” Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (1st Thessalonians 4:17, NKJV)
The sun sets over the ocean as two lovers embrace. The waves gently roll onto the beach. The sky is clear blue and the world seems perfect for the couple. In an instant, as the man and woman peer deep into each other’s eyes, this moment of serenity turns into chaos. The woman literally vanishes and immediately, the bewildered gentleman hears screams from panicking mothers on the boardwalk. Children are gone and the sounds of a plane plummeting toward the ocean is heard. A moment of love turned into a scene of heartache, death and destruction. What caused this? Many in Christian circles would say that the Rapture of the Church had just taken place. Those adults who believed in Jesus and all children are in Glorified bodies in Heaven. Christian literature and movies have portrayed similar events. Is this Biblical?
Paul described what we call the Rapture as a catching away of believers to meet the Lord in the air (1st Thessalonians 4:16-17). The Greek word for caught up is harpazo (har-pad’-zo). It means to seize: catch (away or up), pluck pull, take (by force). There is nothing in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 that suggest believers are given glorified bodies and are in heaven. Paul says we will meet the Lord in the air. The Greek word indicates a physical gathering of the elect. When we compare this event with Matthew 24:31 we see that angels are the ones who are taking the elect of the Lord up (after the great sound of a trumpet). The saints are in physical bodies but in the air with Jesus. Now let’s look at other scriptures that use the term harpazo.
In Acts 8:26-39, we read the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. The Angel of the Lord told Philip where to go and it was a divine appoinment to preach the Gospel of Salvation. The eunuch believed and was immediately baptized, then the Spirit caught Philip away (harpazo). He was bodily transported to another city, Azotus. (Acts 8:39-40). There was no resurrection into Heaven.
Paul himself says that he remembers a man 14 years earlier caught up into the 3rd Heaven (Paradise). He used the word harpazo again, yet he did not know if this was a physical or spiritual catching away. The fact is that Paul entered God’s throne but he did not have a glorified body. In fact, he is recounting this event 14 years later.
Finally, we see the term harpazo used in Revelation 12:5. The man child was caught up to God and His throne because the dragon (Satan) wanted to devour the child, who is God’s plan of salvation. This catching up is an example of rescue not resurrection. Conversely, Luke describes Jesus as being carried up into Heaven (Luke 24:51). Jesus has a resurrected body at this point and when He ascends into Heaven, the Greek word that Luke uses is anaphero (an-af-er’-o) which means to take up, bear, bring (carry, lead up, offer up). Jesus ascends with the Resurrected power He received from the Father. Harpazo, the term meaning rapture is not used.
When we follow the 5 Rules of Biblical interpretation (see definition section), truth will be realized. In the next post, I will show how 1Corinthians 15:51-52 (where believers are changed in the twinkling of an eye) is not the same event as the Rapture. It is a parallel event that follows rule 5 of Biblical Interpretation: Look for the Near/Far in Bible Prophecy. EJ