1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 – The Rapture Controversy

What are the differences between the rapture and the second coming of Christ? (2:25)

By: Dr. John Ankerberg / Dr. Renald Showers; ©2004

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 King James Version (KJV)

16 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:

17 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.

The word “rapture” (1 Thessalonians 4:17 – caught up) does not appear in our English Bible. So, why is the word used, and what does it mean?

There are people throughout the world, of which many are believers in Christ, who believe that the rapture of the church is merely an allegory. If the allegory assumption is correct, should we also believe that the “allegory belief” should extend to the resurrection and ascension of Christ into Heaven, as well as the teaching of the anti-Christ and the tribulation? Should we believe that the Battle of Armageddon and the return of Christ with His saints are also allegories? Should we believe that the 1,000 year reign of Christ (the Millennium), and the Great White Throne Judgment, and the eternal state are allegories? Should we believe that the new heaven, new Earth and new Jerusalem are allegories, as well as the first eleven chapters of Genesis? Since 1 Thessalonians 4:17 is to be considered to be an allegory, because it tells of Christ coming to take His believers with Him to Heaven, should we not also consider John 14:3 to be an allegory, because it also tells of the return of Christ to take his born again believers to heaven with Him? Since those two verses are suspected of being allegories, should we not also consider the entire books of John and 1 Thessalonians to be allegories? Because 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 tells of the Apostle Paul being “caught up” to the third heaven, to be in the Presence of God, should not that incident and that book of the Bible also be considered to be allegories? Should not both letters to the believers in Christ, at Corinth and at Thessalonica, also be considered to be allegories? Should not the entire Book of Acts be considered to be an allegory because of the teaching of Christ being taken up to Heaven (Acts 1:9), and Philip being “caught up,” and taken to another location, for the purposes of God (8:39)? Should not Revelation 11:12 be considered to be an allegory because the “two witnesses” are taken up to Heaven? Should not the teaching of Revelation 12:5, where Christ is caught up to Heaven, also considered to be an allegory? Should we not consider the books of Genesis and Hebrews to be allegories because Genesis 5:24 and Hebrews 11:5 state that God “took Enoch up?” Should we not consider the book of 2 Kings to be an allegory because in 2 Kings 2:11 it states that God took Elijah up. And, should not the entire book of Revelation be treated as an allegory because of its controversial teachings on the tribulation, the anti-Christ, the 144,000 Jewish missionaries (none of whom were martyred by the forces of the anti-Christ during the tribulation)? We can add to the list of “suggested allegories,” the Battle of Armageddon with the return of Christ to earth with His saints, the 1,000 year reign of Christ, the Battle of Gog and Magog, the Great White Throne Judgment and the Lake of Fire?

Because of all of those examples of “suggested allegories of scripture,” should not we say that the Bible is “just one big allegory”, and totally worthless? I think not. I believe that the entire Bible is the inspired Word of God, per the following verses of scripture. Notice the first two words, “All scripture.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

The purpose of God “taking up, catching up,” a believer in Christ, or a group of believers in Christ, to heaven, is to take those people to heaven without causing them to experience death. The word for such taking up is known as Harpazo in Greek, Rapio in Latin, and Rapture in English. Whichever translation is used, the purpose is to show that God is catching up believers in Christ to go to heaven without them experiencing death. (See John 14:2-3, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 1 Corinthians 15:51-58)

