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  • Writer's pictureMichael Filipek

What Is the Rapture?

Updated: Jan 27


What is the Rapture

The English word “rapture” refers to a state or experience of being carried away. In other words, it means to be carried away in spirit or in body. [1] There are a number of different “raptures” or “catching aways” spoken of in the Bible, such as when Enoch and Elijah were each taken up to heaven without experiencing death (Genesis 5:24; Hebrews 11:5; 2 Kings 2:1, 11).


In addition, Jesus Christ was caught up to heaven in His ascension after His death, burial, and resurrection (Mark 16:19; Acts 1:9-11; Revelation 12:5). The apostle Paul also wrote of a man (probably referring to himself) who experienced a type of rapture when he was caught up to the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2-4). Another rapture is predicted to take place in the future Tribulation period when the Two Witnesses are caught up into heaven after being resurrected from death (Revelation 11:3; 11-12). But the rapture that is relevant to our purposes in this article is the most well-known future rapture event of all – the Rapture of the Church. The Rapture of the Church refers to the literal carrying away of the Church from earth to heaven by God.


Scoffers often point out that the word rapture is not in the Bible, and therefore it is not a true Biblical teaching. This reasoning however is nonsensical. While it is true that the word rapture itself is not in the English Bible, the concept is. Rapture is simply a label modern Christians have given to this Biblical teaching of the supernatural removal of the Church. We must keep in mind that the word "Bible" itself is not in the Bible. Are we then to conclude that the Bible is invalid? As you hopefully can see, this is terrible reasoning.


Furthermore, while the word rapture is not in the English Bible, it is in the Latin Bible. In fact, this English term rapture is derived from the Latin usage, which is used to describe the catching away of the Church in the Latin Vulgate. The original New Testament manuscripts were written in Greek, but later translated into Latin, English, and other languages. Jerome (c. 347-420 AD) translated the Greek Bible into Latin. The English word “rapture” comes from the Latin raptus, the past participle of rapere, meaning “to seize, or carry off.” Jerome used this Latin word to translate the original Greek word harpazó (Strong’s # G726 – meaning, “to pluck up, to seize, to catch away”) in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 and other passages. [2] [3] So, the English word “rapture” simply comes from the Latin translation of the Koine Greek word harpazó in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 and other places. Almost all modern Bibles translate this word as “caught up.”


The English word “harpoon” comes from this Greek word harpazó. [4] The harpoon is the tool used by whalers to catch a whale and bring it up out of the water. At the Rapture, we will be supernaturally “harpooned” – plucked up by force out of this world by the Lord Jesus (but without the metal hook of course).


There are three key New Testament passages that give us our foundational understandings about this concept of the Rapture of the Church: John 14:1-3, 1 Corinthians 15:51-53, and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Let’s take a look at each.


Let not your heart be troubled: ye 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 unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. -John 14:1-3

This was Jesus’s first clear disclosure of what that disciples would eventually come to recognize as what we today call the Rapture. He promises to one day return to take away His believers to be with Him forever. The apostle Paul later expounds on this concept, describing in even more vivid detail what will take place at this time when Jesus returns to gather His bride, the Church.


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. -1 Corinthians 15:51-53

Here, Paul is clear that not all Christians will experience death (“we shall not all sleep”), but all will experience the glorification of the body (“we shall all be changed … this mortal must put on immortality”).


The next excerpt is most explicit concerning the actual “catching away” aspect. In Verse 17 (as referenced earlier), Paul uses the Greek word harpazó to describe this event.


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 [harpazó] 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

These three passages reveal that at a sudden moment in time, a resurrection will take place in which the souls of dead Church saints will descend from heaven with Christ, and will be raised with glorified bodies that are immortal and incorruptible. The bodies of the Church saints who are still alive at that time will then be instantaneously transformed into this same kind of glorified body.


Both the resurrected and transformed Church saints will be “raptured,” or caught up from earth to meet Christ in the air. They will return with Christ back to the Father’s house in heaven and dwell in the “mansions,” or rooms that He has prepared. Then, at His Second Coming proper, they will return with Him to the earth to rule and reign during His Millennial Kingdom. From the time of the Rapture on forward, we will forever be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:17), thus ending the period of the Church Age on earth. This knowledge of the Rapture is intended to be a comfort to the Church (1 Thessalonians 4:18). Titus 2:13 calls the Rapture the “blessed hope” of every Christian.


Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; -Titus 2:13

In other words, the Rapture is the next event every believer should be looking towards, as the Lord's imminent appearing will bring with it this "catching away" experience. Since we know it is a promise of bodily glorification, reunification with Christ, and rescue from the impending judgment coming on the world (the Day of the Lord), the Rapture truly is our blessed hope and earnest expectation!


 

[1] Merriam-Webster, entry “Rapture,” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary. (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rapture - Retrieved 1/10/18)

[2] Thayer and Smith, Greek Lexicon entry “harpazo,” in The KJV New Testament Greek Lexicon, BibleStudyTools.com. (https://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/kjv/harpazo.html - Retrieved 1/10/21)

[3] Harper, Douglas, “Etymology of rapt,” Online Etymology Dictionary. (https://www.etymonline.com/word/rapt?ref=etymonline_crossreference - Retrieved 1/10/21)

[4] 1 Thessalonians 4:17-18 Commentary, PreceptAustin.org. (https://www.preceptaustin.org/1thessalonians_417-18 - Retrieved 1/10/21)

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