The rapture

Paul’s first letter to the church at Thessalonica included a detailed account of an event commonly referred to as the rapture. Paul said, “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” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Paul included additional detail about this event in his first letter to the Corinthians where he stated, “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).

Looking at Paul’s two descriptions of the rapture, it appears that the purpose of this event is to transform believers into a similar state/form as Jesus Christ. Although there are only a few references to Jesus’ resurrected body, it was clearly different than the one he had before he was crucified. Luke’s gospel indicated that Jesus was able to disguise his identity (Luke 24:16) and vanish into thin air (Luke 24:31). John reported that Jesus’ body still had the marks of his crucifixion on it (John 20:20, 27), but he was able to function normally (John 21:15). The Greek word translated changed, allassō means to make different (G236). Allasso is derived from the word allos which “expresses a numerical difference and denotes ‘another of the same sort'” (G243). The best way to interpret allasso in the context of Paul’s explanation of the rapture might be to say that you’ll receive a duplicate body or you could say that your body will be instantaneously changed into a carbon copy of the one you were born with.

Paul indicated that after the rapture, believers would be united with Christ throughout eternity (1 Thessalonians 4:17) and said, “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him” (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10). Paul’s emphasis of unbroken fellowship with the Lord may have been intended to encourage believers to not fear death. The word Paul used that is translated live, zao (dzah’-o) literally means to live or always be alive. Even though, our current physical bodies may cease to exist, our souls and spirits will not. Jesus told his disciples, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3).

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