The Rapture

Biblical Examples




John Hoole - August 28 ,2011





The last words of a dying friend or family member are always full of meaning.  And the last words of the Lord Jesus are no exception.  The scene is the Upper Room, the night before Jesus is crucified.  It is the night of his betrayal by Judas.


Jesus was having dinner with His disciples (called “the Last Supper).  His disciples were clueless as to what was about to happen.  In fact, they thought He was about to lead a political revolt and overthrow the Jewish religious leaders, as well as the Roman military.  This scene is recorded in John 13.


During their meal and the observance of the Last Supper, we find Jesus as a faithful teacher, instructing His disciples.  He washes the disciples feet, then tells them they ought to wash each other's feet.  In verse 34, Jesus gives them a new commandment.  He tells them they should love one another as He has loved them.  He adds that by this love, they will show they are His disciples.


Jesus then shocked them by announcing that He would be leaving them.  As usual, Peter reacted first….in this case with a question.  “Where will You go” (verse 36)?  And then in the next verse, Peter asks, “Why can I not follow You, wherever it is?”  Let's read the verse.


John 13:36 NKJV


36     Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, where are You going?" Jesus answered him, "Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward."


It is against this backdrop that the Bible gives us one of the primary references with regard to the tremendous event which we call the Rapture of the Church.


It is not hard to imagine the feelings of the disciples, and how they must have felt when they heard Him say He was going to leave them.  As far as they knew, this might be the last time they would see Him.


But Jesus wanted them to know that He was not abandoning them.  So, to comfort them, He promised to come back and get them.  These words of comfort are found in the first 3 verses of the following chapter.


John 14:1-3 NKJV


1       Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.

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.

3       And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.


As a good bridegroom, the Lord announced His intentions to prepare a dwelling place for His bride.  Also, as a good bridegroom, He wants His bride with Him.  So He assured the disciples that He would return to take them to be with Himself.  It is important to notice that all the Lord promised on this occasion was the simple fact that He would return for His followers.  In other words, they would see Him again.  He did not elaborate with much detail at this point.  His intention was to provide comfort to his disciples about His leaving them.  He did not want their hearts to be troubled.  But He did not say anything about HOW he would come, or WHEN His coming would occur.


Let me digress for a moment with an illustration.  Probably most here today are familiar with the “Star Trek” series.  If you are the least bit familiar, you probably are also familiar with the phrase “Beam me up, Scotty!”  Whenever Captain Kirk was in trouble, or needed to get somewhere in a hurry, the Star Trek crew would rev up the Enterprise’s Transporter Device.  Instantly the Captain and crew would dematerialize and suddenly materialize elsewhere.  There isn’t anybody who has ever been caught in rush-hour traffic, who wouldn’t give a month’s pay for such a device.


What may not be common knowledge is that the Bible speaks of an event very similar to this.  This event is known as The Rapture.  This is the event Jesus was talking about in John 14.  The Rapture is described in several passage in the Bible.






The Rapture is the modern term used to describe the supernatural moment when Jesus Christ will transform the bodies of all living and departed believers into their new spiritual, immortal bodies as they “rise to meet Him in the air.”


As I mentioned in last week’s lesson, the word rapture is not found in our English Bible.  Neither will you find the words, "Trinity" or "Bible" or "grandfather," or "millennium."  But the event known as “The Rapture” is clearly taught there.


One thing is absolutely sure – Jesus will keep His promise to come back for His bride.  Although Christ does not tell His followers when or how He will return, He does provide a 4-part promise that must be kept in mind when studying the Rapture.


That 4-part promise given by Christ in John 14 is:


         1.      He is preparing a place for his people.


         2.      He will come back from heaven.


         3.      His purpose for returning is to retrieve his followers.


         4.      His followers will spend all eternity with Him.


All four of these promises will be fulfilled when the Rapture occurs.  Other writers of the New Testament books provide other details, not given by Jesus in John 14.  However, none of them tell us WHEN.  No one knows when it will happen, but it WILL happen.  Soon there is going to be a mass exodus of Christians from planet earth.  A rendezvous with Christ in the upper atmosphere (in the clouds) will take place.


Last week, one of you asked what the process was by which we called this event the Rapture.  Our English word rapture, as with so many English terms, is derived from the Latin.  Here is how it happened.  In the 4th century, the scholar Jerome translated the New Testament from Greek to Latin.  His translation is known as the Latin Vulgate.  Jerome rendered the Greek word, HARPAZO into Latin with the word Raeptius, which over time became Raptus..  Another derivative of this word is Rapturo, and the root word is Rapio.  This was eventually brought over to English as RAPTURE.  The Latin word Rapio and the Greek Harpazo means, to take by force, to snatch away, to seize forcibly, to catch away.




