Reclaiming the 1st Thessalonians Rapture Narrative [ Part- 3]

Chapter 13 of Reclaiming The Rapture : Reclaiming the 1st Thessalonians Rapture Narrative (Chris Steinle)

What’s Up with “Caught Up”? 

There are no directional Greek words in verse 17. Neither do the English expressions below have anything to do with elevation. 

Act up Beat up Blown up Bottle up 
Brush up Buckle up Buff up Buy up 
Clean up Clogged up Close up Divide up 
Drum up Fed up Finish up Fix up 
Heat up Held up Lighten up Live it up 
Loosen up Making it up Plugged up Roll up 
Seal up Set up Sewn up Shake up 
Shut up Stack up Start up Stitch up 
Stopped up Straighten up Take up (space) Tidy up 
Tied up Tighten up Wake up Wash up 
Use up Wind up Wise up Wrap up 

So how did we end up with “caught up?” And, why bring it up? 

Many Greek words or prefixes could have been used to express the direction “up”; such as; ana, anabaino, egeiro, hupsoo, etc. Just as there is no harpázō, the verse lacks any root, prefix, or adverb for “up.” The fact that the Pre-Tribulation “rapture” theory was first popularized in the British Isles may well be directly “bound up” in the English translation of harpagaesometha. Indeed, the Pre-Tribulation doctrine was scarcely insinuated by the Greek-speaking Early Church, Byzantine Church, or later Eastern Orthodox Churches. The very use of the phrase “caught up” may have coloured the imagination of modern English theologians. 

The English translation of John 19:30b reads; And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. Once again, “up” is not found in the ancient Greek texts. “Paredoken”; Gr. παρέδωκεν, is the word translated into English as, “gave up.” But the Greek word παρέδωκεν, means; “delivered, given over, or handed over”. Yet English translations often contain the colloquialism “gave up.” 

Apparently, around the time of the King James era, the appendage, “up,” was popular in Great Britain, in the same way that “on” has been adopted for some of the idioms of today; e.g., hold on, right on, carry on, bring it on, full on, etc. 

Looking back to earlier English Bible translations provides evidence that harpagēsometha represents a disruption from the normal course, not a rescue from difficult circumstances. John Wycliffe’s translation (1382 – 1395) of First Thessalonians 4:17 reads as follows: 

Afterward we that lyuen, that ben left, schulen be rauyschid togidere with hem in cloudis, metinge Crist `in to the eir.69 (Note, the correct translation of those who have “ben left”, the survivors.) 

Wycliffe translated the Greek word, harpagēsometha (ἁρπαγησόμεθα), as “rauyschid.” Rauyschid is found one other time in the Wycliffe Bible. Acts 27:15 describes how Paul’s ship was obstructed by the wind as it left the port of Phoenix, Crete. The ship was prevented from rounding the island toward a safer winter harbor. 

Wycliffe: And whanne the schip was rauyschid, and myyte not enforse ayens the wynde . . .70 

NKJV: So when the ship was caught, and could not head into the wind . . . 

Notice that, according to the New King James Version, the ship was not “caught up,” nor did it escape from the storm. The ship was overcome by the wind and was prevented from sailing in the desired direction. In fact, it was apparently being blown backward. Being rauyschid marked the beginning of the shipwreck course to Malta. Recalling the chart showing the connection between God’s power, the resurrection, and the subduing of Christ’s enemies, being overcome or subdued is exactly what we would expect to encounter in the First Thessalonians rapture passage. 

Where Do We Go from Here? 

Verse 17: ἐν (en); in / into. There is no definite article, no “the.” Notice once again the accuracy of Wycliffe’s translation. “schulen be rauyschid togidere with hem in cloudis.” Not; in the cloudis. John Spencer has also commented on the absence of the definite article as well as the fact that “caught up” is missing from the original text. 

“Because in the original Greek there is no   definite   article before, “clouds,” the phrase can most literally be translated ‘seized in clouds.’”71 

Verse 17: νεφέλαις (nefelais); clouds. We shall be seized/plundered in clouds. Clouds are often mentioned in scripture during a transition between the physical and the spiritual states. Clouds were present during the transfiguration and the ascension; and Jesus will return in clouds. Clouds and dark smoke filled the Temple. These instances do not represent natural clouds or smoke, but a supernatural phenomenon. They are present during divine interventions between the heavenly and earthly realms. This transitional zone – this blur between two different dimensions – appears as clouds, vapor, or smoke. Once again, the only directional words in First Thessalonians 4:13-18 refer to the Lord descending and the dead rising. 

Verse 17: εἰς (eis); for / to 

Verse 17: ἀπάντησιν (apantaesin); from apantao72, to meet from different directions. To further support the resolve that Jesus is coming and not merely planning a fly-by, we need only study the word “meet.” Apantesin73 (meet). This word is used in Matthew 25:6, Acts 28:15, and here in First Thessalonians. In every instance it is used to describe a greeting party, not a departure. Let’s look at its usage in Matthew because of the striking similarity between Paul’s usage and its usage by our Lord Jesus. 

Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’. But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ 

But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming. Matt. 25:1-13 

This passage is often used to support the pre-tribulation rapture theory. But look at this meeting more closely. In verses one and six of Matthew Chapter 25, were the 10 virgins going out to be taken away by the Lord? Or, were they going out meet Him with the intention of escorting Him back to the bride? The answer is obvious. Their lanterns were lit specifically for the purpose of leading the bridegroom back to where the virgins had come from. 

Once again, the greeting nature of this word for “meet” is clarified in Acts 28:15. And from there, when the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage. 

These believers from Italy were not going out to meet Paul with any thought of returning with him to Malta. Their meeting was nothing more than a greeting. Apantesin is also used several times in the Greek Septuagint version of the Old Testament; I Sam. 9:14, I Chron. 12:17, Jer. 41:6. 

The reader who is thorough enough to investigate these Old Testament passages will only find further support that apantesin is a meeting and not a one-way departure. 

Paul has now given a sufficient description of Christ’s descent as the bodily Second Coming. Nothing in First Thessalonians Four says He’s returning back up into heaven at the time of this meeting. 

Verse 17: τοῦ Κυρίου (tou Kuriou); the Lord 

Verse 17: εἰς (eis); in / into 

Verse 17: ἀέρα (aera); air – the first heaven, above the ground. “In air” does not indicate that the glorified saints will be venturing beyond the atmosphere. The meeting in the air is nonspecific in terms of location. Paul could just as easily have used the word “heaven” or “heavens.” Meeting in air is yet one more indication that Christ has descended from heaven at the time of the rapture. We will meet the Lord somewhere in [the] air. This meeting is the same gathering mentioned by Paul in his second letter to the Thessalonians. 

We shall be changed. We shall be robbed of our physical bodies plundered. 

We will not be taken away immediately, but something will first be taken from us. Something that has already been purchased and merely waits for its redemption. The purchased possession is our mortal bodies. 

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. 1 Cor. 6:19-20 

Therefore comfort one another with these words. I Thess. 4:18 

More about Paul’s comfort to the Thessalonians will be discussed in the chapter on Christ’s last enemy. The intent of this chapter has been to show that the rapture describes the transition in bodily form that will occur to enable the gathering of God’s people into the presence of Christ. 

The moment that we see Him as He is, we shall be like Him. The rapture is not God’s people going to heaven; it is God’s people becoming heavenly.