The Rapture of the Church
By Steven J. Hogan
The word “rapture” is frequently used when speaking about the sudden taking of Christians from this earth to be with Jesus Christ at the end of this church age. I believe that the rapture is one of the most significant and monumental events that will ever take place in the history of our world, and without question, the next most important event to occur on this planet. And why? Because this is when Jesus Christ will literally come down from heaven to earth to get His precious and beloved bride and take her to be with Him forever. In the Bible, God repeatedly instructs the Christians to be looking forward to that time when they will be taken into heaven. He wants us to be excited about seeing Jesus, and when our salvation will be complete, when we will finally be perfect in body, soul and spirit, fit then to fully and forever love and serve Him and one another in heaven and on earth. “Fix your hope completely on the grace to be given to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:13
Are you excited? Are you thinking about the return of Jesus Christ and the rapture of the church? Do you realize that if you are still living on earth at Christ’s coming, then this will be the first time you will ever see your Savior’s face? Does it not take your breath away to think that you will finally see the One who is so in love with you, so passionate about you, so committed to you, and so thrilled to be coming back to take you home? This Jesus actually died for you while you were a sinner and an enemy of His so that you could be His holy bride, and after loving and serving Him on earth, you could then go to heaven and forever be with Him. “When Christ, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” Colossians 3:4
This rapture event is now more relevant than ever before. Since the Jews have returned to their land we know we’re living in the end times, and therefore it won’t be long before the Christians are raptured from earth. It could even happen in our lifetime! But there needs to be more Biblical clarity and understanding with regards to the rapture, for there’s error and confusion as to what it means, who it refers to, and when it will take place. My purpose in this short article is to answer these and other related questions. But most importantly I want to stir up your love for Christ so that you’re excitedly looking forward to His return for you. I don’t know about you, but I picture Jesus sitting on the edge of His seat, waiting for that word from His Father to come and get us, so we can finally be with Him. “‘Behold, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come Lord Jesus.” Revelation 22:21
First we have to define the word “rapture.” But we look in our Bible and discover that it’s not actually found in our present day English translations. Where is it then? We have to go to 1 Thessalonians 4:17 which says, “Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord,” and there we see this phrase “will be caught up.” The actual Greek word for this phrase is “harpagisometha”, and the Greek root is “harpazo”. To connect this Greek word to the word rapture, we need to go back to the late 4th century when Jerome was translating the Greek New Testament into Latin. There he used the Latin word “rapiemur” to translate this Greek word “harpagisometha”. Then we come to the Medieval Latin where we find the word “raptura”, from which we get our modern English word rapture. The word “rapture” then is derived from the phrase “will be caught up” in 1 Thessalonians 4:17.
With regard to the return of Christ, we find that this root word “harpazo” is only used in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 – it’s not found in any other end times’ text. Of course, other verses contain this Greek word (which we’ll talk about shortly), but there are no others in the context of the second coming of Christ. It just so happens that modern day evangelicals, and in particular the pre-millennialists, usually use this word rapture when speaking of Christ’s return for the church at the end of this age. In today’s Christian world this word rapture is by far the most common word used when referring to that time when Christ comes back to take the believers home to heaven. It’s important then to understand the definition, the Biblical meaning and the context of the rapture.
Let’s go back to our primary text, to 1 Thessalonians 4:17, and to the phrase “will be caught up”, which again is translated from the Greek root word “harpazo”. Vines dictionary defines “harpazo” this way – “to snatch or catch away… this verb conveys the idea of force suddenly exercised.” Other meanings of this word are “to seize, to carry off, to catch up, to take away.”
To learn more about this word “harpazo” and the rapture, let’s look at other verses that use this word. In Matthew 12:29, we read, “How can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong men? And then he will plunder his house.” In Acts 8:39, we read, “When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away, and the eunuch no longer saw him.” In 2 Corinthians 12:2, we read, “I know a man in Christ, who fourteen years ago – whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body, I do not know, God knows – such a man was caught up to the third heaven.” In John 6:15, we read, “So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself.” Finally, in Revelation 12:5, we read, “She gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule the nations, with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and His throne.” Do you see how the word “harpazo” is used in all these verses? It is translated as “carry off, plunder, snatched, caught up and take Him by force.” Something or someone is suddenly, quickly and forcefully being taken. And it is these three adverbial truths that help us to understand the word “harpazo”, and therefore the rapture of the believers living on earth at the coming of Jesus Christ.
