This is the third article about the first return of Christ, commonly known as the rapture. That word as such comes into our language from the Latin and is a theological term rather than a Biblical word. However, that does not in any way diminish its theological meaning and truth concerning the coming of Christ for His Church. The Greek equivalent to the Latin is “harpazo and means to pluck up, pull away, catch or take away by force. With reference to Christ’s coming and taking away His Church out of Satan’s domain, it seems appropriate to render the closest meaning as that of snatching away by force or in a violent way.
The Greek word “harpazo” is found in Paul’s writing to the churches in Thessalonica … “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up [harpazo] together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess 4:16-17 NIV). On the eve of His crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples … “In my Father's house are many rooms [dwelling places, mansions]; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2-3 NIV).
However Jesus did not set a date for that return nor when He would set up His kingdom at the Second Advent. “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:7-8 NIV). The Apostle Peter gives us an indication as to why the Lord responded in that manner just prior to His ascension … “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 NIV).
Thus, it seems plausible that when the last person to place their faith in Christ as their personal Savior, believing that He died on the Cross to offer eternal life through simple faith in Him, the Church will be completed and raptured, taken up, as the Bride of Christ. Since no prophecy must be fulfilled before the Church is taken up into heaven, it is imminent. In fact, the writers of the epistles anticipated His first return during their life time. Consequently, Paul encouraged believers ... “to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope — the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:12-13a NIV).
Unfortunately, false teachers infiltrated the early Church teaching that the persecution Christians were experiencing was part of the tribulation period and therefore the teaching of deliverance prior to that time period through rapture was erroneous. The result was that well grounded believers, known for their faith, were becoming confused and discouraged. Thus, Paul said … “your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead — Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath” (1 Thess 1:8b-10 NIV).