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What Does the Bible Say About the Rapture?

Updated: Sep 16, 2021

Before we begin our in-depth discussion on the Rapture and other eschatological matters, we need a foundational discussion first. There are two types of communication that are delivered through and because of Holy Scripture: Progressive Revelation, and Progressive Illumination. Progressive revelation teaches us that God progressively unfolded His plan of redemption to mankind. It began in the Garden (Gen. 3:14-19), and ended with the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos.

Progressive Illumination took over when the canon of Scripture was closed in 95AD, and through the Holy Spirit, begins revealing biblical truths to mankind according to His unfolding plan. Thus, it stands to reason that if the Lord can orchestrate when doctrines on things such as the Inerrancy of Scripture, the Trinity, the Church, and Salvation should be codified, then God should also be able to allow the timing for when men begin to have a better understanding of the last days. In other words, He does it when it is appropriate.

The Lord is omniscient (Isaiah 46:9-10) and has always known that the Second Coming would not occur until at least the 21st century; therefore, it would not make much sense for Him to illuminate man’s understanding on said topic in the 2nd century AD. Could He have? Absolutely. However, because He didn’t, doesn’t diminish the fact that everything about the last days was already in Holy Scripture. Neither does it diminish our understanding of when He would return (no man knows the day or hour).

God moved men at certain times, to accomplish certain things. He moved Jerome to translate the Bible into Latin in the 4th century AD. He moved John Wycliffe to translate it into English in the 13th century. He sparked Martin Luther’s aha moment when he came to understand salvation is by grace through faith and not by works in the 16th-century. Likewise, God also orchestrated when John Nelson Darby would revive the doctrine of the rapture as a major Christian issue in the 19th-century.

All that to say, God’s timing determines when men come to understand the truths of Scripture, and how they are applicable to the day and age they live in. What was an important message in Noah’s day, was not the same message for Job’s day, or David’s day. Where the real issue comes in, is how we (humans) choose to interpret the truth that is already IN Scripture.

If we think about how we interpret Scripture, it is very much like a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum, we have those who completely disregard the inerrancy of Scripture, and want to put their own shifting interpretations in to fit the narrative of their day. On the other end, there are those who abuse the inerrancy of Scripture by adhering to wooden literalism, particularly on certain passages, while ignoring the overall context for the rest of the Bible (ex. Snake handling).

In the center, we see a balanced view of Scripture takes the grammatical, literal, and historical approach to biblical interpretation (or hermeneutics) and places context above all. We must understand who the writer was speaking too (the audience) and how does that align with other major doctrines found throughout the Bible (consistency). Below is a very simplified graphic to demonstrate this idea. So where do you find yourself on the spectrum?

You wouldn’t normally associate cults with “wooden literalism,” however, in order for a cult to build its “foundation,” it must mix truth with error. In the process of mixing that poisonous concoction, it abuses certain passages by taking them to the literal extreme (ex. Roman Catholic transubstantiation, son of God in Mormonism). They also do so by placing more emphasis on a certain passage or doctrine making it trump all others.

On the other end of the spectrum for example, the Bible uses symbolism as a form of communication. But that does not mean symbolism is arbitrary, or subjective. Symbolism is always found and defined in other places within the Scriptures (ex. Rev. 12 and Gen. 37). Thus, abusing the text by allegorizing things that are not meant to be allegorized (i.e., the Millennium) or by making symbolism completely subjective and open to anyone’s interpretation, is another form of literary abuse.

Nevertheless, despite what many denominations and theological figureheads teach, the Bible has quite a lot to say about the Rapture. Of course, the first thing critics love to point out about the Rapture is that the word is not even in the Bible.


It is not in your English Bible.

However, for over millennia, the word rapio or rapiemur was what the Latin Vulgate used when translating the Koine Greek word harpazo. Harpazo is the Greek word for the English phrase “caught up” as it appears in our English Bibles. So yes, it is in the Bible. The word rapture encapsulates the doctrine in much the same way the word Trinity encapsulates the triune nature of God. [The word Trinity is not in the Bible either] Furthermore, it is not just written about, but it is portrayed symbolically (Old Testament typology), literally (physically), and futuristically.

Old Testament Typology

  1. Enoch translated from mortal to immortal without seeing death. (Gen. 5:24; Heb. 11:5)

  2. Elijah translated from mortal to immortal by a divine chariot of fire. (2 Kings 2:11-12)

New Testament Literally

  1. Jesus ascends and we are told that He will return in like manner. (Acts 1:9). Paul later confirms that we (the Church) will meet Him in the air (1 Thess. 4:13-18)

