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Within Protestant theology, the Rapture is an event involving believers of Jesus Christ that will take place in the Last Days. Outside of theological contexts, rapture is also a noun meaning "a state of being carried away by overwhelming emotion".

Meaning of the term

The word rapture is not found in the Bible, but taken from the Greek word "harpazo" (pronounced har-pad'-zo). The term is found 13 times in the New Testament (including Revelation 12:5 which addresses Jesus' ascent described in the Book of Acts). According to Strong's Greek Dictionary, "Harpazo" means "to seize (in various applications): - catch (away, up), pluck, pull, take (by force)." To this effect, most modern Christian ministries[Citation Needed] imply that "rapture" means "harpazo," which specifically points to being "caught up" in 1 Thessalonians 4:17.

Others have derived the concept of the rapture from the Greek word έκσταση, which is translated as ekstasi.

Origin of the doctrine

There are several theories on the origin of the rapture.[1] Most of these are dated from the late 18th century onwards, but the concept was most popularly explained by John Nelson Darby, a mid-19th century preacher.

Biblical References and Exegesis

John Nelson Darby interpreted 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 as the occasion on which future believers in Jesus Christ will be suddenly taken away prior to the events of the war of Armageddon and the ushering in of the Millennial Kingdom:

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. 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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. 1Thessalonians 4:13-18 (KJV)

Conditions that Could Precede the Rapture

Some Evangelical commentators[Citation Needed] suggest that the following events need to occur prior to the Rapture taking place:

  • Lawless conditions in the world, as in the days of Noah (Matthew 24:36-41)
  • The rise of a powerful government in Europe with its origins in the Roman Empire (Daniel 9, Revelation 13)
  • The rise of powerful countries to the north, south, and east of Israel (Daniel 11)
  • Israel living in peace with its neighbors (Ezekiel 38)
  • A peace treaty between Israel and the Arabs for seven years (Daniel 9)
  • The commencement of the rebuilding of the Jewish temple on it's original site in Jerusalem.

The website 'Rapture Ready' maintains an index of how close the world apparently is to the Rapture.[2]

Relationship with Tribulationism

There is some debate within dispensationalist/tribulationist circles over whether the Rapture will occur before, during or after the reign of the Antichrist, but the original reference by St Paul that "we which are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air" (at I Thessalonians 4:17) clearly dates it to the time of the Second Coming, and does not suggest in any way that it will result in Christians being spared in advance the horrors of the Last Times, as is sometimes proposed. Matthew 24:29-35 seems to favor the post-tribulation position, however:

Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer [is] nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, [even] at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. Matthew 24:29-35 (KJV)

Predictions Concerning Timing

Throughout history, many people have tried to determine when the rapture will happen, mainly by analyzing the Bible and correlating what it says to events that were happening around them. A recent analysis by Harold Camping, a radio evangelist and founder of eBible Fellowship[3] computed May 21, 2011 as the day of the rapture, although he uses a drastically different calendar for dating his events that support his view and states that the tribulation began in 1988.

The practice of date setting has drawn criticism in some circles. Critics have pointed to verses such as Mark 13:32 and Matthew 24:36, which indicate that no one knows the date of the rapture except for God Himself. Furthermore, Jesus predicted that "many false prophets will arise and deceive many people" regarding the date of the rapture (Matthew 24:11). Advocates of date setting (such as Harold Camping) have interpreted these verses in ways different to their isolated literal expression.


  1. Sanders, E.F. The Origin of the Pretribulational Rapture Theory (n.d.)
  2. Rapture Ready
  3. Bible Fellowship

See Also

External Llinks


  • Armstrong, K., The Battle for God (Harper Perennial, 2000)
  • Cruden, A., Complete Concordance to the Old and New Testaments (Lutterworth, 1930)
  • The Holy Bible (King James Version)
  • The New English Bible (Oxford & Cambridge University Presses, 1970)
  • The New Jerusalem Bible (Darton, Longman & Todd, 1990)
  • Peake, A.S., Commentary on the Bible (Nelson, 1962)
  • Young, R., Analytical Concordance to the Holy Bible (Lutterworth, 1939)