Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 4:13 to 5:11

Table of Contents / Quick jump to sections:
Introduction
The Thessalonians knew of the resurrection as Paul taught them when he was with them.
Where the word "rapture" comes from.
What did Paul want them to "not be ignorant" of?  The order of events.  The mystery of the rapture.
The main parallel passages: John 14 & 1 Thess 4
Where the Lord went, is where he descends from, which is where he will take us: heaven.
More about going to heaven.
Saints of the Old Testament have not yet ascended into the heavens:
Awaking from sleep by the trumpet blast in 1 Thess 4:14-18:
The meaning of that "Caught up / rapture" word in 1 Thess 4:14-18: (seized, as if taken by a thief in the night)
Clouds & air in 1 Thess 4:14-18:
Is the pretribulation rapture a "false, ear-tickling, comfort doctrine"?

Introduction

The purpose of this commentary is to show the multiple ways the pretribulation rapture is taught or referenced in these two chapters.  I have also taken the time to examine and refute opposing arguments.  I also examine how these two chapters refer to the wedding and the Feast of Trumpets which teach about the rapture.  Each of these other two topics deserve extensive study, yet are only briefly mentioned in the context of how the language and text of these two chapters allude to the pretribulation rapture.

The Thessalonians knew of the resurrection as Paul taught them when he was with them.

1 Thessalonians is well known as one of the earliest (if not the first) books written in the New Testament, about 50-54 A.D.

Paul, in Acts 17, spends 3 weeks in Thessalonia establishing a new Church.  To determine what they knew, before we examine the letter to them, let's read a few verses from Acts.

First, Acts 17, verse 2, I note that Paul taught them the same things he regularly taught, "as his manner was", from out of the Old Testament.  And we will see that Paul's "manner" was to teach the resurrection on the first day of preaching.

Second, in verse 3, we see they were taught the basics, the death and resurrection of Jesus.  If Christ must have suffered, then they must have known the reason why, which is to heal us, save us, take away sins, and to provide everlasting life. 1 Peter 2:24. The teaching of the resurrection of Jesus is to show that we will be resurrected.  Acts 26:23, 1 Corinthians 15.

Third, in verse 5 the purpose of the Church, is to move Israel to envy, or "to provoke them to jealousy.", Romans 11:11, and this new group of new believers in Thessalonia provoked the Jews in the same way.  As we will see, the issue that provoked the Jews the most was the resurrection.

Acts 17:1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews:
2 And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,
3 Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.
4 And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.
5 But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.
The issue that provoked Israel was the teaching of the resurrection, for which Paul was being questioned constantly by the religious courts, as we see in three other places in Acts, Chapter 4, 23, & 24..
Acts 4:1 And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them,
2 Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.
3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide.

Acts 23:6 But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.
7 And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided.
8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.
9 And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees' part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God.
10 And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle.

Acts 24:15 And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.
Acts 24:21  Except it be for this one voice, that I cried standing among them, Touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question by you this day.


Getting back to the same chapter, Acts 17, we see that Paul taught the resurrection the very first day he went into Athens from Thessalonia.

Acts 17:15 And they that conducted Paul brought him unto Athens: and receiving a commandment unto Silas and Timotheus for to come to him with all speed, they departed.
16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.
17 Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him.
18 Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.
19 And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is?
20 For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean.

Acts 17:32  And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.

To recap, Paul taught the Thessalonians about the resurrection "as his manner was" (Acts 17:2).  This is the doctrine that must have caused the uproar in the city of the Thessalonians, which caused Paul to flee after three weeks.  Paul "reasoned with them out of the scriptures", to prove his doctrine, and he stayed and lodged with people who believed his teachings.  In fact, one can hardly be a Christian without the hope of the resurrection and eternal life.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Paul was a former Pharisee, and had extensive knowledge of the Old Testament scriptures.
Philippians 3:4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:
5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
But Paul says these things are dung, that he strives to attain the resurrection.
Phil 3:11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
Phil 3:21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
The point is that Paul preached the resurrection to the Thessalonians, as was his manner, so they knew of the resurrection prior to his writing 1 Thessalonians.  In fact, I believe Paul taught them many specific things out of the Old Testament about the resurrection, because of all the Old Testament scriptural references in his first letter to them, as we shall see.



