Monthly Archives: September 2012
Is the Rapture of the Church Really Found in the Bible? Introduction to the Basics – Part 2
(ver 1.2) This is Part 2 in a series of advanced spiritual Bible lessons on the subject of “Is the Rapture of the Church a Bible Truth”. If you have not read the first lesson I would highly recommend that you go and start the study with “Part 1” and then continue with today’s lesson. During lesson 1, I took you through a brief explanation of what Rapture is using the dictionary. From this word definition I derived a list of synonymous terms that can be interchanged with the word “rapture” to convey the same thought or message. Some of the words were “caught up”, “taken away”, “removed”, and “to depart”, etc. Seeking to learn the basics we looked at three to four messages taught by Jesus using different symbolic representations to teach very similar rapture concepts. Of course none of these lessons contained the word “rapture” and that is why they are often ignored when studying the subject. We examined the “Pathway Analogy”, the parallels given to us in the “Sheep and Goat Analogy” and the “Wheat and Tare Analogy” and finally we looked at the “Ten Virgin Parable”. You should have easily observed that each lesson contained a central theme of the concept of division. Division is nothing but the separation of two distinct groups. One group can be separated from another group for many distinct reasons. In the world today criminals are sent to prison to separate them from hurting others outside of prison. Therefore, we can potentially call rapture the separation of the righteous from the unrighteous. In today’s lesson I will continue to expand on the basic concepts using Bible patterns of rapture to confirm the basic concepts. Here are some of the items that we will be covering today:
- Rapture is a separation of one person or one group of people from the others.
- Rapture is a change in location either physically or spiritually or both from one previous location to another new location.
- Rapture is usually the forced removal without scheduled notice and without any human consent.
- Rapture demonstrates the sovereign divine Power of God to transport a person or a people from one location to the new location.
- Rapture event timings are always determined by God and nothing you do or believe can change that.
- Rapture can be the exclusionary act of God upon the unrighteous that were not taken (not saved, left behind, those to be destroyed) separated from the righteous that were taken, saved and removed.
We have read several basic verses and have so far not officially determined the timing for any potential rapture event. Many get distracted by the intimate details and miss the more important basic concepts. I want to firmly establish the basics and then work towards the details in their proper order. You might recall that in the first lesson I implied that there are at least 3 future raptures that must still take place and eventually we will readdress what those can be. I also said that I can clearly see that there have already been around 6 previous raptures that have previously occurred in the Bible and we cannot ignore them. These examples will conform to the basic factual rules that I just listed above. I plan on exploring many of these historical rapture accounts in this lesson today to help further the establishment of the valid patterns for the future rapture concepts being taught in the Bible.
GOD REVEALING TRUTH
Too many people want to read the Bible and believe that God placed all of the truth in obvious plain view for anyone to easily find, see, read and understand. However that is just not how God wrote the Bible and it is not how you should approach learning anything from the Bible. We must all learn to see the true concealed nature of God in His Word and in the world around us. Let me ask you, have you ever seen God personally? Can you prove to anyone that God exists? What evidence for God’s existence do you possess? Obviously you have never seen God and cannot prove that there is a God to anyone here on the earth. Yet God says in Romans 1:20 that the invisible things of God are clearly seen being made known in the things that God created. Wow, there are some amazing parallels in that verse to what I am teaching you about the Bible. How can the invisible God who has not been seen with our natural eyes, or made known or displayed to our physical senses, His presence being improvable in a court of law, lacking any clear evidence of existence still be found by searching and studying the things that were created? It is simply because God in His wisdom hid clues throughout creation that clearly allow people to see the existence of a creator if they want to know Him. If anyone does not desire to know God they will never see the truth that is plainly right in front of their eyes. That is just how God designed everything.
Now ask yourself how many educated scientists today after studying the facts of creation have concluded and found that there is a God and a creator because of the overwhelming evidence found from what they are studying? Not very many are there? The majority of the scientists today are either agnostic or atheist in their beliefs of God. Yet God still says I can be seen everywhere if you are looking for me. What make you think that the truth in His written Holy Word will not also be recorded in the same type of secreted format? You see I completely believe that the truth in the Bible can be easily seen, but only after you want to know it, are saved, then know what to look for and then extend the effort to look for it with great diligence allowing the Spirit of God to help you see it. There is a principle discovered especially in the New Testament that is very important called “revelation”. Revelation is God illuminating His Word to humans so that it can finally be understood. Revelation is never man suddenly discovering what God has said using their individual human reasoning to figure it out. Every human requires God’s revelation in order to understand the spiritual things that were written inside of the natural words and stories.
