The Raptureís supporters derive their opinions ultimately from a single Scripture verse,
I Thessalonians 4:17, "Then we who are left alive will be carried off together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air,
and thus we shall always be with the Lord." Less popular but often cited is Matthew 24:40-42,
"Then there will be two in the field. One will be taken and the other left. Two will be grinding at the mill. One will be taken and the other left.
Therefore, be vigilant, for you do not know on what day your Lord will come."
The paragraph which contains the first verse quoted above, I Thessalonians 4:17, forms the Epistle reading for funerals in Orthodox worship. The
passage begins with 4:13. In preceding verses St. Paul has spoken of the necessity for holiness of life and for brotherly love among Christians
(4:1-12). With verse 13 he turns to another topic, the fate of Christians after death. Misunderstandings on this issue had apparently caused needless
distress and apprehension in the church at Thessalonika. It seems that some people believed that Christians who died before Christís return would
somehow miss out on that glorious event. St. Paul seeks to calm their fears (vs. 13).
He points out that as Christ returned from the dead at His Resurrection
, so also, at the end of time, His followers who have died in the interim will be restored through resurrection (vs. 14).
At the Second Coming, the Christian dead will be raised (vs. 16). Then they and the faithful who are still alive will be caught up into the clouds to
welcome Christ as He descends (verses 15,17). Paul then discusses other matters relating to the Second Coming, beginning with the date it will
When we look at verse 17 in context,
it is easy to see that is does not really support the doctrine of the Rapture. There is no reference to a Great Tribulation or to any other events
preceding Christís Return.
The verse refers to something that will happen as part of the Lordís Coming.
The course of events St. Paul presents is simple and straight-forward.
At the time of the Second Coming, the dead will be raised, and all the faithful ó the dead now restored and those still alive now transfigured ó will
ascend to be with Him as He comes down.
This is the universal interpretation of the Fathers who see the verse as referring to the last days.
Why does St. Paul speak of an ascension of the righteous?
The Fathers suggest at least three answers to this question. St. Gregory of Nyssa says that the ascension is a natural consequence of the purity of
the transfigured resurrection body: "...this change which takes place...
when the resurrection trumpet sounds which awakens the dead in an instant transforms those who are left alive to incorruptibility according to the
likeness of those who have undergone the resurrection change, so that the bulk of the flesh is no longer heavy nor does its weight hold them down to
earth, but they rise up through the air..." ("On the Making of Man" 22,6).
St. John Chrysostom and others say that it is to provide Christ with a proper escort for His appearance on earth and to demonstrate His favor toward
the faithful. "If He is about to descend, why shall we be taken up?
For the sake of honor. When a king enters a city, those who are in his favor go out to meet him, but the condemned await their judge inside. Or, when
a loving father comes, his children, and also those worthy of being his children, are taken out in a chariot to see and kiss him, but the servants who
have offended him remain indoors.
So we are carried out upon a chariot to our Father...See how great our honor is?
As He descends we go out to meet Him, and what is more blessed, we shall be with Him always" (Homily 8 on Thessalonians).
Let us summarize what we have found so far. St. Paul does speak of a sort of rapture, in the sense of a carrying up into the sky of the righteous at
the time of the Second Coming.
The Fathers generally agree on that.
But St. Paul and the Fathers see this as an event which accompanies Christís return and immediately precedes the Judgment and the establishment of
The Rapture which Darby and Scofield taught and which Lindsey, Walvoord, and others still teach, is different from that.
They talk about it as a separate happening, part of a decades long program of events leading up to Christís Coming.
The dispensationalists see the Rapture as the disappearance of the faithful from the earth before the Great Tribulation and many years before the
This is foreign to the Apostle and to the Tradition. St. Paul mentions no period of affliction and persecution following the Rapture.
In an effort to forge a link between the Rapture and the Tribulation, supporters turn to Matthew 24:40-42, quoted above (in part 1, Septemberís
Certainly we have here references to a time of horror and suffering. Matthew 24 and 25 comprise a long discourse by Jesus.
The occasion for this teaching is the first days of Holy Week, when Christ and His disciples were in Jerusalem on that last visit which ended in His
death and resurrection.
The Lord and His entourage have been in the Temple.
As they leave, one of the company remarks on the structureís splendor and grandeur (24:1-2). Jesus replies by prophesying its coming destruction,
which took place some 40 years later (70 AD)
. The group proceeds to the Mount of Olives, across the Kedron Valley from the city. They halt at a place which even today offers an admirable
panorama of the Old City and the Temple site.
The disciples, perhaps alarmed by Christís words, ask when "these things," meaning the Templeís destruction, will happen and what will be the signs
of Christís return.
[T.C i didn't mean to offend you
""the rapture is important '' in the last days because many people will await to be ''''raptured'' caught up in the clouds.....and when it
does not happen......???
Scripture that holds the truth, should be left for the true seekers of God to be explained........
I myself cannot do such a thing........i and i beleive many look for spiritual people to '''lead us to good works'''and follow in the footsteps
of the Apostles and their teachings........''i beleive in one God etc.......the creed,as it was written in the year 325A.D..........NO FORM OF
CHANGE TO IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN MADE ...........the orthodox church still use the same one with no alterations to it whats soever......
[Edited on 17-4-2003 by helen670]
[Edited on 17-4-2003 by helen670]