We are going to focus on two main Greek words: “kleptos” is the primary New Testament word for “thief,” and “harpazo” is what a kleptos does—“to seize away by force; to rip off.”
Harpazo is to rip something off and a kleptos is the one performs this action. (This is where we get the word “kleptomaniac.”)To be absolutely accurate, some people try to tell us the word “rapture” is not in the Bible. It is in the Bible coming from the Latin Vulgate derived the Latin translation of “harpazo.” The word “rapture” comes from Latinizing the Greek word “harpazo,” and is most certainly in Scripture. However, it is in more than one place in Scripture. We are going to examine every place it occurs in the New Testament because every place it occurs teaches something about the Rapture. But we must take this a bit further.“Harpazo” plus “anastasis” equals “episunagoge.” The “snatching away” plus “resurrection” equals our “gathering together” to Him. The Greek prefix “epi” means “around.” So in other words, the Rapture and Resurrection are simultaneous; they are two aspects of the same event with the return of Jesus, which is called the episunagoge. It is functionally the same as “parousia,” the revelation of Jesus Christ that is coming. This is not “revelation” in the sense of “apocalypse,” but the revelation of the true believers. “Apocalypse” is a different word for “revelation” that means “unveiling.” This will not be an unveiling but takes place instantly–every eye shall ultimately see.
A Practical Example
I have a friend in England who is a computer software engineer. He is a nice guy with a family, and is an elder in a church near Stonehenge. He runs his own business with an interesting line of work. He is a computer consultant but he is hired by banks, credit card companies and corporations to hack into computer systems. He is actually hired to hack into computer systems to steal highly confidential information, usually of a financial nature, in order to test the strength of their security. He tells me that Chinese triads and Russian mafia are the most dangerous computer thieves. They are not like American gangsters but are usually ex-KGB agents from the old Soviet Union who have masters’ degrees and PhD’s, and are multi-lingual. If they do not themselves have degrees in computer science, they will hire such to do the hacking for them. He says this is a growing problem and therefore he has a growing business. He does the same things a thief will do: he hacks in and steals the information.When he gets a contract the people in the company do not know when he is going to do it and he does not tell them when or how he is going to do it. He does it remotely such as going through Hong Kong to hack into a system in England so they cannot trace it to him, the same kind of thing a professional hacker would do. He tries to steal that information before a real thief steals it, on the supposition that if he can do it they can do it. Therefore he is going to find out how to do it before they will. As it were, he comes to rob the thief. This is his livelihood. He is a Christian who has never stolen as much as a paper clip, but he does the same thing a thief does. He is hired to break into secure systems.
Aware of the Harpazo
“So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force …”
…harpazo Him—rapture Him. It is the same word. Jesus perceived that they were coming to “rapture” Him.
“…to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone. (Jn. 6:15)
Notice He was aware the rapture was coming. This same Jesus will make us aware the Rapture is coming. Every time we see this word it teaches something about the coming Rapture. He knew it was going to happen before it happened. We will not know the day or the hour, but we will know it is getting closer and we will know what action to take.Of course, they were coming to try to forcibly make Him king, and since His kingdom was not of this world (which was not the purpose for His first coming but the purpose in His second coming), He did not allow himself to be raptured and made king; He will come back and make Himself King when He returns. In other words, they wanted to rapture Him, but no, He is coming to Rapture us. But He knew it was going to happen.Grammatically it occurs here in the future-passive—it is “harpazomai,” but it is the same word.
Snatching by One Hand or the Other
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;”
(“Kill”—“thuso,” “destroy”—“apoleso” where we get the word “Apollyon.”)
“…I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches…
…them and scatters them.” (Jn. 10:10–12)
The wolf “harpazos” them—raptures them. Going back to my friend in England, his job is to rob the thief, to steal the information before the thief can steal the information. He does the same thing the thief does. Satan comes to harpazo—to rapture, to snatch away by force.
“and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out…
“…of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out…
…of the Father’s hand. (Jn. 10:28–29)
This is saying that if we are in the hand of Christ, Satan cannot snatch us away from Him; he cannot touch the new creation. He cannot snatch us out of the hand of Christ.This Scripture does not address the issue of backsliding. People have taken it out of context and given it a meaning that is not warranted in the context. It does not say someone cannot get out of the hand, it simply says they cannot be snatched out of the hand, and has nothing whatsoever to do with a person choosing not to be in the hand of Christ. It simply says if someone chooses to be in the hand of Christ they cannot be snatched away.Unsaved people do not have a free will; their will is in bondage—they cannot choose Christ unless they are convicted by the Holy Spirit. They have to be empowered and convicted to choose Christ and it requires divine intervention for them to be saved. “Nobody comes but that the Father draws him” (Jn. 6:44). In our salvation we get back our free will when we come to Christ. He empowers us to be able to make that choice we could not make had He not so empowered us. Free will is restored at the cross; free will is something we get back; it makes it possible to choose and remain in Christ. John 10:28-29 has nothing whatsoever to do with backsliding or the will of the individual; it only says that the thief cannot do it. Very often this has been misapplied.
