The Rapture

The English "rapture" comes from the Latin translation of a Greek word used only a handful of times in the New Testament. Harpazo means "to take by force, to snatch out of imminent danger." in the earliest Latin translations of the Bible, this word was rendered rapere; it is the root of several English words, including "rapture," which has the idea of being carried away by emotion, and "rape," which implies being seized and carried away by force.

Harpazo is used in Act 8:39 to describe what happened to Philip the evangelist. He had just baptized the Ethiopian eunuch, and when they came out of the water the Holy Spirit "snatched Philip away." Instantly Philip was gone from the desert and found himself in Azotus. That is what it will be like for believers in the Rapture of the Church. in 2Co 12:2 Paul describes in the third person something that had happened to him fourteen years earlier. This was most likely the time when he was stoned in Lystra and dragged out of the city and left for dead (Act 14:19-20). This man, Paul says, was "caught up" into "the third heaven " a Jewish designation for the abode of God. In verse 4, Paul identifies this place as Paradise.

Harpazo is used again in Rev 12:5. John’s description of a woman clothed with the sun and the moon takes us back to Genesis 37 and the vision of Joseph. This is an illustration of the nation of Israel The woman is about to give birth to a child, to Jesus Christ, The dragon—the enemy, Satan—is waiting to kill the child. She gives birth and He is "caught up" to the throne of God. We call this the Resurrection, when Jesus Christ came out of the ground and was "caught up," harpazo.

In 1Th 4:13-18 Paul tells us about the resurrection of Church Age believers. He says that Jesus Christ will descend from heaven with a shout, (The content of the shout is given in Rev 4:1: "Come up here!").

"The dead in Christ shall rise first." We know from 2Co 5:8 that the souls and the spirits of dead believers are already with the Lord because "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord." The instant a believer dies, his soul and spirit go into the presence of the Lord and are there until the resurrection.

Then "we who are alive and remain shall be caught up [harpazo] together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord,"

Paul closes his description of the Rapture of the Church with an admonition to "comfort one another with these words." The doctrine of the Rapture is designed to give us courage for life. We can endure because we know that a magnificent time is coming in human history.


This material was originally a highlighted topic in "The Basics".

Series Navigation
<< Dispensations Timeline <<--->> The Day of the Lord and The Day of Christ >>