In addition to the future catching up of believers, there are examples in both the Old and New Testament which provide solid precedent for this event. In some of these examples, the person was in a visionary state, or out of the body. In other accounts, there is no indication of any other state than a normal state of mind. Each passage bolsters the case that the prophesied massive catching up of believers in the future both can and will happen exactly as described in I Thessalonians chapter 4, just after the resurrection of the dead in Christ. Below some of the passages, the Latin Vulgate and the transliterated Greek versions of the passage are provided to facilitate word studies.
- The catching up and transportation of Philip the evangelist
Act 8:38 So he ordered the chariot to stop, and both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.
Act 8:39 Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched [herpasen] Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him any more, but went on his way rejoicing.
Act 8:40 Philip, however, found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through the area, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.
Act 8:39 hote de anebesan ek tou hudatos pneuma kuriou herpasen [snatched] ton philippon kai ouk eiden auton ouketi ho eunouchos eporeueto gar ten hodon autou chairon (Greek)
Act 8:39 cum autem ascendissent de aqua Spiritus Domini rapuit [snatched] Philippum et amplius non vidit eum eunuchus ibat enim per viam suam gaudens (Latin)
According to Acts chapter 8, an angel told Philip to leave Samaria and go into the southern desert area of the country. Philip obeyed, and there met a representative of the Ethiopians in a chariot, who was returning from a visit to Jerusalem. The Spirit commanded Philip to go over to the chariot, and as he did, he overheard the Ethiopian man reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip took that opportunity to explain the entire gospel story to him as they traveled. When they came upon some water, they stopped and Philip baptized the man.
As they were coming up out of the water, something supernatural happened. The Spirit of the Lord suddenly snatched Philip away, and the Ethiopian man was left standing there by himself. Philip was suddenly and forcibly, without his consent, snatched away from where he was. The Greek harpazo was used to describe the event. The Ethiopian man did not see Philip any longer–he simply vanished from before his eyes. The Spirit of the Lord took the physical body of Philip, dematerialized it, and transported it to another location.
- The catching up of the man-child, Jesus Christ
Rev 12:5 So the woman gave birth to a son, a male child, who is going to rule over all the nations with an iron rod. Her child was suddenly caught up [herpasthe] to God and to his throne,
Rev 12:5 kai eteken huion arsen hos mellei poimainein panta ta ethne en rhabdo sidera kai herpasthe [suddenly caught up] to teknon autes pros ton theon kai pros ton thronon autou (Greek)
Rev 12:5 et peperit filium masculum qui recturus erit omnes gentes in virga ferrea et raptus [suddenly caught up] est filius eius ad Deum et ad thronum eius (Latin)
This passage is a reference to the ascension of Jesus Christ to heaven, where he was bodily lifted up in front of many witnesses into the clouds. The passage from Revelation is symbolic, but by comparing scripture with scripture, it is clear that the woman is the nation of Israel, or the Hebrew people, and the male child is Jesus Christ. This awesome event was recorded in two separate passages:
Luk 24:50 Then Jesus led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands, he blessed them.
Luk 24:51 Now during the blessing he departed and was taken up into heaven.
Act 1:9 After he had said this, while they were watching, he was lifted up and a cloud hid him from their sight.
Act 1:10 As they were still staring into the sky while he was going, suddenly two men in white clothing stood near them
Act 1:11 and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking up into the sky? This same Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will come back in the same way you saw him go into heaven."
In his resurrected, immortal body, Jesus was caught up into heaven before the disciples on the Mount of Olives. The promise of the two men in white clothing was that not only was Jesus "taken up from you into heaven", but that he would one day return to the earth in the exact same manner they visibly witnessed him ascend into the sky above.
With his ascension complete, all three mysterious events that the apostle Paul declared await believers were fulfilled by Jesus: the resurrection of the dead, the transformation of the body from perishable to imperishable, and the catching up of believers into the clouds.
- Paul’s catching up into the third heaven paradise
II Cor 12:1 It is necessary to go on boasting. Though it is not profitable, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord.
II Cor 12:2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago (whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows) was caught up [harpagenta] to the third heaven.
II Cor 12:3 And I know that this man (whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows)
II Cor 12:4 was caught up [harpazo] into paradise and heard things too sacred to be put into words, things that a person is not permitted to speak.
II Cor 12:4 oti herpage [caught up] eis ton paradeison kai ekousen arrehta rhemata ha ouk exon anthropo lalesai (Greek)
II Cor 12:4 quoniam raptus [caught up] est in paradisum et audivit arcana verba quae non licet homini loqui (Latin)
In this account, Paul stressed that he did not know whether he was taken up to the third heaven in his physical body, or if his spirit was temporarily separated from his physical body and taken up to paradise. This may be similar to what Ezekiel experienced when he was grabbed by his hair and taken in visions to Jerusalem. Whatever the case, the Greek verb harpazo was again used to describe the act. It was sudden, it was forcible, and it was without his consent.