“When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.” (Mt. 13:19)
Somebody hears the Gospel, gets convicted, and they think about getting saved. No one can snatch them out of the Lord’s hand, but if they have not gone that far yet and the seed has fallen to the earth and died, we know what is going to happen: the devil is going to try to snatch it away. That is how he operates.We witness to someone, tell them the Gospel, they believe it and say they will come to church on Sunday, but the next day Jehovah’s Witnesses knock on their door. The devil sent them there. That is the devil coming to snatch away what was sown. But in Matthew 24 we see…
“But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into.” (Mt. 24:43)
He is coming like a thief in the night. In other words, He robs the thief. Jesus comes in the character of the devil and snatches us away before the enemy does. It is the master gambit—He beats the devil at his own game. The devil is a kleptos. Jesus is not a kleptos but comes like a kleptos and does the same thing a kleptos does. In other words, to understand the nature of the Rapture we have to understand the nature of the devil. The Lord comes to rob the thief.
The Modern-Day Kleptos
Let us look at this idea of the kleptos who comes to “steal and kill and destroy,” how the devil does this, and how it manifests itself. Everybody gets robbed, but the question is, who is going to do it? We are either going to be “harpazoed” by the kleptos or “harpazoed” by the one who is likethe kleptos.In Psalm 50 the leadership of the nation was being castigated and they were told…
“When you see a thief, you are pleased with him,And you associate with adulterers. (Ps. 50:18)
Notice the relationship between impropriety and immorality. So often when we see these ministers fall from grace it involves spiritual pride, financial impropriety, and sexual immorality. It is usually one of those three things, and in some cases they hit the jackpot. The same guys fooling around with women are very often the same ones who are preaching Word-Faith or have their fingers in the cookie jar. This is not a new problem but, as described in this Scripture, existed in ancient Israel.Todd Bentley, a criminally-convicted homosexual pedophile who was in prison for molesting a seven year-old, claimed to become a Christian, had himself covered in tattoos, was kicking old ladies in the face, and night after night was preaching that the Lord showed him there were a thousand people attending each of his services who were going to give him $1,000. And he was getting the money, sometimes raking in over $1 million a night it would seem. The whole time this was going on he was being unfaithful to his wife and yet being trumpeted as a hero by Rick Joyner and C. Peter Wagner. After they prophesied over him that he was going to lead a great revival, four days later he abandons his wife and three children and takes off with this other woman. Soon after, he divorces his wife and marries her. Now they are trying to bring him back into ministry.
“When you see a thief, you are pleased with him,And you associate with adulterers. (Ps. 50:18)
He is an adulterer! They are pleased with him! This is only one contemporary example, but there are many examples of this. In other words, they are getting clipped already.
When I would heal Israel,The iniquity of Ephraim is uncovered,And the evil deeds of Samaria,For they deal falsely;The thief enters in,Bandits raid outside,And they do not consider in their heartsThat I remember all their wickedness.Now their deeds are all around them;They are before My face.With their wickedness they make the king glad,And the princes with their lies.They are all adulterers,Like an oven heated by the bakerWho ceases to stir up the fireFrom the kneading of the dough until it is leavened. (Hos. 7:1–4)
(Leaven, of course, is a figure of sin and false doctrine.)Look at this: these people are adulterers and they are thieves, but the kings and the princes are happy about their lies—they make the king glad!Why do we see major pastors and leadership figures lending credence to these con-artists? They make them happy with their lies! They make them happy with their thievery! This brought about the Assyrian Captivity—God’s judgment—on the ten northern tribes, and it is bringing God’s judgment on the contemporary church. As it says in Romans 11, if He did not spare the natural branches He will not spare you either. If Israel and the Jews could not get away with this kind of activity, neither will the church. And yet they continue in it.Todd Bentley leaves his wife and children and they are actually trying to bring him back. It means nothing to them. Money talks. They do not care about the adultery.
