The Five W’s of the Rapture :: By Charles Gray Adams Jr


Vital to military planning are the five W’s: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. An excellent plan defines each of these questions, affording those engaged in the operation better understanding, thereby providing a greater chance of mission success. In fact, these questions are answered in the form of a ‘five-point contingency plan,’ which is to be implemented in the event that communications are cut off. God, in His superior foresight, knowing that direct communications would be cut off, provided answers to each of these calls for inquiry in the Bible.

The topic at hand, the rapture, has been examined and reexamined to the point of exhaustion, and still people come up with varying opinions about this amazing future event (if the rapture has already taken place, the article “Open Letter to Those Who Miss the Rapture” is for you).[1] With this in mind, this study will apply another military planning tool called the KISS (Keep It Simple Soldier) principle to examine the five W’s of the rapture. Simply put, this exploration will stick to the facts of the Bible while expounding on the who, what, when, where, and why components of the rapture.

Before embarking on this quest, it is important to deal with a couple of issues that often plague the understanding of those who begin to search out this fascinating subject. First, many bring preconceived ideas to the study, which often results in eisegesis, the reading into the text what one wants to believe. This problem can only be overcome by approaching Scripture through exegesis, which is the process of reading out of the text what God wants the reader to believe.

The second and perhaps greatest challenge comes from people approaching the rapture from the standpoint of he said, she said. While many experts have devoted enormous energies toward understanding this topic, their studies should only lead and guide; they should never replace the Word of God. Fortunately, God has also provided a way to deal with this issue. The apostle Paul taught in his second letter to Timothy what believers are to do:

“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15, KJV).” [2]

The term ‘rightly divide’ can be translated as ‘accurately handle.’ This means the believer is to study God’s Word to the point that they can accurately handle it in order to please Him. Notice, God is not concerned with man pleasing man. Instead, He expects man to live a life devoted to understanding His ways in order to please Him. Perhaps the best place to start this study is to determine what God’s Word says about the rapture.

The Rapture – According to God

Many begin with the most quoted passage of Scripture about the rapture to explain this incredible prophesied event:

1 Thess 4:16-17

“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

This passage is germane to the study. Therefore, it will be referred back to. However, Paul was not the first to teach of the rapture; Jesus was. In fact, Jesus clearly explained this event to His disciples in the upper room while partaking in the Last Supper. John, the beloved, recalled the conversation this way:

John 14:1-3

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. 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 unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

Jesus was speaking to the first members of the church, which would be empowered on the Day of Pentecost. Notice, He begins by encouraging the disciples because He had just told them that He would be betrayed and go somewhere they could not yet follow (John 13:31-33). This, of course, brought about the prophecy that Peter would deny Jesus three times before the cock crowed thrice (John 13:36-38). Therefore, the disciples were unsettled, and Jesus encouraged them with a truth that has brought joy to countless believers for nearly two thousand years. He taught them the promise called the rapture.

Some say that Jesus was only talking to the disciples; therefore, He will only come for them in this manner. However, Jesus had already told them they would follow Him where He goes, but not yet (John 13:36). Since most of the apostles died as martyrs, this following must refer to their manner of death rather than the rapture. This means Jesus, when explaining the rapture, was speaking not to the disciples but to those they represented in the upper room, the church, which is also known as the “bride of Christ (Eph 5:22-33).”

Jesus came from Galilee, as well as eleven of the disciples in the upper room at the Last Supper. Judas Iscariot was the only non-Galilean; his leaving the room to betray Jesus left only Galileans to hear the promise that Jesus would make regarding His manner of return. These men, the most intimate followers of Christ, would have understood that Jesus was using imagery involved in Galilean weddings to explain the new relationship with His bride—the church and the rapture. Weddings in Galilee were quite the process. In fact, most weddings took a great amount of time to consummate due to the intricacies involved. The following explanation will be abbreviated.

