Whether you have studied much or little about the pre-tribulation rapture of the church, I want you to be confident that this belief is well-supported by scripture.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14)
While we are watching the signs of rumors of wars, third Temple progress, attitudes in society and in the church, among others, the BIG EVENT – the resurrection of the dead in Christ and the transformation of living saints into resurrection bodies – is almost upon us. After the transformation from temporal to eternal, a literal “catching away” of those who believe in Jesus will occur. This is commonly known as the rapture, from the Latin translation of “caught up” – rapiemur (from rapio). The Greek word is harpazo (Strong’s 726). Both mean “we are caught up” or “we are taken away”, and suggest suddenness and aggressiveness. HELPS Word-studies defines harpazo as “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).” (Source)
The rapture isn’t going to be a secret, but it will be sudden! Let’s examine the scriptures pertaining to this glorious event!
First, passages that promise to spare the saints from wrath:
Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. (Revelation 3:10)
“But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:36)
Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. (Romans 5:9)
For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 1 (Thessalonians 5:9-10)
For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10)
We are not destined for wrath! God has never poured out His wrath upon His righteous ones in the past, and He won’t do so in the future either. How is God going to spare us from wrath? It’s all a part of the gift of transformation from temporal to eternal.
Second, passages talking about our transformation from temporal to eternal:
Listen! I am telling you a mystery: We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed [allasso], in a moment, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. For this corruptible must be clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal must be clothed with immortality. When this corruptible is clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal is clothed with immortality, then the saying that is written will take place:
Death has been swallowed up in victory.
Death, where is your victory?
Death, where is your sting?
(1 Corinthians 15:51-55)
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:20-21)
For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just. (Luke 14:14)
I would suggest that these two passages have a near and a far fulfillment, which is common in prophecy:
Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. (John 5:28-29)
And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12:2)
This transformation, or changing, occurs in the twinkling of an eye – instantaneously. The dead in Christ will be transformed – rise from the grave and be united with a resurrection body. Then, we who are alive and remain, will be transformed into our eternal bodies. Together we will all be caught up to be with the Lord. The dead who are not in Christ will be resurrected in the second resurrection – the one to judgment at the Great White Throne.
Because a lot of people have confusion over the resurrection events I will summarize:
- Jesus and the Many Saints – approx. 32-33 AD – 1 Corinthians 15:20, Matthew 27:52-53 (note: the FIRST harvest of the Feasts of God – Unleavened Bread)
- Main Resurrection / Rapture event – hopefully this year 🙂 – 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (note: will this be on the SECOND harvest of the Feast of God – Pentecost?)
- Tribulation Martyrs – between second coming and millennial kingdom – Revelation 20:4,6 (note: the THIRD harvest of the Feasts of God – Tabernacles)
Some believe that the Old Testament saints will be resurrected from the dead along with the church pre-tribulation, and some believe that they will be resurrected from the dead along with the tribulation martyrs post-tribulation. From our perspective as the alive body of Christ (the church), I would suggest this isn’t an issue to raise any ruckus about; what is clear is that they will be raised at some point and rule with Christ during the Millennial Kingdom.
Occurs after the millennial kingdom, in 1007+ years – Revelation 20:5,11-15, John 5:29b. Includes all unbelievers from the beginning of time. It would also seem to include any believers who may have passed away during the Millennial Kingdom.
Third, passages predicting the “harpazo” of the saints:
Just as man is appointed to die once, and after that to face judgment, so also Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await Him. (Hebrews 9:28)
“She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne” (Revelation 12:5)
“Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1-3)
Note how Jesus said He will receive [Strong’s 3880] us unto Himself as you read the next passage:
Two men will be in the field; one will be taken [received, Strong’s 3880] and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken [received, Strong’s 3880] and the other left. (Matthew 24:40-41)
Interestingly, Strong’s Concordance states the word used, paralambanetai, #3880, has the common usage as “I take from, receive from, or: I take to, receive; I take with me”. HELPS Word-studies further adds that this taking is “aggressive; to take (receive) by showing strong personal initiative”. (Source) The ones aggressively taken, harpazo‘d, will be received unto the Lamb. There are those who disagree with this interpretation, but this is not a salvation issue so we can “agree to disagree”.
