Why I Believe in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture
What is the Rapture? Definition: The Rapture is the resurrection of all the dead church age believers and the removal of all living believers from the earth at the end of the church age, before the Tribulation begins. The key passage for the Rapture is 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18: "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. Therefore encourage one another with these words."
The Greek word translated "caught up" is HARPAZO [a(rpazw] which means to be caught up, to seize upon something with force, to snatch up. When the New Testament was translated from Greek into Latin the Latin word that was used was rapturo, which is where we get our English word "rapture." So indeed, rapture is a biblical word. It is just based on a Latin word rather than a Greek word. There are other raptures that are mentioned in the Bible where this word HARPAZO is used. In the Septuagint in Genesis 5 it talks about Enoch walking with God and being taken to be with the Lord. That is described with the same word, HARPAZO. Elijah is caught up to be with the Lord—2 Kings 2; Isaiah was caught up into the heavens into the presence of God in Isaiah chapter six; Philip is caught up after he witnesses to the Ethiopian eunuch and he is taken back to Samaria; Paul in 2 Corinthians chapter 12 describes being taken up to the third heaven; two witnesses in Revelation chapter 11 are taken up into heaven; the male child in Revelation chapter 12 is taken up into heaven. So the idea that there is nothing in the Bible about the Rapture is not actually true, there are a number pf places where people are caught up or taken up into heaven.
John 14:1-3 is another passage that indicates a Rapture. Jesus says in verse 3: "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will receive you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also." The word "receive" is the Greek word PARALAMBANO [paralambanw], meaning to take to or to receive to one's self. So Jesus is going to receive us to Himself. John 14:1-3 contains several things that are parallel to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. In John 14 Jesus is saying that "many of you are troubled"; In 1 Thessalonians Paul addresses them because they are grieving. In John 14 He says, "You believe in me"; In 1 Thessalonians Paul says they are to believe this. In John 14:1 He mentions both God and Himself; in 1 Thessalonians 4:14 Paul mentions Jesus and God. Notice how closely the parallels fit together. John 14:2, Jesus says, 'I told you'; 1 Thessalonians 4:15, Paul says, 'I say to you.' John 14:3, Jesus says, "I will come again"; 1 Thessalonians 4:15 talks of the coming of the Lord. John 14:3 says, "I will receive you to myself"; 1 Thessalonians 4:17 says we will be caught up to be with Him. John 14:3, Jesus says we will be received to Himself; 1 Thessalonians 4:17 we meet the Lord in the air. John 14 says that we go to be where He is; 1 Thessalonians 4:17, "that we may always be with the Lord."
Another verse is 2 Thessalonians 2:1: "As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him…" So this word "gathering together" describes what happens at the Rapture. It is the Greek word EPISUNAGOGE [e)pisunagwgh]. The word SUNAGOGE means assembly or gathering together and is where the Jews got their word synagogue. So there is a gathering together, an assembly of believers in the clouds with the Lord.
Philippians 3:11: NASB"in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead." The word that is used here for resurrection is EXANASTASIS [e)canastasij], which means an exit or out-resurrection or expulsion. It is another term for the Rapture.
1 Corinthians 15:51-53: "Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, 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. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality." A mystery was something that was not revealed in the Old Testament. It was new information that was being given during the apostolic period. Sleep here is a euphemism for the believer's death. The Greek word here for "change" is ALLASSO [a)llassw] which means to change, to transform, to exchange. This is what happens at the Rapture. We change this body or exchange this mortal body for a new body.
Titus 2:13: "while we wait for the blessed hope and the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ." The Greek construction indicates that the blessed hope and the appearing are the same thing. They are different ways of talking about the appearance of the Lord. The word "appearance" is the Greek word EPIPHANEIA [e)pifaneia] which means a manifestation or an appearance.
1 Thessalonians 1:10: "and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming." The wrath to come is a technical phrase for the Tribulation, just as John writes in Revelation 3:10 that we are delivered from the hour of testing, which is a parallel phrase. So church age believers do not go through this period of wrath. The vocabulary here is the word RHUOMAI [r(uomai], meaning to draw to one's self or to rescue by forcible act. That is what the Rapture is, it is a rescue of living believers so that they do not go through wrath, the Tribulation.
1 Peter 1:13: "Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed." Notice how future-oriented that is. Present action: preparing your minds for action, or girding up the loins of your mind, i.e. being prepared mentally, learning the Word of God so that you can think biblically; discipline yourselves or be sober means to have an accurate assessment of reality, be objective and to rest your hope. "…set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed." That is another form of grace, the deliverance from the Tribulation. The word translated "revealed" is the Greek APOKALUPSUS [a)pokaluyij] meaning to reveal, to unveil, to disclose or to deliver. So we need to be ready for His revelation. He is revealed at the blessed hope when He returns at the Rapture.
James 5:7, 8: "Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord." This is the word PAROUSIA [parousia]. It can be a technical word for the Rapture in terms of the context, or it can be a general word for His coming. It indicates a presence, a coming, an arrival. But it is not a technical word that is used in every passage of the Rapture. "The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near." We need to be ready for His arrival.
We need to look at some of these key verses mentioned that indicate the Rapture. John 14:1-3 is not a passage that many people would think of as a Rapture passage, but if we look at what is going on in the passage and think about it we realize that it is a passage that talks about the Rapture. Jesus is talking to His disciples the night before He goes to the cross. They have just celebrated the Passover meal in the upper room and they are asking Him about His coming and His departure because He has made it clear that He is getting ready to leave. Now they are getting all upset and are concerned about what is going to happen next. Their expectation has not been correct. They haven't truly understood what he has said about the fact that he is going to die. So He begins with comfort: "Let not your heart be troubled."
It is interesting to note how many times in the Bible when we get to what we would call really classical advice—don't be anxious, don't be troubled, comfort yourself—and we start talking about these concepts, then immediately the writer gets into what many would call very technical theology. It is the theology, the doctrine, that gives us the foundation so that we are not troubled, anxious, and don't become uncertain. No matter what goes on in the world around us we can just relax because we know who is in charge and we know what is going on. This is the idea in John 14. Jesus says, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me." In other words, the focus of the stability of our mental attitude is in God. Trust in Him, don't put your eyes on the circumstances like, Peter did when he was walking on the water.
John 14:2, 3: "2 In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also." Where is He going? He is talking about after the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension. He is going to go to heaven. "I go to prepare a place for you." Where is that place for us? It is in heaven. "…that where I am." Where is that? It has to be in heaven because that is where He is preparing the place for us. "…so that where I am, there you may be also." That is the promise that we are going to go to be with Him in heaven.
Another passages that ties in to this relates to His ascension. Jesus ascended literally, bodily and visibly to heaven and He is going to return the same way. This is what the angels announced in Acts 1:11: "They said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.'" His return is not going to be some spiritual, unseen event. The promise in John 14 made to the disciples who represent church age believers were not made to mankind in general. Acts 1:11 is talking about Jesus' return at the Second Coming—everybody is going to see Him. But at the Rapture unbelievers are not going to see Him, He is going to be up in the clouds. The point here is that earth is not the future hope or the destiny of the church; heaven is.
That leads to Titus 2:13. We are looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the great God and our savior, Jesus Christ. This is the event that every believer is to anticipate. We are not looking for the Tribulation or the Antichrist, we are looking for Jesus Christ.