Just about a year ago, I wrote an article on the Rapture for this site, as many others have done over time. Those posts still continue, of course, as expected. I want to take another look at this and will use a good deal of the original concepts and material I have written, but I will expand with amendments and additions, increasing it by 50% or so. I am happy to do that because this is such an important subject, and the changes in the world in these past 12 months have been quite dramatic, further pointing to the imminence of the Rapture.
We do fight a battle when we teach on the truth of the Rapture because Satan opposes the truth. The opposition comes from the secular world and also from churches. I want to add this by way of quotations:
In an attack on the Rapture teaching, Joshua Rivera wrote, “In this, the rapture has become a uniquely American fear and a uniquely American hope. It’s both a widely known bit of Christian mythology – religious and secular pop culture alike have frequently depicted some manner of supernatural event that would cause many to disappear suddenly from the earth – and a controversial, often-misunderstood topic of theology. It’s a fairy tale used to frighten children and a lullaby for grown adults, including my own parents. I’m no longer waiting for the rapture, and yet I see it everywhere.”
That was a quote from CNN, which went on to say that in the Corinthians and Thessalonians passages, Paul was being dramatic and was using metaphorical language and was writing in poetic form. They used the old chestnut again by declaring this “falsehood” came from J N Darby. CNN found support from some church in Michigan. “The great problems Christians can’t answer are, it was not taught by Jesus, and the word does not occur in the Bible.”
The article finishes with, “Yet it’s amazing how scriptures get misused, and relatively new theological ideas – such as the rapture – get deeply embedded in certain circles. The rapture is really a plot device for popular entertainment and a bizarre theological teaching in fundamentalist circles, where it functions in a variety of ways. But it’s bad theology, and Jesus himself would have been astonished to learn that thousands of years after him, there were such notions afloat.”
I will use one more quote, this time from an article written by Jay Parini in association with the Illinois Catholic bishops whose spokesman is Joyce Donahue, and it is titled “Even Jesus wouldn’t buy ‘the rapture'” (updated 12:59 PM EDT, Sun July 6, 2014) – “. . . that denounced the Left Behind series as “one of the most attractively marketed recent false prophets” and as being both anti-Catholic and “in conflict with Catholic teaching. The Rapture ideology, the statement said, promotes “an unhealthy and immature belief in a harshly judgmental God.”
“The Rapture idea is based on creative but erroneous interpretations of three Bible passages (1 Thess. 4:13-18, Matt. 24:40-41, and John 14:1-2). In a desperate attempt to cling to a supposedly “literal” approach to interpreting the Bible, the proponents of the Rapture engage in an absurd “biblical hopscotch” by isolating and then re-assembling snippets from very different biblical books.”
“Many Catholics have interiorized this,” laments Donahue, the associate director of the Religious Education Office in the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois.
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. The first post from last year resulted from a question needing an explanation when one reader asked me to give him something on this subject (though there is plenty there), 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 provide the meaning of the word in English origins, then quote from Ryrie’s Basic Theology, Electronic Media from Parsons Technology.
ENGLISH ORIGINS > RAPTURE > c. 1600, “act of carrying off” as prey or plunder, from rapt + -ure, or else from French rapture, from Medieval Latin raptura “seizure, rape, kidnapping,” from Latin raptus “a carrying off, abduction, snatching away; rape” (see rapt). The earliest attested use in English is with women as objects, and in 17c. it sometimes meant rape (v), which word is a cognate of this one.
RAPT > As a Latin past-participle adjective, in English it spawned unthinking the back-formed verb rap “to affect with rapture,” which was common c. 1600-1750.
Before that, there was a verb rapt “seize or grasp, seize and carry off; ravish” (1570s), also “enrapture, transport as with ecstasy” (1590s). There also was a noun rapt in 15c. meaning both “rapture” and “rape.”
You know the bird of prey called the RAPTOR. Well, its origin is this – raptor (n) > late 14c., raptour, “a plundering bird of prey;” c. 1600, “ravisher, abductor,” from Latin raptor “a robber, plunderer, abductor, ravisher,” agent noun from past-participle stem of rapere “to seize,” or snatch away.
Ryrie’s Basic Theology > [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 1Thessalonians 4:17 to indicate the actual removal of people from earth to heaven.]
WITNESSES TO THE COMING RAPTURE
Not too long ago, I read a post on RR that explored something I had never heard anyone propose before. After that, I went looking and read more on it. Those proponents of that idea do not believe in a secret Rapture and believe all the world will see the Christians “going up.” The more I think about this, the more I reject it.
Let’s look at what evidence these people give. They allude to the “going ups” in scripture. Elijah ascended, and Elisha saw it. Next, the disciples saw the Lord ascend into clouds. They probably believe a similar thing happened with Enoch. Because it happened this way in those passages, the proponents think the Rapture will be the same. Actually, some don’t use the word “rapture” at all.
What are the arguments against that view? I see two arguments. The first one is that in the cases cited above, any who witnessed the ascensions were believers, NOT unbelievers. That is how the Rapture will be. It is not for unbelievers to see. The second argument – and we will see that further in the expression “in the twinkling of an eye” later on, is that the Rapture event happens instantaneously. The whole process happens so quickly that even if unbelievers could see it, which they won’t, then the eye would not catch it. In the ascension of the Lord and Elijah, they ascended slowly, a whole different situation.
I don’t know why we would make such a fuss about it. Over such issues, we don’t become legalistic. We are going to be caught up to/with the Lord; that is our focus, and it is all about believers.
[A]. A NEW TESTAMENT MYSTERY:
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 – 1Cor 15:51 “Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed . . .” To my surprise, I also realized that one writer does not accept the Corinthians 15 passage as referring to the Rapture. That is the first time I have ever heard that. I also went off to explore that one too and will do all that later on.
[B]. DID THE LORD TEACH THE RAPTURE?
The answer to this is, “No,” but I know some will be uncertain about it. Matthew 24 and 25 are NOT the Rapture, and I posted on that last year in a 2- or 3-part series; their interpretation lies with the Second Coming, relating to the Jews of the Tribulation period, and in no way can they be applied to the Rapture. I know people do it all the time and love to take the signs like “earthquakes” and then apply it to our time. It creates confusion, and I wish it was not done. There must be a clearer delineation between the Rapture and Second Coming, but I do not think that is taught by a lot of pastors and even in bible colleges.
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.” This has application to Christ receiving the disciples to Himself after the resurrection, but the coming for the Church, for ALL disciples, can also be included. Other New Testament writers make general references with words such as “coming,” “appear/appearing,” but none of them deals with it as does Paul.
[C]. WHERE IN THE BIBLE IS THE WORD “RAPTURE”?
The word itself is not in our Bibles, but the concept is well cemented. Refer to the Introduction above. I know some, more to the point, “a few” who reject the Rapture merely because the word is not a biblical one. Well, the term “appropriated righteousness” is not a biblical term, but the concept certainly is.
[D]. WHAT ARE THE NEW TESTAMENT PASSAGES FOR THE RAPTURE?
The two best-known ones are 1Cor 15 (must use the entire chapter) and 1Thess 4:13-18. Also, there is Rev 4:1 and John 14 v 1-3 – “Let not your heart be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places. If it were not so, I would have told you, for I go to prepare a place for you. 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.” I have already mentioned “I will come again” in Part B. The “I go to prepare a place for you” is an interesting one. A considerable number of people have the notion that the Lord is preparing heaven for us and building mansions. This is so wrong. The preparation was the cross, for, without redemption, there would be no hope beyond that point for us.
END OF PART 1