Those that study Bible prophecy are well aware of the method of using types and figures in the Bible to shine enlightenment on prophetical events that are still future and to provide more detail as to what is yet to come. In the case of the Rapture of the Church, many point to people and events such as Enoch representing the Church being translated to heaven before the Judgment of the Flood, and Lot being led out of Sodom before the Judgment could be permitted to fall upon Sodom and Gomorrah. But I’d like to do some comparing and contrasting to Paul’s experience when He was suddenly struck by the bright appearance of our risen Savior while on the road to Damascus.
Our point of reference is in Acts 9:1-9. This is when Paul was still Saul and hadn’t had his name changed yet. The account given in Acts 9:1-9 is commonly referred to as “the Damascus Road” where Saul set out to persecute and murder the disciples of the Lord being as he was still a Pharisee and hated the “people of the Way” (Christians).
It is in Acts 9:3-4 where we can begin to observe some parallels and contrasts that look forward to the Rapture of the Church. It says in Acts 9:3-4:
“And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” (Acts 9:3-4).
Putting aside the fact that Saul was still an unbeliever, a big change had just occurred, and it came suddenly! It’s the details of the actual experience itself that I feel may be very comparable to the coming sudden snatching away of the Church at the “appearing” of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Those that hold to the Post-Tribulation Rapture view often argue that us Pre-Tribulation Rapture believers are claiming that there is going to be two Second Comings, making that view unBiblical. This is where this account refutes that.
Here, the Lord Jesus Christ made an “appearance” to Saul but did not physically return to the earth to stay. In fact, Jesus made two other “appearances” to Paul as well. The second one is in Acts 22:17-21 where Paul is testifying to the Jews of his Damascus experience, and then he speaks of when he was praying in the Temple and Jesus appeared to him again with instructions to leave Jerusalem and to go to the Gentiles. The third time Christ appeared to Paul was in his prison cell as recorded in Acts 23:11 where it says the Lord stood by him to encourage him that he would eventually go to Rome to testify of Him.
So from those three accounts, we can see that Christ can make an “appearance” any time He wants to, before He comes to the earth to stay. Since we have the completed New Testament, it is unlikely He will make appearances until His Second Coming, because we now have the completed Word of God at our dispense to bring us to faith and to build our faith. As Paul himself wrote in Romans 10:17, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”
Okay, let’s get back to the Damascus Road. The first parallel to the Rapture is the fact that Saul was going about his business when the Lord suddenly appeared to him without warning. This will be the case for the Rapture of the Church. Next, Saul would be changed forevermore after this moment, and we will be changed forevermore at the moment of the Rapture (1 Corinthians 15:52). Saul didn’t get a new body like we will, but he got a new Spirit!
In Acts 9:4 it says that Saul heard a voice speak to him after he fell to the ground. In contrast, the Church will go up after the Lord descends from heaven with a shout (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
According to Acts 22:9, when Paul was recollecting his Damascus experience he said:
“And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of Him that spoke to me” (Acts 22:9).
Here we are informed that the men with Saul had seen the light but didn’t hear the voice. It may very well be that when the Rapture of the Church occurs, the world will most certainly be aware of something supernaturally monumental taking place, but those that are not in Christ will not hear the shout! Just as Christ shouted Lazarus’ name to come out of the tomb (John 11:43), the shout for the Bride of Christ will be specifically only for us.
This is also reminiscent of when the Father spoke from heaven in John 12:28 declaring He would again glorify His name in the work of His Son. Some of those that stood nearby thought it was thunder, while others thought it was an angel that had spoken. At the Rapture, the shout to “Come up hither” will only be heard by Christians, while the rest of the unbelieving world may think it is only thunder!
In Acts 26:12-18, Paul recollects for a second time his Damascus experience. This time we are informed that not only did Saul fall to the ground when Christ appeared, but those that were with him all fell too. In fact, in Acts 26:14 it says they “all fell to the earth.” From what we know, only Saul was changed, not the others. At the Rapture the whole world will be affected, and the Church will be changed and removed from the earth, but the unbelieving world will remain grounded!
According to Titus 2:13, Colossians 3:4, Hebrews 9:28, 1 John 3:2 and 1 Peter 5:4, the Rapture is described as an “appearing” of Christ. In Acts 26:16, Jesus Himself tells Paul that He has “appeared” to him, as will be the case at the Rapture.
For there to be so many similar parallels and contrasts between Paul’s Damascus experience and the Rapture of the Church is only fitting since Paul would be the one to reveal the “mystery” of the Rapture:
“Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51).
Sometime after Paul’s Damascus experience, he also had an out of body experience where he was caught up to the third heaven to experience the glory that awaits those in Christ (2 Corinthians 12:1-5). Saul may have been knocked to the earth on the road to Damascus, but as he faithfully served the Lord in obedience to his calling, the Lord blessed Paul with a preview of the glory that awaits.
We the Church are busy working for the Lord at ground level on this earth, but we have the blessed words of Christ given to us through Paul of the glory that awaits us also! Let that be encouragement as we continue to fight the good fight and draw nearer to that glorious Day!
With all that said, it is interesting to note that there are three Old Testament prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled that us prophecy watchers have had a close eye on for quite a long time. They are Isaiah 17, Psalm 83, and Ezekiel 38 & 39. Many (including myself) believe that these prophecies will be fulfilled in that order as well. Since the Old Testament prophets could not see the Church Age (1 Peter 1:11), it is unlikely that any of these prophecies will come to fulfillment while the Church is still here. The interesting thing about that, for this commentary, is that the Isaiah 17 prophecy is about the overnight destruction of Damascus!
Since the Greek word for Rapture is Harpazo (Strongs #726), and it literally means “to seize by force, snatch up suddenly, to forcefully pluck,” it could be that at the very moment that destruction strikes Damascus, we the Church are simultaneously snatched up to be with the Lord, as those prophecies kick- start the events of the Tribulation. If so, I would call that a Damascus Rapture!
Even so, Come, Lord Jesus!