A Study of the Rapture :: By Ron Ferguson


A balanced and considered view might wonder why yet another general posting on the Rapture might be happening when there must be dozens submitted already to Rapture Ready. I can answer that in two ways. Firstly, one reader asked me to give him something on this subject, and secondly, I refer to this verse: (NASB) Proverbs 15:22 “Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counsellors they succeed.” I am applying that verse very loosely, but the amalgamation of many ideas gets one nearer to the finished goal. These are thoughts I would share from 60 years’ study.

Rather than précis the work of others to explain the origin of the word “rapture,” I shall quote from Ryrie’s Basic Theology, Electronic Media from Parsons Technology.

[Our modern understanding of Rapture appears to have little or no connection with the eschatological event. However, the word is properly used of that event. Rapture is a state or experience of being carried away. The English word comes from a Latin verb, “rapio,” which means to seize or snatch, in relation to an ecstasy of spirit, or the actual removal from one place to another. In other words, it means to be carried away in spirit or in body. The Rapture of the Church means the carrying away of the Church from earth to heaven.

The Greek word from which this term “rapture” is derived appears in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, translated “caught up.” The Latin translation (Vulgate) of this verse used the word “rapturo.” The Greek word it translates is “harpazo,” which means to snatch or take away. Elsewhere it is used to describe how the Spirit caught up Philip near Gaza and brought him to Caesarea (Acts 8:39) and to describe Paul’s experience of being caught up into the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2-4). Thus, there can be no doubt that the word is used in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 to indicate the actual removal of people from earth to heaven.]


The Rapture is exclusive to the New Testament and was a mystery that God allowed Paul to expound. Before that very time, the idea might have been known in a general way or not known at all, and we can say that because Paul uses the word “mystery” in revealing this truth. The Greek “μυστήριον” (mystērion) (mystery) meant a fact or truth or concept not previously known, but at a certain point in time God chose to reveal it; and the New Testament mysteries are all unique to the New Testament. There are a number of these mysteries in the New Testament, with two of them termed “great mysteries.” Here is Paul’s declaration of the mystery of the Rapture – 1 Cor 15:51 “Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed….”


The answer to this is, “No,” but I know some will object. Matthew 24 and 25 are not the Rapture, and I posted on that recently; their interpretation lines with the Second Coming, and in no way can they be applied to the Rapture.

There is a hint of Rapture in John 14:3 “and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself that where I am, there you may be also.”

Other New Testament writers make general references with words such as “coming” or “appear,” but none of them deal with it as does Paul.


The word itself is not in our Bibles, but the concept is well cemented. Refer to the Introduction above.


The two best-known ones are 1 Cor 15 (must use the entire chapter) and 1 Thess 4:13-18. Also, there is Rev 4:1 – “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.'”

“After these things” is after the prophetic history of Christendom in chapters 2 and 3, which ends with the Rapture and precedes “what must take place after these things.” 4 verse 1 is the fulcrum that divides the past and the future. It is the Rapture.

1 Thess 1:10 “and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” In the early days of the Church, the Rapture was always before the believers’ eyes, but in the second century, as the persecution rolled on, the Church began to forget about waiting for the Son from heaven.

When the persecution ended around AD 312, heresies overtook the churches even more than previously, and the Church held its great Councils; from these, the Apostles’ Creed developed.

That creed ends with “…the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.” Very sadly, the Church had entered the days of “the forgotten Rapture” and just believed in one coming to consummate all things. The Rapture, the whole of Revelation, and big pieces of the Major and Minor Prophets were rolled into just a few words – “He shall come to judge the living and the dead.” How sad was that, for the Rapture is not only our hope but the motivation we have for a life lived correctly in expectation of the Lord’s coming. For about 15 centuries, the Rapture remained forgotten, dead and buried! Except for the very odd one here and there.

There are two verses by Paul that focus very much on the Rapture, and these are they – Gal 5:5 “We, by faith, through the Spirit, are waiting for the hope of righteousness,” AND Titus 2:13 “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Christ Jesus.”