Rom 16:25 Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,
You see Paul tells you that the previously hidden Christ has now been uncovered and revealed by God. He states that this was a formerly hidden mystery of God. Paul gives us a better explanation of this revealing process in Ephesians 3:1-5 if you would like to go and read how the mystery was not revealed to men prior to the Apostles but has now been given to us by the Spirit of God’s choice. Wow, that concept seems to pass over the head of many Christians today and it teaches us so much about the nature of God. The rapture of the church is just another one of those mysteries hidden by God in His Word. Look up the definition for the Greek word translated as “revelation” here. It means a “disclosure”, an “appearing”, an “enlightenment”, or “something that was previously hidden but has now suddenly been revealed”. This Greek word G602 comes from another root word G601 that literally means to “uncover” or “take the cover off”. It is like someone in the natural taking the lid off of a box to discover what was previously hidden inside of it. That uncovering concept teaches us that we can look at the outside cover words all day long and still never understand what is underneath the surface until the cover has been removed. Only God can remove the cover from His Word. However, that is exactly what the Spirit of God is doing in the church today to those that want to know the truth. There are literally hundreds of mysteries in the Bible and most of them you probably do not know or have any understanding of their existence because you are still looking at the covered text and not seeing the hidden spiritual meanings beneath. Do not throw away the rapture teaching simply because it is not easy to find on the surface. Wait until you at least ask God to reveal it to you and show you if it is true. God is no respecter of persons. If He revealed it to me, He will also reveal it to you so that you can see it also.
I read a couple of the internet lessons on the no-rapture theory just to see how they were explaining the verses that God showed me about rapture. Nothing that they said swayed me in the least little bit since what they said conflicted with the voice of the Spirit of God and the real meaning of the verses in the Bible. Their arguments were very cleverly written with many supposedly supporting Bible verses but they were totally blinded to what the scriptures said and how to apply them correctly. These were nothing but examples of how natural men can “wrongly divide” the word of truth to produce a message that can be accepted easily by other carnal men. What I say in my Bible lessons is generally not accepted by carnal minds because it is so spiritually based. Natural people tend to be attracted by natural words and spiritual people tend to be attracted by spiritual words. It is very much like the law of Genesis being restated everything producing after its kind.
You see I am certain to run into the same problem that Paul ran into with what I am teaching. Paul was confronted with both natural thinkers and spiritual thinkers. God gave Paul certain spiritual revelation and understanding that no other man knew in his day (Gal 1:12). Paul then went about trying to teach this God given revelation to the others in the church with the only confirmation evidence that the hearers in the church possessed was from them listening to the Spirit of God that resided in them and the previously written Old Testament Words of God. If they could hear and see spiritual things they were accepting, but if they were carnal thinkers, then they were rejecting the truth. Here is what God says about the people in the early church that were faced with this great decision:
Act 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
God says that the people in Berea were nobler than the people in Thessalonica. God informs us that the Bereans were first open to hearing something brand new from Paul implying the Thessalonians were not. However, God then says that the Bereans did not just automatically accept the new teaching of Paul, but that they were rather wise enough to go and search their scriptures to find if what Paul was preaching was actually the truth that God had declared in His Word. So regardless of which rapture category your beliefs fall into today at least be open to hear a new perspective on the subject and then to go to your own Bible to search for yourself to see if it is true or not. Do not believe anything that I say because you do not even know me. Who I am, is of no significance to you also what I say is only important if it is what God says. If you do not see what I say in your own Bible then toss it away and believe what you do see. You will not offend me if you reject what I teach.
BUILDING A STRONG RAPTURE FOUNDATION ON THE BASICS
We are going to continue in this Bible lesson with some of the basic foundational verses for the existence of the legitimate doctrine of the rapture. We need to go to the letters written directly to the church and see what God records for us there and make sure that we clearly understand what God is saying to us correctly. Every teacher that preaches a “no rapture” philosophy must explain away all of these verses that we will be looking at today or they must totally ignore them to teach what they teach. They can be very creative in their attempts to explain them away and many people believe what they say without doing the necessary study to prove it in their own spirit which will result in deception. Therefore you need to follow along with me in your Bible using your heart to see if God is giving you internal spiritual peace about what is written here and then verify it using the Bible.
We will go to the book of 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 and verse 16. You may recall that this verse was mentioned in Wikipedia as a foundational scripture for rapture. This is certainly not the only verse found in the Bible on the subject, but it is clearly one of the most prominent and important verses on the subject. People want to discount one prominent scripture in the Bible and explain it away because they think one verse is not important without many other confirming verse witnesses. That is very true that one verse cannot be taken as a complete doctrine of theological belief, but it is also true that it is still found in the Bible and that there are other confirming witnesses that can be found if you look and search for them.
