Instantly Changed and Caught Up :: By Mark A. Becker



This article is a survey of the resurrection/rapture of the bride of Christ as found in Scripture. Our aim is an attempt to better understand the uniqueness of the resurrection/rapture of the church with the Scriptures as our guide.

Before we begin, we should preface this study with the following: “Resurrection/resurrected,” as used in this article, refers only to those who will receive eternal, glorified bodies, as our Lord Jesus Christ did.

Illustrations of the Rapture

When it comes to the translation of Enoch, I believe we see a beautiful first fruit picture of the rapture of the body of Christ, as the church is made up of both Jew and Gentile, and we can all trace our lineage back to Enoch through Noah. With Elijah, as an Israelite, I believe we see a beautiful first fruit picture of the translation of the 144,000 Israeli evangelists back to heaven with Yeshua at the midway point of the Tribulation.

Both Enoch’s and Elijah’s translations are unique, and though they are representations of the above events, as we shall see, they are not perfect.

We also have other resurrections and ascensions in Scripture to compare; namely, Jesus Christ, the 144,000 Israeli evangelists, and the Two Witnesses. Let’s take a look at all of these and see if there are any patterns we can ascertain.

Patterns for the Rapture?

Let’s examine these resurrections and translations and see if we can find any patterns that may be helpful in our study of the resurrection/rapture of the church.

  • Enoch: In Scripture, we are told that “Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him” (Genesis 5:24), and that “Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him” (Hebrews 11:5).
  • Elijah: Elijah was taken to heaven in a whirlwind with a chariot and horses of fire in the presence of Elisha (2 Kings 2:11) and with the Sons of the Prophets viewing from afar (2 Kings 2:7).
  • Jesus Christ: Christ’s final ascension into heaven occurred after His 40 days of witness and teaching His disciples and other believers (Acts 1:2-11). Yeshua was “taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight” in the presence of His disciples (Acts 1:9).
  • The 144,000 Israeli Evangelists: The 144,000 Israeli evangelists will meet Jesus on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, and the next thing we are told is that they are in heaven singing “as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth” (Revelation 14:1-5). This event will occur in the middle of the Tribulation and seems to be very similar to the resurrection/rapture, yet we aren’t told what exactly happens to them, other than they were with Jesus on Mount Zion in Jerusalem and were immediately found in heaven singing.
  • The Two Witnesses: The Two Witnesses will be killed by the Antichrist at the midway point of the Tribulation, will lie in the streets of Jerusalem for three and a half days, their spirits will enter their bodies again, and they will be called up to heaven by a great voice (Revelation 11:3-12).

Matthew 27:50-53

“Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many” (Matthew 27:50-53).

Here’s what I said in Resurrections and The Marriage Supper of The Lamb regarding this special event:

A possibility on this event is that these resurrected saints were not in glorified, resurrected bodies. They were most definitely recognizable, but I would suggest they were in a temporary spiritual-type body that all Christians for the last 2,000 years have been given in heaven at death, when they are absent from the body and present with Christ (2 Corinthians 5:8).

(We’ll have more on these temporary spiritual bodies later in this article.)

This event would seem to be for witnessing purposes only. I postulate that after their appearing as witnesses of a future resurrection to their loved ones and friends, they would have returned to Sheol to wait for the Lord to escort them to heaven when He led captivity captive:

Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things)” (Ephesians 4:8-10).

I would be remiss if I neglected in pointing out another possibility; that these resurrected saints were, in fact, in their eternal resurrected bodies and were a part of Christ being a first-fruit offering to the Lord.

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the first-fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming” (1 Corinthians 15:22-23).

If this second possibility is correct, then these saints would have to have been those that had died during Christ’s earthly ministry, as they would have had to put their faith and trust in Him; an opportunity no Old Testament saint had the luxury of doing until Jesus descended to Sheol to proclaim His sacrifice for sins to the God-fearing dead in Abraham’s bosom, or Paradise (Luke 16:19-31).

Additional Notes

Elijah’s and Christ’s ascensions into heaven were witnessed by other believers. This will not be the case at the rapture, as there will be no believers to witness this event, as all of them will be taken together.

As noted below, the only time that any unbeliever will witness a resurrection, as revealed to us in Scripture, will be at the resurrection and ascension of the Two Witnesses in the middle of the Tribulation. No unbelievers, as recorded in Scripture, ever saw Christ in His resurrected state. The reason for this is simple: Faith.