Many people teach that the catching up of the saints and the second coming of Christ are the same event. But, there are great differences in those two events. Consider the immediacy of those two happenings. The catching up of the saints is said to be, “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). The same act of immediacy is also recorded in John 14:2-3 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. The second coming of Christ takes much longer to take place. Per scripture, Christ will not land on planet Earth, and no one on Earth who has not been born again will see Christ coming out of Heaven to catch up His saints. Those who will see Christ coming to earth, at His second coming, will not be comforted to see His appearing; they will be deeply grieved! The destination of Christ, and of those who are “caught up,” is heaven, where there will be the giving of rewards to the saints, the marriage of the lamb, and the return to Earth with the previously raptured saints of Christ. Then, Christ will inflict judgment on those who had not been raptured, and will set up His earthly millennial Kingdom; the saints will rule and reign with Christ. The destination of Christ, at His second coming, will be the Mount of Olives. Judgment on those, who were left behind from the rapture of the saints, will immediately commence. There is great comfort in the rapture, per 1 Thessalonians 4:18, “…comfort one another with these words.” Opposite emotions will be present among those who are “left behind” from the rapture, when they see Christ returning to stand on planet earth at the end of the tribulation (Matthew 24:29); “they will mourn at His sight” (Matthew 24:30); with “men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world (Luke 21:26). The rapture of the church is described quickly in John 14:2-3; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; and 1 Corinthians 15:50-58. The scriptures that discuss the second coming of Christ show a much greater sequence of events and time, much longer than “the twinkling of an eye,” as follows: (Zechariah 14:1-14; Matthew 24:29-44; Matthew 25:31-46; Mark 13:24-27; Luke 21:25-36; Revelation 19:7-8…marriage of the Lamb in Heaven to the raptured saints (the bride of Christ) (1 Thes 4:16-17) …Revelation 19:11-21 …the second coming of Christ with the raptured saints/the Battle of Armageddon…Revelation 20:1-6…the 1,000 year reign of Christ/the millennium; Satan bound; saints rule and reign with Christ, those returning/raptured saints, and those resurrected saints of the Old Testament and tribulation.) Notice the words, “immediately after the tribulation,” (Matthew 24:29); and, “in those days, after that tribulation,” (Mark 13:24), which show that the events of the second coming of Christ will happen after the tribulation.

The teaching of the end times, to include the rapture of the church, is a subject that is sorely neglected by pastors. It was forty-one years ago that a pastor introduced me to the teaching of eschatology. That pastor was twenty years my senior. His mentor was twenty years his senior. Both of those brothers in Christ are now with the Lord. But, their teachings go on through the people that they taught, to include this grateful student. It is my hope that more pastors will realize a sense of urgency, as it relates to the end times teaching. There are far too many “people in the pews” who are ignorant of the facts of the end times, and that is because they are sitting under the teachings of pastors who share that same ignorance of God’s Holy Word. Ignorance does not mean “stupid;” it means “not taught.” The MacArthur Study Bible provides excellent notes on all teachings of the Bible, to include the scriptures that relate to eschatology. A limited amount of notes from the MacArthur Study Bible can also be found in biblegateway.com A membership to Biblegateway provides the full extent of the MacArthur notes.

In the year 405 A.D., Jerome completed the Latin Vulgate.”This Latin translation stood as the preeminent Bible text for centuries—and set the standard for future translators” (from the following link).

The first hand-written English language Bible manuscripts were produced in the 1380’s AD by John Wycliffe, an Oxford professor, scholar, and theologian (from the following link).

Whether the Latin or Greek translation is used to translate 1 Thessalonaians 4:17 into English, the meaning of both translations is that Christ is going to descend from Heaven (in the air, not coming to earth), and catch up those living believers (at the time of the “catching up”), and take them to Heaven with Him. For a full explanation of the teaching of the “catching up,” (of those living in Christ), and resurrection (of those dead in Christ), read the commentary notes at the bottom of the page.

Posts will follow that address specifics of different end times subjects.

Consider The Following Verses, And Other Data, That Relate To The Catching Up Of The Saints, Which Is Also Known As The Rapture Of The Church.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Those Who Are Dead, And Those Who Are Living, “in Christ,” At The Time Of The Rapture
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 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 not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will 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. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

John 14:2-3 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Christ Tells The Apostles That He Will Come Back To Earth And Take Them To Heaven With Him

2 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.

See study notes at the bottom of the page.

1 Corinthians 15:50-58 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

The Mystery of Resurrection

50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.

(My quip) A notice was posted in a Church nursery. The notice read, “we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed.” (vs 51)

Differences Between the Rapture & Second Coming (28:30)

What is the meaning of the word “Rapture?”


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

rapture; raptura; raptus; harpazo; rapiemur;rapia

1 Thessalonians 4:17 (seize, catch up, snatch away).
1 Thessalonians 4:17 King James Bible
“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.”
“Rapture” is derived from Middle French rapture, via the Medieval Latin raptura (“seizure, kidnapping”), which derives from the Latin raptus (“a carrying off”).[17]
The Koine Greek of 1 Thessalonians 4:17 uses the verb form ἁρπαγησόμεθα (harpagisometha), which means “we shall be caught up” or “taken away”, with the connotation that this is a sudden event. The dictionary form of this Greek verb is harpazō (ἁρπάζω).[18] This use is also seen in such texts as Acts 8:39; 2 Corinthians 12:2-4; Revelation 12:5
The Latin Vulgate translates the Greek ἁρπαγησόμεθα as rapiemur[19] meaning “we are caught up” or “we are taken away” from the Latin verb rapio meaning “to catch up” or “take away”.[20]

