The Rapture (Part 3) – What it is Not

The previous post attempted to explain what the rapture is. We know the rapture is a catching away of church saints. It helps to have an understanding of what the rapture is not, and the other things people say about the rapture.

Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we shall be forever with the Lord.

1 Thessalonians 4:17 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)

The Word Rapture is Not in the Bible

This is often one of the most widely used ideas used to deny the rapture. It is true, that the English word rapture is not in the Bible. But the Greek word for the rapture is. That word is harpazo. Here is a definition from a reliable lexicon.

ἁρπάζω harpazō, – ‘snatch, seize’, i.e. take suddenly and vehemently, or take away in the sense of
1. to make off w. someone’s property by attacking or seizing, steal, carry off, drag away
2. to grab or seize suddenly so as to remove or gain control, snatch/take away

Definition provided by William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 134.

The word rapture enters the English language from Middle French rapture, which is derived from the medieval Latin raptura. Raptura is defined as seizure and/or kidnapping. The medieval Latin word has as its root the Latin raptus, which conveys the idea of a carrying off.

For the word nerds like I tend to be, here is a technical explanation (not that I do prefer technical illustrations.) In the text above from 1 Thessalonians, the Koine Greek verb form ἁρπαγησόμεθα (harpagēsometha) is used. It means we shall be caught up or taken away. The Koine word is correctly translated into the Latin Vulgate as rapiemur, meaning we are caught up or we are taken away. The Latin word has a root in the Latin verb rapio, meaning to catch up or take away.

Clearly, the word idea meant by rapture is in the Bible. To help alleviate any confusion let’s use an older, yet still reliable lexicon.

RAP’TURE, noun [Latin raptus, rapio.]
1. A seizing by violence. [Little Used.]
2. Transport; ecstasy; violence of a pleasing passion; extreme joy or pleasure.
  Music when thus applied, raises in the mind of the hearer great conceptions; it strengthens devotion and advances praise into rapture
3. Rapidity with violence; a hurrying along with velocity; as rolling with torrent rapture
4. Enthusiasm; uncommon heat of imagination.
  You grow correct, that once with rapture writ.

Noah Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828 (https://webstersdictionary1828.com/)

Using the word rapture or the term catching up to translate harpazo doesn’t change the way we understand the doctrine. Jesus comes and catches church saints up and away. We know now that the word rapture is not ‘not in the Bible.’

The Rapture is Not the Second Coming

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days, ‘the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.’
“Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

Matthew 24:29–31 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)

This is the second coming of Jesus. It is markedly different than the rapture. As we’ve learned from previous posts, the rapture is for church saints. The second coming is for Israel, which is easily discerned by the usage of the term elect. It is almost always a term used for Israel as the chosen to make God known to the world. We also know this by the immediate context and audience. Jesus is speaking to a small group of Jewish disciples about as they asked Him what the sign of His coming would be and that of the end of the age (Matthew 24: 3.)

Yes, there are similarities to the rapture of church saints. There is the coming in the clouds, but with great power and glory. There is the great sound of the trumpet, military language for sure. But there is no shout, no voice of the archangel. The elect are gathered, yet the text is silent on where they are gathered.

Let’s examine the other two gospel accounts of the same event.

“But in those days, after that distress, ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give her light; the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers that are in heaven will be shaken.’
“Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. Then He will send His angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of the earth to the farthest part of heaven.

Mark 13:24–27 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)

“There will be signs in the sun and the moon and the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men fainting from fear and expectation of what is coming on the inhabited earth. For the powers of heaven will be shaken.
Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, for your redemption is drawing near.”

Luke 21:25–28 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)

Each of these accounts describes the same event. There are intriguing details in all three and some that are unique to each.

Common details include coming in the clouds with great power and glory. There are a lot of natural disasters that precedes the event. There is also a sense of doom and foreboding. Two accounts mention the elect being gathered. I will leave the rest for you to examine, and see what other commonalities you can uncover.

The unique details are the things that ought to draw our attention. In the Luke account, a subtle exhortation gives us a hint to the rapture. “When these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, for your redemption is drawing near.” Jesus is encouraging His disciples to look up for redemption when these things begin to happen, not after. That is an important, yet subtle detail. Especially when we examine the Matthew passage, “immediately after the tribulation of those days.” Redemption for saints is when these begin to happen, the second coming is after the tribulation.

Remember the previous post from Acts 1.

When He had spoken these things, while they looked, He was taken up. And a cloud received Him from their sight.
While they looked intently toward heaven as He ascended, suddenly two men stood by them in white garments. They said, “Men of Galilee, why stand looking toward heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you to heaven, will come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”

Acts 1:9–11 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)

The rapture occurs in like manner to Jesus’ assumption. It is a private event for those (future) church saints present. There is no fear. There is no perplexity. There is no mourning.

Paul, in another epistle referencing the rapture, calls it the blessed hope.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly desires, we should live soberly, righteously, and in godliness in this present world, as we await the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all lawlessness and purify for Himself a special people, zealous of good works.

