In this episode of our exploration of Bible prophecy we will learn the origin of the word, "Rapture" and find where it is in the Bible. Also to be revealed is the first of seven raptures in the Bible.
This is Val Black. Thanks for joining me today as we study Bible Prophecy.
Just what is the Rapture? If you look it up in the dictionary you will see that it defines Rapture as ecstasy, excitement, and transport.
If you look up the word Rapture in the Bible you will spend a lot of time looking because it is not there. But the phrase, “caught up” is in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4, verse 17 and that is where the word Rapture has originated. I will take a little bit of time to explain how we get the word “rapture” from “caught up” but first, I would like to comment on the version of the Bible I will be quoting from.
I love the King James Version of the Bible. But there are some passages of scripture that I find are a little too hard to understand so I go to another version. My first choice is the New King James but for even more clarity, I will use the New Living Translation. These two versions help me to better understand what the King James is saying. You may like to read other versions too but some people will not read anything but the King James and I do not have a problem with that but some of us need a little more help than the King James.
To begin our study today, I know you are aware of the Covid-19 virus pandemic that has affected people all over the world. Is the virus a sign of the return of Jesus? I believe it is one of the signs. In Matthew, we see that 24 Jesus told His disciples that in the latter days there would be among other things, pestilences. The word pestilence is defined by Vine’s Dictionary as, "any deadly infectious malady (or sickness)". But haven’t there been plagues and pandemics in the past? Yes, but Jesus also said the sign of the end times would be like a woman giving birth. A woman suffers painful contractions that become more intense and more frequent before birth.
In the same way, signs of the end times will become more intense and more frequent before the return of Jesus. There have been deadly plagues before in the world but nothing like the Corvid virus. In 165 A.D. there was the Antonine Plague in the middle east that killed 5 million people.
In 541-542 there was the Plague of Justinian, or Bubonic Plague killing 25 million, almost half of the European population.
During the years 1346-1353 the Black Death, or the Bubonic Plague, struck again and ravaged Europe, Africa, and Asia, with an estimated death toll between 75 and 200 million people.
During the years of 1852–1860, there was a cholera pandemic originating in India, and spread through Asia, Europe, North America, and Africa and ending the lives of over a million people.
In 1889-1890 the Asian Flu pandemic killed 1 million people.
Another Cholera pandemic began in 1910 and lasted one year killing almost 1 million.
The flu epidemic of 1918 killed between 20 to 50 million people.
Here is one I remember because I got the disease. It was the Asian Flu that struck again in 1956. It lasted for two years and 2 million people lost their lives. It struck again in 1968 taking another 1 million lives.
In 2005 a new pandemic came on the scene, the AIDS virus. Between the years 2005 and 2012, it killed 36 million people.
As of June 2020, in just 6 months the Covid-19 pandemic has taken the lives of over 471,823 people worldwide. Comparing that number to the hundreds of millions of deaths from pandemics in the past, it would seem Covid-19 is not quite as bad. But during the past pandemics, there was not a lockdown of people compelling them to stay in their homes and. Staying away from work. There was no mention of social distancing, wearing masks, and so on.
This virus is much more intense in its effect upon the living conditions of people all over the world. I know of some in India who are starving because they are not able to go to work. They say that leaving home without permission is taking the chance of being arrested and put in jail.
I remember 1957 very well because I had the flu. Even though 2 million people were dying, the rest of the world went about their business working and businesses did not shut down. There was no social distancing, wearing masks or the government making special announcements about the proper way to wash our hands.
Not one person on earth is immune to Covid-19 because no one had Covid-19 until 2019. This has instilled fear in people the world over. Fear of Covid-19 is another factor resulting in deaths not related directly to Covid-19 but heart attacks and other serious health problems.
If there is one verse of scripture that is fitting for today it is John, chapter 16, verse 33. At this point Jesus is preparing His disciples for His death by telling them He would leave them, and they could not follow. Of course, He was speaking of His death on the cross. The disciples kept pressing Him for a straight answer about where He was going. In verse 33 Jesus answered them. I am reading it from the New King James,
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
Jesus spoke of peace for the disciples. If you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you are also His disciple and you have inherited the right to this peace. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul said: Reading from the New Living Translation:
“And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.”
First Peter, chapter 5 and verse 7, again from the New Living Translation:
“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”
Well, Covid-19 isn’t the only sign pointing to the return of Jesus. The first and foremost sign was the establishment of Israel as a nation on May 14, 1948. Up until then, Bible prophecy students questioned the credibility of the Bible because the people of Israel had been dispersed throughout the world. The Temple had been destroyed and it didn’t seem possible that Israel would ever become a nation again. But God is the God of the impossible.
