What Is the Rapture?

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What is the definition of rapture in the Bible? Where is it discussed and what is its meaning?

´╗┐Surprisingly, the English word "rapture" does not occur at all in the King James, New King James, NIV, or other modern translation of the Bible! In fact, the word itself did not come into existence until around the very late 1500s A.D. Among many Christians, especially those in certain parts of the Protestant world, the meaning of the rapture is a snatching up to heaven of true Christians who are still alive just before or during the Great Tribulation.

Many believers rest their hope in what they believe is a rapture of saints based on only two Bible verses written by the Apostle Paul.

Because the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first;

Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds for the meeting with the Lord in the air; and so shall we always be with the Lord. (1Thessalonians 4:16 - 17, HBFV).

Rapture Timing

Many religious teachers teach that the rapture of saints can only occur just before Jesus' Second Coming to reign and rule the earth for 1,000 years. Some also believe that such "snatching up" of saints will occur in secret to save a select few from the suffering and trials delineated in the book of Revelation.

Many who believe in the rapture think they will be taken to heaven for a period until they return triumphantly with Jesus to fight those who are deceived by Satan. They will then rule the world with Christ.

Jesus told his disciples, in regard to the exact time of his return to earth and the establishment of his kingdom, the following.

Truly I say to you, this generation shall in no wise pass away until all these things have taken place.

The heaven and the earth shall pass away, but My words shall never pass away. But concerning that day, and the hour, no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. (Matthew 24:34 - 36, HBFV).

Setting Dates

In spite of these direct statements from Jesus, there have been those throughout history who have dogmatically tried to predict the day of the rapture, or the day of Jesus' return to earth, or both. Religious leaders foolish enough to "set dates" have been embarrassed and discredited when their predicted date quietly comes and goes.

A notable example of setting dates for events like the rapture occurred with William Miller, a preacher in the Baptist church, who predicted Jesus would come back to earth sometime within a year of March 21, 1843. When March 21, 1844 arrived Miller adopted the new date of April 18 of the same year for Christ's return. When that rapture date failed, he supported another date of October 22. What is labeled "The Great Disappointment" occurred when Jesus did not arrive back on earth as predicted.


The lesson of history is that believers today need to be very wary of any teacher or preacher who says he or she knows the date of the rapture and Jesus' second coming. Such people should be avoided as they are clearly contradicting what is written in the Bible.

List of All Terms in
Dictionary of Biblical Words

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