I have not used the word “rapture” for some time now when describing the second coming of Christ as it is described in 1 Thess. 4.15-18. In part, I think this has been due to the popular understanding of the word and the subsequent implications. The Left Behind series of fictional novels and other books like The Late, Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey have formulated how the word rapture is understood by the popular imagination. I am not necessarily supporting full abandonment of the word, but it seems damaged enough that it is worth discarding.
This subject was brought up yesterday and I was asked why I didn’t affirm a “rapture” if I did find 1 Thess. 4.17 mentioning us being “caught up together” with the Lord Jesus Christ.
First, as I noted, the popular image of the rapture is escapist. Christians are vacuumed out of the earth into the heavens for a debated period of time. I rejected this.
R.G. Clouse defines the rapture as, “A phrase used by premillennialist to refer to the church being united with Christ at his second coming (from Lat. rapio, “caught up”).”  If this all that the doctrine of the rapture entailed then I affirm it, but there are important variants and other assumptions like a defined vision of the “Great Tribulation” that has been further defined than I think Scripture tells us. There are pretribulationist who believe before the time of wrath the church goes into heaven. I don’t see this anywhere to be honest. There are those who think it happens during the time of wrath. Again, I don’t see this anywhere. Then there are those who think the rapture happens at the end of the time of wrath as the saints meet Christ in the air to join him in his final victorious assault upon evil.
As far as that last definition is concerned let me say that (1) I do think the saints meet Christ in the air to welcome him to his rule on earth which includes his victory over evil but (2) I have no opinion of the so-called “time of wrath” so I don’t really feel obligated to speculate in that regard.
Second, it is important to examine the message of 1 Thess. 4.15-18 when pondering this teaching. Let me provide the NASB version here:
As you can see where I made the text bold there are certain elements of this passage that provide some context to what is happening.
“The coming of the Lord” (τὴν παρουσίαν τοῦ κυρίου) is an important concept. The παρουσία is a “coming” and/or an “appearing”. Therefore, it is essential that we realize this testifies to Christ’s return here to earth. Another way of saying this would be to note that he is making himself visible to the physical world.
This concept is shared in the canon. In Acts 1.11. as the disciples stare into heaven the angels tell them that Jesus will return the same way that he went. Christ’s coming back from heaven in v. 16 parallels this idea. Also, in 1 Jn. 3.2 we are told we will be like Christ when he “appears” because then we will see him face-to-face. This seems to express the idea that Christ is present, but not visible. He is ruling, but not “physically” (for lack of a better word).
So we must think of Christ’s return as his appearing. This is his descent back to earth. This is the time when he is made visible. Paul himself describes this event further in 1 Cor. 15.23-27 where he sees our resurrection as being like Christ’s resurrection and it occurs “at his coming” (ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ αὐτοῦ). Again, we have Paul mentioning the παρουσία.
As we ponder this doctrine from these different angles we see (1) Christ’s returns/appears; (2) it will be the opposite of his ascension; (3) we will be like him because we will see him as he is; (4) in Paul’s language this means for the dead there will be a resurrection occuring just like Jesus’ resurrected. In both 1 Jn 3.2 and 1 Thess. 4.15 there is the assumption that there will be believers who have not died. These believers will go instantaneous change just like the dead who receive new bodies. All will be like Christ.
N.T. Wright sees Phil. 3.20-21 as describing this event as well.  This passage reads (NASB):
Don’t misread the statement that our citizenship is “in heaven”. That doesn’t mean we must “go” there to get it. It is obvious that even in this passage, like the others we have mentioned, resurrection is the focus and if resurrection is the focus then we do not regain our bodies to “go”.
So what do we do with the part in 1 Thess. 4.17 where we are “caught up”. It almost seems like resurrection could be so we “go to heaven” where Christ has been. I think this misses Paul’s point and it ignores the Johannine and Lukan contributions to our eschatology that we noted.
The word ἁρπαγησόμεθα does indicate a future event where we are quickly “seized” into the air (hence, the Vulgate rapio and the English rapture). But this does not mean we stay in the air. Again, this is Christ’s “coming”. This is his “descent” from heaven. This is his “appearing”. If there is something known as a “Great Tribulation” then I am convinced Christ’s return would be afterward because when Christ comes we meet him to welcome him and this signifies Christ’s victory over death and evil. Resurrection has occurred.