Your rulers are rebelsAnd companions of thieves; (Is. 1:23a)
Their leaders are in rebellion against God and companions with thieves!It is so shocking that it has been hard for me to believe this has happened, but when I recite these things in the public domain I am not throwing mud; I am simply stating facts.When Oral Roberts said a nine hundred foot tall Jesus Christ appeared to him and told him if he does not cough up $6.5 million by the end of the month He is going to kill him, people like Jack Hayford defended him and somebody gave him the money to save the hospital. (The hospital wound up closing down anyway and Jesus did not kill him.) He was on television crying, “Please, He’s going to kill me.” Apparently there was a nine hundred foot Jesus who was running a protection racket—that is what gangsters do. And yet there were pastors defending him.
Your rulers are rebelsAnd companions of thieves; (Is. 1:23a)
Jesus warned us how His Father’s house became a den of thieves. (Mt. 21:13; Mk. 11:17; Lk. 19:46) He did not use the word “kleptos” because a kleptos harpazos; these were swindlers.That is how the devil kleptos—he steals and destroys. Jesus is coming in the manner of the enemy to do the same thing the enemy does with an entirely different motive. He comes like a kleptos. To understand what Jesus is going to do we have to understand what the enemy does. The kleptos is always the enemy, but He comes like a kleptos.
The Example of Paul
Let us look at the other side. Everywhere this word “harpazo” occurs it teaches something about the Rapture.
And as a great dissension was developing, the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them and ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force…
(To harpazo him—rapture him. It is the same word in Greek.)
…and bring him into the barracks. But on the night immediately following, the Lord stood at his side… (Ac. 23:10–11a)
That is the Peshet, the straightforward meaning. Paul was going to be seized; they were going to rip him in half, literally tearing him to pieces. So the Roman commander dispatches his soldiers to rescue Paul before they could rip him to bits. Notice he harpazos Paul before the mob could harpazo him. This is a picture of the Rapture. The Antichrist is going to try to rip the body to pieces. “Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather” (Mt. 24:28). But before that can happen, our Commander is going to send His angels to gather His elect. He will harpazo us before the enemy can. Every time we see this word it teaches something about the Rapture. Our Commander is going to snatch us away before the enemy can rip us to pieces; there will be a rescue.
There Is Always a Rescue
“But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. (Mt. 24:43) “Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. (Dan. 12:1)
Notice that those whose names are in the book will be rescued. There is a rescue coming, and this rescue is the Rapture. In England we have Gerald Coates, and in America there is Rick Joyner—people who teach against the doctrine of the Rapture, saying there is no rescue. How is someone going to get rescued if they do not believe there is a rescue?In the Olivet Discourse Jesus gives a list of signs to look out for and He says, “I am coming like a thief in the night, so look out for these signs. This will tell you it is getting closer. If you had known at what time he was coming you would not have allowed your house to be broken into. Well, I am coming just like that burglar.” We are told by Paul that day should not overtake us like a kleptos (1 Th. 5:4); it is the world that is to be taken by surprise; it is the apostate church that is to be taken by surprise, not the faithful Bride. But in Matthew 24 Jesus says, “Be alert, watch for these signs, I am coming like a thief in the night” (Mt. 24:42-43).Suppose you were going to take your children or grandchildren down to Orlando to Disneyworld and somebody says, “Don’t bother to turn on the burglar alarm. Turn off the lights, leave the door open, drive off to Florida and have a good time.” Who is going to do that? Who is going to believe somebody who tells us that? If we visit the website of Rick Warren and his Purpose Driven Lie we are told to avoid End Time prophecy because it is a diversion. Jesus says to watch out, He is coming like a thief, to be alert, but who cares what Jesus Christ said if you have Rick Warren? Who needs the New Testament if you have the Purpose Driven Lie? Jesus commands that we be alert and watch for these things, but Warren says no. Do you understand who he works for? He works for the thief—the burglar.This is not a “mistake,” this is blatant. Jesus teaches to do one thing, Warren teaches people to do the other. It is unbelievable, but that is what is happening.
