harpazo



The rapture is one of the most debated concepts in the world of Bible prophecy. The rapture should be examined with an approach that is not about separation, but understanding what the event means to the body of Christ. This post will present a non-biased attempt to clear up common misconceptions about the rapture and explain why there is so much confusion surrounding this subject, even among Christian believers.

What is the Rapture?

The rapture is a supernatural event where believers in Christ, at an unknown day and hour will be changed into spiritual bodies, and snatched away to meet Jesus Christ the in the air. What scriptural evidence can we find in the Bible to support this concept and when does this event take place? The proceeding list summarizes the most common positions Christians have taken toward the rapture.

Pre-Tribulation

The word "rapture" is not found in the Bible, but remains significant given how the word was written by New Testament translators. The meaning of the word rapture comes from the Greek word harpazo, which was translated into the Latin word rapier. The term literally means to be "caught up or snatched away". The pre-tribulation rapture is a supernatural event that would occur immediately before the start of the seven-year tribulation period, also called Daniel's 70th Week. Those who believe in Jesus Christ will be translated into their spiritual bodies and be removed from Earth to be with God in Heaven. The famous Bible passage for this belief comes from 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, however, other verses exist that can be used to support or contradict pre-tribulation timing.

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
Bible scholars believe that the great tribulation period will begin when the church is "caught up" to meet Christ in the clouds. The idea is that we, as the body of Christ possess the spirit of God, which acts as a restrainer, or controlling force that prevents the Antichrist from gaining control of the world and its population. There are Christian believers that have power and authority in many governments and voting systems throughout the world, which hands credibility to this concept. It makes sense that the Antichrist is not able to rise to power until those who oppose evil are "caught up" and removed from the world scene.

Pre-tribulation rapture believers consider the rapture and the second coming of Jesus Christ to be separate events.

Mid-Tribulation

The mid-tribulation rapture teaches that the rapture of the church will take place in the middle of the seven year tribulation period, three and a half years before the second coming of Jesus Christ. According to this view, the seven-year tribulation is separated into two halves; the first half described as the wrath of man, and the last half as the wrath of God. It is important to understand that the entire tribulation will last for a total of 2,520 days. This number is calculated based on the assumption that the tribulation will last for 7 years and each year consisting of 360 days according to a prophetic calendar.

In the book of Revelation, chapter 11:1-3, it is written that the holy city will tread for forty-two months (1,260 days), which according to this view, describes the first three and a half years of the tribulation. Mid-tribulation believers reference the second half of the tribulation, or a thousand two hundred and threescore days (1,260 days) in the same verse:

And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months. And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. Revelation 11:1-3
A principal argument of the mid-tribulation view is that the rapture will occur at the "last trump". According to this view, mid-tribulation believers view the seventh trumpet of Revelation 11:15 and the last trump of 1 Corinthians 15:52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16 as the same event. These verses are used in conjunction with Revelation 13:5 and 2 Thessalonians 2:3 by mid-tribulation believers, which states that the Antichrist will be revealed before the second half of the tribulation begins and will be given authority to continue for forty-two months (1,260 days).

Pre-Wrath

The pre-wrath theory portrays the rapture as taking place before the great day of God's wrath. According to the pre-wrath view, believers in Jesus Christ experience most of the tribulation up until the time of God's wrath, which occurs before the end of the tribulation. The church will endure Satan's wrath and man's persecution, but will not experience God's wrath. According to this rapture view, the church will be present during the first six seals, but are caught up to heaven before the Lord pours out the final judgement on the world.

For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our LORD Jesus Christ, 1 Thessalonians 5:9
The pre-wrath rapture theory views the trumpet and bowl judgments in Revelation 7-16 as God's wrath, which the church will not experience. The first six seal judgments in Revelation 6 are not considered to be God's wrath; rather, they are viewed as "the wrath of Satan". According to pre-wrath believers, this is because there are no direct mentions of God's wrath until after the sixth seal is broken in Revelation 6:17.

One argument against this theory is that the wrath from the first six seals are a result of the seals in Revelation 5:9. The Lamb, who is found to be worthy, opens the seals; therefore, the seals do not represent man's wrath, but instead release God's wrath during the tribulation.

Post-Tribulation

This brings us to the next theory regarding the rapture of the church. Post-tribulation believers teach that the resurrection and rapture will come after the tribulation has concluded. The timing is key to understanding the basis for this doctrine. Those who support this theory believe that Christians will remain on the Earth during the entire seven-year tribulation period. The book of Matthew is often quoted to support of the post-tribulation rapture:

Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Matthew 24:29-31
Something to consider about the post-tribulation rapture timing is the concept known as the "Day of the Lord", which possibly refers to the rapture. This reference comes from 1 Thessalonians 5:2-5 which states that the day will come as a "thief in the night" and that we should be watching, and therefore not taken by surprise. There have been several discussions and arguments about the interpretation of these verses. For example, one could argue that if the rapture were to occur after the tribulation, then believers in Christ would be aware of when the rapture would take place. This would be true, even if non-believers were unaware of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. The Bible makes a clear distinction between us and "those that sleep", thus lending credibility to the quoted passage.

Post-tribulation rapture believers consider the rapture and the second coming of Jesus Christ to be the same or successive events.

Post-Millennial

The post-millennial rapture theory is an interpretation of chapter 20 in the Book of Revelation, which teaches that Christ's second coming occurs after the millennium, or 1,000-year reign of Jesus Christ. Supporters of this doctrine believe that Jesus Christ remains in heaven and rules over the Earth during the millennial period. According to this view, the millennium is not always believed to be a literal 1,000 years. Acts 3:20-21 is often quoted in reference to this concept.

And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. Acts 3:20-21

Is the rapture Biblical?

Now that summaries have been presented for each of the most popular positions taken on the rapture of the church, how can we determine if the rapture is Biblical? The answer is actually straightforward and will come as no surprise to anyone who has spent enough time studying this topic. Each of these positions are compelling in their own right, yet vastly different from each other in theory. To me, this means that either one of theories is Biblical or neither of these doctrines are Biblical, so let's start by reviewing the obvious. The Bible states that we will be "caught up” to meet the Lord in the air. This is the definitely the rapture of the church; however, the timing of the rapture has always been the question that leads to confusion and eventually debate among believers.

If you have made it this far, I am going to apologize now for being "that guy" who wants to meet in the middle and not spend too much time arguing about the possible interpretations of different passages in regards to the rapture of the church. Instead, I want to point out an important verse that many Christians should appreciate and offer an alternative solution to understanding this supernatural event.

Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed 1 Corinthians 15:51
In this verse, Paul the Apostle tells the church that the rapture, is a mystery. In other words, the rapture is something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain. As the body of Christ, we should remember this verse when discussing the rapture or the second coming of Jesus Christ with other believers. This way, we are careful to not cause divisions among our fellowship with one another. The rapture is going to happen at some point in the near future, however, we are not going to know the day or the hour, according to Matthew.

But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 24:36-37
Until that day comes, we should study His word in faith and not quarrel too much over the timing.

You can all it the "rapture", the "translating" or the "catching away" if you choose, but the event is absolutely going to happen according to the Bible and there are few arguments that can be used to debate this fact.

God Bless!

Thanks for reading,
Brandon