What Is the Rapture?

Mark HitchcockBy Mark Hitchcock8 Minutes

Excerpt taken from Global Reset: Do Current Events Point to the Antichrist and His Worldwide Empire? by Mark Hitchcock and Jeff Kinley


What Is the Rapture?

One of these parousia (coming, arrival) passages is found in 1 Thessalonians 4. Among the issues troubling the believers at Thessalonica was the end times (i.e., eschatology), specifically, the following: What happens to Christians when they die? Will we see them again? Will we go through the tribulation? Are we currently already in “the day of the Lord”?

Because false teachers had crept into the church and were confusing them concerning the end times, Paul addressed these concerns directly in both 1 and 2 Thessalonians. But in tackling the first question about what happens to believers when they die, he took the opportunity to tell them that they would be reunited with those beloved believers who had either died or been martyred for their faith. And he did this by teaching them about the rapture.

The rapture (also known as the blessed hope, the coming, or the appearing of our Lord) is the event by which Jesus Christ will return for his bride as he promised in John 14:1-3. At this time, he will take her to his Father’s house where he has been preparing a place for her.

The English word rapture is an English transliteration of a Latin verb (rapio, or rapiemur). When translating 1 Thessalonians 4:17 from Greek into Latin in the fourth century, the Catholic Church chose this word to represent the original Greek word—harpazo. Over time, when speaking of the Lord’s coming, the truth found in this verse became known as rapturo in Latin. One can easily see how the word rapture is derived from that Latin term.

The Greek word harpazo means to be “caught up, seized, captured, carried off by force, claimed for oneself, or suddenly snatched away.” Luke used this word to describe Philip being “snatched … away” and immediately finding himself in another location (Acts 8:39-40). Paul spoke of being “caught up” into the third heaven in 2 Corinthians 12:2. John, in Revelation, referred to Jesus’ ascension as him being “caught up to God and to His throne” (Revelation 12:5). Of the fourteen times harpazo is used in the New Testament, each time it speaks of someone or something being snatched away by force or seized. Five of those times it means to be caught up to heaven or to be snatched away.4

The meaning of this word fits seamlessly with the Jewish wedding custom of Jesus’ day. After becoming betrothed to his beloved, the groom would return to his father’s house, whereupon he would begin construction or remodeling, to “prepare a place” for his bride. Then, typically six months to a year later, he would return unannounced to snatch his bride away to the marriage ceremony. Though the bride never knew the exact day her betrothed would return, she could discern the general season of his arrival, due to the nature of the betrothal length. Therefore, she had to be ready to leave at any time (imminence) and make sure there was oil in her lamp should he return at night (Matthew 25:1-13). 5

What can we learn from Paul’s teaching regarding the rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4? First, we notice that he was very concerned that those believers did not remain in the dark regarding what was going to take place: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

This same spirit carried over into his next letter to those Christians: “Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message of a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2).

The apostle was very intentional about setting the record straight regarding the last days. He wanted them (and us) to be confident concerning future prophetic realities—not to wonder, guess, or be confused or fearful, disturbed, skeptical, unbelieving, or unsure, but rather to know—for confidence to reign over confusion. But this was not the first time Paul had covered eschatology with them. After surveying the chronology of the last days’ apostasy, the rise of the Antichrist, his character, and his deeds, Paul paused to remind them, “Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?” (2 Thessalonians 2:5).

This tells us that teaching concerning the end times, rapture, the day of the Lord, and the return of Jesus to the earth was a part of Paul’s church-planting curriculum. And why? First, because it is truth. Second, because his readers were potentially living in the time of Jesus’ return. And third, because God does not want his children to stay in the dark concerning such things.

4. Here are all the verses where harpazo is used in the New Testament, along with the meaning in each context:

Matthew 11:12—take by force
Matthew 12:29—carry off
Matthew 13:19—snatches away
John 6:15—take by force
John 10:12—snatch by force
John 10:29—snatch by force
Acts 8:39—snatch away, “disappear”
Acts 23:10—take away by force
2 Corinthians 12:2—caught up to heaven
2 Corinthians 12:4—caught up into Paradise
1 Thessalonians 4:17—caught up … in the clouds
Jude v. 23—(quickly) snatching out of the fire
Revelation 12:5—(referring to Jesus) caught up to God (at the ascension)

5. Though Jesus used the same Jewish wedding imagery in Matthew 25, he was referring to his second coming and Israel’s readiness to receive her Messiah, not the rapture of the church.

Taken from “Global Reset” by Jeff Kinley and Mark Hitchcock. Copyright © 2022 by Jeff Kinley and Mark Hitchcock. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson Publishing. www.harpercollinschristian.com

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