The hopeful groom begins the marriage tradition by leaving his own home and traveling to his prospective bride’s home, and asking for her hand in marriage (Jesus came to earth). The fathers involved then set terms for the betrothal, and the agreed-upon price is paid by the groom’s father in exchange for the promise of marriage (blood atonement). This ‘contract’ concludes with the passing of the cup in which the young man pours a cup of wine for the young woman (Jesus did this at the last supper). If she drinks of the cup, the two are considered betrothed (the disciples drank as does the church at every communion service). Jesus fulfilled this portion of the wedding process in His first coming. He is now fulfilling the next phase of the operation by preparing a place for the bride in His Father’s house.

The preparation process goes on until the father of the groom tells him to go and get his bride. Interestingly, only the groom’s father knows the day or hour that he will send his son to retrieve the bride. When the time is right, the father sends the son to retrieve the bride. Incredibly, this retrieval process describes the rapture perfectly. The son goes forth in the middle of the night with his closest friends, and as he nears the bride’s house, he shouts and blows a shofar so she has warning to gather her belongings. Amazingly, the bride is lifted from the ground and carried to the bridal chamber, where she and the groom consummate the marriage for a period of seven days. This is a perfect picture of the rapture of the bride (church) at the beginning of the seven-year Tribulation. Therefore, the earth is tribulating while the bride and groom are consummating.

One additional passage of Scripture, written by Paul to the Corinthians, is particularly pertinent to this study:

1 Cor 15:52-53

“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”

Paul’s words here, coupled with his instructions to the Thessalonians, explain how the rapture taught by Jesus will take place. Combined, these key passages of Scripture provide the five W’s of the rapture, which are pivotal to the success of the waiting bride, the ‘who’ of the five.


The ‘who’ involved in the rapture is two-fold. First, who is being raptured? Second, who is doing the rapturing? After reading the above groundwork for this lesson, two distinct entities come readily to mind. The body of Christ, also known as the church and bride of Christ, will be raptured by the Son of God, Jesus Christ. By the way, the church consists of all who have ever believed in the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The aforementioned passages clearly state these facts. Knowing this, perhaps the most important thing to clarify here is who exactly will be raptured?

The key to understanding the answer to this question lies in the fact that there is a definite distinction between Israel and the church. While both groups believe in God, only the church believes Jesus fulfilled the messianic prophecies making Him the only name under heaven whereby men can be saved (Acts 4:12). Indeed, the free gift of salvation is only obtainable through believing and confessing this truth (Rom 10:9-10). Unthinkably, Israel rejected Jesus as the Messiah and crucified the one they had long-awaited. This action led to the ‘mystery’ of the church, which exists in the current age of grace in which the church still looks for the rapture and Israel awaits their Messiah. But, ‘what’ exactly is the rapture?


Many deny the existence of the rapture because the term ‘rapture’ is found nowhere in the Bible. While it is true that the term is not there, the definition of the term clearly is. First things first, Jesus described the rapture in his promise to come back to take his bride to His Father’s house. Second, the term ‘caught up’ used by Paul while describing this event was translated in the Latin Vulgate, an early translation of the Bible, as ‘raptus,’ which means to be taken up. This is also where the English word ‘rapture‘ comes from. Therefore, the word rapture literally means to be caught up, which is exactly what the apostle Paul describes in 1 Thessalonians 4:17.

Throughout the history of the church, great debate has ensued over this topic. One of the most insidious arguments of the current day is that the rapture is a newly discovered doctrine that should cause people to disbelieve it. The major problem with this argument is: to believe this, one must completely ignore the teaching of the rapture in the Bible, which is clearly on display in this study. Something cannot be disproven just because those who control the narrative say it is or is not so. After all, the chief priests that instigated the crucifixion of Jesus attempted this same thing by trying to obfuscate the resurrection of Christ in an attempt to prove Him a fraud; they even paid those guarding the tomb to say they had fallen asleep and the disciples had stolen the body of Jesus in the night (Matt 28:11-15).

