Rapture is a term in Christian eschatology which refers to the “being caught up” discussed in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, when the “dead in Christ” and “we who are alive and remain” will be “caught up in the clouds” to meet “the Lord in the air” .
The Rapture (a concept derived by Bible scholars from a study of the Greek term harpazo (to carry off, snatch up, and the Latin term, rapiemur ) is believed to take place sometime before, during, or after, the Great Tribulation, a period of seven years at the end of the so-called Church Age described in several books of the Bible . I favor a pre-Tribulation Rapture for several reasons, two of which are discussed here: the pattern of redemption and deliverance found throughout the Scriptures and Jesus’ teaching on the Church’s “prevailing power” over “the gates of Hell.”
My choice of a pre-Tribulation Rapture is based partly on a pattern of redemption and deliverance threaded through the biblical account of the history of mankind. God provides, mankind sins, trouble ensues, God intervenes and redeems by grace, through faith, a sequence of events that began at the beginning.
Against a backdrop of pristine creation including daily fellowship with their Creator, the first humans set the pattern, man-side. They may have thought all was lost after they disobeyed God and were escorted to the exit gate, but God was there, Redeemer-side, with both physical and spiritual “covering”.
After God clothed the duo with “garments of skin,” He seeded a promise into creation by addressing the Devil directly: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15 NIV). The promise? Jesus Christ incarnate. God’s prophecy at Eden’s exit pointed to the redemptive mission of God’s own Son.
Granted, it was many centuries until Jesus arrived. Similarly, it has been another long stretch of time, to date, since early “New Testament” references to the Rapture. However, many other types and shadows of deliverance, most in the natural, but some of a supernatural, harpazo type, have occurred.
Consider these well-known natural accounts: the escape from the flood by Noah and his family, the deliverance of Lot and his family from the twin cities, and the Jews’ deliverance from slavery in Egypt.
Prior occurrences of the supernatural, or Rapture type of “leaving” if you will, for varied reasons, include Enoch’s “translation” so that “he should not see death” (Hebrews 11:50], Elijah’s “taking” up to Heaven “in a whirlwind” (2 Kings 2:11) and Paul’s reference to what may have been a similar phenomenon when he was “caught up in the third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:2).
But what encourages me anew today and prompts me to post this commentary is another reason I believe in a pre-Tribulation rapture which, as noted above, is this: the Church’s power to prevail over “the gates of Hell,” specifically, when the Church prevails, and why, and when this restraining force will no longer impede Satan’s destructive bent.
On “who”(the Church) prevails against “whom” (the powers, or “gates,” of Hell), as prophesied by Jesus, consider:
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates (pule: authorities and powers) of Hades (Hell) will not overcome (katischuo: overpower, prevail against) it (the Church made of others to whom God has revealed Jesus as Messiah, Son of the living God) (Matthew 16:13-18, NIV, bolding added).
In short: the Church has the power to prevail against Satan; indeed, testimonies of the answered prayers of believers throughout the history of the Church would fill volumes too numerous to count.
However, the “prevailing” power of the Church is not to last. Consider another Scripture:
It (the Beast, or Anti-Christ, who derives power from Satan) was given power (nikao: to conquer, prevail, overcome) to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation (Revelation 13:7).
And so the questions: Where is the ‘prevailing Church’ in this end time scenario? Why is the Devil able to prevail against God’s people then?
In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul explains, “…the one who now holds (katecho, restrains, binds, detains) it (complete lawlessness) back will continue to do so till he is taken out (ek or ex, from out, or out from among) of the way. And then the lawless (anomia, utter disregard for God’s law) one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming (2 Thessalonians 2:7-8). Indeed, Paul notes that “the mystery of iniquity” was already at work even then.
And who is this “one” who restrains that “lawless one”? Many believe this refers to He Who dwells in the Church, the Holy Spirit, Who enables us to prevail—while we are yet here—against the powers and authorities of Hell by faith, through prayer, fasting, intercession, and other tasks assigned believers.
The original Greek rendering of the 2 Thessalonians verses from an interlinear text, brings, I think, even more clarity:
(The) indeed mystery already is working – of lawlessness only [there is] the [one] restraining [it]at present until out of [the] midst he might be [gone] .
In short, the One imparted to believers at salvation and Who abides in us now is He Who enables us to prevail over the powers and authorities of Hell, and we will one day be taken, harpazo’d, caught away, raptured “out of the midst”. Then the Anti-Christ will be revealed and he will prevail, for a season.
For these two reasons, among others, I believe the Rapture is before the seven year Tribulation period. Though others hold to different times for the “catching away,” I think it’s safe to say that all of us believe we are not far from that event. Not far at all.