The word “rapture” may very well win the prize for the most recognized word in the church world; but it is not found in the Bible. To many, the word brings visions of either delight or dread. By some strange twist of events, this wonderful word has been reserved for some mysterious event at the end of the world. Of course, we know that the word “rapture” means to be “caught up.” And even though the word itself may not be in the bible, we know that the experience of being caught up certainly is.
There are any number of biblical illustrations that display the spirit of rapture. It is that act of being rescued out of serious danger; the experience of change that only God can bring; and also, the actual transfer of someone from one geographical location to another.
Among the most well known raptures in the Old Testament is Enoch, an Old Testament saint; who walked so close to God that the Bible says of him: “He was not, for God took him.” He went for a walk one night with God and never came home. (Gen. 5:22. Heb. 11:5) Then, of course, there was Elijah. He was out for a walk one day with his disciple, Elisha, when horse and a fiery chariot swooped down between them. Elijah stepped onto the chariot and was suddenly caught up, taken out of the sight of those who looked on.
The New Testament version of this rapture business has to be in Acts 8. There, the angel of the Lord told Philip to go south from Jerusalem to Gaza. On the way he encountered a spiritually hungry man from Ethiopia. Philip taught him about Christ, then took him into the water for baptism. As soon as the baptism was completed the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip up and away. Evidently the Spirit of the Lord deposited Philip about 25 miles away at the city of Azotus where he continued to preach Christ.
However, as exciting as physical translations and rapture may be, to be caught up into the spirit world would be far more glorious. Two examples of this spiritual rapture in the New Testament are the apostle Paul, and the apostle John of the Book of Revelation.
The apostle Paul was caught up into the third heaven where he saw and heard such wonderful and mysterious things that the Spirit of God would not let him tell about it. On the other hand, the apostle John was worshipping on the Lord’s Day while imprisoned on a deserted island. While worshipping’ he was caught up in the Spirit where he witnessed the unfolding of the marvelous and sometimes mysterious Book of Revelation.
So, what would be your choice? To be snatched up and taken 20 miles to another town, or to be taken into another world, the world of the Spirit where God lives. To my way of thinking, it seems obvious that to be taken up into the world of the Spirit would be more powerful, and of greater value.
The long range benefit of seeing and hearing into the realm of the Spirit is the reason that men and women of spiritual hunger spend a lifetime seeking it. And, for those fortunate ones who seemingly stumble onto a key, or find a doorway into that spiritual world, we applaud. And we sit at their feet and wonder at the marvelous things of God that we hear revealed. Now that’s true rapture: to be taken from one realm to another.
But what about us common folk, you say? Those who may never travel through space or step into the third heaven as Paul did. How are we supposed to approach this idea of being raptured by God?
Let me tell you how wonderful God is; and that He never leaves anyone out of His rescue plan. When David wrote that God would deliver him (you and me) out of trouble or deliver us from our enemies, he was speaking directly to the subject and the power of rapture. The ability that God has to snatch us up and out of our problems is classic Christian living. To know and confess that these troubles (i.e. sickness, poverty, etc.) are momentary and fading circumstances, are part and parcel of this great Christian confession.
Another important lifting experience that can happen for an individual or for a congregation of believers is where God “lifts up” their faith or spirits, by a visitation of angels or through an invasion of the Holy Spirit.
For example, there is a village in Guatemala that apostle Norman Parish tells about. Before the gospel came to them they were a people who were under the typical bondage of the devil: drunkenness, poverty, immorality, loss of crops, and lack of rain. But, when God invaded their village with the good news of rapture, i.e. being snatched out of one situation or world into another, everything changed. Deaths were reduced, crops were increased. Virtue was honored, and life and health were lifted to a level never known before.
That story can be repeated in some form by everyone who has encountered the transforming power of Jesus Christ. In truth, you have been raptured into another world. Paul tells us that we are a new kind of creation (2 Cor. 5:17), and that we have been translated (raptured) out of one kingdom (the kingdom of darkness) into the kingdom of His marvelous light. (Col. 1:13, 1 Pe. 2:9)
Wow! Now that’s what I call a wild ride! Or, as they said when I was a teenager when something was exciting, “What a trip!” Let me assure you that no one who believes that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God has missed out on this trip!
But the news just gets better as we continue to dig into His truth. The rapture never stops. He continues His pledge to take us up and out of our trouble, heal our sickness, break our bondages, and give us peace. (Lk. 4:18)
This week I’ve experienced another world. The world where faith is high and God is so close you can smell His aftershave. And I also know what Enoch must have felt like. Who wants to go back to the world where tempers are short, money is scarce, and friends are fleeting?
No wonder we are commanded to “walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25). This must be the “natural place” for Christians to live all the time. After all, it’s where our Father lives, isn’t it? It must be the right place to be.
So, when you hear that wonderful word “rapture” next time, don’t panic, wondering if you’ll be good enough to be snatched up in the night. But rather rejoice and expect to be taken out of your momentary trouble into another world where God has already fixed it for you. It’s called the world of faith, where nothing is impossible to those who believe.
Away we go!
Apostle George Watkins