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The term "Rapture" was popularized in the 19th century, and usually refers to theories about some event, treated as separate and before the second coming of Christ, in which Christ secretly returns and removes believers from the planet. [More on that down below]. Others use the term to, in general, refer to the second coming of Christ. [This is not a practice I would recommend, as there becomes too much unnecessary confusion in terms. "Resurrection" or "Second Coming" are far clearer choices of word]. The origin of the word "Rapture": "Rapture" derives from the first person plural passive of the latin "rapio/rapere" (drag off, snatch, seize, carry off) which is "Rapiemur" in the Latin Vulgate translation. [The english word 'rape' also derives from rapio/rapere, so you can see how even rapiemur is not equivalent to 'rapture']. This latin word rapiemur is used in the Latin Vulgate translation in I Thess 4:17, which is itself translated from the greek "arpagēsometha", the second future passive indicative of "harpazo", which means to catch/sieze/carry away/snatch/obtain by robbery. A good way to picture this word is to imagine a king force ably taking his spoils of war. As such, "rapture" it is an english word with a couple of degrees of separation from the original greek, and it is not used in the Bible itself. However, in English what some people refer to as the rapture is not the translation of the Greek harpazo, but ideas about one specific use of the term "caught up/Caught away" in I Thess 4:17, such as the set of locations, people, or purpose referred to in I Thess 4:17. However, the Greek harpazo, latin rapere, english 'to sieze by force/snatch up' does not imply a specific set of locations, nor does the word itself define who is doing the seizing, why, or to whom. The context and surrounding words/details must be relied on for that, so it varies by verse. (II Cor 12:12, Matt 12:29, Acts 8:39, Rev 12:5, John 10:28, Acts 23:10). Harpazo does, however, refer to an open and covert display of force, and focuses on the sudden, forceful, and decisive action of the one doing the seizing. The use of harpazo shows that the events occuring in I Thess 4:16-17 (Christ coming on the clouds, us meeting Him) will be sudden, public, and via force and might (in this instance, by the might of Christ). **** Origin of the rapture theories: One very popular modern theory involving the rapture, which usually is what comes to mind when people think 'rapture', is the pre-trib rapture theory. This holds that Christ will secretly remove all believers from earth before the seven year tribulation period. Non-believers left behind will be tempted to follow the AntiChrist, and those converting will be persecuted. Other theories that involve the rapture are mid-trib (believers removed halfway through the tribulation) and post-trib (believers removed towards the end of the tribulation but before God's wrath is poured out on the nations). The rapture & basic premises were not mentioned in any Christian writing until the 18th century (and even then it was just as commentary footnotes). John Nelson Darby is considered the first to have formally presented the pre-tribulation rapture in 1827. He spread his theory, and eventually the American Baptists accepted it. Eventually Scofield and others picked it up, and through their influence on Bible publishing caused the theory to spread, become popular, and be accepted as truth. Hal Lindsey's "The Late, Great Planet Earth" in the 1960s pushed it into many seminaries and evangelical churches as well. For a neutral examination of the four most popular theories about the end times, including the pre-trib rapture, I recommend "Rose Guide to End- Time Prophecy". It is not in depth, but it does give an excellent and spiritually based overview of the differing theories on eschatology, their origin, basic support, etc, and the Biblical purpose of prophecy itself.
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