understanding the rapture
Waiting is a universal part of the human experience. Whether it’s waiting for a holiday to come or waiting to fall asleep, we’re all familiar with waiting.
But we’re not used to waiting like this. Right now, we’re waiting to see when churches will meet again, what quarantine decisions our politicians will make next, and much, much more. And in some ways, we’re not even sure what we’re waiting for. We’re just waiting for the next surprise—whatever that may be.
Christians can have unworldly peace at a time like this for a number of reasons. One reason being we are used to waiting. Waiting is in the DNA of Christianity. Abraham had to wait for the fulfillment of his covenant with God. Israel had to wait for its Savior. And today, as Christians, we are awaiting the return of Christ and the rapture of the saints. Before we jump into the next section of Revelation that describes the rapture and the tribulation that follows it, let’s take a step back and look at other passages of Scripture to establish a biblical foundation of what the rapture is.
The literal definition of the word rapture is to be “caught up.” It comes from the Latin word “rapio,” which means to “grab, snatch, or carry off.” Combining these definitions helps give us a better understanding of the rapture event. Christ will return to grab and carry off Christians, who will find themselves caught up with God in the air. In a practical sense, in the blink of an eye, every believer will find themselves being taken up and carried off by Jesus. Luke 17:34–36 gives a glimpse of what this will look like.
“I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left. There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will be taken and the other will be left. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left.”
Another thing you might notice from this passage is the suddenness of the rapture. There won’t be a countdown that suddenly appears in the sky. The rapture will happen in the blink of an eye and without warning. This is why again and again in Scripture, we are warned to be prepared. No passage hints that we are to lay back and relax.
While the rapture is the starting point of the end times that we’ll read in Revelation, it is not the starting point for the Church to begin preparing. We are to be preparing now! We don’t know the day nor the hour, so let us desire Christ’s return because it is then we’ll see Him face to face, and let us be hard at work now for the Kingdom of God until that day comes.
If we’re being fair, from a scientific perspective, the concept of the rapture can sound a bit out there. But the rapture isn’t a fringe theory. It didn’t spawn from the minds of bored theologians reading between the lines to create something exciting to look forward to. The rapture is derived from the Bible. It’s scriptural. And although one appearance in God’s Word is enough for to establish something as true, the return of Christ and the rapture are especially well established as they appear repeatedly in a number of different books. Here are two passages worth recognizing:
- 1 Corinthians 15:51–52 “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”
- 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17 “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 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.”
Keep in mind, all of those references (and many others) occur before the book of Revelation. From Isaiah, to Jesus, to Paul, and many others, the second coming of Christ and the rapture are commonly discussed biblical concepts. We’re not grasping for supernatural straws when we talk about the rapture. We’re talking about a future event that is soundly rooted in the Word of God.
As we step into the next few chapters and months of exploring Revelation, remember that in order to understand what we’re reading, we must let Scripture interpret Scripture, and establishing this foundation is a part of that. Whenever you’re about to tackle a challenging section of Scripture, we encourage you to replicate this practice. Take time upfront to consult the entirety of the canon, and then you’ll be more prepared to deal with the passage or concept at hand.
For now, as you wait for the second coming of Christ, do not do so in fear. Instead, wait patiently and expectantly, knowing that Christ’s return and the rapture of the saints will be the beginning of all things being made right.