Now that I’ve shared my starting position for this article, we can begin our investigation into the timing of the Rapture. First we will define the Rapture. Next we’ll look at the Epistles because they provide most of the facts about the Rapture. Then we will consult the Gospels to obtain the testimony of our Lord Jesus Christ concerning this event. After that, we’ll search the book of Revelation, our crime scene if you will, to see if we can definitively identify the Rapture in relation with the other events of the Apocalypse. Finally, we will sum up what the Bible has had to say, and come to a conclusion as to whether or not the timing of the Rapture is knowable and, if so, when it will occur. Let’s begin our inquiry. Do you love a good mystery? “Come Watson, the game is afoot!”
What is this event we call the Rapture
At the start of any investigation it is a good idea to know what we’re looking for. My dictionary provided three possible definitions for the word rapture. The first definition is a state of ecstasy, to be transported by a lofty emotion. Second is an expression of ecstatic feeling. And third is transporting a person from one location to another, especially to heaven. (Beam me up Lord!) The third definition is the one we are interested in. For our investigation, the Rapture is a specific event in which our Lord Jesus Christ transports all believers who are alive at that time directly to heaven without passing through physical death.
The word rapture does not appear in our English translations of the Bible. Many scholars have written about how the word rapture came to be used to refer to this event so I won’t address it in this article. It is enough to know what we mean by its use. If the word rapture was used in our Bibles we would simply be able to consult a concordance to find the references where it occurs. Since it doesn’t, we must look for scriptures which describe an event that fits the definition of the Rapture. So, my fellow sleuths, our work is cut out for us.
“Behold, I tell you a mystery…”
The entire fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians is devoted to the
resurrection. But, to study all of it would be beyond the scope of this
article. What we’re looking for, The Rapture, is introduced as the revelation
of a mystery in verses 50-53. Teaching specifically about the resurrection
of believers, this passage explains that the mortal (perishable) bodies
we now have must be replaced with immortal (imperishable) bodies in order
for us to receive our heavenly inheritance. When this resurrection of those
who are spiritually alive occurs, it won’t matter if we are physically
alive or physically dead. If we are found righteous before God and our
sins have been forgiven, then our bodies will be instantaneously transformed
into immortal bodies.
50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality (1 Cor. 15:50-53).
According to this scripture, at the sounding of the “last trumpet” the Rapture will occur in conjunction with the resurrection of believers who have already died. Many have speculated about when this last trumpet will sound forth. Some of this speculation may have merit, but in this passage we are not told either which specific trumpet is to be the last trumpet or when it will be blown.
There is a second passage in this chapter that refers to the Rapture.
It is contained in verses 20-23.
20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming (1 Cor. 15:20-23).
This passage tells us that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead as a firstfruits offering. We who belong to him will be made alive when he returns. So our resurrection or rapture (if we’re physically alive at the time) is also associated with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
Who? - The Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Cor. 15:22.
What? - We shall not all die, but those who are alive will be changed, 1 Cor. 15:51.
- “The dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed,” 1 Cor. 15:52b.
When? - At Christ’s Second Coming, 1 Cor. 15:23.
- In conjunction with the resurrection of the dead in Christ, 1 Cor. 15:51,52.
- At the last trumpet, 1 Cor. 15:52.
Where? - From earth to the kingdom of God, 1 Cor. 15:50.
Why? - Because “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,” 1 Cor. 15:50.
- For our corruptible bodies must be made incorruptible, 1 Cor. 15:53.
- Our mortal bodies must be made immortal, 1 Cor. 15:53.
How? - “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,” 1 Cor. 15:52.