What Does the Bible Say About the Rapture?
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the Rapture?
- Is the Rapture mentioned in the Bible?
- When will the Rapture occur?
- What will happen at the Rapture?
- Who will be left behind when the Rapture occurs?
- Will the Rapture occur before, during or after the Great Tribulation?
- Do recent events mean the Rapture is near?
What is the Rapture?
The word Rapture does not appear in the Bible. It comes from the Latin word rapare
which means "seize", "snatch" or "take away." The
term Rapture is used to refer to the faithful believers being taken up to meet Christ
in the air as described in this passage written by the apostle Paul:
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those
who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For
since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God
will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word
of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord,
will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry
of command, with the archangel's call and with the sound of God's trumpet, will
descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are
alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet
the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. (NRSV, 1 Thessalonians
Apparently, doubts had arisen among the Thessalonian Christians regarding the
fate of those Christians who had died before Christ returned. Would they miss out
on the glorious events of Christ's second coming and the resurrection? Paul assured
them in this way that God would save those who had already died, as well as those
Paul did not provide any other details of this event, and it is not mentioned elsewhere
in the Bible. Questions about the details and timing of the Rapture are not answered
in the Bible. The lack of details has led to different theories and interpretations.
There are many other New Testament passages describing the resurrection of the dead
and the gathering in of the faithful when Jesus comes again (Matthew 16:27, 24:30-31,
25:31-32, 26:64, Mark 12:18-27, 13:26-27, Luke 17:26-35, John 5:21, 5:28-29, 1 Corinthians
4:5, 6:14, 15:12-32, Philippians 3:20-21, Colossians 3:4, 2 Peter 3:8-10, Revelation
1:7). These other passages use various descriptions and images to describe wondrous
events that we cannot fully understand (1 Corinthians 2:6-10, 13:9-12). None
of these other passages use the image of the faithful being caught up in the clouds
and meeting the Lord in the air, nor did Paul use that description in his later
writings. Therefore, most Christians do not place any great significance on the
particular imagery Paul used in 1 Thessalonians. Most Bible dictionaries and
encyclopedias do not mention the Rapture at all.
A theory of Bible interpretation known as Dispensationalism was developed in the
1700s and 1800s, primarily by theologians Pierre Poiret (1646 - 1719), John Edwards
(1637 - 1716), Isaac Watts (1674 - 1748) and John Nelson Darby (1800 - 1882). Dispensationalism
favors a very literal interpretation of Bible prophecies and gives unique interpretations
and special significance to end-times events. These theories were popularized by
the Scofield Reference Bible, first published in 1909.1
In Dispensational theology, the Rapture will be the centerpiece of Jesus' second
coming - a glorious, dramatic event with Jesus coming to literally take believers
up into the sky. There are several theories about the timing of the Rapture:
The Rapture in Popular Culture
The Rapture and other ideas about events surrounding the second coming of Christ
have spawned a whole industry in recent years. Hal Lindsey's 1970 book The Late
Great Planet Earth and the Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry
B. Jenkins have been at the forefront. Besides the many books, there are websites,
TV evangelists, lecture series, movies and videos. Some of these feature imaginative
and vivid embellishments of Bible prophecies mingled with contemporary political
and social theories. Most of these works go well beyond anything revealed in the
Bible and are properly classified as fiction - not as Bible prophecy.
Will the Rapture Happen Soon?
Over the past 2000 years, countless groups and individuals have compared events
of their time to Bible prophecies and come to the conclusion that Jesus would be
returning soon. Some have set a specific date and led their followers into the wilderness
to wait for Christ to come. Every one of those predictions turned out to be wrong,
but that has not deterred people from making modern-day predictions that Jesus will
be returning in the near future. Most mainstream Bible scholars, however, do not
think current world affairs are evidence of the imminent return of Christ.
Jesus, Himself, said,
However, no one knows the day or the hour when these
things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the
Father knows. (NLT, Matthew 24:36)
Jesus also said we should not believe anyone who claims to be the Messiah or
anyone who claims to know when He is coming again. The second coming of Jesus will
be sudden, unexpected and unmistakable, like lightning flashing across the sky (Matthew
24:23-51, Mark 13:21-23, 13:32-37 Luke 17:20-37). The important thing is not to
know when or how the end will come, but to be spiritually prepared when it does
(Matthew 25:1-13 Matthew 24:42-44, Luke 21:34-36, 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3).
Related article: What does the Bible say about
the Second Coming of Jesus? summarizes events surrounding the second coming
of Christ and the end-times and includes Bible references.
1Enns, P. P., The Moody Handbook
of Theology, Moody Press, Chicago, IL,1989, pp. 515–516.