I also want you to understand that the books of the N.T. Bible were not necessarily placed into the Bible in their chronological written order. First Thessalonians was probably the very first letter written by Paul to any church. Therefore, God saw fit to teach the church about rapture from the very establishment of the church. Many today try to say that rapture is a modern creation of man not taught by the early church founding fathers. But simple minded people clearly do not choose to see what the Bible says and must ignore what Paul taught and wrote to remain in their ignorance. You do understand that what Paul wrote about in the Epistles to the churches were also the things that he taught to everyone in the church when he was physically present with them, don’t you? Can you separate the two? I cannot do that. Let’s read what Paul taught about the rapture:
1Th 4:16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
1Th 4:17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Verse 16 begins with the description of the Lord descending from heaven. Who was this Lord and why is it necessary for Him to descend? What is the stated purpose for the descent? This Lord was the God of heaven come to the earth in the flesh that died for all of our sins on a wooden cross and He is named Jesus in the English tongue. We should remember from reading in Acts 1:9 that after Jesus died and was raised from the dead, He ascended back up into heaven where He has been seated for the past nearly 2000 years (Heb 8:1). This statement of descent being described is simply the reversal of the preceding ascent that visibly took place on the earth with the early church disciples being witnesses. I will also say that what was seen by a few in the church of Jesus going up will be seen by those in the church that He is descending to come back for. Let’s start by just listing the basic facts given in the order of mention to us in these verses and then talk about them in more depth:
- Jesus descends from heaven with a shout.
- The voice of the archangel is the next observed mention.
- Immediately followed by the trump of God.
- The next mention is the dead in Christ that will rise.
- Then followed by those that are alive in Christ on the earth being caught up.
- Those alive on the earth are stated to be elevated to the level of the clouds in order to meet with the Lord.
- At the culmination of this event both the dead and alive in Christ will forever be with the Lord.
Those were the very basics from what I just read in the Bible. What did you read? Can you agree with them or is that why you don’t believe in rapture because that is just not what God says here? I believe that there are both direct and indirect implied statements being made in these verses. I just listed the direct statements of facts only. First it directly says that the Lord descends from heaven to initiate the event with a shout. We must determine the definition of heaven based upon the context of the statement being made and using the other facts of the Bible to correctly interpret the term. For example, the Hebrew word translated as heaven in the O.T. is H8064. This same Hebrew word can refer to up to three different locations and that same statement is true about the N.T. Greek word G3772. Heaven is defined in the Bible in three different ways. There is the immediate atmosphere surrounding the earth and this is often spoken of as what I will call the first heaven (Deu 11:11). There is the universe of stars and solar systems in space and this is often what I will call the second heaven (Gen 1:17). But Paul we will soon learn spoke of a “third heaven” (2 Cor 12:2) and this is the literal location of the spiritual throne of God. The first two heavens are natural and the third heaven is completely spiritual. This heaven being described in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 is clearly the reference to the unseen third spiritual heaven. We will get more confirmation for that as we continue. Therefore I see two dimensions of existence being stated in these two verses. Jesus is descending from heaven and is coming out of the spiritual dimension to re-enter back into the natural dimension to accomplish the rest of what is stated.
Surely you can see Christ’s descent from the spiritual heaven in parallel with a shout, the voice of the archangel and the trump of God are the beginning of something else about to occur. I view verse 16 as starting in the spiritual realm and ending in the natural realm. I then see verse 17 as starting in the natural realm and ending in the spiritual realm to complete the cycle and we will see this more clearly as we go. But notice in verse 16 there is no mention of anything natural or physical until the end of the verse and then it speaks of death which is clearly natural only. Every noun mentioned is a spiritual being or place until the last mention of the dead rising. Therefore the archangel’s location is also implied to be in heaven being mentioned following Jesus descending from heaven. Immediately following the archangel is the trump of God and this is also implied to originate from the location of spiritual heaven.
I believe that both the shout and the trump are announcements from the spiritual heaven for the coming event to occur upon the physical earth. The Greek word translated as “shout’ is only used in this verse in the entire N.T. However this Greek word G2752 comes from another Greek root word G2753 that means “to command”. The source Greek word is less of an event announcement than it is the shout of an ordered command expecting some subsequent action to take place. The root Greek word means a direct command has been ordered from heaven for the next expected action to occur. I take this command to be given by God Himself personally. Angels generally do not have the authority to give commands apart from God’s will. It is interesting how this verse is phrased and worded, because the shouted command could be taken as being from the Lord or it could be a command given by the archangel. However, based upon supremacy of rule, I teach it as originating from God and going through the archangel like the chain of command in a military hierarchy.
