Rapture of the Christian Church
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Understanding Bible Prophecy
The "Catching Away" of the Saints
March 23, 2009
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"Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book" (Revelation 22:7 KJV)
- Beam Me Up! -
Everybody familiar with the "Star Trek" series is certainly familiar with the preceding sentence. Whenever Captain Kirk was in trouble, or needed to get somewhere in a hurry, the Star Trek crew would rev up the Enterprise's Transporter Device. Instantly the Captain and crew (including an "insignificant" extra crew member who usually met with an untimely death!) would dematerialize and suddenly materialize elsewhere. There isn't anybody who has ever been caught in a rush-hour traffic jam who wouldn't give a month's pay for such a device.
What may not be common knowledge is that the Bible speaks of this exact event. This event is known as the Rapture. The Rapture is described in several passages in the Bible and a major Rapture event is on the horizon. And in one instance, a famous Biblical character is transported from the desert to a major city instantaneously!
Surprise! The word "Rapture" isn't found in the Bible! But the event known as "The Rapture" is clearly there. You might also be surprised to learn that "Holy Trinity" isn't found in the Scriptures either; but no one doubts Their existence (the Father, Son and Holy Spirit). Let's examine the Scriptural basis for the Rapture.
Kept Out of That Hour - Revelation 3:10 (NKJV)
Have you ever seen a sign that reads "Keep Out!" posted? Sometimes it's there to protect you from danger. In this passage from Revelation Jesus is speaking to the Faithful Church at Philadelphia in Asia Minor. To be "kept from the hour of trial" means literally to be "out of that hour of testing" which shall come upon the whole Earth. Since this was a) written 1900+ years ago and b) all the members of the Church at Philadelphia are dead and c) the whole world has not experienced testing from God in one brief episode of time since then, we can conclude that this is a future event foretold. Existing churches at that time were used as models by God to represent the stages of the Christian Church down through history:
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.
The First Rapture - He Was Not - Genesis 5:21-24 (NASB)
That 365-year-old man Enoch has just completely vanished from this Earth! Where in Heaven did he go? According to the Book of Genesis, Enoch was 65 years old when he became the father of Methuselah, the longest-living man in the Bible. During the next 300 years Enoch had other sons and daughters (300 years of child rearing!). And so, Enoch lived a year's worth of years: 365 years (though Biblical years are often 360-day years). History's first demonstrated Rapture event occurs as God takes Enoch directly to Heaven. One moment he's dwelling on Earth and in the blink of an eye he's translated to Heaven:
21 Enoch lived sixty-five years, and
became the father of Methuselah.
22 Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters.
23 So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years.
24 Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.
The First Rapture - He Did Not Die - Hebrews 11:5 (NASB)
Not convinced that Genesis 5:24 demonstrates the Rapture of a living human being? Well, perhaps we'd better offer more proof, eh? And what better place for more Rapture proof than the New Testament?:
5 By Faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.
The Second Rapture - Chariots of Fire - 2nd Kings 2:1-12 (NASB)
Rapture number 2 is found in the Book of 2nd Kings as the premier prophet of God has finished his Earthly ministry and is turning over his office to his protégé Elisha. Elijah, in his wisdom, knows that Elisha's Faith will be tremendously strengthened by witnessing the taking of Elijah from Earth to Heaven right before his eyes:
1 AND it came about
when the LORD was about to take up Elijah by a whirlwind to Heaven, that Elijah
went with Elisha from Gilgal.
2 Elijah said to Elisha, "Stay here please, for the LORD has sent me as far as Bethel". But Elisha said, "As the LORD lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you." So they went down to Bethel.
3 Then the sons of the prophets who were at Bethel came out to Elisha and said to him, "Do you know that the LORD will take away your master from over you today?" And he said, "Yes, I know; be still".
4 Elijah said to him, "Elisha, please stay here, for the LORD has sent me to Jericho". But he said, "As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you". So they came to Jericho.
5 The sons of the prophets who were at Jericho approached Elisha and said to him, "Do you know that the LORD will take away your master from over you today?" And he answered, "Yes, I know; be still".
6 Then Elijah said to him, "Please stay here, for the LORD has sent me to the Jordan". And he said, "As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you". So the two of them went on.
7 Now fifty men of the sons of the prophets went and stood opposite them at a distance, while the two of them stood by the Jordan.
8 Elijah took his mantle and folded it together and struck the waters, and they were divided here and there, so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground.
9 When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, "Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you". And Elisha said, "Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me".