The hope of our righteousness is that time when the completion of personal righteousness comes, equipped with the new bodies, and that happens at the Rapture. Christ our righteousness will come, and our righteousness is complete in Him. In Titus, the “blessed hope,” “glorious hope” (KJV), is what we must look out for. It is the coming of the Lord for His redeemed Church. It is our hope. The Rapture is the great hope of new creation in Jesus Christ. Hope does not make us ashamed, and the hope of His coming for us ought to grow stronger as we advance in years. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

One of the more revealing teachings about the Rapture is found in 2 Thess 2. Paul had spent three weeks at Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-2), and we know from the content of this second chapter that in those three weeks, Paul had taught these converted idolaters all about the Christian life and salvation. But more than that, He instructed them about eschatology, the very thing many churches today dismiss as irrelevant or too controversial. Speaking of these matters, he wrote – 2 Thess 2:5 “Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?”

What were these things he was telling them about?

The primary importance was that the Rapture would occur because it was Jesus who would deliver them from the wrath that was to come – 1 Thess 1:10 “and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” However, the Thessalonian Christians were being persecuted, and they thought the Tribulation, as part of the Day of the Lord, was upon them. Fearfully, they thought they had missed out on the Rapture because Paul had told them that the Christians would not be in the Tribulation. “God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess 5:9).

Then he wrote this to them – 2 Thess 2:1-4 “Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you may not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.”

We will look at 2 verse 3. This is a Rapture verse. In nearly every translation, one word in the verse is translated as “apostasy,” but I suggest it is a wrong translation. Here is a little study on that:


(KJV) – “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.”

NASB – “Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.”

Before the Day of the LORD (Jehovah) comes, 2 Thess 2:3 declares that there must first be a “falling away” (KJV) or “apostasy” (NASB). The words used for this expression are “ἡ ἀποστασία (apostasia),” generally translated “apostasy” or “falling away” by most versions.

The expression normally means defection, revolt or rebellion, BUT it can also be translated by “disappearance” or “departure,” and it has been suggested by Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest in Prophetic Light in the Present Darkness and by E. Schuyler English in Rethinking the Rapture that the reference is not to an apostasy from the faith (didn’t that occur some 1,600 years ago in the great heresies, and later in the Dark and Middle Ages under the RC church?) but to the translation of the Church from the world.

Kenneth Wuest points out that the word “apostasia” is derived from the root verb “afistami” which means to remove, withdraw, depart, go away, etc. Of its 15 occurrences in the New Testament, it is 11 times translated “depart” (as in leaving), and Wuest accordingly argues that the substantive must mean “departure.” And since the Greek text has the definite article [ = The] then a particular departure is in view. The argument for that is comprehensive, and that departure is the removal of the Church.

The Church is translated to heaven.

So, it is not “apostasy” but DEPARTURE (of the Church).

These are the 15 references to the use of the Greek word:

Luke 8:13; 13:27; 2:37; 4:13.

Acts 12:10; 15:38; 19:9; 22:29.

2 Cor 12:8; 1 Tim 6:5, 4:1; 2 Tim 2:19; Heb 3:12. Of course 2 Thess 2:3 and one other I lost.

Here is further support for that, and part of what I wrote earlier, I am repeating but not verbatim:

2 Thess 2:1-2 “Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him, that you may not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.”

Without expanding this further, it is fairly easy to understand from the passage here that the Thessalonians were deeply troubled because they thought the terrors that had come upon them were those of the Great Tribulation Paul had taught them of. They were to be caught up to be with the Lord before that event, but they were still on earth.

See 1 Thess 1:9-10. Jesus is the Deliverer from the coming wrath.

Because they thought the wrath had come, they were shaken and thought they had missed the Rapture, identifying their troubles with the Great Tribulation. Paul had to explain there that Jesus is the One who will deliver “out of” (Greek ἐκ) the coming wrath. Verse 2 here should read, “Day of Jehovah.”

Paul now goes on to tell them that certain things must happen before that Day can come. As those things were not present then, there was no way that Day of Jehovah had come, and they could not be in the Great Tribulation.

(NASB) 2 Thess 2:3-7 “Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he may be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way.”

In verse 7, it is revealed that there is One here who is hindering the full release and revelation of iniquity/lawlessness. This One is the Holy Spirit, for NO one else can hold back the onslaught of wickedness, and only when He goes can iniquity become fully matured and burst like a flood on the earth. The Holy Spirit WILL and CAN ONLY go when the true Church departs, for He seals the believers.

The restraining power of the Holy Spirit goes with the departure of the Church.