Let’ reconsider what we learned about from the earlier messages of Jesus on the separation of the sheep from the goats or the wheat from the tares. Both of these lessons contained commanded symbolic servant workers (aka angels) that were given orders and instructions to separate the one group from another group. I believe that we can see some distinct parallels being taught by the usage of this Greek word when the Lord commands and the voice of the chief angel in heaven is heard to possibly repeat the shouted order. I believe that you need to resolve in your mind who is doing the original shouting and who the shout is directed towards. I do not believe that the command order from heaven is directed to those that are about to be taken from the earth, do you? Clearly the order is directed to those that are doing the taking and those can only be the angels of God. This is clearly a chain of command type of military order being described. The commander in chief God has given a direct order to gather and the order is shouted to every ranking member of the staff to be carried out. If you have never been in the military you may not understand chain of command but most things in life work this way. Every large or small corporation has a chain of command from the ranking CEO going down the chain. Any way that is how I view the shout mentioned in this discourse and you can disagree and believe what you like if you see something different.
Let’s move on to the trump of God mentioned next. The Greek word G4536 translated many times as trumpet or trump occurs in only 11 verses in the N.T. and it is a word that means a “vibration”, a “quavering” or a “reverberation” all descriptive synonymous terms for a loud audible sound. Because the Greek word is only found in 11 N.T. verses it is easy to determine if any of these other verses play a role in describing the same type of rapture either directly or indirectly. Also take note from reviewing these verses that they do not necessarily have to mean that a physical horn type of instrument is blown. Many have the idea that the ram’s horn called a shofar is used for this event announcement. I do not have a problem with that interpretation or belief but that is not technically what is stated in this verse or several other verses in the New Testament (1 Cor 14:8, Rev 1:10, Rev 4:1). In these verses it describes voices being like a trumpet but, in other verses like in Revelation 8:2, 8:6, 8:13 and 9:14 it appears to be an actual literal trumpet. However if you notice anything when reading the book of Revelation, you should immediately recognize that the majority of the book is cloaked in symbolism. Therefore the trumptes mentioned in Revelation can possibly be a symbolic representation for a greater spiritual truth. At least that is what I believe at this point in time with my current level of knowledge on the subject.
Let me reemphasize the initiator of the event in 1 Thessalonians 4. Understand that Jesus is described as the originator of this unique event. Clearly Jesus coming down with a shout starts the entire process. Therefore this affair is a divinely initiated occasion that I believe is describing the bridegroom coming down to fetch His bride that we learned about in lesson 1. How does this description in 1 Thessalonians 4 correspond or compare to the information given to us in the parable of the 10 virgins? If you recall in Matthew 25:6 the bridegroom is implied to start His return at midnight when all of the virgins were asleep and an outcry or shout announces His coming before they ever see Him and the virgins are told to “Go Out” to meet Him in the parable. There was the stated coming of the bridegroom first and then there was the subsequent shouted cry that followed to trigger the virgins to go out and meet their bridegroom. That sounds very amazingly accurate to what we are reading about here in these verses in 1 Thessalonians 4 to me. I know it does not match word for word but the similarities are too close for it not to be God telling the same story using different types and symbols in one and more literal references and descriptions in the other. These types of writing styles of God make the Bible very complex to the casual reader. I take them to be the same event because of the match of all of the recorded characters and actions mentioned occurring in the exact same order. I also know that Jesus is the bridegroom and that we are the bride (virgin) in the Bible. Do you see it? Don’t you think that there could be some direct similarities between the description of 1Thessalonians 4 and the Parable of the 10 virgins? I can see a very distinct pattern of resemblance.
Do not confuse this event description in 1 Thessalonians 4 with the Second Advent event when Jesus literally sets foot back upon the earth to rule for 1000 years with the saints. There is no mention of Jesus coming that close to the earth in 1 Thessalonians 4 anywhere in this description. In fact the way that I read it I can never find Jesus descending below the normal cloud level anywhere in this discourse. In verse 17 it is clearly stated that those that are still alive on the earth surface of the earth go up to the clouds in the air to meet Jesus. How far up are the clouds from the surface of the earth? We might also consider the height of the earth’s atmosphere as being a stated factor. We obviously can learn easily that these are known facts discovered during modern space exploration. The reentry of a space craft from the realm of space first encounters resistance of the earth’s atmosphere at around 120 km (75 mi). At this altitude above the earth, the air is extremely thin and there are no clouds. The air continues to thicken as the craft descends and clouds eventually are able to form.
In order to determine where clouds normally reside in the atmosphere we need a deeper study of meteorological facts. Clouds come in three general categories of high cloud layers, mid-cloud layers and low-cloud layers. If you search the internet you will find that low clouds can range in altitude from surface level to upwards of 2 km. Mid-clouds can range from 2 to 4 km in height. Finally, high clouds can range from 4 to 8 km in height. Therefore Jesus can legally meet us in the atmosphere depending upon if it is a foggy day or a normal day anywhere from 0 to 8 km up in the atmosphere. I can personally see that if you do further study on the internet that NASA has spent time averaging maximum cloud heights over the course of the last 10 years and they have in their data found that clouds normally occur at a maximum average height of between 3 and 4 km and that is a long way up. People in the “no rapture” belief camp have tried to explain this verse away stating that the Greek word translated as “air” is a sea-level only point of view in the Bible. They completely have to ignore the “cloud” reference and overlook the term “caught up” to be in the clouds. They must be assuming a foggy day for the return of the Lord back to the earth’s surface. They have purposely closed their eyes to what the Bible is saying not using any factual evidence to support their beliefs scripturally or scientifically.
