(The post formerly known as http://oldmaid.jallman.net/entry.php?id=9 )
Taken (4) = “Paralambano” = “Separated, culled, divided from those who are left (left = “aphiemi”)
We know that Taken = separated from those who are left. Here “taken” equals … what?
It equals messy stuff, that’s what!
Here is a context for the word paralambano, or “taken.” (Jesus is speaking.)
(Luke 17:33) “Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it. (34) I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. (35) There will be two women grinding together; one will be taken and the other left. (36) Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left.” (37) And they said to Him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the body is, there the vultures will be gathered together.”
–Revised Standard Version
Clearly “taken” refers to a separation. But what kind of separation? What does “taken” mean this time?
(4a) “Taken” (paralambano) and “left” (aphiemi) are neutral. Therefore the desirability of being either “taken” or “left” is unknown.
This is Rossing’s view. “Dispensationalists make the leap of assuming that the person ‘taken’ in this passage is a born-again Christian who is taken up to heaven, while the person ‘left’ is an unbeliever who is left behind for judgment. This is a huge leap, since Jesus himself never specifies whether Christians should desire to be taken or to be left! In the overall context of Matthew’s Gospel, both the verbs ‘taken’ and ‘left’ (Greek paralambano and aphiemi) can be either positive or negative” (page 178).
Metaphorically speaking, Rossing shrugs and says we can explore all possible meanings if we wish. She points out that Jesus specifically brought up the subject of Noah’s Ark during the Olivet Discourse. If Jesus’ return is like the coming of the flood, “taken” and “left” can go both ways. For example, the flood “took” people by sweeping them away. Those “left” in the Ark survived. Alternately, “taken” could be “analogous to Noah rescuing people by taking them into the Ark to save them, as dispensationalists argue” (page 179). Thus those “left” would be left out of the Ark. There are still other interpretations, such as the angels of the harvest (of souls) “taking” the weeds and chaff to be burned (Matt. 13:30, 38-42) at a safe distance from the granary. In this case “left” would “have a positive sense, as when Satan ‘left’ Jesus in Matt. 4:11.”
From the Dart article, Robert C. Tannehill wrote in 1996 that “being ‘taken’ would indicate deliverance. This, however, is not certain. Furthermore, there is nothing here about escaping a period of tribulation that is coming on the rest of the world, as in the current doctrine of the rapture” (page 9). Riddlebarger also suggests that those “taken” are “presumably” taken to heaven (page 178), because the angels gather the elect from the four corners of the earth (Matt. 24:31) and take them to God’s presence. However Riddlebarger firmly rejects any interpretation that this culling, this separation will happen at a time other than the final judgment.
Rossing is not deeply attached to any of these definitions—the only thing she wishes to impress upon the reader is that “taken” (paralambano) and “left” (aphiemi) refer to a separation at the end of time. “Matthew seems to be deliberately ambiguous—perhaps because our focus is not supposed to be on worrying about being taken or on being left, but rather on the urgent necessity of readiness for Jesus’ return at any moment! Whatever the desired fate, Jesus’ description of people being ‘taken’ or ‘left’ in this passage certainly does not describe a ‘Rapture’ or an event separate from the last judgment, but rather is part of that judgment” (page 179). Rossing adds, “In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus cautions most strongly that we are not supposed to try to figure out the details of the chronology of the end times … Jesus tells his followers, ‘About that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven nor the Son, but only the Father’ (Matt. 24:36). Jesus does not intend for us to piece together Bible verses to construct a detailed timetable that even he himself does not know” (page 179).
(4b) “Taken” is good, being “left” is bad but not the end of time
This is the view rapturists espouse. Rapturist teaching states that those “taken” (paralambano) are Whooshed Up to Heaven as per definition number one (above). That is, rapturists expect that what happened to Enoch and Elijah has been promised to them too. They will be secretly removed from the earth in an instant, the blink of an eye. They are taken just in time to avoid the rise of the Antichrist. Those who are “left” (aphiemi) are “left behind” to fend for themselves on a dying earth ruled by said Antichrist. If survivors become saved Christians they can still partake of Christ’s kingdom and heaven after the seven years of tribulation are ended.
In essence, rapturists argue that “Taken (4)” = paralambano and the word for “taken (1)” = “Whooshed up to heaven” may not be the same word, but they should be treated as the same word. Some nonrapturists disagree, and quite vehemently too.