Where the word "rapture" comes from.

The occasion and purpose of the entire letter comes to a head in Chapter four.  Paul wants to make sure they are not ignorant of something.  The central issue in these key verses of the first book written in the New Testament is the central theme of prophecy.  It is the "harpazo" or "caught up", from which we get the term RAPTURE, from the Latin raptus, which is from "rapiemur" in 1 Thess 4:17.

1Thess 4:17 deinde nos qui vivimus qui relinquimur simul rapiemur cum illis in nubibus obviam Domino in aera et sic semper cum Domino erimus


What did Paul want them to know so that they would "not be ignorant"?  The order of events, and that the dead in Christ would not miss out on the event of rapture, or the catching up to heaven.

Some commentators have suggested they did not know of the resurrection because of verse 13.

1 Thess 4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
So if they knew about the resurrection, why does he say "that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope"?  Does this imply that they had no hope and were ignorant of the resurrection?  No. Christians today sorrow at funerals routinely.  I believe this is a mild rebuke to such sorrow, as Paul equates this sorrow with unbelief.  It is natural to feel the pain of the loss of a departed loved one.  I do not think we could expect Paul to rebuke them in this way, unless he already taught them the resurrection, as his manner was.

So, if they are not ignorant of the resurrection, the key question is:  What does Paul want them to know specifically, "I would not have you to be ignorant"?  I believe the key point is found in verse 15, "we... shall not prevent them", or "will certainly not precede" them. (NIV).  The order of events is the issue; that the resurrected ones in Christ "rise first", verse 16, and will not miss anything.  The contrast to this would be that those who have already died in Christ would be resurrected after the translation of the living, that they might miss out on something wonderful, such as witnessing the glorious return of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Paul assures them that their dead loved ones in Christ will not miss the event of the return of the Lord.

Note, Paul does not tell them to "sorrow not" by telling them that their departed loved ones who died in Christ are in heaven now.  No, he tells them to "sorrow not" because the dead will be resurrected.

The point is that they knew of the resurrection.  And they must have also known that the living would be translated and caught up to meet the Lord at his return, because, obviously, logically, some people will be alive to see His return.  The big issue is how these two events relate to each other, specifically, the timing of the resurrection (and fate) of those who have died "in Christ".

There are two primary rapture chapters written by Paul, 1 Thess 4 and 1 Cor 15.  These share some similarities.  The phrase, "But I would not have you to be ignorant" from 1 Thess 4 has the parallel, "Behold, I shew you a mystery..." from 1 Corinthians 15:51.  As we have seen, it is not the resurrection that that the Thessalonians were ignorant of.  The mystery in 1 Cor 15 is the rapture.  There are two different subjects and neither is the resurrection.  In 1 Thess 4, they are not to be ignorant of the fate of the dead in Christ.  The resurrection was well known, even to the Jews.  In 1 Cor 15, they mystery is the rapture, again the subject of the mystery is not the resurrection.  The rapture, the catching up of the living, that we shall not all sleep, the change to incorruption, is the mystery.  Even today, the return of Jesus and the resurrection and eternal life is not in serious theological dispute.  Who is ignorant that being a Christian gives one the promise of eternal life?  But everyone argues about the rapture, and particularly the timing of it.  Yes, those who have died in Christ will rise before the pretribulation rapture, and be caught up in it.  And there will be more resurrected after this, as Rev 20 shows.



The main parallel passages: John 14 & 1 Thess 4

Although 1 Cor 15, which also mentions those who sleep, the dead being raised, and the trumpet, is the most commonly mentioned parallel passage, 1 Thess 4 more strongly parallels John 14:1-3, with several key events given in the same order.
 

1 Corinthians 15:51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

1 Thess 4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

John 14:1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.


