Articles on topics that are widely debated in Christianity, Judaism, Hebrew Roots / Messianic and more!
The Rapture of the Saints. The Catching Away. Being “Snatched” out of the world. All of these phrases refer to the same belief. The primary argument amongst churches these days is not whether the rapture is true or not, but rather is it pre-, mid-, or post-tribulation. My argument, however, questions the validity of the doctrine itself.
The term rapture does not appear in scripture (this should be the first clue). It comes from the Latin rapiemur, which is the translation of the Greek herpazo, meaning “caught away.” It is noteworthy that this belief was unheard of until the late 17th century, due to the work of the American clergymen and authors, Increase and Cotton Mathers, and was not popular until well into the 1800s.
The primary verse cited as rapture reference is 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. It reads, “For the Master Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of Elohim. And the dead in Messiah will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Master in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Master.”
Pretty straight forward, right? Other Scriptures noted are as follows: 1 Corinthians 15, Matthew 24, and Luke 17. I will address 1 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians individually, and Matthew 24 and Luke 17 together (since they are simply parallel writings).
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 appears to be speaking of the return of the Messiah. The typical interpretation of this is that He will return “from heaven with a shout” and then the “dead in Messiah will rise first.” The ones who are alive are “caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Master in the air” meaning that they, in some form, fly into the sky to be with Messiah in heaven.
Here is where a slight variation starts to come into play. Some will say that “meet Him in the air” means He calls us into heaven right before things get bad (tribulation). The next theory is that He calls us into the air after 3.5 years of tribulation. That is, right when the antichrist betrays Israel (based on their interpretation of Daniel 9:27), then we’ll be caught up. The last theory is that we will see the entire tribulation, then be caught up after the time of testing.
The major problem with any tribulation theory is this: the Millennial Kingdom. It is either always overlooked, or it is shrugged off as simply a metaphor of Yeshua’s eternal kingdom that is coming. I examine the Millennial Kingdom here, but for now let’s go ahead and list the theories regarding 1 Corinthians 15.
1 Corinthians 15:50-54:
“And this I say, brothers, that flesh and blood is unable to inherit the reign of Elohim, neither does corruption inherit incorruption. 51See, I speak a secret to you: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53For this corruptible has to put on incorruption, and this mortal to put on immortality 54And when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall come to be the word that has been written, ‘Death is swallowed up in overcoming.’”
The ideas regarding these passages are pretty much the same as in 1 Thessalonians. Verse 51 seems to agree with 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, since the dead shall rise, then we who remain shall be “caught up.” Verse 53, we shall put on the incorruptible. And again we have the sounding of the Trumpet.
I will tie all of this together in a moment. For now, let’s look at the gospels.
Matthew 24:40-42 “Then two shall be in the field, the one is taken and the one is left. 41 Two shall be grinding at the mill, one is taken and one is left. 42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Master is coming.”
Luke 17: 34-36 “I say to you, in that night there shall be two in one bed, the one shall be taken and the other shall be left. 35 Two shall be grinding together, the one shall be taken and the other shall be left. 36 Two shall be in the field, the one shall be taken and the other shall be left.”
Ok, so both of these accounts seem to tell the same story, right? Appears to be pretty straight forward. Kind of reminds you of the movie, Left Behind, the way they are just “taken” from the field and such. The interpretation of this is always, “see, it says we’ll be taken! That’s the same as being caught up! We will be taken into heaven to always be with the Lord! Hallelujah!”
But there are a few verses that are left out. Examine the entire context of this conversation, starting in verse 26, continuing through to the end of the chapter in verse 37.
Luke 17:26-37 “And as it came to be in the days of Noah, so also shall it be in the days of the Son of Adam: 27 They were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah went into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 And likewise, as it came to be in the days of Lot: They were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building, 29 but on the day Lot went out of Soḏom it rained fire and sulfur from heaven and destroyed all. 30 It shall be the same in the day the Son of Adam is revealed. 31 In that day, he who shall be on the house-top, and his goods in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back. 32 Remember the wife of Lot. 33 Whoever seeks to save his life shall lose it, and whoever loses his life shall preserve it. 34 I say to you, in that night there shall be two in one bed, the one shall be taken and the other shall be left. 35 Two shall be grinding together, the one shall be taken and the other shall be left. 36 Two shall be in the field, the one shall be taken and the other shall be left. 37 And they answering, said to Him, “Where, Master?” And He said to them, “Where the body is, there also the eagles shall be gathered together.””