Fourth, passages containing the transformation, catching up, and sparing from wrath:
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, concerning those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, in the same way God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep through Jesus. For we say this to you by a revelation from the Lord: We who are still alive at the Lord’s coming will certainly have no advantage over those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17)
This is such an encouraging passage of scripture! The trumpet in the Old Testament (shofar) was used to summon for worship or to summon to battle. To believers, this trumpet blast will mean – Come Up Here! To angels, this trumpet blast will mean Prepare For Battle!
We see that the souls of those who have died in Christ are currently WITH GOD, and Jesus will bring them with Him when it is time for Him to call us home. (This refutes the concept of “soul sleep”). We then see Jesus descending from heaven with a SHOUT (not a whisper, this isn’t a secret!)! The bodies of the dead in Christ are then resurrected and transformed into an eternal body like Christ’s own. These bodies join their waiting souls! Then, all believers who are alive on earth will be transformed and caught up (harpazo) with them. (This refutes any notion of a time gap between transformation and catching up). These words are to be an encouragement!!!
As a pregnant woman about to give birth writhes and cries out in her pains, so we were before You, Lord. We became pregnant, we writhed in pain; we gave birth to wind. We have won no victories on earth, and the earth’s inhabitants have not fallen. Your dead will live; their bodies will rise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in the dust! For you will be covered with the morning dew, and the earth will bring out the departed spirits. Go, my people, enter your rooms and close your doors behind you. Hide for a little while until the wrath has passed. For look, the Lord is coming from His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity. The earth will reveal the blood shed on it and will no longer conceal her slain. (Isaiah 26:17-21)
Totally amazing Old Testament rapture passage. Isaiah 26 clearly reveals that the dead will rise and enter their “rooms” (where Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us), after which God will pour out His wrath on the inhabitants of the earth. Before the mystery of the rapture was revealed through the apostle Paul, no one understood the meaning of such passages – however, they were clearly there, waiting to be understood at the proper time. I personally believe that since Isaiah was writing to the Old Testament saints, this indicates that the they, too, will be resurrected PRIOR to Daniel’s 70th week.
Fifth, Other Passages Where People are Harpazo’d:
And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried [harpazo] Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. (Acts 8:39)
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up [harpazo] to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up [harpazo] into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. (2 Cor 12:2-4)
And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force [harpazo] and bring him into the barracks. (Acts 23:10)
The teaching of a carrying, seizing, snatching, or catching up/away is found a number of times in scripture. In each case it is sudden and does not rely at all upon the person being carried away by the Spirit of God. Of note, the word is also used to describe how no one else is able to snatch, seize, or carry away:
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch [harpazo] them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch [harpazo – pluck, seize] them out of the Father’s hand. (John 10:28-29)
God, in His omnipotence, is able to carry us away at His will. Also in His omnipotence, He is able to prevent anyone else (human or spirit) from taking us away from Him. How reassuring is that! We are safe in His hand.
Sixth, Salvation Before the Day of the Lord:
Note that God’s WRATH begins at the Day of the Lord. The Day of the Lord is not defined by “tribulation” or “great tribulation” or “greatest tribulation”, but by God’s wrath encompassed in the Trumpets and Bowls. The “greatest tribulation” that Jesus mentions in Matthew 24 comes from the antichrist, who will be seated in the Temple proclaiming to be “god”. We will also be spared from this “greatest tribulation”, but that’s not why we are spared. We are spared from God’s wrath, which begins far earlier than the “greatest tribulation”. God’s wrath would seem to begin once the Yom Kippur ceremony has been performed in heaven (at the end of Seal 7), but all the world recognizes that the time of His wrath has come at Seal 6. I personally believe that all 7 seals open at the moment of the rapture, and their effects are felt throughout the entire 70th week of Daniel.
