By Pastor Mike Taylor
"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:
4:17 Then we which are alive and remain shallbe caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord."(1st Thessalonians 4:1-17)
A very familiar verse for all prophecy writers and readers alike, has been the subject of much debate and confusion over the last 100 years. Many critics believe that this verse is talking about the church being taken up in the air at the seventh trump that the seventh angel blows to signal the bowl judgments. I made a study over misconceptions concerning misunderstood passages in the bible, and you may check them out at this address on my website:
(copy and paste if not clickable). To summarize that article before moving on with this message, people confuse the two trumps and I point out a often missed concept as related to customs of the nations of ancient Israel, and what Paul was referring to. Take a moment to read this prior message...but moving on.
I had a brother in Christ, who at the very mention of the word “rapture”, became very irate and bellowed, quote “there is no scripture in the bible that points to a rapture.” endquote. But is he right, or just ignorant of the fact that Paul and many writers pointed to a “catching away” of the church and there are many instances in the bible that support that doctrine? Let's take a journey through biblical chapters and see what we find, shall we?
Noting the above verse quoted in the start of this message, note the underlined words to “be caught up”. Are there any other verses in the bible with the same words that mean the same thing as this verse does? The Greek word for this phrase is “harpazo” #726 in Strong's Concordance that was translated into the Latin Vulgate as “rapiemur” and came from the derivative of the Greek word #138 in Strong's Concordance “haireomai” which literally means “to seize, catch away up, pluck, pull, or take by force”, hence the modern English word “rapture”, that often maligned word, that many in the conservative church movements equate with some type of emotional display. Getting back, are there any other verses that use the exact same word used here of “harpazo”? Turn with me now to
"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.
12:3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)
12:4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. (
2nd Corinthians 12:2-4)
Paul is speaking of himself being caught into paradise and heard things, that I believe he shared with the church during his days when he wrote his epistles. He calls it a mystery...what is the word he used....? Correct, it was harpazo. Paul was snatched in the spirit into heaven. Paul uses the word twice.
Now let's turn to another verse that speaks of this same snatching away, but in a different context.
Matthew 11:12 , "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence , and the violent take it by force ."
Matthew 13:19 "When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side."
Different context, but same meaning...to be snatched away, by force. Now another, found in Gospel of John it is used four different times.
6:15 "When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force , to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone."
12 "But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming , and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth : and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep."
28 "And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish , neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is ableto pluck them out of my Father's hand."
Again, in Acts 23:10, Jude 1:23, Revelation 12:5 “And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her childwas caught up unto God, and to his throne."
Let's not forget Phillip the apostle when he had baptized the Ethiopian eunuch, Acts, 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."
If you've been keeping count, that is 13 times in the New Testament including the ones I didn't quote , but gave reference to, that pne word “Harpazo” is used and it means in every instance to be removed by force, without warning being snatched away.
WHAT ABOUT THE OLD TESTAMENT?
Good question. Is there anything that can point to a parallel word that has the same meaning used in Greek in these passages found in also in the Old Testament.? Matter of fact, there is. There a examples of men being “snatched up” and removed from this earth. Let's start with the earliest known example...Genesis 5:23,
"Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. v.24, Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away."
Here the word for the underlined phrase “took him away” is the Hebrew word #3947 in Strong's, “leqach” which means to “receive, reserve, seize, send for, take away, or fetch”.
Paul speaks of Enoch this way, Hebrews 11:5 of the NIV,
By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away (translated him). For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.” The word used for “translated, or taken him away” is the Greek word, metatithemi, Strongs #3346, which means “transport, exchange, change sides, carry over, change, remove”. Scoffers will use the passage in verse 13 of that same chapter,11:13 "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”
But to use that verse contradicts verse 5, and the bible cannot contradict itself. So Enoch was “snatched away, removed” from this earth alive and did NOT see death, but verse 13 applies to all others who lived by faith.
Another example is the prophet Elijah and we will turn to 2nd Kings chapter 2,
2:1 "And it came to pass, when the LORD wouldtake up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal."
2:11 "And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven."
What is the Hebrew word for the phrase “would take up” in verse 1. Yes, again, it's “Leqach” also used to describe the snatching away of Enoch. Some will make a convoluted argument that both men are dead and died in faith, but they use logic that is beyond their grasp of the infinite, not believing that God is Sovereign and He can do whatever He wishes to do, apart from their finite analogies. They will use “did not see death” and try to explain the second death. That's stretching the meaning of the text and we have no clue to do so. It's best to take what the Word says and not add your own meaning, by adding or subtracting from God's message. They will say that he lived 365 years and no longer, but you can't count eternity, because it's without time. So again, they try to rationalize their preconceived ideas to support their doctrine.
