“The Rapture” refers to a future moment when all living, born-again believers in Jesus Christ will be abruptly taken out of the world. There are several scripture passages that refer to this moment:
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. -- I Thessalonians 4:16-18 (NKJV)
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 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 Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. -- John 14:1-3 (NKJV)
The word rapture does not occur in English translations of the Bible, but the concept is clearly taught. Another word that does not occur in the Bible is trinity, but the concept of a triune God made up of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is also clear in scripture.
The English word rapture is translated from earlier Greek texts that use the word harpazo, or “to catch up” or “snatch away”. Latin texts use the word raptura, which means “to seize” or “carry off”. This is where we get the word rapture. The passage quoted above from I Thessalonians 4 uses the word harpazo in the Greek texts and is translated in English as “caught up”.
The book of Revelation describes a future seven-year period called the Tribulation. This is a time when God will pour out His wrath on the unbelieving world and on rebellious Israel. It will be the most terrible time in human history. Most Christians agree that the Rapture is going to happen very close to this period, but there is little agreement about the exact timing:
- Pre-Tribulation View - Christ will return to rapture believers out of the world before the beginning of the Tribulation. They will not endure God’s wrath poured out on unbelievers, or the persecution of the Anti-Christ.
- Post-Tribulation View - Christ will return at the end of the Tribulation period, just prior to the Second Coming, to rapture believers. They will have to endure the entire Tribulation.
- Mid-Tribulation & Pre-Wrath Views - Christ will return at an intermediate time during the seven-year Tribulation.
Most churches, even those that do teach that the Bible is the inspired word of God, do not talk about the Rapture, Tribulation or last days prophecy. The reason is that many pastors and priests are not settled in their own minds about the concept and are afraid to address questions that inevitably arise.
The reason there is so much controversy about the timing of this event is that the Bible does not specify exactly when it will happen. In fact, Jesus said that even He did not know when it would occur; only the Father knows:
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. -- Mark 13:32-33 (NKJV)
Why doesn’t the Bible tell us exactly, or give us specific signs when the Rapture is about to happen? Because if we knew when it was coming, we would be lazy and live sinful lives, only getting our act together at the last minute. That’s why we are to live in expectation that it could happen at any time. The Christians living in the first century believed that it would happen in their lifetime. Paul had to comfort the believers in Thessalonica because they were afraid they had been left behind. (II Thessalonians 2:1-12)
It would be possible to write many pages presenting all sides of the argument in detail along with accompanying scripture, but it would solve nothing. Some believers are as defensive and angry about this topic as they are about their political views. Many people are angry and raging about the issue and others are left confused and terrified of having to live through the Tribulation.
A Useless Argument
- Only God the Father knows when it will happen. The Rapture will happen when nobody is expecting it and at the perfect time.
- Arguing is causing chaos, confusion and fear. These are all tools of Satan.
- We cannot make the Rapture happen sooner or delay it by arguing about it.
- Arguing distracts believers from their true purpose - spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ so that everyone will be ready no matter when the Rapture happens.
- The Rapture is a secondary issue. It is not necessary to hold a certain position to be saved.
If you are a born-again believer, how should you interpret the scripture concerning the Rapture? It is of primary importance that you submit to the instruction of the Holy Spirit. Do this by reading and studying the Bible, but always pray for the discernment and guidance of the Spirit. Examine all the views, not just the one you like best. Some people have attached themselves to a specific view or prophecy teacher and refuse to examine the Bible for themselves. If you do not investigate what the Bible says, you will be deceived. There are multiple interpretations of every part of the Bible, but only one interpretation is correct. The only way to find the correct interpretation is through the Holy Spirit.
If this is an issue that causes you confusion and fear, remember this, God does not want you to live in fear. In both passages quoted earlier concerning the Rapture, we are told “Let not your heart be troubled” and “comfort one another with these words”. God knew this issue would cause fear, but that is not His purpose:
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
-- II Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)
Just a few minutes before Jesus ascended to heaven, the disciples were asking Him about when He would return. He made it clear that they were to concentrate on spreading the gospel, and to “watch and pray”:
“It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” -- Acts 1:7-8 (ESV)