The Rapture Terminology

When reading my first article concerning the topic of the ‘rapture’, one might find that they were somewhat confused. For starters, my article does not line up with the prevalent teaching of many current theologians. But, and I humbly say this, I have tried to get down to Biblical teaching by understanding the language, culture and history of Scripture and its writers. Many can formulate beliefs based upon what seems to them as plain teaching of black ink on white paper, but that is not always helpful in studying the Scripture considering we live in a completely different time and culture, and speak a completely different language.

Many people, including dispensationalists, see the rapture as an event where Christ comes to take His Church off of the earth to spend a seven-year period in heaven (up in the clouds) while God pours out judgment on the earth. At the same time, those who hold to this more dispensationalist view seem to actually teach that there are two returns of Christ rather than one. Or, they might now term it as one event divided into two distinct phases. Firstly, there is the return of Christ to take away His Church to heaven, called the rapture. Then, there is the final return of Christ in which He will come to rule ‘with all His saints’ (1 Thessalonians 3:13).

But, the question arises – Is there two returns of Christ, or a final coming to be split into two events/phases, or is it only one event?

For some, the next portion of this article will be deemed boring, but I want to take a look at three Greek words found in the New Testament to help determine the answer to the above question. Those three Greek words are parousia, apokalupsis and epiphaneia.

The word parousia simply means ‘presence’ or ‘a coming to a place’. The word is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:15:

‘For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.’

Dispensationalists generally see this verse as speaking of the rapture – that time when Christ will come to take His Church from the earth, rescuing them from the wrath of God that is to come during the ‘great tribulation’. The same word, parousia, is also found in 1 Thessalonians 3:13:

‘…so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.’

Oddly enough, those in the dispensational camp see this as speaking of Christ’s final and ultimate return. But what is interesting to note is that Paul uses the same Greek word in both verses – parousia. Paul was not trying to distinguish between two events – a rapture and a final coming. He spoke of only one event. For when Christ comes for His saints (1 Thessalonians 4:15), He will also come with His saints (1 Thessalonians 3:13).

As I shared in the first post, there is an important phrase found in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 – ‘to meet’. This comes from the Greek phrase eis apantēsis. The phrase can be defined as this: to leave a place in order to go and meet one who is coming toward you. I spoke of how the phrase was used in Biblical times to speak of nobles of a city going out to meet an important dignitary who was coming to visit their city in order to escort him back to the city. Thus, knowing the background of this Greek phrase, Paul used it in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 to explain how Christ will come for His Bride, we will meet our Bridegroom in the air, and then we will escort Him back to earth (the place He was coming to already). Hence, you have the reality of Christ coming for His saints and with His saints at the same time.

The second Greek word to notice in the New Testament in regards to Christ’s return is apokalupsis. The word means ‘revelation’ or ‘uncovering’. This is actually the Greek title for the book of Revelation. The word can be found in 2 Thessaolonians 1:7:

‘…and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels.’

As with the word parousia, dispensationalists typically use this verse to describe the rapture. But they then go on to use a verse like 1 Corinthians 1:7 to refer to Christ’s final return:

‘…so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.’

But, again, the same word is being used in both occasions – apokalupsis. Paul was not teaching that there are two separate events to come. He saw one event, one apokalupsis (revelation) of Christ in the end.

Finally, though this will seem redundant, the last word to look at is the Greek word epiphaneia. The word simply means ‘appearing’. This is where we get our word epiphany. This Greek word can be found in Titus 2:11-13:

‘For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.’

More times than not, dispensationalists see this as a reference to the rapture. But, though the same word, epiphaneia, is used in 2 Timothy 4:1, they believe it refers to Christ’s great and final appearance.

‘I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom.’

Because most dispensationalists see the kingdom of God as something to be set up in a future millennial reign, it would make sense that this Scripture, for them, refers to Christ’s final return. And it does. But it is not a separate appearing (epiphaneia) from a previous appearing called the rapture. Paul used the same word in both instances. He never saw Christ’s return divided into two phases. He knew that there would be only one final return of Christ, and one alone. There was to be one final epiphaneia.