The most definitive verse about the Rapture is found in 1 Thessalonians 4.  On several occasions, in past lessons, we have looked briefly at 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18This verse answers the HOW that was left unanswered by Christ in John 14.  It does not, however, explain WHEN it will happen.  Let’s look at this Passage once again.


1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 NIV


13     Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.

14     We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.

15     According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.


For the next two verses, let me show you a chart I used in the very first lesson of this series.


1 Thessalonians 4:16-17  (NKJV)


16     For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

17     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.


The Greek word “HARPAZO” is used in verse 17,  and is translated “caught up” in this version.


When most of us hear the word “rapture,” as relating to end-times prophecy, we picture ourselves being caught up to meet Jesus in the air.  But are you aware that other raptures are recorded in the Bible.  In the New Testament, the word HARPAZO is found 14 times.  And even though the word, harpazo is not used in the Old Testament, there are at least two raptures that took place.




                            •  Enoch

                            •  Elijah

                            •  Jesus

                            •  Philip

                            •  2 Witnesses




Gen 5:21-24 NIV


21     When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah.

22     And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters.

23     Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years.

24     Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.


As far as I  can tell from the Bible, this is the first Rapture.  Enoch never died, but was taken by God to be with Him.  Sometimes, events like these are called “translation.”  He was translated from mortal to immortal, then was transported to heaven.


Heb 11:5 NIV


5       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. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.


The KJV says “Enoch was translated…..” and the word translation is used 3 times in the KJV version of this verse.  So, Enoch was the first person to be raptured.


You may have heard the story that a child once told about God and Enoch going on a walk.  He said that Enoch loved to walk with God every day.  They would go on long walks together, talking like two friends.  One day they had walked so far that God turned to Enoch and said, "Enoch, we've walked so far today that we're closer to My house than to yours.  Why don't you just come home with Me."


Enoch is a powerful example to us of the importance of walking with God in difficult days.  He also serves as a graphic illustration of the suddenness of the Rapture.  He was there on earth one moment, and then "he was not."  He had gone "in the twinkling of an eye."




The next rapture takes place in the Book of 2nd Kings.  Elijah’s, one of the chief prophets of God, was coming to the close of his earthly ministry, and Elisha was about to be thrust into that vacancy.


2 Kings 2:1, 9-11 NIV


1       And it came to pass, when the Lord was about to take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal.


9       When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, "Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?" "Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit," Elisha replied.

10     “You have asked a difficult thing," Elijah said, "yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours-otherwise not."

11     As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.


Elijah was taken to heaven in a chariot of fire, in a whirlwind.  Elijah and Elisha were just walking along, talking to each other, and suddenly Elijah was taken up to heaven without dying.  All Elisha could do was look on with amazement.




In Acts 1:8-9 NIV, we find the record of Jesus leaving his disciples and returning to heaven.


8       But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

9       After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.


Luke is the author of the Book of Acts.  But he also records the event of Christ’s ascension in his Gospel writings.


Luke 24:50-51 NIV


50     When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them.

51     While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.


Again we see the rapture of Christ as He leaves this earth.  But neither of these verses that we just read, concerning Christ, uses the Greek word “harpazo” to describe the rapture.  We have to explore another verse to find that word applied to Christ returning to Heaven.


Rev 12:1-5 NKJV


1       Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars.

2       Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.

3       And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads.

4       His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.

5       She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne.


Here, the Greek word harpazo is used to describe the Male Child who is “caught up” to the throne of God.  I believe this male child is Jesus Christ.  In the context of Revelation 12, the woman who gave birth to Jesus is not Mary, but the nation of Israel.  You will also notice that this verse skips over the years between Jesus' birth and His ascension to heaven.  It is a compact account of the life of Jesus that only mentions. His birth, His ultimate mission, and His ascension to heaven.




In Acts 8, we find the account of Philip’s ministry.  In verse 26, we find an angel speaking directly to Philip, telling him to go out into the Gaza desert, apparently by conventional methods.  Most likely by walking.


Philip obeys and finds an Ethiopian Eunuch reading the Book of Isaiah.  Philip comes on board to explain to the Eunuch that what he is reading is about Christ, and after understanding, he asks Philip if it was possible to be baptized.


Acts 8:36, 38-39 NIV


36     As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, "Look, here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptized?" 

38     And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.

39     When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.


                   The New American Standard Bible translates the phrase "suddenly took" as "snatched Philip."