  2. Philip is caught away after baptizing the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:39)

  3. Paul is caught up to the third heaven and is shown things he cannot humanly put into human language. (2 Cor. 12:2-5)

  4. John is caught up in the spirit and given the Revelation (Rev. 4:1-2)


  1. Jesus promises His church that He will come back for them and take them to be where He is (John 14:1-3)

  2. Paul teaches that this harpazo (catching up) is a mystery that had not been revealed to the Old Testament saints, but would happen to one generation of believers. Furthermore, those who had already died would come back with Christ to meet us (those still alive) in the air (1 Cor. 15:51-56, 1 Thess. 4:13-18)

  3. Jesus uses the Rapture as a warning to the sleeping Church (Rev. 3:3) and as a blessing to the faithful Church (Rev. 3:10)

  4. The Two Witnesses are resurrected and immediately caught up after lying dead in the streets of Jerusalem for three days (Rev. 11:11-12)

Therefore, regardless of what your pastor, priest, or preacher has to say about the Rapture, it is in the Bible as both a concept and as a reality. If they deny it, or dismiss the teaching of it, or say that it is something “man-made,” or irrelevant, I would walk away from that church and never look back. It is important a doctrine as any other. For the Christian to grow and to become who Christ intended us to be, must know more than just how to be a Christian. We have to be given the “blessed hope” in order to stand and endure in these darkening days.

The New Testament Pattern

As most of you know who are reading this, the Bible is broken into two parts with the Old and New Testaments. Even though there are some cryptic “rapture-like” passages sprinkled throughout the Old Testament (ex. Isaiah 26:20-21; Song of Solomon 2:10-13; Psalm 90:10, etc.), the Apostle Paul stated the Rapture was a mystery (musterion-Greek). It was something that had not yet been revealed publically to any believers before him. Christ’s statements in the Upper Room Discourse mark the first teaching of this event, but it was to a private audience (the disciples minus Judas).

This is where Christ promises to receive those who are His back to Himself and to take them to be where He would come from (the Third Heaven). This is distinct from the Second Coming, because He does not come back with the armies of heaven in tow, does not have His robe soaked with blood, nor is He waging war. In Revelation 19, Christ is coming to occupy and take over enemy territory. In John 14:1-3, Christ appears in a completely non-combative event. Let us look at the New Testament and pull out some interesting differences and comparisons.

The Gospels

The Gospel of Matthew:

  1. Presents Jesus as King of the Jews

  2. Lineage begins with Abraham

  3. He teaches the Second Coming in the Olivet Discourse plainly, references the Rapture discretely before their last Supper (or their first communion)

The Gospel of Mark:

  1. Presents Jesus as the Servant

  2. No lineage given

  3. He teaches the Second Coming in the Olivet Discourse plainly, references the Rapture discretely before their last Supper (or their first communion)

The Gospel of Luke:

  1. Presents the humanity of Christ

  2. Lineage begins with Adam

  3. He teaches the Second Coming in the Olivet Discourse plainly, references the Rapture discretely before their last Supper (or their first communion)

Gospel of John:

  1. Presents Christ the Savior

  2. Lineage shows the divinity of Christ

  3. During their last Supper (or their first communion), Judas departs, then He conducts the Upper Room Discourse where He teaches them about the Rapture

  4. Interestingly, Judas departing before the Upper Room Discourse foreshadows the apostasia (both apostatizing and physical departure) that will occur at the end of the age (today)

  5. Paul later teaches that this apostasia must happen before the Rapture occurs (2nd Thess. 2:3).


Chronicles the formation of the early church and is not eschatological in nature. However, there are some key points of information that are clarified here:

  1. Christ must return in the same manner in which He departed (Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9-11)

  2. The last days began with the first Pentecost (Acts 2:17)

The Epistles

1 Thessalonians 1-5: Teaches the Rapture and imminent return of Christ in every chapter

James 5: Teaches the Rapture and Imminency

2 Thessalonians 2: Teaches the Rapture and Imminency

1 Corinthians 13-15: Teaches that the gift of prophecy is a divinely ordained; the certainty (and necessity) of the rapture because of the resurrection

2 Corinthians 5: Teaches the about the Resurrection and the Bema Seat Judgment

Philippians 3: Teaches about the Rapture and our heavenly citizenship

2 Peter 1, 3-4: Teaches us that prophecy is not from man; destruction of false teachers, and that the Lord is coming back again when men openly scoff His return (interestingly, scoffing couldn’t happen if people were not talking about it already)

Jude 1: teaches about the Second Coming as being prophesied as far back as Enoch

The Revelation

  1. 1-3: Seven churches (prophetic order they are given provide historic church eras)

  2. 4-5: Heavenly scene, the church now in heaven (God in complete control of Judgments; Christ opens the Seals)

  3. 6-18: 21 (+) judgments unleashed upon a Christ-rejecting world, no mention of the Church on the earth

  4. 19-20: Battle of Armageddon and millennial reign of Christ upon the earth

  5. 21-22: New heavens and new earth.