Consider all the below occurring within milliseconds:
- the resurrection of the dead in Christ, their transformation, and uniting of their bodies and souls
- the transformation of the living in Christ, and their catching up to be with Jesus
the removal of the “Restrainer” from the earth (the indwelling Holy Spirit in the body of Christ)
- Apocalyptic Horses 1-4 released from restraint and lunge forward to begin their tasks
- The entire world recognizes that the wrath of the Lamb and God (one on the throne) has come
“When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Revelation 6:12-17)
Who can stand? Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord can stand.
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10)
This is also shown in Acts 2, when Peter quotes Joel 2:
“And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”
Note that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved – when? BEFORE the day of the Lord begins.
[I understand that many within the pre-tribulation rapture watching community will disagree with the timing of these passages and that is ok. This is not a salvation issue. It isn’t even a rapture timing issue (we all agree in a pre-tribulation rapture, where no believer will face the wrath of God). I want you to understand that it’s okay to consider different possibilities for how exactly Revelation chapters 4-6 play out in a pre-tribulation way. NONE of us have it figured out 100% correctly! So please don’t throw out the rest of this article because you believe the rapture MUST be pictured with the open door in Revelation 4, with billions of us represented by only 24 elders.]
Subsequent to the resurrection / rapture event, the heavenly Yom Kippur ceremony begins:
When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake. (Revelation 8:1-5)
In the earthly Yom Kippur ceremony, performed yearly as a shadow to the heavenly ceremony, we see the following performed:
- prayers, from all the people
- half an hour of silence
- the high priest enters the holy of holies only on this one day, the day of atonement
he stands at the altar with a golden censer, offering incense to God, until the entire chamber is filled with smoke
- the end of the ceremony is marked by the Tekiah Gedolah – a long, loud blast from the shofar
This pattern of rapture followed by the Day of the Lord can also be seen in 2 Thessalonians 2:
Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him [the rapture], we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day [the day of the Lord] will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed… (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3)
The pattern is Rapture (our gathering together to Christ) – the man of lawlessness revealed (immediately post-rapture) – the Day of the Lord begins.
The rapture is an event, not a day. The rapture is not connected at all to the Day of the Lord. We are swept out of the way before the Day can begin. Whenever scripture mentions “that Day”, or “that great and terrible Day”, it is referring to the Day of the Lord, which is the time period of God’s wrath throughout the 70th week of Daniel (7 years). It culminates at the 7th bowl and the Second Coming of Christ. The Day of the Lord has to do with Israel, not the church.
Seventh, the Lord’s Prayer:
I want you to take a close look at the Lord’s Prayer with me:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.”
Your Kingdom Come
Jesus gives us the example to specifically pray for Him to come back and set up His Millennial Kingdom!
Your Will be Done on Earth as it is in Heaven
We long for Jesus to rule humanity, with His will being carried out upon the Earth. We are praying for the literal fulfillment of all biblical prophecies when we recite these phrases. There’s a lot more that could be said, but I’m going to keep it simple here – “Please come, Jesus, and fix everything better!!!” It’s the next two phrases I think we need to mine more deeply.
Lead Us Not Into Temptation
While Jesus promises not to allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear, are we really to pray not to be tempted at all? Scripture is clear that we *will* be tested and tried, throughout the church age. We are to consider these trials and tribulations a joy:
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame (Romans 5:3-5)
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7)
Is it possible then that “lead us not into temptation” doesn’t mean the regular trials of faith and life that we are certainly to encounter and are even to embrace? Let’s look at the interlinear to see!
Lead – Strong’s 1533 eispheró – to bring or lead, to carry inward
Temptation – Strong’s 3986 peirasmos – an experiment, a trial, temptation; trial, probation, testing, being tried; temptation; calamity, affliction. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon adds the additional insight of “adversity, affliction, trouble”.
