to keep us from the time of trouble.  That would be a reference to Jacob’s Trouble (Jeremiah 30:7), and the Last Days which Jesus taught about in Matthew 24, one and the same.  In 1 Thessalonians 1:10 Paul says, “and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”  And again in chapter 5, verse 10 – “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

A very telling verse is in Revelation among the letters to the 7 churches.  To be fully understood, however, the reader must recognize that these letters have a 3-fold purpose.  The first was as letters to the actual churches addressing their current state.  The second is as letters to individual Christians to help examine their faith.  The third is prophetic covering the entire Church Age with the first letter going to the earliest church as a whole, and the seventh going to the final church body.  The 6th letter is addressed to the Church in Philadelphia, and says this in chapter 3:10 – “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.”

This then is the hope that Paul speaks of.  Will we go through tribulation?  Absolutely.  Jesus said we would.  And we do.  We are.  Look around you.  We suffer pain, sickness, death.  Christians all over the world deal with persecution in very wide variances of degrees, from facing mockery to facing death.  But this is nothing compared to the tribulation that is coming during the time of God’s wrath when He punishes the world for rejecting Him and His Son.  That is the time that Jesus talks about preceding His return, the 2nd coming of Christ, which will result in the establishment of His earthly kingdom.  Recall from 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15 that the rapture will happen in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.  It will be lightening fast.  But the Bible says about the 2nd coming of Jesus that all the people of the world will look up and see Him coming and they will mourn.  Matthew 24:30 – “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the land will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”  Yeshua doesn’t say that they will look up and bam, He is there.  He says they will see Him coming.  Coming is an ongoing action, not an instantaneous happening.  They will see Him and they will mourn.  I guarantee you that mourning won’t be a flash in the pan either.  Especially since this is where we pick up with Revelation 19 again.  Recall that description of Jesus?  Eyes like fire, crowned with many crowns, robe dipped in blood, and followed by the saints wearing fine linen.  If you pick it up there, verses 15-17, you see that He comes to judge the world.  “Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations.  And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron.  He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.  And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:  KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”

At the time of the rapture, Jesus comes to take His church out of this world.  God then sends judgement on all the nations of the world who rejected Him.  This is known as the Last Days, and as the Time of Jacob’s Trouble because the entire world will eventually turn against Israel.  Israel will scatter, many fleeing to Jordan.  The antichrist will seek to completely wipe out all of Israel during this time, but God will preserve a remnant.  And then…”Then I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication, when they will look toward Me whom they pierced.  They will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only son and grieve bitterly for Him, as one grieves for a firstborn.”  Zachariah 12:10.  That is the second coming of Christ, when all that remains of Israel will be saved, not just physically, but spiritually when they finally realize that Yeshua is their long-awaited Messiah.

Our salvation does not depend on whether or not we believe there will be a rapture of the Church, or when we think it will take place.  Some may question then why I take the time to write about it and discuss it.  I do it for this reason:  “Therefore comfort one another with these words.”