Act 1:9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
The Greek word translated as “clouds” in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 only occurs in 22 verses of the N.T. so that is a very manageable number to go and read every occurrence. What you will find in your search is God’s exact same usage of this Greek word here in Acts 1:9 where Jesus was described as ascending up and then the clouds are said to receive Him out of their view. Have you ever watched an airplane take off? How long can you view it until it disappears from your view? I guess it depends on the clouds, doesn’t it? But, that sounds like a very high altitude up in the sky to me. What God is doing is describing two separate related events and He is connecting them together with the usage of the same Greek word G3507 translated as “clouds”. Five times in the Gospels Jesus is found speaking of Himself and says that He will be coming in the clouds (Mat 24:30, Mat 26:64, Mark 13:26, Mark 14:62, Luke 21:27). However every mention of this may not be all describing the same event or times. For example, Matthew 24:30 could be speaking of the second advent after the tribulation or of another specific time. In Matthew 24:3 the disciples asked Jesus 3 different questions and in this chapter Jesus answers them all but does not always tell you which answer is to which question. Maybe we will talk about these in a future lesson. In Matthew 26:64 the time frame is not directly given. Mark 13:26 can also be considered a description of the same three questions that the disciples asked in Matthew 24. Again in Mark 14:62 there is no time reference given other than it is after the ascent into heaven in Acts 1:9. That leaves us with Luke 21:27 and this is a very interesting set of verses that appear to be a different timing than the Second Advent. I believe from reading these verses that Jesus could very well be describing the rapture before the tribulation revealed by the wording of the statements. We will get to those verses in more detail later in the series.
What is stated to happen on the earth first in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17? We can see that there is a very clear reference to those that have already died (IN CHRIST) a physical death on the earth “rising” first. Here is a good time to learn a basic truth. Every Christian that has been born again by the Spirit of God is now in the universal group set called “IN CHRIST”. However, God makes a new distinction in this discourse to differentiate between two sub-groups found within the global set of IN-CHRIST. God says here in these two verses that one subset group called the DEAD IN-CHRIST is a little bit different than those that are still ALIVE IN-CHRIST. One group is dead and one group is alive and this has been stated from the physical natural human perspective. Why is that important? Why does one group of DEAD “rise” and why are the others in the ALIVE GROUP “Caught UP”? You really need to ask these types of detailed questions when you read and study the Bible.
This is the first mention of the natural realm and it represents a transition from the heavenly realm that initiated the event. These dead bodies are identified to rise first because of their former experiences with natural death that has caused their old physical bodies to be left here in the dust of the earth. If you examine the context of chapter 4 you will see that one of the primary subjects being discussed is about those that have died believing in Christ and how that they can still have hope of a certain resurrection like Christ’s. When Jesus was resurrected from the dead, did He take His physical body or leave it here on the earth? I think you know that Jesus took His body with Him. There is no tomb with the body of Jesus on the earth. Therefore, Jesus was fully resurrected from the dead physically and spiritually. This is the hope that is given to all of those that have died in Christ. These verses about resurrection were written to the church. These dead people are the saved righteous believers in Christ Jesus. They have died a physical natural death but when this occurred their spirits then departed the earth and went to heaven to be with the Lord Jesus (2 Cor 5:8). Thus the reason for the unique wording of the dead “rising” versus the alive being “caught up”. I’m really not sure if you are getting where I’m going here or if you understand yet what I am attempting to say.
The Greek word translated as “rise” in verse 16 literally means to “stand up” or “arise”. This rising can be from any non-standing position seated, reclining or lying flat. Since God is discussing the dead in Christ rising we can conclude logically that the original unstated position of those arising are normally found in a lying flat position like most dead bodies at a funeral. This description is given to us from the human natural perspective and not the spiritual divine perspective. Death in the Bible is many times described as what looks like natural sleep of the physical body and this is stated from the casual human viewer’s perspective. People here in the natural world generally view things from the natural human standpoint. That is what we see when we look at a dead body. But the spirit of that person has departed their body and is either with Christ or is in hell right now according the Luke 16.
Jas 2:26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
Here in James is a statement of universal natural truth concerning natural death. When the physical body dies, the spirit of the man or the woman that died has departed and is no longer present in the body. Or we could say when the spirit departs the physical body, the body dies. Both statements are accurate representations of the truth. However also take note that if the spirit of the human departs the dead body, the spirit always remains alive. Do you know the difference between natural things and spiritual things? Natural things die, but spiritual things never die or cease to exist. Humans are spiritual beings that live in a temporary natural body.
