AskDefine | Define rapture

Dictionary Definition



1 a state of being carried away by overwhelming emotion; "listening to sweet music in a perfect rapture"- Charles Dickens [syn: ecstasy, transport, exaltation, raptus]
2 a state of elated bliss [syn: ecstasy]

User Contributed Dictionary

see Rapture



rapere, to take away or snatch out.



  1. Extreme pleasure, happiness or excitement
  2. In some forms of fundamentalist Protestant eschatology, the event when Jesus returns and gathers the souls of living believers. (Usually "the rapture.")

Extensive Definition

In fundamentalist Christian eschatology, the Rapture is the name given to the future event in which it is believed that Jesus Christ will descend from Heaven, accompanied by the spirits of all the saints of God, both from the pre-incarnation period and after, who have passed on prior to the rapture, and then the bodies of the saints are joined with their spirits in a resurrection - the First Resurrection - to meet the Lord. Immediately after this, all true Christians alive on the earth are simultaneously transported to meet the Lord and those who have preceded them in the air as well, all, having been transformed into immortal bodies like Jesus' body, often referred to as the "resurrection body".
This doctrine gained popularity in the 1830s, and more recently in the 1970s, with proponents of the premillennialist, and in particular the dispensationalist, interpretations of scripture. However, proponents of the doctrine have argued that it can be found in the early Church fathers and the New Testament.
There is much disagreement amongst rapture proponents over when the rapture will occur in relation to the Tribulation, a seven-year period preceding the second coming of Christ to the earth, or indeed, if the duration of the Tribulation will be seven years or only a 3 1/2 year period. Some understand the tribulation of Matthew 24 as having already taken place in 70 AD at the destruction of Jerusalem. (see Preterism). Three different views predominate. The first is that it will take place sometime prior to the Tribulation. The second is that it will take place mid-way through the Tribulation. The third is that it will take place after the Tribulation, when Christ comes to earth to establish His kingdom, the Kingdom of God, taking over rulership of the world for 1,000 years. (see Millennialism). A fourth view has recently developed, called the Pre-Wrath view.


"Rapture", when used in eschatological terms, is an English word used in place of the Latin word raeptius; taken from the Vulgate, which in turn is a translation of the Koine Greek word harpazo, which is found in the Greek New Testament manuscripts of 1 Thessalonians 4:17. In many modern English translations of the Bible, harpazo is translated; "caught up", or "taken away".
"Harpazo" \har-pad'-zo\ Koine Greek; "forcibly snatched away", "taken for oneself".

History of doctrine

The Catholic and Orthodox churches as well as the Reformed denominations have no tradition of such a teaching and reject the doctrine, in part because they cannot find any reference to it among any of the early Church fathers. Some also reject it because they interpret prophetic scriptures in either an amillennial or postmillennial fashion, as being more spiritual than physical.
Proponents of the rapture insist that the doctrine of amillennialism originated with Alexandrian scholars such as Clement and Origen and was later brought wholly into Roman Catholic dogma by Augustine. Hence, the church up until then held to premillennial views, which see an impending apocalypse from which the church will be rescued after being raptured by the Lord. This is even extrapolated by some to mean that the early church espoused pretribulationism.
Some Pre-Tribulation proponents maintain that the earliest known extra-Biblical reference to the "Pre-Tribulation" rapture is from a sermon falsely attributed to the fourth-century Church Father Ephraem the Syrian, which says, "For all the saints and Elect of God are gathered, prior to the tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins." However, the interpretation of this writing, as supporting Pre-Tribulation rapture, is debated.
There exists at least one 18th century and two 19th century Pre-Tribulation references, in a book published in 1788, in the writings of a Catholic priest Emmanuel Lacunza in 1812, and by John Nelson Darby himself in 1827. However, both the book published in 1788 and the writings of Lacunza have opposing views regarding their interpretations, as well.
The rise in belief in the "Pre-Tribulation" rapture is sometimes attributed to a 15-year old Scottish-Irish girl named Margaret McDonald (a follower of Edward Irving), who in 1830 had a vision that was later published in 1861.
The popularization of the term is associated with teaching of John Nelson Darby, prominent among the Plymouth Brethren, and the rise of premillennialism and dispensationalism in English-speaking churches at the end of the 19th century. In 1908, the doctrine of the rapture was further popularized by an evangelist named William Eugene Blackstone, whose book, Jesus Is Coming, sold more than one million copies. The first known appearance of the theological use of the word "rapture" in print occurs with the Scofield Reference Bible of 1909.
In 1957, Dr. John Walvoord, a theologian at Dallas Theological Seminary, authored a book, "The Rapture Question," that gave theological support to the Pre-Tribulation rapture; this book eventually sold over 65,000 copies. In 1958, J. Dwight Pentecost authored another book supporting the Pre-Tribulation rapture, Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology, that sold 215,000 copies.
During the 1970s, the rapture became popular in wider circles, in part due to the books of Hal Lindsey, including The Late Great Planet Earth, which has reportedly sold between 15 million and 35 million copies and by the movie "A Thief in the Night" which based its title on the scriptural reference 1 Thessalonians 5:2. Lindsey proclaimed that the rapture was imminent, an idea that he based on world conditions at the time. The Cold War and the European Economic Community figured prominently in his predictions of impending Armageddon. Other aspects of 1970s global politics were seen as having been predicted in the Bible. Lindsey suggested, for example, that the seven-headed beast with ten horns, cited in the Book of Revelation, was the European Economic Community, a forebear of the European Union, which at the time aspired to ten nations; it now has 27 member states.
In 1995, the doctrine of the Pre-Tribulation rapture was further popularized by Tim LaHaye's book series, Left Behind, which sold tens of millions of copies and was made into several movies.
The doctrine of the rapture continues to be an important component in fundamentalist Christian eschatology today. Many fundamentalist Christians continue to feel that world conditions point to the rapture, Tribulation, and return of Christ occurring soon.

