What is the Rapture?

Meeting the Lord in the Air

“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. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 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. 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: 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.” Thessalonians 4:13-17

We find in this passage that Paul’s purpose was such that he wanted to tell the Thessalonian Christians about the dead. The Greek verb rendering is in the present tense, making possible the translation, “so that ye will not continue to grieve as others do.” Paul intended to impart knowledge which they may find comforting concerning their loved ones who had died. The Christian’s hope has always been the resurrection. It was the doctrine of the resurrection that provided hope concerning the loved ones who had died.

The certainty of the resurrection for the Christian is based upon the resurrection of Christ our Lord. An obvious parallel is 1 Corinthians 15. Christ arose according to the Scriptures and appeared to many as indisputable truth. Paul showed the relationship between the resurrection of Christ and that of Christians in 1 Corinthians 15:20: … “now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. Therefore, since Christ arose from the dead, so we shall rise at His coming.” (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:23).

The word rise (1 Thessalonians 4:17) denotes the resurrection of the body of those believers who have died, whose spirits are already with the Lord. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them.

It is from the word caught up (Greek harpazo) in the Latin translation we get our word “rapture.” The word in the original means “snatch,” or “seize,” and denoted by a sudden violent taking away. The word pictures being “swept off” into the air as by a tornado. The result of this sweeping away, of course, is that we meet the Lord. Paul points out that these words are to be used by the Thessalonians to comfort one another concerning the welfare of their loved ones who have passed on. They will be reunited at Christ’s coming! (LIBERTY BIBLE COMMENTARY, Vol. II, pp. 613-614)

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Dr. Elmer Towns is a college and seminary professor, an author of popular and scholarly works (the editor of two encyclopedias), a popular seminar lecturer, and dedicated worker in Sunday school, and has developed over 20 resource packets for leadership education.His personal education includes a B.S. from Northwestern College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a M.A. from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary also in Dallas, a MRE from Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and a D.Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.He is co-founder of Liberty University, with Jerry Falwell, in 1971, and was the only full-time teacher in the first year of Liberty’s existence. Today, the University has over 11,400 students on campus with 39,000 in the Distance Learning Program (now Liberty University Online), and he is the Dean of the School of Religion.Dr. Towns has given theological lectures and taught intensive seminars at over 50 theological seminaries in America and abroad. He holds visiting professorship rank in five seminaries. He has written over 2,000 reference and/or popular articles and received six honorary doctoral degrees. Four doctoral dissertations have analyzed his contribution to religious education and evangelism.

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