Parallels between 1 Thess 4 and John 14:

1 Thess 4:13-17 ~ John 14:1-3
that ye sorrow not  ~ Let not your heart be troubled
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again ~ ye believe in God, believe also in me
For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord ~ if it were not so, I would have told you
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven ~ I will come again
caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air ~ and receive you unto myself
and so shall we ever be with the Lord. ~ that where I am, there ye may be also.



Where the Lord went, is where he descends from, which is where he will take us: heaven.

The Lord ascended into heaven. This is where he said he was going in John 14:1-4, and where he said he would build a place for us, and where he said he would take us to be with him, "that where I am, there ye may be also".

Acts 1:9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;
11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

Hebrews 9:24  For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:


Other scriptures show that Jesus ascended into heaven:  Acts 7:55, Acts 9:3-5, Ephesians 1:20; 4:10; 6:9, Colossians 4:1, Hebrews 4:14, 7:26; 8:1, 1 Peter 3:22

In John 14:1-4, Jesus said "I go" three times.  He went into heaven, where he went to prepare a place for us, our heavenly house.

2 Corinthians 5:1  For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
2 Corinthians 5:2  For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:
In Psalm 27 & Isaiah 26, we see that the promise from the Old Testament is to be in the house of the Lord "during the time of trouble", "until the indignation be overpast".  The "house of the Lord", or the temple, is a symbol of heaven, as seen in Heb 9:24 above.  This strongly indicates that Christians will be caught up into heaven for the duration of the seven year tribulation.
Psalm 27:4 One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.
5 For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.
6 And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LORD.

Isa 26:19 Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.
20 Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.
21 For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.




More about going to heaven.

Many people deny the pretribulation rapture and thus deny that people will be caught up to heaven.  They believe the event of 1 Thess 4 happens in an up & down way, with people coming right back as soon as they have been caught up.  So here are a few other scriptures which say we have rewards in heaven, and about ascending into heaven:

Matthew 5:12  Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Romans 10:6  But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:)

Colossians 1:5 For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel;

1 Peter 1:4  To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,

Revelation 19:1  And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God:

And a few more:
Matthew 6:20, 22:30, 23:13, Hebrews 12:22, Revelation 5:3

Saints of the Old Testament have not yet ascended into the heavens:

These verses are important because they show that people do not automatically ascend into heaven when they die.  The saints of the Old Testament didn't ascend into heaven, and so, there is no significant reason to think that the dead in Christ are in heaven today.

John 3:13  And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
Job 19:26  And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:

Acts 2:34  For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand,

Hebrews 11:
13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

35 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:
36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:
37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;
38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.

Matthew 11:11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.



Awaking from sleep by the trumpet blast in 1 Thess 4:14-18:

The word sleep is used to describe death, and awake is used to describe the resurrection.

1 Thess 4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
Regarding the phrase in verse 14, "them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him".  Some believe this is the Lord returning with his saints, as is commonly described at the return elsewhere in scripture.  Matthew 25:31, Mark 8:38, Luke 9:26, Zechariah 14:5, 1 Thessalonians 3:13, Jude 1:14, Rev 19.  I do not believe this is that event, for many reasons.

First, as we saw in the section above, the Old Testament saints have not yet ascended into heaven, so nobody can be returning from out of heaven at this time.  People need to ascend into heaven first before they can descend out of it.  The rapture itself is the event when people ascend into heaven.

Second, the dead in 1 Thess 4 are described three times as being asleep until the trumpet blast which wakes them up, verse 16.  In contrast, at the return of the saints, in glory, coming out of heaven, in Rev 19, they are not asleep, but singing praises in heaven and descending while riding horses.  At the rapture, people are woken up from being dead and asleep, and caught up into heaven.