Wright sees three images behind Paul’s words:
(1) Moses coming down from Sinai where we have a trumpet and a loud voice.
(2) “Daniel 7, in which the persecuted people of God are vindicated over their pagan enemy by being raised up on the clouds to sit with God in glory.”
(3) When emperors visit colonies within the empire and “the citizens of the country would go to meet him at some distance from the city” in order to welcome him as ruler. 
We have two intertextual echoes and one historical antecedent that give context to 1 Thess. 4.17. So our being “caught up” to meet Christ has more to do with Dan. 7 imagery of the saints victoriously joining Christ in his descent upon evil as well as the parousia concept in the ancient world of the people of a colony welcoming their ruling emperor. While much more has been written on this subject, and I know this blog post cannot cover it, this provides a bit of a glimpse into why I don’t like “rapture” language (even if postribulationist see my views sympathetically).
My take on the passage is that it refers to our meeting Christ in the air to welcome him to his earthly rule. If this is a “rapture”, fine, as long as it is not confused with the popular idea.
 R.G. Clouse, “Rapture of the Church” in Walter A. Elwell, ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed. 983.
 N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, 131.
 Ibid. 132.
Check out this over-view by Charles Cooper on the “Pre-Wrath” view: http://www.prewrathrapture.com/2005/11/the_prewrath_rapture_1.php
I grew up pre-trib; although now I would say that I am somewhere between prewrath (probably prewrath) and post-trib. It seems like you must deal with the question of “wrath” and the “Day of the LORD” at some point, but I can appreciate the fact that you have a developing view here at the moment.
I’ve jettisoned progressive dispyism in favor of historic premil; which I believe allows for a much more organic view of redemptive history.
@Bobby: Indeed, I will need to give time to reading through wrath passages to see if there is something to them that I am ignoring. Thus far I have given extensive focus to resurrection and parousia which seem intertwined. I feel very comfortable with those events happening at the same time as the beginning of Christ’s earthly reign (also Rom. 8.18-23 comes in here) which seemed to be one problem I had with the pre-wrath explanation in that it seems to indicate a “rapture” where we are gone before coming back.
Yes, you’re right about pre-wrath. Every position, traditionally — as I’m sure you know — tries to deal with the question of “wrath” and Jeremiah’s “Jacob’s Trouble” as it relates to “The Day of the LORD.” And of course, each of these positions, traditionally, have a particular reading of “Daniel’s 70th week” which correlates, for the trad positions, to “Jacob’s Trouble” as well as the timing language found in Daniel (e.g. “times, times, times and half a time” etc.).
One problem I have with the trad post-trib reading is that somehow they have to cope with the reality of martyred trib saints, and then their primary argument about God keeping them from His wrath (often appealing to the analogy of the plagues in Egypt and God’s protection of Israel therein). This seems problematic to me; to say that God keeps His saints safe, and then also have to explain the idea of trib. saints who are martyred.
What you are saying sounds more in line with Irenaeus’ premil view.
@Bobby: What about the possibility that the wrath from which the church is delivered is final judgement type wrath, not necessarily whatever judgment occurs on the earth at the end of the age? For instance, what is 1 Thess. 1.10 and 5.9 is not “Jacob’s troubles”, but rather something like a throne judgment? I’m just tossing this off the top of my head. Thoughts?
This whole subject requires our look at the Ante-Nicene Christian Chiliasts, and also The Apostolic Fathers. And both Irenaeus and Cyprian should be read too. As I have noted several times, the book by Charles Hill: Regnum Caelorum, Patterns of Millennial Thought in Early Christianity is a must read!
Like Bobby I have been through this subject for many years. At present I see also the historic & covenant Pre-Mill position. But like Irenaeus, I feel the most important aspect is not the measure of the literal 1,000 years, in and of itself, but the reality of the earth in and under the redemptive presence of Christ. The so-called Millennial life and kingdom will move towards the eternal kingdom and renovation of the earth itself, (Rom. 8:21). But, it also connects itself to “the glory of the children of God.” As St. Paul says, “The New Creation” and the “New Man”.. “In Christ”. So this great eschatological subject is not really measured so much by chronology, but the fulness of the redemption of Christ, and the great depth of the Spirit and His spirituality, note Eph. 2:18, which is the fulness of the Triune God Himself. Amen! (Rom. 11: 36)
I think that “The Day of the LORD” throughout the Scriptures is in reference to the second advent of Christ; so to me, then, this wrath has to do with a “temporal-historic” reference that is also tied into a theology of the Land (as we see so often referenced throughout the OT and tied into a theology of God’s Covenant people).
