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The Rapture refers to an event that some Christians believe will occur in the end-times - that all Christians will be taken up into the sky to meet Jesus and be taken to heaven. The doctrine of the Rapture is relatively recent, becoming popular with certain Protestant denominations in the nineteenth century.

Although all denominations teach that that those who are "saved" will have eternal life, the term "rapture" is usually applied specifically to the belief that all Christians will be "taken" up into the air to meet Jesus and be taken into heaven at a specific moment. Its introduction and popularization in Christian belief is relatively recent, and the teachings of older Churches do not include any such doctrine.

The timing of "when" the rapture will take place is a key point often discussed and debated between denominations and individuals who accept the belief. One belief ("dispensationalist" or "futurist" interpretations) is that the rapture will take place at an unknown period of time prior to the beginning of the seven year tribulation, and that at that time only non-Christians will be left on the earth. However, according to the dispensationalist view, many will come to know Christ during the time of the tribulation. Others believe that the rapture will be a very audible and visible event which takes place after the events of the tribulation, right at the Second Coming of Christ in which the righteous will be taken up in the clouds to meet Christ upon his return. Other Christians teach that Jesus will return when all on Earth have come to worship Him as their savior.


The word "rapture" comes from the same root as rapt: the Latin verb rapere, or the adjective raeptius, which means "carried away by force, caught up." The 405 AD Vulgate translation used it in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, which is the primary biblical reference usually quoted for the Rapture event. The specific form used is rapiemur, "we shall be caught up", translating the original Greek harpagēsometha (ἁρπαγησόμεθα) (passive voice, future tense of harpazō (ἁρπάζω): "snatch away, carry off.")

However, the word "rapture" itself is found nowhere in English Bible translations nor in its original Greek or Hebrew documents.

Three Major views on the Timing of the Rapture


Dispensationalism is referred to as the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, or simply "Pre-Trib". This is the belief that the Rapture will occur at the beginning of the 70th Week of Daniel, the final seven years of this age. Christian believers will be translated into immortal bodies in the Rapture before the great persecutions by the Antichrist as he comes into his Beast role midway through the final seven years. 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. However, one should keep in mind that the Bible affirms that the Church is made up of individual Christians. If the rapture occurs according to pre-trib doctrine, many others will believe in the Jesus Christ of the Bible and will be saved, despite having missed the "rapture" and will now have to go through that tribulation period with everyone else on the Earth. When those people become new Christians, they will be part of "the Church" on earth during this time period. They will witness during the first three and one half years, and they will also witness during the last three and a half years, or 1260 days of the Great Tribulation, which follow. The pre-trib rapture is sometimes presented as minority opinion among Christians, but it has become popular in recent years around the world and through the work of dispensational preachers such as Tim LaHaye and Hal Lindsey.


The other main view is termed the Post Tribulation Rapture (or "Post-Trib"). This view admits the concept of "rapture" from 1 Thessalonians, but does not see an intervening 7-year period between the rapture and the return of Christ. This viewpoint is that Christian believers will be on earth as witnesses to Christ during the entire seven years and right up until the last day of this age. This includes the final three and one half years of the age believed to be the time period of the Antichrist in his malevolent role as the Beast. The post-trib view is supported by Matthew 24:29–31

"Immediately after the tribulation of those days...they shall gather together his elect..."

Both views hold that Christian believers will be either removed from, or protected from, the judgement when the wrath of God falls and the wicked are carried off at the end of the age

Pre-wrath rapture

The Pre-wrath Rapture view teaches that at the midpoint of the "7 year period" the "abomination of desolation" will begin the Antichrist's Great Tribulation. Then sometime during the Great Tribulation it will be cut short with the Coming of Christ to deliver the righteous (rapture) and then the subsequent Day of the Lord's wrath against the ungodly will follow for the remaining 7 year period.


Some notable predictions include these:

  • 1988 - Publication of 88 Reasons why the Rapture is in 1988, by Edgar C. Whisenant.
  • 1989 - Publication of The final shout: Rapture report 1989, by Edgar Whisenant. More predictions by this author appeared for 1992, 1995, and other years.
  • 1992 - Korean group "Mission for the Coming Days " predicted October 28, 1992 as the date for the rapture.
  • 1993 - Seven years before the year 2000. The Rapture would have to start to allow for seven years of the Tribulation before the Return in 2000. Multiple predictions.
  • 1994 - Pastor John Hinkle of Christ Church in Los Angeles predicted June 9, 1994.
  • 1997 - Stan Johnson of the Prophecy Club predicted September 12, 1997. [1]
  • 1998 - Marilyn Agee, in The End of the Age, predicted May 31, 1998.
  • 2000 - Many "millennial" predictions.

Predictions continue to appear in fundamentalist literature and speeches.

