The Rapture

INDEX:
* What Does 'Rapture' Mean?
* Paul's testimony
* When the Rapture Happens
* The Signs of Matthew 24
* An Invitation to the Wedding Banquet
* The Groom, the Bride, and the Friends
* The Wedding Banquet of Matthew 22
* Where Will the Wedding Banquet be Held?

What Does 'Rapture' Mean?

This is a subject that some Christians believe in fervently and others laugh off as a joke. We have often seen bumper stickers on the cars of self-righteous people proclaiming, 'In the event of Rapture, this car will be driverless.' So, some seem very sure that there will be a rapture and that they will be taken as part of it. But what does the Bible say?

The concept of the Rapture is based on Jesus' words found at Matthew 24:40, 41, which says: 'Then two men will be in the field, one will be taken along and the other abandoned. Two women will be grinding at a hand mill, one will be taken along, and the other abandoned.'

Rapture is an old English word that originally meant 'a transporting.' And that is the basic meaning given to it by religious people – that they will be instantly taken along and transported to heaven in their fleshly bodies. Yet, some commentators have concluded that these verses have a meaning that is opposite to that of being taken to heaven. They say the verses imply that the one taken away will be destroyed and the one left behind is the one that is saved. This could also be true, since Jesus' words are a bit vague. However, the Greek word (para/lambanetai) that we have translated as taken along here, is never used in other verses to mean just taken (as in death), but always as taken along. So the logical assumption is that Jesus was in fact speaking of individuals being taken into the sky.

However, notice how the Gospel writer Mark quoted Jesus' same words at Mark 13:24-27:
'Then, in the days that follow this difficult time…
The sun will be dark and the moon will not shine,
The stars will fall from the skies,
And the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

For they'll see the Son of Man coming in the clouds, with great power and glory. Then he'll send his messengers off to gather his elected from the four winds… from the ends of the lands to the ends of the skies!'

So it is interesting that although a gathering of the elected is mentioned in Mark's account, there is no specific description of a rapture. And Luke's parallel account of Jesus' words on the same occasion don't even mention a gathering. Also notice that the words shown in italic above were a quotation from the prophecy found in Joel Chapter 2, part of which Peter quoted when he was explaining the outpouring of Holy Spirit on Pentecost 33-CE. So, is there some chance that the account in Matthew has been corrupted? Yes there is, as we will discuss later.

Paul's Testimony

Is being taken into heaven an automatic thing for 'the righteous' when they die? Note what Paul (the Apostle) wrote about his hope at Philippians 3:8-14: 'Because of him, I’ve accepted the loss everything and consider it all so much garbage, so I can gain the Anointed One and to be found in him. But this isn’t because of my own righteousness due to following the Law; rather, it comes from my faith that he is the Anointed of God! For my righteousness [is now based on my] faith and knowledge of him and in the power of his resurrection. Therefore, I've been willing to share in his sufferings and resign myself to a death like his, so that I can somehow be found worthy of an out-resurrection from the dead. [I’m not saying] that I’ve made it yet or that I’m already perfect, just that I’m chasing after it… I’m trying to grab hold of that for which the Anointed Jesus grabbed hold of me! Brothers, I don’t think of myself as having achieved it yet, but I am doing this one thing: [I’m] forgetting the things in the past and stretching to reach out for the things that are ahead… I’m running toward the goal, the prize of the higher calling from God, through the Anointed Jesus.'

As you can see, Paul didn't consider such a resurrection into the presence of God as 'a done deal' for himself (as many do today)… although he was one of the foremost of apostles! As he explained: He hadn't made it yet, nor had he reached perfection. He was just 'chasing after it.' For more explanation on the meanings of his words, see the subheading, 'The Out Resurrection' in our linked document, 'The Resurrection.'

But is this 'out' or 'upward' resurrection the same thing as 'the Rapture?' While that would seem to be true (because both terms speak of people being taken heavenward), the scriptures don't necessarily mean this.