“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

Only Elijah is said to have ascended with fiery chariots and horses.

Only Christ had free access to heaven and earth and spent 40 days teaching His disciples before He ascended before them in a cloud.

The Two Witnesses will have somewhat similar circumstances to our Lord’s death, burial, and resurrection – yet Christ ascended in the presence of believers only, and the Two Witnesses will ascend in the presence of their enemies (Revelation 11:12). In addition, The Two Witnesses will not be buried as Jesus was. Finally, the Two Witnesses will not stay on the earth after their resurrection as Yeshua did but will be immediately taken to heaven and will not return.

What is the one common thread that unites all of these resurrections and/or ascensions/translations? They are all different! None of them is just like another, and there is no set pattern between any of them.

Though the translations of Enoch and Elijah are often considered illustrations of the rapture of the church, they are not to be considered exact archetypes of our “blessed hope.” Nor could they be because, again, the rapture of the church was not only to be a unique event in the plan of God but was also an unknown mystery to even the prophets of the LORD in the Tanakh (Old Testament).

Instantly Changed

In our attempt to put together what the Scripture says about the details concerning the rapture of the body of Christ, we should begin our examination with 1 Corinthians 15:51-52.

“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep [die], but we shall all be changed, 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 (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). (emphasis mine)

The Greek word for “moment” is 823 ἄτομος “atomos” and is where we get our English word for “atom.” “Atomos” means moment, from 1/A “not” and 5114 /tomṓteros, “to cut” – properly, not able to cut (divide) because too small to be measured, like a “split second”; an “instant; an indivisible moment of time, too short to measure” (Souter). Indivisible (an “atom” of time) — moment. [Definitions from]

And, of course, “the twinkling of an eye” is self-explanatory, in and of itself.

We also need to take into consideration that Paul is referring to two separate groups within 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, which he expounds upon in more detail in 1 Thessalonians 4. The two different people groups – both members of the bride of Christ – are as follows:

  • “… the dead shall be raised incorruptible” – These are those who have died in Christ that He will bring back with Him to be united with their resurrected, glorified bodies. Simply put, these Christians will put on their new bodies at the resurrection.
  • … we shall not all sleep [die]… we shall be changed” – Paul, as he often did, is speaking to those saints who are alive when he groups himself within the “we” context. The Greek word for “we” is 2249 ἡμεῖς “hémeis” and means us, we, ourselves, used only in the emphatic. Therefore, Paul is speaking of those alive at Christ’s coming for His bride. Paul always spoke (until he realized that he would be martyred (2 Timothy 4:6-7) as if he would be alive at the rapture of the church. Every Christian for 2,000 years has been to be watching and waiting for the rapture, as it has a purifying effect on the believer.

The Greek word for “changed” is 236 ἀλλάσσω “allassó” and means change, alter, exchange, transform. The dead in Christ will receive and be united with their resurrected, eternal bodies and, as noted, will be akin to putting on their glorified new bodies. While those alive at the rapture will have their entire bodies changed from mortal to immortal.

“For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:53).

What ‘Change’ Do the Dead in Christ Experience?

One may ask how exactly the dead in Christ will be changed. The answer lies in what the dead appear to be when they die and are taken to heaven. We know that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). Therefore, do we have any idea what that looks like? We do! One example in each Testament.

Samuel – 1 Samuel 28

In the story of Saul’s traveling to enquire of a woman with a familiar spirit (contact with demons masquerading as human spirits of the dead) in Endor, we see that Samuel was conjured up at Saul’s request.

Here’s a partial account:

“Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel. And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul” (1 Samuel 28:11-12).

The reason that the woman with the familiar spirit “cried with a loud voice” when she saw Samuel was because she knew it was not her familiar spirit that she was in regular contact with that would masquerade as the deceased human spirit asked for by her client.

We read on:

“And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself. And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up?” (1 Samuel 28:14b-15a).

The reader can read the entire account in 1 Samuel 28 for themselves. But suffice it to say, Samuel was allowed by God to come up from a place called Sheol. What we learn from this account is that people in their spirit/soul complex have a recognizable form upon death. What kind of a temporary spiritual body this is that houses our spirit/soul complex can only be known by the Lord.

