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The Rapture (from the Greek word έκσταση, ekstasi) is a term used to describe the physical resurrection of the Church which many expect to take place in the Last Days. As described in 1 Corinthians 15:50-54 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, this resurrection will include Christians who have not yet died physically.

Meaning of the term

The word rapture is not found in the Bible, but taken from the Latin word "rapio" which in turn was 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.

Controversy Surrounding Rapture

The Rapture is a controversial topic primarily due to disagreements over when it will occur in relationship to other end time events such as before, during, near the end (pre-wrath) or after the seven year tribulation period. (The seven year tribulation was first specified in the Bible in Daniel 9:24-27 as the last week or final seven-year period of Jewish time.) There are also disagreements as to whether all members of the church or some members will be resurrected in the rapture. A related controversial topic is dispensationalism which is typically promoted by those who believe the rapture will occur prior to the seven year tribulation. Briefly, dispensationalism holds that God deals with people differently during different time periods or ages on the Earth. Those who promote a pre-tribulation rapture insist that there must be a clean break between the Church age and the final seven years of Jewish time which they believe to be in the future. This difference explains why those who do not believe in dispensations believe the last trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15:52 is in reference to the last trumpet in Revelation 11:15 while those who believe in dispensations and the pre-tribulation rapture interpret this verse to be the last trumpet or gathering together of the church which is found in Revelation 4:1.


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. Those who do not accept the pre-tribulation view of the rapture like to point out that the rapture was first explained by a mid-19th century preacher, John Nelson Darby. Those who believe in a pre-tribulation view will either say there is sufficient explanation in the Bible or point out that Saint Ephrem The Syrian wrote about the concept of the rapture if not in the same terminology.

Some justifications supporting the Pre-Tribulation view

The concept of the rapture is described as a mystery or something which was not revealed in the Old Testament. However, the disciples would have been familiar with the resurrection mentioned in the Old Testament which describes believers being resurrected to the Earth and then God’s Messiah setting up God’s physical kingdom on the Earth. Based on the perceptions of the physical kingdom of Jesus on the Earth, there was a consensus among the people when Jesus was on the Earth that God’s Kingdom would be established on the Earth as opposed to starting out in Heaven: Matthew 21:8-9; Acts 1:6; John 21:23.

Old Testament and Tribulation Saints who died are resurrected to the Earth

Jude 14 Describes a freshly resurrected Enoch on the ground admiring the return of Jesus with His Saints returning from Heaven with Him

Daniel 12:2 Describes saints who are sleeping (meaning they are dead) who are resurrected to the Earth (not to Heaven) at the end of the age. The resurrection which occurs at the return of Jesus Christ will include believers from Adam until the resurrection of Jesus Christ and also those who became born again after the rapture of the church but then died before the end.

Tribulation Believers Alive at the Return of Jesus Will Be Rescued, Not Resurrected

Daniel 12:1 Describe believers alive on the Earth who are physically rescued by angels and then left alive on the Earth without a resurrection.

Joel 2:32 Describes believers alive on the ground who manage to escape or endure the trials of the last of the last days who will be spared or saved with no mention of a resurrection.

Zechariah 14:5 Describes saints alive on the ground who are greeted by the Lord's return who is accompanied by a multitude of His Holy Ones (who are the previously resurrected Church).

Matthew 24:31 is a repeat of Daniel 12:1 where angels physically rescue believers who endured to the end. Angels are incapable of resurrecting people and do not escort people who have angelic bodies.

Matthew 24:37-41 The return of Jesus Christ will be just the same as the days of Noah where believers were physically saved and remained on the Earth and unbelievers were killed without a resurrection. Just as in Noah's days, those taken off the Earth as described in Matthew 24:37-41 are all sinners; those who are left behind on the Earth are all believers.

Differences in authority between Church and Believers during Tribulation

Matthew 24:15-28 describes the primary method to endure to the end which is to run away from the anti-Christ. This command to run away from the anti-Christ tells us that these people are not members of the Church whom Jesus gave authority over the gates of hell but rather people who became born again after the rapture of the church. Although believers at this time will not have the same authority as individual believers during the church age, God will be able to perform large scale miracles such as those performed during the Jewish time period by Moses and Elijah as recorded in Revelation 11:6 and Angels will fly through the sky preaching the Gospel to people on the Earth followed by warnings of not believing in God Revelation 14:6-11. Based on the different ways that God works with people on the Earth between the Jewish age and the Church age, there are some who believe the rapture will occur either during or immediately before the war described in Ezekiel 38-39 since God will be able to perform overtly obvious miracles to protect the nation of Israel after the Church has left the Earth. Then these two enormous signs of God's faithfulness to His people (the rapture of the church and His divine protection of Israel) will motivate many to believe in God who, if they can endure to the end, will be among those who are then saved by angels seven years later when Jesus returns to the Earth.

Some justification supporting the Post-Tribulation and Pre-Wrath views

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 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 its 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. 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 Tribulation, as is sometimes proposed. Matthew 24:29-35 seems to favor the pre-wrath 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)

Revelation parallels this:

“And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” ‭‭Revelation‬ ‭6:12-17‬ ‭KJV‬‬

“After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” ‭‭Revelation‬ ‭7:9-14‬ ‭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)