(4c) “Taken” is bad, but being “left” is not necessarily better
As Hal Lindsey’s book The Late Great Planet Earth (which promotes the [4b] interpretation) was rocketing to the top of the sales charts, a paraphrased Bible called The Living Bible (copyright 1971) printed a response. In eschatological circles it was the “shot heard ‘round the world” … except that nobody heard it.
Here is The Living Bible’s translation of the same passage. Note especially verse 37.
(Luke 17:33) “Whoever clings to his life shall lose it, and whoever loses his life shall save it. (34) That night two men will be asleep in the same room, and one will be taken away, the other left. (35,36) Two women will be working together at household tasks; one will be taken, the other left; and so it will be with men working side by side in the fields.” (37) “Lord, where will they be taken?” the disciples asked. Jesus replied, “Where the body is, the vultures gather.”
Here the word “taken” is not used as a moral indicator. That is, there is no indication whether those “taken/paralambano” or “left/aphiemi” deserved what happened to them. There are indications as to what is desirable and undesirable. In the footnotes of The Living Bible, the editors clarify their interpretation of Luke 17:37 as follows:
This may mean that God’s people will be taken out to the execution grounds and their bodies left to the vultures.
This interpretation argues that to be “taken” is bad, but that it is the fate of God’s people. Their relationship with God is what caused them to be sentenced to death.
Note that this is an interpretation of “taken” (paralambano) that has actually come true. It happened in the fall of Judaea. It happened for generations when Christians were thrown to the lions before cheering Roman crowds. It also happened in modern times. It happened on Kristallnacht. It happened to “the disappeared” in Latin America. It is still happening today. In fact there is no reason (aside from holding a different belief) to think it will not happen again in the days before this world ends.
This is the view promoted by Ben Witherington III, called an evangelical scholar by writer John Dart. (See the “Introduction.” Dart wrote the articles “Beam Me Up Theology” and “Left Behind: It’s a Good Thing” for The Christian Century magazine, issue September 25th—October 8th, 2002. Note that the title “Left Behind: It’s a Good Thing” was in Dart’s words. Witherington himself never actually says that being left is good, only that being taken is bad.) In the Dart article, Witherington is quoted as saying,
“A first-century audience would have understood [Luke 17:35] to mean one will be taken away for judgment, while the other will escape judgment by remaining where she is … This is clear from the context, which is about the coming judgment—a judgment that, in Jewish literature, everyone is expected to face.”
Witherington says it was very common in both Jewish and Greco-Roman literature of that era to see the phrase “taken away for judgment.” The Asbury Seminary professor said he interprets the term “taken” in this context “of the long history of Israel’s being taken away into exile, and individuals being taken away for trial and judgment, including Jesus,” he said.
“Those left behind are spared judgment or exile or the like … And of course nothing [is said] here about avoiding tribulation.” In other words, even the ones remaining were likely to face eventual chaos and tribulation in end-times scenarios. (Dart, page 9)
Witherington argues that “taken” (paralambano) is slang or an abbreviation for a longer non-slang phrase. If “taken away for judgment” was an everyday expression, it might be hard for a gospel writer living under the brutality of Eternal Rome to imagine that the phrase would ever die out. But in fact it has died out, at least in the English language. The English speakers do not have a long tradition of secret police, of dragnets thrown out to capture the innocent. In English-speaking countries policemen only organize dragnets to capture the guilty. The closest English common usage is “taken in for questioning,” a procedure that usually does not result in the death of the detainee at the hands of the police.
Rossing quotes New Testament scholar and Anglican bishop N.T. Wright, who sides strongly with Witherington’s interpretation.
[Wright argues,] “It should be noted that being ‘taken’ in this context means taken in judgment. There is no hint here of a ‘rapture,’ a sudden ‘supernatural’ event that would remove individuals from terra firma … It is a matter, rather, of secret police coming in the night, or of enemies sweeping through a village or city and seizing all they can.” (N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, vol. 1 of Christian Origins and the Question of God [London: SPCK: Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996], p. 366).
