The word "rapture" was first used by Jerome in his Fourth Century Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible. The word comes from the Latin verb raptare, the root of which is rapto - meaning to seize and carry off, or snatch. This Latin word was transliterated into English as "rapture", just as the Greek word baptizo is transliterated into English as "baptize." In Greek the word is harpazo, meaning to be caught up, or to be snatched up. In the Old Testament the Hebrew words laqach and nacah are used. According to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance they have the meaning of lifting up, or taking or carrying away.
Although the word "rapture" is not found in most Bible translations today, it has become the generic term for the event described by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, "After (the dead in Christ are risen) 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."
The concept of a person, usually a prophet, being lifted up by the Spirit of God and carried away is found several times in the Old Testament:
- Elijah told Obadiah to tell King Ahab that he was in Samaria. Because Ahab hated Elijah, Obadiah was reluctant to go to the king to tell him of Elijah’s presence. Obadiah said, "The Spirit of the Lord may carry (nacah) you somewhere else when I go to tell the king." (I Kings 18:12)
- When Elijah went up to the Lord in a chariot of fire the company of prophets who observed this said, "Perhaps the Spirit of the Lord has picked (nacah) Elijah up and sat him down elsewhere." II Kings 2:16.
- Ezekiel was lifted up (nacah) by the Spirit of the Lord and carried to the presence of God. (Ezekiel 3:12)
- Later, the Spirit of the Lord lifted (laqach) Ezekiel up between Heaven and earth. (Ezekiel 8:3)
- Ezekiel, who was an exile in Babylon before the destruction of Jerusalem, was lifted up (nacah) by the Spirit of the Lord and taken back to the Temple in Jerusalem. (Ezekiel 11:1)
- The Spirit of the Lord again lifted Ezekiel up (nacah) and took him back to the exiles. (Ezekiel 11:24)
- Ezekiel was lifted up (nacah) by the Spirit of the Lord one last time and was taken to the future Temple. (Ezekiel 43:5)
The concept is also found in the New Testament:
- After he had preached to and immersed the Ethiopian eunuch, Phillip was caught up (harpazo) by the Holy Spirit and was taken to the city of Azotus. (Acts 8:39)
- Paul speaks of a man, probably himself, who was caught up (harpazo) to Paradise. The Holy Spirit is not mentioned in this passage.(II Corinthians 12:2)
- The Revelation tells of a woman (a picture of the Nation of Israel) who gave birth to a child (a picture of Jesus). The child was snatched up (harpazo) to God and His Throne. (Revelation 12:5)
This last event is fascinating! Jesus was "raptured" to be with the Lord. He is the Firstfruits and we will follow Him. (I Corinthians 15:23) I believe we will also be "snatched up" to be with the Lord. What a promise!
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