Bible Study Series: Resurrection, Rapture & the Redeemer
Seven pictures and types of the coming Rapture
by I Gordon
A couple of weeks back I was talking about the rapture and resurrection in the home group that I lead. I explained what the Bible teaches, how Jesus will descend from Heaven, how the dead in Christ shall rise, and then together with them we shall all be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. At that point a lady in the group, who is a solid believer and born again Christian, said 'that sounds like science fiction!' And I understand that reaction because every part of this story is so incredible, so miraculous, that it can seem like a dream or a movie and not actual reality. For example, say these things to an unbeliever and see how they respond: "Jesus is going to descend from Heaven soon. Christians that have already died are going to come out of their graves. Believers are going to ascend with them to meet Jesus in the air"... See how that goes! So it is fair to say that what the Bible teaches concerning the resurrection and rapture is radical. Yet here is the thing... IT IS TRUE. IT WILL HAPPEN!
I said to the lady in the group that I understand her reaction but what we need to remember is that the Bible is batting 100% in all of its prophecies. Every prophecy about Jesus' first coming were fulfilled literally and with 100% accuracy. For example the Bible accurately predicted what town He would be born in; what tribe He would come from; why He came and how He would die as the Passover Lamb for the sins of mankind; how His feet and hands specifically would be pierced and all His bones would be out of joint; how His garments would be divided amongst His enemies; how He would rise from the dead on the third day...
And then we could take all the prophecies concerning the nation of Israel - that they would, following the rejection of Jesus their Messiah, be driven out of their land and scattered amongst every nation on the earth; how they would be despised and persecuted in those countries; how God would regather them and bring them back into their own historical land in the last days. And this regathering back into the land of Israel has occurred in our lifetime after nearly 2000 years of dispersion! It is a miracle, duplicated by no other nation. Yet it all happened to Israel just as God foretold. We have seen this. History records this. It is true. And the prophecies about Jesus coming for His bride are equally as true. They are trustworthy and will be fulfilled again with 100% accuracy.
So... that long introduction was to lead up to what we are looking at today and that is pictures of the rapture of the Church. We shall explore:
- 7 pictures and types of the rapture comprising:
- 4 from the Old Testament
- 3 from the New Testament
- And for each example we'll give a quick practical application of what we can learn from the person involved
Old & New Testament Pictures of the Rapture
When Paul speaks about the rapture and transformation he calls it a 'mystery' - 'Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed.' (1 Cor 15:51) A mystery is something previously hidden but now revealed (Rom 16:25-26). Paul said that his revelation about the rapture came directly 'by the word of the Lord' (1 Thes 4:15). So the actual specifics of how the rapture occurs and how we are transformed into Jesus' image was new information that was revealed by the Lord to Paul. That said, for those that have eyes to see, the Lord always like to give pictures and types of important truth in advance! As it says concerning the Old Testament exodus:
'Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come' (1 Cor 10:11)
So let's look at some of these pictures given in scripture in the lives of various saints of God. We have 7 examples before us today through the lives of Enoch, Lot, Moses, Elijah, Paul, John and a somewhat mysterious child.
1. Enoch - A solo first rapture
Gen 5:22-24 Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. (23) So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. (24) Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.
Heb 11:5-6 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God. (6) And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
Jud 1:14-15 It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, "Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, (15) to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him."
The first picture of the coming rapture occurs with the 7th descendant from Adam. And that is Enoch - one interesting man! Though he was the 7th from Adam, he was given insight into the Lord's second coming and he prophesied of the Lord's coming with His saints to execute judgement! This is amazing revelation for someone who lived so long ago and the earliest known prophecy of the second coming.1 Now at 65 years of age Enoch had a child called Methuselah and Methuselah went on to be the oldest living man recorded in scripture. Enoch also had a very prominent great grand child that you may have possibly heard of by the name of Noah. But there is something else.. something unique that makes Enoch stand apart from all others in the book of Genesis. Simply put, Enoch didn't die! In Genesis chapter 5, a chapter where 'and he died' is mentioned 8 times, Enoch's story stands out. In contrast to all others, of Enoch it simply says 'and he was not for God took him'. So Enoch, at 365 years old and having walked with God for 300 years, was taken by God and did not experience death. It was the first rapture in the Bible, a solo rapture, where one day he was here and the next he was gone.
This amazing testimony and story stands as a type and picture of those who, at the end of the Church age, will not see death either. Those that are known by God will be taken by the Lord Jesus to be with Him. And as Enoch's rapture was before the judgement of the flood2 so, in like manner, the rapture of the Church be before the tribulation and judgement that God pours out in the last days. All those that have been saved by faith will be included in this coming rapture. The dead in Christ will rise and the believers still alive will escape death completely! Here one day, gone the next... just like Enoch!
