What Does the Bible Say About the Rapture?

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Many Christians believe in a future End Times event when all true believers still alive before the end of the world will be taken from the earth by God into heaven. The term describing this event is the Rapture.

The Word 'Rapture' Is Not in the Bible

The English word 'rapture' derives from the Latin verb 'Rapere,' meaning 'to carry off,' or 'to catch up.' Although the term 'rapture' is not found in the Bible, the theory is based on Scripture.

Those who accept the Rapture theory believe that all non-believers on earth at the time will be left behind for the tribulation period. Most Bible scholars agree the tribulation period will last seven years -- the final seven years of this age until Christ returns to set up His earthly kingdom during the Millennium.

Pre-Tribulation Rapture

Three main timeframes encase the theory of the Rapture. The most widely-taught view is known as the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, or 'Pre-Trib,' theory. Those who accept this theory believe the Rapture will happen just before the tribulation period, at the beginning of the seventieth week of Daniel.

True followers of Jesus Christ will be transformed into their spiritual bodies in the Rapture and taken from the Earth to be in Heaven with God. Non-believers will be left behind to face severe tribulation as the antichrist prepares to take his place as the Beast halfway through the seven-year period.

According to this view, non-believers will still come to accept Christ in spite of the Church's absence during this time. However, these new Christians will endure extreme persecution, to the point of death by beheading.

Post-Tribulation Rapture

Another popular view is known as Post-Tribulation Rapture, or 'Post-Trib,' theory. Those who accept this theory believe Christians will remain on Earth as witnesses during the seven-year tribulation period until the very end of this age.

According to this view, believers will be removed or protected from the terrible wrath of God predicted toward the end of the seven years in the book of Revelation.

Mid-Tribulation Rapture

A less popular view is known as the Mid-Tribulation Rapture, or 'Mid-Trib,' theory. Those who accept this perspective believe Christians will be taken from the Earth to be in Heaven with God at some point during the middle of the seven-year period of tribulation.

Brief History of the Rapture

The term 'Rapture' first became popular in the United States toward the end of the 19th century through teachings on premillennialism and dispensationalism by John Nelson Darby, an Irish evangelist. The rapture theory continued to grow in popularity among evangelicals largely due to a preacher named William Eugene Blackstone (1841-1935). His book, Jesus is Coming, sold more than one million copies.

In the late 1960's and 1970's, during the Jesus Movement, the Rapture theory made its way into many popular secular songs such as Are You Ready? by Pacific Gas & Electric and In The Year 2525 by Zager and Evans.

The Rapture theory gained even greater interest during this time due to the books of Hal Lindsey. In The Late Great Planet Earth Lindsey predicted an imminent Rapture based on global conditions at the time.

In 1972 Russell S. Doughten produced a four-part movie series beginning with A Thief in the Night. The film recorded the events surrounding the Rapture in a terrifying way, creating widespread public interest in the theory.

In 1991 the film The Rapture, with Mimi Rogers was released. It recorded one woman's experience through the Rapture.

More recently, the popular Christian book series based on the events surrounding the Rapture is the Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins.

Not All Christian Faiths Accept the Rapture Theory

Illustration of Second Coming with Jesus Christ
Illustration of Second Coming with Jesus Christ standing on heavenly cloud below night sky surrounded by angels blowing horns as two women worship on earth below. Peter Dennis/Getty Images

Roman Catholics do not accept a Rapture theory. They believe the concept is a confused understanding of the Second Coming of Christ. The Eastern Orthodox faith also rejects the Rapture theory.

Other mainline Protestant faiths and ministers have challenged the idea of the Rapture, citing inconsistencies and disparate interpretations of Scripture.

Speculation About the Rapture

Those who believe in a future Rapture regard it to be a sudden and cataclysmic event unlike any other phenomenon in history in which millions of people will disappear without warning. As a result, tragic and unexplained accidents will occur on a wide scale basis, ushering in the tribulation period.

Many speculate that non-believers left behind will come to believe in Jesus Christ as a result of the Rapture. Others left behind will remain in disbelief, finding theories to rationalize the bizarre event.

Bible References to the Rapture

Believers cite several verses in the Bible to support a sudden disappearance from Earth, without warning and "in the twinkling of an eye:"

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed — in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51-52, NIV)
"At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other...Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." (Matthew 24:30-36, NIV)
Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. (Matthew 24:40-41, NIV)
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:1-3, NIV)
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (Philippians 3:20-21, NIV)
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Fairchild, Mary. "What Does the Bible Say About the Rapture?" Learn Religions, Sep. 10, 2021, learnreligions.com/what-is-the-rapture-700643. Fairchild, Mary. (2021, September 10). What Does the Bible Say About the Rapture? Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/what-is-the-rapture-700643 Fairchild, Mary. "What Does the Bible Say About the Rapture?" Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/what-is-the-rapture-700643 (accessed March 28, 2023).