Consequently, where many might speak of two parousia’s, two apokalupsis’s, and two epiphaneia’s, Scripture refers to a one-time event. There are not two returns of Christ, nor even one final coming split in two segments. It is all one and the same event. When Christ returns, it will be in His full glory and power. As He is returning, He will call His saints up to meet Him, and they will then escort Him back to the earth where He will fully establish God’s kingdom in righteousness and peace, all the while dealing in judgment with all sin and unrighteousness.

So, let us look forward to that day – that day of rapture, that day of His final return – when our Beloved Savior will return for His Bride!


5 thoughts on “The Rapture Terminology

  1. Thanks, Scott, for a Scriptural, well written, and accurate blog. I agree totally. Covenant is a great school. Wondering if you are familiar with the works of historian Dave MacPherson. He has spent several decades researching the long-covered-up beginnings of the pretrib rapture view, and his Google articles include “Pretrib Rapture Diehards” and “Famous Rapture Watchers.” I bought his bestselling book THE RAPTURE PLOT at Armageddon Books which drowns a reader with tons of well documented facts that he unearthed in British libraries. God bless. Marge

  2. Thanks for the comment and pointers to the book. I must say that I look to be careful in sounding as if I have any vendetta towards dispensationalists, as they are my brothers and sisters in Christ. I do not agree with a lot of the theology, but I sometimes don’t even like ‘pointing fingers’ by talking specifically about dispensationalists because I don’t want this to seem like some theology war. I want to discuss, and even debate, but not divide, if at all possible. I’m sure you know what I mean. I think I have been able to learn somewhat of the historical background for the formulation of such views in dispensationalism.

    Thanks again for your comment.

  3. I liked your piece on the Sabbath.

    Sounds like we agree to disagree

    about the timing of The Rapture.

    I agree we are both brothers in Christ Jesus .

    I was Post-Trib for many years,
    but see too many differences in
    in what is to take place after
    Tribulation and before, as to His return. Are you planning on the Lord protecting you with Israel in Petra or just enduring it all the way until after the Tribulation?

    God Bless,

  4. Thanks for the comment, Mark.

    I actually don’t really talk too much about being pre-trib or post-trib. I don’t try and focus on a particular tribulation period. If so, I tend to lean more towards a preterist view seeing ‘the tribulation’ as happening around AD 64-70. It was pretty atrocious what Nero had done to the followers of Christ in that day. But I am not too dogmatic.

    In all things, I do believe God desires His people to go through trials and tribulations, not rescue them from it (which the ‘pre-trib’ view tends to believe). They are integral in helping us become more like Christ and see His power displayed in our lives – such as in the book of Acts, present day China, etc.

    The grace and favor of God rests on His people, but that does not mean He will keep us from troubled times, whenever they might come.

  5. Well written Mark.. Here is my two cents…

    Everyone thinks their view is correct, but how can you really tell, and how important is it really?

    Both Jesus and Paul tell us to be careful that no man deceive you concerning this issue… Matt. 24:4, 2 Thess. 2:3. Peter tells us that those who don’t get it correct, “..twist the scriptures as the always do…” 2 Pet. 3:16. So obviously the warning stipulates that there is a lot of deception and twisting of the Word.

    If you are interested in the truth, you must be willing to set aside all opinion, assumption, conjecture and speculation. If you can do this the truth will become available to you. This is not an easy task, especially if you have studied a lot of man’s opinion, and therefore see through those lenses. If you, however, are new to the study, let the Bible be your guide. Otherwise, you must be able to set aside all the movies, lectures, and ideas that may have bombarded you with man’s opinion over the years.