Learning from Enoch
Enoch pleased God. The writer of Hebrews makes it very clear that his faith in God pleased the Lord and by this faith he was taken without seeing death. The Bible is clear that without faith it is impossible to please God. But God is pleased with those that trust in Him and seek to know Him and walk with Him. That was Enoch. And that should be us! Ours is not a perfect walk but God looks not for perfection but for faith. He looks for a heart that trusts Him and desires to walk with Him. Is that you? Then you will please the heart of God.
2. Lot - Escape then Judgement
Gen 19:4-11 Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom--both young and old--surrounded the house. (5) They called to Lot, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them." (6) Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him (7) and said, "No, my friends. Don't do this wicked thing. (8) Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don't do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof." (9) Get out of our way, they replied. And they said, "This fellow came here as an alien, and now he wants to play the judge! We'll treat you worse than them." They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door. (10) But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. (11) Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door.
Gen 19:22-26 But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it." (That is why the town was called Zoar. ) (23) By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. (24) Then the LORD rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah--from the LORD out of the heavens. (25) Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities--and also the vegetation in the land. (26) But Lot's wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
Our second example comes from the life of Lot down in Sodom. Jesus, Peter and Jude all speak of Sodom and Gomorrah as an example and a warning to all humanity - especially in the last days (Luke 17:28-30, 2Peter 2:6, Jude 7). So it is no surprise that there are pictures and types hidden in this story. There are two types concerning the rapture that are pictured in the scriptures above.
- During a time when the wickedness of Sodom is such that judgement must come, the first picture involves the angels of God drawing Lot into the protection of his home and closing the door. This is a type of the rapture of believers. In the last days, when wickedness has reached the point that God must judge the world, the door to heaven will open and believers will be snatched and protected in their heavenly home. The door will then be shut. The next thing that happened in Lot's story is that the angels blinded the inhabitants of Sodom so they could not find the door. This also is a type. After the rescue and rapture of the Church there is a heavenly blindness that is placed upon many in the world that have rejected the truth of God and walked in their own ways. The Bible says of this spiritual blindness:
2Th 2:11-12 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie (12) and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.
- The second picture of the rapture comes in the evacuation of Lot from Sodom. The Lord had previously stated that He would not destroy the city if righteous were found in it. And did fine one family. One single family prevented the judgement and had to be removed before the judgement could proceed and the city be overthrown. The angels were clear on this telling Lot to:
Gen 19:22 "...flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it."
In like manner angelic beings are used in the last days to pour out God's wrath but this cannot occur until His people are taken out of this world. Peter was clear in his application of this passage stating that:
2Pe 2:7-9 '...if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (8) (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)-- (9) if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.
Learning from Lot
As we have seen, Lot was a righteous man who was tormented in his soul by what he saw and heard down in Sodom. He was in Sodom but thankfully not like Sodom. In like manner we are in the world but are not like the world. So do you stand apart? Or are you getting drawn into the ways of the world? Is your soul vexed as you look at what is happening in our world? We see another aspect of Lot that we can learn from in that when he knew the judgement was coming, he tried to convince his friends and family to leave and escape the coming wrath. This too is our task.
3. Moses - The Lord comes down & we go up
Exo 19:10-11 And the LORD said to Moses, "Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes (11) and be ready by the third day, because on that day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.
Exo 19:17-20 Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. (18) Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, (19) and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him. (20) The LORD descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up.
Exo 34:29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD.
Another picture of the rapture is seen in Moses' experience of God on Mount Sinai. Moses was called up the mountain to meet God who would come down. All of the Israelites were to meet God, albeit from a distance, on that day. So we read that the Lord first descended to the top of Mount Sinai and then as the trumpet sounded louder and louder, the voice of God was heard as Moses ascended. Again, this is picture of the rapture where the trumpet shall sound and the Lord will give a command and descend. Then those that are His will ascend to meet Him in the clouds (1 Thes 4:14-18). And, as was the case in the days of Moses, 'the Lord will come down... in the sight of all the people.' There is also a picture in the fact that having been with God, Moses' face shone with His glory. This reminds believers that following the resurrection and rapture, we too shall be seen in His likeness and glory!