It will happen suddenly. Though you should be expecting to be raptured and won’t be surprised when it does happen, you don’t know exactly when it will take place. Then one day you will see Jesus Christ in the sky above, and immediately and suddenly you’ll be carried off this earth to be with your Savior. And after a very short layover with Christ in the clouds, then you will head off to heaven to be with God the Father. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-9
It will happen quickly. As it says in 1 Corinthians 15:52, in “a moment, in the “twinkling of an eye,” or let me say, “faster than a speeding bullet”. At the end of this age, on the day of Christ, believers living in this world will literally and suddenly see Christ coming in the clouds and instantly and very rapidly they’ll be taken off this earth, the fastest ride they will ever experience.
It will happen forcefully. I’m not saying you will be handled roughly, that this will be a violent experience, for you will most gently and smoothly be lifted off this earth. But it will be that which you cannot stop, not that you will want to stop it. The great power of God, so much greater than the power of rockets taking a payload off this earth, will take you off this planet to be with Christ. And no power on earth can stop this. I can picture the devil and the Antichrist seeing this innumerable number of believers suddenly escaping the earth and ascending into the sky above to be with Christ, and there’s absolutely nothing they will be able to do about it.
What God purposed, planned and predicted will most definitely take place, and no one will have any power to stop it. If you are a believer alive on this earth at the end of this age, then know that the Lord has already purchased your ticket for this most incredible and indescribable trip. And you will be on a two-leg, end-times journey, first, going to be with Christ in the clouds, and second, traveling first class with Christ and all the other believers to heaven. “Our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.” Philippians 3:20-21
And so where are we at in the whole big scheme of things? And when will the rapture take place? We don’t know exactly when, for “of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matthew 24:36). The fact that we live in the end times and are in the “the beginning of birth pangs” stage means that the coming of Christ to rapture the church is not far off. There are now wars, famines, earthquakes and plagues, and these are escalating, just like the birth pains of a mother. They started slowly but they will be increasing more and more and getting harder and harder, signaling that Christ’s return is getting closer and closer. Therefore we need to say, “For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay.” Hebrews 10:37
Let me mention some other events taking place before the rapture of the church. Besides the birth pains, nations will be realigned, lawlessness will be growing, anti-Semitism will be increasing, an Israeli peace treaty will be signed, globalism will be increasing, the temple will be rebuilt, the Antichrist will be revealed, there will be great persecution against both Jews and Christians, and finally “the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light” (Matthew 24:29), signaling the end of this age. Then “the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ (believers who have died and are already in heaven) will rise first.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16
Then without delay there’s the rapture of the Christians. “We who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Right after the earth goes dark, Christ will suddenly return. In His brilliant Shekinah glory, He will come back in the clouds and light up the skies, and all Christians living on earth will suddenly see Him. And hearing Christ’s voice, they will be quickly swept off this earth, and taken to be with Him. These redeemed, relieved and rescued believers, now fully transformed and glorified, will first be reunited with their Christian friends and then be taken to be with Jesus. Their Savior has returned for them and their salvation is finally complete – the day of Christ has come! All the believers are extremely excited and greatly rejoicing, their senses fully awakened and aware of all that is going on around them. After a very short stay in the clouds, they will then complete the second leg of their journey, jetting off to heaven and getting there in no time. “And behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” Revelation 7:9-14
This is what God’s word clearly tells us, what it emphatically states will happen, what will most assuredly take place, and what will be taking place very soon. Be ready for the rapture, be excited about your Savior coming to get you, and be looking forward to this most amazing experience when you will suddenly be snatched from this earth and escorted into the very presence of Jesus Christ, and then to be with Him forever and ever. This is what Jesus says He wants for His bride – “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for you loved Me before the foundation of the world.” John 17:24
We have talked about this critically important rapture verse that is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. But what I find so encouraging is that God has told us a lot more than just this rapture verse. He has given us a lot more information about what will be taking place when Christ returns and takes us home to heaven. In our focus on the rapture, we have learned that it refers to just one specific aspect of Christ’s return for us, that He is literally and physically taking us from this earth and then rocketing us up into the sky to be with Him. And we’ve seen that it is a sudden, quick and forceful action in which the saints on earth are seized, snatched and rapidly removed from this earth, and then are immediately and forever with Jesus Christ, their Savior and King.
When you study this subject of Christ’s coming, you realize that there’s so much more that takes place during the rapture, and in that brief split second right after it. That is, there are many immediate results of the rapture. In fact, I have an extensive list of over 100 prophecy verses, all relating directly to the 2nd coming of Christ. This immense volume of verses is most impressive and instructive, for when you read it you will see how important this end time event will be, how much God is going to do for you, and how everything is going to change. Indeed, there’s a huge mountain of material on this subject. That’s because your heavenly Father really desires for you to know some of the encouraging and exciting details, and to then be looking forward to seeing His Son’s return and to all that will be taking place after that time.
