The "rapture" is said to be a future event when Christ returns to the earth and will catch up living and newly resurrected believers into the clouds.
The word "rapture" does not appear in the Bible, so where does it come from?
It would seem that the entire basis for belief in the principle of the "rapture" stems from 1 Thessalonians 4:17. Christians should immediately question any system of belief or doctrine that is based on an assumption tenuously derived from just one verse.
Examination of the verse in question also highlights some serious short comings in the thinking behind such a doctrine. First, it is vital that the context of the verse is established:
13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive [and] remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
The context is established from verse 13 onwards, talking of them which are dead, but who died with the hope of resurrection - i.e. they are sleeping.
All verse 17 proves is that those which are alive will be caught up with them, presumably referring to those that have been raised from the dead, to meet the Lord in the air. It then states "so shall we ever be with the Lord" - the question is where?
The verses here in 1 Thessalonians 4 do not answer this question, so we have to look to the rest of scripture, where we find a wealth of evidence that those who are worthy of being with the Lord for ever, are on the earth:
And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. (Revelation 5:10)
See also Daniel 7:18-27, Psalm 37:11,22,29 and Matthew 5:5.
If the passage is taken literally then the Bible student should look for a definition of what is meant by "in the air". The "air" extends upwards for about 600 miles, so where exactly does the meeting take place and are the saints to spend eternity in the air?
The Greek word used in this passage for "caught up" does not contain an inherent sense of direction. We can determine its scriptural meaning by examining other usages in other passages (each underlined word corresponds to the same Greek word):
But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. (John 10:12))
And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. (John 10:28)
And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. (Acts 8:39)
The New Testament was originally written in Greek and it was not until 382 AD that the Bible was translated into Latin. It is from the Latin word for "caught up" that the word rapture is derived. It can be argued therefore that the idea of rapture only appeared with the advent of the Latin text.
What is meant by the word "clouds" in this verse? In the Greek, the verse does not contain the definite article; a more accurate rendering is (direct literal translation):
"then we the living who remain, together with them shall be caught away in clouds for meeting of the Lord in air; and thus always with Lord we shall be."
Hence the word clouds carries a very different sense here for example:
"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,"(Hebrews 12:1)
It can be seen that 1 Thessalonians 4:17 does not provide the required evidence to justify the concept of "the rapture". The foundation verse for "the rapture" simply does not provide the information required of it. The only way to establish an understanding of correct doctrines is by building up a complete picture by comparing verses with verses from the whole Bible. It is therefore vital to read and understand the Bible for yourself. We have a free course available here, which is designed to help you with this.
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