Updated: May 14
I originally wrote this article around June of 2012. I think my reasoning then, was that I had been running into more and more Christians who had never heard of the Rapture. Granted, they may have heard of the Left Behind books, or they knew generally of a Rapture, but they had never investigated it themselves. Truthfully, I was both intrigued and disturbed by this new reality, and felt compelled to write about it. Now, there are much better and more famous writers than I who have done just that, so I don’t claim any kind of special calling in these regards, but I do feel like I was called to write it (if that makes sense?). I felt then, as I do now, that this topic is worthy of discussion and clarification, for as many times as necessary to get the message of the blessed hope out to as many people as possible.
My overarching aim here today, is not to get you to agree with me on when it happens, only that you believe that it does. However, along the way, I will show you why I believe it happens when it does.
If you do not believe in a Pretribulation Rapture, then you likely read this with a healthy dose of bias already built into your thinking, largely because of what someone else taught you. You may have been told that John Nelson Darby invented the Rapture two centuries ago. Or that C.I. Scofield invented it a hundred years ago when he added study notes into the Bible for the first time.
The tendency for you then (if you think this) is to dismiss anything I say outright. Fair enough. I can just tell you, that I was not always Pre-Trib. There were a number of years that I didn’t know what I believed. I only came into that view (Pre-Trib) after reading the Scriptures, praying, and reading/ watching/ hearing literally thousands of articles and sermons on the subject by which I could compare many different viewpoints. After all that, I came to the conclusion that I am now (which is Pre-Trib Dispensationalist), and have never looked back.
I have run into many people who say that they used to be Pre-Trib, but now have adopted Pre-Wrath or Post-Trib due to their “studying.” When I hear that, it's’ like saying I used to be Christian, and after much studying, decided to become a Jehovah’s Witness or a Mormon. After my own digging, it led me to two fundamental observations: 1) they never had a solid foundation to begin with, and 2) they weren’t studying the Bible.
Nevertheless, to be the fairest broker I can be, there are a few strong arguments out there for the other positions like Pre-Wrath, Mid-Trib, and even Post-Trib views. However, they are ONLY strong arguments, if you take them in a vacuum. What I mean by that is that you could probably parse out a view (any view) if you were willing to overlook or sacrifice consistency with other biblical doctrines and truths in order to arrive at this new conclusion. I suppose one could make the argument that only male virgins are raptured. Sounds ridiculous I know, but I am positive that many gullible people have bought into even weirder teachings than that over the past two thousand years.
So here are my ground rules going forward, you do not have to agree with my position on the timing of the Rapture, but we do have to agree on the below three. If you do not believe in the following, then you are outside the norms of orthodox Christianity. That means regardless of what I write, or how well I articulate my position, you will not be able to come to the knowledge of the truth regarding the doctrine of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture unless you subscribe to the below three points:
That God exists in three persons-The Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. They are co-equal, co-eternal, and are of the same Being or Essence for oneness, but comprise three distinctly different Persons, with differing roles and functions. The Son obediently submits His will to that of the Father, the Father bestows all power and authority to the Son and the Spirit glorifies both, and carries out the execution of both the Father and the Son’s wills.
That God became flesh (the Incarnation) as the Man Christ Jesus through the overshadowing of the virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit. He willingly came to be that perfect sacrifice that could meet God’s impossible standards of perfection. He came because no man (we are all born into sin) could ever do it. He came to be the perfect sacrifice that would redeem mankind (of those who would believe) for all time.
That God chose to speak to mankind through the prophets and apostles, recording His message to us in what we know as the Holy Bible (both Old and New Testaments). Sixty-six books, by an estimated forty authors, over 1,500 years. The Holy Spirit moved these men supernaturally, to write what God wanted mankind to know about Himself and His plan of redemption. God could have chosen any manner to communicate to us, but He chose this way to do it. This means that His Bible (all sixty-six books) are equally important. So if we believe that God is the ultimate author behind all sixty-six books, then we must understand that the message was not simply limited to the day they were written in, because God exists outside of time and space, nor is bound by either. With that said, two additional principles should be addressed.
The entire Bible was written for us, but it is not all written to us. Some parts of the Bible have different applications to different peoples (e.g., the Israelites vs. the Church, angels vs. humans, godless vs. the godly, etc.).
God never changes, but how He has dealt with mankind has depending on where mankind was in human history. The clearest example I can give for this is that God dealt differently with Adam and Eve before the fall then you and I today. Clearly, there are significant differences.
A good analogy here is that if you had a child, you would not impose the same rules and expectations on a two-year-old, that you would on a twelve-year-old. Just because we have different rules for them at different ages doesn’t mean that we love them any less, we just have different expectations for them. We have to adjust our expectations of them because they are at different levels of maturity and understanding. This is no different than what God has done for mankind writ large. Notice how Jesus chastises the people of His day, for not recognizing who was in their midst and held them accountable for their willful ignorance (Luke 10:13-16).
Therefore, if you can agree with me on the top three points, then we have common ground going forward. That means we can start from the same point relatively speaking about what we know of God and Scripture.
Why do Christians believe in a “Rapture?”