1 Thessalonians 4:17 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

17 Then we who are alive and remain will 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.

Strong’s Concordance With Greek Lexicon – 726

harpazó: to seize, catch up, snatch away
Original Word: ἁρπάζω
Part of Speech: Verb
Transliteration: harpazó
Phonetic Spelling: (har-pad’-zo)
Short Definition: I seize, snatch, obtain by robbery
Definition: I seize, snatch, obtain by robbery.

Notice that the transliteration of “to seize, catch up, snatch away,” is “harpazo.” Through the use of transliteration, one word tells the meaning of many more translated words. Check out the following link.


The following are just a few more examples of transliterated words in the New Testament:

Apostle comes from apostlos and means “one who is sent.”
Baptism comes from baptisma and means “immersion.”
Christ comes from cristos and means “anointed one.”
Deacon comes from diakonos and means “servant.”
Epistle comes from epistole and means “letter.”

Strong’s Concordance With Greek Lexicon

1 Thessalonians 4:17 King James Bible

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.

will be caught ἁρπαγησόμεθα arpagēsometha 726 to seize, catch up, snatch away from a prim. root harp-

Acts 8:39 King James Bible – caught away – 726

And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.

snatched ἥρπασεν ērpasen 726 to seize, catch up, snatch away from a prim. root harp-

2 Corinthians 12:2 King James Bible – caught up – 726

I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.

was caught ἁρπαγέντα arpagenta 726 to seize, catch up, snatch away from a prim. root harp-

2 Corinthians 12:4 King James Bible – caught up – 726

How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

was caught ἡρπάγη ērpagē 726 to seize, catch up, snatch away from a prim. root harp-

Revelation 12:5 King James Bible – caught up – 726

And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.

was caught ἡρπάσθη ērpasthē 726 to seize, catch up, snatch away from a prim. root harp-

Notes: MacArthur Study Bible – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

