1 Thessalonians 4 and the Pretrib Rapture

Weeee!The doctrine of the Rapture is unquestionably the sacred cow of Pretribulational Premillennialism (say that three times fast). It is ironic that this very word “rapture” does not appear anywhere in scripture. But there are in fact passages which seem to support it however the “rapture” interpretation of those passages do not stand up to scrutiny. The most famous of these rapture passages is 1 Thessalonians 4:17:

“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 (New King James Version).”

This one passage seems to sum it up, doesn’t it? Or does it? I have read and heard of many preterist commentators (those who believe that this passage, as well as others concerning the Second Coming, has already taken place) who have attempted to explain this verse by focusing on the definitions or interpretations of “caught up” or “meet the Lord.” However I believe that it is simpler than that. Consider the word “we”. The word interpreted as “we” here is the Greek word hēmeis (pronounced hā-mā’s). The word means we, us, ourselves. It is the plural of the Greek word egō (meaning I or me). It is a plural first person pronoun the use of which assumes inclusion of the speaker. What could Paul have been thinking?

Unless we are ready to believe that Paul was speaking or thinking nonsense, we must be able to assume that he was a rational person and that we can logically consider his statement in verse 17. Now those who hold to a Second Coming (and therefore rapture event) that is still in the future, believe that Paul was telling the Thessalonians to “comfort one another” (v. 18) with the hope that Christ will return over two thousand years later. By virtue of the word “we” it is not safe to assume that he meant those words for us. In light of Paul’s use of the word “we” there are only three conclusions that we can draw:

  1. Paul of course knew that the Second Coming/Rapture would not happen for thousands of years, he just simply thought he’d live that long. Alas, however, if he were alive, we would know about it.
  2. Paul honestly thought that the Second Coming/Rapture would happen in his lifetime and/or the Thessalonians’ lifetime, but he was wrong. Anyone wanna raise their hand for that one? Yes, thank you, I see that hand. Oh, what’s that? You were just stretching?
  3. The final possible conclusion is that Paul knew that the Second Coming would happen soon and that some of those who were alive and remained, including himself (though he was martyred before it happened), would witness the event, and that he was right.

Which of these potential conclusions seems the most plausible? Or what other conclusions could be offered? There are different varieties of interpretations of this passage. One such interpretation is that the Second Coming occured in 70 A.D. with the destruction of Jerusalem. This view rejects the doctrine of the rapture and teaches that Christ’s parousia was one of judgment and was furthermore not a visible “coming”. I have to admit that I am not completely certain as to how I would interpret 1 Thess. 4:17. I do however reject the doctrine of the rapture and I believe that in this passage Paul was talking about something that he knew (because the Holy Spirit had revealed it) would come upon his generation (cf. Matthew 24:34).

I do not put this forth out of any spirit of rebellion. I have never been the kind of person who always seeks to “buck the system.” In fact, such people annoy me. I simply can not have my brothers and sisters in Christ going around deceived believing in a doctrine that does not make sense and makes Christ, the Bible or both look foolish. So let us begin to think about scripture, to think about who is speaking and to whom and stop looking at it through a hermeneutic that has been tainted by bad theology.

Josh H.


9 Responses to “1 Thessalonians 4 and the Pretrib Rapture”

  1. October 17, 2007 at 10:21 pm

    Great picture at the top! 😀

    This inspired me to revise something I wrote a couple years ago and post it on my blog (this is getting creepy, cross-linking like this…). I didn’t go into the particular bit of audience relevance that you did (good points), but I did in other ways. Here is the link: http://undeception.wordpress.com/2007/10/17/search-and-rescueor-invasion-and-annexation/

  2. 2 Lance
    October 18, 2007 at 1:43 pm


    I appreciate your zeal for Christ. I remain amazed at the ways the Spirit has provided you knowledge of the word of God and your ability to logically and systematically formulate a practical theology for life.

    As I read this post I am filled with a number of questions which I will address below. First, let me lay my cards before you. I do not have a firm, entranced pre-, mid-, or post-tribulation view, so I will not be arguing from any particular stance.

    Now, before the questions, I must comment on one of your statements in your post:
    “I simply can not have my brothers and sisters in Christ going around deceived believing in a doctrine that does not make sense and makes Christ, the Bible or both look foolish. So let us begin to think about scripture, to think about who is speaking and to whom and stop looking at it through a hermeneutic that has been tainted by bad theology.”
    I think that is a rather harsh statement and one that should probably be reserved for a doctrine that either makes or breaks the Christian faith (e.g., soteriology, theology proper, hamartiology, etc…). I believe you would agree that whether one holds an amillenial or preterist view or any other aspect of eschatology is a secondary or even tertiary manner. We can still fellowship as brothers in Christ.

    Now my questions. Could you speak to how you interpret 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11 within the context of the whole of 1 Thessalonians? As a point of clarification, when you speak of “the rapture”, what do you mean? As you see it, why is it important that we either have or don’t have a “rapture”. In other words, why should I, your average Christian care that there is such a doctrine, or perhaps you would say, false doctrine?