When the Rapture Happens

Notice that in Matthew's account of Jesus' words, what looks like the rapture is said to happen after his 'coming' or 'arrival.' And we read of a similar situation at Revelation 7:1-4, where it speaks of God's messengers 'holding back the winds' of destruction until 'the slaves of our God' are all sealed. So surely, any rapture would have to follow their being sealed. Then at Revelation Chapters Seventeen and Eighteen, we read of the destruction of the Great Babylon, which is followed (in Chapter Nineteen) with 'the marriage of the Lamb' and what looks like the details of the 'the Battle of Armageddon.'

So, if the order of the events in the Revelation is (as we suspect) correct, we can expect the Rapture to happen at the coming of Jesus, which is sometime between the destruction of what appears to be unfaithful religion (the Great Babylon) and the Battle of Armageddon, because 'the marriage of the Lamb' seems to refer to the uniting of the Chosen (or Anointed) Ones with Jesus (the Lamb).

We read of this marriage at Revelation 19:6-8, which says: 'Then I heard what sounded like the voices of a huge crowd, along with the noise of a lot of water and heavy thunder. They were shouting, Praise Jah! For Jehovah our God the Almighty has started ruling as king! And let's rejoice, shout in joy, and glorify Him, since it's time for the Lamb's wedding! His bride has prepared herself, and she has found worthy to be dressed in bright, clean, fine linen (for the fine linen represents the righteousness of the Holy Ones).'

The Signs of Matthew 24

In Matthew, Chapters Twenty Four and Twenty Five, Jesus gave many signs to look for that would lead up to his coming and the Rapture in reply to a question that was asked by his disciples shortly before his arrest and execution. For in the preceding moments, he had told them that the beautiful Temple of God in Jerusalem would be destroyed, and that, 'not a stone will be left upon a stone that won't be thrown down.' So they logically asked, 'When will these things happen… what will be the signs?' And although most other Bibles then add, 'of your coming and the end of the world,' or, 'of your presence and the end of the system of things,' we have determined from the testimony of Mark and Luke that these words were likely spurious additions to the Gospel of Matthew (for more information, see the linked document, 'Coming, Presence, or Nearness?'

Jesus then started his reply by telling them of the things that would lead up to destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (which actually happened in 70-CE). But thereafter it appears as though he went on to discuss a greater, future time when he would return. For it's interesting that many of the signs that he gave, starting with Matthew 24:29, don't seem to have happened at the time of Jerusalem's destruction. And if they haven't, we must assume that the events which followed (including a possible Rapture) will happen after he arrives and during the last days of this age.

An Invitation to the Wedding Banquet

At Revelation 19:9, we read, 'Write this: Those who are invited to the Lamb's wedding banquet are blest.'

So, notice that there are people who will be invited to the Lamb's wedding banquet… and since they aren't the brides, we must assume that they are simply friends who have been invited as guests to this momentous union.

But aren't they the brides, as many think?

No, for in ancient Israelite society, brides weren't just invited to their own wedding banquets. Rather, the groom went to the house of the bride's family to take her (which constituted the wedding), and after consummating the union, they thereafter traveled to the banquet facility to meet and celebrate the joyous event with their friends. So, those invited to the wedding banquet were just the friends of the bride and groom.

The Groom, the Bride, and the Friends

We read of a similar invitation to a wedding banquet of Jesus (the Lamb) at Matthew 25:1-13, which says: 'The Kingdom of Heaven is like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom and his bride. Five were wise, but five just didn't care. Those who didn't care brought their lamps, but they failed to bring any oil, while the wise brought jars of oil for their lamps. Well, as the bridegroom was taking his time, they all nodded off and went to sleep. But in the middle of the night someone shouted, Look, it's the bridegroom… [let's all] go to meet him! Then all the virgins arose and started preparing their lamps. And those who didn't care said to the wise, Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are about to go out! But the wise replied, There likely isn't enough for us all. You'd best go to the store to buy your own. Then as they were leaving, the bridegroom arrived, and those who were ready entered the banquet along with him, and the door was closed. Later, the other virgins arrived and said, Lord, Lord, open to us! But in answer he said: I tell you the truth; I don't know you! So stay awake, for you don't know the day or the hour.'

