The Rapture: What, When, Who and Why?
 
By John Henry

August 16, 2004
 

 

SCRIPTURE TEXTS

"Behold, I shew 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 trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)

"But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words." (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

"Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain." (Isaiah 26:19-21)

WHAT IS THE RAPTURE?

Concisely put, the Rapture is the catching away to Heaven in the twinkling of an eye of all saved people of this Church Age by a mighty act of God, and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

The definition of the word Rapture:

The word "Rapture" is not found in the English Bible. It is derived from the Latin verb, "raptus." The words "shall be caught up" in our text come from the Greek word "harpazo" which is rendered "raptus" in the Latin Bible. "Harpazo" and "raptus" are found in 1st Thessalonians 4:17. Again 1st Thessalonians 4:16-17 says:

"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

"Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain." (Isaiah 26:19-21)

Harpazo is found 13 times in the Greek Bible and is variously translated "pull," "pluck," "take by force," "catch," "catch away" and "catch up." It literally mean "to seize" or "snatch away" as a thief might snatch away a purse from a woman.

WHEN WILL THE RAPTURE OCCUR?

The Word of God says, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and hour knoweth no man. ... Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh." (Matthew 24:35-36, 40-44; cf. Luke 12:37-40; 1 Thess. 5:1-5)

No one knows when the Rapture will occur. However, there are a number of signs that will be prevalent as the time draws near. Among these signs will be:
1) The Nation of Israel will be back in the Land (Matt. 24:32; cf. Hos. 9:10; Joel 1:6-7).
2) A simultaneous increase in false christs, wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes (Matt. 24:4-7).
3) Christian persecution (Matt. 24:9).
4) Iniquity will be abounding (Matt. 24:10-12; cf. 2 Tim. 3:1, 1 Tim. 4:1-2).
5) There will be gospel preaching "in all the world for a witness unto all nations" (Matt. 24:14).
6) Signs in the sun, moon and stars (Luke 21:11, 25-26).
7) The world will be saying, "peace and safety" (1 Thess. 5:3; cf. Matt. 24:36-39).
The Bible says, "All these are the beginning of sorrows. ... when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors." (Matthew 24:8, 33)

We also understand that the Rapture will take place prior to the Tribulation. Second Thessalonians 2 states:

"Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped. ... And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed ..." (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4, 6-8)

This passage has a number of important points for us to consider:

First, we see that it is referring to the Rapture in that it is talking about, "the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him."

Secondly, we understand that someone had been making the false claim that "the day of Christ" (the Tribulation) was "at hand" (present).

Third, "that day [the Tribulation] shall not come, except ... that man of sin [the Antichrist] be revealed." Antichrist will be "revealed" by brokering peace between Israel and Islamic nations (Daniel 9:27; cf. Rev. 6:1-2; Matt 24:15).

Forthly, we are able to discern that "he who now letteth" is the Holy Spirit who dwells in all believers, and that "what withholdeth" is the collective body of all Church Age believers.

Now let's move to the Book of Revelation to tie all this together. In Revelation 4:1 we have a picture of the Rapture at the end of the Church Age which is symbolize by the seven churches of Asia in chapters 2 and 3 (cf. Rev 1:19). Then after that in Revelation 6:2 the Antichrist is seen on "a white horse ... [going] forth conquering, and to conquer." It is therefore apparent that the Antichrist will not be revealed until after all believers, in whom the Holy Spirit dwells, are removed from the Earth. Revelation 4:1 says: "After this [After the Church Age; cf. Rev. 1:19 & Chaps. 2-3] I [John] looked, and, behold, a door [Jesus; cf. John 10:1-2, 7, 9] was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me [cf. 1 Cor. 15:51-52; 1 Thess 4:16-17]; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter [cf. Rev. 1:19]."

The Old Testament books of Zephaniah and Isaiah also speak of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture:

"Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired; 2 Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD come upon you, before the day of the LORDíS anger come upon you. 3 Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORDíS anger." (Zephaniah 2:1-3)

Another Old Testament saint, the Prophet Isaiah, also speaks of the rapture in these words:

"Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in. 3 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. ... 19 Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. 20 Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. 21 For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain." (Isaiah 26:2-3, 19-21)

These passages from Zephaniah and Isaiah both give the timing of the rapture as "... before the day of the LORDíS anger ..." (Zeph. 2:2; cf. Isa. 26:19-20), and the time "... to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity ..." (Isa. 26:21). Likewise, in the last verses of the previous chapter of Zephaniah it is clearly the Great Tribulation:

"The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. 15 That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, 16 A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers. 17 And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung. 18 Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORDíS wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land." (Zephaniah 1:14-18)

WHO WILL GO IN THE RAPTURE?

The "nation not desired" and "righteous nation" spoken of by Zephaniah and Isaiah above are none other than all the Church Age saints who have repented in the fear of the LORD and trusted in Jesus Christ and have been born again by the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Peter spoke of all the Church Age saints in these words:

"But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light." (1 Peter 2:9)

Every born again person since the establishment of the New Testament church till the time of the rapture will be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and caught up to meet the Lord in the air. That is to say all saved people of this Church Age will go in the Rapture.

The foundation of salvation is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our text says, "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him" (1 Thess 4:14). If one does not believe that Jesus died and rose again he will not go in the Rapture, and if he is alive when the Rapture occurs he will enter the Great Tribulation. On the other hand all that do believe that Jesus died and rose again, both the dead and the living, will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air.

1st Corinthians 15:51 says, "... We shall not all sleep, but we shall ALL be changed ..." The word "sleep" here means physically dead. When the Rapture occurs the believers that are still alive will be changed along with the dead in Christ and raptured with them to meet the Lord in the air.

Only Church Age believers will be Raptured. The reason we say that is this: The Tribulation is a continuation of the Old Testament Dispensation of Law (Dan 9:27). The Dispensation of Law ended and the Church Age began with the establishment of the New Testament Church by the Lord Jesus Christ. This New Testament Dispensation of Grace is like a "time out" between Old Testament times and Tribulation.

God through the Prophet Daniel described the end of the Tribulation and the beginning of the last dispensation, the Millennium, in these words:

"And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days. Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days. But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days." (Daniel 12:11-13; cf. Job 19:25-27)

This passage clearly states that Daniel, an Old Testament saint, will not be resurrected until after the Tribulation.

Likewise, Hebrews 11 speaking of Old Testament saints says:

"And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." (Hebrews 11:39-40)

There is only one way to be saved. Both Old and New Testament saints are saved by faith in the one and only Saviour, Jesus Christ. They looked forward to His coming while we look back to it. However, there is a dispensational difference in the timing of their resurrection and ours.

Church Age believers will be raptured to meet the Lord in the air, but Old Testament believers will be resurrected and see the Lord on the earth. Daniel will "stand in [his] lot at the end of the days" (Dan 12:11-13). "[Job knew] that [his] redeemer liveth, and that He [would] stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after [his] skin worms destroy [his] body, yet in [his] flesh [he will] see God." (Job 19:25-26)

WHY IS THE RAPTURE NECESSARY?

"Behold, I shew 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 trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 15:51-58)

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." (2 Corinthians 5:10)

"Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward." (2 John 8; cf. Rev 3:11)

"And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him. Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure." (1 John 2:28-3:3)

CONCLUSION

"Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: 7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) 8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. 9 Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. 11 Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences." (2 Corinthians 5:6-11)

"For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13 Every manís work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every manís work of what sort it is. 14 If any manís work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any manís work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)

"For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. 12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God." (Romans 14:11-12)


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Edited Sept. 8, 2017