By Nathan Jones
"I wish I could believe there is a Rapture in the Bible, because that would be something really great to look forward to. Sadly, the rapture theory was first spoken of by a sickly woman in 1830 and the ministers at that time just ran with it as prophecy." – Mariano, New York
If I were to receive a dollar for every time somebody told me there is no mention of a rapture in the Bible and that the concept is a fairly modern day invention, I'd have enough money to pound a considerable dent into the federal deficit (depending on the Administration, that is).
Can the Rapture, separate and apart from the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, be found anywhere in the Bible? How does looking forward to the Rapture bring us hope? And, is the Rapture as a whole too new of an idea to be true? Get ready to give me that dollar, Mariano!
Rapture in the Bible
The Bible does indeed teach about the Rapture of the Church. First Thessalonians 4:17 in particular speaks of an event called "the Rapture," derived from the Latin word rapio which was translated from the original Greek word harpazo. Rapio means "to catch up, to snatch away, or to take out," and that's how it's often written out, as in that verse which reads, "After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever."
Other references on the Rapture are found in Isaiah 26:19-21; Malachi 3:17; John 14:1-4; I Corinthians 15:51-58 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
Encouragement to the Believer
The Apostle Paul states that the Rapture is meant to encourage believers during this age (1 Thessalonians 4:18). And yet, what encouragement could the Rapture bring to any believer who thinks they will have to endure all the horrors of the coming 7-year Tribulation? What would be the point of the Rapture then? It wouldn't really be as Mariano has stated, "something really great to look forward to."
True encouragement and hope comes from the Bible's teaching of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture. We know that the Rapture will happen before the Tribulation because according to the Bible the Church isn't destined to endure God's judgment on the world. God has promised the Church a rescue beforehand. For example in 1 Thessalonians 1:10 we are told "to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come." (See also 1 Thessalonians 5:9; Romans 5:9; Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 3:4 and Revelation 3:10).
Evidences of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture also come from Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 who comforted the Church of Thessalonica when he wrote, "Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come." The church there was concerned that they had missed the Rapture and were living in the Tribulation. Paul assures them in verse 3, "Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for (that day will not come) until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction." In other words, they'd know if they were living in the Tribulation.
The only hope that could comfort the Church Age Saint staring into the face of the horrors of the Tribulation is that they will not have to endure it. These words from Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:18 provide that very encouragement and hope of the Lord rapturing the Church beforehand.
An Ancient Concept
Those who argue that the Pre-Tribulation Rapture view is just "too new" to be considered viable point to John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) as its originator, and they claim he took the idea from a 15 year old girl named Margaret MacDonald. But, is that assessment historically accurate? Indeed, it is not.
The Early Church fathers' such as Barnabas (ca.100-105), Papias (ca. 60-130), Justin Martyr (110-195), Irenaeus (120-202), Tertullian (145-220), Hippolytus (ca. 185-236), Cyprian (200-250), and Lactantius (260-330) wrote on the imminent return of Jesus Christ, the central argument for the Pre-Tribulation Rapture view.
When Augustine (354-430) began spiritualizing the Bible, his view of a non-literal interpretation took hold of the Church until the Renaissance, obliterating the Premillennial and Pre-Tribulation Rapture views in favor of Amillennialism. But, some Medieval writers such as Ephraem of Nisibis (306-373), Abbot Ceolfrid (c. 642-716), and Brother Dolcino (d. 1307) wrote statements that distinguished the Rapture from the Second Coming.
When the chains of allegorical interpretation began to fall off, beginning with the Reformation in the 1400's and 1500's, writers such as Joseph Mede (1586-1638), Increase Mather (1639-1723), Peter Jurieu (1637-1713), Philip Doddridge (1702- 1751), John Gill (1697-1771), James Macknight (1721-1800), Thomas Scott (1747-1821) and Morgan Edwards (1722-1795) all wrote concerning the Rapture occurring separate from the Second Coming. Even in the more modern church, those like William Witherby, who wrote about the Rapture in 1818, were precursors to John Darby in support of the Rapture.
The Rapture is indeed then not only biblical, but supported throughout Church history. And, Mariano is absolutely right in one respect, for the Rapture sure is "something really great to look forward to." It's our "blessed hope" (Titus. 2:13).