A Series:

The Anchor of the Soul

The Fallacy of the Rapture?

by Steve Santini

December 2012

 

All men seek to have a secure and fulfilling future. Those that have faith or will have faith are comforted by the truth of a wholesome future as promised in scripture. This article endeavors to present some salient events that lead to that security offering a more assuring faith and more fulfilling comfort.

A doctrine that has been prevalent in a number of circles of Christian faith for the last eighteen decades[1] is that of the rapture. Upon closer examination of the scripture inconsistencies within the scope of scripture on the subject of the rapture become evident. More so, in doing such examination, a more consistent and fulfilling hope for the future becomes apparent.

. The doctrine of the rapture was derived from this section of scripture.

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.

Wherefore comfort one another with these words. I Thessalonians 4:15-18

Those who believe the doctrine of the rapture believe this section means that those who have died in their faith in the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ will rise from the dead to join those living in the same faith at the time of the Lord’s descent from heaven and will be taken, at that time, together to heaven to be forever with the Lord. They also believe that their ascent into heaven occurs at the moment the promised period of wrath or tribulation on earth commences. Certainly, the dead in Christ are resurrected first, before the just and unjust, but these two other beliefs of the first resurrection at the commencement of the wrath and a subsequent and immediate ascent to heaven are not in harmony with the original Greek words within this section and not in harmony with the scope of scripture on the subject.

For examples:

The word then in verse seventeen is not the Greek word that means then immediately. That word is tote. The word used in verse seventeen is the Greek word epeita. Epeita means then afterwards or after that. When the word is used in scripture there is a substantial interval between the initial action and the subsequently connected action. It was used to denote 3 and 14 years respectively in the record of Paul’s historical background in Galatians. (Galatians 1:18 & 2:1) This word was also used in the Corinthian letter to denote the time period between Adam and Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 15:46) So, accordingly, there is a noticeable time period between the first resurrection of the faithful in Christ Jesus and their meeting of the Lord to be ever with him.

What then transpires during this interval? To answer that question one needs to consider that there is an interval between the commencement of the tribulation and the raising of the dead in Christ. Verse sixteen indicates that something of the Lord’s has been present prior to this first resurrection when it states that the Lordhimself” shall descend from heaven.

There are several places in scripture that state that the saints precede the Lord Jesus Christ to and on earth during this relatively short work to bring to completion the body of Christ for age long service in the millennial kingdom. Enoch, the seventh from Adam, who, according to scripture, never experienced death, like all the saints, and the great-grandfather of Noah prophesied of these saints.

And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. Jude 14,15

The apostle Paul also wrote of this purpose.

1Cor:6:2: Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?

The apostle Paul also reiterated Enoch’s prophecy

1Thes:3:13: To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.

As with the scriptural examples of Enoch, Melchesedec, Moses, Elijah, and Paul, saints never experience death.[2] They are transformed from ministering spirits of Christ in temporal embodiment on earth unto their former, yet finished, angelic state from heaven.[3] As recorded by Matthew, Jesus foretold of the coming of the saints in their angelic states for the purpose of rescuing the faithful in Christ Jesus away from the wrath.

Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:

And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Matthew 24:29-31

First, notice the order of events: the darkening of the sun, as prophesied by Joel and quoted by Peter on the Day of Pentecost, the sign of the Son of man, the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven, and then, as he is coming, the sending forth of his holy angels.[4]

Jesus also spoke of this event at a different time from the perspective of the faithful in Christ Jesus according to Luke’s record.

But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation.

And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.

They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.

Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded;

But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.

Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.

In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back.

Remember Lot's wife.

Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.

I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.

Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

(Verse 36 is not in the largest majority of original Greek texts[5])

And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together. Luke 17:25-37

In this context final three verses are revealing. The Greek word translated taken in both verse thirty-four and thirty-five is paralambano. In these usages the verb is in the passive voice meaning the subject is acted upon. In the active voice paralambano is used of property being rightfully taken. It is also used of a woman being taken as a wife. (Matthew 1:24) Thus, this concept is in harmony with meaning of the Greek word parousia used often of the coming of the Lord. The concept is also in harmony with the apostle Paul’s revelation of the great mystery. Both paralambano and parousia are prefixed with the Greek preposition para meaning along side. The root in parousia is ousia which means the feminine substance. The figuratively feminine of the body of Christ are the faithful in Christ Jesus of Ephesians while the saints who come beside the faithful are the figuratively masculine of his one body.

The word for other in both these verses is the Greek word hetros. It means another of a different kind. The others not taken are men never faithful in Christ Jesus who must pass through the wrath unto the resurrection of the just and the unjust. This record of Luke is the gathering together of the elect away from the wrath by the holy angels or, in other words, the glorified saints, unto the promised rest of Matthew’s record.

