What Is a Biblical Rapture? :: By By Ernst Christmann

These days we are witnessing a threefold division among theologians concerning the question of when the Rapture of the Church will take place. It is not so much the exact timing which is the bone of contention, but more the question when it will take place with regard to Daniel’s last week of years.

Mainly there are three camps:

  1. The Rapture takes place before Daniel’s 70th week of years begins.
  2. The Rapture takes place during Daniel’s 70th week of years.
  3. It takes place at the middle, when Antichrist claims to be god in the temple
  4. It takes place at the time of the seventh trumpet
  5. The Rapture takes place after Daniel’s 70th week of years.

Camp 3 by far is the biggest because of all the Amillennialists including Catholicism, Protestantism, Orthodoxy and quite a number of smaller denominations.

Camp 2 is much smaller than camp 3 yet still larger than camp 1. And some are abandoning camp 1 as they see Daniel’s last week of years approaching rapidly, but the Rapture has not  yet occurred. Maybe they are seeking doctrinally safer ground and therefore warn and switch to prepper mode in camp 2.

Reading the Scriptures it appears that always the smallest and most marginalized group had it right and is called the “remnant” for this reason. Yet all these camps and questions would not exist, if the Word of God was taken literally to clarify what the biblical definition of a rapture is. God gave us quite a number of examples for us  in order that we can understand what He says a rapture is and what purpose it fulfils.

The very first rapture in the Bible we find in Genesis 5:24:

“Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.”

Another one we would find in 2 Kings 2:11:

“And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.”

Let’s glean some information from these two reports. In Enoch’s case we sense already some kind of concealed force in the wording “he was not, for God took him.” Yet in the account of Elijah this removing someone forcefully is not concealed any more. Fire, whirlwind, and to part asunder are terms of force. So raptures seem to have the character of forcefully determined action on God’s side.

We will rediscover this in other raptures as well. But as we continue reading the historical aftermath of these two raptures, we discover that the raptured men were saved from severe judgment. Enoch was spared to live in a time of cross-breeding experiments as we read in Jasher 4:18, which angered God to the point He sent judgment, unleashing a series of great wars between the posterities of Seth and Cain (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 1.2.2 and 2.3.1). Elijah did not have to experience the further moral decline of Israel and its final destruction in God’s judgment executed against Israel by the Assyrians.

Yet there are other examples of raptures in the Bible, but before looking at them we should understand, that in some raptures men of God are taken to heaven while in other cases they stay on earth. The second rapture in history is of this kind. It is the rapture of Noah from the judgment of drowning in a global deluge.

Noah was righteous (Gen.7:1) and hence called to enter the ark. Also Enoch was a righteous man who walked with God. The same can be said about Elijah considering the account of his walk with God.

Now, Noah was called to enter the ark. This of course is not to be considered forceful, but yet it was an order. God commanded Noah to build the ark and He commanded him to enter it. And again the reason fulfils the pattern of rescuing a righteous man from the impending judgment of drowning and losing everything.

The most informative example of a rapture is the one of Lot from Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot was a righteous man, we learn in 2 Peter 2:7. In Genesis.19:1, two angels meet Lot and tell him (Gen.19, 13) that they will destroy the cities. They give him time till next morning to gather his sons in law, but when they see Lot tarrying they use gentle force and brought Lot and his family out of the city (Gen.19:16).

Then Lot is instructed to flee to the mountains. By this time Lot is already in his eighties or even nineties. He argues that he will not make it there and also points out that there are dangers (Gen.19:19).

And here is the point: He is granted relief in that he is allowed to flee to a little town nearby called Zoar. One of the angels tells him, that Zoar originally was on the hit list of destruction, yet Lot’s plea got Zoar off this list. Also Lot is told to hurry, “for I cannot do anything till thou be come thither,” the angel says.

This is remarkable to say the least. Not only Lot’s plea not to be sent to the dangerous mountain area is granted, which saves a hole city, but also Lot is told, that the impending judgment cannot begin until he is saved. Here we see one very important element of a rapture: The Rapture is performed with the sole reason of removing the righteous from where impending judgment will hit. And the judgment cannot take place as long as any one of the righteous is still in the area and time of where and when the judgment will strike.

The story of Lot reveals a very strong trait of God’s righteousness. God will never ever judge a righteous person! He cannot do this! If He did, His own righteousness would cease to exist, because God would have lied. Either would He lie by indicting a righteous person, or He would have lied in the past when having called someone righteous although he is not.

So what we see in Lot’s rapture from Sodom and Gomorrah is an inherent feature of all raptures, and it has to be lest God is a liar.

These are the features of any rapture:

  1. God imbues those who seek Him earnestly with righteousness by grace.
  2. God by force (naturally or supernaturally) removes His righteous from area and time of      impending judgment, before …
  3. He smites those who reject Him.

If we apply these insights to the Rapture of the Church, there is no question as to when it has to take place: Clearly before the judgment. And to be clear: The four horsemen of Revelation 6 are the first judgments triggered by Jesus, the Lamb. So the Church has to be removed from earth by then.

And here is a severe warning to those who teach otherwise: If you place the Body of Christ into Daniel’s 70th week —often called the Tribulation—you are calling God a liar. Not for one moment do I think that this is intentional. Mostly it is well-meant to warn people to prepare. But well-meant is not necessarily well done.