2 Cor. 5:8
2 Cor. 12:2-4
1 Thess. 4:17
2 Peter 3:10
- 1 Thessalonians 4:17
- "Caught up . . . in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord."
- This passage is the foundation text for the Evangelicals doctrine of the "rapture of the church", i.e., that at the second coming, Christ will gather the saints together, take them to heaven, and rule over, but not on the earth.
- Nowhere does this pasage state that the saints are taken to heaven. The evidence is the other way, since "the Lord shall descend from heaven" (vs. 16).
- "And so shall we ever be with the Lord." Where? On the earth, not in heaven. This is the testimony of the Apostle Paul elsewhere in his writings. (Rom. 4:13 cf. Gen. 13:15 and Gal. 3:27-29) and the teaching of scores of Biblical references (E.g. Dan. 7:18-27 esp. verse 27; Psa. 37:11, 22, 29; Matt. 5:5; Rev. 5:10.)
- Even if the passage be taken literally, the meeting of the Lord and the saints is said to be in the air. But the air extends upwards for 600 miles (a generous estimate). Are the saints to spend eternity suspended in mid-air? If it is contended that the saints only meet the Lord and are then taken up to heaven, then proof that such is the case is required. It does not come from this passage.
- The Greek word, "harpazo" translated "caught up" does not in itself denote direction (either up or down). It simply means, "to snatch away."1 Its usage is illustrated in the following references where the same verb occurs:
- "The spirit of the Lord caught away Philip." (Acts 8:39).
- "The wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep." (John 10:12).
- "No man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand." (John 10:29).
- What is meant by "the clouds"? Three possibilities exist. These are as follows:
- The saints are caught away in literal clouds. Jesus was taken from the disciples' gaze by a cloud. (Acts 1:9). He will return with the same literal clouds. See Rev. 1:7 cf. Dan. 7:13; Matt. 24:30.
- The clouds refer to large numbers of saints. The Greek text does not contain the definite article. The passage reads, therefore: "Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught away in clouds" (i.e., clouds of saints). Support for this interpretation is found in Heb. 12:1 where a similar image is used: "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses. . . " (i.e., the faithful listed in Heb. 11). Saints are compared with the innumerable water droplets comprising a great cloud. Some have seen the further image of the saints being exhaled from the sea of nations by the powerful beams of the Sun of Righteousness.
- The clouds are those of divine glory, indicating the Divine Presence. It is stated in Matt 24:30 that the Son of man will come "in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory", but it is not certain that the great glory refers to the clouds of heaven. One disadvantage with this interpretation is that the divine cloud is invariably one cloud.2 The word "clouds" in 1 Thess. 4:17 is plural. It was the cloud which covered Mt. Sinai (Ex. 34:5) and guided Israel during the wilderness journeyings. (Ex. 13:21; 14:19). Similarly, it was the cloud of glory which filled the Tabernacle (Nu. 9:15,16) and the Temple of Solomon (1 Kings 8:11).
- Robert Young, Analytical Concordance to the Holy Bible, 8th ed., (London: Lutterworth Press, 1965). Bullinger comments: "To snatch away, to carry off (suddenly and by force) esp., of wild beasts." Ethelbert Bullinger, A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek Testament, 8th ed., (London: Samuel Bagster and Sons Ltd., 1957) p. 138. Return
- The parallel passage in Luke 21:27 reads: "And they shall see the Son of man coming in a could with power and great glory." Return