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Where did the term "Rapture" of the Church come from? I've heard that it is not in the Bible. Is that true?
Here is the history that I find for the word "Rapture" and how it applies to the Church:
It is true that the English word "rapture" is not in the Bible, but it comes to us through the writings of William Shakespeare from the Latin "raptus", meaning to seize or transport. According to W.W. Skeatís "Etymology of the English Language, 1879", the word "rapture" was coined by William Shakespeare. The English word "rapture" that he coined means "to be transported by a lofty emotion or ecstasy".
In 1 Thess 4:17, the Church is said to be "caught up" to meet Christ in the air, at the last trump. The Greek word there is "harpadzo" meaning to remove, seize, or take away. So, to me, the English "Caught up"and Latin "Rapture", as well as the Greek word "Removal" in the Bible text are all three good descriptions of the removal of the Church from earth by Jesus in 1 Thess 4:17.
I do not find where the early Church Fathers used the word "Rapture" in their writings. The "Text Book of the History of Doctrines" by Reinhold Seeburg, 1952, quotes the doctrinal position of virtually all the early Church Fathers and commentators. The common word used in the early writings was "resurrection" of the dead and "translation" of the living saints. "Translation", of course, they took from Heb 11:5, where Enoch, the seventh from Adam, was "translated" that he should not see death. Enoch is a strong Old Testament type of the New Testament Rapture of the Church.
I do not find the word "Rapture" applied to the Church in any of my books until 1931, in the exposition of 1 Thess chapter 4 by A.T. Robertson, in his "Word Pictures of the New Testament".
He only mentions in passing that the Latin word "raptus" is also a good equivalent of the Greek word "harpadzo", but he does not indicate that the word "rapture" has ever been used in connection with the resurrection of the "dead in Christ" and bodily catching away of the living saints.
The early Church Fathers were just about evenly split on their "millennial" position, according to "The Textbook of the History of Doctrines", by Reinhold Seeburg, 1952. Many of our best 17th, 18th, and 19th century Bible scholars were "Amillennial", believing in only one final resurrection and then the Eternal State. The reason is that a literal 7 year Tribulation and Millennium, centered around a literal Israel was literally not possible in their day!
The early church fathers hardly even mentioned eschatology because there was no land of Israel for an Antichrist to make a 7 year peace pact with, and no Israel for Jesus to sit on the throne of and rule for 1000 years! All eschatology passages, Old and New Testament, were "spiritualized" to apply to the Church. Even the great Bible students and expositors E. W. Bullinger, and James Strong, who spent his whole life writing Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, both believed in the Amillennial position (No 7 year Tribulation or 1000 year Millennium).
Premillennialism and dispensational Bible teaching of today can be directly traced to John Nelson Darby, 1800-1882, and the Plymouth Brethren movement in Ireland and England about the year 1830, according to J. Dwight Pentecost and a consensus of the historical books that I have.
I see two reasons for the mid 19th century revival of Premillennialism:
1. Some of the early church fathers, especially Irenaeus and Barnabus, believed that the Church Age would be 2000 years long. (4000 years from Adam to the Cross, 2000 for the church, and 1000 for the Millennial Reign of Christ equals 7000. 6 is the number of man, 7 the number of divine completion, and 8 is a new beginning, as taught by days of the week, musical notes, the periodic table of the elements, 6 days of creation, and on the seventh, God RESTED, etc).
In the mid 1800's, when the 6000 year point loomed on the horizon, it restored an interest in Premillennial eschatology.
2. The Zionist movement of the mid 1800's, led at the forefront by Theodor Herzl of Vienna, and resulting in Englandís Balfour Declaration of 1917, which officially proposed a National Homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine. The United Nations divided Palestine about equally into a Jewish and an Arab state, with an international zone for Jerusalem, and Israel again became a nation on May 15, 1948. The nation that brought forth Christ, a nation born "at once", Isa 66:8, the nation that forever has a future. (Isa 2:2, 9:6&7, 54:3, 60:1-5, Jer 3:16-19, & 23:1-8, Eze 36:24-38, & 37:12-14, Joel 3:17-21, Amos 9:11-15, Micah 4:1-8, and Zech 8:20-23, &14:16-21.)
Eschatological passages, Old and New Testament, can now be taken as LITERAL, for the first time in Church history! Taken as literal, the pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church, 7 year Tribulation, Armageddon, Second Advent and 1000 year Reign of Christ on this present earth is obvious, to me. There is no longer any need to "spiritualize" the plain and literal meaning of Scripture away, when the Scripture can be taken literally. I believe that the Amillennial authors and media personalities of today are just holdovers from pre 1900's Amillennial theology.
Iím glad that God is in control of all this! In Joel 3:2, and Zeph 3:8, God says He will gather all the nations against Israel for the battle of Armageddon. Rev 17:17 God puts it into the hearts of the 10 European Kings to destroy the religious system of Antichrist during the Tribulation. Iím glad it doesnít depend on our understanding!
Did you know that the book of Revelation is the only book in the Bible to promise special "blessings" to itís readers and hearers? Seven times! And the word "blessings" means plural "happinesses".
Thank you for this good question.