Third, The subject is the rapture, or catching up of living believers, which is a subject that is previously known and understood by the audience.  Paul's specific instruction is that the dead are included in this event, they will be resurrected first and brought up to heaven too.  The event is the catching away of believers from the earth to go up to heaven to be with Jesus.  In other words, Jesus will be bringing all saints who have "died in Christ" from the earth to the heaven.  So when Paul writes "even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus", he is saying that the dead are to be included in this event, and God will bring these with Jesus back to heaven.  Paul is saying that Jesus will be bringing them with him, with all Christians, to go up to heaven.  Paul is NOT saying that Jesus will be bringing the dead from out of heaven down to earth.  The subject is not about bringing dead people down to earth.  The subject is the translation of believers to immortality to be taken to heaven.  The dead will not miss out on this event.  They will be brought up to heaven too.  Not brought out of heaven.  The entire sentence bears this out.

"For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus."
The first part of the sentence sets the pattern.  Jesus died and rose and went to heaven.  Likewise, the dead in Christ will be resurrected and taken to heaven.

Fourth, the place and location to which the dead and the living will be brought, or caught up ("will God bring with him"), is heaven.  As I have already noted, there is much similarity between 1 Thess 4 and John 14.  The text does not say these will descend with him.  No, the text is indicating that these will be brought with him up to heaven.  To answer the question, "bring with"? "Where?" is shown:

1 Thess 14:17 "caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air" ~ John 14:3 "and receive you unto myself"

The Greek word in John 14:3, for "receive" is paralambano, which means,  "to take to, to take with one's self, to join to one's self", and paralambano is also the word used in Matt 24:40, for "taken", as in "one taken and the other left".  So, again, the phrase, "will God bring with him" is speaking of being joined with Christ as we are caught up and taken to meet him in the air, taken up into the heavens.

Why is it important to determine whether Jesus is bringing the "dead in Christ" out of heaven or into heaven?  Because those who deny the pretribulation rapture must turn the event in 1 Thess 4:13-18 into the return after the tribulation.  In order to do that, they need to show saints returning with Jesus out of heaven in 1 Thess 4, because there are many other verses that show the saints will return with Jesus.  Of course saints will return with Jesus when he returns after the tribulation.  And that alone does not refute the pretribulation rapture at all, but rather supports it.  The key question is, how and when did saints get into heaven in the first place?  The pretribulation rapture is the obvious answer.  If people are coming out of heaven, they must have gone into heaven at some time prior, and the rapture is how and when they went up into heaven.

The reason why this point is often overlooked is that most people believe that the dead are in heaven right now.  I disagree.  I believe the Bible does not teach that.  I believe the Bible teaches that the dead are asleep.  The state of the dead are not conscious, but they are described as being asleep three times in 1 Thess 4 alone.  About 50-60 other verses in the Bible also describe the state of the dead as being asleep.

More verses describing death as sleep:  1 Corinthians 15:18,51, Dan 12:2, Job 7:21,  John 11:11, Mark 5:39
More verses describing the resurrection as waking up:  Dan 12:2, Isaiah 26:19, Ephesians 5:14, John 11:11

The Feast of Trumpets, which teaches about the rapture, is known as "Yom Teruah".  Teruah means "an awakening blast."  So, verse 16 says that after the trump of God, the dead shall rise first.  They are woken up from sleep in death at the voice command of the Lord, just as Jesus woke up Lazarus and the 12 year old girl, at his voice command.

John 11:43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.
Mark 5:41  And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise.
In the KJV, in 1 Thess 4:16, it simply says "shout".  In the NIV, it says "loud command".
1 Thessalonians 4:16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. (NIV)
In Revelation 4:1, we see the words of a voice like a trumpet, which is much like the "shout or loud command" and "trumpet call of God".  The command is to "come up here", up to heaven.
Revelation 4:1 After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this."




The meaning of that "Caught up / rapture" word in 1 Thess 4:14-18: (seized, as if taken by a thief in the night)
1 Thess 4:17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
As previously noted, this is the word from which "rapture" is derived from the Latin translation.  The original Greek word is harpazo, or sometimes people spell it, arpadzo.

