The Rapture in Bible Prophecy – A Rapture Bible Study
By Jennifer Rast
The word rapture (in Greek harpazo, in Latin rapere) means to be caught up or taken away suddenly. The rapture refers to the sudden removal of all of God’s people on the earth. In the twinkling of an eye, born again Christians will suddenly be transformed out of our human bodies and will rise up into the air to join Jesus Christ.
Many Christians are afraid to talk about the rapture of the Church. Deep down they feel an excitement about the prospect of being snatched away in the twinkling of an eye to be with the Lord and Savior they love, worship, and have given their lives to. However, they fear being labeled or criticized for a hope that many through the ages have had; a hope that God fully intended for us to have. God warned us against ignoring the hope that end-times prophecy gives us in I Thessalonians 5:19 when he said “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.”
There is a reason Christ warned his end-times followers 13 times in the New Testament to not be deceived, and to watch and be ready. He wanted us to be excited about His glorious appearing.
Satan, on the other hand, does not want us to be excited. He is the master deceiver and wants us to believe his deception rather than the signs of Christ’s return given to us by Jesus himself. He will send many to deceive us and to rob us of the joy of living every day in anticipation of Christ’s return.
For those who believe that the Bible is the truth and is the very word of God, it’s easy to believe in and rejoice in the prophecies that tell of the rapture of God’s Church. The Bible tells us of others who have been taken up into heaven in very much the same way that we will be at the time of the rapture. Elijah was taken up into heaven like a whirlwind.
II Kings 2:11-12 “As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel! And Elisha saw him no more.”
Enoch was also taken from this life so that he would not experience death.
Hebrews 11:5 “By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because god had taken him away. for before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. and without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
So, when will the church be raptured? We know there is more evidence today that He is coming for His Church soon, than at any other time in history. As these signs intensify, all of us who know Christ as our savior will be looking toward heaven and awaiting the coming of our Lord.
Many biblical scholars feel that the rapture will occur prior to the Tribulation Period, or a pre-tribulation rapture. Thus God will spare his Church from the persecutions of the Antichrist and the wrath of God that will fall upon the inhabitants of the Earth during the end times. Those who come to Christ following the rapture will live through the persecution of Christians by the Antichrist and even martyrdom for their faith. There are several other views of the timing for the rapture of the Church, however, here we will examine the pre-tribulation view and the biblical support for it.
One of the best supporting verses from the Bible for the rapture of the Church is found in Revelation 3:10.
“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.”
This verse is a promise made by Christ to one of His seven churches, the church of Philadelphia. The hour of trial Jesus speaks of in this verse is the period of time that our Lord calls the “great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21).
There are many verses in the Bible that describe the rapture. Christians in the first century church were so driven by the coming of their Lord and savior in the end-times that they shared their faith everywhere. Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church in I Thessalonians 1:6-10
And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything. For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
This belief in being taken up to meet Christ is the essence of hope. A hope that Satan will fight and challenge with all of his might.
We also read the following in I Thessalonians 4:16-18 – “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the 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 in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage each other with these words.”
The Lord will shout a loud command as he descends from heaven, and we will hear the voice of the archangel, perhaps to lead Israel during the seven years of tribulation as he did in the Old Testament. It should be an encouragement to all of us in these times of lust, greed, corruption, self-centeredness and resistance to all things that are of God.
I Corinthians 15:51-53 says, “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not 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 imperishable, and we shall all be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.” The Greek word here is harpadso, meaning “snatched up” to be with Christ. When Christ comes to set up his earthly kingdom at the end of the tribulation, he will come with power and the holy angels to bind Satan, and to deal with the earthly Kings who are gathered at Jerusalem to oppose Him. When He comes for his Church at the time of the rapture, He will leave his Father’s house and come in the clouds to call the dead in Christ and then the living church to “come up hither,” where they will join with each other in the clouds to live with Him in His Father’s house. Belief in this kind of resurrection was common among the Jews of that day. Martha believed Jesus when he challenged her to understand the coming resurrection of the dead. She responded to Jesus, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection in the last days.”
When the rapture does occur, billions of people will be left behind full of surprise and shock at the disappearances of their loved ones, friends, and acquaintances.
