What is the Meaning of the Word “Rapture”?

By: Dr. John Ankerberg / Dr. Renald Showers; ©2004
The word “rapture” does not appear in our English Bible, so where did the word come from? What does it mean? What do Christians anticipate will happen to them at the rapture?

What is the Meaning of the Word Rapture?

Dr. John Ankerberg: Where do you find the word Rapture? Look at 1 Thessalonians 4:13- 18. Paul says, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren.” They had some questions. Number one was, they were expecting the Rapture. We know that from 1 Thessalonians 1:10 where it says they had turned from their idols to the living God and they were “waiting for God’s Son to come from Heaven.” What was their question? As they were waiting for God’s Son to come, the Rapture, some of their fellow Christians died. And they got to thinking about the fact, well, why is it they died? Are they going to miss out on the Rapture? Will they not have glorified bodies to be translated in a moment and meet us in the air with Christ? No, they didn’t know what the answers were to those questions. They were afraid. Maybe they even thought, you know, I might not ever see Mom or Dad ever again because I’m going and for some reason they’re staying. https://www.youtube.com/embed/YaphGzaTcZ8 So they asked these questions to Paul via Timothy and so he’s addressing their questions. He said, “I don’t want you to be ignorant about these things and specifically about those which are asleep.” He says, “That ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” Well, we as Christians do sorrow, but we don’t sorrow as those that have no hope. “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again,” the foundation for anybody going in the Rapture is to believe that Jesus died for our sins, paid for them on the cross. He paid a debt we could never pay. He was put into the ground. He rose again and is living now. That’s the foundation. Those who believe that, he says, “them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.” What does he mean there? If you die before the Rapture of the Church, the body goes into the ground. Dr. John Walvoord says, “Your spirit goes to be with the Lord.” When the Lord comes out of Heaven, he says he’s going to bring our spiritual bodies with Him. We’re going to be reunited with our physical bodies at the Rapture. Paul says, “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord—this isn’t something that Paul made up. This is “by the word of the Lord”—that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord.” You’ve got the two groups. Those that they were concerned about that had already passed on, that were asleep, that is, died in the Lord. And then those that were living. He said, “We which are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord shall not prevent” or precede “them which are asleep. 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.” So here are these two groups again. What happens to them? A parent, a child, a friend died. If they knew the Lord, then the Lord is going to bring their spiritual soul with Him and reunite that with their physical bodies. In fact, they will be brought up first, then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them. That word “caught up together” comes from the Greek word harpazo. It literally means “to snatch out” or “to seize.” It’s like a thief grabbing a purse. He seizes it. The word Rapture comes from the Latin Vulgate (which is the Latin Bible) rendering of raptus from which we get the popular term Rapture. So if you were reading your Latin Bible and you got down to verse 17 you would see raptus, rapture. That’s where the Bible teaches the Rapture. It means we have been snatched out; we’ve been caught up by a mighty act of power by the Lord. This is where the Bible teaches the Rapture of all believers. “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. Wherefore, comfort one another with these words.” Now, if you hook that up with John 14 where Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you. If I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” Where is He now? Where is He preparing a place for us? In Heaven. We meet the Lord in the air. We put these two passages together and we learn that we meet the Lord in the air and He takes us to the Father’s house. Dr. Renald Showers: The whole concept of being snatched up or caught up from the earth, that’s where the concept of the Rapture comes from. The English word Rapture is derived from a Latin verb form which means to be snatched or caught up and so the Bride of Christ, the Church, involving the resurrected believers but those as well who have never died will be caught up from the earth, Paul says, “together, to meet the Lord Jesus in the air.” Another significant thing about that is, that tells us that in this coming of the Lord He stops in the air above the earth. He doesn’t come the whole way down to the sur­face of the earth. As He descends from Heaven from the Father’s house, He stops in the air above the earth and He waits there as His believers are caught up to meet Him in the air, and then Paul concludes with these words at the end of verse 17, “and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” That’s significant because that means once we are raptured to meet Christ in the air, from that time on we shall never be separated from Him again. Wherever Jesus goes, we go with Him.

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