All of this information is just my attempt to explain why God’s distinction between the dead “rising” and the alive “departing” references that are given. In verse 16 of 1 Thessalonians 4 it ends with the natural perspective of the human body that possessed the appearance of sleeping being resurrected or raised to stand up again in order to be joined back to the departed human spirit. This resurrected body will be rejoined back with the human spirits of those that were already in heaven and this new eternal resurrected body will be their personal living place and the dwelling residence for God’s Spirit forever. Then in verse 17 we see a contrasting difference being stated with those that remain here on the earth and are described to be alive being “caught up” to meet Christ in the air. Can you seriously see the difference being stated here yet? Why aren’t both groups “caught up”? Why don’t both groups “rise”? This is actually very important information. When all of the puzzle pieces are put together correctly it makes such clear logical sense. God is in effect saying that when this event occurs the dead in Christ will descend with Christ from heaven to be joined with their risen resurrected bodies, but the living Christians on the earth will be personally “caught up” to be with Christ with a resurrected body in the clouds. Now do you see it? Do you now understand why the difference between the two stated experiences and why God describes it as two sub-events beneath the one greater event? What God is doing is giving you a lot of unstated information by using distinct unique word selection.
Verse 16 was only the dead bodies rising and not the spirits of the dead people being “caught up” since the spirits were already present with Christ in heaven. Verse 17 makes the radical transition from what happens to the dead bodies to those that are still living in a body. Two separate verbs are selected by God to describe what happens to each group. Verse 17 starts out by saying those that are “alive” and these are a clear reference to the people with a natural life existence on the earth given to us from the human perspective. This Greek word G2198 literally means to possess life or those that live. Again this viewpoint can only be from the natural perspective and not a spiritual or divine perspective since it is impossible to kill a spirit being. Both the dead in Christ and the living in Christ on the earth are spiritually alive unto God. If God was using His spiritual viewpoint in these verses He would have stated it differently. What God is teaching is the difference of the locations of the living spirits affected during the event. The dead in Christ were already in heaven and those living in Christ remained here on the earth during the start of this event. At the end of the event they are all together with Christ in the clouds with their new resurrected bodies.
UNDERSTANDING BEING “CAUGHT UP”
These verses are simply comparing two types of believers. These two groups of believer types represent two new sub-sets of the whole set group called those “in Christ”. We really need to understand basic math set theory when studying the Bible on many subjects. God created math and mathematical laws which are used in the Bible repeatedly to teach us concepts that only could have come from Him. Let’s stop here and define that Greek word translated as “caught up” and then dig much deeper to find out why God states it differently from the bodies that “rise”.
From a derivative of G138; to seize (in various applications): – catch (away, up), pluck, pull, take (by force).
The Greek word “harpazo” (G726) literally means to seize or take someone or something by force. It is only found in 13 verses of the New Testament and many of these are very significant connected verses to explore about the subject of rapture. Begin by understanding that the definition of the word represents a divine orchestrated demonstration of power. In other words this event in 1 Thessalonians 14:17 being described can only take place because there was a great external force of power behind it that causes it to occur. This description of force corresponds to the direct controlled information given by Jesus of the angel reapers taking out from the earth the wheat and the tares as well as the separation of the sheep from the goats. There are distinct parallels of external power being enforced in common in all of this imagery. In these lessons the wheat, the tares, the sheep nor the goats have an influence or contribution on the separation that occurs. In each instance the force of control is external to those that are affected.
No natural exertion of resistance, human effort, human force or any human power from the participants on the earth being raised or caught up was necessary or even mentioned during this event. I probably did not state that last information exactly correct. You see I believe that every human is required to have faith and believe in the rapture in order to participate in the event. I cannot see where the Bible says that anyone that does not believe is still rewarded with the same prize of those that do believe. Crowns of salvation are not handed out to everyone like Universal Salvationists like to teach. I believe that rapture is exactly like salvation. No one that has not already placed their faith and beliefs in Jesus Christ will be saved or can be saved. Everything that God gives to His people through His divine sovereign Grace must be received by the people through their faith. I don’t have the time to teach you faith, if you have not read my lessons on Understanding Bible Faith then do that to help clear up any conflict. Let’s quickly review one dictionary definition for the word “rapture” to recall how it was defined:
RAPTURE: the carrying of a person to another place or sphere of existence.