Scriptural basis

Supporters of the doctrine of the rapture generally proof-text the following primary sources in the New Testament (the following are quoted from the NKJV):
  • "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 to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also."(John 14:2–3)
  • "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself."(Philippians 3:20-21)
  • "And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?""(1 Corinthians 15:49–55) Note that the saying that is quoted toward the end of these passages comes from the Old Testament as follows: "Death is swallowed up in victory" is from Isaiah 25:8 and "O Death, where is your sting?" is found in Hosea 13:14.
  • "For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 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. 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."(1 Thessalonians 4:15–17)
  • "Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way."(2 Thessalonians 2:1-7)

Views on the timing of the rapture

One of the tenets of the dispensationalist interpretation of Bible prophecy is that in the prophecy of 70 weeks from the book of Daniel (), between the 69th and 70th weeks there is a break, lasting an unspecified period of time. Thus, the 70th week of seven years has not yet occurred. This seven-year period will mark the end of the current dispensation, and is referred to as the Tribulation. There is considerable debate among Christians who believe in the rapture in regard to the timing of the rapture relative to the Tribulation. Most views hold that Christian believers will be either removed from, or protected from the judgment of God's wrath.


The Pre-Tribulation rapture is the view that the rapture will occur before the beginning of the Tribulation period. According to this view, the Christian Church that existed prior to that seven-year period has no vital role during the seven years of Tribulation, and will therefore be removed. Many people who accept Christ after the rapture will be martyred for their faith during the Tribulation. Saint John the Divine, which some believe is the apostle John, is seen in Revelation 4:1 as representing the Church caught up to Heaven. John hears the Trumpet and a voice that says, "Come up hither", and he is translated in the Spirit to Heaven and then sees what will happen for those left on earth. The Pre-Tribulation rapture is the most widely held position among American evangelical Christians.[documentation needed] It has become popular in recent years around the world and through the work of dispensational preachers such as Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost, Tim LaHaye, Dr. J. Vernon McGee, Chuck Smith, Dr. Chuck Missler, Jack Van Impe, and Dr. Grant Jeffrey.

Imminent or not imminent?

Some who believe in a Pre-Tribulation rapture warn that the rapture is imminent, saying that all of the prophecies concerning the latter days have been fulfilled to the extent that the rapture could take place at any moment. Others suggest that certain requirements must first be met before a rapture can occur, such as these:
  1. The nations of the world must unify their currency onto a universal standard.
  2. There will be peace in Israel (Ezekiel 38).
  3. There will be a one-world government, to correspond to the 7th beast of Revelation, prior to the Antichrist's 8th beast government.
  4. The Jewish temple in Jerusalem must be rebuilt in its original place.
  5. Observance of Old Testament commandments concerning animal sacrifices must be reinstated.
  6. There will be a great falling away and the AntiChrist will be revealed. Bible verse 2|Thessalonians|2


A minority view, with few proponents today, is that the rapture happens half-way through the seven-year Tribulation. This view is supported by the 7th chapter of Daniel (Verse 25), where it says the saints will be given over to tribulation for "time, times, and half a time" which is interpreted to mean 3.5 years. That is, half way through the seven years of the tribulation. At this juncture, the Antichrist commits the "abomination of desolation" by desecrating the Jerusalem temple (to be built on what is now called The Temple Mount.)