Paul’s Personal Example
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up…
(…harpazo – raptured…)
…to the third heaven. (2 Co. 12:2)
He did not know if he was in the body or out of the body. When we are raptured we will not know if we are dead, we will just know that we are alive in Christ.The ancient Greeks had three concepts of heaven: the first was the atmosphere of the earth, the second was outer space, and the third was eternity. We have two Greek words for “time”: “chronos” and “kairos.” “Kairos” is the clock, but eternity is not a clock that keeps going; eternity is no clock at all. Yet there is in eternity “chronos” where we get the word “chronology.” It is an order of events, but they take place out of time, such as where it states in Revelation that the Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). John says in Revelation, “And then I saw…and then I saw…” but he speaks of future events in the past tense and past events in the present tense—there is no “kairos,” just “chronos.” There is an order of events which take place out of time. Time as a clock depends on the second heaven (outer space), on planetary motion.Strictly speaking there is a time and a clock that works by particle emissions. It does not work by planetary motion but it still has to be calibrated in nanoseconds; it still has to express its measurements by planetary motion. Even the one clock we have that does not have to work by planetary motion still has to be calibrated in terms of planetary motion.So when we read in Revelation or Zechariah that the “shamayim”—“sky” is rolled up, this means that eternity meets earth; time and space meet heaven because the “second heaven” is “rolled up.”
And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows—
Notice that he says this twice because it is a mystery; he did not even understand it when it happened to him.
…was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak. (2 Co. 12:3–4)
Paul was raptured—“harpazoed,” caught up. This teaches about what it is going to be like to be raptured. We will not know if we are dead; we will just know we are alive. We will not know if we are in the body or out of the body.
Always an Earthly Return
When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away;
(…”harpazoed” him, raptured him…)
…and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he kept preaching the gospel to all the cities until he came to Caesarea. (Ac. 8:39–40)
Notice when Paul was “harpazoed” we see him again back on earth and when Philip was “harpazoed” we see him back on earth. There is a Millennial Reign of Christ. Every time we see somebody “harpazoed” we see them coming back to earth. It is not a one-way ticket—it is a return ticket, only it will be back to the earth as it was before the Fall of man.Always remember that if someone has only six months to live, they actually have one thousand years plus six months to live. Believers go to sleep and then wake up again; death is for unsaved people.In Acts 8:39 he is “harpazoed” and they do not see him any longer in just the way that Enoch was snatched away and they did not see him anymore.
Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up…
…together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Th. 4:17-18)
I have heard people say the word “rapture” is not in the Bible. Should they rather say “harpazo”? The word “harpazo” is many places in the Bible, and every time it occurs it teaches something about 1 Thessalonians 4:17.
The Nativity Narrative
And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up…
…to God and to His throne. (Rev. 12:5)
As I have explained in other teachings, this is a Pesher interpretation of the Nativity narrative. Herod wanted to kill Jesus coming out of Mary, but Jesus by divine intervention was rescued. Herod comes and kills the other babies and so we see here the dragon was enraged with the woman and makes war with the woman and the rest of her offspring. It is a Pesher interpretation of the Christmas story (if you want to call it that), but it is a future event because as Jesus was taken to Egypt, the man-child is here taken up to God and to His throne.There is going to be a harpazo; there is always a rescue. In the context of Paul it is a rescue. Before the dragon could snatch the child away, God snatched Him away. Before the mob could snatch Paul away, God arranged providentially for the commander to snatch Paul away. There is always the context of a rescue. But if you do not believe there is a rescue, how are you going to get rescued?
For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief…
…in the night. (1 Th. 5:2)
Remember that the “Day of the Lord” is inaugurated by the episunagoge. When the Church is removed, God pours out His wrath on the kingdom of Antichrist. This is the “Day of the Lord,” but it comes suddenly.Another term for “rapture,” as it were (or at least it is synonymous in its use for “rapture”), is “kolobo”—“the amputation,” as in, “Had those days not been cut short”—“kolobo” (Mt. 24:22).If someone has a highly metastasized cancer in an extremity or organ, he needs a surgical incision before it can spread to other organs. Or if someone has gangrene in an extremity it is necessary to amputate in order to prevent the entire body from dying. This is what is going to happen—the bad parts of the Body of Christ are going to be cut off; there will be an amputation. It will be cut short before the Body dies. When the shattering of the holy people happens (Dan. 12:7), the suffering of the faithful Church is going to be cut short. The faithful Church will not experience the wrath of God, but it will experience persecution, but that persecution will be cut short by an amputation, the kolobo. This is an important word in eschatology.
JUST Like a Thief
In 1 Thessalonians 5 it does not say that it will come like a thief, but “just like a thief.” How does the devil operate? That is what Jesus is going to do. Just like my friend back in England, they do not have a clue they are going to get robbed, they do not have a clue how he is going to do it, they do not even have a clue when he is going to do it. He might hack into their system at 2:30 in the morning when everything is closed but the system is running. He may hack into their system remotely through another computer in Asia or Africa. They do not have a clue. It says “just” like a thief—it is emphatic.
