First lets get the mainstream argument out of the way. There is no mention of the word "rapture" in the Holy Bible anywhere, second, this concept was not introduced by John Darby, and lastly, these facts make absolutely no difference to the outcome of my argument.
The Greek word used for " caught up" in the following scripture is the word Harpazo which means to "pluck" or "snatch away" or "to carry off by force". All of the scriptures I will refer to will be from the King James Version (KJV).
"For this we say unto you by the Word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel and with the Trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words."
I Thessalonians 4:15-18
A few things about this citing - in 1611 AD English, the language used in the Authorized KJV Bible, the word "prevent" was used to convey "precede" or "go in front of" or "go before", so the last part of the first phrase could read shall not go before them which are asleep.
The phrase that says "caught up" means just what it says, but through the years and many latin iterations became known as "raptured", however, the best rendering would be the phrase "taken by force".
The word "clouds" in the original Greek text did not have the definite article "the" preceding it (it should have been translated caught up together with them in clouds) indicating masses with the appearance of clouds.
The Greek also used two words for "air", each describing different altitudes; this verse uses aer which refers to altitudes under 6400 ft. and the other word is aither, meaning higher than 6400 ft. The lower atmosphere, of aer is also the abode of the "powers and principalities" or demons which will try to stop this event from happening, hence Jesus will have to "pluck us out" or "take us by force".
Knowing these details, this verse is summarized by stating that "The Word of the Lord says that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not go before them which are dead. For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel ( Michael) and with the Trump of God. And the glorified bodies of the dead in Christ shall rise first to be united with their spirit and soul from Heaven: Then we which are alive and remain shall be carried off by force together with them in great masses of glorified saints having the appearance of clouds to meet the Lord in the lower atmosphere (under 6400ft.): and so shall we be with the Lord forever."
The Apostle Paul explained this to the Corinthians in I Cor 15:51-53: "Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep (die), but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump (denoting the end of the Church Age): for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible (glorified / no sin nature), and we (those alive at the time) shall be changed."
The Lord himself is recorded as giving us a comforting promise in 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."
Jesus Christ is telling us that he will be going to Heaven to prepare a place for us and that when the time is at hand, he will return to recieve us to him so that we can go to Heaven to be with him. Notice he says nothing in this verse about setting up a Kingdom on Earth, that comes later, after his second coming just before the battle of Armageddon at the end of the tribulation period.
The Old Testament gives examples or "types" of the rapture as well:
The Old Testament Patriarch, Enoch was the seventh from Adam, was converted at 65 years of age and lived for God for the rest of his 365 year lifespan, then according to Genesis 5:24 : "And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him" The Hebrew word for "took" in this passage is Laqach, which means "carry away".
A passage in Hebrews 11:5 refers to this event as well: "By Faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God." The word "translated" means transported or removed and Enoch was not the only person who was removed in this manner, there was one more.
A passage in II Kings 2:11 describes the translation of Elijah: "And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven." Nine hundred years later, in Malachi 4:5 we find the following prophecy: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the Prophet before the great and dreadful day of the Lord."
These two Godly men were removed without death for a reason. Hebrews 9:27 says "And as it is appointed to men once to die, but after this the Judgement", these two men will return alive to Earth during the great Tribulation to prophesy in Jerusalem for 1260 days, after which, they will be murdered by the Antichrist (Rev 11:3-12).
What is the reason for the "Rapture" of the church? When the world conditions are right for the final stages of the human quest for salvation through self-righteousness (which the Bible and other sources indicate is a period of 6000 years which will be covered in a different post), the true church of Christ is removed in order to allow for the advancement of evil and the takeover of the world by the Antichrist.
In II Thessalonians 2:6-8 we read: "And now you know what withholds that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity does already work: only he who now lets will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that wicked be revealed whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming."