[Rossing continues,] If Wright is correct, this means that being “left behind” is actually the desired fate for Christians, whereas being “taken” would mean being carried off by forces of judgment like a death squad. For people living under severe Roman occupation, being taken away in such a way by secret police would probably be a constant fear. B. Brent McGuire, a Lutheran critic from the conservative Missouri synod, suggests that the Left Behind books have it “entirely backward.” McGuire, like Wright, points out that when analyzed in the overall context of the gospel, the word “taken” means being taken away for judgment, as in the story of Jesus’ being “taken” prisoner by soldiers in Matt. 27:27. “Taken” is not an image for salvation. (pages 178-9)
Finally, British scholar Christopher M. Tuckett (from the Dart article, page 9) agrees that “to be taken” refers to “sudden judgment. Of the parables in Luke 12 on the thief at night and the waiting servants, he said that ‘born warn of an event which may come at any moment and catch out those who are unprepared, with disastrous consequences.’ The same is to be found in the apocalyptic material in Luke 17:23-37, he said.”
So, not only do nonrapturists disagree with the rapturist interpretation of “taken” (paralambano), but a majority of those who express alternate interpretations express the same one: “Taken” Is Bad. They would interpret the key verses as, “One will be taken away for judgment and one left alone. One will be caught in the dragnet and one will slip through. One will be dragged away and one will be ignored.”
English speakers might argue that it is unfair to expect them to understand the idioms of two thousand years ago, and to a limited extent this is a fair observation. In first-century Mediterranean culture the jokes Jesus told in Luke 14:16-20 were screamingly funny. In modern Western culture the congregation nods solemnly and takes notes! which tends to kill a joke. But if it is unfair to expect English speakers to recognize slang, abbreviations, or idioms, why do we do it too? How many times have we said,
(One) John and Mary are engaged.
(Two) Bill cannot come to the barbecue on Saturday because he is otherwise engaged.
Didn’t our minds fill in the blanks? We recognize that John and Mary are engaged to be married, and that Bill is busy on Saturday. To revert to our earlier examples of Chinese, the words for engaged to be married and have other plans/pleading other business are two different words. In English, the words are the same. We know the difference from the context. We understand because we choose to understand. Witherington, Tuckett, Wright and the rest argue that we choose to understand other things—are we choosing to misunderstand this?
There is one more “contextual” matter that proponents of this position invoke. They remind us who, exactly, is asking the question. Rapturists of the 19th through 21st centuries were not present to ask the question. The question “Where, Lord?” came from the disciples. Ah, and what a human bunch they were, too.
—Simon Peter. “The Rock.” Warm, brash, and visionary (the quality that made him stand out from the crowd). So overly protective of Jesus that twice Jesus had to discipline him for making matters worse (Matt. 16:23, John 18:10-11). Suffered from a case of foot-in-mouth disease. The Jews are waiting for the return of Elijah—when Peter (who was Jewish) saw the risen (Moses and) Elijah (Mark 9:2-8), his reaction was to blurt something like, “Dudes, don’t go anywhere; we’ll build you each a house.” (Huh? I didn’t know Ty Pennington of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition was in this story.)
—Thomas. “Doubting Thomas” hardly seems fair. All of the disciples doubted Mary Magdalene and the other women who testified that Jesus was risen (Luke 24:1-11). If anything, Thomas would have been a logical front-runner candidate for head disciple if not for the fact that he lacked vision. He was pragmatic, perhaps overly so. When Jesus tried to tell his friends goodbye, Thomas kept asking him to stop waxing poetic and tell them what was going on. (See John 11:16 and 14:5.) Also, Thomas either was fearless, depressed, or a bit of a goth, because he seems to have had a death wish. (See John 11:8, 16.) The whole reason Thomas did not see the risen Jesus is that when everyone else was hiding from the authorities (John 20:19, 24-25), Thomas was the one out on the street, possibly risking his life for groceries. (Again, fearless or depressed.) Jesus simply gave Thomas the proof everyone else got.
—James and John. “The sons of thunder.” Some see this as a reference to the boys themselves (like rowdy “frat boys”). Others see it as a reference to their father, Mr. Zebedee. We never meet him, but Mrs. Zebedee we know (Matt. 20:20-24). In an incident that for all we know could have inspired the “Lucky Suit” episode of Everybody Loves Raymond, Mrs. Zebedee asks Jesus to please give her Two Nice Boys the two best thrones in Jesus’ kingdom, save only His own. The look on the other disciples’ faces when they learned that James and John had got their mommy to do their dirty work for them must have been one of the great looks in human history. Alas, the Polaroid camera would not be invented for another 1,921 years.
