Our Lord Taught the “Rapture”

Our Lord Jesus once left his human footprints on the beaches of Galilee. He taught his closest disciples that he would return to heaven. However, he made the promise that he would Return again and then “receive them home to himself.” The Nazarene teaches this promise in John 14:1-3 - “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in The God. Trust also in me. In my Father’s house there are many abodes. If it were otherwise I would have told you. For I am going away to prepare a place for you. Also, if I should leave and prepare a place for you, I am coming again I will receive you home to myself [PARALEMPHOMAI] so that where I am you also will be.”

This is not the first time Jesus had used the word PARALEMPHOMAI. He had used it just a short time before when telling his apostles about his future Return or Parousia. In Luke 17:34, 35 [as well as Matthew 24:39-42] Jesus uses the same word he does later on Passover night with his apostles - PARALEMPHTHESETAI - when he promises that at his Parousia when two sleeping in one bed, one would be “taken along” and the other abandoned. One of two women at work would be “taken along” and the other abandoned.”

This PARALEMPHOMA is very much related to the same word to describe the rapture [being caught away] and ascension of the Lord Jesus Acts 1:9-11 - ANALEMPHTHEIS. Some believe this ascension of the Lord in the clouds is the same event described later in Revelation 12:5 when the Celestial Woman receives home to herself her Son by his being “raptured.” There the Greek word is HERPASTHE. This word means to be snatched quickly, or in Latin, raptured. Our Lord was himself raptured off this earth into the clouds of the sky. Would any of his future disciples also experience such a rapture? Note what Paul taught in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 and that he claims this was the “word of the Lord” and should be a source of encouragement among Christians.

[Reproduced from the Nazarene Commentary 2000© on 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17.]

The Word of the Lord

1 Thessalonians 4:15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel's call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; 1 Thessalonians 4:17 then we who are alive, who are left, shall 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. 1 Thessalonians 4:18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. [Revised Standard Version]

We declare to you by the word of the Lord: What may Paul mean as the source of what he is about to declare? It is possible he has a revelation on the matter. We note how the New Jerusalem Bible renders this: “We can tell you this from the Lord’s own teaching ...” If this be a correct view then we can find within the teachings of the Nazarene two groups of Saints, one living and one dead, and at some future moment will then benefit by being raised. We do discover this in John 11:25, 26, “I am the resurrection. Anyone who believes in me, even though that person dies, will live [a) by a resurrection] and whoever lives [living] and believes in me will never die [b) a living person who escapes death].” (NJB)

This may be understood to an allusion to Daniel 12:1, 2 where two such groups are seen: a) one awakened from sleep; and, b) another group rescued from a great oppression. Paul reveals such a mystery later to the Corinthians when he again mentions such a mystery -- 1 Corinthians 15:50-52. Is it possible this mystery was revealed to Paul (an inspired understanding of Daniel 12:1, 2 and John 11:25, 26) prior to the time of writing to the Thessalonians and thereafter the Corinthians? If we accept the view that Paul was aware of that teaching revealed in John 11:25, 26. The book of Daniel (including Daniel 12:1, 2) was to be sealed to the end-time or last days of Jerusalem. (Daniel 12:9) Paul is living at that precise time and may be among the first to gain such “knowledge.” (Daniel 12:4)

For more details see Nazarene Principles 2000©, Nazarene Apocalypse 2000© (Nazarene Commentary ©2000) under 1 Thessalonians 4:13.

The End-time Saints

We who are alive: Some make the error that this means those living Christians in Paul’s day. Paul’s use of “we” may be editorial and refer to certain Christians in general. Note “we” in 2 Corinthians chapters 4 and 5. Paul may refer to “the living” of John 11:25, 26.

Who are left until the coming of the Lord: Here the Greek PAROUSIA is used. Some render “left until” as “survive.” (CON, NW) This is misunderstood by the Thessalonians (and others) that some of them would live until the Parousia. This becomes a problem and is answered in 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2. These would be the end-time Saints of Daniel 7:22 (Daniel 12:1) alive at the historical moment of Christ’s Return.

Shall not precede those who have fallen asleep: The living (surviving) Saints will not go before the dead Saints. How does Paul know this order of events? This is the order in John 11:25, 26 -- first the dead believers are resurrected; and, then those alive never die. 1 Corinthians 15:51, 52 suggests similar order: “We shall not all die. ... for the Trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised and we will be changed.” Paul states here that this is a sacred mystery and infers he knows it by revelation.