Learning from Moses
In preparation for meeting the Lord, Moses told the people to wash their clothes and consecrate themselves... for they were going to meet God! Think about actually meeting God for a moment. How does that make you feel? Does it have any impact on your life here and now? Speaking of the coming of the Lord, John tells us how this should impact us today... (and spoiler alert - it is the same advice that Moses gave to Israel when they were to meet Him!):
1Jn 3:2-3 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. (3) And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
4. Elijah - Translated before the 7 year famine
2Ki 2:11-14 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. (12) Elisha saw this and cried out, "My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!" And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them apart. (13) He picked up the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. (14) Then he took the cloak that had fallen from him and struck the water with it. "Where now is the LORD, the God of Elijah?" he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.
2Ki 8:1-6 Now Elisha had said to the woman whose son he had restored to life, "Go away with your family and stay for a while wherever you can, because the LORD has decreed a famine in the land that will last seven years." (2) The woman proceeded to do as the man of God said. She and her family went away and stayed in the land of the Philistines seven years. (3) At the end of the seven years she came back from the land of the Philistines and went to the king to beg for her house and land. (4) The king was talking to Gehazi, the servant of the man of God, and had said, "Tell me about all the great things Elisha has done." (5) Just as Gehazi was telling the king how Elisha had restored the dead to life, the woman whose son Elisha had brought back to life came to beg the king for her house and land. Gehazi said, "This is the woman, my lord the king, and this is her son whom Elisha restored to life." (6) The king asked the woman about it, and she told him. Then he assigned an official to her case and said to him, "Give back everything that belonged to her, including all the income from her land from the day she left the country until now."
The second person to be caught up and removed from this planet without dying is Elijah. As his apprentice Elisha watched on, Elijah was taken up into heaven in a whirlwind and a chariot of fire. The Bible says that Elisha saw Elijah no more but his mantle was left behind which Elisha took and performed his first miracle with. Elijah's translation is a picture of the rapture and once the Church is removed, the mantle of ministry will be passed to the 144,000 Israelites who shall go forth and minister powerfully during the days of the tribulation. Another interesting point here is that Elijah was caught up before the 7 year period of famine hit Israel during the days of Elisha. This points again to the coming 7-year tribulation period at the end of this age and the rapture of the church before this period.
There is another interesting side-picture here. During this 7-year famine a woman, whose son had been resurrected from the dead, has to leave Israel because of the hardship in that region. At the end of the 7 years she returns to her land and the King of Israel gives an official ruling declaring that 'everything that belonged to her, including all the income from her land from the day she left' must be restored unto her. Hmmm... who is this woman whose son died and was restored to life picturing? Who is this woman that will be forced to leave her land during 7 years of hardship, yet had everything restored to her at the end of the 7 year period? Who indeed! Here is a clue3... Revelation 12 : )
Learning from Elijah
Right before Elijah's translation into heaven, he did something out of character. He ran and hid in a cave, fearful for his life. He actually got quite down thinking that he was the only prophet left and God had to remind him that He had 7000 people in the nation who had not bowed to Baal! We always need to remember that we are not alone and that we are part of the whole family of God. God has people everywhere and better still, the Lord is with us! As things get harder as we approach the time of Jesus' return, keep your head up. Keep looking up and guard your heart. Do what you can to allow faith, not fear, to arise in your heart!
5. Paul - Heavenly experience of amazing things!
2Co 12:2-4 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know-- God knows. (3) And I know that this man--whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows-- (4) was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.
When Paul spoke of believers being 'caught up' in 1 Thes 4:17, he used the Greek word 'harpazo'. 'Harpazo' means to be 'snatched' or 'taken by force'. Now he knew all about this because he had experienced it himself! You see Paul had already been 'caught up' into heaven. He uses this same word 'harpazo' to describe of his own personal rapture into heaven as record in 1 Cor 12:4. And it was such an incredible experience that he didn't even know if he was in the body or not! All he would say is that he was caught up and suddenly he was in paradise - Heaven. There he heard and saw things that he was not permitted to tell. And yet, though he didn't speak about it specifically, you can see the glory of that experience coming out and hinted at in his letters where he encourages believers based on the glory that is to come!
- 1Co 2:9 But as it is written: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him."
- 2Co 4:17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory
- Rom 8:18-19 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.
Learning from Paul
This experience that Paul had of heaven is intriguing for what he didn't say! Go to YouTube and search for 'a vision of heaven'. Actually, don't. It is incredible that Paul saw and heard amazing things in heaven yet wasn't even willing to talk about it. "What was he thinking? Did he not know that it would have gone viral? His hits and subscribers would have gone ballistic over night! His book sales would have made him famous! Oh what a foolish move Paul!" Maybe... just maybe, Paul wasn't interested in personal fame and glory. He didn't point to himself as something special and actually felt odd talking about the experiences he'd had. He was just interested in speaking about Jesus and what He did. And we can definitely learn from that!