726 harpazo {har-pad'-zo} (RAPTURE)
from a derivative of 138; TDNT - 1:472,80; v
AV - catch up 4, take by force 3, catch away 2, pluck 2,
catch 1, pull 1; 13
1) to seize, carry off by force
2) to seize on, claim for one's self eagerly
3) to snatch out or away

The derivative word, 138

138 haireomai {hahee-reh'-om-ahee}
probably akin to 142; TDNT - 1:180,27; v
AV - choose 3; 3
1) to take for oneself, to prefer, choose
2) to choose by vote, elect to office

What does a "violent, by force, seizing" have to do with being translated and taken to heaven to be with Jesus?  The text of 1 Thess 4 does not explain why the rapture is a violent, taking by force, or seizing, nor does John 14:1-3 "...I will come again, and receive [paralambano] you unto myself..."  Yet, this meaning IS contained in John 14, in several ways as I will show.

First, paralambano, as I already noted, means to be taken & joined together.  This strongly implies marriage.  The Church, of course, is wed to Christ.  To be taken or received unto Christ, or joined together, is like in the marriage when a man and woman are joined together.

Ephesians 5:30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
See also Gen 2:24, Matthew 19:5,6, Mark 10:8, 1 Corinthians 6:16

In addition to that, paralambano, like harpazo, also means to be seized, or arrested, and both words are used that way in scripture.

Acts 23:10 And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take [726 harpazo] him by force [726 harpazo] from among them, and to bring him into the castle.

John 19:16 Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took [3880 paralambano] Jesus, and led him away.

Second, this meaning of harpazo and paralambano fits within the context of how a bride is taken by her husband in marriage.  The word "taken" is used to describe how a man takes a wife in the Bible, from the very earliest passages in Genesis.  The Hebrew word is "laqach", and also means to seize, take, and marry.

03947 laqach {law-kakh'} a primitive root; TWOT - 1124; v
AV - take 747, receive 61, take away 51, fetch 31, bring 25, get 6, take out 6, carry away 5,
married 4, buy 3, misc 26; 965
1) to take, get, fetch, lay hold of, seize, receive, acquire, buy, bring, marry, take a wife, snatch, take away

Here are three verses in Genesis showing how men "took" [laqach] wives.

Genesis 6:2 That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took [laqach] them wives of all which they chose.
Genesis 11:29 And Abram and Nahor took [laqach] them wives: the name of Abram's wife was Sarai; and the name of Nahor's wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah, and the father of Iscah.
Genesis 12:19 Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken [laqach] her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way.
As if that were not enough to show how the Church, the bride of Christ, will be married to him at the rapture, the word is also used to describe Enoch's rapture.
Genesis 5:24 And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took [laqach] him.

Hebrews 11:5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.  (KJV)
Hebrews 11:5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. (NIV)

Third, the idea of women being seized, or taken, to be a bride, is contained as the dramatic conclusion to the book of Judges in Chapter 21.
Judges 21:20 Therefore they commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, Go and lie in wait in the vineyards;
21 And see, and, behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances, then come ye out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin.
22 And it shall be, when their fathers or their brethren come unto us to complain, that we will say unto them, Be favourable unto them for our sakes: because we reserved not to each man his wife in the war: for ye did not give unto them at this time, that ye should be guilty.
23 And the children of Benjamin did so, and took [nasa 05375] them wives, according to their number, of them that danced, whom they caught [gazal 01497]: and they went and returned unto their inheritance, and repaired the cities, and dwelt in them.
24 And the children of Israel departed thence at that time, every man to his tribe and to his family, and they went out from thence every man to his inheritance.
25 In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
The Hebrew word for caught, gazal, is very similar to the Greek word for caught up, harpazo, in 1 Thess 4.

01497 gazal {gaw-zal'}
a primitive root; TWOT - 337; v
AV - spoil 8, take away 8, rob 4, pluck 3, caught 1, consume 1,
exercised 1, force 1, pluck off 1, torn 1, violence 1; 30
1) to tear away, seize, plunder, tear off, pull off, rob, take away by force
1a) (Qal)
1a1) to tear away, rob
1a2) to seize, plunder (with acc cognate)
1b) (Niphal)
1b1) to be robbed
1b2) to be taken away

Fourth, this idea of taking a woman to be a wife is also contained within the law of Moses.  The penalty for taking a girl's virginity, either through force or by seduction, is the same in Exodus and Deuteronomy, it is marriage and a dowry payment.

