Wednesday, 10 January 2018

No Room for the Rapture

     Rapturist theory proposes a twofold return of Christ: first, a secret return to snatch up the church (based on 1 Thess. 4:17); and second, a visible return “with all his saints” (based on 1 Thess. 3:13) to judge the world following the alleged great tribulation. Here is a concise statement of the doctrine: “The Rapture occurs when the Church is caught up to meet Christ in the air, before the tribulation; and The Revelation occurs when Christ comes, with His saints, to end the Tribulation, by the execution of righteous judgment upon the earth. At the Rapture, Christ comes into the air for His saints. At the Revelation, He comes to the earth with them. He certainly must come for them before He can come with them” (W. E. B. Jesus is Coming 75-76, emp. in the text).1
A Biblical Response
     In 1 Thess. 4:17 we read, “then we the living ones remaining will be carried off together with them [those resurrected in Christ] in the clouds for a meeting of the Lord into the air, and so always we will be with the Lord.”2 While modern-day rapturists tend to hone in on the main verb harpagēsómetha (“we will be carried off”), the attention of the original audience (concerned about departed loved ones) would have been drawn to the phrase preceding the main verb, háma sùn autois (“together with them”). The actual word order in the Greek text is as follows: “then we the living ones remaining, together with them will be carried off …”
     Because of the Lord’s victory over death, there is great consolation and reassurance in knowing what lies ahead. In Christ “all shall be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22), and dying is a tremendous gain (Phil. 1:21). The afflictions of this mortal existence are much more bearable considering the promise of that happy reunion with our Savior and with all who have died in him. The only other instance in the NT where the pairing of háma sùn (“together with”) occurs is 1 Thess. 5:10, where the same reassurance is given.
     The verb harpagēsómetha (“we will be carried off”) is the future passive indicative form of hárpaxō, meaning to “seize” or “snatch.” This produced the Latin raptus, the Medieval Latin raptura, the Middle French rapture, and the English “rapture.”3
     Our premillennialist friends claim that the Rapture is part of the secret parousía (“coming”), whereas the visible return is the apokálupsis (“revelation”). The problems with this theory are manifold, not the least of which is the fact that the parousía (1 Thess. 4:15) is to be accompanied by “a loud command,” “an archangel’s voice,” and “God’s trumpet” (v. 16) – hardly a secretive affair! Moreover, the same event is called both the parousía (“presence” or “coming”) and the apokálupsis (“revelation”) of Christ (2 Thess. 1:7; 2:1, 8), immediately followed by “the end” (1 Cor. 15:23-24).
     The concept of Christ coming “with all his saints” (1 Thess. 3:13) is to be addressed in next week’s post <Link>. For now, suffice it to say that when each passage concerning the Lord’s return is read in its immediate context in light of the overall message of scripture, the modern-day rapture theory cannot stand.
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 There are basically three branches of premillennial theory: (a) dispensational [pre-tribulation] premillennialism (the rapture occurs before the 7-years’ tribulation); (b) mid-tribulation (the rapture occurs in the midst of the 7-years’ tribulation); and (c) historic [post-tribulation] premillennialism (the rapture occurs at the end of the 7-years’ tribulation). G. D. Fee, in response to the rapturist interpretation of 1 Thess. 4:17, candidly observes, “Paul himself could hardly have intended such a meaning here …. How could [the Thessalonians] have known about such an ‘event’ otherwise unknown in the church until the mid-nineteenth century?” (Thessalonians 179-80).
     2 Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are the author’s own translation.
     3 The future passive form rapiemur appears in the Latin Vulgate translation of 1 Thess. 4:17.

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