Although the word ‘rapture’ does not appear in English translations of the Bible, it is a term commonly used in associations with events which relate to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The meaning of the idea behind ‘the Rapture’ is to be ‘caught up’ or ‘snatched out’ by Jesus who will first come to take away the ‘saved’ to heaven just before the beginning of a 7-year period of time known as ‘The Time of Jacob’s Trouble’, ‘The 70th Week of Daniel’ or ‘The Tribulation’. The true, faithful believers will disappear in the “twinkling of an eye” as they are transformed into their new, perfect, complete spiritual bodies in an instant before being caught up to Heaven by Jesus. The sudden absence of millions of people, will, of course, not go unnoticed on Earth. There will be mass confusion and disruption of ordinary life. At the beginning of the Tribulation, the identity of the antichrist will be revealed as the one who confirms a peace treaty with Israel. Non-believers will be left behind to face severe tribulation as the antichrist rises in power and takes on the role as the Beast who is Satan incarnate and proclaims himself to be god while requiring all people on Earth to worship him. The second half of the seven year Tribulation is known as ‘The Great Tribulation’. Although the Church will be absent during this time, new Christians, who will be known as Tribulation Saints, will endure extreme persecution to the point of death by beheading. With the recent rise of ISIS in the Middle East one has to wonder if there isn’t an Islamic connection. Later, at the close of The Tribulation is when Jesus will return to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem in triumph and glory to defeat the antichrist and his armies. It is at this point that His return is known as the Second Coming. This is the event when Jesus will victoriously return to conquer His enemies before establishing his millennial reign of Peace on Earth for a thousand years (the millennium) with His saints, the church.
After the thousand years, the rest of the dead will be raised to kneel before their judge, Jesus Christ, at the Great White Throne judgment. They will then be separated from God forever after they are cast into the lake of fire, while the saved will live forever with Christ in a new heaven and earth (Revelation 19-22).
The important differences between the rapture and second coming are as follows:
1) At the rapture, believers meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17). At the second coming, believers return with the Lord to the earth (Revelation 19:14).
2) The Second Coming occurs after the great and terrible Tribulation (Revelation chapters 6–19). The rapture occurs before the Tribulation (1 Thessalonians 5:9; Revelation 3:10).
3) The Rapture is the removal of believers from the earth as an act of deliverance (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, 5:9). The second coming includes the removal of unbelievers as an act of judgment (Matthew 24:40-41).
4) The Rapture will be secret and instant (1 Corinthians 15:50-54). The Second Coming will be visible to all (Revelation 1:7; Matthew 24:29-30).
5) The second coming of Christ will not occur until after certain other end-times events take place (2 Thessalonians 2:4; Matthew 24:15-30; Revelation chapters 6–18). The rapture is not precluded by any unfulfilled prophecy and is thought to be imminent; that it could take place at any moment (Titus 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:50-54).
Distinct Differences between the Rapture and the Second Coming are Important!
1) If the Rapture and the Second Coming are the same event, then the believers would have to go through the Tribulation (1 Thessalonians 5:9; Revelation 3:10).
2) If the Rapture and the Second Coming are the same event, then the return of Christ would not be imminent – there are many prophesied events which must occur before He can return (Matthew 24:4-30).
3) In describing the Tribulation period, the Church is not mentioned at all in Revelation chapters 6–19. During the Tribulation, also known as “The Time of Jacob’s Trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7) – God will turn His primary attention towards the redemption of the remnant of Israel (Romans 11:17-31).
Definitions and Origin of the Rapture
- The English word “Rapture” is derived from the Latin verb “Rapere” meaning “to carry off,” or “to catch up” or “catch away” or “pluck out”.
- The English word “Rapture” is derived from Middle French rapture, via the Medieval Latin raptura (“seizure, kidnapping”), which derives from the Latin raptus (“a carrying off”).
- The Latin Vulgate translates the Greek ἁρπαγησόμεθα as rapiemur meaning “we are caught up” or “we are taken away” from the Latin verb rapio meaning “to catch up” or “take away”.
- Harpazo : the English transliteration of the Greek word for Rapture.
There are three main theories regarding the time frame of the Rapture:
- Pre-Tribulation or Pre-Trib: the Rapture event happens before the 7-year Tribulation, and is also known as ‘The Blessed Hope’.
- Mid-Tribulation or Mid-Trib: the Rapture event happens in the middle of the 7-year Tribulation
- Post-Tribulation or Post-Trib: the Rapture event happens at the end of the 7-year Tribulation
Two other lesser known and less popular theories are Pre-Wrath and the Partial Rapture theories. In Pre-Wrath the Rapture event happens after the beginning of the 7-year Tribulation, but before God’s wrath is experienced on Earth as detailed in the Book of Revelation. The Partial Rapture is a subset of Pre-Trib, in which ONLY spirit-filled Christians who are ready, watching, and waiting for Jesus will be rewarded by being raptured.
The Rapture theory gained in popularity in the 1970’s due to books written by Hal Lindsey. In The Late Great Planet Earth Lindsey promoted the idea of an imminent Rapture based on the global situation at the time qualifying as the beginning of the fulfillment of biblical prophecy.
Some speculate that many non-believers who are left behind after the Rapture will finally come to believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior as a result of the Rapture. The others who are left behind will persist in their stubbornness and disbelief, concocting theories to “explain away” the catalclysmic, supernatural event. Some of these theories may be tied to the great deception spoken of in Revelation, possibly even having to do with claims of ‘alien abduction’ or a ‘natural, universal, evolutionary cosmic purging’ of the inferior, intolerant Christians.
Jesus told his disciples to look for Signs which would indicate that the End was near. The Signs he mentioned included
- Deception: false Christs leading people astray
- Wars and Rumors or threats of Wars amongst the nations
- Earthquakes and Tsunamis
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
Philippians 3:20-21 (NIV)
“…For I am going away to prepare a place for you. And when I have gone and have prepared a place for you, I will come again and take you to Myself so that where I am, you also will be.”
John 14:2-3 (NIV)