Exodus 22:16 And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.
17 If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.

Deut 22:25 But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die.
26 But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter:
27 For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her.
28 If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found;
29 Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he
hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.

Thus, the rapture is like a marriage, where Jesus will come like a thief to seize and take away his bride.
Eph 5:25 "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church... ",

2 Cor 11:2 "...I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.",

Rom 7:4...."ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead..."

One brief aside.  The rapture as the marriage shows the rapture will be prior to the tribulation.  In the marriage, the union of the bride and groom is at the start of the bridal week, which is like the tribulation week.  Here are two places in scripure which describe the bridal week.
Judges 14:1-18 ...And Samson made a feast there, as was customary for bridegrooms. ...If you can give me the answer within the seven days of the feast... She cried the whole seven days of the feast.

Genesis 29:22-28 So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. ... Finish this daughter's bridal week

The word week in Hebrew is shavuah. It means a "seven". It can mean seven days or seven years. An example of the Hebrew word shavuah for week meaning seven years can be found in Dan 9:24,27. From this we can see that the believers (bride) in the Messiah (bridegroom) will be with the Messiah in Heaven for His wedding while the earth will be experiencing the seven-year tribulation period.


Clouds & air in 1 Thess 4:14-18:
1 Thess 4:17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Some people assert that the word clouds can signify groups of people, and that the air can signify spirit.  I had a lengthy email exchange with a zealous follower of Pastor Arnold Murray on this subject.  He asserted that the dictionary in Strong's was corrupted which defined "air" as the sky and atmosphere.  Eventually, he looked it up in 8 dictionaries, and changed his stance from saying "air cannot mean sky" to "it's inclusive, but even still, air does not mean sky in 1 Thess 4:17, regardless of the dictionary evidence."  I suppose some people just don't want to face facts.

Given the root meanings and alternate meanings, clouds can mean people, and air can mean spirit.  And yes, those in Christ at the rapture will be gathered together in a multitude of people, and transformed in the spirit, 1 Cor 15.  However, people falsely assert that these alternate meanings give reason to deny the plain meaning of being caught up to meet the Lord in the air.  And they really intend to deny that people will be caught up into heaven.  And even further, they use these alternate meanings to deny the pretribulation timing of the rapture by redefining the event itself.  Some verses they use for support are:

Hebrews 12:1  Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

Revelation 1:7  Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

They seem to fail to realize that 1 Thess 4 also has a context of its own:  "descend from heaven", "shall rise", "caught up", "clouds", "air".  And that as John 14 and Rev 4, and other verses show, (such as Rev 12 with the man child), the place into which people will be caught up is the place where Jesus is, in heaven.  Yes, Jesus will return and be on the earth after the tribulation, and so at that time we will descend with him from out of heaven as shown in Rev 19.  Let me re-state.  Heaven is not the final ultimate resting place.  Heaven is a temporary place to be for the duration of the tribulation.  Those caught up to heaven will eventually rule on the earth.  "we shall reign on the earth" (Rev 5:10)   But at some point, we will have to enter heaven first, to come out of heaven later to follow him from out of heaven as shown in Rev 19.


Is the pretribulation rapture a "false, ear-tickling, comfort doctrine"?
1 Thess 4:18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
The pretribulation rapture doctrine is sometimes accused of being a "comfort doctrine".  It seems a rather strange thing to accuse, considering the Bible tells us to "comfort one another with these words".

I suppose these people are afraid of teaching anything that people might want to hear, because they are afraid that if people want to hear it, it must be false.  They get this erroneous view from a twisted understanding of the following.

2 Timothy 4:3  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
They forget that the gospel is "good news", and that, of course, some will endure sound doctrine, which the Bible says is comforting.  It is totally false to think that something we want to hear must be false.  Some people want to hear the truth, and yes, the truth is comforting.

