Monday, April 25, 2016

The Holy Rapture

Most students of the Bible assert that the word "rapture" is a non-biblical theological term. That is only a half-truth. When dealing with particular words that appertain either to eschatology, Christology, or theology, we must be wary as to the etymological word origins of the given word - in this instance "rapture."

What exactly is the rapture? How does one experience it?

The word rapture actually stems from the Latin translation of the Bible, particularly the Latin Vulgate of St. Jerome that was widely used during the Middle Ages. Let's look at the the passage in question, 1st Thessalonians 4:17:

"Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord" (En., NKJV).

And here is the Latin text of the same verse: "deinde nos qui vivimus qui relinquimur simul rapiemur cum illis in nubibus obviam Domino in aera et sic semper cum Domino erimus" (Latin Vulgate, 5th century A.D.).

We can clearly see that the word "rapture" is a derivative of the Latin verb rapio (rapere, rapui, raptus), which means to "snatch," "drag off," "seize," "carry off," etc. It is actually a direct translation from the Greek harpazo, which means the same. Rapture is a formation of the classical form raptus, an act of carrying off, kidnapping, or rape. The word, "rapiemur" is first person, plural future passive indicative: literally: "we will be raptured."

Hence, that is how the word "rapture" was inherited in the English language and has consequently given us quite a picaresque theological flavour to the whole passage. But little do most readers of the Bible know that there are actually two different raptures: one is the bodily rapture and the other is an out-of-body form of the rapture. I will endeavour to do my best to elucidate and the differences between the two in this essay drawing from various sources.

Firstly, the bodily. We now know that the word "rapture" is a Latin translation of the Greek harpazo and hence we will look at the passages that use that word in that sense. the first is Acts 8:39, the Apostle Philip's baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch: "Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught [herpazen] Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing." Philip was physically, therefore, snatched away by the Spirit so that he was no longer to be physically seen. The apostle was displaced from one geographic locale and transferred to that of another. No dispute there.

The next passage is Paul's experience of the rapture in 2nd Corinthians 12:2-4: "I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago -- whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows -- such a one was caught up [harpagenta] to the third heaven" and verse 4: "how he was caught up [herpage] into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter." Notice Paul's vacillation between a bodily and an out-of-body experience; the experience was so lucid and real that the apostle himself could not distinguish whether it was something spiritual or even physical. In this instance, we have the rapture as it can occur either bodily/somatic or out-of-bodily/eksomatic.

The former is more akin to a trance: an ecstatic elation of the soul - as in the instance of Peter's trance while he was praying during midday at the roof of the house of Simon called the Tanner (Acts 10:9-16); or as in the instance of the Apostle John being "in the Spirit on the Lord's day" while he was endued in the apocalyptic visions (Revelation 1:10). For Paul the harpasis or the rapture could be both in the body or out of the body.

The "rapture of the mind" is brought about when the nervous system is acquiesced, when the mind is in focus, and when the Holy Spirit overtakes the body of the believer. This phenomenon is observed in more charismatic strands of Evangelical Christianity, but it has existed from the beginning of the church, down through the centuries, albeit it s not an ordinary activity and hence its rarity of instances in the modern churches. These are the non-ordinary states, the "mind of Christ" (1st Corinthians 2:16) that is not confined to ordinary perceptions of spatial categories of Euclidean universe bound by time and transience, but of a more boundless and timeless quantum field of Christ consciousness (to use a non-biblical term) of the Kingdom of Heaven. This mind which was in Jesus does not concern with locales, measurements, time, etc. the very properties belonging to the finite created order: it is timeless, eternal, and skylike.

Those whose souls are ruptured to those heights know that the light of the New Jerusalem is the light that does not originate from this world; the holy men of God feel the Is-ness of the Holy Spirit, and it fills them with joy and delight. This is the holy rapture with which the prophets and the apostles were endued. Peter spoke of the "holy men of God" who "spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2nd Peter 1:21). Paul similarly states that all Scripture is "theopneustos," "God-breathed," Word in-breathed divinely (2nd Timothy 3:16).

The prophets of Israel, the Psalmists, and the writers of the New Testament knew fully well - both conspicuously and subliminally - that the body we carry, along with "this world" is but primitive vessels made of "beggarly elements" of the "rudimentary particles" of this finite and limited world. Here, everything perpetually perishes with using - life here has reduced awareness. What I mean is that our consciousness is in such a reduced level that we are, in actuality, next to blind - our brains and our nervous system only receives so much information and stimuli as would benefit us; our neurons eliminate picking up on signals that would not be of any practical use. The information we get is limited - as Paul says, "we know in part, and we prophesy in part" (1st Corinthians 13:9). Hence, our mind and our five senses do not tell the whole story!

The gross body which we carry, along with the gross mind (system of sense-perceptions) are extremely limited in breadth of acquisition of information and myopic in scope. Our bodies are nothing but funnels through which perceptions, feelings, and consciousness flow - but they are in a very diminished form. The funnel or a valve only reduces information, it cannot expand beyond its primitive dimensions. Paul further states that "we see in the mirror dimly" (1st Corinthians 13:12). True existence is God - He is the "I AM," the Ho On, the one who is what is. Jehovah's Light of creation flows throughout the entire universe so that His divine attributes are known from those things which are created. What we perceive is but series of births, deaths, and decay; what God sees is nothing like what we see: "For God saw all that He had created, and behold it was very good" (Genesis 1:31). could we look at creation and say the same with our ignorant minds, sinful souls, and gross bodies of material flesh?

Once the Holy Spirit energizes the holy prophets of God, they then see the pure Light of the Logos of God who had once incarnated in the material world of mortal beings. through visions and ecstasies brought about by the Holy Spirit, the holy men of the Bible were raptured.

But there is also a rapture that is yet to come. So radical and so sudden as in a flash - that as Paul says, "we will change in the twinkling of an eye" (1st Corinthians 15:53). Our glories will swiftly metamorphose into those "glorious bodies" with star-like qualities, and finer composition that those very bodies will be "caught up in the air."

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