10 He said, "You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so."
11 As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to Heaven.
12 Elisha saw it and cried out, "My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!" And he saw Elijah no more ...
Snatched Away - Acts of the Apostles 8:26-40 (KJV)
There are several startling aspects to this passage of Scripture. First, an Angel of the Lord speaks directly to one of the early Apostles. The Angel tells Philip to head for the desert, apparently by conventional methods, most likely by walking. The Angel of the Lord knows that an Ethiopian is ready to receive the Gospel and needs someone (a believer) to share with him. When Philip sees the chariot and hears the man reading from Isaiah 53:7-8 (reading aloud was a common practice in those days to benefit the widely uneducated) the Angel of the Lord tells him to catch up with the chariot. When he does, Philip inquires of the Ethiopian if he comprehends the prophecy. After inviting Philip to enter the chariot and explain the prophecy concerning the vicarious Sacrifice of Christ, the Ethiopian then asks Philip to baptize him into the Body of Christ at a nearby body of water. Notice that although the Ethiopian believed in God, to receive the Gospel he had to believe with all his heart that Jesus Christ was the unique, Incarnate Son of the Living God (the Salvation "line of demarcation" according to 1st John 4:1-3).
So where is the Rapture event? In an often-overlooked passage, verses 39-40, Philip is supernaturally removed from the desert and materializes at the city of Azotus where he continues preaching the Gospel in several cities. In verse 39, we find the Greek word "harpazo" translated in the King James Version as "caught away". "Harpazo" means "to seize upon suddenly, with force" and is translated as "caught up" in 1st Thessalonians 4:17 where the Rapture joins believers, both dead and alive with the Lord in the blink of an eye. Thus, the first Rapture of the New Testament (after Christ that is! - Mark 16:19 KJV) is a SURPRISE, even to an Apostle!
26 And the angel of
the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, "Arise, and go toward the south unto
the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert."
27 And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship,
28 Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias (Isaiah) the prophet.
29 Then the (Holy) Spirit said unto Philip, "Go near, and join thyself to this chariot."
30 And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias (Isaiah), and said, "Understandest thou what thou readest?"
31 And he said, "How can I, except some man should guide me?" And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.
32 The place of the Scripture which he read was this, He was led as a Sheep to the slaughter; and like a Lamb dumb before His shearer, so opened He not His mouth:
33 In His humiliation His judgment was taken away: and who shall declare His generation? for His life is taken from the Earth.
34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, "I pray thee, of Whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other Man?"
35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same Scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, "See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?"
37 And Philip said, "If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God."
38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
39 And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.
40 But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.
The Rapture - We Will Not All Die - 1st Corinthians 15:50-54 (NASB)
In this passage, the Apostle Paul describes the transformation of the believer into the Heavenly Kingdom of God. A perishable, mortal human body cannot enter the Kingdom, therefore believers will be given new bodies that are imperishable and immortal. Paul reveals a mystery: every believer will not die but some will be translated into the Kingdom of God in the blink of an eye. During the Rapture, living Christians will enter the Kingdom directly without experiencing death! Paul uses the term "sleep" which is Greek idiom or a metaphor for physical death. But when a believer, either dead or alive is changed, they are immortal for eternity:
50 Now I say this,
brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God; nor does the
perishable inherit the imperishable.
51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed,
52 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 will be changed.
53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality ...
The Rapture - Christians Taken Alive - 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NASB)
The Apostle Paul again uses the idiom for physical death, this time clearly explaining that those Christians who have experienced physical death will be resurrected by Christ. Here again we see the Rapture in the 17th verse, which is the Greek word "harpazo" translated into English as "caught up":
13 But we do not want
you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not
grieve as do the rest who have no hope.
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.
15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.
16 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.
17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.
18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
He Ascended to Heaven - Revelation 12:5 (NASB)
The Greek word "harpazo" is again translated into English as "caught up" in Revelation 12:5. Here it is used to describe the Ascension of Christ into Heaven; a demonstrated rapture event:
5 And she gave birth
to a Son, a Male Child, Who is to rule all the nations with a Rod of Iron;
and her Child was caught up to God and to His throne.
There He Goes - Luke 24:49-53 (NASB)
In the Gospel According to Luke, Jesus tells the Disciples to await the Holy Spirit of God, Whom Jesus would send unto them after He ascended to God the Father's right hand. The Disciples are ordered to stay in the city of Jerusalem until the Spirit comes upon them. In the city of Bethany, Jesus blesses His Disciples and Ascends into the Kingdom of God on high. His Rapture is found in verse 51:
49 "And behold,
I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the
city until you are clothed with power from on high."
50 And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them.
51 While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into Heaven.
52 And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy,
53 and were continually in the temple praising God.
He'll Be Back - Acts of the Apostles 1:6-11 (NASB)
The Ascension of Christ into Heaven is described in the first chapter of Acts; a book written by the same author of the Gospel According to Luke. The Apostle Luke is classically known as a medical doctor having particular attention to detail. As expected, this short passage contains a great deal of information.
First the Disciples asked Jesus if Israel would soon be restored as His Kingdom. Jesus had other plans which included the birth of the Gentile Church and evangelizing the world. Therefore, Jesus told them that the appointed times ("times") and how much time would pass ("epochs") were a mystery of God the Father and known only to Him. Though signs are visible, the exact day and hour is not known.
The demonstrated Rapture event in this passage occurs in verse 9 immediately after Jesus reaffirms the Great Commission. Suddenly two angels, which always appear as men in the Bible, inform the Disciples that the visible, Second Coming of Christ will occur in a like manner, albeit reversed:
6 So when they had
come together, they were asking Him, saying, "Lord, is it at this time You
are restoring the Kingdom to Israel?"