To me this definition of the word rapture fits precisely with the Greek word definition of “harpazo”. To carry someone away from one realm to another is clearly a display of power and force that must be present to move them. The English term “rapture” is derived from the Latin term “raptus” also meaning to carry away or carry off. I have concluded that “raptus” was a synonymous Latin term for the Greek word G726 “harpazo” that was translated as “caught up”. This is one of the primary reasons for the legitimacy of the doctrine of the “rapture”. The modern term was developed to help Bible teachers teach the subject using a simple one word title. Do you understand “harpazo”? It is a very well defined word that teaches a lot on the subject. Harpazo is a show of external force and power. It is a convention beyond the power of human resistance. Even if you did not want to go the Bible teaches us that you are going. No debate is offered. No options are given. Those being taken are simply gone being removed from existence upon the earth physically and spiritually.
All of this discussion so far today was just an introduction to the basic foundational concepts proving that the catching away of believers is a valid truth taught by God, Paul and the early church in the Bible. The timing of the event has still not been fully developed or established and we will eventually get to that part of the subject as we progress.
HISTORICAL RAPTURE EVENTS IN THE BIBLE
Before we go into future rapture events and other verses about the subject, let’s prove to all of the skeptics that this harpazo or “catching away” by force has already occurred multiple times in the Bible. In proving historical event occurrence, this will help us to define and confirm the possibility for potential repeated future event occurrences. God simply says in the Bible “There is nothing new under the sun”. He continues in this discourse to teach us “that which has been is that which shall be again” (Ecc 1:9). Verses like this teach us that there are established patterns found in the Bible and that we need to learn them in order to see what might occur in the near future. Discarding the past will cause you to not know the future. You see for any doctrine to be legitimate it must be an established pattern throughout the Bible with more than one witness to the truth being stated. God required for every word to be established in the mouths of two or three witnesses so that they all can be verified to be in agreement with the other witnesses. This truth disallows the taking of any single verse out of context to prove one’s erroneous point. Let’s go to the book of Acts and see one type of rapture example and a direct type and shadow of the coming rapture being described in 1 Thessalonians 14:
Act 8:39 And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.
Was Phillip just raptured away so that immediately the eunuch after being baptized saw him no more? Why did God take Phillip away? Why didn’t God take the eunuch also? You see this does not say that Phillip walked away or swam away under his own physical power. The power of God literally takes Phillip away from the place that he was previously seen and places him physically and spiritually in a completely new location. I mean if this description is not a type of rapture of a man from one physical point to another physical point you tell me what it is. You see someone being raptured does not always have to mean that this someone was taken directly to heaven. It can mean they were just physically transported from one part of the earth to another. Rapture is nothing except a real divine encounter of a fictional Star Trek type of teleport or transport. This rapture of Phillip is simply a change in his physical location and it is a valid pattern for what will happen to the church very soon. Patterns can simply be natural events that will correspond to coming spiritual events. Notice that Phillip had nothing to do with what just happened to him. Phillip did not pray to be taken, Phillip did not ask God to take him and this is again a pattern of the coming church rapture. Also note that one man was taken and one man was not and this again is a pattern for rapture. Rapture includes the separation of one or more people from another group of people.
Notice that God brings this verse into the subject discussion by the inclusion of the Greek word G726 harpazo. I understand that Phillip was not given a supernatural resurrected body during this event. I also understand that Phillip did not leave the earth to go to heaven and then return in a new earthly location. While that was certainly possible that is not what just happened to Phillip. We need to learn not to put God in our box of human narrow minded limitations. We need to see that almost anything is possible when God is involved. I said almost anything is possible, because God is not going to do anything that violates His written word or causes Him to lie. Keep that in mind as you study the Bible. I am simply viewing the “catching away” of Phillip by the Spirit of God to be a natural pattern for the coming greater spiritual event. If God can do this event to a man in the church then God can also take the whole church in a future event. Let me show you another type of rapture event recorded in the Bible that is often ignored by rapture skeptics.
2Co 12:2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.