The words in verse 39, “suddenly took” are translated from the Greek word “harpazo.”  So here is another rapture.  But of the people I mention today, Philip is the only one not raptured to Heaven.  He was, however, physically snatched from one location to another about 20 miles away.  Just picture the scene in your mind.  Philip has explained to the Ethiopian eunuch who Jesus is and how to know Him personally.  The eunuch believes in Christ and then asks Philip to baptize him in water.  Philip baptizes the man, and when the Ethiopian man comes up out of the water, he looks around, but Philip is gone.


The Two Witnesses


Let me quickly show you one more rapture.     It is found in Revelation 11.  In this chapter, we find the ministry of the two witnesses during the Tribulation time.  After ministering for 3½ years, they are finally killed, and their bodies are left on the street for 3½ days.  Look at verses 11 & 12.



Rev 11:11-12 NIV


11     But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them.

12     Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, "Come up here." And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on.


Here is another resurrection followed by a rapture to heaven.  Not all raptures are preceded by a resurrection.


Let's return to John 14:1-3 to bring today's lesson to a close.


John 14:1-3


         Let not your heart be troubled.  You believe in God.  Believe also in me.

         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.

         And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am there you may be also.


In the verses we just read, Jesus didn’t tell his disciples exactly when He was going to return.  But He did tell us some very important things.  Things that should bring comfort to each of us.  He starts to unfold some of the events in His timetable that we have been talking about, and about what He was going to be doing before He returned.


Let’s quickly look at the heart of what Jesus said here.  Here is the first nugget of truth found in this passage.


1.      I have ample space for you.


Just before the birth of Jesus, the innkeeper told His parents, “I’m sorry, but there is no room for you in this inn.”  But Jesus said to us, “There is plenty of dwelling places in my Father’s home.”  It will never be too crowded up there.  Even if the world puts up a “no vacancy” sign for me, don’t you worry, I have ample space and will make room for you.


My parents were pastors, and when I was young, there was a song we used to sing.  I haven’t heard it for a long time.  It’s title was “There’s Room At The Cross For You.”  There is one line in the song that says: “Though millions have come, there still room for one.”  Yes, Jesus says there is going to be ample space for us all.


2.      “I am going to prepare a place for you.”


Actually, there are a number of important truths in that short phrase.  The first is this: Jesus said that He was going away to prepare a place for you and me.  He’s not just doing it for others, He said “I am preparing a place for YOU.”  God is very interested in you, personally and you are never out of His mind.


The second thing He says is that He personally will be preparing that place for you.  He is not subcontracting the work out to someone else.  He is taking a personal interest in this place being prepared for you.


I am sure glad He is, because He knows exactly what you need and is preparing a place tailor-made for you.  You never need to worry about getting bored or tired or weary about seeing the same people or singing the same songs.


1 Corinthians 2:9 NKJV


9       ……. "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him." 


                   Heaven is a perfect place for people made perfect.


Yes, there is ample space for us there, and Jesus is personally preparing a place just for you to live,…..


3.      I’m not kidding.


Jesus said, “If this was not true, I would have told you.”  He isn’t kidding.  He means what He says.  You might ask, “Why would God go to such efforts to return and claim us?”  God thought so much of you, that He sent His very best – Jesus Christ.  You were worth dying for, and He thinks you are worth coming back for.


He has promised to return, and He wasn’t kidding.  He will be right on time, according to His timetable.


4.      I want you to be with me forever.


         He said “I will come again, and receive you to myself, so that where I am, you will be also.”


I know that I am looking forward, with great anticipation, to the time when I am finally with Jesus in heaven.  But this verse tells me that Jesus is also looking forward to being with you and me.  Jesus loves you so much, He can’t take his eyes off of you.  And this verse tells us that when Jesus does return, from that moment on, we will always be with Him.  That’s the way He wants it.


5.      He is personally coming for you.


         Verse 3 says, “I will come again, and receive you to myself.”


Jesus is not sending someone else to get you.  He is not even sending an angel, or many angels.  Jesus is going to personally return to get you and me.




So, what does all this mean for us today.  The tension between living for today and looking forward to tomorrow is one of the realities of life.  Christians especially find themselves caught in that tension between the here and now and the hereafter.  Though we are enjoying our daily walk of faith here on earth, we, like the apostle Paul, have a desire to depart and be with Christ.


Bible prophecy emphasizes that we need to be ready because Christ could come at any time.  The Bible not only how to prepare for the future, but how to live right now.  I pray that all who hear this message have made their reservations for the trip into the clouds to meet our Savior face to face. 


Even so, come Lord Jesus.