The Rapture: Why The Catching Away Of The Church Is Not A Biblically Unprecedented Event

A lot of people find the idea of a rapture, a snatching away of people to heaven without dying, very difficult to accept. It seems too strange and too bizarre to be true. “After all,” they say, “nothing like that’s ever happened before!” But that’s actually not true.

It may surprise you to know that there has been a rapture before. In fact, there are several in Scripture. Six of these raptures have already occurred, historically foreshadowing and helping to shed some light on the final rapture still to come.

So, what are these six previous raptures, and what do they tell us about the final rapture that’s to come?

The rapture prior to the New Testament had not been clearly revealed. The Rapture in First Corinthians 15 is called “the mystery.” Now, “mystery” in the New Testament is not something spooky or hard to understand. It means a truth that’s never been revealed before. However, there are still three Old Testament rapture events that help serve as types, illustrations, foreshadows, previews, or patterns of the future rapture to come.

The Rapture of Enoch

The first is the rapture of Enoch. The first of these raptures involved a man named Enoch, who lived before the global flood. We find his story in Genesis chapter five.

Now, I like to call Genesis chapter five “God’s obituary column.” Adam and Eve sinned, and they died spiritually and were separated from God, but they didn’t die physically until hundreds of years later. When you get to the fifth chapter of the book of Genesis, we begin to see the results of the fall.

The words “and he died” appear eight times. It’s like a sad refrain. Adam died, Seth died, Enos died, Cainan died, Mahalaleel died, Jared died—but then suddenly and shockingly, in the midst of all this death and decay, there’s a striking change in Genesis 5:21-24: “And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.”

Enoch walked with God for 300 years during the Dark Ages of the spiritual corruption before the flood, and then God took him directly to heaven without dying. To make certain there was no misunderstanding about what happened to Enoch, Hebrews 11:5 confirms Enoch’s rapture to heaven, saying, “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.”

There’s a little story I heard years ago. It’s kind of corny. It’s about a little child who heard the story about God and Enoch going on a walk. “Enoch loved to walk with God every day,” he reckoned. “They would go on these long walks fellowshiping together, and one day, they had walked so far that God turned to Enoch and said, ‘Enoch, we walked so far today. We’re closer to my house than we are to yours. Why don’t you just come home with me today?’

Enoch is a powerful example of the importance of walking with God in difficult days, like those before the flood. We, too, need to walk with God in these days before the coming of Christ.

Enoch also serves as a very graphic illustration of the suddenness of the rapture. He was there, and then a moment later, he was not there. The Bible tells us we will be taken up “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).

The Rapture of Elijah

The second Rapture in Scripture is the Rapture of Elijah in the book of Second Kings. 2Kings 2:1, 11 says, “And it came to pass, when the Lord would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal…. And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.”

Elijah and Elisha are there together, walking along, and suddenly Elijah is caught up to heaven without dying. All Elisha could do was look on in amazement.

The Rapture of Isaiah

The third rapture in the Old Testament is the Rapture of Isaiah. Isaiah chapter six records God’s calling of the prophet Isaiah. He is caught up and sees God seated on His throne.

Some think Isaiah saw God on the throne in the earthly Temple in Jerusalem, others that he just saw God in a vision, but many believe, myself included, that Isaiah experienced a rapture or catching up to heaven where he saw God on the throne in heaven.

If this is a rapture, it is worth noting that he came back down to the earth, whereas Enoch and Elijah went up to heaven and stayed there.

The Rapture of Philip

There are four New Testament raptures. The first one is the Rapture of Philip. Philip was in the desert and comes across an Ethiopian eunuch who is reading Isaiah 53. He leads him to Christ, and in Acts 8:39-40, after he baptizes the eunuch, it says, “when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more. But Philip was found at Azotus…”

The term “caught away” is the word “harpazo” in the Greek, and it’s used in the New Testament for the rapture. Notice, Philip is snapped and taken 20 miles away to a different place. Philip suddenly found himself at Azotus. Of all six of these raptures, Philip is the only person who, while physically Ratured, wasn’t taken to heaven.

The Rapture of Paul

The Rapture of Paul is one of the most incredible stories in the Bible. 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 Paul tells this story in his own words. He says,  “I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up [harpazo] to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up [harpazo] into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.”

So twice here, Paul says he was “caught up.” He explained that he was raptured to “paradise,” which we know is heaven. The word “paradise” is only used two other times in the New Testament. First, when Jesus told the thief on the cross, “Today, you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Second, in Revelation 2:7, when Jesus promised the overcomers at the church of Ephesus “I [will] give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.”

Paul, at some point in his life, was caught up to heaven. That’s one of the reasons why I believe Paul loved the doctrine of the rapture so much. He had experienced a rapture and heard things he said were not permissible for a man to speak. Therefore, he couldn’t wait for all believers someday to be raptured to heaven as well.

The Rapture of Jesus

The next rapture that’s happened already is the Rapture of Jesus. Jesus was raptured to Heaven in Acts 1:9-11, ascending to Heaven when His earthly ministry was over. In Revelation 12:5, referring to that ascension, the word “harpazo” or rapture is used.

Revelation 12 is speaking about the nation of Israel giving birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule the nations with a rod of iron. Israel’s child was caught up to God and to His throne—referring to Jesus.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *