This lesson will cover the prophetic event commonly known as the Rapture, when all who belong to Jesus will be taken to heaven before God’s wrath is poured out on the world. The Biblical term is the Departure (Gk. ho apostasia), in which believers are
snatched up to meet Jesus in the air. The word Rapture comes from the Latin translation of the Greek word harpadzo (to be
caught up), and we use it figuratively to describe being taken away by great emotion.
Let’s begin with a brief description of the stages or elements of this event, which are taken from John 11:25-26, John 14:1-3, 1 Cor 15:50-53, 1 Thes. 4:15-18, 1 Thes. 5:1-11, 2 Thes. 2:1-12, and Rev 3:10:
- Jesus descends from heaven to the sky (not to the earth)
- The archangel shouts
- The trumpet of God sounds
- Those followers of Jesus who have died are raised in immortal bodies
- Those followers of Jesus still living are instantly transformed from mortal to immortal
- Both groups are snatched away up into the clouds to meet Jesus
- Jesus takes us to his Father’s house
What is not included in the event is Jesus’ Olivet Discourse, so named for the prophetic teaching he gave on the Mount of Olives in Mat. 24-25, Mark 13, and Luke 21. The church as we know it (better described as the Body of Christ, assembly, or congregation) did not exist until Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection, and he made no references to it with the exceptions of Mat. 16:18, John 11:25-26, and John 14:1-3.
We must understand that church (Gk. ecclesia) was a generic reference to any gathering, and in the context of Mat. 18:17 it refers to the people of Israel, for which the Hebrew equivalent synagogue was used throughout the Old Testament. The very same Greek word is used in Acts 19:32 for a mob of worshipers of Diana/Artemis. We must understand as well that the idea of some other
church than Israel was foreign to the Old Testament, since this new
church was kept a secret until after Jesus arose, per 1 Cor. 2:7, Eph. 3:6,9, and Col. 1:26. He had specified that he came to Israel first (Mat. 15:24), the same people specified in all Old Testament prophecies, especially Dan. 9:24.
On the matter of
snatch events, we should be aware that there were two Old Testament incidences: both Elijah and Enoch were taken by God without dying. In Acts 8:39, Philip was
snatched from one town to another. Another consideration is in Isaiah 26:19-21, where the people of Israel are told to hide behind closed doors until the wrath of God passed. All of this is to make the point that the idea of being taken away without dying, or being protected from the wrath of God, is not invented by Rapture believers.
Unlike many Old Testament prophecies, or even the book of Revelation, the Rapture is not associated with any signs or prior events. The two primary passages, 1 Thes. 5:1-11 and 2 Thes. 2:1-12, tell us what happens afterwards, so the Rapture is actually the event that must precede the Day of the Lord. Now let’s examine each of those passages in detail.
1 Thes. 5:1-11
Sisters and brothers, we really don’t need to write to you about times and seasons, 2 because you already know that the Day of the Master comes like a thief in the night. 3 When they saypeace and safetysudden ruin will come upon them like labor pains and they will not escape. 4 But you, on the other hand, are not in the dark, that this Day should surprise you like a thief. 5 you are all of the light and the daytime, not the darkness and the night. 6 So don’t doze off like the rest but watch and be sensible. 7 For those who doze off sleep at night, and the drunks get drunk at night; 8 but we are of the day and must be sensible, putting on the torso armor of faith and love, and the helmet of the hope of salvation. 9 Because God did not appoint us to suffer his wrath but to acquire salvation by means of our Master Jesus the Anointed 10 who died for our sakes, so that whether we are alert or dozing off we will live together with him. 11 So comfort each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.
2 Thes. 2:1-12
Now, brothers and sisters, concerning the coming of our Master Jesus the Anointed and our gathering together with him: 2 Please don’t be easily disturbed or alarmed in your minds or spirits, because no word or letter has come from us saying that the Day of the Master is already here. 3 Don’t let anyone fool you by any means, because that won’t happen until after the Departure, and then the Lawless One, the Destroyer, will be revealed. 4 He opposes everything and elevates himself over every god or object of worship, even to the point of seating himself in the Temple of God and proclaiming himself God. 5 You have forgotten that I told you these things when I was with you. 6 And you know what is holding him back for now, so that he is only revealed in his time. 7 For although the secret of lawlessness is already in operation, it is only after the Restrainer is taken out of the way 8 that the Lawless One will be revealed. This is the one the Master Jesus will do away with by the breath of his mouth, and will neutralize when he appears at his arrival. 9 He will come when the Adversary is at the height of his power, which he held by means of signs and fake miracles and seduction. 10 This injustice will all have been done to those who are dying, because they would not love the truth that would save them. 11 As a result, God will send them in the wrong direction so they will believe the lie, 12 and in this way all who rejected the truth and celebrated injustice will be condemned.
Further support for the Body of Christ not suffering the wrath of God is found in 1 Thes. 1:10, (5:9 above), and Rev. 3:10. We’ll see in the next section some objections, including the definition of the wrath of God. But to this point, at the very least the case presented for the event itself is well-supported in scripture, such that the only real dispute is over its timing.
The alternatives and objections
There are several different views on the timing of the Rapture, but they all hinge upon the definition of the wrath of God. Consider these points derived from scripture:
- not all wrath or tribulation is from God
- not all references to the wrath of God refer to the end times (Rom. 1:18, 1 Thes. 2:16)
- but some do (Rom. 2:5, Col. 3:6)
- the wrath of God, and the Lamb who is also God: Rev. 6:16, 14:10,19, 15:7, 16:1,19, 19:15
Now we can examine each passage where wrath or tribulation is mentioned and see if the context indicates the end-times or the Day of the Lord. Then we can see if any of those passages describe events matching the Rapture. Such examination indicates first of all that the end-times wrath of God / Day of the Lord is not associated with the Rapture. Then we would see that scripture states it begins with the 1st Seal (Rev. 6:1-2) since the Lamb causes the events and the Lamb is God; the latest would be the 6th Seal (Rev. 6:12-17) when
the day of their great wrath has come. There is simply no support for interpretations of God’s wrath starting any later than that.
Most objections to the Rapture and its coming prior to the 1st Seal are not based on scripture but from attempts to poison the well, such as by claiming it came from some false teacher or unbeliever in times past. Yet an honest student of history would see that just about any teaching can be smeared with some nefarious character at some point, and no appeal to any source outside of scripture has been made in this, or any other, document about the pre-tribulational Rapture.
The Rapture or Departure of the
church is clearly taught in scripture. Though some may dismiss the idea that we should wish to escape times of trouble, no less than Jesus Himself taught it, not only in Rev.3:10 and Isaiah 26:19-21, but also in Luke 21:36. Jesus cannot suffer the wrath of God anymore, and we who make up his Body cannot suffer it either. Yet the Day of his great wrath is yet to come, so it cannot come while we who belong to him are still here. The rising of those who died belonging to Jesus, and the transformation of his living followers to immortal, cannot be faked. We who are also sealed with the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 1:22, Eph. 1:13-14, 4:30) cannot take any other seal and thus be doomed. This is, as scripture states, our