Is the Rapture in the Bible?

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In light of this weekend’s Left Behind movie release, Dr. Michael Halcomb addresses the question, “Is the rapture in the Bible?” by taking a look at three different core verses used to support the rapture.

As Dr. Halcomb shows us, Matthew 24:37-41, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, and Revelation 4:1-2 mean something different than Left Behind enthusiasts like to believe.

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Dr. Michael Halcomb has taught at the Evangelical Theological College in Ethiopia and has over a decade of pastoral experience in a wide array of church contexts including inner-city church plants, rural country churches, and suburban mega-churches. Michael is also the founder of the Conversational Koine Institute where he teaches ancient Greek using an immersive approach.

19 COMMENTS

    • Hi Andy, while the language of “eco-theological” may be “young,” the idea of caring for and tending to God’s creation certainly is not and that’s all that “eco-theological” means.

    • Hi Andy,
      Yes, rapture is a young theology and the specific label “eco-theological” is young too, you’re right. However, I would suggest that the idea of creation care or tending to God’s good creation, which is what is meant by “eco-theological,” is not.

  1. I have real doubts that the Bible teaches a “Rapture” as some Christians understand it, especially as the Greek verb for “snatch” is used in many inscriptions for those who have met with an untimely death.

    But how can we explain the “air” in 1 Thess:4:17? “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them [the dead people] to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever.”

    And is there a primary source that I can look at for the “clouds” interpretation presented here?

  2. seems like a lot of effort to explain away something that is pretty clear. in the example of Noah those that were destroyed were left on the earth in the flood and those that were delivered were taken up into the ark. 2 Peter also uses Sodom and Gomorrah as an example of divine judgement at the day of the Lord again those left behind were destroyed those taken were delivered. 1 Thessalonians 4 is very simple. The Apostle Paul is writing to people who were waiting for the return of Christ. As time went by some of their friends and family passed away and they were concerned that this would mean that they missed it. Paul points out that not only did they not miss it but they would actually be returning with Christ vs. 14 (ie. their souls, spirits) they would then be reunited with their resurrection body vs. 16 and then we who are left will be “caught up” the Latin word for this phrase is where we get the word rapture which means “caught up”. With your interpretation there is no way to deal with “in the air”. As for the Revelation 4 reference it has nothing to do with the rapture it is a description of John getting a vision.

    • Hi Greg,
      I appreciate your response. While I don’t think I’m exerting effort to explain anything away, rather, just explain things, I would say that in general, I agree with the notion–as noted in the video–that Noah and his family were delivered and spared by entering the ark. Likewise, I note that Rev. 4 is a vision. Regarding the 1 Thess. 4:16 passage, there is certainly a way to deal with it and I touch on it in the video. The “in the air” is describing how Christians will meet Jesus. Just like an ancient city’s welcoming committee, who, when an emperor arrived at the city, when out to him, paid homage to him, and ushered him into the city, Christians will do this with/for Jesus. Christians will meet Jesus in the air upon his return, greet him, pay homage to him, and usher him back among his people. This is not a thing where folks get raptured and stay “in the air” as it were but rather where believers usher the king back where the king will, as Wright is fond of saying, “set everything to rights.”

      • thanks for the reply, I agree that we will come back to the earth with Christ but this can not be immediate, for the wrath that He delivers us from God will be pouring out on the earth for three and a half years the time of Great Tribulation that Jesus speaks of when all the trumpet judgements and bowl judgements of the book of Revelation are poured out, when the unrepentant are calling for the rocks to fall on them but refuse to submit to God. This time culminates in the battle of Armagedon, So if you allow time for this and agree that we are caught up in the air to be delivered from this outpouring of God’s wrath after which we return to rule and reign with Christ in His kingdom this is the basic understanding of the rapture.

        • Hi Greg,
          It appears we are to two minds on this matter. I personally do not believe in the rapture whatsoever. Above I’ve given my explanation of how to understand 1 Thess 4. I understand that may not be satisfactory to you. At this point, however, we’ll kindly disagree and let it be. Thanks again for engaging the video. Blessings to you in your faith journey and ministry. -Michael

  3. In regards to the Noah illustration in Matthew 24.. Jesus says But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.(37-39). Christ is saying that in the days of noah people ignored his warning of the flood. Noah told them God was sending a flood and their only safety was to get on the ark. People mocked and ridiculed him for this. Because of this they denied God’s man made path (the ark) to life and they died in their denial. The same will occur in the last days. People are ridiculing Christians for believing that Christ will come again, this time for His people. People are denying Christ and do not believe that Christ is the only way to heaven. The bible says he is the way the truth and the life. No man will be with God except they accept Christ as their savior. No man will be saved from Hell except they receive salvation through Christ. They have denied their only way to heaven which is the representation of the ark. Christ is The ark! How wonderful is that?!?! So when Christ speaks of this parable I understand it as yes people who have not accepted Christ will be left behind because they refuse to get on the ark (they have refused salvation through Christ).

    • That aligns with my thought as I listened to him, too. Noah and his family were the ones “taken” or “raptured” — they were not the ones left behind. They were saved by God. All others were “left behind.” I see it as a beautiful foreshadowing of Jesus’ return. Plus, I don’t think the intent is to scare people into believing (although I absolutely admit that some use it as a tactic). Belief in Jesus’ return beginning with a rapture gives hope to the faithful. It keeps us looking up.

  4. Two objections to Dr. Holcombe’s ideas:
    1. The parable of Noah does not deal with anyone being physically left behind. Its purpose is to point to the attitude and spiritual blindness of the population.
    2. Rapture theology (at least that taught in the Bible belt) does not teach that those raptured go to heaven and live there forever. Those caught away (raptured) return to rule with Christ.
    The Scriptures appear to be very clear about this theology except for the timing of when believers will be “caught away”.

  5. I always like to point out the scripture about the wheat and tare. Rapture believers love to use this verse as well. However, if you look at the order of events in the verse and those who teach the rapture, you’ll see quite a conflicting view. The parable states that the unbelievers will be gathered first (the tare), bound up and thrown into the fire. THEN the believers are gathered (the wheat) and taken into the barn (or heaven). Rapture teachers say that believers are taken first to heaven. So obviously, you see the contradiction. I choose to believe what the Bible teaches. The rapture teaching is a very dangerous teaching, leaving people to believe you’ll get a second chance at Christ’s return. Today is the day of salvation, not after His return.

  6. Very interesting. Just a few thoughts. The convoluted explanation by Dr. Holcolm of the 1 Thessalonians 4 passage reminded me of the sort of reasoning I have heard from some Catholics as to why the last verse of Matthew 1 does NOT indicate that Joseph and Mary consummated their marriage after the birth of Jesus. It just seems like jumping through hoops in order to get the Scripture to say what it simply does not say.
    Was Paul actually mixing ancient metaphors or was he speaking plainly to anxious people? Did the ancient kings or emperors every descend from heaven? Did the their faithful dead ever rise to meet them in the clouds? Did those who go out to meet the king always remain with him? And, what about that bit about meeting Him in the air?
    This entire passage was inspired by the Holy Spirit and written by Paul as a simple explanation. It certainly does not seem to be written in a fashion that would require the reader of that day (or any other day) to have a knowledge of the “metaphors” of the prophet Daniel.

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