It has been suggested, by at least one Dispensational teacher, that there are six raptures taught in Scripture. If the Latin term, “raptura”, is used in a literal, and narrow sense, meaning “to take”, “to seize”, “to snatch”, “to translate”, “to ascend”, “to be caught up”; if the term is made to be synonymous with its parallel English (rapture), Greek (harpazo), Hebrew (laqach), then the following “raptures” can be found in Scripture.
The rapture of Enoch
The rapture of Elijah
The rapture of Jesus
The rapture of Philip
The rapture of believers in Christ
The rapture of the Two Witnesses of Revelation
The rapture of Enoch is based on a passage in the book of Hebrews, commenting on a passage in Genesis 5.
“By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God” (Heb. 11:5).
A Dispensational reading of this passage would be:
“By faith Enoch was raptured that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.”
“And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him” (Gen. 5:24).
A Dispensational reading of this passage would be:
“And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God raptured him.”
The author of Hebrews focuses attention upon the faith of Enoch, not his typology. Prior to his translation, Enoch’s faith pleased God. Matthew Henry observes, “Those who by faith walk with God in a sinful world are pleasing to him, and he will give them marks of his favour, and put honour upon them.”
The rapture of Elijah is found in 2 Kings 2:11. We read that Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. “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” (2 Kings 2:11).
A Dispensational reading of this passage would be: “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 was raptured by a whirlwind into heaven.”
Much speculation is associated with the translation of Enoch and Elijah. The words of John Calvin are worthy of remembrance. Commenting on Hebrews 11:5, Calvin wrote:
“As to the subtle questions which the curious usually moot, it is better to pass them over, without taking much notice of them. They ask, what became of these two men, Enoch and Elijah? And then, that they may not appear merely to ask questions, they imagine that they are reserved for the last days of the Church, that they may then come forth into the world; and for this purpose the Revelation of John is referred to. Let us leave this airy philosophy to those light and vain minds, which cannot be satisfied with what is solid. Let it suffice us to know, that their translation was a sort of extraordinary death; nor let us doubt but that they were divested of their mortal and corruptible flesh, in order that they might, with the other members of Christ, be renewed into a blessed immortality.”
Once speculation begins, once the imagination is let loose on Scripture, once freedom is found to read meaning into Scripture what is not warranted, there is no end to what might be conjured up. If Enoch is a type of the church, then maybe Elijah is a type of the church, which can look forward to going to heaven in a chariot! Why not? Who is to say otherwise?
Moving from the rapture of Enoch, and the rapture of Elijah, attention can be given to the rapture of Jesus based on a passage in the Revelation. “And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne” (Rev. 12:5).
A Dispensational reading of this passage would be: “And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was raptured unto God, and to his throne.”
Historically, the church has referred to the return of Christ to heaven, as His ascension. “And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; 11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:9-11).
The next rapture seen in Scripture by some Dispensationalist is that of Philip who was caught up after speaking with the eunuch.
“And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:39).
A Dispensational reading of this passage would be: “And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord raptured Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.”
Later, Philip was found preaching at Azotus (Acts 8:40). If Philip is seen as a type of the church, then Christians might be able to have their own personal raptures around town. Who is to say otherwise?
Another rapture is seen in Revelation 11, when the two witnesses are taken up
“And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. 12 And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them” (Rev. 11:11).
A Dispensational reading of this passage would be: “And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. 12 And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they were raptured to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.
According to Dispensational theology, this rapture of the two witnesses takes place during the Great Tribulation period of seven years, so perhaps it should be taught that there is going to be a rapture after Jesus raptures the church, which is said to have occurred prior to the great tribulation. Who is to say otherwise?
Finally, there is the rapture where believers will be taken up to meet Christ.
“Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17).
There are several practical problems when discussing the concept of the rapture. One practical problem, is that the literal meaning of the Latin term, raptura, the Greek term, harpazo, the Hebrew term, laqach (law-kakh’), or the English word, rapture, has been confiscated by Dispensational theology and its meaning changed. This happens in society. The word “gay”, when used in the 1920’s, means something far different in the year 2016.
The English usage of the word rapture is especially problematic, because the term is given a theological meaning that goes beyond simply being, “taken”, “translated”, “carried away”, “seized”, or “caught up.”
To a devout Dispensationalist, the word, rapture, is to be capitalized, Rapture, in order to refer to a separate event that takes place seven years prior to the Second Coming of Christ. The word Rapture, speaks of leaving earth to go to heaven with Jesus, and then returning with Him after a period of Great Tribulation on earth. The word Rapture speaks of escapism from the Great Tribulation. This novel belief is embraced in spite of the prayer of Jesus that Christians not be taken out of the world (John 17:15).
Once the basic meaning of a word is changed, chaos is created. Look at the havoc in society over the change in the meaning of the word , “marriage.”
A second practical problem, when discussing the concept of the Rapture, is that church history is dismissed, the Creeds of Christendom are ignored, and the Confessions of Faith are set aside, in favor of a sensational teaching of the 19th century that has no roots in the historic faith of the church. It is the apostolic faith, the historic faith, which saints are to contend for. There is nothing in the official faith of the church that taught the Rapture.
“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).
A third practical problem, when discussing the concept of the Rapture, is that people are emotionally attached to what they have learned. It is hard to listen to any teaching that challenges, or changes, what a person is familiar with. Sometimes, renewed attention should be given to the historic faith of the church, the simplicity of Scripture, and the whole counsel of God. “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” (James 1:19).