I mentioned this verse earlier but I feel this is important enough to look at again. This event is in a position of greater alignment with the normal concept of what most people believe is the primary type of rapture. Here we have Paul describing an event about himself and saying that he was “caught up” to the third heaven. “Caught up” is again the Greek word G726 harpazo. So Paul was taken by force in this experience by the Spirit of God. He says he does not know if he was in his body or outside of his body and that is not the important point to take away. However notice that Paul says that he was taken and this means his spirit went to heaven at the minimum. What you must observe is that Paul’s spirit was literally transported from the physical earth to a spiritual heaven location and then you can read that he saw things that he could not even describe to us. Clearly this is another example of rapture in the Bible. The spirit of Paul was taken up by force to see things in heaven that he had never seen before. This was another divine sovereign choice act of God. Paul did not ask to be taken but it still occurred to teach Paul and the rest of us that it can occur. Do you still not believe in rapture? I seriously do not know how you can still be on the unbelief side of the fence after studying all of the events that have already occurred. But, I’m not done yet and there are more. Let’s go back and reflect on a story from the Old Testament of a rapture event and possibly the first rapture event recorded in the Bible:
Heb 11:5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
Wow, so Star Trek really did not invent the “Transporter”, God did. God clearly transports the living natural man Enoch wholly, completely and directly from this earth to an undisclosed, unnamed new location in this verse. We are never informed of where Enoch went; we are just told that he vanished off of the face of the earth. Did you notice that Enoch did not have to die naturally first? There are only two men in the O.T. that did not taste of natural death that I know of and Enoch was one of them. Enoch is a clear O.T. pattern for the church members that will be “caught away” alive in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. Clearly Enoch was raptured from this world alive to the eternal spiritual realm being taken bodily so that there is no grave here on the earth containing his body. How can anyone teach that rapture is not a valid Bible concept and truth? Look up the Greek word translated as “translated” in this verse. It literally means to “transfer” or “transport” as in an exchange of physical locations. This is so significant that I do not know how people miss it or why they choose to ignore it. I’m beginning to see a Bible concept that I really like here, and I’ll call it the “Beam me up Jesus” method of spiritual travel. I really believe that this is going to be an awesome experience when it occurs. There is only one other man in the O.T. that was taken up by divine force without seeing death and this was the prophet Elijah.
2Ki 2:1 And it came to pass, when the LORD would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal.
The Hebrew word in the verse translated as “take up” literally means to ascend. This is not rocket science so everyone should be able to recognize another obvious pattern for human translation or transportation out of this world while still naturally alive by divine sovereign power. If you study the context of this event you will also see that God reveals what is going to happen to Elijah before it happens. That is also significant since God repeats that pattern by revealing to the church that rapture will occur before it occurs. Elijah is again a pattern for the living church members remaining on the earth today. They do not know the exact timing of the “taking up” but he knew it would occur before it occurred and he even knew that it would even occur very soon. Clearly Enoch and Elijah are valid “harpazo” patterns. These are two direct witnesses for the future.
Let’s talk about Isaiah chapter 6 briefly. This chapter describes an event that took place that clearly resembles what Paul experienced of being caught up to the third heaven. I’m not going to quote any of the verses or review them in any detail. You can do that research for yourself. I will say that what Isaiah describes is clearly not of this world in any form or fashion. In verse 1 there is mention of a throne but then following this is the mention of winged creatures that are a special type of angel. This creature had 3 sets of wings. One set covered his face and one set covered his feet and with the final set he flew around. That is pretty amazing stuff. This experience is no doubt a type of rapture where Isaiah is taken to the throne of God to view and record some things that we need to see. It does not say that Isaiah was there bodily, but he had to be there spiritually in order to come back to write what he saw. I find that very interesting and also very relevant to our discussion of rapture. I will not address this experience any further in this lesson other than to give it to you as fifth potential pattern reference for a type of rapture.
Act 1:9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
We could talk a lot about Jesus ascending into heaven in Acts 1. I have already mentioned this example previously in this lesson in a direct reference connection to 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. Here we have Jesus ascending up into the clouds and disappearing and this is another pattern of what is described will happen to the living on the earth when Jesus comes back to the clouds to take us up. I will point out one distinct difference in this verse. This ascent is not “harpazo”. In other words Jesus was not seized out of the earth by force or caught up by the Spirit of God or any angel. No this Greek word is very different because this is the divine God himself going up under His own power. This Greek word is always used in conjunction with self-control and personal extended effort of self-power. This is clearly an example of rapture because God is controlling the ascension event. However it is done indecently from external power and is the internal power of God within Jesus that causes Him to go up. The first five examples of people being raptured were clearly events independent from human human power and they can only be displays of the power of God. I really pray that you are receiving these parallel examples and seeing the possibilities that can occur from them?
Satan fights the teaching of the true rapture because he will be forced to present an explanation to what happened to the millions of righteous people in the world that simply vanish without a trace prior to the tribulation. He will come up with an ingenious twist of the truth. He will probably claim that the wicked people on the earth have now been taken out for judgment and now only the righteous remain to rule with him. You see this explanation fits with the pattern of what is transpiring in the media today. The media is blasting Christians as hate mongers of an intolerant message of God’s love. The homosexual agenda is the most intolerant group of people that exists in the world and they are in direct opposition to God and what the Bible says on the subject. However, they claim that Christians are intolerant ones for claiming the truth in the Bible and not embracing their sin as normal. What we see developing is a dividing line between those that are on God’s side and those that are opposed to God. I would think that it would be wise to remain on God’s side, but they have had their minds blinded to the truth so that they are unable to see it.
I think I will wrap up this lesson for now. I have given you a lot of information to examine and to consider. I thank you for your time in reading and studying the Bible. There is so much more in the Bible on this subject and I will continue on it in a future lesson. God Bless!
If you would like to continue reading in this series you may proceed to “Part 3” now.