The eagles of verse thirty-seven represent the holy angels as they do in other sections of scripture.[6]

The apostle Paul also wrote of this separation of the faithful from the just and unjust in II Thessalonians. He wrote that this separation occurs before the Lord’s Day when he himself descends all the way to earth to raise the dead in Christ first.

That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of the Lord is at hand.[7]

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away(apostasia-standing away) first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; II Thessalonians 2:2,3

(This word, apostasia, places this verse in harmony with Paul’s writing concerning the destiny of the church during the prophesied period of wrath yet to come. Apostasia is a prefixed word. The prefix is the Greek preposition apo. Apo means away from. It’s meaning does not indicate upward motion. Paul wrote earlier in verse ten of chapter one in II Thessalonians that the church would be delivered from the wrath to come. Paul could have used several Greek prepositions when he wrote the word translated from in this verse but he choose apo to convey the true meaning of the fact.)

Paul reiterates this truth of verses two and three in a differing manner in verse seven of this chapter in.

For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he [or it] be taken [gone][8] out of the way. II Thessalonians 2:7(taken- middle voice)

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In his last days, for the sake of the future faithful, Peter wrote of this time when the faithful in Christ Jesus are taken to be beside the holy angels as the parousia

Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.

For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming (parousia) of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. II Peter 1:15,16

Peter then proceeds in the following verses to explain the parousia.

For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. II Peter 1:17,18

There are two records in the gospels of this event on the Mount of Transfiguration. One is in Luke’s gospel and the other is in Matthew’s. In both records the previous proximate context reveals the subject written of is the coming of the Lord with his holy angels.

For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy angels. Luke 9:26

For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Matthew 16:27

In each record, after an interceding verse, the authors begin the record of the events at the Mount of Transfiguration.

And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. Luke 9:28

And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, Matthew 17:1

In each of these two verses the active voice form of the Greek word paralambano is used respectively for took and taketh.

According to Peter, the following recorded events in Luke and Matthew are as the future glorious coming of the Lord. Each act and interval in sequence is important for understanding the parousia.

For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy angels.

But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.

And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.

And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering.

And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias:

Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.

But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him.

And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said.

While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud.

And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.

And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen. Luke 9:26-36

Text with some comments on each verse follows:

But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.

[Peter and John and James were present among those addressed by Jesus]

And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.

[The word And connects the subject matter to the previous verse. Peter and John and James were the “some” of the previous verse who were not to taste of death till they had a chance to see the future kingdom of God as revealed in the following verses.]

And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering.

And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias:

[Moses and Elijah are two of the holy angels representing the entire class of manifested saints during the future paraousia]

Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.

[When the Lord came the first time in was in suffering. Peter wrote that in his future coming he will be revealed in his glory. I Peter 1:11]

But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him.

[Many times sleep is used in the euphemistically for the state of the faithful after death. Here, the reality of their heavy sleep represents the dead in Christ that are to be raised first. Peter, John and James were apostles and became strong and bold in faith after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, and the day of Pentecost, however they were not and will not be saints or saints glorified as holy angels.[9] Not only was Jesus glorified but Moses and Elijah appeared in their spiritual condition of glory as holy angels. Peter wrote that Jesus first coming was in suffering but his second coming will be in glory. I Peter 1:11]

And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said.

[Even after experiencing this Peter’s thoughts were on the temporal until….]

While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud.

[Matthew’ wrote that the cloud was a “bright” cloud. The definition of the Greek word translated bright is 1) light 1a) composed of light 1b) of a bright character 1c) full of light 1d) well lit]

And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him. [10]

[Even after resurrection the faithful will be subject to guidance. This is one of three times that the gospel records declare that a voice came from above declaring the identity of Jesus. Each appear to mark the most significant events-his baptism in the Jordan, his appearance in his future glory on the Mount of Transfiguration and the beginnings of his ultimate sufferings unto death as he made his final entrances into Jerusalem and its temple]

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The apostle Paul’s continuing record in chapter four of I Thessalonians also harmonizes with Peter’s declaration that the parousia follows the pattern revealed on the mount of Transfiguration. In verse seventeen Paul wrote:

Then (epeita) 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.

Contrary to the rapture doctrine derived from this section there are three Greek words in this verse that show that the location of forever being with the Lord is not in heaven. They are: harpazo translated caught up; aer translated air; and nephele translated clouds.

Harpazo is used 13 times in the New Testament. It is translated caught up, take by force, catch away, pluck, catch and pull. It is used of Paul being caught up to the third heaven. (The third heaven is that heaven that will exist during the future kingdom of God on earth.) In another manner harpazo is also used of Paul being rescued by a Roman captain from the crowd who sought to kill him and used of the desire of a crowd that wanted to take Jesus and make him a king. The word itself does not necessarily imply upward physical movement. It does imply a force acting upon that which is seized. This implication fits well with the scriptural statements regarding the commencement of the parousia; that is as the aforementioned usages of paralambano and as a thief in the night.

