The Rapture? (I Thessalonians 4: 15-18)
by Father Daniel Swire
Let's look first at the doctrine of the "Rapture." Actually, the doctrine of a "Rapture" does not originate in the book of the Revelation. The word "rapture" is not actually found anywhere in any English translations of the Bible. It comes from rapere which is found in the expression "caught up" in the Latin translation of 1 Thessalonians 4:17. Let's read verses 15-18:
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will 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. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
Now, this is actually a fairly straightforward and very exciting passage of Scripture. The Apostle Paul is talking about the Second Coming of Christ. He says that it will be a glorious event, proclaimed by the voice of an archangel and the blast of a trumpet. You can just picture in your mind what a glorious event this will be! The dead in Christ will be resurrected! Those who are alive will ascend to meet their Lord and shall dwell with Him in eternity! This is our blessed hope being fulfilled! And St. Paul says, "Therefore comfort one another with these words!
But the idea of an event called the "Rapture" is not actually taught in this passage of Scripture, or anywhere in the Bible, for that matter. Rather, it comes from focusing on those two words "caught up" and interpreting them within the context of Dispensationalism.
Their basic premise is that this passage is not talking about the Second Coming of Christ at all, but rather it is talking about an event that will occur before the Second Coming in which the Church will be "snatched" or "raptured" from the Earth, leaving everyone else behind. Usually this is taught to occur before a period of seven years known as the Great Tribulation, but there are proponents of a mid-Tribulation "rapture" and even a post-Tribulation "rapture."