It is interesting to note that in the context of judgment there is a common phrase, “the living and the dead” -- with but one exception (Romans 14:9) -- the “living” noted first. (Ruth 2:20; Acts 10:42; 1 Timothy 4:1; 1 Peter 4:5) When the Lord arrives for judgment there are two groups: the living and the dead. For reasons explained elsewhere in Nazarene Commentary ©2000 there are good reasons to suggest the living end-time Saints receive their judgment in the flesh while the dead Saints must be raised to the parousia-judgment. (Revelation 7:1-4)

The Lord himself will descend from heaven: The Hebrew Bible has numerous examples of Yehowah descending to the earth, often in the form of His representative “Angel of Yahweh.” How does Paul know the Lord Jesus will return to earth by descending from the Sky. (The word “heaven” often means “sky.”) He surely could have learned John 14:1-3 and Acts 1:9-11 from other disciples. Surely in his close association with the Jewish physician Luke he would have learned of the episode recorded at Acts 1:9-11. On the other hand Daniel 7:22 may strongly infer that the “Lord” will leave the celestial realms as described in Daniel 7:13, 14 and “arrive” toward the Saints to deliver them from the Small Power. Compare John 6:64 and Ephesians 4:9, 10.

A cry of command: May this “command” be that voice mentioned in John 5:28 and John 11:43. By comparing the Greek of Revelation 18:4 [EXELTHATE] with that of Isaiah 49:9 [EXELTHATE] (also Isaiah 48:20) we may think this would be the command, “Come out!” Actually we need not guess at this for we have the actual words in Revelation 11:12, “COME ON UP HERE!”

The archangel's call: Some see this an inference that the name “Michael” belongs to the heavenly Lord. (Compare Daniel 12:1 and Revelation 12:7. Note the phrase “his angels” at Matthew 25:31 and Revelation 12:7. It is worthy of note that Michael the archangel speaks twice in the Bible and in both cases it includes, “Yehowah rebuke you, Satan!” (Zechariah 3:2; Jude 9) This descent of the Lord Jesus is a historic moment in his conquest over the Devil. (Hebrews 2:14) Note the call Paul quotes in 1 Corinthians 15:55, Death, where is your victory?”

With the sound of the trumpet of God: Compare Matthew 24:30-31, 1 Corinthians 15:50-51 and Revelation 11:15, 18. What must this sound be like?

The dead in Christ will rise first: That is, those “believers” of John 11:25. The Christian dead are only raised or resurrected upon the Return of Messiah. (1 Corinthians 15:23; Matthew 24:30, 31) Thus it is called the “first resurrection” at Revelation 20:4, 6.

Then we who are alive, who are left: Those rescued or delivered at Daniel 12:1, 2. Those Christians alive and still waiting expectantly for the Return of Christ -- the end-time Saints. These are described in Revelation chapter 7 as symbolically a large crowd of 144,000 who “come out of the great oppression” to serve God in His celestial Temple. For details see Nazarene Apocalypse 2000© in Nazarene Commentary ©2000.

The Mystery of the Rapture

Shall be caught up: The Greek is a very long word worthy of special note: HARPAGESOMETHA, meaning literally, “we will be snatched.” Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #726 suggests, “carry off by force,” claim for one’s self,” or “to snatch out.” This is something that happens suddenly, even violently as a rape. Indeed, it is possible the first handful of letters in the Greek is corrupted into Latin as “rape.” Jerome in the fourth century used such a related word in his Latin Vulgate resulting in something closer to “rapture.” And so the source in English for the teaching of the Rapture. One may reread Daniel 7:22, Daniel 12:1, John 11:26, 1 Corinthians 15:51 and see the Rapture there.

Together with them: Actually the Greek is seldom captured by most translators: HAMA SYN which literally means “at the same time together with.” In affect this says, “simultaneously together.” Can anyone argue that the resurrection and rapture of the Saints stretches over a whole generation or time, or more, over many centuries of time?

In the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: Two words seem to make it clear where the Lord is located at this moment: in the atmosphere or the sky -- “clouds” and “air.” This “meeting” is described in 2 Thessalonians 2:1 as EPI-SYNAGOGES [= a higher gathering]. The image echoes Acts 1:9-11. Note how this is repeated in Revelation 11:12, “And they heard a great voice out of the Sky say to them: ‘You, ascend to (us) here!’ And they ascended into the Sky in the cloud.”

We shall always be with the Lord: One of the two great expectations of the Christian Church. The other is mentioned at Revelation 22:3, 4. This is the only hope offered by invitation to all Christians. (Ephesians 4:4)

Words of Comfort Until the Parousia

Comfort one another with these words: This portion of Scripture has been among the most comforting to the Saints throughout nearly two-thousand years. It has not lost a bit of its thrilling expectation and grows more powerful with each passing day. It is a text read at the memoriums of millions those Christians who have fallen asleep. One ancient memorial said: “Sleep, dear friend, a temporary rest is granted you.”

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Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller

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