—James the Less. Lovingly lampooned by Sarah Morice Brubaker in The Christian Century (“Strangely Familiar,” May 17th, 2005, pages 28-29). Brubaker’s article consists of books that do not exist, or if they do, they shouldn’t. (Does that make sense?) The title of one: James the Less, Assistant Account Supervisor for Media Outreach: Ancient Wisdom for Mindless Bureaucracy. Summary: “By examining James the Less’ relationship with Jesus, his immediate supervisor, [the author] shows bureaucrats how to fly completely under the radar, neither royally screwing up nor distinguishing themselves in any way.”
—Matthew. In Roman days tax collectors became tax collectors because their fathers were tax collectors. The Romans drafted them for the job then paid them nothing. Tax collectors could only survive by charging more than the tax due and pocketing the difference. So the Jews hated them, the Romans hated them—why trust someone who would steal from his own people?—and their sons hated them. Matthew was a danger to the group. Jesus and the twelve could have been attacked by the Jews or arrested by the Romans for luring Matthew away from his post.
—Judas Iscariot. Although famous for betraying Jesus he had another noteworthy quality—he was the group’s treasurer, and he stole (John 12:6). Think about this: the twelve gave the money to Judas Iscariot because they thought he was more trustworthy than Matthew. Poor Matthew!
—Simon the Zealot. Another menace-to-society whose presence could have got Jesus and the gang arrested just for associating with him. In the fall of Jerusalem (the year 70), the Zealots butchered 8,400 fellow Jews to take their hiding place … old people, children. (Unspeakable stuff.) But that was the future. This was one Zealot, now. Of course if you are Matthew, one is enough. Zealots purportedly assassinated tax collectors. Then Jesus took them out to the wilderness … far from help … no witnesses.
I am guessing Matthew did not sleep very well the last three years of Jesus’ life.
In other words, the disciples were a real party-in-a-box, a classic example of God’s power made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). Critics of Left Behind argue that if we would define the world “taken” (paralambano), then we must take into account all the context. This means we have to keep in mind who is asking the question.
In the Olivet Discourse, horrible things happen with no obvious mention of individual rescue or deliverance. That is the story context. The intelligence and personalities of the disciples would be the personal context. Rapturists argue that when the disciples ask, “Where, Lord?” in Luke 17:37, the disciples are asking, “Those who are left behind and not in motion, when they do eventually go in motion and go someplace, where will they end up when they stop?”
Nonrapturists argue that this interpretation not only tortures the text, but it makes the disciples too clever by half—too smart for their own good. That is, it is out of character. For if the disciples wavered on other points, they were quite consistent on this one: they asked questions to which they did not already know the answer. There were times when they knew the answer and did not like it, understand it or believe it, but our critics are firm that this was not one of those times. This is at the heart of Witherington’s argument. Witherington argues that the Living Bible rendering of Luke 17:37 is the correct one: “Where will they be taken?” Why? Because “the location of those left is known—still in bed or at the grinding mill” (Dart, page 9). Those “left” did not go anywhere. Therefore they did not go to “the place of corpses and vultures” of which Jesus spoke. The disciples are asking, “Those who are taken, is there any hope for them?” Jesus tells them flatly, No.
As we see, there are many interpretations of “taken” and “left.” If only the English language had retained the original classical Hebrew and koine Greek words, Christians might not be divided on the topic of the end times. In any event, how can nonrapturists expect rapturists to take seriously the nonrapturist definition of paralambano when nonrapturists themselves cannot agree what it means?
Well, nonrapturists are united on the interpretation of 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17. That is why they expect to be taken seriously.
Translating the words of 1 Thess. 4:13-17
(1 Thess. 4:13) But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. (14) For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. (15) For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. (16) For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; (17) then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord.
From the 1860s and the days of John Nelson Darby, rapturism always has taught that the events of Luke 17:34-37 and 1 Thess. 16-17 are the same events, the same scenario, the same thing. They argue that those who are paralambano (“taken,” definition 4) are the same people who are harpagesometha (the “caught up” persons of 1 Thess. 4:17). (The second coming of Christ is called Parousia, with harpagesometha and apantesis being specific elements in that second coming.)
