Chapter 3 The Rapture

The end-times will bring the worst suffering the world has ever seen. Jesus said of the end-times, For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. (Matthew 24:21) There will be global conflict and persecution of Christians. Jesus warned believers, “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. (Matthew 24:9)

But there also is good news. There is a way for God’s people to avoid the end-times. A rapture rescues believers from end-time suffering; rapture occurs when God suddenly removes people from earth—taking them up into heaven. The word “rapture” comes from the Latin word “rapio” which means to take away by force. The benefits of an early rapture are obvious. Those leaving the earth will avoid tremendous persecution and suffering.

Jesus and Paul used the words “caught up” and “taken” to refer to rapture. Paul wrote, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) Jesus said, “I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left. (Luke 17:34)

Jesus cited Noah as an example of God protecting believers just prior to a worldwide judgment (Luke 17:26-27) Jesus then cited a second example; angels removed Lot and his family immediately before God destroyed Sodom. It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building: but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. (Luke 17:28-30)

Keep Watch

Christians can sometimes be heard saying “I am ready for the rapture – any time!” But Jesus had a much different perspective. He said that His coming to rapture the church will be like a thief in the night.  (“Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame.”) (Revelation 16:15) This warning is for believers. Anyone who rejects Christ is not eligible for a rapture that transports participants from earth to heaven. In fact, unbelievers are ineligible for any event that takes people to heaven.

There are scriptures that should cause us to question if the early rapture would be a complete rapture, with not even one Christian being left behind. Jesus warned us to “Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap; (Luke 21:34) This is a picture of believers who, by their birthright, should be participating in an early rapture. Christ is warning us to be careful in our lifestyle choices because we could get caught in a trap; that trap being exclusion from an early rapture.

Jesus repeatedly warned us to keep watch for this return: “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. (Matthew 24:42) Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour. (Matthew 25:13) Therefore, be on the alert—for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, (Mark 13:35a). What I say to you I say to all, ‘Be on the alert!’” (Mark 13:37)

Jesus described the widespread failure to endure, to stand firm in our faith just prior to the early rapture. Jesus said Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. (Matthew 24:12-13)  Jesus was not talking about being spiritually saved, as in eternal salvation, but instead being saved from physical harm.

We know that being “saved” in this verse does not refer to eternal salvation because eternal salvation is not by grace through faith, plus standing firm to the end. Salvation is by grace, through faith alone. For by grace you have been saved through faith (Ephesians 2:8a). This is like when Peter attempted to walk on water. He began to panic and cried out to Jesus, “Save me!” Peter’s request was to be saved from drowning, to be saved from physical harm (Matthew 14:30).

This conclusion requires further explanation for those with an Arminian perspective, which is the belief that our eternal salvation can be lost (1 Corinthians 15:2; 2 Timothy 2:12; Hebrews 6:4-6; 2 Peter 2:20-21). Such a perspective could see a requirement for believers to endure to the end. While not disputing whether salvation can be lost, it could be argued that Peter failed to endure to the end – yet Jesus actively sought him out following his denial of Christ. In fact, Peter denied Christ three times, even with an oath (Matthew 26:69-75).

What would more likely cause a person to lose their salvation would be an adulterous (covenant-breaking) act such as taking the mark of the beast (Revelation 14:9-10). Other than possessing a genuine faith in Christ, there is nothing a person does, such as enduring to the end, that results in salvation. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross – alone – provides salvation. 

There is debate as to whether there is a pre-tribulation, or a mid-tribulation rapture. What can be found in scripture is an early rapture (Revelation 7:9-14), and a rapture that follows the last trumpet (Revelation 11:15-19; 14:14-16). The first rapture is a partial rapture and the second a complete rapture of the church. With this early, partial rapture countless believers will be caught off guard. While eternal salvation is by grace through faith, rewards are conditional; the early rapture is a reward (1 Corinthians 3:13-15).

Concerning the end-times, Jesus said that we should keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place (Luke 21:36b). Other translations make what we are to pray about less obscure: pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen (NIV). Fourteen different English translations use the phrase “accounted worthy to escape” or “counted worthy to escape” (KJ21, AMPC, BRG, DARBY, DRA, GNV, JUB, KJV, AKJV, MEV, NKJV, RGT, WEB, YLT).

Knowing that the early rapture is conditional gives important perspective. Suddenly Christ’s warning to keep watch, makes sense. Christ’s warning that those who are unprepared will feel robbed, like victims of a thief, makes sense. Christ’s warning that some will be found naked and shamefully exposed, makes sense. Christ’s warning for unprepared believers, that the end-times will close on you suddenly like a trap, makes sense. All this makes His instruction to pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to take place – profoundly good advice

Any interpretation that Christ will return “like a thief” at His second coming, and not the early rapture, is deeply flawed. His return to earth at the end of the final seven years will be predictable; it will occur 42 months after the Antichrist’s proclamation at the Temple Mount (Daniel 9:27; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).


“Keep Watch” Parable Conclusion
A man leaving on a journey entrusted his wealth to three servants. One servant buried the money instead of investing it. (Matthew 25:14-27) Use your abilities and resources
The master placed one of his servants in charge. But this head servant mistreated the other servants. (Matthew 24:45-51)

Take relationships seriously

– How do you treat your spouse, children, and siblings?

– How do you treat co-workers and those you supervise?

– Are you physically or emotionally abusive?

Ten virgins took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and did not take sufficient oil. In contrast the wise virgins took oil in jars along with their lamps. Only those who had taken a sufficient supply of oil were ready when the groom arrived. (Matthew 25:1-13)

Maintain emergency supplies

– Are you expecting others to provide for you in an emergency?