    One certain way to understand that the Word of God has been tampered with is that certain ideas or doctrines create loose ends that must be tied up and therefore must be explained only by man. Like a child who has told a lie and must tell others to cover for the first on. These ideas create sub-doctrines that cannot be substantiated by the Word and must be explained by someone in order to be understood. You will not be able to find any explanation from the Word, because they are super-scriptural, and therefore added to the Word. For the truth to be found the idea must flow with the whole of Scripture and all “loose end” must be dealt with by Scripture, leaving no room for man to interfere.

    Here is an example of a loose end or sub-doctrine: The pre-tribulation rapture view tells us that the bride is raptured seven years prior to the second coming. That is the initial idea. However it creates many loose ends that must be explained and must be addressed solely by man. One loose end is the sub-doctrine of the tribulation saints. The tribulation saint cannot be the bride, because the bride is in heaven (according to the view). This causes many problems with the whole of Scripture; “we are one body in Christ Jesus”, the promises that apply to the bride, don’t apply to the tribulation saints, etc. How can the saints be one body as a bride, and another as separate from the bride, and remain one body? Man’s explanation of this view, tells us that the tribulation saints must become eternal heavenly servants of the bride. This in effect makes the tribulation saints greater than the bride, because, “He who wishes to be greatest in the kingdom of heaven must become a servant of all.” If that is the case, it would be more desirable to be a tribulation saint than a member of the bride. There are a lot of other complications that this the concept of tribulation saints bring, and those who carry this particular view cannot agree exactly on how this all plays out. Here in lies the problem. It is super-scriptural in nature. Not explained by the Word and therefore the end result must be conjured to make sense of it all. As a result there will be many views concerning the sub-doctrines. This is a loose end that creates a sub-doctrine that is derived and conjured by man. Be careful that no man deceive you! This sub-doctrine is a secondary lie to cover the initial.

    Another issue is a doctrine changing the Word of God to be able to accommodate their view. Peter addresses this… 2 Peter 3:16. In order for the doctrine to be received it must be taught to those with a shallow understanding of the Word.

    Here is an example of this: Luke 21:36 tells us to pray always that we may be counted worthy to escape all that is coming upon the earth… The pre-tribulation view tells us that the word “escape” in this passage refers to the rapture. Okay if that is the case, what does this concept do with the rest of the verse? “…Pray always that you may be counted worthy…” Most have the understanding that the prerequisite to being raptured is being saved. We are saved by grace and not by works or being worthy… Eph 2:8,9. However, for the word “escape” to be the rapture, we must be raptured by our worthiness and pray always accordingly. So now we are told that only some Christians will be raptured because not all are worthy, although saved. To continue this thinking, they would also loose any bride status in order to become tribulation saints. Perhaps even having to have to face martyrdom to earn their way into heaven because Christ died for the bride, and not for them. This verse creates division among those who hold the view. Some believe there is no division of those who are saved that get raptured at the rapture and some do. Overall the understanding of salvation equating those “assigned for rapture” must be severed, otherwise we would have to be saved by works, contrary to the Word. Jesus told us the parable of the 10 virgins in Matt. 25. The five foolish were not only told, “depart from me, I never knew you,” but “go to hell” as well. What they were not told is that they would get a second chance as a tribulation saint. As you can see the Word gets changed (twisted as Peter states) to accommodate the view.

    You must ask yourself, is your own desires clouding your view? Often I get asked, “Why would you want to go through the great tribulation?” As if what I want as anything to do with God’s plan. The obvious conclusion to those who ask this question is that their personal desires have clouded their perception of the truth. Is it foolish to walk directly in the direction of persecution? Peter rebuked Jesus for walking into His crucifixion. Jesus in turn stated, “Get thee behind me Satan.” Today the church spends much of their time running from taking up their cross.

    If Peter tells us that those who do not get it right concerning the view of eschatology (end times), “twist the scripture as they always do.” The “as they always do” is huge. That means that your perceptions of truth concerning your “end time” beliefs exemplifies your perception of the Scriptures as a whole. This puts great importance upon the study of eschatology. We must be lovers of the truth, if not God Himself will send a delusion upon us as stated in 2 Thess. 2 at the end of chapter.

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