Nonrapturists are united in their disagreement with rapturist interpretation. Nonrapturists absolutely believe that the harpagesometha (the act of being “caught up” to Christ) will happen on Judgment Day. They also believe that the apantesis (the “public victory parade or honor escort in the sky”) will happen on Judgment Day—not seven years after the harpagesometha and not 1,000 years before Judgment Day. The “harpagesometha Day,” the “apantesis Day,” and the Judgment Day are the same day. Nonrapturists are firm on this point.
Understand that the koine Greek word harpagesometha was translated into the Vulgate Latin as rapiemur (root word, raptio). From this word arose three English definitions. “Rapture” as in “ecstatic vision” we know. This definition has fallen out of use and has been replaced with the more specific “ecstatic vision.”
“Rape” as in “the carrying off of a woman” (originally for marriage, or at least for ransom) and its even uglier definition, we also know.
The third use of “Rapture” was somewhere in between. It involved the “carrying off of a woman” (in this case the church, the bride of Christ) by overwhelming force, but as performed by a spiritually wholesome bridegroom. Frykholm believes that the once-violent concept of the “carrying off of a woman” came to be spliced with images of female piety. Thus “the ‘raptured’ woman becomes Christ’s bride in heaven” (pages 97-8), her compensation for being an unappreciated bride on earth.
So not only has the English word “rapture” been recycled, so has the Latin Vulgate word rapiemur. Again, it might have been better for English speakers if the English Bible had retained the separate koine word harpagesometha. The English word “rapture” has come to have too many “damsel-in-distress who needs rescue” connotations that were not in the original koine text. The “secret rapture” also brings connotations that the generation experiencing it are special. Witherington asks, where did rapturists get the idea that the last generation on earth would be “exempt from tribulation? Why should the last generation of Christians expect to do less cross-bearing than previous ones?” he asks (Dart, page 9).
This is where the nonrapturist “secret weapon” comes into play. The word is apantesis, the koine word for “meeting” Christ in the air. Every critic in our study argues that the word apantesis specifically rules out any secrecy or surprise in Christ’s return.
From the Dart article (page 9): [British scholar N.T. Wright says,] “That passage about meeting the Lord in the air ‘should be read with the assumption that the people will immediately turn around and lead the Lord back to the newly remade world’—similar to residents meeting a visiting emperor in open country, then escorting him into the city.”
Also from the Dart article (page 9): “Witherington’s column in Bible Review a year later seconded Wright’s interpretation of the Thessalonian verses, arguing that, according to Paul, those meeting Christ in the sky would return to earth to reign with him there.”
Paul Thigpen (author of The Rapture Trap) supports Witherington and Wright in their interpretation of apantesis. Finally, our critic Rossing eviscerates the rapturist teaching that focuses on the harpagesometha and leaves out the apantesis.
The apostle Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians is the favorite Rapture-proof text for dispensationalists. A closer look at this passage in the overall context of the letter shows that it is not about Rapture, however, but about resurrection from the dead at Christ’s second coming. The Thessalonians apparently feared that some family members who had already died before Christ’s return would be left in their graves when he returned—and they were grieving that separation. Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonika to reassure them that those who have died will also be raised to meet Christ, “and so we shall always be with the Lord.” He wrote the letter in order to give comfort and encouragement, using the assurance of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead to give assurance of resurrection also for us.
What this letter is emphasizing is not that some will be left behind, but rather that we will all be together with our loved ones in our resurrection life. No believer, whether dead or alive, will be separated from Christ or from the community of their loved ones when the Lord comes again. Paul is saying the very opposite of what Rapture proponents claim when they use him to support their terrifying left-behind notion that some people will be taken while others are left…
Rapture proponents use the details of these verses to argue that Christ snatches born-again Christians off the earth to meet him in the air, and then that Christ turns around and takes people back to heaven for seven years. But take a closer look and you see that there is no indication that the Lord switches directions—much less any mention of seven years in heaven. The passage proclaims that Christ will “descend from heaven” (1 Thess. 4:16)—that is, he is coming down from heaven to earth. There is no reason to think that Jesus will change directions and turn around to go back to heaven after Christians meet him in the air. What the passage is describing is Jesus’ second coming to earth, and the resurrection from the dead that will happen when he returns.
