What the Bible Says About the Rapture

Text: 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

The “rapture” is a popular doctrine among “Christian” denominations. The word “rapture” is not used in the Bible, but the term is derived from a word that is. We need to understand the “rapture” in a way that is in harmony with the Bible, not the way the religious world generally uses the term. This lesson will contrast what the religious world says and what the Bible says about the “rapture.”

What Does “Rapture” Mean?

  • Concept of the “rapture” begins with Paul’s letter to Thessalonica – “caught up” (1 Thessalonians 4:17)
  • Greek (harpazo) – to seize, carry off by force; to snatch away (Thayer)
  • Latin Vulgate (rapiemur) – from verb rapio; means “to catch up” or “take away”
  • Etymology – Middle French (rapture) via Medieval Latin (raptura) from Latin raptus (a carrying off)
  • Some other times this word is used in the NT – to take by force (Matthew 11:12; John 6:15; Acts 23:10); to catch/catch away (Matthew 13:19; John 10:12; Acts 8:39); to be caught up (2 Corinthians 12:2, 4)
  • To be raptured means to be caught up – this is what we look forward to as Christians (1 Thessalonians 4:14, 17)

What the Religious World Says About the “Rapture”

  • Rooted in the theory of premillennialism – different forms of premillennialism
  • Most in the denominational world believe in pre-tribulation premillennialism – period of tribulation before the reign of Christ (millennium)
  • How the rapture fits into this theory – rapture occurs before the tribulation
  • Other theories – mid-tribulation premillennialism (rapture occurs during the tribulation) and post-tribulation premillennialism (rapture occurs after the tribulation)
  • All theories have the rapture before the millennium – Christians caught up sometime before the reign of Christ
  • Fanciful interpretations of the events of Matthew 24, often relating them to current events (Matthew 24:6-7, 15-21, 24) – Jesus was primarily discussing the destruction of Jerusalem (Matthew 24:1-3, 34); proponents of premillennialism believe these events are to come, or are unfolding before us; they claim Jesus was talking about their version of the rapture (Matthew 24:40-41)

What the Bible Says About the “Rapture”

  • First, we need to address the common misconception about the reign of Christ (millennium) – we are not waiting for a future kingdom, Christ is reigning now (Acts 2:29-36); His kingdom (church) was established on the day of Pentecost (Mark 9:1; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4, 47; Colossians 1:13)
  • Christians will be “raptured” in the sense that they will be taken up with Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:17)
  • We will be caught up to be with the Lord – not temporarily; “we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17)
  • The Lord will return with His angels, not with Christians (2 Thessalonians 1:7)
  • The dead in Christ will rise first (1 Thessalonians 4:16) – this will be at the second coming
  • We will not be leaving the world that will then continue without us – the world itself will be destroyed (2 Peter 3:10, 12)


  • While there will be a “rapture” someday, it will not be like most envision it – we need to be careful not to give others the wrong impression about what will happen in the end; we should also not go so far as to say there will not be a “rapture” (being caught up to be with Christ)
  • It all depends on how we define our terms – in discussions with others, we may not want to say there will be no “rapture”; instead, we can say that the “rapture” is not going to be how most people think it will be
  • The only way we will be “raptured” (caught up) to be with the Lord is to be in the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:14, 16; Romans 6:3)

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