I like your question, though, let me ponder on that further; my response above is off the top too.
Btw, I agree with the themes that Fr Robert is highlighting.
@Bobby: I have been of the persuasion that the “Day of the Lord” is a principled thing that has a climactic occurrence at the end of the age. In some sense I have seen it as being like “exile” (from Eden, from Canaan in Egypt, from “the Land” into Assyria/Babylon, as a reoccurring “status” before YHWH) or “Babylon” (Babel in Genesis, ancient Babylon during Judah’s exile, a symbol of evil empire in the Book of Revelation) or “anti-Christ” (there are many already in the world but also a primary eschatological figure). This would mean there have been several versions of the “Day of the Lord” when God acts in mercy and wrath, but there will also be the Day of the Lord.
@Fr. Robert: I agree that these are the important, stable portions of our eschatological vision. New Creation, new humanity, the reign of Christ, resurrection….these are the pillars of eschatology. Things like “the rapture”, the literalness or figurativeness of the millennium, the “Great Tribulation” and so forth are secondary, more speculative issues.
Great post, Brian. Fits well into the discussion at hand, and I hope that people have the wisdom to listen to it.
Good stuff. I wrote a similar article on the rapture in the past. In it, I look at this passage in 1 Thess 4 and discuss two Greek words/phrases. I touch on a couple of other things, but the article might be of interest to you.
In the end, we all hold to a ‘rapture’, or ‘meeting in the air’. It’s just what do we believe about it.
Brian: I’ve pretty much abandoned the dipsy understanding of the rapture, especially since I’ve begun to understand heaven as coming to the earth rather than the saints going up. We got into this a few weeks ago in our Sunday night study through N. T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope. We resume this week and it should be interesting!
@Scott: Thanks and thank you for sharing. I’ll try to get over to your post soon.
@Jason: Christ coming here makes better canonical-sense than us going elsewhere!
Really appreciate the post and the conversation here. Recent events in the news have people asking about end times. I like the image of the citizens going out to greet the king (Wright’s 3rd image). I believe one reason the “Left Behind” perspective has saturated the church is because it apparently makes a good novel (I can’t bring myself to read it). I remember watching a “rapture” movie once and cringing because they were portraying God as One who is going to steal unborn babies from their mother’s womb.
Another reason left behinders are so popular is because people are not aware of other images. Maybe N T needs to write a novel.
As we pray the prayer the Lord taught us; Thy will be done Thy kingdom come on earth.
@Jeff: Indeed, the words of the Lord’s prayer provide beautiful insight into the type of eschatology we should imagine. When God said that creation was “good” in Gen 1., he meant it. He doesn’t want to steal us from this world. He wants to solidify it as his temple amongst us.
It reasoning like this why I eventually jettisoned the rapture, dispensationalism and the like. Good stuff.
I agree on the principled theme of the “Day of the LORD” and the prefigurement of that, that we see throughout the canon; of course our discussion has been orbiting around “the” Day of the LORD.
“Rapturism” has been around a lot longer than “Left Behind;” which I’m assuming you know. I think the issue isn’t the “Left Behind” sensationalism, it’s the churches which teach this theology; but take heart, most of the churches that used to teach this kind of “theology” pretty much don’t teach anything (of doctrinal import) anymore (excuse my cyncism). So it appears that this “kind” of dispy theology is on the wane; not for theological reasons (theological too, actually), but for socio/cultural reasons.
I find the concept of bringing heaven to earth problematic, given the doctrine of the ascension; and the supremacy, christologically, that that doctrine signifies — and our participation in that. Beyond that, there are presumably, billions of people in heaven right now; how does the “intermediate state” fit into the theology of bringing “heaven to earth?” Why not bringing earth to heaven? How does this “bringing heaven to earth,” avoid collapsing heaven into earth? I think there is a way to parse that, theologically; but I’m wondering how Wright parses that. If not done carefully we could end up with a number of christological problems, analogically.