Paul’s description of “meeting” the Lord in the air employs a very specific Greek word for greeting a visiting dignitary in ancient times: apantesis, a practice by which people went outside the city to greet the dignitary and them accompanied him into their city. The same word is used in Matthew 25:6 to describe the bridesmaids who go out to “meet” the bridegroom and then accompany him into the feast, and also in Acts 28:15 to describe the Romans who go out to “meet” Paul as he arrives in their city. We can look at these other usages to see more specifically what Paul means by the term “meet” the Lord.
The key factor with the normal usage of the Greek verb “meet” is this: In no case does the arriving dignitary change directions and go back where he came from after people come to meet him; rather, he continues with them into their house or city. In Matthew, for example, the bridegroom’s arrival is greeted with a shout: “Look! Here is the bridegroom. Come out to meet him.” But the bridegroom does not then kidnap the bridesmaids and take them away with him after they go out to meet him! Rather, the bridegroom goes with the bridesmaids into the house from where they came, where everyone is waiting for him. Matthew makes this clear: “The bridegroom came, and those who were with him went into the wedding banquet, and the door was shut” (Matt. 25:10).
Similarly in Acts 28, the Christians from Rome go out to meet Paul while he is still outside their city gates, because they are so eager to welcome him. “The believers from there, when they heard of us, came as far as the Forum of Apius and Three Taverns to meet us,” Acts records. Paul does not then switch directions and take the Christians away from their city after they go out to “meet” him. Rather, Paul accompanies them back where they came from—into their city.
Paul’s use of the same word “meet” in First Thessalonians would suggest that Paul is proclaiming a similar “meeting,” where both those who are alive and those who are dead go up to “meet” Christ in the air on his way back to earth, and then they accompany him the rest of the way back to earth as he “descends.” The central message of this passage is the resurrection of the dead. The image of meeting the Lord in the air underscores that every Christian—whether dead or alive—will be resurrected together to greet Jesus when he returns to earth. (pages 175-7)
To this rapturists respond that they never denied the existence of the apantesis. Rapturists fully expect a “public victory parade” with Christ leading the parade through the sky. Rapturists simply believe there is a seven-year span of time between the harpagesometha and the apantesis. Jesus will secretly Whoosh Up to Heaven the true Christians (dead or alive), and seven years later those people will march with Jesus through the sky on the victory parade.
Nonrapturists insist that there is no seven-year gap between the harpagesometha and the apantesis. Nonrapturists argue that the second coming of Christ will look like this:
• (1 Thess. 4:16) The Lord will issue a “cry of command.”
• (same verse) The archangel will “call.”
• (same verse) The “trumpet of the Lord will sound.”
• (same verse) Everyone will hear this trumpet.
• (1 Cor. 15:51-52) The sounding of “the last trumpet” will mark the raising of the dead, and the transformation of both dead and living from their mortal bodies into their eternal, glorified bodies.
• (John 6:39-40, 44, 54 and John 11:24) Jesus and his friend Martha plainly state that the dead will rise on The Last Day.
• (Matt. 25:31-46) The judgment of the righteous and the wicked will be at the same time, on the Last Day.
• (1 Thess. 4:17) Paul, who is a Pharisee and a lawyer and fluent in koine Greek, used two words that refer to irresistible and public events, like a victory parade or honor escort. Paul chose not to use words that refer to “secret commando raid and rescue, followed by a victory parade seven years later” and instead chose to use words that refer to a public victory parade or honor escort on the same day that the people are called to Him.
• (1 Thess. 4:17) Paul, who is a Pharisee and a lawyer and fluent in koine Greek, knows how important it is to put things in writing and to do it correctly and thoroughly. Paul did not put a seven-year gap between the harpagesometha (“being caught up in the air”) and the apantesis (the “meeting”) because there is no seven-year gap between them.
• (Titus 2:13) The “blessed hope” and the “glorious appearing” are the same event on the same day.
• (2 Peter 3:10) The heavens will “disappear with a roar.”
• (Rev. 1:7) When Christ returns every eye shall see him.
Nonrapturists then argue that rapturism teaches these verses really mean:
• (1 Thess. 4:16) The Lord will issue a “cry of command” (except that it will be a silent cry or else he will not cry).
