Over time I've received several questions along the line of the
“Why do you think that such an important occurrence as the
rapture is spoken of so few times and why is it so "hidden" in
It's true the rapture is not mentioned very often, at least not
directly. In fact,
the Greek word from which we get the whole rapture idea appears
only 13 times in the New Testament and and even then it comes to
us in a roundabout way.
The Greek word is harpazo and means to catch up or take
by force. In
most English translations of 1 Thes.4:17 it's
rendered “caught up”. The root from which it comes is haireo
which means “to take for oneself.” 1 Thes. 4:17 is the
only place the word harpazo refers to the rapture of the Church.
On top of that rapture is an English word that comes from the
Latin translation of harpazo which is why you can't find it in
You would have to read 1 Thes. 4:17 in Latin to
see it there. (It appears as rapiemur.)
Many people don't realize that for the thousand years
preceding the Reformation, the Latin Vulgate was the primary
translation of the original Greek texts.
It was the standard text longer than any other
translation before or since.
Although the concept of the rapture appears through out the
Bible it wasn't
until about 20 years after the cross that it was described in
any detail. This is
how Paul could say he was revealing a secret (Listen, I tell you
a mystery) when he described it in 1 Cor. 15: 51-53.
Together with 1 Thes. 4:15-17 it was the first clear
teaching of the rapture in the history of mankind. Only with the
benefit of Paul's disclosure can you look back through the Bible
and see the many hints of the rapture. (See Rapture References)
There was a good strategic reason to keep all this secret before
the cross. Paul
spoke of it in 1 Cor 2:7-8. Explaining that his message
of wisdom was not taken from the wisdom of the world, he said,
No,we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has
been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time
began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they
had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
Jesus called Satan the prince of this world (John
12:31, 14:30, 16:11).
Paul thought of
him as the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4) and John
said the whole world is under the control of the evil one (1
John 5:19), so Paul's reference to rulers of this age is not
to the High Priest in Jerusalem or Caesar in Rome.
He was saying that had Satan and his lackeys understood
the extent of the blessings God had in mind for the Church, they
would have done everything possible to prevent the crucifixion.
God's Secret Wisdom, Part 1
There are two facets to God's Secret wisdom
where the Church is concerned.
And as you'll see both
require absolute secrecy. The first is the manner in
which the Church was brought into the world.
When you were
dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful
nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our
sins, having canceled the written
code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood
opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.
And having disarmed the powers and
authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over
them by the cross. (Colossians 2:13-15)
A quarter of a century after becoming a
believer, I still can not adequately describe my initial
reaction to hearing these verses.
I had been in church all my life and had never been told
such a thing. The bill of indictment for all the sins of my
life, past, present, and future, was cancelled at the cross.
This rendered null and void any claim Satan ever had or
ever would have against me.
At the cross he thought he had won by defeating God's
only hope for the salvation of mankind.
Instead, whoever chooses it can now receive a lifelong
pardon for their sins that no one can ever revoke.
Let me explain here that this knowledge did
not inspire me to go out and
sin to my heart's content with out any fear of
does it do so in any other true believer.
Those who base their opposition to eternal security on
the assumption that only the fear of loss will make us behave
are missing the point. Besides, while it was our behavior that
caused our sin problem, it's the Lord's behavior that cured us.
All that's left for us is to believe and receive it.
No, what this did for me was to produce a
knee buckling realization that I could never be worthy of such a
gift and created a determination in me to spend the rest of my
life trying to live up to what I had already attained (Phil
3:20). In God's
eyes I was now perfect (Hebr. 10:14), a new creation (2
Cor. 5:17). I
had been adopted into His own family (Gal 4:4-5) and
guaranteed a place in His Kingdom (Ephes. 1:13-14).
I wanted to make sure He didn't regret doing all that.
This guarantee of salvation is based
totally on our belief that Colossians 2:13-15 is true,
and was such a radical departure from what God's enemies had
come to expect of Him that they were caught totally flat footed.
Before the cross forgiveness only covered past sins.
As soon as a person sinned again after the Day of
Atonement he was right back in debt and Satan had a brand
new claim on him. To
set aside the penalty for his sins, innocent animals had
to die in his place, but that didn't free him. It only gave him
a temporary stay of execution (Hebr. 10:3).
when Satan saw the lifelong lists of our sins being nailed to
the cross right before his eyes, and heard Jesus say “Paid in
full!” (John 19:30) he knew that what he thought was
going to be his final victory had become his ultimate defeat.