1 Corinthians 15:51-52 – 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.
Who knows what explanation the Antichrist will use to explain away the disappearances of millions of believers. But, one thing is for certain, with the main obstacle to his plan for the world removed, the way will be clear for the Antichrist to implement his evil plan for the world as is prophesied in the Bible. With the followers of Christ gone, few would stand in the way of a world religion that deifies man, and a world government that criminalizes belief in God.
II Thessalonians 2:3, 6-7 “Let no one in any way deceive you for it (the Day of the Lord) will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction. And you know what restrains him now, so that in this time he may be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way.”
The word Apostasy may have 2 different meanings. The first is to fall away from the faith. In our world today, many are turning to a new age faith that vilifies belief in salvation through Christ, and changes the Word of God to fit an inclusive, creedless, self-gratifying religion that requires nothing and promises everything, including godhood. A belief that releases us from any responsibility, accountability or consequences in life, is becoming more popular in our humanist society and will gain in popularity as the end times progress.
The second meaning for apostasy in this verse is to depart, and may be a reference to the rapture. The forces of the Antichrist are restrained on Earth until the Holy Spirit which dwells within God’s Church is removed by the rapture. With Christ’s followers removed from the scene, the Antichrist will be released to usher in the world’s new age religion with all of its evils.
However, as this depressing time descends upon us, we can rejoice. God promised us that he would deliver his Church from the persecutions of the Antichrist and the wrath of God that will follow his rise to power. The rapture is the fulfillment of that promise.
I Thessalonians 5:4,9-10 “For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.”
Christ will return for those who have died and those who are still living and deliver us from the wrath and tribulation that will be suffered by those who follow the Antichrist.
Romans 5:9 “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.”
I Thessalonians 1:10 “and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.”
God will come for his Church suddenly at a time when we least expect it. For this reason, He instructs us to be ready, always prepared, and on guard for his coming. As those around us turn their backs on God, worshipping themselves, other gods, or false prophets instead, we should be looking up. We should have our spiritual lives in order, so that we might escape what is to come. Especially as we are now witnessing the beginnings of birth pains, God reminds us that we need to be in prayer constantly so that we will not be led down the other path and miss His coming.
Luke 21:34-36 “Be on guard, that your heart may not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day come on you suddenly like a trap; for it will come upon the face of the earth. But keep on the alert at all times, praying in order that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
God felt it was so important for us to be alert and watchful for his coming that he reminded us several times to be ready.
Matthew 24:42 “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.”
Matthew 24:44 “For the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.
Matthew 24:36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”
Matthew 25:13 “Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.”
It is to our benefit that God didn’t tell us the hour of His coming. It encourages us to live righteously as Christ may return any time, and it encourages believers to work diligently for the souls of friends, family and the lost of this world. It reminds us that we have much work to do and may not have much time to do it. If there was ever a time to be an example, share your faith, and make sure that everyone you know has heard the name Jesus, it is now.
After the rapture of the Church, the tribulation will fall upon the Earth. For those of us who received Christ and were prepared for His coming, we can shout for Joy. The Lord has prepared a place for us and we will be with him always.
Isaiah 26:19-21 “Your dead will live; their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust awake and shout for joy. For your dew is as the dew of the dawn, And the earth will give birth to the departed spirits. Come, my people, enter into your rooms, And close your doors behind you; Hide for a little while, Until indignation runs its course. For behold, the Lord is about to come out from his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; and the earth will reveal her bloodshed, and will no longer cover her slain.”
Many Christians will read about the rapture of the Church which will occur before the tribulation and respond with “It’s too good to be true!” or “I don’t deserve to be saved from the wrath to come.” We often overlook, however, that trials and tribulations are a standard part of everyday life in a fallen world. But our Lord specifically informed us that the tribulation is a special judgment of God. It is for our sake that these days will be shortened for us. This escape from wrath is not based on merit, but on what the Bible says. God deals with us on a basis of grace when we accept him as our savior, and this basis extends itself to the tribulation. We should celebrate the saving grace of Christ. Let the joy that fills your soul at the mention of His return show in your life. Let it be an example that draws others in. Then tell everyone you know the reason for the hope that is within you so that they too may look to the future with excitement, hope and confidence, and you will see them in your Fathers house at that great time of reunion and rejoicing.