4:13–18 Even though Paul’s ministry in Thessalonica was brief, it is clear the people had come to believe in and hope for the reality of their Savior’s return (cf. 1:3, 9, 10; 2:19; 5:1, 2; 2 Thess. 2:1, 5). They were living in expectation of that coming, eagerly awaiting Christ. Verse 13 (cf. 2 Thess. 2:1–3) indicates they were even agitated about some things that were happening to them that might affect their participation in it. They knew Christ’s return was the climactic event in redemptive history and didn’t want to miss it. The major question they had was “What happens to the Christians who die before He comes? Do they miss His return?” Clearly, they had an imminent view of Christ’s return and Paul had left the impression it could happen in their lifetime. Their confusion came as they were being persecuted, an experience they thought they were to be delivered from by the Lord’s return (cf. 3:3, 4).4:13 those who have fallen asleep. Sleep is the familiar NT euphemism for death which describes the appearance of the deceased (see note on 1 Cor. 11:30). It describes the dead body, not the soul (cf. 2 Cor. 5:1–9; Phil. 1:23). Sleep is used of Jarius’ daughter (Matt. 9:24) whom Jesus raised from the dead and Stephen who was stoned to death (Acts 7:60; cf. John 11:11; 1 Cor. 7:39; 15:6, 18, 51; 2 Pet. 3:4). Those who sleep are identified in v. 16 as “the dead in Christ.” The people, in ignorance, had come to the conclusion that those who die miss the Lord’s return and they were grieved over their absence at such a glorious event. Thus the departure of a loved one brought great anguish to the soul. But there is no reason for Christians to sorrow when a brother dies as if some great loss to that person has come.4:14 God will bring with Him. As Jesus died and rose, so also will those who die believing in Him rise again so they can be taken to heaven with the Lord (see notes on John 14:1–3; 1 Cor. 15:51–58). These texts describe the rapture of the church, which takes place when Jesus comes to collect His redeemed and take them back to heaven. Those who have died before that time (called “those who sleep”) will be gathered and taken back to heaven with the Lord.4:15 the word of the Lord. Was Paul referring to some saying of Jesus found in the gospels? No. There are none exact or even close. The only explicit reference to the Rapture in the gospels is John 14:1–3. Some suggest that Jesus had said the words while on earth, their substance being recorded later in such places as Matt. 24:30, 31 and John 6:39, 40; 11:25, 26. Similarities between this passage in 1 Thess. and the gospel accounts include a trumpet (Matt. 24:31), a resurrection (John 1:26), and a gathering of the elect (Matt. 24:31). Yet dissimilarities between it and the canonical sayings of Christ far outweigh the resemblances. Some of the differences between Matt. 24:30, 31 and vv. 15–17 are as follows: 1) in Matt. the Son of Man is coming on the clouds (but see Mark 13:26; Luke 21:27), in 1 Thess. ascending believers are in them; 2) in the former the angels gather, in the latter Christ does personally; 3) in the former nothing is said about resurrection, while in the latter this is the main theme; and 4) Matthew records nothing about the order of ascent, which is the principal lesson in Thessalonians. On the other hand, did he mean a statement of Jesus that was spoken but not recorded in the gospels (Acts 20:35)? No. There is reason to conclude this since Paul affirmed that he taught the Rapture as a heretofore hidden truth (1 Cor. 15:51), i.e., “mystery.” Apparently, the Thessalonians were informed fully about the Day of the Lord judgment (cf. 5:1, 2), but not the preceding event—the rapture of the church. Until Paul revealed it as the revelation from God to him, it had been a secret, with the only prior mention being Jesus’ teaching in John 14:1–3. This was new revelation of what had previously been an unrevealed mystery. we who are alive and remain. This refers to Christians alive at the time of the Rapture, those who live on this earth to see the coming of the Lord for His own. Since Paul didn’t know God’s timing, he lived and spoke as if it could happen in his lifetime. As with all early Christians, he believed the event was near (cf. Rom. 13:11; 1 Cor. 6:14; 10:11; 16:22; Phil. 3:20, 21; 1 Tim. 6:14; Titus 2:13). Those alive at the Rapture will follow those dead who rise first (v. 16).
4:16 the Lord Himself will descend. This fulfills the pledge of John 14:1–3 (cf. Acts 1:11). Until then, He remains in heaven (cf. 1:10; Heb. 1:1–3). archangel. Very little is known about the organization or rank of angels (cf. Col. 1:17). While only Michael is named as an archangel (Jude 9), there seems to be more than one in the archangelic ranks (Dan. 10:13). Perhaps it is Michael, the archangel, whose voice is heard as he is identified with Israel’s resurrection in Dan. 12:1–3. At that moment (cf. 1 Cor. 15:52, “twinkling of an eye”), the dead rise first. They will not miss the Rapture, but be the first participants. trumpet of God. Cf. 1 Cor. 15:52. This trumpet is not the judgment trumpets of Rev. 8–11, but is illustrated by the trumpet of Ex. 19:16–19, which called the people out of the camp to meet God. It will be a trumpet of deliverance (cf. Zeph. 1:16; Zech. 9:14).
4:17 caught up. After the dead come forth, their spirits, already with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23), are now being joined to resurrected new bodies (see notes on 1 Cor. 15:35–50); the living Christians will be raptured, lit. snatched away (cf. John 10:28; Acts 8:39). This passage, along with John 14:1–3 and 1 Cor. 15:51, 52, forms the biblical basis for “the Rapture” of the church. The time of the Rapture cannot be conclusively determined from this passage alone. However, when other texts such as Rev. 3:10 and John 14:3 are consulted and compared to the texts about Christ’s coming in judgment (Matt. 13:34–50; 24:29–44; Rev. 19:11–21) at the end of a 7 year tribulation, it has to be noted that there is a clear difference between the character of the “Rapture” in that there is no mention of any judgment, while the other texts feature judgment. So then, it is best to understand that the Rapture occurs at a time different from the coming of Christ in judgment. Thus, the Rapture has been described as pretribulational (before the wrath of God unfolded in the judgments of Rev. 6–19). This event includes complete transformation (cf. 1 Cor. 15:51, 52; Phil 3:20, 21) and union with the Lord Jesus Christ that never ends.
4:18 comfort one another. The primary purpose of this passage is not to teach a scheme of prophecy, but rather to provide encouragement to those Christians whose loved ones have died. The comfort here is based on the following: 1) the dead will be resurrected and will participate in the Lord’s coming for His own; 2) when Christ comes the living will be reunited forever with their loved ones; and 3) they all will be with the Lord eternally (v. 17).