Although with 20-20 hindsight we can look
back into the Old Testament and see hints of what God was going
to do in the Church, no one before the cross saw this.
Not the Jews, certainly not the Gentiles, not even Satan.
And instead a nice orderly transition from Law to Grace, the
clock for the Age of Law abruptly stopped seven years short of
its previously announced duration.
Religious ceremonies the Jews had viewed as mandatory
suddenly became meaningless. A culture steeped in religious law
and practice was made obsolete, and would soon be dispersed. For
the first and only time in history the gates of heaven had been
flung open to whosoever would enter, conditioned only on their
belief that Jesus died for their sins and rose again (Romans
God's Secret Wisdom, Part 2
The second facet of God's secret wisdom
will be the way the Church is taken out of the world. At a time
no one will be able to determine in advance and without any
prior warning, the Church will simply disappear off the face of
the Earth forever, leaving the unbelieving world in utter chaos.
Because the birth of the Church took Satan by surprise,
the details surrounding the Church's departure have to be even
more obscure. He's a
quick study, after all, and has had 2000 years to review what
little the Bible has to say about the Rapture. He wouldn't be so
easily taken by surprise a second time.
Being a student of prophecy He knows at
least as much as we do about the End Times. (Please remember
this. It isn't that
Satan doesn't know God's plan, it's that he believes he can
defeat God's plan.)
He knows the rapture will precede the End Times judgments, will
take place when the church reaches its full number, and that
only God knows the number.
But that's about it, so his only hope is to prevent the
Church from reaching that number for as long as possible.
Because he doesn't know what the number is, he's
effectively kept off balance.
If he knew when the church was leaving he could plan some
kind of counter
attack. But since he
doesn't, he's forced to remain reactive, unable to relax, never
knowing when the whistle will blow and the game will be over. I
think that's God's real purpose in keeping the rapture secret.
When God does take the Church out of the
world, there will be another abrupt change as the
Age of Law returns for its last seven years.
Once again the focus will be on Israel.
There will be a Temple with sacrifices and all the other
Except for all the missing people, it will be like the
Church Age never existed.
And please understand that even when the New Covenant
comes to Israel it won't be like it is in the Church.
A Temple, animal sacrifice, required Holy days, and a
will continue into and through out the Kingdom Age, or
You see, it's clear that the Church Age was
not intended to be the next step in the progression of God's
plan, to supersede that which came before, and perhaps to be
superseded by what comes after.
It was a complete and radical departure from the norm and
once completed it will never be repeated. Having known nothing
but the Church Age we don't appreciate how unique we are.
But as Paul wrote, people in ages yet to come will study
the Church to learn the extent of the incomparable riches of
God's grace (Ephes. 2:7).
Here, There, Or In The Air
To underscore the Church's uniqueness, its
departure will have to be even more dramatic, even more cloaked
in mystery than its arrival was.
Soon and very soon,
on a day that no one could have predicted in advance,
believers will hear a loud command, “Come up here!” (Rev. 4:1),
accompanied by the trumpet of God.
Immediately the spirits of dead believers will receive
new resurrection bodies and the living will be transformed from
mortal to immortal.
Together we will meet the Lord “in the air” having disappeared
from Earth in the twinkling of an eye (1 Thes. 4:16-17, 1
Cor. 15:51-53) and then we'll proceed to His Father's house
This has always intrigued me.
The Greek word for air refers to that space between
Heaven and Earth
called its atmosphere.
So we're not immediately going to Heaven, nor is the Lord
coming all the way to Earth, as He will in the 2nd
Coming. Instead the
meeting will take place in the atmosphere.
The atmosphere was created on the 2nd
day when God made an expanse to separate the water under it (the
sea) from the water above it (the water vapor canopy that
surrounded the Earth until the flood.) He called it the sky or
firmament (Genesis 1:8).
Unlike all other creation days, the 2nd day
was not pronounced good.
Some scholars speculate this is because demonic spirits
immediately inhabited it.
This may be why Paul also referred to Satan as the ruler
of the kingdom of the air (Ephesians 2:2).
If this is the case, then it means the Lord
is going to shock Satan again, this time by suddenly assembling
the raptured Church in his front yard without any warning.
Each list of sins that Satan saw nailed to the cross 2000
years ago will be represented by one deliriously happy redeemed
believer in a final grand display of victory before we fly off
to our mansions in the sky.
Talk about a dramatic ending for the Age of the Church.
What a day that will be.
Now do you see why its exact timing has to be kept
secret? We wouldn't
want to spoil the surprise. You can almost hear the footsteps of