Second Coming – Part 3
Much is made these days about the rapture. In fact there is a series of novels in the “Left Behind” series on the subject. But did you know that the concept of the rapture is based on only one verse of the Bible? That verse is 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, which says, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air…” What this means in the Greek of the New Testament is we will be snatched away in clouds of witnesses.
First, the word caught up in Greek means to snatch away, or take by force. The Diasglott translation of this verse is “caught away” and not “caught up”.
But is going to heaven implied here? When the Bible says, “We will meet the Lord in the air,” we must remember the word air in Greek is not interchangeable with the word heaven. They are two different words in Greek. The word air in Greek means atmosphere and not heaven where God dwells. For example, Acts 22:23 says they threw dust into the air. This does not mean they threw dust in heaven. In 1 Corinthians 9:26 it speaks of, “beating the air.” This does not mean beating heaven.
“But,” you may say, “1 Thessalonians 4:17 says we will be caught up in clouds.” The clouds here are figurative, and not literal. Hebrews 12:1 says clouds symbolize witnesses.
Not only does the one and only rapture verse not support heaven going – it hints at the belief that when Jesus returns the meek will inherit the earth (Mathew 5:5, Psalm 37:11, Galatians 3:26-29) we see this in the 1 Thessalonians 4:16, “the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout.” The Jews have a holiday in the Torah called the Jubilee meaning time of shouting. On this holiday the land returned to its rightful owner. When the rapture verse says, “the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout” it means the meek will inherit the earth at the return of Jesus.
So 1 Thessalonians 4:17, the only rapture verse, does not refer to going to heaven: it refers to being snatched away in the cloud of witnesses.