Sunday, August 15, 2010
Does First Thessalonians Teach a Rapture of the Church?
There are three verses here that I want to consider.
First, 4:17, "Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord." This is the classic verse used by certain strains of premillenialists to prove that the church will be "raptured," i.e., taken out of the world, before the Second Advent.
However, two other verses prior to that rule out that literalistic interpretation.
Look at 3:13, "[S]o that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints." Notice that Jesus isn't taking away His saints. Rather, He is leading them here. Paul is instructing the living Thessalonian Christians to be prepared for the return of the blessed dead at the Second Advent!
Also, 4:14, "For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep." Again, Jesus isn't taking believers there, he is returning with the saints in heaven to here!
Not only does the immediate context rule out the rapturist interpretation, the language used in 4:17 cannot possibly mean what the rapturists impose on it. The Greek word translated "meet" is used in only two other places in the New Testament. In Matthew 25:1-12, we read Jesus's own words in the Parable of the Ten Virgins. In verse 1, we read that the ten virgins "took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom." The other is Acts 28:15. "Meet" in all three verses is the translation of a Greek diplomatic term, referring to a delegation sent out to greet a VIP, such as an ambassador, and escort him back to the city. It cannot mean to greet him and then leave with him. The word simply doesn't mean what rapturists teach it to mean.