Prewrath rapture

The prewrath rapture view is that the tribulation of the church begins toward the latter part of the seven-year period, being Daniel's 70th week, when the Antichrist is revealed in the temple. The great Tribulation, according to this view, is of the Antichrist against the church at this time. The duration of this tribulation is unknown, except that it begins and ends during the second half of Daniel's 70th week. References from Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 are used as evidence that this tribulation will be cut short by the coming of Christ to deliver the righteous by means of rapture, which will occur after the sixth seal is opened and the Sun is darkened and the moon is turned to blood. However, by this point many Christians will have been slaughtered as martyrs by the Antichrist. After the rapture comes God's seventh-seal wrath of trumpets and bowls (a.k.a. "the Day of the Lord"). The Day of the Lord's wrath against the ungodly will follow for the remainder of the seven years.


The Post-Tribulation rapture (or "Post-Trib") view places the rapture at the end of the Tribulation period, based on passages such as 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, seen as quoting the words of "the Lord" as indicated in Matthew 24:29-31 (see table below). From this perspective, Christian believers will be on the earth as witnesses to Christ during the entire seven years, until the last day of the tribulation period.
Post-Tribulation advocates find no scriptural support for the so-called "Yo-Yo Theory", which they describe as the first-Second Coming of Christ in the clouds for the rapture and then coming back again for a second-Second Coming (sometimes called the Second Coming in two parts or the Second and Third Coming). However, the pre-trib believers would say that they do not support two comings of Christ. The first is for the Church (and not a return)- then Christ will return to the Earth to set up the millennial kingdom. The Rapture is not considered to be the coming of Christ but a specific snatching away of the Church.
The Post-Tribulation view brings Christ's "appearing" and his "coming" together in one all-encompassing, grand event. Matthew 24:29–31; "Immediately after the tribulation of those days…they shall gather together his elect…", is cited as a foundational scripture for this view. Pat Robertson describes the end times this way in his 1995 novel The End of the Age. Another supporting scripture is John 17:15-16, where Jesus prays that the Father not take his (Jesus') disciples from the earth, but that he (the Father) would nevertheless "keep them from the evil one." This is taken to preclude a Pre-Trib or a Mid-Trib rapture to heaven at any time. Prominent authors supporting this view are Walter Ralston Martin, John Piper, George Eldon Ladd, Robert H. Gundry, and Douglas Moo.

Agnostic position

This is a lesser-known position that maintains that the Scriptures are intentionally unclear about the relationship of the rapture to the Tribulation. As a result, believers could anticipate the return of Jesus to the clouds at any moment while yet watching for the rise of the Antichrist. This position claims to harmonize two seemingly contradictory threads.

Date setting

Generally, believers in the rapture of the church no longer make predictions regarding the exact timing of the event itself. The primary scripture reference cited for this position is Matthew 24:36, where Jesus is quoted saying; "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone" (NASB). Gary Demar has jokingly challenged "date setters" to sign a contract turning over all their assets to him on the day after they claim the Rapture is to occur (he has written a book, Last Days Madness, endorsing the preterist position and challenges many of the popular ideas of Bible prophecy).
Any individual or religious group that has dogmatically predicted the day of the rapture, referred to as "date setting", has been thoroughly embarrassed and discredited, as the predicted date of fulfillment came and went without event. Some of these individuals and groups have offered excuses and "corrected" target dates, while others have simply released a reinterpretation of the meaning of the scripture to fit their current predicament, and then explained that although the prediction appeared to have not come true, in reality it had been completely accurate and fulfilled, albeit in a different way than many had expected.
Conversely, many of those who believe that the precise date of the rapture cannot be known, do affirm that the specific time frame that immediately precedes the rapture event can be known. This time frame is often referred to as "the season". The primary section of scripture cited for this position is Matthew 24:32-35; where Jesus is quoted teaching the parable of the fig tree, which is proposed as the key that unlocks the understanding of the general timing of the rapture, as well as the surrounding prophecies listed in the sections of scripture that precede and follow this parable.
Some notable rapture predictions include the following:
  • 1792 - Shakers calculated this date
  • 1981 - Chuck Smith undogmatically predicted that Jesus would likely return by 1981.
  • 1989 - Publication of The final shout: Rapture report 1989, by Edgar Whisenant. More predictions by this author appeared for 1992, 1995, and other years.


External links

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rapture in Danish: Bortrykkelsen
rapture in German: Entrückung
rapture in Spanish: Arrebatamiento de la Iglesia
rapture in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Rapto
rapture in Dutch: Opname van de gemeente
rapture in Portuguese: Arrebatamento
rapture in Simple English: Rapture
rapture in Swedish: Uppryckandet
rapture in Chinese: 被提

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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