    I love you like Papa loves cheese! GOSH! That’s a lot.


  3. October 18, 2007 at 9:05 pm

    @Stephen: I thought the pic was a good find

    @Lance: I will take your comments in order. First of all, thanks. Next I, like you, do not have a firm grip on my eschatology. I must admit I more about what I do not believe, in this area, than what I do believe. I hope that this post did not come across more dogmatic than I meant it to be. This was meant to get people thinking.

    My closing remarks were not meant for division (i.e. to diminish “fellowship as brothers in Christ”). There are levels of agreement that must exist for Christian fellowship and unity to take place. Imagine it as concentric circles. In the center are the basic tenets of the faith: I will not list them here but the first one or two paragraphs of most of the church’s creeds cover these). If two do not agree on these, then one of them is not a Christian. Then as you move outward there are issues that require less and less levels of agreement. Perhaps the outermost ring would include whether you take up offering at the beginning or the end of the service (in other words, not very important). But this does not mean that anything outside the center is not worth talking, thinking, or correcting about. If you met a brother who believed Jesus Christ was God in the flesh and that he died on the cross as a propitiation of our sins….and this brother also believed that Paul was a woman…it is doubtful that you would let sleeping dogs lie. You would correct him even though believing Paul was a woman or a man is not essential to salvation. It’s wrong-headed and could cause error in interpreting scripture. It is also for this reason that the average Christian should care. The way that you view the future affects how you act in the present. Belief that the Lord could return at any moment and that things are just gonna get worse and worse are the reasons that Christians have been marginalized in this country.

  4. 4 Lance
    October 19, 2007 at 7:34 am

    Totally and completely in agreement with you (nice concentric circle analogy sounds very Lewis-ian, I’ve heard other analogies but I like that one). It is profitable for Christians to discuss all matters of doctrine, as they all affect (if believed earnestly should affect) our lives. My questions on your view of the 1 Thessalonians passage and meaning of “rapture” still remain unanswered. I’ll pose a new question that you may already answer in your rapture definition, in your view, is the rapture and the resurrection of the dead synonymous?

  5. October 19, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    See my follow-up post for a longer response.

  6. 6 Mike Lawrence
    February 7, 2008 at 2:23 am

    Both of you, got a very interesting topic to discuss with… I’m also confused whether resurrection of the dead and the rapture are somehow alike or the same? Are these two situations the same because it will be happening during the pre-tribulation period? Please answer our question… thanks.

  7. March 1, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    According to the number code sequence as laid out in his Prophecy Code Book, it seems that the rapture if you want to call it that (I prefer the word resurrection), can’t happen for at least another 27 years. May I suggest you check out the website http://www.prophecycodebook.com which shows the Menorah’s pictogram. In his book Prophecy Code, Jeff Manty decodes the rapture using the number (2520) from the prophecy of the seventy ‘sevens.’

    He says the secret to understanding the return of Christ is to know that this number 2520 is a number of years as well as days. As proof he connects this number to the years of Israel’s reestablishment or the years 1897, 1948, and 1967 to the years 587, 536, and 517.

    Manty uses the prophecy’s commencement as the key to unlocking the rapture. May I suggest you get a copy of his book you’ll love it…

  8. March 1, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    <p>Monique,<br />
    I know there’s a good chance that your comment could simply be spam. But I am going to respond anyway since this kind of “code” talk gets my ire up.</p>
    <p>I am going to be very frank. Such “prophecy codes” and “bible codes” have nothing to do with the scripture. What are they based upon? People make up patterns they see in events (or in this case numbers) and put that forth as Biblical truth. The Bible is not a magic book. It is not a book of spells or enchantments or codes. It is a written record of God’s dealings with His covenant people and how He brought about His plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. It is not voodoo.</p>
    <p>There is nothing in scripture that gives any credence or support for such ‘bible code’ nonsense. Men simply make it up and try to make the Bible say more than it does in some secretive way. I encourage you to no longer listen to such nonsense but be grounded in the truth, Monique.</p>
    <p>Furthermore the “seventy sevens” is mentioned in the book of Daniel and has nothing to do with the so-called Rapture. Also, a menorah?? Is this guy serious? There is <em>absolutely</em> NO Biblical basis for any part of his Menorah pictogram.</p>
    <p>And finally, you know this guy Manty is a hack because just look at the first two sentences on the website you mentioned in your comment:<br />
    <blockquote>Did you know that many of today’s Christians have yet to realize that the words Allah, Arab, and Holocaust can be found written inside vital biblical prophecies pertaining to the last days?</p>
    <p>Prophecy Code, by means of these 3 amazing Hebrew words, exposes Lucifer as the god of Islam and later the beast of the last days!</blockquote></p>
    <p>These are not Hebrew words. “Allah” is from Arabic, “Arab” is from Latin, and “holocaust” is from Greek. </p>
    <p>This guy Manty is selling his readers a bill of goods. The Bible is not a book of mysteries. What it says is what it means? There is no “code”.</p>

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