What is the Rapture and When will it Happen?
What is the Rapture?
The term Rapture indicates a swift catching up or rescuing of God’s people before the outpouring of wrath during the Tribulation. The English term Rapture comes from 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. The English words, “catch up” come from the Greek word, harpazo. As many know, the New Testament was originally written in Greek. The word harpazo means to seize upon with force or to catch or snatch up suddenly. The Latin translators of the Greek New Testament translated that Greek word, harpazo, as rapturo. The Latin, rapturo, became the root word for the English term Rapture.
Through the Rapture, Jesus will catch up his church so faithful followers will not have to experience the upcoming time of tribulation and wrath. John, the writer of the book of Revelation, said it this way, the church will be “kept from the hour of testing that shall come upon the world” (Revelation 3:10). Paul, writing of the quick and sudden nature of the Rapture wrote, “Behold I show you a mystery we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. In a moment in the twinkling of an eye…for the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised…and we shall be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53)
Writing to the Thessalonian Church, Paul wrote, “For the Lord himself will 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.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
How Jesus referenced the Rapture
Jesus emphasized the importance of readiness, noting that His return will be sudden and take many by surprise. Sadly, many will be left behind. These truths should motivate Watchmen to sacrificially serve and boldly witness. Watchmen should prioritize reaching the lost and urging all to spiritually prepare for the imminent return of the Lord. A few verses noting the suddenness of the Lord’s coming are noted below. For additional information please visit https://amiraptureready.org/
- “For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:27)
- “There will be two in the field, and then suddenly one will be left.” (Matthew 24:40)
- “I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left…” (Luke 17:34a)
- “There will be two women grinding at the mill. One will be taken, and one will be left.” (Matthew 24:41)
WHEN WILL THE RAPTURE HAPPEN?
Scripture stresses that “no one knows the day or the hour” of the Lord’s return (Matt. 24:36). Scripture also stresses the importance of readiness—and that how servants who are found doing the right thing, the right way, at the right time, when the Lord returns will be blessed (Luke 12:40; 21:36).
Some have taught that certain prophecies need to be fulfilled before the Rapture. Among the suggestions are the Antichrist, the destruction of Damascus, and the building of the third Temple. However, there are NO Scriptural requisites to the Rapture. Affirming this truth, Theologians have coined the phrase, “the doctrine of imminence.” This means the Rapture can happen at any time and therefore, Christians should maintain a sense of expectancy regarding the return of Christ.
In referencing the Rapture, Jesus emphasized expectancy and readiness. This is clear in the following parables: the thief and homeowner (Matt. 24:42-44), the servant, the Master and the wedding banquet (Luke 12:35-37), the wise manager (Luke 12:41-46), and the 10 bridesmaids or virgins (Matt. 25:1-13). The Old Testament book, Song of Solomon also alludes to this truth as the unlikely bride (who represents believers) is told the Groom will depart for a time (this represents the church age) but will return (this is the rapture). In the story the bride is not ready and is left behind when the Master does return.
Spiritual questions for the reader to consider: 1) are you confident of your own spiritual readiness? If Jesus returned today would you be found ready? If not, consider what must be done to ensure your readiness and 2) do you have a profound concern for those who are lost and a sense of urgency to share the Gospel so all are prepared for the return of Jesus? If not, pray that God gives you a heart for this. Blessed are those who pray, “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.”
Questions and answers about the Rapture
- Will Jesus return once or twice? This can be confusing. Many have used the phrase, The Second Coming as a general term focusing on that Jesus will return, but not, when He will return. Some have linked the phrase to the Rapture and some to the ‘Glorious Appearing’ (a phrase linked to Titus 2:13 and Revelation 19-20, where Jesus returns to earth, vanquishes the enemy, then sets-up the Millennial Kingdom). Will there be a Second Coming? YES, at the end of the Tribulation period. Will there be a Rapture? YES, before the beginning of the Tribulation. Is Jesus returning twice? IN A MANNER OF SPEAKING. Before the Rapture, Jesus will return “in the clouds” to “catch up” faithful followers “in the air” (1 Thess. 4:16-17). At the end of the Tribulation, Jesus will return and build His Millennial Kingdom on earth (Rev. 19-20). A few additional distinctions between these two events are noted below:
- At the Rapture, Jesus’ return is marked by joy and celebration (1 Thess. 4:16-17). At the ‘Glorious Appearing’ Jesus’ return is marked by war, wrath, and judgment (Revelation 19).
- At the Rapture, Jesus returns for His people. At the ‘Glorious Appearing,’ Jesus returns with His people.
- Verses that reference the Rapture focus on what will happen to believers (they are ‘caught up’ to be with the Lord). Verses that reference the ‘Glorious Appearing’, focus on what will happen to the enemies of God (particularly the Antichrist and False Prophet).
- Note: The Rapture event will happen suddenly—No prophecies need to be fulfilled before Jesus returns to rescue His Church. The Second Coming (the ‘Glorious Appearing’) can only happen after many prophecies are fulfilled. These prophecies are outlined in the book of Revelation and include: the rise of the Antichrist, the Mark of the Beast, the sealing of 144,000 witnesses, and the rebuilding of the third Temple.
- Why do some speak of the lateness of the hour?
