In her book, Not Good If Detached, holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom told of a friend who was reading her Bible one morning, studying the Rapture of the Church in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. As the passage came alive to her, she became engrossed in its truths and didn’t hear the doorbell ringing. After several rings, the sound registered and she went to the door to find an impatient delivery man. “You must be getting deaf, madam,” he said. “I had to ring three times.”
“I’m sorry,” she said. Then the excited lady started preaching a mile-a-minute to the unprepared man. “It is not that I am deaf, but I have just read something in my Bible so glorious I forgot everything else. Do you know that it is possible that some day you may come to my door and I will no longer be here? Young man, one day you may find every Christian home empty. Jesus is coming to take His church away and we shall meet him in the air.” The delivery man looked at her like a calf staring at a new gate, “That’s great, miss. But before you fly way can I just get you to sign for this package?”[i]
Many people like that delivery man find the Rapture difficult to accept. The instant disappearing of millions of people seems so bizarre that it sounds like something out of a science-fiction plot. For that reason, the rapture is dismissed by skeptics, liberal Christians and amillennials who have a knack for spiritualizing prophetic sections of the Bible.
However, it may surprise you to know that there are several historical prototypes of the rapture in the Scripture. In fact, the Bible records six examples of rapture, which serve as illustrations of the climatic one to come.
· Enoch: In the days before the Flood, “Enoch walked with God and he was not for God took him” (Gen. 5:24; Heb. 11:5). Enoch is the first one in the Bible to be taken directly into heaven. Going deeper, we find an interesting model in Enoch, Noah and the pre-flood people of the three groups of people associated with the end-times. Enoch is an Old Testament type of the church, whereas Noah and his family are a picture of Israel, while those who drowned in the deluge are a picture of the unbelieving masses who reject the Gospel. Enoch was spared from the judgment of the Flood just as the Church will be spared from the wrath of the Tribulation (1 Thess. 1:10; Rev. 3:10), while Noah and family were preserved in the Ark. In like manner, the church will be removed from the earth before the tribulation while Israel will have to endure it (Jer. 30:3).
· Elijah: The famous prophet, who stood against the wicked priests of Baal and the rebellious King Ahab, was whisked away in a chariot of fire (2 Kings. 2:1, 11).
· Jesus: At the ascension Jesus was taken up into heaven 40 days after His resurrection (Acts 1:9; Rev. 12:5).
· Philip: In the book of Acts we are told that Philip vanished into thin air after baptizing the Ethiopian eunuch. His body was translated, not to heaven, but from one geographical location to another twenty miles away to Azotus (Acts 8:39-40).
· Paul: At some point in his life, Paul was raptured into paradise and then returned to earth to complete his ministry. Twice in 2 Cor. 12:2-4 Paul uses the words “caught up” which are translated from the same Greek word used to describe the rapture, harpadzo. However, this trip came with a price tag, Paul also remarked in that same passage that God gave him a “thorn in the flesh” to keep him humble and from becoming conceited.
· John: While exiled on the desolate isle of Patmos, the apostle John had a similar experience that Paul did. John was given an exclusive tour of the future when he was called up to the heavenlies by the Spirit of God and then later returned to write down all that he had seen and heard in the book of Revelation (Rev. 1:9-11; 4:1). John’s consciousness and perhaps his body, were taken beyond the limits of space and time. He was not only moved upward in space, but forward in time to see the end of history.
There are few observations we can make about these historical examples:
· First, they were prophetic. Each one was a type or model of the final Rapture foretold in the last days. Prophecy is usually tied to pattern. Moreover, if God has fulfilled these six instances of rapture then we can know the seventh will also be fulfilled.
· Second, they were physical. In each of these historical raptures, people were physically taken up by the power of God and transferred to another location. In other words, these weren’t symbolic. This will hold true of the rapture of the Church as well.
· Third, they were not predictable. Each case happened with no clear warning or preceding sign, so it will be with the rapture of the church. Christ will come “as a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:2).
No person knows how much time we have left on earth, either personally or prophetically. Personally, “life is a vapor that appears for a moment and then vanishes quickly away” (James 4:14). We stand on a razor’s edge between life and death. Prophetically, Christ could appear at any moment to whisk His bride—the church—away to heaven (Matt. 25:13). Those left behind will have to endure a long dark night of judgment.
Are you rapture ready? If so, then we ought to be filled with evangelistic urgency to share the Gospel (John 9:4). If not, then the time to repent and trust in Christ is now! As the Scripture says, “They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Peter 4:5). -DM