First of all, we need to recognize that God snatching or pulling someone, alive, straight into heaven, is a) not a new concept, or b) impossible. If we believe God could speak the universe into existence, then pulling humans into heaven alive, is not much of a stretch for Him. Furthermore, we have two examples in the OT, where God literally took certain persons straight from earth into heaven, without dying; Enoch (Gen. 5:22-24, Heb. 11:5), and Elijah (2 Kings 2:10-14).
Secondly, even though the word rapture does not appear in our English Bible translations, we can clearly see that “rapture events” have occurred in the past, and will happen again in the future.
Regarding the term rapture and its use in theology the following should answer your questions. It is taken from Ryrie’s Basic Theology, Electronic Media from Parsons Technology. Our modern understanding of rapture appears to have little or no connection with the eschatological event. However, the word is properly used of that event. Rapture is a state or experience of being carried away. The English word comes from a Latin word, rapio, which means to seize or snatch in relation to an ecstasy of spirit or the actual removal from one place to another. In other words, it means to be carried away in spirit or in body. The Rapture of the church means the carrying away of the church from earth to heaven.
The Greek word from this term “rapture” is derived appears in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, translated “caught up.” The Latin translation of this verse used the word rapturo. The Greek word it translates is harpazo, which means to snatch or take away. Elsewhere it is used to describe how the Spirit caught up Philip near Gaza and brought him to Caesarea (Acts 8:39) and to describe Paul’s experience of being caught up into the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2-4). Thus, there can be no doubt that the word is used in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 to indicate the actual removal of people from earth to heaven. (Source)
Thirdly, because Jesus said so. The most popular passage of Scripture associated with the Rapture of the Church is 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. In that passage, the Apostle Paul starts by saying, for this we say to you by the word of the Lord (vs. 15). What word was that? A lot of people forget that Jesus had already given us a glimpse of this in His Upper Room discourse. This is what the Holy Spirit would later direct Paul to teach about in his epistles some twenty years after the fact. Why this was called a mystery (Greek-musterion), is not that it couldn’t be understood, but that it had been hidden since before the world began. This mantel was now placed upon Paul to explain to the churches.
A Lesson on Discourse
The Olivet Discourse was Jesus’s explanation of the end-times in how they pertained to the nation of Israel. This discourse was given to His Jewish disciples, on the Mt. of Olives, a few days before His crucifixion. It is found in three of the four Gospels (known as the Synoptic Gospels) because of their similarities and intended audiences.
Because of the Jewish nature and themes of the book, the Gospel According to Matthew was written with a Jewish audience in mind. Makes sense when you consider that if a Jew were to read the last book of the Tanakh (what we call the Old Testament), you’d begin in Matthew with the genealogy of Jesus (on his legal-father Joseph’s side) that begins with Abraham. Contains the most expansive discussion on the Olivet Discourse.
Because the Gospel According to Mark begins with no genealogy and focuses primarily on the actions of Christ, it is believed to show the servanthood of Christ. This contains the Olivet Discourse very similar to that of Matthew’s, but not as expansive.
Because the Gospel According to Luke begins the reasons why Mary and Joseph ended up in Bethlehem and focuses on the relationships Jesus has with everyone around Him, as well as a genealogy starting with Adam, it is believed to demonstrate the humanity of Christ. This too has a slightly different version of the Olivet Discourse.
However, the Olivet Discourse is not found in the Gospel According to John. Most biblical experts understand and accept that due to its late writing (last gospel recorded) and unique style of writing (genealogy begins with the Deity of Christ), the Gospel of John was written to and for the fledgling Christian Church. That being the case, instead of having the Olivet Discourse, we have the Upper Room Discourse (John 14-17). This discourse occurs at the end of the last supper, where Jesus explains to His disciples (minus Judas Iscariot) what the future held for His followers. While He promises trials and tribulations in this life, He makes no mention of the events found in the Olivet Discourse.
Rather, the Upper Room Discourse begins with a profound message of hope.
“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
The first epistle to the church in Thessalonica is believed by most, to be Paul’s first letter to anyone. In this epistle, Paul describes a personal revelation that He received directly from the Lord (Gal. 1:11-12). Like Jesus’s message, Paul’s was also meant to be a message of hope for the fledgling church. Members of this congregation were worried about their fellow believers who had already passed away, fearing that they would not make it to this Day (1 Thess. 5:4). Paul makes known this new revelation to encourage them. In detail, Paul explains what would happen at this event where Jesus returned both with and for His believers called the harpazo. Although it was a word from the Lord and had in part, been shared with the disciples in the Upper Room, its purpose and mechanisms of it had never been revealed to anyone until Paul. How it would all take place, was a mystery of the grandest orders (1 Corinthians 15:51), one where Christ Himself would descend in the same manner in which He ascended (Luke 24:50-53, Acts 1:9-11).
Now, regardless of which position you hold regarding the timing of the Rapture, we should at least now agree that a Rapture (harpazo) occurs. Not only that, but if we can agree there, then we should also be able to agree that it wasn’t some fanciful creation of John N. Darby or C.I. Scofield, but by Christ Himself. To link the Rapture event as some recent Johnny-come-lately phenomena flies in the face of the Biblical account. Jesus entrusted this revelation to an ex-Pharisee and recent convert to Christianity named Paul of Tarsus, some two thousand years before Darby.