But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; (1 Th. 5:4)
It should not overtake us like a thief! I am frightened when people are ignoring End Time prophecy or are taught to avoid it by Rick Warren and company.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief…
(There it is again: like a kleptos.)
…in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. (2 Pe. 3:10)
That word for “elements” in Greek is “stoicheia” where we get the word “stoichiometry” for elementary chemistry and the period chart of the elements. The Greeks knew about elements, but they did not know about subatomic particles or subatomic physics. They did not know about positrons, electrons, neutrinos, or protons, they just had an idea about elements and had a word for “atom”—“atomos,” which meant “that which is most indivisible.” They did not know it could go any smaller than an atom elementally so that was the smallest to them. It was not until the 20th century that people knew an atom could be dissolved, but this fishermen from Galilee said that not only can an atom be dissolved but the biosphere can be destroyed by doing it. This was long before anyone knew about the critical mass of plutonium or cobalt or uranium 238. It is amazing, but that is exactly what it says in Greek, that an element can be dissolved, that which is indivisible, with enough explosive energy to destroy the biosphere.
“I will make it go forth,” declares the LORD of hosts, “and it will enter the house of the thief and the house of the one who swears falsely by My name; and it will spend the night within that house and consume it with its timber and stones.” (Zech. 5:4)
This is referring to the flying scroll—“magillah” in Hebrew. It goes into the house of the thief and will leave that house in ruins.How many people used to be in crazy churches that were teaching seriously false doctrine, and the Lord got them out of it through His Spirit—through showing them what the Scriptures meant? This is the scroll that went into house of the thief. There are people who through no fault of their own are in these loony churches which preach money, ecumenism, and God knows what else—who do not know any better; it is all they were ever told. I was saved in a cult called “The Children of God.” You would not believe the things I believed when I was first saved, but that was all I knew. I did not know it was crazy. There are people is these places who just do not know any better, who are in ignorance; I was in ignorance. But the scroll goes into the house of the thief.
‘So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent.
“Sardis” comes from the Greek word “sarx”—“of the flesh.” It was the church who heard and knew the truth at one point
Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. (Rev. 3:3)
These are people who used to know the truth, and He is warning them to wake up and remember what they heard.There are churches which at one time stood squarely and solidly on biblical truth. Not many years ago you would have been hard-pressed to find a Baptist church that was not biblical. You would have been hard-pressed to find a Pentecostal church that was not biblical. I am only talking 30 years ago. They heard the truth, but they are not ready for the coming robbery.
(“Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame.”) (Rev, 16:15)
He keeps saying it over and over and over: “I am coming like a thief.”The people who are caught up in this lunacy of the televangelists and things like that are being robbed already. I know Christian businessmen who have been taken to the cleaners by religious con-artists. They are being robbed already. I do not mean giving money to missions, to honest ministries, or to Christian charity, I mean that these are con-artists. They are fleecing the sheep. But there is a bigger robbery coming. If someone cannot see through an obvious false prophet, what is going to happen when theFalse Prophet comes? If we cannot see through a petty thief cum televangelist, what is going to happen when the real crook shows up?
Which Thief Shall It Be?
Jesus is coming like a thief. He is going to rob the thief. He is going to do exactly what my friend in England does. He is going to behave just like a thief and He is going to do exactly what a thief does before the thief does it. Everybody is going to get “harpazoed”; everybody is going to get ripped off; everybody is going to be snatched away. The only question is, who is going to do it?
The kleptos comes to harpazo in order to kill; the one who is like a kleptos comes to harpazo in order to save.
The kleptos comes to harpazo in order to destroy; the one who is like a kleptos comes to harpazo in order to rescue.
The kleptos comes to harpazo what is not his; the one who is like a kleptos comes to harpazo those who are His by His own blood.The kleptos comes to harpazo in order to bring death; the one who is like a kleptos comes to harpazo in order to bring life.
The kleptos comes to harpazo in order to steal; the one who is like a kleptos comes to harpazo in order to restore.
One way or another everybody gets “harpazoed.” You are going to be “harpazoed,” I am going to be “harpazoed.” Your family is going to be “harpazoed,” my family is going to be “harpazoed.” Your church is going to be “harpazoed,” my church is going to be “harpazoed.” We all get “harpazoed.” The only question is, who is going to do it?
We have no choice about being “harpazoed,” what we can chose is who we want to do it—either the kleptos or the one who is like a kleptos. That day should not overtake us like a kleptos—that day should not overtake us like a thief.God bless.