14.2. What is the Rapture

If we go back to the original language of the New Testament, we find the rapiemur of 1Th. 1Th. 4:17 in the Vulgate to be a translation of the Greek term ἁρπαγησόμεθα [harpagēsometha] which is the 1st person, plural, future tense, passive voice, indicative mood form of the verb ἁρπάζω [harpazō] meaning to “snatch, seize, i.e., take suddenly and vehemently”1 and which can denote “rescue from a threatening danger.”2 In general usage, it describes: how violent men take the kingdom by force (Mtt. Mat. 11:12); carrying off property from the strong man’s house (Mtt. Mat. 12:29); how the evil one snatches away what has been sown (Mtt. Mat. 13:19); or how the people approached Jesus to take Him by force and make Him king (John John 6:15). The term is also used of supernatural events where God takes people in the Spirit and transports them either physically or in a vision. Philip was caught away from the Ethiopian eunuch to Azotus (Acts Acts 8:39), the Apostle Paul was caught up to the third heaven (2Cor. 2Cor. 12:2), and those who are alive and remain will be caught up to meet Christ in the air (1Cor. 1Cor. 15:51-52; 1Th. 1Th. 4:17). The same term is used to describe the ascension of Christ who was caught up to God and His throne (Rev. Rev. 12:5+). When we extend our study of this “catching away” to include the Old Testament, we find numerous rapture events including: Enoch (Gen. Gen. 5:1); Elijah (2K. 2K. 2:1); Isaiah (Isa. Isa. 6:1); Jesus (Acts Acts 1:11; Rev. Rev. 12:5+); Philip (Acts Acts 8:1); Paul (2Cor. 2Cor. 12:1); The Church (1Th. 1Th. 4:1); and the Two Witnesses (Rev. Rev. 11:1+).3

The Scriptures present six raptures. Four have already taken place. Two are still to come. . . . The four raptures that have taken place include when both Enoch and Elijah who were taken up from earth to heaven without experiencing death (Gen. Gen. 5:24; Heb. Heb. 11:5; 2K. 2K. 2:1, 2K. 2:11), when the Lord Jesus ascended to heaven after His death and resurrection (Mark Mark 16:19; Acts Acts 1:9-11; Rev. Rev. 12:5+), and when Paul referred to the rapture of a man (probably Paul himself) to the third heaven (2Cor. 2Cor. 12:2-4). . . . The other future rapture [besides that of the church, 1Th. 1Th. 4:17] will occur when the two witnesses of the future Tribulation period ascend to heaven after God has resurrected them from the dead (Rev. Rev. 11:3+, Rev. 11:11-12+).4

The Rapture, in the sense we are using the term, is the “catching away” of persons to a new location by the power of God without their initiation or control. We are specifically interested in the Rapture of the Church—the event which describes the translation of the living and dead in Christ to be caught up in the clouds forever to be with Him (1Th. 1Th. 4:17).


1 Frederick William Danker and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 109.

2 Ibid.

3 Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, Charting the End Times (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2001), 110.

4 Renald E. Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come (Bellmawr, NJ: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1995), 11.