Terms are thrown around and arguments take place over exactly when the Rapture occurs in the Church age. I suppose the four schools of thought are these :

  1. Mid-Tribulation Rapture. These adherents believe the Church must endure the first three and a half years of the seven-year Tribulation, which some people like to call “the beginning of sorrows,” and then the Rapture happens before the “heavier judgments” begin.

The problem with this view is that Revelation chapter 6 is still the execution of the wrath of God. The opening of the first seal is the start of all that will happen. At that time the world realizes what is happening (Rev 6:16), and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb (Rev 6:17), for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” We are not destined to wrath; we are delivered from that wrath that is to come, so this view of a mid-tribulation Rapture is absolutely erroneous.

  1. Rapture immediately preceding the Second Coming. This belief is popular for those who dismiss a separate rapture years before the Second Coming. They claim there is a rapture but that it happens immediately before the Second Coming – rapture followed by Christ’s appearing, almost as if it was one event but in two parts. This view would have the Christians here on earth going right through the Tribulation and enduring the wrath of God, which Jesus took for us on the cross so that we will not endure God’s wrath against sin. This belief of the Rapture is false.
  2. No such thing as a separate Rapture. This is a common belief among those who do not accept dispensational teaching and/or dismiss the concept of a Tribulation (such as the SDAs). They believe everything continues until the Second Coming.

For them, there is only one coming.

Remember we quoted the Apostles’ Creed above – “He shall come to judge the living and the dead.” This is the accepted view of those who follow The Apostles’ Creed rather than the Bible. It includes the RC church, the Anglicans, the Reformed churches, the Lutherans, some of the Methodists and Presbyterians, and others. There is a strong correlation between this belief and covenant theology and replacement theology, horrible systems that dismiss Israel in prophecy.

For me personally, this is a dishonoring belief. Any system that would write off the Jews is not from God.

  1. The separate Rapture as the next event in God’s program.

This is the biblical position.

Christians are looking forward to the blessed hope of the Lord’s return. The Rapture is pre-Tribulation and pre-millennial. The Lord comes to snatch away His Bride before God’s wrath is poured from heaven. It is the only credence that is consistent and harmonious with all of scripture. The departure of the Church must occur before any release of judgment upon the earth. Surely Noah is a pertinent lesson here. He was raised from the earth while the judgment raged below, and when that had finished, he returned to earth. We shall be taken from the earth, and the judgment rages below, then we come back with the Lord.


There is no prophecy that has to be fulfilled before the Rapture can happen. Those who want to insert material from Matthew 24 and 25 are wrong when they try to link it with the Rapture because those chapters are set in the Tribulation and the start of the Millennium. I have written about that in earlier Rapture Ready articles.

(“Matthew 24 and Revelation 6 in Parallel” and “The Rapture – How Soon is Soon”). There are indicators for the Rapture generally, but that is all they are – the “last days” of 1 Timothy 3 and the fig tree Israel becoming established.


There is a distinct order in the Rapture, and this is obtained mainly from 1 Thessalonians 4.

Firstly, we look at a passage from 1 Corinthians chapter 15. The first half of the chapter argues for a resurrection of the dead, and the surprising thing is this – 1Cor 15:12 “Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” What can be more surprising than that? Some of the members of that church did not believe there was any resurrection. They believed this life is all we have, that death ends our lives forever. Paul counteracts that and leads into the resurrection for Christians, which is what occupies the verses from 12 to the end of the chapter with the great triumph of Christ’s resurrection, not only leading to our resurrection, but also to the great Rapture where all is finalized for our old earthly existence.

In just the last 9 verses of the chapter, Paul declares this mystery unknown to any on earth before that time.

In those 9 verses, he speaks of the perishable (corruptible KJV) and the mortal. Perishable (those who have already died and are with the Lord) will put on the “imperishable” (gained through the new bodies in the Rapture), and the mortal (those still living when Jesus comes in the air) will put on “immortality” (the same bodies exactly that the imperishable have). However, here Paul keeps the same order he develops in 1 Thess 4 – the already dead first, and then those who are living. Then he ends with these verses of triumph – 1 Cor 15:55-57 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law, but thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

When we move to 1 Thess 4, we see the order in the Rapture developed much fuller, and the verses we look at are 13-18. The purpose of writing this was for Paul to provide comfort as he explained in the final verse – 1 Thess 4:18 “Therefore comfort one another with these words.” The reason there had to be comfort is that the Thessalonians let Paul know they were disquieted and concerned, even agitated about the fate of the ones among them who had died. When Paul was with them, he explained that the Lord was coming back to gather His own (in the Rapture). And because at that time they expected the Rapture (that event) to be imminent, and some of their number had died, then those alive were thinking the dead ones had missed out because they died.