The Rich Man and Lazarus – Luke 16

When people died, before the sacrifice of Christ, all went to a place called Sheol, as we noted above. In Sheol, which is believed to be a spiritual enclosure residing in the center of the earth, there are two compartments. We learn of this in Christ’s famous exposé of The Rich Man and Lazarus in the gospel of Luke.

Here’s what we learn about these two compartments:

“And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom” (Luke 16:22-23).

Notice that the Rich Man not only recognized Lazarus, but he even recognized Abraham, who he had never seen before!

“And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence” (Luke 16:24-26).

These two locations – both in Sheol – that had “a great gulf fixed” between them are commonly referred to as hell, hades, and/or torments, where the unsaved dead go, and Abraham’s Bosom or Paradise, where the saved dead went to before Christ’s sacrifice.


Yeshua told the thief on the cross who accepted Christ, “Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

After Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection, He took those in Paradise with Him into heaven:

“Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things)” (Ephesians 4:8-10).

This is why Paul could say that, even though he lived for the rapture, he had no fear of physical death.

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you” (Philippians 1:21-24).

Paul also saw Paradise when he went to the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:4).

The Dead in Christ’s Resurrection and the ‘Change’ of Those Alive

Thus, when we die, we will join the others in heaven in what appears to be some sort of temporary spiritual body awaiting our resurrection with the uniting of our spirit/soul complex with a new, glorious and everlasting body. Our Lord will bring those that are dead in Christ with Him at the resurrection/rapture for this union with their resurrected eternal bodies.

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).

For the dead in Christ, their “change” seems to be that of putting on this new body.

(For an excellent read on this topic, please see Randy Nettles’ article that includes John Wesley’s work The Resurrection of the Dead: 1 Corinthians 15:35).

For those alive at the rapture of the church, we will be instantaneously “changed” from mortal to immortal. There will be no body left on the earth, as our old bodies will be instantly changed into new bodies, just as the decayed and scattered molecular bodies of the dead will be resurrected. The “when” this might take place in this process, we will consider at the conclusion of this article.

Both groups of people are essentially changed, yet in differing ways.

All of this – “the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” – will be done, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump.” It is the transformation of our bodies – the dead putting on their new and glorified, eternal bodies, and those still alive on earth who will be transformed into their new and glorified, eternal bodies – that will be instantaneous.

But what about our meeting together in the clouds? Will this, too, be instantaneous?

Caught Up

For this part of our study, we will visit 1 Thessalonians 4.

“For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 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 Thessalonians 4:15-17). (emphasis mine)

I was very interested in looking into the Text Analysis of verse 17 and was very intrigued by its rendering. Here it is:

“Then we the living remaining, together with them, will be caught away in [the] clouds for [the] meeting of the Lord in [the] air; and so always with [the] Lord we will be.”

From this rendering, we see that the dead, who will rise first, will evidently rise with us to meet the Lord in the air. This brings an interesting question into play: Will the unsaved on earth see the resurrected dead when their bodies rise and are united with their spirit/soul complex? Answer: We don’t know.

Remember, Christ’s resurrected body, at times, not only appeared differently to others (Luke 24:13-33), but He also “vanished out of their sight” (Luke 24:31), as well as appeared at will (John 20:26). Though our everlasting, glorified bodies will have physical elements to them, they are, in fact, spiritual and are not subject to the natural laws of the universe.

So, in a supplemental answer to our question, it’s entirely up to God and evidently known only to Him whether or not the unsaved world will see the dead in Christ resurrected when their new bodies rise. But we do know that the dead in Christ’s uniting with their risen eternal bodies will be in an atom of time. And from the text, there is no reason to believe that the entire process – from the rising of the dead to our being caught up together to meet Christ in the air – will be anything but a very rapid procession of events.

The Greek word for “caught up” is 726 ἁρπάζω “harpazó” (translated in Latin to “rapturo” for which we get our commonly used word “rapture”) and means, properly, seize by force; snatch up, suddenly and decisively – like someone seizing bounty (spoil, a prize); to take by an open display of force (i.e. not covertly or secretly). From a derivative of haireomai; to seize (in various applications) — catch (away, up), pluck, pull, take (by force).

From the first part of the definition of “harpazó,” we can see that our being taken out of the world will not be in a “twinkling of an eye” as our change will be. Yet, with descriptions such as “seize[d] by force, snatch[ed] up, suddenly and decisively,” we should expect this event to be very rapid. I often think of a magician whose “hands are quicker than the eye.”

