The Rapture is commonly understood to refer to a time when believers will be snatched up to heaven by Jesus to escape the time of tribulation that will engulf the earth during the reign of the Antichrist. The Rapture is central to End-Time theories so much so that people often assume that it’s clearly explained in the Bible, especially in the Book of Revelation but the truth is it’s pretty complicated. Whether the Rapture is biblical is highly debated in the Christian community. The word “Rapture” doesn’t occur in the Bible. The term comes from a Latin word meaning “a carrying off, a transport, or a snatching away.” While we don’t see “Rapture” directly mentioned in the Bible, the concept of “carrying off” and the Rapture of the Church is taught in the Bible.
The Rapture of the Church is the event in which God “snatches away” all believers from the earth in order to make way for His righteous judgment to be poured out on the earth during the tribulation period. We hear about this event primarily in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:50-54. In 1 Thessalonians, Paul is dealing with the fears of believers whose loved ones have died and who are afraid d of what will happen when Christ returns.
Paul writes, “According to the Lord’s Word, we tell you that we are still alive, who are left until the coming of the LORD will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the LORD Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. And after that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the LORD in the air. And so we will be with the LORD forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18).
This recording tells us that God will resurrect all believers who have died, give them glorified bodies and take them from the earth, along with all living believers who will also be given glorified bodies at the time. While “carrying off” is mentioned here, we don’t see mention of the Antichrist. This is one of the reasons many struggle with the notion of a “pre-tribulation” Rapture, where believers are supposed to disappear and everyone else is left to suffer.
Scripture tells us that the transformation of our bodies will be instantaneous. This will occur to change our bodies to fit us for eternity. The Bible tells us, “We know that when He [Christ] appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).
It’s important that we distinguish the Rapture from the Second Coming of Christ. The Second Coming speaks of the return of Jesus to triumph over evil where He will establish His Millennial Kingdom. This event is described in Revelation 19:11-16: “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice He judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on His head are many crowns. He has a name written on Him that no one knows but He himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and His name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following Him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. 'He will rule with an iron scepter. He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On His robe and on his thigh He has the name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords.'” As Christians, we believe Jesus will return to earth in fulfillment of His promises and the prophecies also made about Him.
While it is not always easy to differentiate the two when reading Scripture, distinguishes between the two is important. Both include the return of Jesus and both are recognized as End-Time events. In short, the Rapture is believed to involve removing all believers from the earth before God’s wrath. The second coming marks the return of Christ to bring an end to tribulation by defeating the Enemy. Many things must occur before Jesus’ Second Coming.
Another reason that many struggle with the Rapture is because it was not taught in the Old Testament. This is why Paul calls the event a mystery now revealed. Paul says, “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 sounds, the dead will be raised imperishable and we will be changed forever” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).
While the Rapture is associated with the End Times and often drums up images of darkness, the Rapture of the Church is an event that we should be longing for as we will finally be free from sin. God commands us in 1 Thessalonians 4:18 to “encourage each other with these words.”
God’s Word is the most important tool to understanding and preparing for a Rapture event. Another important and effective tool is prayer. It is an incredibly powerful spiritual weapon and resource. It’s hardly a coincidence that the weapons of God’s Word and prayer are listed concurrently in Ephesians 6. While the Word itself is powerful and prayer is absolutely essential, combining the two is even more powerful still. As we abide in Him and His Word abides in us, we can more confidently pray His will, enabling us to battle the enemy. This doesn’t mean we need spend hours in prayer each day, it is simply a time to remind yourself who you are and where you are in Christ.