Notes: MacArthur Study Bible – John 14:2-3

14:2, 3 I go to prepare. His departure would be for their advantage since He was going away to prepare a heavenly home for them and will return to take them so that they may be with Him. This is one of the passages that refers to the rapture of the saints at the end of the age when Christ returns. The features in this description do not describe Christ coming to earth with His saints to establish His kingdom (Rev. 19:11–15), but taking believers from earth to live in heaven. Since no judgment on the unsaved is described here, this is not the event of His return in glory and power to destroy the wicked (cf. Matt. 13:36–43, 47–50). Rather, this describes His coming to gather His own who are alive and raise the bodies of those who have died to take them all to heaven. This rapture event is also described in 1 Cor. 15:51–54; 1 Thess. 4:13–18. After being raptured, the church will celebrate the marriage supper (Rev. 19:7–10), be rewarded (1 Cor. 3:10–15; 4:5; 2 Cor. 5:9, 10), and later return to earth with Christ when He comes again to set up His kingdom (Rev. 19:11—20:6).

Notes: MacArthur Study Bible: 1 Corinthians 15:50-58

15:1–58 This chapter is the most extensive treatment of resurrection in the Bible. Both the resurrection of Jesus Christ as recorded in the gospels and the resurrection of believers as promised in the gospels are here explained.
15:50 People cannot live in God’s eternal heavenly glory the way they are. See notes on Rom. 8:23. We have to be changed (v. 51).
15:51 mystery. This term refers to truth hidden in the past and revealed in the NT. See notes on 2:7 and Eph. 3:4, 5. In this case, the rapture of the church was never revealed in the OT. It was first mentioned in John 14:1–3, when it is specifically explained and is detailed in 1 Thess. 4:13–18 (see notes there). sleep. See note on v. 18.
15:52 twinkling of an eye. This was Paul’s way of showing how brief the “moment” will be. The Gr. word for “twinkling” refers to any rapid movement. Since the eye can move more rapidly than any other part of our visible bodies, it seems to well illustrate the sudden transformation of raptured believers. trumpet will sound.To herald the end of the church era, when all believers will be removed from the earth at the rapture (1 Thess. 4:16). dead…raised. According to 1 Thess. 4:16, they are first and the living saints follow (1 Thess. 4:17).
15:54–57 Paul enhanced his joy at the reality of resurrection by quoting from Is. 25:8 and Hos. 13:14. The latter quote taunts death as if it were a bee whose sting was removed. That sting was the sin that was exposed by the law of God (see notes on Rom. 3:23; 4:15; 6:23; Gal. 3:10–13), but conquered by Christ in His death (see notes on Rom. 5:17; 2 Cor. 5:21).
15:58 The hope of resurrection makes all the efforts and sacrifices in the Lord’s work worth it. No work done in His name is wasted in light of eternal glory and reward.

Biographies of speakers of this post.

Consider the qualifications of the speakers in the videos.

Dr. John Ankerberg, founder and president of The John Ankerberg Show, the most-watched Christian worldview show in America

Signs of the Last Days – Dr. Jimmy DeYoung
Bio – http://jimmydeyoung.com/aboutdrd.shtml
Dr. Jimmy DeYoung resided in Jerusalem for at least a portion of the year each year for the last 23 years where he held full credentials as a journalist in the second most populated journalistic city in the world.

Dr. Renald Showers
Dr. Renald Showers is an author and Bible teacher for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Inc.

Dr. Ed Hindson, http://thekingiscoming.com/about-dr-ed-hindson/
Dr. Ed Hindson is the Bible Teacher on The King Is Coming telecast. He is also the Assistant Chancellor, Distinguished Professor, and Dean of the Institute of Biblical Studies and the School of Religion at Liberty University in Virginia.

MacArthur Study Bible Notes
Bio – Dr. John MacArthur – https://www.gracechurch.org/Leader/MacArthur/John?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1

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Author: Eternity

Things are discussed in this website that relate to God's creation, from "eternity to eternity," and all that is addressed within those paramaters. Consider Isaiah 43:13, "Even from eternity I am He, And there is no one who can rescue from My hand; I act, and who can reverse it?” The Moody Study Bible adds a comment: "God is the ruler of all, and there is nothing that can stand against Him. His will is irresistible. The Bible Knowledge Commentary adds this thought: "No one can reverse what God puts into action or thwart His plans."

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