Apostolic Preterist

1 Thess.4 Rapture or Not

                                                                                

What about the Rapture? Were Christians not to be taken away from Earth before the return of Jesus?

Answer: Not at all. In fact, the word "rapture" does not appear anywhere in the Scripture, nor does the Scripture teach the removal of believers before the return of Christ. The only Bible passage advocating something close to the idea of a "rapture" is 1 Thessalonians 4:17:

"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."

The context of this passage is key to understanding it properly. Here Paul is teaching the Thessalonians regarding believers who have already died, and the order of the Resurrection. It appears that some of the Thessalonians were concerned and worried that those who were physically alive would get to experience the return of Christ before those who were already dead (see verse 15). However Paul is trying to calm their fears and puts forth the order of the events which they (the first century believers) would experience:

  1. God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus (verse 14)
  2. Those who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep (verse 15)
  3. The Lord will descend (verse 16)
  4. Then those who are alive and remain will be caught up together with those who are dead (verse 17)

Paul is doing nothing more here than teaching the order of the Resurrection and how events would transpire when Christ would return. All believers (those physically alive, and those physically dead) would together be caught up into Christ's presence and be brought to life through the restoration of God's presence to their lives.

Furthermore, there are clear time statements which place this passage in a first-century context. 1 Thessalonians 4:15 clearly teaches that Paul was expecting the return of Christ to take place within his lifetime or within the lifetime of his audience. The same goes for 1 Thessalonians 4:17 where Paul writes "we who are alive and remain," referring to first century believers, not Christians living in the 21st century.

This concludes, the issuse of the Rapture while not complex, can be confusing and difficult to deal with for several reasons:

  • The word "rapture" never appears anywhere in the Bible.
  • The concept of a "rapture" has only been recently (within the last two hundred or so years) created by Dispensational theologians.
  • The idea of a "rapture" implies that believers would be taken away before the Second Coming. This is dirrectly in opposition to Christ comparing his return with "the days of Noah" - see Matthew 24. In the days of Noah, the unrighteous were taken away by the waters of the flood, and the righteous remained and were saved - this is in clear opposition with the teachings of a "rapture."
  • The doctrine of "rapture" is based on a single Bible passage, which is 1 Thess. 4:13-17. This passage does not seem to teach a physical taking away of believers (as in believers' bodies floating up into the skies). Such an even would be unfeasable for several reasons:
    • It would serve no purpose to believers and it would contradict the prayer of Jesus in John 17:15: "I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one."
    • It does not spiritually benefit believers. Salvation is a spiritual matter, in that it does not necessarily involve one's physical delivery from danger, rather it involves a spiritual delivery from eternal destruction into eternal presence of God.

The "rapture" should therefore be equated with the "resurrection" of believers which come into the presence (parousia) of Christ, bringing life, justice and deliverance to all.

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