The phrase is used to indicate that the day of the return of the Lord is near. Prophecy teachers note this truth by stating the hour is late, or, the prophetic clock indicates the hour is late. The following verses indicate that believers should maintain a state of readiness for the Lord can return at any time:
- “The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind…” (1 Peter 4:7a)
- “You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!” (James 5:8-9)
- “Remember, I am coming soon!…” ( 22:7a)
- Do Old Testament stories foreshadow the Rapture? In general, a rapture is God’s plan to save the faithful from judgment. We see this in the story of Moses (he and his people were saved from the plague of death in Exodus 11), in the story of Noah (he and his family were saved from the flood in Genesis 7), the story of Lot (he and his family were saved from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19), and in several others. The idea of God saving His faithful followers from the terrible tribulation of the last days is in perfect harmony with how God has worked through the ages.
- Do Old Testament weddings somehow point to the Rapture? Noted below are 4 parallels between ancient Jewish weddings and the Rapture of the Church:
- In Hebrew culture the Father determined the day and hour of the wedding banquet. Often, only the Father knew the day and the hour (see Mark 13:32)
- In Hebrew culture, there was a waiting period between the betrothal and the wedding banquet. Many argue this represents the current church age—the period from Pentecost to the Rapture. When Jesus returns the church age will cease (Rom. 11:25), raptured believers will rejoice, and the 7-year Tribulation will begin.
- During this waiting period the Groom would prepare a home for his Bride (see John 14:1-3)
- At the time chosen by the father, the Groom was sent to receive his bride (who was to be in a state of readiness for this day). As the groom approached her home the shofar would sound. Note that Luke 12:35 states that the Bride of Christ (the Church) must be ready for the Groom’s arrival. In fact, when the world hears the trumpet sound (1 Thess. 4:16) it will be too late to prepare for the return of the Lord.
- Is today’s ‘Church’ mentioned in the book of Revelation? Yes. However, the I AM A WATCHMAN team joins with the scholars who teach that the book of Revelation speaks of future events, is written in chronological order, and that the last mention of the church is in Revelation 4 (before a great crowd is seen in heaven—a reference to the Rapture).
- Is the Rapture mentioned in the Olivet Discourse? The Olivet Discourse (found in Matthew 24-25) is the longest recorded teaching by Jesus on the end times. This great teaching, however, can be difficult to follow as Jesus discusses the destruction of the 2nd Temple, the Rapture, the woes of the days leading up to the Tribulation (birth pangs), and the Second Coming/Glorious Appearing, without clear introductions to these topics. In fact, some of the information in this Discourse is not presented in chronological order. However, it is believed that references to the Rapture are found in Matthew 24:36-44 and Matthew 25:1-13.
- Is the word rapture in English Bibles? No, however, there are several well-embraced doctrines surrounding terms that are not in the English Bible (such as: missions and Trinity). Key church doctrines are not built on single words (as the Bible is now available in hundreds of languages), but on teachings that have strong Scriptural foundations. The word Rapture is not in the original text, but in the first language translation of the text (Latin) the word Rapturo is used, and, according to Tommy Ice, director of the Pre-Trib Study Center, the first seven English translations of the Bible (prepared between 1384-1608) all translated the Greek word, harpazo (1 Thess. 4;16), departure, meaning, the sudden departure of believers. The I AM A WATCHMAN team joins the growing number of Bible scholars who teach that the term rapture, though not found in English Bible translations, has a strong biblical foundation.
- Is the Rapture a teaching less than 200 years old? It is true that some trace the beginning of the Rapture teaching to John Darby’s ministry in the early 1800’s. However, Bible scholars note that there are formal teachings on the Rapture in the writings of the early church fathers in the second century AD. Of primary importance, however, is the abundance of first century Scripture verses that reference a rapture (some are noted earlier in this article). A few quotes and substantiating facts (drawn from the book, Dispensationalism before Darby by William C Watson) are noted below:
- From Denys ‘van Leeuwen, a 15th century Dutch Carthusian monk: “The brethren will be transferred into Paradise, in which are Enoch and Elijah. And in this way they will be preserved unharmed from the persecution of Antichrist.”
- Writings from The Apostolic Brethren, an unofficial and persecuted monastic order, 1316: “In a moment in ye twinkling of an ey…in the sownyng of the last trumpe shal be the Iugement…The daye of our lorde shal come…O howe blessed and how happy shal he be that now entendeth to the poure langwysshyng nedy people….for our Lorde wil delivere them therefore from alle daungler…”
- From Nathaniel Homes, a 17th century author: “The resurrection of those which slept in Christ, and the rapture of those whi shall be left alive….shall translate them into heaven…”
- From Peter Sterry, Member of the Westminster Assembly of Divines, 1648, The Clouds in which Christ Comes: “The second coming of Christ, is, as the days of Noah. The Lord Jesus…shall be…an Ark to those which are taken into Christ, lifting them high above all miseries toward Heaven…”
- In his book, History of the Christian Church, 1884, eminent Church Historian Peter Shift notes that the following early (pre fourth century) church fathers believed in the Millennium, the rise of Israel and the rapture: Barnabas, Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Methodius and Lactantius.
- The second century works, The Shepherd of Hermas and The Apocalypse of Elijah reference the rapture.
The Rapture teaching dates to the time of Christ. Jesus spoke of it, Scripture notes it, and Paul and the apostles taught it. The Rapture teaching should motivate believers to do two things 1) ensure that they are spiritually ready for the return of the Lord 2) wisely warn the lost that the Rapture can happen at any time, and try to lead individuals into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
For Watchmen the question is: Are you doing everything possible to reach the lost and prepare the world for the return of Christ?
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