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.

PAROUSA AND APANTESIS

Paul uses a word that, when taken in its normal, technical sense and used and understood in the first century world, negates the idea of a removal of Christians from the earth. If we are to understand 1 Thessalonians we need to understand what the word Parousa and Apantesis mean and how they are being used in 1 Thessalonians. The terms Parousa and Apantesis as technical terms, were used in the ancient world to speak of a king or royal dignitary that was making a visit to a given city. As he got closer to the city for his coming (his Parousa) the citizens of that city, being watchful for him, would, when his entourage was sighted, leave their city and go out to “Meet” (Apantesis) him. They would then escort him back to their city. The city was the destination of the dignitary. It was the location of his Parousa. He was not coming to remove the city. He was coming to visit them. Parousa and Apantesis are often companion words in the koine (common) Greek langage of Pauls world.

If Parousa and Apantesis are being used in Thess in their technical sense, the call was not predicting the coming of Christ to take the church off the earth. He was coming to be with his saints to indwell them. This would mean that Thessalonians was predictive of the reestablishment of fellowship between heaven and earth(Gods people believing Jew and Gentile under the new covenant). Ephesians 1:10 “Eden” would be restored. It would mean, “the tabernacle of God is with men.” (Rev 21:3) Below I have this scripture and what it is talking about in parenthesis marks. Please read before continuing. I recommend you reading the articles I have on heaven and earth and the article on the New Jerusalem after.

Rev 21:1-3 “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, (covenant, people,city)”a for the first heaven (covenant) and the first earth (people,city) had passed away, (unbelieving Jews, old covenant, literal city of Jerusalem passed) and there was no longer any sea.(The sea represents people in the bible and this sea is referring to the Jews who died in 70 A.D) 2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God (The new Jerusalem city represents the church they came out of the old covenant heaven ), prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband (The New Jerusalem city which was the church was the bride who was marrying her husband Jesus Christ). 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”

Read the sentence in bold above. Gods dwelling place is called the abode in the scripture- “John 14:2-4 In my Father's house are many mansions (This word mansion means abode in the Greek. The same as dwelling place): if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. 4And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.” The bible says about marriage- "And these two shall become one flesh." When Jesus (Who we know was the tabernacle of God because he said of himself "I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands",) married his bride on the day of Pentecost he tabernacled, indwelled and made his abode within men.

Jesus came on the day of Pentecost and made his abode within each person that was filled with his spirit. This was not established though until the law was completely done away with and grace established until 70 A.D when he came back. You see, Jesus could not be married to his first bride which was the Jews under the old covenant. ( he married them under the law) and his new bride at the same time. Once they were killed, he could marry his new wife officially.

What I would like to do is find out what Paul meant when he said “ We shall meet him in the air.” Did he envision the rising of human bodies into the atmosphere to literally, bodily meet Christ in the clouds? Or was Paul using typical, well understood terms in its historical context met no such things. Did Paul intend for his readers to understand Apantesis (meet) in Thessalonians? In its formal or technical definition. I believe it was technical. I believe that when the Christians saw Jerusalem surrounded by armies they remembered what Luke said which was when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies know that the desolation thereof was nigh and fled the city. There I believe the Lords presence met them in the air (which in the Greek is atmosphere.) From that point I believe Jesus dwelt within the new Jerusalem city (which was symbolic for the church.)

Top half by Virgil Vadual. Lower half information came from Don Prestons book We Shall Meet Him in the Air. 
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