Incredibly, the chief priests enacted their devious plan even after hearing all that transpired when the angel of heaven descended and rolled away the stone of the tomb, which frightened the guards so much that they shook and became as dead men (Matt 28:3-4). With this in mind, it is important to withdraw from Scripture what God wants known about the rapture instead of relying on the potentially faulty ideas of man based upon conjecture.

The passages examined above depict an event that will happen upon the Father’s command at the appointed time. Jesus, the groom, will come for the bride (those both dead and alive in Christ) and call her into the clouds. This call will cause an instantaneous change of both the dead in Christ and the living into incorruptible beings. After meeting in the air, the entourage will go to the Father’s house for the consummation of the marriage. This brief summation covers two of the five W’s of the rapture, who and what; now on to the when.


Perhaps the most debated of all aspects of the rapture is ‘when’ this glorious event will occur. The predominant views include three distinct opinions on the timing of the rapture: Pre-tribulation, Mid-tribulation, and Post Tribulation. One other opinion is gaining traction as of late, and that is a Pre-Wrath rapture. Each opinion is bolstered by well-known theologians, and the dialogue between them is fierce, especially as end-time signs escalate. Indeed, the current world conditions have many believers following the command of Jesus to look up when the things He predicted begin to happen (Luke 21:28).

The divide over this topic is so great that even the last statement could cause great debate over who the audience of this command is. Some say Jesus is talking about His Second Coming; others, say He is talking about the rapture. Perhaps the best understanding is to see that He is talking about both. Jesus chose to use the term, “when these things begin to happen (Luke 21:28, emphasis mine),” to describe how those who follow Him should react to the signs of the end. This implies that He simply wants those who are alive on earth at the time of the end to be looking up for Him. To the believing church, this event is the rapture. To those who miss the rapture, this event will be His Second Coming at the end of the Tribulation.

Scripture clearly indicates that only the Father knows when He will send the Son for the bride. This indicates that no one on earth can know the ‘when’ of the rapture, even though many have attempted to do so. Time after time, people have failed to pinpoint the time of the rapture, and each attempt has only served to cause ridicule by the ungodly and the dejection of those who believed the pontificators. The reality is, the believer is never instructed to attempt to determine when the Lord is coming. Instead, the faithful are simply instructed to look up when the signs of the time indicate He is coming soon.

One important distinction is necessary before proceeding. The rapture sees the faithful leaving earth and meeting Jesus in the air (1 Thess 4:17). The Second Coming sees the faithful returning to the earth with Jesus at the end of the Tribulation (Rev 19:14). Therefore, there are two instances involved in the heavenly comings and goings of the bride of Christ: the going is the rapture, and the coming is the return to earth with Jesus – the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The question is, can a distinction be made in regard to the timing of the rapture in relation to the seven-year Tribulation?

The answer to this question is a resounding yes. In fact, the very first teaching of this topic by Jesus contains the information necessary to pinpoint the timing of the rapture in relation to the most turbulent time to ever come upon the world. Remember, Jesus talked to the Galileans in the upper room after the one non-Galilean, Judas Iscariot, had departed. He taught them about His return in a manner they would have clearly understood by using the vernacular of a Galilean wedding to provide the particulars necessary to understand what He was saying.

Some would say this is ludicrous; they would argue that Jesus never taught about the rapture. However, Jesus is the Word made flesh (John 1:14); therefore, He did not waste words. In fact, one could argue that Jesus never spoke idly. In other words, Jesus made every word count, and each and every thing He said was meant to instruct the hearer. In the case of the upper room, Jesus decides to use this bride analogy to provide a great deal of context for the words he did utter.