Aer, translated air, means the lower atmosphere where clouds form. The word for heaven is ouranos. It is not used here, nor is it used in the context.

Nephele translated clouds is used of the clouds of heaven. The clouds of heaven are those from which the Lord will be seen coming with his holy angels. The Easterners of antiquity consider the cloud like Milky Way as the clouds of heaven especially the cosmic dust clouds obscuring the light from the galatic center of the Milky Way, all awesomely visible from the dry unpolluted Eastern dark night sky.[11]

In the Old Testament there is a Hebrew word for this cloud of cosmic dust highlighted by the radiant galactic center. It is shachaq . This word is used 21 times in scripture and is translated as cloud, sky, heaven, and small dust. It is often used in conjunction with shamayim, the Hebrew word translated 398 times as heaven. (Psalms 36:5, 78:23, 18:11, Jeremiah 51:9)

Nephele is also used of natural clouds in the lower atmosphere and supernatural clouds in the lower atmosphere. The apostle Paul refers to the supernatural clouds in the lower atmosphere that encompassed the children of Israel as they were being delivered from the bondage Egypt unto the Promised Land. He includes the reference to this cloud as an example of the ends of the age.

Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;

And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;

And did all eat the same spiritual meat;

And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. I Corinthians 10:1-6

Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world (aion-age) are come. I Corinthians 10:11

Isaiah also wrote prophetically of a supernatural cloud as a tabernacle for the remnant faithful.

And the LORD will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence.

And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain. Isaiah 4:5,6

And most importantly, the like example of the supernatural cloud into which Peter, James and John entered on the Mount of Transfiguration. The events, including their envelopment in the cloud, on the mount were the example of the yet future parousia as Peter later declared and a participatory experience in the kingdom of God as Jesus had declared at the time.

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The apostle Paul’s writing to the church in Thessalonica contains a number of points that make the rapture doctrine inconsistent with the truths of the parousia in scripture. The then the fourth chapter, seventeenth verse of I Thessalonians shows a time period between the first resurrection and the meeting of the Lord to be forever with him. The location of the meeting is not in the clouds of heaven but in supernatural clouds in the lower atmosphere. And the word himself implies that something of the Lord has descended from heaven before he himself comes to raise the dead in Christ first.

More so, a well-considered study of this section establishes truths consistent throughout the bible. First, the holy angels of the Lord come to individually separate the faithful from the unfaithful and to gather them together. Then the dead in Christ are raised as the Lord himself descends from the clouds of heaven to earth. Then, after a period of time continuing with the holy angels, all are gathered to be forever with the Lord in a tabernacle of supernatural clouds on earth.

Before these times, the assurance of these promises is an anchor for the soul and a comfort to the heart.

That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:

Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;

Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. Hebrews 6:18-20

 

With this understanding of this section of Paul’s writing in Thessalonians where then is the harmony of with other scripture on the subject of the Lord’s second coming?

 

The Anchor of the Soul

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Searching for the Place of Salvation

 

Index for the Series: The Anchor of the Soul

 

[Introduction and Main Index]



[1] It may come as a surprise to many Christians, but the doctrine of the Rapture is not mentioned in any Christian writings, of which we have knowledge, until after the year 1830 A.D. Whether the early writers were Greek or Latin, Armenian or Coptic, Syrian or Ethiopian, English or German, orthodox or heretic, no one mentioned a syllable about it. Essentials of NT Doctrine, Ch. 17, Ernest L. Martin, Associates For Scriptural Knowledge, 2004

[2] Hebrews 11:5, Hebrews 7:3, Deuteronomy 34:5,6,7, II Kings 2:11, Philippians 1:20-23

[3] Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. I Peter 1:11

But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation? Hebrews 1:13,14

[4] The Greek word agios meaning purely separate is translated both as saints and as holy. It is translated holy as in holy angels in the gospels; holy apostles and prophets of Ephesians 3 vs apostles and prophets in Ephesians 2; and holy men in II Peter I:21 – note in this verse that the word men is not in the Greek text and that agois here should be translated saints as it is in the other places in scripture when it is used singularly. ie For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but saints of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. The Interlinear Literal Translation of The Greek New Testament, Berry, G.R., p. 604

[5] The Interlinear Literal Translation of The Greek New Testament, Berry, G.R., p. 231

[6] Compare: Exodus 19:4 with Psalm 68:17 and 78:25

[7] The Interlinear Literal Translation of The Greek New Testament, Berry, G.R., p. 536 footnote l

[8] The Interlinear Literal Translation of The Greek New Testament, Berry, G.R., p. 537

[10] The Old Syriac of Matthew that predates the Peshitta by four centuries also includes in the record a bright cloud that over shadowed Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan. Here, too, a voice came from the cloud saying, “This is my beloved son”, Identifying Early Syriac Gospel Texts, Xth Symposium Syriacum, Ring, S. R., 2008