Titus 2:11–14 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)

Contrast that with the passage in Matthew that says “all the tribes of the earth will mourn.” These are not the same events.

Now to really ruffle feathers.

The Rapture is Not Middle-Tribulation Nor Post-Tribulation

I understand that statement may be hard to take. But the passages cited above provide us with all we need to know that the rapture occurs before the tribulation. There are other ways to know this.

Alas! for that day is great, so that no one is like it; it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.

Jeremiah 30:7 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)

I encourage everyone to keep in mind when reading the Bible and encounter the phrase ‘that day.’ Most often it is a reference to the end times or last days. Jeremiah calls those days Jacob’s Trouble. In other places, it is described as a time of unprecedented trouble. It is even called great tribulation to explain its unprecedented severity.

“And at that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who shall be found written in the book.

Daniel 12:1 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)

For then will be great tribulation, such as has not happened since the beginning of the world until now, no, nor ever shall be.

Matthew 24:21 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)

These citations are not meant to be all-inclusive, but they serve as sufficient witnesses to this period of time being unprecedented. God even foretold this to Moses as he was dying.

The LORD said to Moses, “You are about to lie down with your fathers, and this people will rise up and begin to prostitute themselves after the gods of the foreigners of the land, where they are going to be among them, and will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. Then My anger will burn against them on that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide My face from them, and they will be devoured, and many disasters and troubles will befall them, so that they will say in that day, ‘Have not these disasters come upon us because our God is not among us?’ And I will surely hide My face in that day for all the evil things which they shall have done, in that they turned to other gods.

Deuteronomy 31:16–18 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)

When these things begin to happen look up for redemption. We are looking to a blessed hope. As previously discussed, the rapture serves as the end of the ministry of the church saints on earth.

The tribulation is judgment for Israel, not the Spirit-baptized church saints. The church escapes that judgment.

The Rapture is Not Already Passed

Because we understand that the rapture comes just as the days of tribulation being, it could not have happened in the first century. This is a view called preterism, which claims all things in the Bible have already happened. Let us look again at Daniel 12.

“And at that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who shall be found written in the book.

Daniel 12:1 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)

Preterism will tell you that the Day of the Lord happened when the temple was destroyed in Jerusalem in 70 AD. That just cannot be true given the verse in Daniel. What happened in Jerusalem then, happened in a little backwater of the great Roman Empire. Sure it was devastating to Israel and her people, but relatively non-concerning to the rest of the empire.

Looking at the 120 million or so people that perished in and around the 20th century is surely a great sign of terrible trouble for a greater number of people. Yet according to what we read, even that won’t match what comes.

Given modern knowledge, preterism cannot be true.

The Rapture is Not This

I tell you, on that night two men will be in one bed; the one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding grain together; the one will be taken and the other will be left. Two men will be in the field; the one will be taken and the other will be left.”

Luke 17:34–36 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)

This text is often used as a rapture text. Examining the context and evidence that surrounds it provides a different conclusion. One that is very different. Let’s see the whole passage and what we can learn.

For as the lightning flashes and lights up the heavens from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in His day. But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating, drinking, marrying, and were given in marriage until the day when Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.
“Likewise as it was in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built. But on the day that Lot departed from Sodom, fire and brimstone rained from heaven and destroyed them all.
“So will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. On that day let him who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away. And likewise let him who is in the field not return to the things behind. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two men will be in one bed; the one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding grain together; the one will be taken and the other will be left. Two men will be in the field; the one will be taken and the other will be left.”
They asked, “Where, Lord?” He replied, “Where the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together.”

Luke 17:24–37 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)

Like the previous citations from the Gospels, this text is not describing a blessed hope. Jesus sets the tone in the discussion as judgment and begins that discussion with the days before the judgment carried out by the flood. The unbelievers died in the waters. Was it because they couldn’t discern the signs?

To continue pressing His point, the destruction of Sodom is remembered. This is to demonstrate the sudden revealing of the Son of Man. It won’t be expected, at least not with joy for redemption. It comes with a heavy sense of foreboding. People are suddenly taken away.

Those present ask an intriguing question… Where?

They wanted to know where these taken would be. Jesus answers “Where the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together.” That is a reference to scavenging birds feasting on a dead corpse. It is explained here.

In Conclusion

We know the rapture is not not in the Bible. It is not the second coming. It does not happen during or after the tribulation. It has not already happened. And it is not the gathering of the elect, nor is it the gathering of unbelievers for a bird feast. As always, my intentions are not to be exhaustive, but to provide enough of a starting point for your own excursion into the depths of God’s Word.

2 thoughts on “The Rapture (Part 3) – What it is Not

  1. Pingback: The Rapture (Part 4) – How It Will Happen – Master's Crumbs

  2. Pingback: The Rapture (Part 5) – The Mystery – Master's Crumbs

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