The Rapture

What is the rapture of the church?

The word rapture does not occur in the English language translations of the Bible. The word for rapture, “rapiemur,” does occur in the Latin Vulgate Bible meaning “a carrying off, a transport, or a snatching away.” Other Latin translations use “rapturo” or “raptus,” both forms of the verb rapiemur. 

According to Strong’s Greek translation, the word for “caught up” that is used in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 is “harpazó” meaning: to seize, catch up, snatch away.

Therefore, it is quite clear that the concept of the “carrying off” or the rapture of the church is clearly taught in Scripture.

The rapture of the church is the event in which God “snatches away” all believers from the earth in order to make way for His righteous judgement to be poured out on the earth during the Tribulation period. The rapture is described primarily in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:50-54. Further, many bible scholars, believe that Revelation Chapter 4:1-5 is a picture of the pre-Tribulation rapture.

God will resurrect all believers who have died, give them glorified bodies, and take them from the earth, along with all living believers, who will also be given glorified bodies at that time. For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

16 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. 17 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.

1 Corinthians 15:50-54

50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

Revelation 4:1-5

After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.” 

2 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. 3 And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. 4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads. 5 And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.

As we just read from the scripture above, Revelation Chapter 4:1-5 reveals powerful clues that indicate a pre-Tribulation rapture of the Church.

It is worthy to note that the word “church” appears nineteen times in the first three chapters of Revelation, but, significantly, the word is not used again until chapter 22. In other words, in the entire lengthy description of the Tribulation in Revelation, the word church is noticeably absent. In fact, the Bible never uses the word “church” in a passage relating to the Tribulation. Perhaps, the reason is that Revelation Chapter 4 reveals the end of the Church age and the beginning of the 7 year Tribulation period or the 70th week of Daniel (Daniel Chapter 9: 24-27).

The rapture will involve an instantaneous transformation of our bodies to fit us for eternity. “We know that when he [Christ] appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). The rapture is to be distinguished from the second coming. At the rapture, the Lord comes “in the clouds” to meet us “in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). At the second coming, the Lord descends all the way to the earth to stand on the Mount of Olives, resulting in a great earthquake followed by a defeat of God’s enemies (Zechariah 14:3-4).

The doctrine of the rapture was not taught in the Old Testament, which is why Paul calls it a “mystery” now revealed: “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).

The rapture of the church is a glorious event we should all be longing for. We will finally be free from sin. We will be in God’s presence forever. There is far too much debate over the meaning and scope of the rapture. This is not God’s intent. Rather, the rapture should be a comforting doctrine full of hope; God wants us to “encourage each other with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18).

Why do I believe that the Bible provides “case closed” evidence of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church?

Let me get right to the point! The Bible clearly teaches that all true born-again believers, those who are washed in the precious blood of Jesus Christ, will be caught up in the rapture BEFORE the seven year Tribulation period begins. Let us examine evidence from scripture and take a look at God’s wrath and who it’s applied to.

Romans 1:18

God’s Wrath on Unrighteousness

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

Colossians 3:5-6

5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience,

Proverbs 11:23

23 The desire of the righteous is only good,

But the expectation of the wicked is wrath.

Proverbs 14:35

35 The king’s favor is toward a wise servant,

But his wrath is against him who causes shame.

Isaiah 13:9

9 Behold, the day of the Lord comes,

Cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger,

To lay the land desolate;

And He will destroy its sinners from it.

Ephesians 5:6

6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

1 Thessalonians 5:9

9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

Romans 5:9

9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.

So, the Lord’s wrath comes to destroy the sinners of the world, those that are disobedient and unbelieving! 

  • We know that we are righteous and made clean through the blood of the Lamb! We are born again! 
  • Speaking of wrath, some people claim that the Rapture is pre-wrath, which is to say that the “seals” are not wrath. This does not make sense, let’s see why.

Revelation 6:15-17

15 And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, 16 and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”

Above, notice that the people said, Hide us from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of His wrath has come. 

Then, some will argue that the wrath of the Lamb is different from the wrath of God. However, Jesus is God and wrath is wrath. The book of Revelation is about the revealing of Jesus Christ and His day, the Day of the Lord. 