7 He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority;
8 but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the Earth."
9 And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.
10 And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them.
11 They also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, Who has been taken up from you into Heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into Heaven."
Two Witnesses Raptured - Up With a Shout - Revelation 11:11-12 (KJV)
In Revelation Chapter 11 we discover another demonstrated rapture event as God resurrects the Two Witnesses and then takes them directly into Heaven in plain view of the world:
11 But after the
three and a half days, the breath of life from God came into them, and they
stood on their feet; and great fear fell upon those who were watching them.
12 And they heard a loud voice from Heaven saying to them, "Come up here", Then they went up into Heaven in the cloud, and their enemies watched them.
Come Up Here - Revelation 4:1 (NASB)
In Revelation Chapter 4 we see yet another demonstrated rapture event as the Apostle John is called up into Heaven to view the events of the future. This event was much like the Apostle Paul's 2nd Corinthians journey:
1 AFTER these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in Heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things."
Sneak Preview - 2nd Corinthians 12:2-4 (NASB)
In 2nd Corinthians, "harpazo" is once again translated into English as "caught up" describing the bodily or spiritual rapture of the Apostle Paul into Heaven. The First Heaven is the sky above the Earth. The Second Heaven includes that which is known as outer space. The Third Heaven is the dwelling place of Almighty God:
2 I know a man in
Christ who fourteen years ago -- whether in the body I do not know, or out of
the body I do not know, God knows -- such a man was caught up to the Third
3 And I know how such a man -- whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows --
4 was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.
The Rapture - Surprise! - Luke 17:26-36 (NASB)
Jesus speaks about the Rapture in the Gospel according to Luke. Though He speaks of two destructive events, the important focus is that believers are removed by God before the REALLY tough times happen on Earth; i.e. prior to God's wrath being poured out. Regarding Sodom and Gomorrah, the destruction happens after Lot departs from Sodom. The Rapture is seen in verses 34-36 which also demonstrates that the event will happen simultaneously in each of the three major time zones on the Earth. Working in the field is done in the Morning (36), grinding is done in the Afternoon (35) and sleeping, of course, occurs at Night (34):
26 And just as it
happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man:
27 they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.
28 It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building;
29 but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from Heaven and destroyed them all.
30 It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.
31 On that day, the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house must not go down to take them out; and likewise the one who is in the field must not turn back.
32 Remember Lot's wife.
33 Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.
34 I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left.
35 There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will be taken and the other will be left.
36 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left.
The Rapture - They Were Preoccupied - Matthew 24:37-44 (NASB)
Jesus speaks again about the Rapture in the Gospel according to Matthew. Here, He speaks again of the destructive worldwide flood. However, the important focus in this passage is that most of the world is busy with their "normal" daily lives. Therefore they did not comprehend what was coming and it took them completely by surprise, despite Noah's preaching. The Rapture is seen in verses 40-41 but only two time zones are referenced here. The Greek word "parousia" is translated here as "coming". However, the last part of this passage absolutely states that the Rapture will be a SURPRISE and occurs on an average, boring day, when even Christians think not:
37 For the coming of
the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.
38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark,
39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.
40 Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left.
41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left.
42 Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.
43 But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the Thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into.
44 For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.
Escape All These Things - Luke 21:34-36 (KJV)
For nearly 2,000 years, Christians have been eagerly awaiting the Return of Jesus Christ to Earth. This anticipation has inspired fervent evangelism and steadfastness in trials and tribulations. Jesus admonished Christians to not become so preoccupied with the cares of this life that they become unfruitful. Jesus promised that the Faithful will be accounted worthy to ESCAPE the terrible things that will come upon the Earth in the Last Days. Some ridicule "escapism", yet Jesus taught it Himself:
34 And TAKE HEED to
yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and
drunkenness, and CARES OF THIS LIFE, and so THAT DAY COME UPON YOU UNAWARES.
35 For as a SNARE SHALL IT COME on ALL THEM that dwell on the face of the WHOLE EARTH.
36 WATCH YE THEREFORE, and PRAY ALWAYS, that ye may be ACCOUNTED WORTHY to ESCAPE ALL THESE THINGS that SHALL COME to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.
What Happens to Those Who are Left Behind?
Though many will be converted to the Gospel during the Tribulation Period (Revelation 20:4) it will be the most difficult time ever seen on the Earth. The fifth and final earthly kingdom of Daniel's prophecy will arise and be led by the man known as the Antichrist (false messiah), and he will be assisted by the False Prophet (false witness) and they will cause people to worship a False Deity (false god) which is called the "image of the beast". It will also be the time of conversion of the Nation of Israel to the Gospel of Christ (Romans 11:25-29).
"Watch therefore, for ye know neither the Day nor the Hour wherein the Son of Man Cometh" (Matthew 25:1-13 KJV)
Are you ready? Don't be caught by surprise! The Bridegroom cometh!
MIDI Music: "I'll Fly Away"
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