Notice that we have rendered verse one as saying that the virgins went out to meet the bridegroom and his bride. Although the highlighted words aren't found in the Greek text of Matthew, they are found in the Aramaic Targums, which we trust more than the Greek text of the book of Matthew (only), for early Christian writers tell us that Matthew wrote his work in Aramaic or Hebrew, and it is apparent that some changes were made either during or after its translation into Greek during the early 2nd Century BCE.

So if he arrives with his bride, then it's clear that the virgins who are waiting are the invited guests. But notice that not all who were invited were qualified and ready to enter the banquet.

The Wedding Banquet of Matthew 22

We read of similar wedding banquet with a similar outcome at Matthew 22:2-14, where Jesus said, 'The Kingdom of Heaven is like a man, a king, who arranged a wedding banquet for his son. Then he sent his slaves to call those who were invited. However, they didn't want to come. Again, he sent other slaves, saying, Tell those I invited that {Look!} the dinner is prepared, bulls and fattened animals have been slaughtered, and everything's ready, so come to the banquet! But, nobody paid any attention. One went out to his field, another to his business, and the rest grabbed his slaves, abused them, and then killed them. This sent the king into a rage, so he sent his army to destroy the murderers and burn their city. Then he told his slaves: The marriage feast is indeed ready, but those whom I invited weren't worthy. So, go to the roads leading out of the city and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet. Then the slaves went out to the roads and gathered everyone they could find, both the wicked and the good, and the wedding hall was filled with those reclining at the tables. But when the king came in to inspect the guests, he saw a man who wasn't properly dressed for a wedding. So he asked him: How did you get in here [dressed like that]? Well, the man was speechless. Then the king said to his servants: Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside into the darkness. There is where he will cry and grind his teeth. For, many are the called, but few are the chosen.'

As you can see, both parables of Jesus about the wedding banquet indicate that many are invited to Jesus' wedding banquet, but some will be allowed entry.

Where Will the Wedding Banquet be Held?

Although we don't wish to be dogmatic; perhaps Paul's words at 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 also describe this wedding banquet. For there he wrote, 'We who are still living at the appearance (gr. parousian) of the Lord will definitely not go ahead of those who have fallen asleep. Because, the Lord himself will come down from heaven and give the command in the voice of the highest messenger [of God] and with God’s trumpet; then those who have died in the Anointed One will be resurrected first. And then we the living (those who are still left at that time) will be snatched into the clouds along with them for a meeting with the Lord in the air… so we will all always be together with the Lord.'

While these words have always been thought of as applying to the Rapture of the bride (those who are called to heaven); notice that this meeting with the Lord in the air is not said to be a heavenly thing; for Paul said that those who are Raptured will meet with the Lord somewhere in earth's atmosphere (in the clouds and in the air). Therefore, we don't know whether these verses are speaking of the Lamb's bride or of those who are invited as guests to the wedding banquet. All that we do know from these words is that the banquet will be held somewhere in the vicinity of the earth. Yet the words, 'and thus we will always be together with the Lord,' indicates that they will also be with Jesus.

Notice what could possibly be the reason for this rapturing of Christians to 'a meeting with the Lord' somewhere above earth (1 Thessalonians 1:10): 'And [they tell of how you're] awaiting His Son from the heavens whom He raised from the dead, Jesus, who draws us to him and away from the coming wrath.'

So, is the purpose of this being snatched 'into the clouds' and into 'the air' to provide the faithful ones protection from God's 'coming wrath?' And does it refer to their being taken to heaven (the presence of God), or could it be referring to a new type of spiritual condition?

As you can see, the answers are still unclear and require speculation (something which almost all religions have been willing to do). And we also understand that most are happy to accept the explanations that they have received from their religions, feeling that such doctrines have been proven by their acceptance… although they really have not. However, unlike those who wish to offer their answers without clear scriptural proofs, we will refrain. You can see that we are just pointing out what the Bible says, we've raised some questions, and we've offered some possible answers for your consideration.

For more information on this subject, consider the documents in the following links: 'The Resurrection,' 'The Hereafter,' and 'God's Promise of an Inheritance.'

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