Have you ever heard of the rapture? Most non-Christians, and even many believers, either have not heard about the event known as the rapture, or do not really understand what it is all about. Part of the reason for this is that the Bible does not specifically use the word “rapture” to describe it, but instead uses the Greek, harpazo, which means to seize, catch away, call up, or take for oneself (Strong’s #726).
Let’s look at a very interesting, and supernatural, way that the term rapture – or harpazo – was used in the story of the apostle Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch, beginning in Acts 8:26…
Philip and the other apostles were preaching in Jerusalem, when an angel appeared to Philip, and instructed him to Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza…And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Queen Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come up to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah.
And the [Holy] Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to sit with him…Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture [Isaiah 53] he told him the good news about Jesus.
And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.
And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away [harpazo], and the eunuch saw him no more, and he went on his way rejoicing.
But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed though he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea. (Acts 8:26-40)
Can you imagine what both men must have experienced, as Philip disappeared from the Eunuch’s sight, and suddenly found himself in a completely different city? The beautiful Greek phrase for what happened is, pneuma kyrios harpazo philippos, or “the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away.” The Holy Spirit literally raptured him and set him down in a new location! Therefore, we can understand through this example that the term rapture can refer to being bodily caught up by the Spirit and set down in another place.
Now let’s look at how Paul uses the term harpazo in his first letter to the church at Thessalonica:
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep [died in Christ].
For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up [harpazo] together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Notice that Paul makes a distinction between the living and those believers who have previously died, or “fallen asleep.” As we can see, he is specifically saying that those who are alive will be caught up, harpazo or raptured, to meet the Lord (along with those believers who have died and gone before them) in the air. In Acts chapter 8, we witness Philip being caught up or raptured by the Holy Spirit and carried bodily to a new location on Earth. Here, Paul describes believers who are alive being caught up to meet Jesus in the heavens, using the word harpazo, or in the Latin, rapturo, and in English, rapture.
Notice too that Paul specifically instructs the church to comfort one another and take comfort in these words, this blessed hope, of the rapture. Why is it that the hope of the rapture should be comforting to believers? 1 Thessalonians 1:10 tells us that Jesus saves believers from the wrath to come, and Romans 5:9 states, “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”
There is a time, during the second half of the seven-year Tribulation period, that God’s wrath will be poured out on those who remain on the Earth. Jesus refers to this time as the Great Tribulation during his prophetic Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.” However, God will not focus his wrath on the Church, which is the Body of Christ, because at the cross Jesus paid the full price for all our sins. For all those who believe in the finished work of Christ at the cross and accept him as their Lord and Savior, God’s wrath against sin has been satisfied, and we are saved from his wrath forever. Therefore, when the wrath of God is poured out on the unbelieving world, the Church will have already been raptured, or caught up to heaven. And so shall we always be with the Lord.
When will this blessed event take place? That is something that it has not been given to us to know. In fact, Jesus himself stated, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36). Only our Father in heaven knows the perfect timing of the moment when God will instruct the Bridegroom to call for the Church, and his Bride will be caught up to heaven in the twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:52). However, in Luke’s description of the Olivet Discourse, Jesus instructs us, “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28).
In Matthew 16:3, Jesus scolds the Pharisees for not being able to discern the signs of the times, and Jesus, himself, has given us a picture of what to look for in these last days. If you want to know more, take some time to read both versions of Jesus’ Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24 and Luke 21, and look around and see if what Jesus was pointing to looks familiar. And if you discover that it does, remember Paul’s words of comfort and Jesus’ exhortation to recognize the signs of the times, and do not be afraid, and do not get caught up in anxiety and worry about what is happening in the world. Jesus instructed us to look up and not to focus on the troubles of this world, but to keep our eyes firmly fixed on our Redeemer. He is drawing nigh, and when our Father gives the call, the Body of Christ will be caught up together, to meet the Bridegroom in the air. And so we will forever be with the Lord. And the Lord said, “…’Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!...” (Revelation 22:20-21).
If you are unsure whether or not, when the call comes, you will be included in the number of those who are caught up together in the rapture, please take a moment and read and pray this Prayer of Salvation:
Dear God, I believe with all of my heart that Jesus died on the cross for my sake, and that He has risen from the dead for my deliverance. Lord, I receive your Word, and I repent of my sins. I receive the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. I receive Your complete forgiveness and my new birth into Your kingdom. I receive Your Holy Spirit to guide me and teach me, and I make You the Lord of my life. I receive salvation in the holy name of Jesus, today and forever. Amen.
If you prayed this prayer from your heart today, then you have been cleansed of all your sins and born again into new life through Jesus Christ, and we are so happy for you! We suggest that you find a copy of the Bible which is God's Word, and begin reading with the Gospel of John in the New Testament. Please consider visiting a Bible-based church in your area and let them know that you have recently received salvation, so that you can enjoy fellowship with other believers and ask any questions that you may have. We are praying for you, we love you, and God bless you, in Jesus' name.
Jesus said, "In the same way God's angels are happy when even one person turns to Him" (Luke 15:10 CEV).
All scriptures are from the English Standard Version translation unless otherwise noted.