Let us consider further: 

  • Noah was righteous, so he and his family did not have to endure God’s judgment and wrath.
  • Lot and his family were taken out of the city of Sodom before God brought his wrath and judgment. 

It is interesting to notice that when Lot was speaking with the Angel of the Lord, he was told that the Angel could not do anything until Lot and his family escaped to safety. See below:

Genesis 19:22

22 Hurry, escape there. For I cannot do anything until you arrive there.”

Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.

Genesis 19:24

24 Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens.

Abraham knew in his heart that God does not destroy the righteous with the wicked. See below:

Genesis 18:25

25 Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

Joseph (a type of Christ) takes a gentile bride before the seven year famine begins. See below:

Genesis 41:45

45 And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphnath-Paaneah. And he gave him as a wife Asenath, the daughter of Poti-Pherah priest of On. So Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt.

Notice in the case of Joseph, that after he received his gentile bride, his brethren (the Israelites) and the entire world suffered a seven year famine. See below:

Genesis 41:54-57

54 and the seven years of famine began to come, as Joseph had said. The famine was in all lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. 55 So when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. Then Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph; whatever he says to you, do.” 56 The famine was over all the face of the earth, and Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold to the Egyptians. And the famine became severe in the land of Egypt. 57 So all countries came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain, because the famine was severe in all lands.

The famine is a type of the Tribulation (Amos 8:11), and Egypt is a picture of the world. This account strongly suggest that Jesus will receive His bride before the 70th week of Daniel.

Amos 8:11

11 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord God,

“That I will send a famine on the land,

Not a famine of bread,

Nor a thirst for water,

But of hearing the words of the Lord.

Rahab and the Thread of Redemption 

In Joshua Chapter 2, Rahab trusts the Lord and befriends the Jewish spies. By faith Rahab puts a scarlet thread in her window (a symbol of Christ’s blood) and she and her family are “brought out” of Jericho before the city is burned with fire. Rahab is a prostitute and a gentile woman, yet she is found in the Messianic line (Matthew 1:5). Rahab is therefore a beautiful picture of the Church as the bride of Christ. 

Though formally a prostitute, Rahab, by faith, was made clean and delivered from God’s wrath. Amazing, in this account, we again see seven days of warning preceding judgment. 

Isaiah 26:20-21 also gives us a possible picture of the Rapture preceding the Tribulation:

Isaiah 26:20-21

Take Refuge from the Coming Judgment

20 Come, my people, enter your chambers,

And shut your doors behind you;

Hide yourself, as it were, for a little moment,

Until the indignation is past.

21 For behold, the Lord comes out of His place

To punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity;

The earth will also disclose her blood,

And will no more cover her slain.

Zephania’s Clue: 

In Zephania 2:2-3 we read:

Zephaniah 2:2-3

2 Before the decree is issued,

Or the day passes like chaff,

Before the Lord’s fierce anger comes upon you,

Before the day of the Lord’s anger comes upon you!

3 Seek the Lord, all you meek of the earth,

Who have upheld His justice.

Seek righteousness, seek humility.

It may be that you will be hidden

In the day of the Lord’s anger.

The passages above from Isaiah and Zephaniah each talk about being “Hidden” in the Day of the Lord’s anger. 

In Luke 21:36 we read:

Luke 21:36

36 Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.

We are told many times that we may escape and be hidden in the day of the Lord’s wrath so unless we are taken to heaven, it would be very unlikely to escape the coming events.

Matthew 24:21

21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.

Now, let’s look at the most persuasive biblical evidence supporting a pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church.

Revelation 5:9-10

9 And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll,

And to open its seals;

For You were slain,

And have redeemed us to God by Your blood

Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,

10 And have made us kings and priests to our God;

And we shall reign on the earth.”

Above, we see the redeemed singing to the Lamb that He is worthy for He has REDEEMED “us” by His blood from every tribe, tongue, and people and nation. Some argue that these redeemed refer to the 24 elders. However, since scripture states that they are out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, it cannot be referring to only the 24 elders. 