But, if we were to take into account the latter half of “harpazó’s” definition, we should at least consider that this snatching away could very well be with “an open display of force – not covertly or secretly.”

Therefore, it wouldn’t be unrealistic to suspect that the unbelieving world will have a glimpse of this translation and that they may behold a brief sighting of the rapture, and maybe even a quick glimpse of the rising dead. For me, I might liken it to seeing a supersonic aircraft jetting across the sky at a speed greater than the speed of sound, or a burst of a lightning strike.

I expect that our translation will be similar to that of Philip when he baptized the Ethiopian eunuch:

“And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away [harpazó] Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:39). (emphasis mine)

How Much Time Between the Two?

We have covered extensively the following two passages in other articles, and these would include: Jesus Was the First to Teach the Rapture! and The Paralambánō of Matthew24:40-41 & Luke 17:34-36. Consequently, we will not be covering again the overwhelming evidences and logical rationale for these passages speaking clearly of the rapture of the church in this article. But, if the reader is interested, they can access the articles above, showing the truth of this joyful reality.

But we will again give the definition for the Greek word translated “taken” in these passages. Let’s take a look at these two Scriptures.

“I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left” (Luke 17:34-35). (emphasis mine)

The parallel passage can be found in Matthew:

“Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matthew 24:40-42). (emphasis mine)

The Greek word for “taken” – as in “one taken and the other left” – in Matthew 24:40-41 and Luke 17:34-36 is 3880 παραλαμβάνω “paralambánō” (from 3844/pará, “from close-alongside” and 2983/lambánō, “aggressively take”) and means to take (receive) by showing strong personal initiative. To receive near, i.e., Associate with oneself (in any familiar or intimate act or relation); by analogy, to assume an office; figuratively, to learn — receive, take (unto, with). 1. To take to (cf. παρά, IV. 1), to take with oneself, to join to oneself: τινα, an associate, a companion. 2. To receive something transmitted.

It’s truly amazing how the definitions of “paralambánō” and “harpazó” correspond and seem to mirror each other!

Paralambánō” – for “one shall be taken, and the other left” – is exactly the same word Christ uses for “receive” in 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.” (emphasis mine)

With this information in mind – specifically, the “one shall be taken and the other left” portions of our passages – we wanted to point out an obvious observation with a couple of questions.

If someone believes that those in the body of Christ who are alive on earth and are changed “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” are to be present on the earth for an undetermined amount of time before they are “caught up” to “meet the Lord in the air,” then why are they – in Matthew 24:40-41 and Luke 17:34-35 – participating in everyday activities? If they had already obtained perfect, eternally resurrected bodies, why would they need to be sleeping, grinding at the mill, or working in the field with others?

Answer: They wouldn’t. They would be serving the Lord and trying to save as many souls as possible before the Lord caught them up. At least I know I would be!

Obviously, we will not be instantly changed and walking the earth for any amount of time before the catching up of the living bride of Christ. So where does this leave us?

Three Possibilities Concerning the Order of Being Instantly Changed and Caught Up

We are left with only three options available to us when it comes to being Instantly Changed and Caught Up:

  1. We are instantly changed and immediately caught up.
  2. We are caught up and, as we are going up, we are instantly changed.
  3. We are caught up and, as we meet the Lord in the air, we are instantly changed.

Where do I stand on this issue? Actually, the title of this article would seem to betray me! I find myself leaning toward #1 because it would make sense to me that we would have our change immediately after the dead in Christ have their “change,” when they are united with their resurrected eternal bodies. But I must confess that it really doesn’t matter to me one way or the other. Either one of these options is just fine with me!

I pray you have enjoyed our little survey in trying to better assess what the resurrection/rapture of the bride of Christ will look like for the church.

Whether we die and are forever with the Lord, or whether we live and are taken in the rapture of the church and are forever with the Lord, the hope and prayer of every believer is just to be together with the Lord forever! And in both cases – to the glory of God the Father, His wonderful Son, and the indwelling Holy Spirit – we will be forever with our beloved Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

May we all continue to be Answering the Call of The Great Commission and giving an answer to every man and woman who so desperately needs Jesus and asks us, “Why Am I Here and What Is It All About?

Keep reaching the lost for Christ while we still have time.

Love, grace, mercy, and shalom in Messiah Yeshua, and Maranatha!


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