6. John - From Prison to Paradise - in an instant!
Rev 4:1-2 After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this." (2) At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it.
Another rapture picture comes in the life of John. As an old man, banished to the isle of Patmos, he suddenly sees something incredible. There is a door standing open in heaven! And before he can contemplate what this means he hears a voice like a trumpet saying 'come up here'. Immediately he then found himself standing before the throne, and the One on the throne, in heaven! How incredible! It is a picture once again of what will happen to believers when the Lord returns for His bride. For the trumpet shall sound and the command shall again be given to rise and come up here. The Apostle Paul tells us that we shall instantly be changed into His image (1 Cor 15:51-52) and like John's experience we shall find ourselves before the throne of heaven. Wow! My home group friend said it sounded like 'science fiction' but it is fact not fiction. It will happen!
Learning from John
The apostle John was likely in his 90's when he had this experience. As mentioned he was banished to Patmos, an island prison, for his faith and witness for Christ. It is so awesome to see that John was so strong in his faith right to the very end. And God rewarded him with one amazing, out of this world experience, even in his ripe old age. Firstly remember that we are never too old to be used by God or experience new things that He has for us! Secondly may we also maintain our faith and witness for Jesus unto the end... just like John. And we too will be richly rewarded!
7. The Child - Escaping the dragon's fire!
Rev 12:1-5 A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; (2) and she was with child; and she *cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth. (3) Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. (4) And his tail *swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child. (5) And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne.
The last 'harpazo', the Greek word used in the New Testament to speak of the 'catching up' of the rapture, is found in Revelation 12. Here we have the image of a women giving birth to a male child whom the dragon seeks to devour. This child is said to be one that will rule all the nations so you can understand why the dragon wants to kill him! This child is caught up ('harpazo') to heaven and the throne of God. We know from scripture that the woman with a crown of twelve stars speaks of Israel with her 12 tribes (Gen 37:9-10). The male son that came forth from Israel (Isa 9:6), this one who will rule the nations with a rod of iron (Psa 2:8-9), is Jesus, the Messiah. The dragon (Satan, Rev 12:9) tried to kill Jesus straight away through Herod's decree to kill all male boys under 2 years of age (Matt 2:13, 16). Yet he didn't prevail and Jesus, at the end of His ministry on earth was caught up right into heaven (Acts 1:9).
But, as is common with Biblical imagery, aspects of this picture will be played out again. The next time it will be with the Church. The Church began in Israel and being the body of Christ, the dragon seeks to devour her for she is linked to Jesus and has been born of God. Yet, as Jesus said, 'I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.' (Matt 16:18). The future of the Church is the same as what is pictured with the child in this Revelation passage. We will be caught up to the very throne of God where the dragon's attacks and persecution, that have lasted nearly 2000 years now, will be experienced and seen no more!
Learning from the Child
The imagery of the child being protected is important to remember and hold onto. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ then you are a child of God. And what good Father doesn't protect his child? Now He does allow some difficult things in our life, for our good... but His protection is still over our lives and He will not allow that which is outside of His will for us. We see in the imagery here that the child was protected and removed to be with Him at the right time. The same goes for you. The thought of the resurrection and rapture is meant to bring HOPE. It is called 'the blessed hope' (Tit 2:13) We are to comfort one another with the words of the rapture and what is to come (1 Thes 4:18). The believer's future is amazing! So if life is difficult, take heart in the goodness and care of God in this life and the plan of God for the next. Yes, in this life we will have trouble... Jesus said so. But because Jesus won, so do we! Joh 16:33 "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world."
So what have we seen? Well we have seen that from the very first book in the Bible (Genesis) to the very last (Revelation) there are pictures and examples of the rapture given. The key events of the rapture were revealed to Paul by the word of the Lord but that didn't stop Him putting examples and pictures of what He will soon do throughout His word! We've seen this in:
- Enoch - A solo rapture before the judgement of the flood.
- Lot - Pulled in through the door for protection and then evacuated from Sodom before the angels poured out God's judgement
- Moses - The Lord comes down & Moses goes up as the trumpet sounds
- Elijah - Caught up to Heaven before the 7 year famine in Elisha's day.
- Paul - A personal 'harpazo' and experience of the wonders of Heaven
- John - From the Patmos prison to Paradise in an instant when the trumpet sounds and the command is given to 'come up here'.
- Child - Snatched up to Heaven, forever protected from the fire and grasp of the dragon!
What amazing pictures and examples God has given us. But how more amazing will the actual event be! It isn't 'science fiction'. It is God given fact right from the Lord Himself. I hope you are 'in Christ' and thus will be included on that day. Don't be left behind.