It is also important to note that these events are just prior to the opening of the seals which starts the Tribulation events. Isn’t it interesting that the Church is not mentioned after this point for the rest of the Tribulation events described in Revelation Chapters 6-18?

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

16 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. 17 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.

1 Corinthians 15:51-52

51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

Let’s compare the passages from 1 Thessalonians Chapter 4 and 1 Corinthians Chapter 15 above to John’s experience in the book of Revelation.

Revelation 4:1-5

The Throne Room of Heaven

4 After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”

2 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. 3 And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. 4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads. 5 And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.

John’s account in Chapters 4 and 5 present a vision in heaven, and Chapter 6 introduces the Tribulation period. John, one of the first true members of the Church of Jesus Christ, is a fitting symbol of the Church being taken out of the world just before the Tribulation begins, as our Lord promised:

Revelation 3:10

10 Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.

The absence of any mention of the Church for the rest of the Tribulation events described in Revelation Chapters 6-18 is a strong indication that the Church is NOT on the earth during the Tribulation. There are sixteen references to the Church in Revelation Chapters 1-3, whereas, Chapters 6-18 which cover the Tribulation, do not mention the Church once. Again, the logical conclusion is that the Church is already in heaven when the Tribulation events take place on earth. 

It is worth noting that the extensive Old Testament language and symbols used in Revelation Chapters 4-18 relates to Israel, not the Church. This is understandable since the Church Age is the time for the Gentiles, whereas the Tribulation is the time of “Jacob’s Trouble” or the 70th week of Daniel. 

In summary, if we “rightly divide” the Word of God examining the entirety of the Bible, then it is clear that the Bible points to a pre-Tribulation Rapture. 

As the Apostle Paul stated below, “comfort one another with these words.” How is it comforting to be told that we will have to endure the Tribulation? It is not, so rejoice that the Lord will remove the Church in the Rapture before His wrath is revealed from heaven!

Does the Bible teach a Partial Rapture of believers?

No, absolutely not! All true born-again believers, those washed in the blood of Jesus Christ will be caught up in the rapture BEFORE the Tribulation Period! Those that believe in the false doctrine of a partial rapture ignore the value of the death of Christ. The partial “rapturist” must deny we have been freed from condemnation and made acceptable before God in Christ (Romans 8:1; Ephesians 1:6). The partial rapturist must deny the teaching on the unity of the body of Christ (Ephesians 5:30). The partial rapturist must deny the completeness of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:51,52; 1 Thessalonians 4:14). The partial rapturist must deny the teaching concerning rewards (Rev. 2:10; James 1:12; 1 Thess. 2:19; Phil. 4:1; 1 Cor. 9:25; 1 Peter 5:4). The rapture is not a reward, in and of itself, but is a gracious gift. The partial rapturist confuses the distinction between law and grace (Romans 4:16; Galatians 2:19-21). The partial rapturist must deny the distinction between Israel and the Church (Romans 4:16; Romans 6:15). The partial rapturist must place a portion of the Church in the Tribulation Period. The Church needs no such judgment. Jesus referenced Israel when He said “Pray that you may be accounted worth to escape… ” (Luke 21:34-36). These judgments are associated with the Day of the Lord. The Church is to watch for the Rapture as those who have been made worthy already! The Church is not watching for His Second Coming (1 Thess. 5:6; Titus 2:13). The Church returns with Jesus Christ at His Second Coming. Thus, this event is not something the Church is commanded to watch for! The two woman grinding at the mill are in the Tribulation Period. One is taken to judgment and the one left enters the millennial blessing (Matthew 24:41-42). The Apostle Paul never doubted his own rapture. He said he found Christ in Philippians 3:8. His hope of “attaining the resurrection” is in the context of service, not the rapture. Scripture reveals in 1 Corinthians 15:23 a distinct number of resurrections of Church Saints, Tribulations Saints and Old Testament Saints. This does not suggest a division in the ranks of Church Saints. The partial rapture theory is not consistent with true exegesis. It is out of harmony with true doctrine and exegesis and therefore must be rejected.