@Bobby: As regards the doctrine of the ascension it seems to me that although this does signify Christ’s supremacy in that he already reigns, it doesn’t appear that this is the final state of his reign, especially since his return is an expected result. In the Epistle to the Ephesians we see that we already rule and reign with Christ in our inner person, but the ideal state is when our outer person is restored as it is noted in Second Corinthians. Likewise, Christ’s reign in heaven is wonderful, but the final Psalm 2 style consummation on earth is ideal.
The intermediate state doesn’t seem to be ideal either. The dead await resurrection. Resurrection occurs on earth. I think of Rom. 8.18-23 here where creation awaits its freedom which comes when we are resurrected. This seems to be not because earth is no longer important, but rather because earth now has the Son of God (1.1-6) and his adopted siblings (8.18-23) ruling over it as Adam and Eve were intended to do, but failed.
It don’t think it is necessarily an either-or regarding language of heaven coming to earth or earth going to heaven. The “marriage” of the two at the end of Revelation seems to indicate that earth is transformed by heaven’s presence. If we are to think Christologically about this it seems like some of what Athanasius sees as important–that Christ became human and part of creation so that creation and humanity could be redeemed in him–is analogical. So I don’t have a problem with saying, in some sense, earth is drawn into the heavenlies. But this is different that some eschatologies that seem to indicate we leave earth behind, altogether, for “heaven” in a Platonic, ethereal sense.
Thanks for clarifying (I haven’t read Wright on this particular issue). I agree with what you’ve said, esp. on the Athansius front. Classic dispyism definitely suffers from this Platonic disjunct between the physical and spiritual (with there two people’s of God: “heavenly/church” “earthly/ethnic Jews”); which certainly identifies a weakness in their “system” given their thinking on the relation between the “eternal state” and the “Davidic kingdom” — the weakness is that they see no continuity.
As you note, with Athanasius (and Torrance, for that matter) we see analogically how the divine/human work with distinction/yet inseparable relatedness in the person of Jesus (even perichoretic). This is the way I would say earth is brought into heaven; and I think, theologically, this might be a better way to say it since it avoids an unintended consequence — that saying heaven brought to earth might conjure — the consequence would be to make earth what shapes heaven, instead of heaven shaping earth. Or making God subservient to creation, instead of creation subservient to her Creator. This might be quibbling, but I don’t think so 🙂 .
@Bobby: I can see where the language could become problematic. It seems that Wright, et al., are shaped by the language of say, for example, the prophets where YHWH comes to Zion and the earth is filled with the knowledge of YHWH as the prophet Isaiah foresaw. There is a sense in which earth is still the location of divine activity, but it is overflowing with his presence. But as we have discussed, and as the Book of Revelation depicts it, if God “comes” to earth there is a sense in which earth must be engulfed in heaven.
I can see where the precision of the Bible (and thus the way Wright frames it) might be a little at odds with the “precision” of Systematic Theology; I’m sure that’s the rub. In that regard, I would want to give precedence to the Bible; of course making sure that we allow Theology to clarify the structure upon which the Bible presumes (theo-logically). I don’t know if you’ve gotten there yet with Vanhoozer in “Drama,” but he says the same thing, I think, using the language of lyric and epic (lyric=scripture epic=theology/doctrine) to symbolize the need for both in order for the drama to function properly.
@Bobby: I don’t think I have come across that as of yet, but I definitely agree that biblical and theological approaches are interdependent upon each other and that neither can function properly without the other.
I’m always amazed when people bifurcate 1 Thessalonians 4 into two separate events (whether they believe in the rapture or whether they don’t). That is, they separate resurrection of the spirit from resurrection of the body saying that a person’s spirit ascends to heaven at death but that his body won’t ascend until later.
Clearly, the OT taught that everyone who dies goes to Sheol below. Clearly, the NT teaches that everyone will go to heaven in the resurrection. Therefore, if you still believe 1 Thess 4 is future tense, you have to believe the dead still go down to Sheol – unless you bifurcate the resurrection as described above. Of course, there’s no scriptural warrant for doing so; only tradition maintains it.
P.S. I really like the N.T. Wright quotes.
@Mike: I’d agree that 1 Thess 4 doesn’t bifurcate the resurrection of the spirit and that of the body. Neither does it seem to address the spirit though. Paul always sees the bodily resurrection as the final, ideal state of the human. Other passages, like the thief on the cross or the spirits of the martyrs in Revelation are taken to support an intermediary state. So I don’t think Paul denies or supports either.
Of course, as I have argued, I don’t think he sees the resurrection as going “to heaven” as much as he does when heaven awakens and resurrects the entire cosmos, including our bodies (Rom. 8.18-23).