Does a trial, testing, calamity, affliction, and trouble remind you of something you have probably studied often – the Time of Jacob’s Trouble (Jeremiah 30:7)? Could Jesus have been encouraging us to pray “do not carry us forward into the Times of Trouble”? Does He suggest this elsewhere as well? I believe He does:
“But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:36)
What about the word Jesus chose for temptation, that we are to pray to not be led into? It’s not the same as the “greatest tribulation”, that begins long after the rapture event. Instead, He uses the word for trouble and trial, which is also used here:
Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial [peirasmos] that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. (Revelation 3:10)
…then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials [peirasmos], and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment… (2 Peter 2:9)
Jesus tells us to pray that we will not be led into the hour of trial that is coming upon the whole world, that we will have the strength/worthiness to escape all these things that are going to take place! The only way we can be worthy to escape is through His blood as our covering – being born again into the family of God.
But Deliver Us From Evil
If we are to pray to not be led into the time of trouble on earth, what else are we to pray? That we are to be delivered from evil, in general? Or is there a more specific meaning here?
Deliver – Strong’s 4506 rhuomai – to draw to oneself, deliver; I rescue, deliver (from danger or destruction). From HELPS Word-studies – “properly, draw (pull) to oneself; to rescue (“snatch up”); to draw or rescue a person to and for the deliverer.”
Note the term “snatch up”? Sounds kinda like the harpazo, or rapture, doesn’t it! Where else is rhuomai used? Let’s see!
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver [rhuomai] me from this body of death? (Romans 7:24)
When do we get delivered from this body of death? At the resurrection/rapture event!
For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers [rhuomai] us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10)
…and if he rescued [rhuomai] righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue [rhuomai] the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment… (2 Peter 2:7-9)
As in the days of Lot, we will be rescued before God’s wrath pours down on those who “refused to love the truth and so be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:10).
Evil – Strong’s 4190 ponéros – evil, bad, wicked, malicious, slothful. It is also translated as “evil one”. From Thayer’s Greek Lexicon – ὁ πονηρός is used pre-eminently of the devil, the evil one: Matthew 5:37; Matthew 6:13; Matthew 13:19, 38; Luke 11:4 R L; John 17:15; 1 John 2:13; 1 John 3:12; 1 John 5:18f
It is important to note that in the Greek, there is a definitive article tou (the) in front of ponērou. Thus the translation is most accurately rendered “the evil (one)”. Thus we are to pray to be delivered from the evil one, satan, himself.
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus is teaching us to pray for Bible prophecy to be fulfilled, including that we would not be led into the time of trouble on earth (the “tribulation” or 70th week of Daniel), that we would be delivered from the evil one (satan, including his unholy trinity of the antichrist and false prophet), and that Jesus would come and establish His millennial kingdom on earth. Built in to the Lord’s Prayer is a plea to be raptured!!! Isnt’ that amazing!??!!
Do we see hints of this anywhere else in scripture?
Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! (2 Peter 3:11-12)
Peter speaks of waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God (the day of the Lord). We know from our scripture study above, that the rapture occurs BEFORE the day of the Lord, and so when we pray for the day to haste we are also praying for the rapture!
I truly believe the scriptures above speak for themselves. God has not destined us for wrath, but for salvation. We are supposed to encourage one another with the words of our blessed hope – that we will be taken and received unto Jesus, to be with Him forever. We will be worthy to escape all these things that are coming upon the earth, through the blood of the Lamb. Church age believers will be snatched up into the Day of Christ, while those left behind on earth will continue on into the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord.
As far as WHEN?
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
Are you CERTAIN of your Salvation, beyond a shadow of a doubt? Do you KNOW that no matter when the rapture occurs, you will be counted worthy to escape? If not, please read Blessed Assurance: A Guide to Rapture Readiness.
Note: This article was originally published June 1, 2017 here: The Rapture of the Church – Our Blessed Hope.
The Bible is infallible. I am not. I am merely challenging traditional models and testing them against Scripture. I believe that traditional pretribulation teachings provide a solid backbone upon which to lay the musculature of details. I encourage you to consider my thoughts as you also examine the scriptures to see if these things are so!