Scriptural basis and the Ongoing Debate

Although there are alternative interpretaions, the Rapture interpretation states that in the near future dead believers in Jesus will be brought back to life and believers who have never died will be changed in the "twinkling of an eye" and both groups will be taken up to heaven.

Supporters for this belief generally cite the following primary sources in the New Testament:

  • 1 Corinthians 15:52 - "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:15 - "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 preceed 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. "

Generally, an elaborate set of predictions about the end times is constructed from these verses, together with various interpretations of the Book of Revelation and the predictions of Christ's return in Matthew 24:30-36. In general, believers in the rapture consider the present to be the end times, and offer interpretations of the various symbolisms in the book of Revelation in terms of contemporary world events.


Many Christians who do not agree that there will be a pre-tribulation Rapture of the Church point out that it is a relatively new doctrine, first popularized in the 1800s and elaborated on subsequently. There are whole denominations holding this view. The Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox do not accept it either, as such a thing as "rapture" was never taught by any of their bishops, from the beginning.

Many do not accept the pre-Tribulation rapture interpretation because they believe that it is not clearly expressed in the Bible, but instead relies on extrapolations and inferences made from unconnected verses. Many further believe that if anything this significant were intended to be a major part of Christian teaching, then surely Christ would have made a plain reference to it in his own sermons as recorded in the Gospel, and not buried such a major prophecy in a few verses of the Apostle Paul.

One common criticism of the pre-Tribulation rapture is based on the assumption that the necessity of believing in Christ would be proven, by the events of the rapture, to anyone left behind. Thus anyone left behind who had knowledge of the rapture theory, but previously did not believe in Christ, would essentially be forced, by the proof of this miracle, to believe.

Most Roman Catholics and many Protestants do not accept the concept of a pre-Tribulation rapture in which some are "taken up into Heaven" before the end of the world, because as mentioned, it is claimed that this idea did not exist in the teachings of any Christians until the 1800s. Instead, most Catholics and many Protestants interpret 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 literally, and assert that the rapture will immediately follow the general resurrection on Judgment Day, when the living and the newly-resurrected-dead will rise up to meet Christ as he descends from heaven to judge the world (known as the Parousia). This is analogous to the common custom in which the people would go outside the gates of a kingdom to meet their returning king. Catholics and post-tribulation Protestants consider the rapture to be merely a minor detail in the Biblical description of the Second Coming of Christ.

Barbara R. Rossing, a Lutheran minister, challenges the idea of the rapture in her 2004 book The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation. In it, she discusses the history of dispensationalism, arguing that the Biblical verses cited in support of the rapture are grossly taken out of context and misinterpreted.

There are also a number of other objections to the rapture theory. Those scriptures offered in support of the rapture do not require a rapture for their fulfillment.

Plus, inasmuch as the rapture theory requires belief that Christ will visit the Earth not once more -- but twice -- it's important to note that the New Testament speaks of Christ's return in the singular only.

Rhe famous Baptist theologian Dale Moody wrote: "Belief in a pre-tribulational rapture . . . contradicts all three chapters in the New Testament that mention the tribulation and the rapture together (Mark 13:24–27; Matthew 24:26–31; 2 Thessalonians 2:1–12)... The theory is so biblically bankrupt that the usual defence is made using three passages that do not even mention a tribulation (John 14:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 15:52). These are important passages, but they have not had one word to say about a pre-tribulational rapture. The score is 3 to 0, three passages for a post-tribulational rapture and three that say nothing on the subject... Pre-tribulationism is biblically bankrupt and does not know it" (The Word of Truth, 556–7).

The Rapture in the media

Charlie Daniels sings about the rapture from the pre-tribulation perspective in this music video of his song "Tribulation"[2]

The 1941 religious propaganda film The Rapture calls to the faithful to make sure that they are ready for the rapture and shows the fate of those left behind.

The 1972 four-part movie series starting with A Thief in the Night, which chronicled events before and after the rapture, in an intentionally frightening way, produced by Russell S. Doughten.

The 1991 film The Rapture, about one woman's experience of the rapture, starring Mimi Rogers and David Duchovony. The film shows the progression of Mimi Roger's character from hedonistic swinger to devout Christian, and finally to rejection of God even after the Rapture has taken place.

Episode 19 in season 16 of The Simpsons, titled "Thank God, it's Doomsday" features Homer predicting the Rapture. After seeing a movie titled "Left Below" (a parody of "Left Behind"), he becomes paranoid and predicts that the Rapture will occur at 3:15 p.m. on May 18.

The band Sonic Youth, released their 21st album Rather Ripped, which features a song called "Do You Believe in Rapture?"


Links and References

Denominational Rapture Views

Left Behind (Series)

Miscellaneous Links

Return to Eschatology


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