But what is the significance of the rapture, and what are the immediate effects of the rapture upon the Christians who are living on earth? What else happens during this split second, twinkling of an eye time? Lots! You will be amazingly astounded at what God’s word says about this glorious event. Let me briefly state a number of things that will be taking place at the return of Jesus Christ:
1. You will be given relief from tribulation. Christians on earth will be experiencing great tribulation, great persecution, but when Jesus Christ returns, it will be cut short, it will suddenly stop, and you will then be raptured into heaven. Matthew 24:22, 29; 2 Thessalonians 1:4-7
2. You will be rescued from the wrath to come. All Christians living on earth at the end of this age will be spared, will be rescued from the Day of the Lord, which is the wrath of God to be poured out upon the earth (this will take place about 30 minutes after the rapture). 1 Thessalonians 1:10, 5:9; Revelation 8:1
3. You will rest from your labors. Life will be extremely difficult on earth. You will be working hard for the Lord, sacrificing and suffering for Him, and getting extremely tired – but then you will rest when Jesus Christ returns and you are raptured from the earth (Revelation 14:13). “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning or crying or pain.” Revelation 21:4
4. You will be redeemed. You will be released from this wicked world, delivered and taken out of this evil and rebellious place. But not only that, your soul will be redeemed, that is, released and freed from your own corrupt and sin prone body. Luke 21:28; Ephesians 1:14, 4:30
5. You will be glorified. You will be given a brand new body, an infinitely and incredibly better body than Superman, Iron Man, Captain America, and the Incredible Hulk. It will be a powerful body, an immortal body, a spiritual body, a perfect body. Your salvation will finally be fully complete. Having already been justified and sanctified on earth, you will be glorified as you take off from the earth to be with Jesus Christ. Romans 8:30, 1 Corinthians 15:40-42, Philippians 3:20-21
6. You will be gathered together. You will be assembled and joined together with other believers and then taken to be with Jesus Christ. Believers from all time, those who have already died and gone to heaven, and those who are still alive on earth, will be gathered together “from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven” to be with Jesus Christ. Matthew 24:31, Mark 13:27, 2 Thessalonians 2:1
7. You will be reunited with believing loved ones who have already died and gone on before you. And you will be with other believers you had heard about or read about in God’s Word. What a great, grand and glorious gathering this will be, an unimaginable multitude of believers celebrating together, loving one another and worshiping the Lord. 2 Corinthians 4:14, 1 Thessalonians 2:19, Revelation 7:9-12
8. You will be with Jesus Christ and will remain with Him. This is by far the best and most heart-warming, soul-stirring aspect of Christ’s return, that He’s coming for you, that He wants you to be with Him, that you will see Him, that He will express His love to you, that you will express your love to Him, and then forever be with Him, your Redeemer and Lord. John 17:24, 1 Thessalonians 4:18
9. You will be greatly rejoicing in heaven. You will wholeheartedly be expressing your praise and love to God for your salvation, and for His great and infinite love for you. “They cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” Revelation 7:9
10. You will be richly rewarded for your labor for God. Your heavenly Father will incredibly and unbelievably bless all believers who had loved Him and served Him during their short time on earth. But this initial reward is only the beginning of a glorious inheritance that you will then experience for all eternity. 2 Corinthians 5:10, 2 Timothy 4:7-8, 1 Peter 1:4
Our Lord specifically tells us what will be taking place at the time of the rapture and shortly thereafter. God is your heavenly Father and you are His children, and I hope you are beginning to see that He’s going to make sure you are taken care of, protected and blessed, and much more so than you could have ever iimagined. He tells you what will be taking place because He wants you to know what to expect. He wants you to be encouraged and overjoyed about this hope you have and to be looking forward to the end of this age, to that day and time when Christ takes you from earth to be with Himself. He wants you to be excited about this event, this very brief but momentous transition time from earth to heaven, to Jesus Christ, and to this most wonderful and eternal future that He has in store for you. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9.
When Jesus Christ returns this church age will be over and you will be raptured. And everything is going to change, and I mean everything is going to change! Christ’s triumphant return to earth will unquestionably, undoubtedly and unmistakably be the single biggest event that has ever taken place since His first coming nearly 2,000 years ago. Can you imagine the emotional high, the great excitement, exhilaration, exuberance and ecstasy, as well as the extreme love, inexpressible joy and perfect peace that you and all the other believers will wonderfully and gratefully experience at that time? At this present time, Jesus Christ is in heaven, preparing a place for you and His bride. Jesus tells you, “I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3) – and it won’t be long now. Then you will all “cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb’” (Revelation 9:10). “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” Revelation 5:13