By SHARON K. GILBERT
Originally Published June 11, 2005
FROM MY earliest memories, I’ve watched for the return of Jesus Christ. After officially becoming a believer at age 9, I cut my doctrinal teeth on the books of Revelation and Daniel, always looking up and anticipating Christ’s return for His church in what we call “The Rapture”. So, what is this event anyway?
The word rapture doesn’t appear in the English Bible, but it does appear in other translations, including the Latin Vulgate. The latin verb rapere means “to snatch up” and is used to translate the original Greek word harpazo.
Jack Shelton has this to say:. The Greek New Testament clearly contains both the terminology and the concept of the rapture by the use of the word harpazo, a verb meaning “to snatch or catch away.” Harpazo denotes the idea of force suddenly exercised, and is often used in the context of an emergency where life or death consequences are the result of a quick snatching away. In two of its thirteen occurrences in the New Testament, harpazo clearly signifies “rapture,” that is, an instantaneous bodily translation of saints from earth to heaven:
1 Th. 4:17, “…we which are alive shall be caught up (harpazo).”
Rev. 12:5, “…her child was caught up (harpazo) unto God.”
Three other Scriptures use harpazo in a context significant to the doctrine of the rapture, although not in direct reference to it.
Acts 8:39, “…the spirit of the Lord caught away (harpazo) Philip.”
2 Cor. 12:2, “…such as one caught up (harpazo) to the third heaven.”
2 Cor.12:4, “…that he was caught up (harpazo) into paradise.”
Therefore, the allegation that the concept of the rapture is foreign to the Bible has no basis in fact. Furthermore, the use of the Greek term harpazo in rapture contexts unquestionably establishes even the terminology of the rapture as Biblically-based.
Now that we’ve established the validity of the term “Rapture” just what is it, and why should we even care?
In the book of Daniel, the old testament prophet takes to his knees to beseech God for wisdom regarding what Jeremiah the prophet meant when he quoted God as declaring “seventy years of the desolations of Jerusalem”. This selfless and eloquent prayer results in the appearance of a mighty angel, Gabriel, dispatched by God to reveal one of the most important propecies of all time – the prophecy of Seventy Weeks. Simply put, God reveals – through Gabriel – that He has decreed a definite period of time during which He intends to refine the nation of Israel. Each “week” is equivalent to seven years, making the complete time period 70 times 7 weeks or 490 years (an interesting number in view of Jesus’ answer to Peter regarding the number of times one must forgive a brother). Daniel is even told when this 490 year count would commence – with the decree to rebuild the temple. What Daniel isn’t specifically told is that the count would temporarily be suspended at the end of the 69th week or year 483. This break in the timeline would only be revealed when it occurred – at the Cross of Calvary – the commencement of the Church Age.
Despite what some teachers proclaim, Christianity does not replace Israel in this timeline, but we are an important parenthesis between years 483 and 484. When does year 484 begin? It begins with the end of this parenthesis – with the removal or Rapture of the Church.
So, where do believers go at that time? First of all, the Apostle Paul teaches that those who had died in Christ are asleep – awaiting the return of their Lord and Savior and that first these “dead in Christ” shall rise, followed by the immediate “snatching away” of the living believers. All of this will take place so quickly that non-believers will not see the event. They will only perceive the amazing results – the disappearance of millions of people from all parts of the earth.
Thanks to the unprecedented success of the Left Behind series of books, Christians and non-Christians alike now understand the fundamentals of what this event will mean to the world. Many debate theories on the Rapture and Armageddon around office water coolers and over lunch. At the center of the ongoing debate is one question – when will this great event occur? Stay tuned for the next chapter of Revelation 101 – when I’ll share my own beliefs on the signs that point to Christ’s return and why I believe He now stands ready to take us home.