SPECIAL TOPIC: RAPTURE (from 1 Thess. 4:17)
Our theological concept of "rapture" originates from the verb "caught up." "Rapture" is a Latin rendering of the Greek verb in 1 Thess. 4:17 (harpazō – future passive indicative), which implies a forceful "snatching away" (cf. John 6:15; 10:12, 28-29). This event is also mentioned in 1 Cor. 15:51-52.
Many have disagreed about this end-time event. Some expect a secret rapture of believers (cf. Matt. 24:40-42, which I do not believe is taught in the NT, see my notes online) before a thousand-year reign of Christ upon the earth (see Special Topic: The Millennium). Often a seven-year tribulation period (cf. Dan. 7:25; 9:27) is linked to this. Some theologians have the rapture before, in the middle, or after this seven year period. The order and nature of these end-time events are ambiguous at best. Dogmatism is surely inappropriate here.
Believers are going to meet the Lord in the air, because in the NT the air was seen as the realm of Satan (cf. Eph. 2:2) and Greeks thought the lower air (atmosphere) was unclean and, therefore, the domain of unclean spirits. Believers will be reunited with their Lord in the midst of Satan's kingdom to show its complete overthrow.
1 Thess. 4:17 – "together with them" This church had misunderstood Paul's preaching about the Second Coming. Paul wrote both 1 and 2 Thessalonians to answer these questions. The church wanted to know:
1. Would the Christians who had died participate in these end-time events?
2. When would dead and living believers be reunited? This subject is discussed again in 2 Thess. 2:1.
"in the clouds" – Clouds are the traditional means of the transportation of deity (cf. Dan. 7:13; Matt. 24:30; 26:64; Acts 1:9-11; Rev. 1:7). The image calls to remembrance the Shekinah cloud of the OT exodus experience (cf. Exod. 13:21,22; 14:19,20,24; 16:10; 19:9,16; 24:15,16,18; 34:5; 40:34-38) which symbolizes God's presence with His people.
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