Verse 37 is key here. Where are they taken? To where the eagles are gathered together. Now some will say it’s obvious that they are taken to the sky, because eagles fly in the sky. However, only biblical context can be considered here. So let’s let Scripture interpret Scripture, and see what happens. Now we will dig deeper and consult a lot of Scripture, not just a few verses from only the Writings (New Testament).
The Forgotten Prophets
There is, believe it or not, a lot of writing regarding the return of Yeshua in the Tanakh (Old Testament). And for good reason, too! Notice this verse in Amos:
Amos 3:7 “For the Master Yahweh does no matter unless He reveals His secrets to His servants, the prophets.”
Yahweh does NO MATTER unless it is revealed to His prophets. That is why it is so crucial that Yeshua fulfilled the prophecies concerning Him. Because He had to, in order to truly be the Servant sent from The Father. And what else do we know of Yahweh’s character from the prophets’ writings? Consider this:
Malachi 3:6 “For I am Yahweh, I shall not change. And you, sons of Jacob, shall not come to an end.”
Yahweh does not change. So it is safe to say that since He said He does no matter without revealing it to His prophets, and He says He does not change, then we can assume that He revealed the rapture to His prophets, right? That is, of course, if the rapture is true. Or even some foreshadowing of the rapture, at least.
Consider the following from Isaiah 66, the last chapter. The stage is set as follows: Yahweh is rebuking those that turn against Him. He says in verse 3 that they have all chosen their own ways. He says that even those that are offering to Him, make such offerings while still serving their own idols on the side. He then goes on to say in verse 15 that He will come (or technically His Son, who “comes in The Name of Yahweh” Psalm 118, Matthew 23, Mark 11, Luke 13, John 12) with fire, and with chariots, and with burning displeasure. Verse 17 is the crucial verse here. He lists a few things that He hates. Those eating the flesh of swine and mice, and those that set themselves apart in the garden after the ‘one’ in their midst. The implication here is that they are trying to purify themselves with the ‘one,’ or idol, in their midst. Notice they are not trying to be holy as He is Holy, but rather, make themselves “set-apart,” that is, holy in their own way.
But still that just means the evil people, and that’s after the rapture when Yeshua calls us believers up to heaven, right? Well let’s test that. For starters, Isaiah 66 never mentions a rapture or catching away of Yahweh’s people. It only speaks of the wicked. Next, consider a prophecy in Ezekiel and compare it to the gospel portion we read earlier.
Ezekiel 39:17,18 “And you, son of man, thus said the Master Yahweh, ‘Speak to every sort of bird and to every beast of the field, “Assemble yourselves and come, gather from all around to My offering which I am slaughtering for you, a great offering on the mountains of Israel, and you shall eat flesh and drink blood. Eat the flesh of the mighty, drink the blood of the princes of the earth, of rams and lambs, of goats and bulls, all of them fatlings of Bashan.”
See also Revelation 19: 17,18:
“And I saw one messenger standing in the sun, and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in mid-heaven, “Come and gather together for the supper of the great Elohim, to eat the flesh of sovereigns, and the flesh of commanders, and the flesh of strong ones, and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.”
And again in Jeremiah:
Jeremiah 7:30-33, "30For the sons of Judah have done that which is evil in My sight,” declares Yahweh, “they have set their detestable things in the house which is called by My name, to defile it. 31″They have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, and it did not come into My mind.
32″Therefore, behold, days are coming,” declares Yahweh, “when it will no longer be called Topheth, or the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of the Slaughter; for they will bury in Topheth because there is no [other] place. 33The dead bodies of this people will be food for the birds of the sky and for the beasts of the earth; and no one will frighten [them away].”