The prophet Isaiah spoke about the birth of the nation in one day. I am reading this from the New Living Translation:
Isaiah chapter 66, verse 8, “Who has ever seen anything as strange as this? Whoever heard of such a thing? Has a nation ever been born in a single day? Has a country ever come forth in a mere moment? But by the time Jerusalem’s birth pains begin, her children will be born.”
We could go through a whole list of prophecies about the return of Jesus but for now, let’s talk about the Rapture.
Two basic scriptures describe the Rapture and what happens to those who living and those who are dead and buried when Jesus comes in the air.
No. one is First Thessalonians chapter 4, verses 13 and 18 from the New Living Translation:
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope.
14 For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.
15 We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. 17 Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. 18 So encourage each other with these words.”
At the beginning of this study, I said we would look at the origin of the word, Rapture. So, just where did this word Rapture come from? In verse 17 of First Thessalonians, chapter 4, it says:
“Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.”
The common language at the time the New Testament was written was called Koine (koy-nay) Greek. In verse 17 the phrase, “caught up” is just one word and that is “harpazo” which means to be caught up or to be snatched away by force.
In the year 382 A.D., the Catholic Pope, Pope Damasus, commissioned a man by the name of Jerome to translate the Greek New Testament into Latin. That version became known as the Latin Vulgate. The word vulgate means “common” and it became the common version of the Bible for several centuries.
In his translation of verse 17 in First Thessalonians 4, Jerome translated the Greek word harpazo to the Latin word rapere, which has the same meaning as harpazo as being caught up, snatched away, or seized by force. Eventually, the word rapere became the English word Rapture that people used to describe being caught up to heaven. There are other words besides Rapture that are not in the Bible that Christians use to describe something. The word “demon” is not in the Bible. Trinity is not there. The phrase “second coming” or “millennial reign of Jesus” is not there either but we use all those words to explain Bible truths.
Let’s continue with the Rapture.
The second basic scripture for the Rapture is in First Corinthians chapter 1, verses 50 thru 55.
“What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever. 51 But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! 52 It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. 53 For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. 54 Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
Unfortunately, some deny the return of Jesus, or, they have given up hope of His return. The disciples thought it would happen in their lifetime. For 2000 years men have been looking for His return.
Second Peter, chapter 3, verses 3 & 4:
“Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. 4 They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.”
One of the signs that we are in the last days is the denial of the return of Jesus. There is a lot of that going around today. Sadly, only 2% of churches teach Bible prophecy so without a solid foundation in it, people are left to their own opinions about the rapture and other topics.
A good number of people don’t believe there will be a Rapture because they claim they have never read about it in the Bible. They would be surprised to know the Bible not only speaks of one Rapture but SEVEN of them!
Now, before you turn me off, open your Bible to Genesis, chapter 5. Beginning with verse 21, let’s read it to verse 24. I’m reading from the New King James:
“Enoch lived sixty-five years and begot Methuselah. 22 After he begot Methuselah, Enoch walked with God three hundred years, and had sons and daughters. 23 So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. 24 And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.”
Enoch walked with God for 365 years and then God took him. Enoch didn’t die. God just took him. Enoch was probably just walking along one day, I like to think he was going fishing, a fishing rod with a Zebco 202 reel in one hand, a can of worms in the other and whistling a pretty tune with the birds when all of a sudden he dropped the rod and can of worms and whoosh! He was taken up to heaven to be with God! As God hands Enoch a gold plated rod and reel He probably said, “Son, the fishing is much better here. Let’s go try out that new rod and reel.”. (Just kidding).
Now, let’s look at Hebrews, chapter 11, verse 5:
“By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, "and was not found, because God had taken him"; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.”
Now verse 6,
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
Enoch pleased God because he had faith in God. So, God took him up to heaven. Let’s just say it, God raptured Enoch because of Enoch’s faith. If Enoch was raptured because he pleased God and had faith in Him, why would a Born Again person not be Raptured also?
Romans 12:3 tells us that God has given each person a “measure of faith”. How much is a “measure”? It’s enough faith we all have that when we look to creation and marvel that it must be the Hand of God. It’s the faith to hear a baby’s first cry when just out of the mother’s womb and realize what a miracle from God that it is.
Everyone has a measure of faith. It’s just enough faith to acknowledge there is a God and He is sovereign over everything and everyone. Faith will grow into an even greater faith as we study God’s word, as we pray and spend time with Him, as we fellowship with others, as we go through life from a baby to a gray-haired, having fought some battles along the way and seeing God pulling us through every time. That’s how faith grows and that’s what pleases God.
So, as we end this today, let’s try to be more like Enoch. Walk and talk with God. Have faith in Him and know there is no problem bigger than the God you serve.
Next time we’ll continue with our study of the Seven Raptures in the Bible. In the meantime, why not try and find as many as you can?