The Rapture: Still Our Blessed Hope

Paul instructs believers to wait “for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).[1] As his instructions pertain to “the present age” (v12), I believe this “blessed hope” includes the Rapture of the Church.[2]

The teaching of the Rapture as a comfort to the Church is under attack. Popular authors and bloggers (many of them Reformed) have effectively turned many Christians away from belief in the Rapture. Perhaps fictionalized end-times scenarios in books and movies have led some to believe that the idea of a Rapture is indeed fiction. Is the evangelical world becoming “post-Rapture”?

The attacks often run something like this: 1) The word “rapture” is not found in Scripture. While true in English Bibles, this point is not necessarily important. The Latin Bible does contain the word rapio (1Th 4:17), and our English word “rapture” is derived from it. Rapio means “to seize or snatch away.” 2) Belief in the Rapture began in the 1830s with John Nelson Darby and therefore was not embraced as doctrine during the majority of Christian history. On the contrary, it can be pointed out that other Christian writers believed in a Rapture event centuries prior to Darby. 3) Christians who believe in the Rapture are escapists who want to do nothing to help the many problems in our world. However, many missionaries have spread the gospel, holding a belief in the Rapture of the Church.

Attacks aside, the important thing is to look at the Scriptures.

Promise of the Rapture

Jesus promised in John 14:3, “I will come again.” Where was He going? Remember that Jesus said this to sorrowing disciples because He had just told them He was going away (13:33,36). He will tell them later (16:7) that it will be for their benefit that He go away. So where was He going? To where He was before He came to earth. “I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father” (16:28). In chapter 16, He said three times that He was going to the Father (vv10,17,28). Where is the Father? In the Father’s house (14:2 – “In my Father’s house are many rooms”). What is the Father’s house? Heaven, the place from which He came.

At this “coming again” He says He will “take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (14:3). Jesus promised to come again and to take the disciples to the place where He is going.

It should be stressed that most Christians believe in a return of Christ. It is the timing of it that is most disputed. Many Christians believe in a single return of Christ to the earth to set up His kingdom and/or to introduce the new heavens and the new earth. Can that be what Jesus is referring to in John 14? If so, we might expect Him to say, “I will come again, and you will take me to yourself that where you are, there I may be also.” But what He says is just the opposite: “I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (14:3). Christ is coming to take us from here (earth) to be with Him there (heaven), and it is a promise! God always comes through on His promises.

Previews of the Rapture

There have been other raptures. How do we define “rapture”? William Mounce describes one of the meanings of the word used here in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 (Greek harpazo) as follows: “God’s activity in physically and miraculously transporting people from one place to another.”[3] Have individuals ever been physically and miraculously transported from one place to another? “Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him” (Gen 5:24). Elijah was swept away in a chariot of fire, transported from earth to heaven (2Ki 2:11). The word harpazo is used in Acts 8:39: “the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more.” The word is also used of the Lord Jesus, seen as the man child in Revelation 12:5, who was “caught up” to God and to His throne. Thus, there have been other rapture events. Why should Christ’s promise to do the same for His own be thought unusual?

There will even be a rapture after the Rapture of the Church (a post-Rapture rapture). During the Tribulation Period, the two witnesses of Revelation 11 are killed, but then rise again. Afterwards we read, “And they went up to heaven in a cloud” (v12).

Participants in the Rapture

Jesus makes this promise to His disciples in John 14: “I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

Paul adds more clarity on the participants in the Rapture. He says in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 that the dead “in Christ” will rise first. Not all the dead will arise at the Rapture, but only those “in Christ.” This implies that those who are “alive and remain” (KJV) and are “caught up together with them” are also those “in Christ.” Who are those “in Christ”? They are believers of the Church Age. OT believers are never said to be “in Christ,” and appear to have their time of resurrection at the end of the 7-year tribulation period (Dan 12:1-2,13).

This is consistent with the imagery of Christ as Bridegroom and the Church as His Bride. He is coming to take His Bride whom He purchased, to be with Him in the Father’s house, where He has prepared for her a dwelling place. This is what traditionally happened within first-century Jewish customs.[4] The groom left his place of residence (his father’s house), traveled to the bride’s place of residence, paid a price to purchase her, and then left to make a dwelling place, which was usually an addition to the already existing father’s house. This is what Christ did. He left heaven (the Father’s house) and came here to where we lived (earth). He paid a great price to make us His (by shedding His blood). Then He went back to heaven, thus preparing a place for us. His return to the Father involved death and resurrection, and this is how He prepared a place in heaven for us. Now we await His return. Church Age believers are privileged to be the participants in the Rapture – still our blessed hope.


[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

[2] To believers reading Titus 2:13 who will be living during the dark days of the Tribulation period, Christ’s return to reign upon the earth will be their “blessed hope.”

[3] William D. Mounce, Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 666.

[4] Renald Showers, Maranatha: Our Lord Come (Bellmawr, NJ: Friends of Israel, 1995), 164-169.