Will God’s Followers Disappear in a Secret Rapture?

Most Christians believe in the Second Coming of Jesus, but they have a variety of beliefs about how it will happen. One doctrine is that before Jesus’ return, all believers will suddenly disappear in an event called “the secret rapture.”

According to this idea, the coming of Jesus occurs in two phases. First, Jesus comes “invisibly” and raptures the church to heaven. At this point, the saved simply disappear without a trace. Then, after seven years of “great tribulation,” Jesus returns visibly to earth with power and glory. In a “second opportunity,” Jesus gathers the repentant and puts an end to the great tribulation, the antichrist, and the world.

This theory contradicts the Bible in many ways. First, the concept of a secret rapture does not appear in the Bible. Even though some see this nuance in the Greek word harpazo, which means ‘to take something away by force,’ that is not its primary sense. Paul uses harpazo in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, where he writes “we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together.” However, Paul places this event after the coming of Jesus in glory and majesty and after the resurrection of the dead, not before. The New Testament consistently describes the Second Coming, the resurrection of the dead, and the ascension to heaven as the same event.

The secret rapture doctrine also relies on Matthew 24:40, which states, “Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left.” This chapter describes a visible coming of Jesus (v. 27), not a secret rapture. It simply emphasizes that this final event comes unexpected, with the same meaning as in 1 Thessalonians 5:2 and 2 Peter 3:10, in which Jesus comes “as a thief in the night.” 2 Peter 3:10 ends by saying that “the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” Such a description hardly matches the idea of the world continuing another seven years.

A secret rapture also contradicts the parable of the wheat and tares in Matthew 13:24-30, in which wheat and tares grow together until they are separated at the end of history, not seven years earlier.

Finally, nowhere in the Bible is a period of seven years linked with the end of the world. Dispensationalist theologians1 draw the seven years from the seventy weeks prophecy of Daniel 9. In a clear messianic prophecy, Daniel 9:27 says that “in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.” It points us to Jesus’ death on the cross three and a half years after the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, when “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matt. 27:51). Jesus’ death fulfilled the sacrificial system, bringing it to an end.

Any attempt to separate this “last week” from Daniel 9’s seventy weeks prophecy, placing it at the end of history, changes its application from Christ to the antichrist. It greatly betrays the original, clear, messianic sense of the prophecy.

Hope in the Second Coming is the essence of Christianity. Jesus will come back to take us home in a unique, audible, visible, and triumphant way. It will be anything but secret.

1 Dispentionalist theologians consider that biblical history is best understood as a series of seven separated time periods in the Bible: Innocence, Conscience, Human Government, Promise, Law, Grace, and Millenial Kingdom.