With the, alleged, forthcoming rapture on the 21st of May, I thought a brief discussion of the event in question to be in order. (See my post on the 22nd for my follow up thoughts).
From Wikipedia: Rapture
The Rapture is a reference to the being caught up of 1 Thessalonians 4:17 when in the end times Christians will be gathered together in the air to meet Christ.
The event is mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, where the Latin Vulgate has rapiemur, which may be translated as “we shall be caught up” or “we shall be seized and carried off”. The Latin word is a translation of the Koine Greek word ἁρπαγησόμεθα, which equally means “we shall be caught up” or “we will be seized”. The English word “rapture”, going back to the same Latin verb rapio from which also rapiemus is a form, originally also literally meant a “carrying away”. Along with the Rapture it is said that Christians will be gathered together in the air to meet Christ. However, the Rapture’s relationship to other eschatological events is a matter of hot dispute: second coming of Christ to take over the earth, Daniel’s 70th Week, the “tribulation.” Simultaneously at issue is whether or not the tribulation (or events of Revelation 6-18) are past, present, or future, literal or figurative.
The primary passage used to support this idea is 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, in which Paul cites “the word of the Lord” about the return of Jesus to gather his saints.
… 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.1 Thess 4
There are many views among Christians regarding the timing of Christ’s return (one event or two), and various views regarding the destination of the 1 Thessalonians 4 aerial gathering:
One event or two
Some Dispensationalist Premillennialists (including many Evangelicals) hold the return of Christ to be two distinct events or one second coming in two stages. 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 is seen to be a preliminary event to the return described in Matthew 24:29-31. Although both describe a return of Jesus, these are seen to be separated in time by more than a brief period. The first event may or may not be seen (which is not a primary issue), and is called the rapture, when the saved are to be ‘caught up,’ from whence the term rapture is taken. The ‘second coming’ is the public event when Christ’s presence is prophesied to be clearly seen as he returns to end a battle staged at Armageddon, though possibly fought at the Valley of Jehoshaphat. The majority of dispensationalists hold that the first event precedes the period of Tribulation, even if not immediately. (See chart for additional Dispensationalist timing views);
Amillennialists deny a literal 1000 year millennium, and as such Amillennialism does not necessarily imply much beside that denial. However, there is considerable overlap of Amillenialism (such as in most Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians (PCUSA), and others), Postmillennialists (such as some Presbyterians, and others), and Historic Premillennialists (such as with some Calvinistic Baptists, and others) with those who hold that the return of Christ will be a single, public event. Those who identify the Rapture with the Second-Coming-to-Earth are likely to emphasize mutual similarities between passages of scripture where clouds, angels or the archangel, resurrection, and gathering are mentioned. Although some (such as some Amillennialists) may take the Rapture to be figurative, rather than literal, these three groups are likely to maintain that passages regarding the return of Christ describe a single event. Then some may also claim that the “word of the Lord” cited by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 is the Olivet Discourse which Matthew separately describes in Matthew 24:29-31. Although the doctrinal relationship of the rapture and the Second Coming are the same in these three groups, Historic Premillennialists are more likely to use the term “rapture” to clarify their position in distinction from Dispensationalists.
Dispensationalists see the immediate destination as heaven, with an eventual return to earth. Roman Catholic commentators, for example Walter Drum (1912), identify the destination of the 1 Thessalonians 4:17 gathering as heaven.
While Anglicans have many views in all areas of theology, some Anglican commentators, for example N. T. Wright, identify the destination as a specific place on earth. Often the destination identified is Jerusalem. This interpretation may sometimes be connected to Christian-environmentalist concerns.
As with every Thursday, here at the House, this is our open thread. Feel free to discuss whatever is on your mind.