I don’t know if anyone has mentioned it, but this seems to have been overlooked. Coming from 1 Thessalonians 4 itself, here is the flow of events:
(1) Christ descends—the Parousia;
(2) The dead in Christ rise first—the Resurrection;
(3) The remnant is caught up in the air—the Rapture.
So the presentation of this rapture is not something that precedes the Parousia of Christ, but is something that follows it. The text doesn’t speak of events that happen between the Parousia and the Rapture, except of the Resurrection. However, the text doesn’t speak of events after the Rapture either, except that “we shall meet the Lord in the air” and that “we shall be always be with the Lord.” Where judgment takes place, the text here does not specifically say, but there seems to be a return of the Lord and the first-raised to the air after the Parousia and Resurrection.
Regardless of where and when judgment takes place, a close reading of 1 Thessalonians 4:17 seems to say that the Rapture occurs after Christ’s Second Coming not before as many have supposed.
@JohnDave: Indeed, the “rapture” event does follow the Parousia. For us to color in Paul’s eschatology we must look elsewhere, even outside Paul. It does seem from 1 Cor 15 that the Parousia and Resurrection are Christ’s final victory over death from his current reign. I’d toss Rom. 8.18-23 in as well because Paul sees this event as being the time when creation is resurrected (canonically, then, we may consider 2 Pet. 3.10-13 to occur here which sounds very last judgment, Day of the Lord-ish).
Yes, we definitely have the canon to color in the rest. I was trying to bring out that whatever type of “rapture” is spoken of in 1 Thessalonians, it is something that doesn’t align with the popular pre-tribulation rapture idea. In fact, 1 Thessalonians 4 seems to be more in line with a post-tribulation rapture idea, but even then, the similarities don’t seem to be all that great.
@JohnDave: Agreed, one would have to prove that the Parousia of v. 15 is not the final, earthly Second Coming which seems problematic to me. There is the resurrection of the dead which has traditionally been understood as one of the final events of history before the final judgement. If we see the 1 Cor reference as being the same event than it is a tough task to see Christ as having defeated his “final enemy”, death, only to then have to continue his battle against other enemies that are not the final enemy.
//the popular image of the rapture is escapist. Christians are vacuumed out of the earth into the heavens for a debated period of time. I rejected this.//
//I do think the saints meet Christ in the air to welcome him to his rule on earth which includes his victory over evil//
Oh yes. I am completely onboard. In fact, you’re only the second other person I’ve encountered who has articulated like this. I thought I was alone for years, then to my amazement my own pastor said almost these very words. And tonight I sit here reading my subs and came across this post. Bravo. It is nice to read a similar thought.
Thank you for your article. First, Prewrath affirms that the rapture of both the newly resurrected and remnant _initiates_ the parousia. The rapture is not the parousia but only one aspect of it—the first aspect. We do not think that the birth of Christ is identical to the first parousia—instead it initiated his first parousia. 1 Thess 4:15 confirms this when Paul teaches: “we who are alive, who are left _until_ the coming of the Lord, will surely not go ahead of those who have fallen asleep.
Second, where do believers go after the rapture to the sky? Paul does not address this question in 1 Thessalonians and we must go to other passages for this information. And there are three texts that answer this question: to the Father:
Then after the interim of the Day of the Lord’s wrath, will heaven converge with earth.
I hope that helps. My forthcoming book on the Day of the Lord brings much of this out.
“(2) The dead in Christ rise first—the Resurrection;(3) The remnant is caught up in the air—the Rapture.”
The resurrection happens first, but the resurrected and the remnant are both caught up together at the same time, as the English translations and more precisely the Greek text states:
@Alan: This sounds like an interesting take on the subject. If I can find the time I will read through the links posted. I tends to see this approach as dividing events further apart, and inserting events in the middle, that don’t seem to fit, but that is just from these comments. In general I am not very optimistic about or toward a “leaving-the-earth rapture”.
@Lance: I think there are a growing number of people who assume a view like mine. We are not alone! 😉
“It tends to see this approach as dividing events further apart…
The parousia is a complex-whole event, not a simple-single event. God will be fulfilling important redemptive and judgment events during his parousia, all culminating in the millennium.
“In general I am not very optimistic about or toward a “leaving-the-earth rapture”.
