Along with the common belief about The Tribulation, I have been seeing a great deal of commentary about what is known as The ‘Rapture.’ This is another area where I break from the common understanding of what the Scriptures teach us. My difference of opinion is often a source of trouble for many believers. This is because I believe something that is often very different from what they have been taught. This can be unsettling, especially for those who are not strong in the Word. But this is why I seek to share what I have learned: not to tear down, but to build up the faith of those who may need strengthening. For, if we do not know the truth, when the hour of testing comes and things do not go the way we had expected, it may cause many to fall away from their faith. So that this will not happen to you, I would like to share what I have learned about The ‘Rapture’ with you — in the hope that it will strengthen your faith and not weaken it at a time when you will need to be your most resolute.
As with my post about the Tribulation, I will get straight to the point. The point of this post is not to determine when the ‘Rapture’ will happen (i.e. pre, mid or post tribulation), but rather, I seek to explain why it will happen. To do this, we need to understand a little bit of Ancient Near East history (ANE). In ancient times, when an important dignitary would approach a city, it was the custom of the people in the ANE to go out and meet this person, and to accompany them back into the city. Most often, this meeting and accompanying of the dignitary took the form of a joyous celebration. In modern terms, they went out to meet this person and to ‘get the party started.’ This was especially true of a victorious king returning from a battle. We see this reflected in Scripture in at least two passages. First, from the Old Testament, when King David accompanies the Ark of the Covenant (representing Israel’s ultimate King, YHWH):
2 Samuel 6:12-15 New American Standard Bible
The Ark Is Brought to Jerusalem
12 Now it was told King David, saying, “The Lord has blessed the house of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, on account of the ark of God.” David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom into the city of David with gladness. 13 And so it was, that when the bearers of the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. 14 And David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, and David was wearing a linen ephod. 15 So David and all the house of Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouting and the sound of the trumpet.
We see this pattern repeated again in the New Testament when Yeshua makes His triumphant entrance before Passion Week:
John 12:12-13 New American Standard Bible
Jesus Enters Jerusalem
12 On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.”
The Greek word used to describe this custom of going out to meet an important person and accompanying them back to the city with celebration is, ἀπάντησιν (apantēsin).
The term, apantésis, is found just four times in the Greek New Testament: 1 Matt 25:1 and 25:6; Act 28:15 and 1 Thess 4:17. In every one of these passages, we will find that the word is being used to describe people coming out to meet someone they deem to be important. In the case of Matthew 25:1 and 6, it references going out to meet the Bride Groom, with clear overtones of meeting Yeshua when He returns to take His bride. In ancient Hebrew society, this was a very ruckus and noisy occasion, complete with a noisy bridal and bridegroom party and the blowing of trumpets.
So, why are we ‘snatched up’ into the air in 1 Tess 4:17? We are snatched up so that we can go out to meet the Lord, who will — this time — be returning as the Conquering King!
As always, you are free to disagree with me. I will not argue with you about such matters. I merely seek to share what I have learned through my own studies of the Scriptures — and, in this case, the original languages behind our translations. I share what I have learned in the hope that others will at least keep what I have learned in mind. This way, should the future not turn out the way that they expected, they might remember my words and fall back on them instead of losing faith in the Word. Ultimately, this is all I seek to do: to edify, strengthen and build up the Body so that, if and when the time of testing comes, they will be better equipped to hold fast to the Faith.