Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. —1 Thessalonians 4:17
What exactly is the rapture? Mark Hitchcock, an excellent writer on all things prophetic, wrote this outstanding definition: “The rapture of the church is that future event when Jesus Christ will descend from heaven to resurrect the bodies of departed believers and to transform and translate the bodies of living believers immediately into His glorious presence in a moment of time and then escort them to heaven to live with Him forever.” That is very clearly stated, and it’s exactly right.
Some will protest and say, “Wait a second. You can’t find the word rapture anywhere in the Bible.” That all depends what kind of Bible you are reading. If you happen to read a Latin translation, you will find the word rapturo, which is the Latin translation of the original Greek word harpazo.
This word is used thirteen times in the New Testament, including 1 Thessalonians 4:17, which says, “We who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” The word harpazo is translated “to take forcibly, to snatch, or to catch up.”
Why is it important to know about the rapture? As I have said before, Bible prophecy is not given to scare us but to prepare us.
Paul tells the Thessalonians, “We want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope.” Paul is reassuring them that there will be a reunion with loved ones who have died in the Lord. Better yet, when the rapture happens, we will also be united with Jesus.
Knowing about the rapture brings us hope. That is why Paul’s teaching on the rapture ends with the exhortation to “encourage each other with these words.”