The true church on Earth is acting as a restrainer of the plan of the Antichrist. This scripture says that when the church is removed, the Antichrist will be revealed for who he is. The tribulation period is often described as the "70th week of Daniel" (lasting 7 years), or "the time of Jacob's trouble", which means it is the wrath of God poured out on un-repentant Israel. The Great Tribulation does not apply to the true church of Christ, only Israel.
The fact that the church is not a part of this wrath is stated in I Thessalonians 5:9-11, "For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also you do."
In the Old Testament there are several examples of God warning his people about a coming wrath, providing his people an escape from that wrath, and the un-repentant remainder of the population having to stay and suffer the wrath. Noah was warned, escaped in the ark, and the rest of the world suffered. Lot was warned, escaped Sodom and Gomorrah, and the rest faced judgement. God warns his people, provides a way to safety, and destroys the enemy.
The Book of Revelation is actually known as the "Revelation of Jesus Christ", which was given to John in a vision while in the spirit during his exile on the Isle of Patmos. The book is divided into three parts that John is instructed to write (Rev 1:19) "Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter." The first part, things seen, are covered in chapter 1. The second part, things which are, are covered in chapters 2 & 3. The third part, things to be hereafter, is covered in the remaining chapters 4 through 22.
Chapters 2 & 3 cover the history of the church, divided into seven periods or ages. The letters to the churches give a description of the characteristics of the particular church and the corresponding church period as well as warnings to all of these churches. The only way to get the full picture is to study the history of each of these church periods in order, but that's for another post.
To summarize, these church periods are as such:
- Ephesus - The apostolic church - AD 30 to AD 96
- Smyrna - The martyr church - AD 96 to AD 316
- Pergamos - The state church - AD 316 to AD 500
- Thyatira - The Papal church - AD 500 to present
- Sardis - The reformation church - AD 1500 to present
- Philadelphia - The missionary church - AD 1793 to present
- Laodicea - The apostate church - NOW (we don't know exactly when it started)
The beginning of Revelation 4 starts like this: "After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in Heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me, which said, Come up hither, and I will show you things which must be hereafter."
This verse is a type of the "rapture" of the church which John is a part of. He hears the trumpet as spoken of in II Thessalonians 4:16, he is "caught up" as described in II Thessalonians 4:17, and is going to be shown what will happen once he is there, or "hereafter" after the rapture. From this point on the church is not mentioned at all. The remaining activities on earth are in relation to the Jews of Israel.
The rest of the book presents the judgement over the un-repented masses still on earth, the tribulation events, and finally the return of the church as the army of Christ at his second coming in chapter 19.
From chapter 4 to chapter 19 (verse10) the church has been in Heaven participating in the Judgement Seat of Christ, and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb as the Bride of Christ. The church cannot be on earth at the same time it is participating in these events.
Luke in chapter 14 verse 14 says that recompense for the saint is done immediately at the resurrection of the just, which is the rapture. The rapture of the church is a continuation of the resurrection of Christ event, of which Christ was "the firstfruits of them who slept" as stated in I Corinthians 15:20.
The rapture is PRE-Tribulation. Are you ready? There are no more prophetic events that need to happen to set up the rapture of the church, it can happen at any time. The tribulation period does not have to start immediately following the rapture, it could take several years.
The present day church is made up of believers and non-believers as well as pastors who are preaching false doctrines. Today's church is an apostate church with Jesus Christ on the outside knocking and asking to come in. If your Christian profession will not stand the test of actual possession of salvation, then you will remain on the earth to suffer through the tribulation period, you could still be saved in the future, but it will be very difficult to finish the race.
If you are not looking for the soon return of the Lord, then you are not ready. If you have never seen yourself as a lost sinner who needs Jesus Christ as a saviour, and have never put heart-faith trust in him and his blood atonement on the cross for your salvation, then you are not ready for his coming.
The good news is, THE DAY OF GRACE IS TODAY.
Jesus will receive you if you come to him in faith believing. Again - are you ready?