Something worth repeating again is that the reason people today even have the luxury to scoff, mock, discuss, and debate the Rapture of the Church, is because God brought it back into the forefront of Christian thought. The reason He did that through men like Joseph Mede, Morgan Edwards, James Frere, William Cuninghame, John N. Darby, William Blackstone, Cyrus Scofield, Clarence Larkin, Harry Ironside, Hal Lindsey, and others, was because the time was drawing near, and God was warning the Church (and the world) of what was about to happen. As proof, God also revealed to these men that Israel would become a nation again long before it actually happened in 1948.

that the Lord Jesus will come in person to introduce the millennial age, when Israel shall be restored to their own land, and the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord; and that this personal and premillennial advent is the blessed hope set before us in the Gospel for which we should be constantly looking. (Niagra Bible Conference, 1878)

However, it is not just dispensationalists who believed Israel would become a nation again in her ancient, biblical, homeland. The Holy Spirit was moving Christian’s amongst many different denominations and hermeneutical veins as to the coming end of the age. Theologians such as Charles Spurgeon, J.C. Ryle, and the Bonar brothers (Horatius and Andrew) also believers that Israel would have to come into her land.

Surely the Lord God does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets. Amos 3:7

If the Rapture of the Church were not true, how (and why) did so many men from different ages, generations, and denominations all come to the same conclusion? They did so not because of Darby or even Hal Lindsey, but by simply returning to a literal, grammatical, historical, and balanced interpretation of the Bible. They did so because God the Holy Spirit moved them to do so. They set aside their theological dogmas, denominational creeds, and academic interpretations, and simply let the Bible speak for itself.

While I will not go so far as to say men like Darby were prophets, they were no doubt, messengers God used to illuminate their generation’s understanding. Darby didn’t invent the Rapture any more than Luther invented salvation by grace through faith. Darby (his predecessors and successors) simply codified what was already revealed in Scripture. If the Rapture weren’t already in the Bible, then Darby would have had to create it out of thin air, thus, creating another in a long line of 18th-century cult movements that was rejected by Orthodox Christianity. However, because it is clearly in Scripture, the evidence suggests that God the Holy Spirit orchestrated the timing for its reintroduction into Christian discussion due to the proximity to its occurrence.

Think about what Noah preached about in the years leading up to the flood (2 Peter 2:5). Did he preach about your best life now? Did he preach about the coming Messiah? Did he preach about the coming Kingdom?

No. No. and No.

He preached about the coming judgment.

The reason he preached about that because that’s what was pertinent to the audience of his day. He preached to his generation to repent and to come into the ark because the coming judgment was coming upon the whole earth. And in the 100 plus years of preaching, only he and his family were saved.

Jesus noted that in the last days, it would be very much like the days of Noah and the days of Lot (Luke 17:25-27). People would be going their life without a care in the world.

Peter added that men would be scoffing at the promise Christ made to return, saying that since nothing has happened yet, nothing will happen in the future (2 Peter 3:3-7). Here, Peter also links back to the days of Noah saying the same word that destroyed the world with water, will one day destroy it with fire.

But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:8-9

God’s patience is purely due to His longsuffering nature, and of His great love and mercy for the lost. Yet, God’s patience regarding this is not infinite, as He will one day soon, carry out the Promise He made back in John 14:1-3 (Upper Room Discourse). He is bound by His own word, to do that which He has said He would do. God’s longsuffering is also why God allowed the issue of the Rapture to be brought back front and center to the world’s attention. He is using these men (and women) to warn the world of what is coming, just as He used Noah. Just as He used Lot (Gen. 19:14). Just as God used the prophets and the apostles to warn the world of what was coming, God is using His servants today to make known what is about to happen.

This is why Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth was the bestselling book of the 1970s. It is why the Left Behind bestselling books sold in the hundreds of millions in the 1990s-2000s. More importantly, it is why He is using you and me to warn our friends and family, so that when it happens, they will KNOW what happened, before God allows the strong delusion to occur (2 Thess. 2:11).

One final thought about the Rapture is the why. Why did God choose to make the Rapture so sensational, so dramatic, such an extreme, divinely-sanctioned act of redemption? You gotta admit, that the Rapture seems very over-the-top in terms of feasibility. So why does God choose this way to redeem His bride the Church?

Jesus said in His Olivet Discourse that the final generation’s hearts would wax cold. Paul said men would be lovers of themselves. Peter said they would be scoffers. In other words, the last generation was going to be the most hard-hearted, thick-headed, and spiritually-dead generation on record. It is going to take an event as extreme as the Rapture, to reach some. Which goes back to why God is bringing this back to men’s attention leading up to the time.

Friends, the Rapture of the Church is so very near. I can sense it in my spirit. I know many other writers and readers who all feel that same sense of urgency welling within them. This is not some form of collective-insanity. We all come from different backgrounds, different cultures, different educational levels, and different denominations, yet, we all sense that the Lord’s return is near, even at the door! If it was close in James’s day, how much closer are we now some two-thousand years later?

Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. James 5:7-8

Even so, Maranatha!

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