The Next Event on the Prophetic Calendar
In preparation for Sunday, let me share just a few facts about the Rapture of the church, which is the next prophetic event on God’s calendar. In fact, unlike the Second Coming, there are no prerequisites or events that must occur before God brings His children home. This is why the Bible speaks of the imminent gathering of His church in the Rapture and why we should be ready, “for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Luke 12:40). The Rapture is the literal fulfillment of the promise Jesus made in John 14:1-3.
“Let not your heart be troubled; you 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 to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” – John 14:1-3.
Jesus will “come again and receive you (us) to Myself” at the Rapture of His church. Just think how wonderful it is to know the future in advance.
But the Word “Rapture” is Not Found in the Bible
Often critics of the doctrine state the word rapture is not found in the Bible. And they are right, unless you are reading the Latin Vulgate. The Latin Vulgate was a translation of the original Greek and Hebrew text into Latin by Jerome in the late 4th century and was the accepted version of the Bible for over a thousand years. Its significance to the church cannot be overstated.
In the Vulgate, the Latin equivalent of the Greek word harpazō, which means to be “caught up” or “taken away” or “to remove by force or snatch away” is rapio, which is where we get the English word, rapture. In essence, the word rapture (harpazō) means to be “forcibly seized upon, snatch away, or to take to oneself”.¹ It conveys a sense of suddenness and speed. It is used in several additional places in the New Testament where it can mean to carry off, to seize or claim for oneself eagerly, or to snatch out or away.
The Importance of the Word, Harpazō
We find the doctrine of the Rapture of the church stated in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 (and I suggest you read this passage in context to get the full meaning). Note how the word harpazō is used in this and other passages.
“Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up (harpazō) together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”
Let me share a few other examples of how harpazō is translated elsewhere in the New Testament that should add some depth to the meaning of this incredible word.
Matthew 11:12 – “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force (harpazō).”
Matthew 13:19 – “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away (harpazō) what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside.”
John 10:12 – “But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches (harpazō) the sheep and scatters them.”
John 10:28-29 – “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch (harpazō) them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch (harpazō) them out of My Father’s hand.”
Acts 8:39 – Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught (harpazō) Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.
2 Corinthians 12:2 – I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago— whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows— such a one was caught up (harpazō) to the third heaven.
Revelation 12:5 – She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up (harpazō) to God and His throne.
So the Rapture is an event where all who have put their trust in Jesus, living and deceased, will suddenly be “caught up or snatched” (harpazō) from earth to be joined with Christ in the air and taken to heaven. This event is described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:50-54, and elsewhere.²
Other Facts About the Rapture
The Scriptures have much to say about the Rapture (except its timing) and present it as an encouragement for those of us still awaiting the return of our Lord. Let me briefly share a few of these key facts about the Rapture.
It Will be Sudden and Unexpected: The Rapture will occur suddenly, at any moment, and it will be unexpected. We see this truth in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, which states, “Behold, I tell 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 trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” See also Matthew 24:40-42, 26:36; Luke 12:40; and 1 Thessalonians 5:2.
Believers Will be Caught Up (harpazō) with Christ: In the Rapture, those who have accepted Christ will meet Him in the air. The Scriptures teach in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, “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. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up (harpazō) together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” One key phrase in this promise is “in Christ” or for believers only.
It is Designed to Provide Comfort: The belief in the Rapture is intended to provide comfort and hope for believers even during difficult, troubling times like these. This is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:18, which closes with, “Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
The Rapture Will Occur Before the Great Tribulation: We see this in passages like 1 Thessalonians 1:10 and 5:9 that speak of Christ delivering us from the “wrath to come” which speaks of the wrath of God poured out during the Great Tribulation. We also note that the antichrist, the “man of sin” or “the son of perdition” must be revealed first (2 Thess. 2:1-3). This would indicate the Rapture takes place before the tribulation Jesus spoke about in Matthew 24.
It is Described as a “Rescue” or “Escape” From the Coming Judgment of God: In Luke 24:36 Jesus said, “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.” Jesus is speaking, in context, about the Great Tribulation.
The Timing is Known Only to God: In Matthew 24:36, Jesus reveals the exact timing of the Rapture is unknown to men and angels and only known by God the Father: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.”
It Points to the Return of Christ: The Rapture is part of the sequence of events that end in Christ’s return to earth in His Second Coming. Acts 1:11 says, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” And what a glorious day that will be!
I hope this will give you an introduction to the Rapture of the church and maybe inspire you to study it more on your own (for example, did you know there are seven types or pictures of the Rapture in the Scriptures?).³ There is so much more to learn about the Rapture that we will talk about in the weeks to come. But hopefully, this will give you some background and answer a few questions before we open His Word together tomorrow.
See you then.
1. Zodhiates, S. (2000). In The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). AMG Publishers.
3. Seven “Raptures” Mentioned in the Bible
Phillip Acts 8:39
Paul (3rd Heaven) 2 Corinthians 12:2-4
Enoch Genesis 5:24; Hebrews 11:5
Elijah 2 Kings 2:1,11
John Revelation 4:1
Jesus Mark 16:19; Acts 1:9-11; Revelation 12:5
Two Witnesses Revelation 11:3, 11-12