Now see again Luke 17. The word in Greek for “eagle” is usually translated as eagle or vulture, but means literally a “bird of prey.” (See Strong’s G105 aetos)
So these “birds” are gathered right where Yahweh sent them: to feast on the dead of those that were, according to Ezekiel 39, rising up against Yahweh’s people. The ones that are “snatched away” are the same ones that are “caught up” in Luke 17. Matthew 24:28 is also noteworthy, as it says, “where the corpse (lit. dead body) is, there eagle is also.” The word for “eagle” is the same one used in Luke 17.
So as can be seen, the place where the eagles gather, according to Scripture, is not the sky but rather where the corpse is! Not a place where I want to be!
Rising to Meet Him
If we don’t get raptured up to heaven, then what about 1 Thessalonians 4? It should be noted that 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 is referencing the return of Yeshua. When Yeshua returns, He doesn’t meet us in the sky and go BACK into heaven. He meets us in the sky EN ROUTE to where He is already heading. We “rise to meet Him” because we will be gathered by His angels to Him.
Consider Matthew 24:31, “And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.” That is how we “rise to meet Him.”
That is why we are forever with Him. Because we will be gathered together at His return, to go with Him where he is going. And the event is preceded by a GREAT TRUMPET! There is no “third coming” of Messiah. There was His first coming as Messiah ben (son of) Joseph, the Suffering Servant. The Second coming will be as Messiah ben David, the conquering King. First the Lamb of Elohim, next as Lion of Judah. The next question in our minds should be, then, “where is Yeshua going at His return?”
Acts 1:9-12 “And having said this, while they were looking on, He was taken up, and a cloud hid Him from their sight. 10And as they were gazing into the heaven as He went up, see, two men stood by them dressed in white, 11who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into the heaven? This same Yeshua, who was taken up from you into the heaven, shall come in the same way as you saw Him go into the heaven.” 12Then they went back to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey.”
That was the event of His ascension, but what is prophesied of His return? See Zechariah 14:4 “And in that day His feet shall stand upon the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, a very great valley, and half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south.”
There is a very important piece of information here: the Mount of Olives. In Acts 1, we learn that Yeshua will RETURN in the same way as He went UP! In Zechariah 14, it is prophesied that He comes and sets foot on the Mount of Olives. Now notice verse 12 of Acts 1. They were leaving the place they saw Yeshua rise into heaven. The place they were leaving was the Mount of Olives!
An Unbiased Conclusion
Doctrinal bias can be found basically anywhere. That’s part of the danger of aligning oneself with a particular denomination or movement. We must always be able to decide for ourselves what we believe, because we are the ones that must “give an account to Him who will judge.” (Romans 14:12 & 1 Peter 4:5)
We like to say, “Well I’m Baptist, so of course I think it’s wrong to drink alcohol.” Or “I’m Presbyterian, so of course I believe in the Trinity.” Remember, each person will give an account for themselves, so each person needs to be able to prove that their doctrine is sound. According to MANY Scriptures, a matter is not established except on the testimony of 2 or 3 witnesses. (Deut. 19, 1 Tim. 5, 2 Cor. 13, Heb. 10, Matt. 18, etc) So why would you base a doctrine on someone else’s interpretation? Study for yourself. So as Solomon says, “what is the conclusion of the matter?”
To sum it all up, ask “what DOES happen at the return of Yeshua?” Well, where is He going? He is heading for the Mount of Olives, descending from the clouds in the way He went up. The dead rise to meet Him in the clouds, as do we who are living still (being changed in the twinkling of an eye), meaning we go with Him to the Mount of Olives because we are gathered to Him by His angels. Once there, (if you continue through Zechariah 14) we see that Yeshua will then set up His kingdom and reign for 1,000 years. We are not “raptured up.” The only “rapture” that takes place is the “snatching away” to death for the wicked. They are “snatched away” to the place where the eagle (bird of prey) gathers (Is. 66, Luke 17). The place where the eagle gathers is where Yeshua will call down the birds of the heaven to feast on the flesh of those that were killed at His return (Ezekiel 39 & Revelation 19). Simply put, there is a rapture, but it is NOT something you want to be a part of.
I hope this study has blessed you and, at the very least, helped you to study this out for yourself. Don’t take my word for it, be Berean.