• (same verse) The archangel will “call” (except that it will be a silent call or else the archangel will not call).
• (same verse) The “trumpet of the Lord will sound” (except that the trumpet will not sound or it will be a silent sound).
• (same verse) Everyone will hear this trumpet (except for those who don’t).
• (1 Cor. 15:51-52) The sounding of “the last trumpet” will mark the raising of the dead, and the transformation of both dead and living from their mortal bodies into their eternal, glorified bodies (except that the last trumpet won’t really be the last one; it will mark the transformation of the living and the dead, except for the living and the dead who remain on earth; and those who remain on earth won’t hear it).
• (John 6:39-40, 44, 54 and John 11:24) Jesus and his friend Martha plainly state that the dead will rise on The Last Day (but they really meant, the dead will be raised 1,007+ years before the Last Day and will live in heaven while the earth marches on through seven years, rejoining earth for another 1,000 years of history).
• (Matt. 25:31-46) The judgment of the righteous and the wicked will be at the same time, on the Last Day (except for those who either will be judged on another day—such as before the 1,000 years of Christ’s earthly reign over Israel—or for those who will never be judged at all).
• (1 Thess. 4:17) Paul, who is a Pharisee and a lawyer and fluent in koine Greek, used two words that refer to irresistible and public events, like a victory parade or honor escort. Paul chose not to use words that refer to “secret commando raid and rescue, followed by a victory parade seven years later” and instead chose to use words that refer to a public victory parade or honor escort on the same day that the people are called to Him (except that he really meant to use “secret rescue” and not “public victory parade on the same day”).
• (1 Thess. 4:17) Paul, who is a Pharisee and a lawyer and fluent in koine Greek, knows how important it is to put things in writing and to do it correctly and thoroughly. Paul did not put a seven-year gap between the harpagesometha (“being caught up in the air”) and the apantesis (the “meeting”) because there is no seven-year gap between them (except that Paul did not put it in because it is so completely understood that the seven-year gap is there, that there is no need to specifically say so. Even a lawyer does not define the word “the” because everyone already knows what it means.).
• (Titus 2:13) The “blessed hope” and the “glorious appearing” are the same event on the same day (except that the “blessed hope” is a Secret Rapture and the “glorious appearing” is their return by Christ’s side in a public victory parade seven years later).
• (2 Peter 3:10) The heavens will “disappear with a roar” (except that they won’t).
• –(Rev. 1:7) When Christ returns, every eye shall see him (except for those who don’t).
This latter interpretation prompted the normally mild-mannered Riddlebarger to ask (in the words of his colleague Ken Jones), are rapturist Christians really comparing the day they meet their risen Lord to “a dog whistle” (page 143)?
Amillennialists are united in their belief that the first death is physical death. The first resurrection is/was when a person converts, believes, and is saved. The early heroes of the Church were promised that (in addition to their salvation) they would go to heaven when they died and begin ruling in heaven right away. Therefore the second resurrection is a bodily resurrection, when those who have physically died before those days and since those days will be resurrected to see Christ and face the Great White Throne Judgment. In that one and only Judgment, Judge Jesus will vouch for his friends and dismiss the charges against them. The rest of humanity will stand or fall based on the testimony and evidence regarding the charges against them. The second death is eternal separation from God.
Therefore nonrapturists argue that the idea of the dead being raised on a day other than Judgment Day is not biblical. They argue that on the day Christ returns, there will be a public victory parade in the skies. Everyone who is happy to see Christ will rush to his side. Everyone who does not want to see it will see it too; they just won’t celebrate. Riddlebarger (page 133) believes that the reason Christ’s faithful ones will meet Christ in the air is that Paul once called Satan “the ruler of the kingdom of the air” (Eph. 2:2). “Hence this event marks the final defeat of Satan,” adds Riddlebarger. (A “secret rapture” that flits through the air in haste and secrecy looks like a retreat, not the victory that these verses suggest.)
Almost all amillennial scholars comment of 1 Thess. 4:13-15 that Paul (and God) always used the term “asleep” to describe the dead because God loves humanity so much that God does not see the dead as dead, not the way we use the term. Rather, God uses the term “sleep” because the resurrection will wake them up. Therefore it can be said, we all get to heaven at the same time. “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
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