Note that we have covered Enoch, Elijah, Phillip, Paul, our Lord and Savior, and finally the Church itself, the bride of Christ being described with the words “snatched up, or plucked by force” from the earth.
But still the critics will not believe. I point them to some passages that mirror each other and tell us why these examples were given to us. First is Isaiah 26:19,
"Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.
26:20 Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.
26:21 For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain."
And her companion verse, spoken of by my Lord, John chapter 14,
14:2 " In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
14:4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know."
What do these companion verses say to you? They tell me that Jesus will bring us unto Himself and we will be rewarded a mansion in the New Jerusalem, as He promised. There we will wait for the indignation, or His wrath to be overpast or to subside. These verse speak of resurrection, changing from mortal to immortal, and not being present when His wrath comes upon this earth, both the resurrected dead in Christ, and the living who are both changed as Paul spoke of in the very first verses of this message.
THE DOCTRINE OF THE RAPTURE IS A MODERN ONE?
In recent years, many opponents of the pre-tribulation rapture view have made dogmatic assertions that this view was never taught before 1820 A.D. There have been attempts to attribute the origin of this view to John N. Darby.... but this is false and misleading. Ephraem the Syrianwrote, in 373 AD,
"For all the saints and Elect of God are gathered, prior to the tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins." ... revealing that the early church fathers themselves were indeed teaching this.
This text was originally a sermon called On the Last Times, the Anti-Christ, and the End of the World. There are four existing Latin manuscripts (the Parisinus, the Augiensis, the Barberini, and the St. Gallen) ascribed to St. Ephraem or to St. Isidore . Some scholars believe this text was written by some unknown writer in the sixth century and was derived from the original Ephraem.
The sermon describes the events of the last days, beginning with the rapture, the Great Tribulation of 3 1/2 years duration under the Antichrist's rule, followed by the Second Coming of Christ. In Ephraem's book "The Book of the Cave of Treasures", written about 370 A.D., he expressed his belief that the 69th week of Daniel ended with the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus the Messiah. Although this does not prove that the doctrine of the Rapture is correct, it does show that even early Church theologians were teaching this and it is NOT a modern device of an immature girl and John Darby, as some claim, but doctrine of the early church.
The glorified Jesus, the Great I AM, that I AM spoke of this in the His precious Word, as Ephraem the Syrian did, in Revelation 3:10,
"Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth."
Paul echoes what Jesus spoke to John years later, when he penned these verses,
"But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.
5:9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,
5:10 Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him."(1st Thessalonians 5:9-10)
POINT AND COUNTERPOINT!!
The Church is a specific group of believers in Jesus Christ. It is not a building ... nor is it any particular denomination or religion. Also known as the Body of Christ, the Church is something that began at Pentecost -- see Acts 2:1-4 and culminates at the rapture -- see 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18. It does not include anyone who was a believer prior to or after the two above-mentioned events. The terms saints or elect refer to another specific group of believers. This group includes all the Old Testament saints, as well as those who become believers in Christ after the rapture. I've made many references in past messages that the Tribulation is designed for two things, and two things only and that is:
-Pouring out of God's wrath on an unrepentant, and rebellious world,
-refining Israel as silver is refined in the fire....and we are NOT included in that refining.
There is a marked difference in the Bible when you look at references to the Church compared with references to the saints or the elect. The Church is always refered to in very narrow and distinct terms, whereas the saints or the elect are always refered to in very broad terms. More pointed, however, is the fact that the word Church never appears again after Revelation 3:22 -- you'll only see the saints or the elect mentioned throughout the rest of the book -- and this is directly after a very significant reference to this “catching away by force” , in Revelation 3:10.
What is the tribulation? It is the wrath of God. When does it start? When the first seal is broken in chapter 6 of Revelation. What are not appointed to? We are not appointed to wrath, but salvation. How will the tribulation begin to commence? When the Church of God is removed out of the way. Isaiah 26:19, and 2nd Thessalonians chapter 2 below:
"For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let ( the Holy Spirit), until he be taken out of the way.
2:8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:
2:9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
2:10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved."
God has given us example after example. He has given us story after story to show the children of God being removed out of the way. He has given us words to show that HE WILL remove the church before His wrath is poured out on this earth. How much more clear does He need to be? When someone remarks, “the rapture is not found in the bible”, then my reader, you can direct them to passages that show they misunderstand. And if they still don't get it, then that's Ok...you can explain it to them on your way up to meet the Lord in the air.
This is Pastor Mike Taylor, praying God's salvation in your life. If there is anything I can help you with, pray with you about, or just listen, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. God bless you all,
till we meet at Jesus Feet.