There are three important passages that teach that we do not immediately descend to the earth just after the rapture, but rather are brought into the Father’s presence:
“Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, (14) knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.” –2 Cor 4:13-14 (cf. 1Th 4:14).
“In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? (3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” –John 14:2-3
“Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?” (14) I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (15) “For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them.” –Rev 7:13-15
@Alan: I don’t see how 2 Cor. 4.13-14 addresses a rapture. It is about our resurrection. We are raised from the dead. Jn. 14.2-3 can be read this way, but it doesn’t demand it and the canonical context seems to indicate that we aren’t going away from earth. The metaphor of being welcomed into the family and God’s “house” is more in line with a doctrine of adoption than rapture. Finally, Rev. 7.13-15 is a stretch as well since the Apocalypse moves back and forth between earth and heaven, the physical and the spiritual, now and eternity. By the time we get to Rev. 21 we have the marriage of heaven and earth and, again, earth is where God meets his people though it is restored and renovated (cf. Rom. 8.18-23; 2 Pete. 3.10-13).
“I don’t see how 2 Cor. 4.13-14 addresses a rapture. It is about our resurrection. We are raised from the dead.”
The resurrected are raptured along with the alive remnant as Paul so clearly teaches:
“Then we who are alive, who are left, will be suddenly caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord.” (1 Thess 4:17)
How do you respond to the fact that Paul so clearly teaches that the resurrected are rapture to the sky to meet Jesus in the clouds in 1 Thess 4:15–17?
2 Cor 4:13-14 teaches that the resurrected are brought into the Father’s presence. What in the text requires you to deny this fact?
Jn. 14.2-3 can be read this way, but it doesn’t demand it and the canonical context seems to indicate that we aren’t going away from earth
Again, Paul clearly teaches that the resurrected are rapture in (1 Thess 4:17). The immediate context (i.e., the actual text) and not the “canonical context” teaches this.
The metaphor of being welcomed into the family and God’s “house” is more in line with a doctrine of adoption than rapture.
The context is clearly speaking of a literal place not metaphorical:
(2) There are many dwelling places in my Father’s house. Otherwise, I would have told you, because I am going away to make ready a place for you. (3) And if I go and make ready a place for you, I will come again and take you to be with me, so that where I am you may be too.” (John 14:2–3)
To argue that Jesus does not have destinations in mind here is simply a tradition that is not allowing to see the plain natural reading here. He speaks to this ascension and his return—those are real events, not metaphorical spiritual truths.
Finally, Rev. 7.13-15 is a stretch as well since the Apocalypse moves back and forth between earth and heaven, the physical and the spiritual, now and eternity.
That is not an argument. This innumerable multitude with resurrected bodies just came out of the Great Tribulation—they are now before the throne of God. This is consistent with Matthew 24 in which the Great Tribulation is cut short and thereby the elect of God are gathered at the parousia.
“ἔπειτα ἡμεῖς οἱ ζῶντες οἱ περιλειπόμενοι ἅμα σὺν αὐτοῖς ἁρπαγησόμεθα ἐν νεφέλαις εἰς ἀπάντησιν τοῦ κυρίου εἰς ἀέρα [caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air]· καὶ οὕτως πάντοτε σὺν κυρίῳ ἐσόμεθα.” (1 Thess 4:17)
When Jesus comes back he will rapture the resurrected to the sky.
And that is the whole point of the epistle. Paul is comforting the Thessalonians by teaching them that their dead in Christ will be with them when they meet Jesus at his parousia.
I have observed the past 15 years in studying eschatology that some interpreters are so averse to pretrib dispy rapturism, that they will go the other extreme and deny the biblical truth of the rapture of God’s people (e.g. N.T. Wright). We need balanced accurate exegesis that will be faithful to God’s Word.
@Alan: I am not denying that people will be caught up in the air. If we want to call this a “rapture” in 1 Thess. that is fine. But you are attributing more to the immediate text and the canonical context than the text gives itself. I am not against theologizing on the text, but I simply find your conclusions here to be begging the question.
What I am denying is that these passages mean we leave earth to heaven for some long extent of time other than merely welcoming our returning King to rule on earth. While you don’t find my exegesis on Jn. 14.2-3 convincing neither do I find yours convincing. As much as you think I am trying to avoid dispensationalism so I think you are trying to defend some version of it. We both have frameworks and presuppositions, and that is fine.
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