The other twisted idea from 2 Tim 4:3 is that any doctrine taught by teachers must be a false doctrine.  Since the pretribulation rapture view is commonly accepted among fundamentalists who have really studied their Bibles, and/or gone to seminary schools, those who rail against the pretrib rapture love to quote how we need not any man to teach us.

1 John 2:27  But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.
However, they neglect to mention, and neglect to acknowledge, that God provides teachers to his Church.
Acts 15:35 Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.

1 Corinthians 12:28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

Ephesians 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

See also 1 Timothy 3:2, 1 Timothy 4:11, 2 Timothy 2:2, Hebrews 5:12,

If teachers are bad, why do they attempt to teach the pretribulation rapture is wrong?  Their twisted ideas are manifest in their own hypocracy.

Getting back to the "comfort & itching ears" accusation.  The accusation is that the pretribulation rapture lulls people into spiritual slumber and lukewarmness, and stifles prophecy study because "we won't be here for the bad stuff".  The real comfort, they say, is not some false pretribulation rapture hope, but rather the hope is simply being with Christ, and this hope gives comfort, particularly in the midst of trials and tribulations.

On the other hand, the accusation can be made that if you say that seven years of tribulation must happen before the rapture when Christ returns, then there is no real reason to live a Godly life now.  One could easily use a pre trib denying theology as an excuse to perpetually delay living a Godly life until at least the start of the tribulation, and Matt 24 and Luke 12 condemn this mindset.

Matt 24:48 But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming;
I will counter that the warning about being "lukewarm" is from Rev 3, which teaches about the pretribulation rapture.  The context is being spewed out of Christ's mouth.  The pretribulation rapture is a doctrine with a warning.  I often remind people that tribulation is the doctrine's middle name!  Those who are lukewarm will not be saved in the pretribulation rapture (this is the exhortation and warning part).  The Laodician Church is not given the Philadelphian rapture promise (Rev 3:10) unless they repent.

I will also counter the "it prevents prophecy study accusation" by mentioning that John Walvoord has said that in the United States in the last 100 years, every independently founded Bible college started out teaching the pretribulation rapture.

The many conflicting accusations made by those who attack the doctrine of the pretribulation rapture absolutely astound me.  On the one hand, some accuse and say that the doctrine is bad because it leads people to not study.  On the other hand, others accuse and say that the doctrine is bad because people won't or can't understand it unless they study the "opinions and commentaries of men".  Of course, those who accuse that still write their own commentaries and opinions!  Hypocrites!

In addition to edification, one of the main purposes of prophecy is for comfort:

1 Corinthians 14:3  But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.
And in context of both 1 and 2 Thessalonians, both of which strongly teach about the pretribulation rapture, we are told it is for a comfort.
1 Thessalonians 4:18  Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 5:11  Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.

1 Thessalonians 5:14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.

2 Thessalonians 2:17 Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.

Now, I will admit there is some truth to the claims that it is possible, and perhaps all to common, that pretribulation rapture teachings can lead people to become lukewarm.  The error, I believe, is the false "once saved always saved" teaching, which misleads people into thinking they have a guaranteed ticket of escape no matter how they live their lives once already saved.  In contrast, the Bible gives many warnings about preparation, and tells us to examine ourselves, and watch (be awake), and pray that we be found worthy.
2 Cor 13:5 Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.

Luke 21:36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.

Interestingly, Luke 21:36 is one of the most powerful pretrib proof scriptures there is.  However, those who believe the heresy of "once saved always saved" will often reject the evidence that Luke 21:36 provides because it obviously condemns the "once saved always saved" doctrine.

So, the truth is that the pretribulation rapture view contains all three elements of prophecy according to 1 Corinthians 14:3. It is edifying, as it is the view of the Bible colleges.  It is exhorting, as we need to watch and prepare ourselves, lest we be cast into tribulation.   And it is comforting to know that we in Christ will not be here for the tribulation.

Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.


Continue to page 2, Chapter 5

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