In verse 13, Paul said he did not want those believers to be uninformed, and he did not want them grieving. Paul then had to explain carefully to them the order of events in the Rapture and they are these:

  1. Verse 14 – The whole teaching of the Rapture depends on the resurrection of Christ Himself. He is the first fruits.
  2. Verse 14 – When the Lord appears in the air for His saints, He is going to bring back with Him the spirits of all those who have already died as believers. The New Testament never speaks of a believer dying; it always says “fell asleep.
  3. Verse 15 – The first order is given: “We who are alive shall not precede those who have died.” (We shall not be caught up before them, it means. They go first.)
  4. Verse 16 – The Lord leads the way (as He shall also do at the second Coming in Rev 19), and He shouts. I am taking an educated guess that what He says is what is recorded from heaven in Rev 4:1, “Come up here!”

Rev 4:1 is the Church being taken to heaven at the end of the Church age where the great worship scene then occurs in Rev 4 and 5.

  1. Verse 16 – The voice of the archangel will be heard, but we don’t know here now, what he says. Michael comes, but with the angel band, I think. The trumpet is also mentioned in Rev 4:1, a rapture verse, and is heard at the same time. The trumpet is always a summons for an assembly, and also was used to call the army from sleep. This will correspond with the Feast of Trumpets (those 7 feasts are a remarkable study).
  2. Verse 16 – Paul plainly says, “the dead in Christ will rise first.” Consistent with the wording of 1 Cor 15, the dead will rise first; the perishable rise first.
  3. Verse 17 – Those of us who are alive at the Rapture, and remaining on earth, are next to be caught up to the Lord. He will be in the clouds, and we are caught up in the clouds.

The very probable meaning is that we are caught up with clouds, into the clouds, but this following is an interesting thought I won’t pursue. From Greek scholar F B Meyer – “[ἐν νεφέλαις] not instead of εἰς νεφέλας (Moldenhauer), but either in clouds, i.e., enveloped in clouds, or better, on clouds, i.e., enthroned in their midst.” There are some who have made a case for “believers rising in clouds” – clouds of believers rising. When the Lord comes, He invades Satan’s territory with the absolute command of authority. Satan is the prince of the power of the air.

  1. Verse 17 – From that point onwards, we will always be with the Lord, firstly as the espoused Bride, and then in Rev 19, the actual married Bride.
  2. Verse 18 – The Rapture is coming. Believers from all ages, look up because your redemption draws near; yes, we are redeemed, but THEN we are the redeemed, fully righteous and unflawed in the Lord’s hands.


All that transpired in the points 1-9 above happens in this way – 1 Cor 15:52 “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 shall be changed.”

“in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.”

The Greek for “in a moment” is “εν ατόμω” (en atomō); “atoma/o” was the Greek word from which the English “atom” came. The word comes from the Greek verb meaning “to cut.” When the atom was discovered, it got that name because it was thought it was a particle of matter that could no longer be cut = the very smallest particle you could get. Of course, now the atom is itself a whole universe. In Paul’s reference, it means a particle of time that is indivisible. It is instantaneous.

The word rendered “twinkling” (“ῥιπή” = ripe, from “ρίπτω” [rhipto], means “to throw, a cast, jerk,” as of a stone); and then “a jerk of the eye,” that is, “a wink” – Commentator Robinson. It can mean “the downward motion of the eyelid” or a blink of a light, or of the eye.

All that is so quick. So shall be the Rapture.


The Rapture is a glorious hope, and as this world darkens, I want the Lord to come. I really do want the Rapture to happen. For another reason, I want it to happen. There is a terrible slaughter at present in Nigeria and Sudan at the hands of Islam, and Christians are in terrible torture and suffering. It is horrific. In China, Christians are suffering awful persecution. I want the Lord to come to deliver His hurting people.

However, my wishing for the Rapture so I can leave this sinful scene – is that just me wanting to escape trouble, and therefore a selfish motive? Am I focusing on ME, and my desire, and not showing compassion for a dying world? No wonder Paul said he was torn between wanting to go and to remain. God bless us as that time draws near.