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Bible Dictionary: Define Rapture, Definition of Rapture


The word, rapture, while not appearing in any of the popular translations, is taken from the Latin Vulgate.  There is definitely an event spoken of in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17.  There are other biblical uses of the word, rapture, as noted below.  Yet there are severe problems of speculation in regard to the word, rapture.  There are literally hundreds of rapture theories.  The conflicts over speculations have resulted in many Christians steering clear of any discussion of the rapture or any of its associated theories.


Problems with the term Rapture

Problems arise whenever anyone goes beyond Scripture.  That is, when anyone adds to Scripture or takes from Scripture.  This is what has happened with the word, rapture.  It was not willing sin.  It was a trick of the enemy of our souls.  The human mind is deceitful and desperately wicked, and who can know it.  We all fill in the gaps and make assumptions unconsciously because we all have a sin nature.  In the case or the word, rapture, there is one instance in which much has been added to Scripture, and that is in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 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.  Some of the rapture theories take this verse and use it to erase other verses of the Bible.  Some theories claim there is no progressive experience in Christ that leads to this wonderful experience, but there are many verses, for instance, that indicate that there is a gradual growing in Christ from glory to glory or light to light until the perfect, totally complete, day.  There is a Scripture that says that, though this day will come on others as a thief in the night, it will not come on the faithful believers who are walking in the day as a thief, yet some rapture theories ignore this Scripture.  The word, Rapture, comes from the Latin Vulgate has rapiemur.  In the Vulgate, rapiemur is translated from the original Greek word, harpazo.  Below are all the verses that use harpazo, and some words that seem most instructive regarding this event are highlighted.  In all of these things, we need to avoid speculation, realize that we all have sand castles in our minds that are not based on revelation but that have become hardened.  When our hearts are hard, God will not force us to let go of the old wineskins, and He will not give us the new wine because it would break the old wineskin.  God is very patient.

It is easy to see where speculation could creep in without the Christian realizing that any speculation has taken place.  With phrases such as "caught up" and "in the clouds" together with the word "air" all in the same sentence, it would seem to indicate that air means up in the air... way up in the air.  It does not say up in the air, and the language certainly limits any implied catching "up" to a very low altitude if it is a physical catching "up."  When the Bible speaks of clouds, it almost always refers to either clouds of saints or clouds of angels.  There are a few instances when it obviously refers to physical atmospheric clouds.  This is one instance where it could refer to either.  A literal translation of the original Greek word, aer, would be "the lower and denser air as distinguished from the higher and thinner air."  And the Greek word, aer, is used in two ways.  One is to refer to the lower atmosphere, such as throwing dust into the air.  The other is to refer to a higher spiritual realm, such as Satan being the prince of power of the air.

To bolster this doctrine, many other verses have been taken out of context or otherwise twisted to support speculations.  This is not to say that God has not told us some things.  He has told us much.  We must not add to Scripture or take from Scripture.  Some of the distortions of Scripture to support some of the rapture theories are severe enough to hinder the Christian walk with God.

These are some of the unimportant doctrines where Christians seem to like to spend a lot of time and effort.  Suffice it to say that when this amazing day takes place, we will all be happy to meet the Lord with all of His saints.  If this is speaking of clouds of saints, since clouds are used in Scripture to refer to saints or angels more often than atmospheric water vapor, then so be it.  God knows all about it and has it under control.  We will know for sure when it happens.  If the air is a metaphor here to refer to a higher place of authority called the aer, then that is consistent with all of Scripture as well.  Whatever this all means will be unfolded in its completeness and we will know exactly what God has in mind for His saints.

Up in the air?

Strongs definition for harpazo, which is the Greek word that is translated as  "caught up" is as follows:

726 αρπαζω harpazo har-pad'-zo
from a derivative of 138; TDNT-1:472,80; v
AV-catch up 4, take by force 3, catch away 2, pluck 2, catch 1, pull 1; 13
1) to seize, carry off by force
2) to seize on, claim for one's self eagerly
3) to snatch out or away

Matthew 11:12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force .
Matthew 13:19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.
John 6:15 When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force , to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.
John 10:12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
John 10:28 And I give to them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
John 10:29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.
Acts 8:39 And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.
Acts 23:10 And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle.
2 Corinthians 12:2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.
2 Corinthians 12:4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
1 Thessalonians 4:17 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.
Jude 1:23 And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.
Revelation 12:5 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up to God, and to his throne.

See aer (here)

Rapture in Translations:

The word, rapture, is used  6 times in various places in various translations as noted below.  None of these are related to the popular use of the word, rapture.

  • As the apple-tree among the trees of the wood, So is my beloved among the sons: In his shadow have I rapture and sit down; And his fruit is sweet to my taste.  Song of Solomon 2:3, Darby Bible Translation
  • As a loving hind and a gentle doe, let her breasts ever give you rapture; let your passion at all times be moved by her love.  Proverbs 5:19, Bible in Basic English
  • And Zechariah his father was filled with the Holy Spirit, and spoke in a rapture of praise. Luke 1:67, Weymouth New Testament
  • Make me full of joy and rapture; so that the bones which have been broken may be glad.  Psalm 51:8, Bible in Basic English
  • With joy and rapture will they come; they will go into the king's house.  Psalm 45:15, Bible in Basic English
  • The Lord is my strength and my breastplate, my heart had faith in him and I am helped; for this cause my heart is full of rapture, and I will give him praise in my song.  Psalm 28:7, Bible in Basic English


Last updated: Nov, 2012
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