Why Is the Word 'Rapture' Applied to Jesus’ Return?



Close your eyes and imagine what Jesus’ return will be like. If you’re like many Christians, you may be picturing what is often referred to as the ‘rapture,’ God’s saints meeting Jesus in the air in a glorious reunion! This vision comes from Paul’s vision in 1 Thessalonians:

After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. – 1 Thessalonians 4:17

Notice how the word ‘rapture’ is not present in this passage anywhere. So where does this term come from, and why do we use it so often?

Upon reading the word ‘rapture,’ you may be associating it with romantic, passionate feelings, such feelings described by the term ‘enraptured.’ This is a very common and understandable association.

However, feelings of romantic love have nothing to do with the ‘rapture’ as it relates to eschatology.

The term ‘rapture’ refers specifically to Christians meeting Jesus in the sky, “caught up” as the NIV translates it. The Greek word is harpazō, literally meaning “seize,” as in take away. Paul is literally saying that Christians will be taken away, and the Latin translation of this term is rapere. It is from this Latin term that we get our English term ‘rapture.’ 

What Should I Expect When the Rapture Happens? 

Christians should expect exactly what Paul describes in his letter to the Thessalonians. When Jesus returns, His saints will meet Him in the sky, beginning with those who have already died, followed by those who are still alive. Jesus gives a supplemental picture for what we can expect when He comes again:

That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. – Matthew 24:39-40

When Jesus comes again, Christians will immediately be seized from the world to meet with the Lord in the sky in a glorious, dramatic reunion. While it may sound far-fetched or cliche, this is an event that will happen, and it is an event for which we should all be preparing in anticipation.

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How Should Christians Prepare for the Rapture? 

Before specifically answering this question, there is a misconception that must be addressed. There are no actions that you can take that will qualify you for the rapture. Those who will be taken up are those who are disciples of Jesus Christ. The only qualifier to be a disciple of Jesus Christ is a life-changing, genuine faith that He is Lord (John 3:16).

There is nothing that you have to do in order to ensure that you will not be left behind at the rapture. There is no works-based salvation. Salvation in Jesus Christ is faith-based. Works are the evidence of faith, not the cause.

With that said, there are things that Christians can do to best prepare for the second coming of Christ. Jesus illustrates this in Matthew 25 through two specific parables, the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), and the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30).

In the first parable, ten virgins are waiting for a bridegroom. Five wise virgins brought extra oil for their lamps so they could wait as long as necessary, while five others forgot to bring extra oil. Upon running out of oil, the five foolish virgins went to buy more oil, and while they were away, the bridegroom arrived and took with him the five wise virgins. Due to the foolish virgins’ lack of preparation and foresight, they were unprepared for the coming of the bridegroom and ultimately left behind.

In the second parable, a man gives money to three servants, five talents (a unit of money) to one servant, two talents to another, and one talent to another. Then the man left. While the man was gone, the servant with five talents went to trade, and made another five talents. The servant with two talents doubled his money as well. However, the servant with one talent buried his money in the ground, hiding it. When the master returned, the servants who had doubled their money were given responsibility over more property, for they had proven their faithfulness.

On the other hand, the servant who hid his money was rebuked, for he did not prove himself to be responsible over that which he had been entrusted. He was forced to give his talent to the servant who had ten talents, “for to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (Matthew 25:29).

All Christians have been given something over which they have responsibility. Christians have been given spiritual gifts, skills, relationships, etc. that all require effort and maintenance. We honor Jesus by wisely handling these responsibilities, using our gifts/skills to serve the church, investing in relationships and serving those we love, etc. We can prepare for Jesus’ second coming by taking good care of all that He has given us, proving ourselves to be faithful servants.

A key characteristic of a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ is faithful stewardship. Stewardship involves managing and taking care of something, especially something belonging to someone else. This is foundational to the Christian life, taking care of that which belongs to God, proving ourselves to be faithful servants with that which we have been given.

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How Should Christians Share with Non-Christians about the Rapture? (1 Pet. 3:15)

While the rapture may be intimidating, confusing, and downright weird to a non-Christian, it is an essential component of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus is coming again to reunite His people with Him. We will not be in this sin-ridden world forever, and we can be certain about that because of the promises given to us in the Bible.

When sharing about Jesus’ second coming with a non-Christian, the details of the rapture event may not be a high priority. But it is essential to share that Jesus is coming again to take us out of this world, and bring us into the consummated Kingdom of God, blessed to spend eternity in the presence of God.

This is good news. Let us prepare well as we actively wait in anticipation for the return of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

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headshot of author Lucas HagenLucas Hagen is a recent graduate from Taylor University with majors in Biblical Literature and Youth Ministries. When he is not writing for Crosswalk, you can find him reading great books, playing guitar, competing in professional disc golf tournaments, and spending quality time with his lovely wife, Natalie, and their fluffy cat, Woodward.


This article is part of our larger End Times Resource Library. Learn more about the rapture, the anti-christ, bible prophecy and the tribulation with articles that explain Biblical truths. You do not need to fear or worry about the future!

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