The very fact that Jesus spoke of himself as the bridegroom and the disciples, the now forming church, as the bride, would have caused them to understand the fact that the groom would gather the bride and sequester her for a seven-day period. This period of seven coincides with the seven-year Tribulation. Therefore, Jesus conveyed that He was departing to build a place for the bride and would return to take her back to the Father’s house for seven prophetic days, which equals seven physical years, clearly indicating the rapture occurs prior to the beginning of the Tribulation. Some years later, the apostle Paul was commissioned as the apostle to the Gentiles, and he filled in and/or amplifies the particulars in regard to the where and why of the rapture.


Saul of Tarsus became Paul the apostle when he realized that Jesus was the Messiah slain for all. Paul’s zeal to serve the Lord is what caused his initial persecution of the church. Once he met Christ and declared Him Lord on the road to Damascus, this same zeal led to him being, arguably, the greatest evangelist to ever live. However, Paul contributed much more than one thing to the body of Christ. In fact, he is responsible for a great deal of the understanding known by the church in regard to how the church is to function.

One particular contribution to the church stands out for the eschatologist, and that is his understanding of the topic at hand, the rapture. In reality, Paul’s teaching on the rapture is very brief yet concise. However, his description of the moment every pre-tribulation-believing Christian longs for provides absolute proof that when the rapture occurs, the meeting will take place in the air where the groom will meet the bride in the clouds. For clarity, here is a restating of the passages involved:

1 Thess 4:16-17

“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

1 Cor 15:52-53

“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”

Notice how the Lord causes Paul to include the narrative used by Jesus in the upper room to fuse his teaching about the rapture to that of Jesus. The two teachings are inseparable, and combined, they create a masterful depiction of the long-awaited reunion of the bride and groom. In particular. Paul’s use of the phrases ‘with a shout,’ ‘with the voice of an arch angel,’ and the ‘trump of God’ to enhance the narrative provided by Jesus. These words fill in the blanks, if you will, and provide greater understanding. Thankfully, Jesus and Paul also provide the ‘why’ of the five W’s.


Jesus taught that He would return to retrieve the bride so she can be where He is. Paul taught that the rapture would take place so the body of Christ could ever be with the Lord. Each clearly provided this as the primary reason for the rapture. However, there is another ‘why’ to answer here. Why did Jesus find it necessary to inform the disciples of this truth at the very end of His ministry on earth? The apostle Paul answers this question in his letter to Titus:

Titus 2:11-14

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”

The obvious reason for teaching about the rapture, which is often quoted, is “the blessed hope.” Indeed, knowing the Lord is returning for the bride is a hope beyond dreams. However, this is not the most important part of what Jesus and Paul were trying to convey. Jesus left the bride in this world in hopes that she would remain faithful and pure while awaiting her groom. Paul taught through his words to Titus that the body must live in the world while not partaking in the lusts and ungodliness thereof. Instead, believers are to live sober, godly lives bereft of iniquity, which truly cause the faithful to stand out as more peculiar and zealous with each passing day.


Before Jesus departed the earth, He left a five-point contingency plan called the five W’s. The intention was to provide the bride with the proper mindset from which to operate in His absence. This is why the Lord left instructions to look up when the world became dark. After all, it is at this precise moment that the world needs to see the church acting like the chaste virgin she is supposed to be. Conversely, conformation to the world makes the church fade into obscurity. Therefore, to prevent apathy, God provided the wonderful truth of the rapture in His Word so those who wait can do so while knowing a master plan is in operation, and the master planner never fails.

This brief exploration of the five W’s of the rapture, while not exhaustive, was intended to provide food for thought for those who are searching for the truth in these last days. Many are the opinions of exactly how the last days will unfold, and the absolute truth of things will best be known when looking back from eternity. However, God made sure that all who would come to saving faith through believing that Jesus died for all and was resurrected on the third day would understand that He did not leave them without hope. In fact, based on the signs of the times, the Father will be sending the Son for the bride – at any moment.

Remain Faithful…


Website: In His Commission

[1] For greater understanding, see the article, “Open Letter to Those Who Miss the Rapture.”

[2] “Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the King James Version.”