Used with Permission - Joel Smith - 30 Para

Rapture? It's my understanding that Baha'is believe exactly what Paul wrote about it. The modern Christian doctrine of the "rapture" teaches that "dead" and "sleeping" Christians will be physically "caught up" to heaven when Christ returns in the flesh. This doctrine is derived from 1 Thessalonians 4, in the writings of the Apostle Paul, which reads: (109:1)

"But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive (& therefore) remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as (do these) others.. (109:2)

At first glance, when reading the fourth chapter of Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians, it would appear that Paul was telling us that when Christ returns from heaven those Christians "which are asleep" and those who are "dead" will both awaken and rise from the dead and then be physically "caught up" into the sky "to literally "meet the Lord in the air." (109:3)

Most Christians today have been taught to interpret this passage literally... in a fleshly manner. Is this what Paul originally intended? Or was he instead trying to convey a less obvious, spiritual message? How can we know for certain? Does Paul tell us how to interpret his writings? Can we find related statements elsewhere in Paul's writings which help us to better understand what Paul was trying to tell us here? The answer, of course, is yes. Paul clearly tells us how to interpret his writings. And Paul clearly illustrates what he meant when he spoke of people being "caught up" into heaven. (109:4)

Referring to the issue of interpretation, Paul instructed his listeners to: "earnestly study to show yourself approved to God, a workman unashamed, rightly dividing (Orthotomeo) the word of Truth. (2 Timothy 2:15 (IB)) Paul wants us to do two things. First he wants us to "earnestly study" the "word of Truth". In other words, he wants us to know what his writings actually say. And then secondly, he wants us to "rightly divide" or to correctly interpret what he was saying. (109:5) see

How can we know how to "rightly divide" the Christian message? That's not too difficult; Paul tells us how. Paul wrote: "we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught us by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:14 (NIV)) (109:6) see

According to Paul, the "word of Truth" must be "spiritually discerned." The phrase "spiritually discerned" is translated from the original Greek Pneumatikos Anakrinetai. The word Anakrinetai is derived from the original root Greek word... Krino, which means judged, determined or interpreted. In other words, this passage can also be correctly translated as spiritually judged, spiritually determined or spiritually interpreted (109:7)

What Paul was trying to help us see is that literal minded people cannot correctly understand "spiritual truths" expressed in spiritual language. If Paul's teachings are to be "rightly divided" they must be spiritually perceived or, in other words, they must be interpreted in terms of the spiritual message that they contain. Nowhere in his writings does Paul even remotely suggest that passages such as 1 Thessalonians 4 should be interpreted literally (109:8)

Paul clearly tells us that his teachings need to be spiritually interpreted. and that if we interpret his teachings literally... we will not understand what he was actually saying. What does this mean in actual practice? And how can we know if we are, in fact, correctly interpreting Paul's "spiritual words" ? (109:9)

"We Should Not Sleep...":- To help us obtain a clearer understanding of what Paul was trying to tell us in 1 Thessalonians 4 let's begin by taking a closer look at Paul's statements concerning "those (Christians) who "sleep" and the "dead" Christians who will "rise again." (109:10)

First, ask yourself, how did Paul use these terms elsewhere in his writings? And then ask, how were such terms used elsewhere in the New Testament? (109:11)

The New Testament writings contain a number of statements concerning topics such as... sleep, death, awakening, resurrection and rebirth. For example, in Peter's writings we find a statement which says that: "the gospel was preached also to them that are dead, that they might... live according to God in the spirit." (Pneumati) (1 Peter 4:6 (KJV)) If we were to interpret this statement literally, then we would have to conclude that Peter was telling us that the Gospel was preached to "dead" people in an attempt to convince them to rise from their deadness. (109:12) see

The same is true of Paul's writings. For example, Paul told the Christians of Rome to start acting like they are alive. He wrote: "yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead." (Romans 6:13 (KJV)) Later on, in this same book, Paul again tells these Christians: "it is now the hour for you to be aroused from sleep." (Romans 13:11 (IB)) (109:13) see

While Peter and Paul both advised their listeners to wake up and to rise from the "dead"... Jesus told people that they had to get "born." Jesus said: "I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God... That which is born of flesh is flesh (Sarx), and that which is born of Spirit is spirit (Pneuma). Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again." (John 3:3-7 (KJV)) (109:14) see

Peter and Paul clearly were not writing to people who had ever been physically dead, while Jesus was speaking to people who had obviously already been physically born. In another place, we can see where Jesus again used the analogy of "death" to refer to someone whom he had characterized as spiritually dead, spiritually misdirected or spiritually unaware. When Jesus told the man to "Let the dead bury their dead" (Luke 9:60 (KJV)) he certainly was not speaking of people who were physically dead and who were going to a funeral. Instead, Jesus again clearly was speaking symbolically. He was using a parable to describe people who had become spiritually misdirected. (109:15) see

In his letters, Paul also repeatedly employs Jesus' symbolic parable of death. For example, in Ephesians Paul was speaking to Christians who were obviously very much physically alive, and yet, he advised: "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead." (Ephesians 5:14 (NIV)) In what way were the Roman Christians asleep and dead? Certainly not literally. (109:16) see

If Paul was speaking in these other passages of something other than physical sleep or a fleshly death, then wouldn't it be consistent to also apply the same principle of spiritual interpretation to 1 Thessalonians 4? (109:17)

Consider, back in 1 Thessalonians 4, when we take a closer look at the entire context of Paul's rapture passage, we can clearly see that Paul intended these passages to be interpreted spiritually. Here Paul concludes his statement about "those who sleep" by advising: "...so then, we should not sleep as the rest also do." (1 Thessalonians 5:6 (IB)) (109:18) see

If Paul actually did intended for his statement about "those who sleep" to be interpreted literally... then to be consistent, wouldn't we also have to conclude that his other statement just a couple of verses later "so then, we should not sleep as the rest also do" should also be interpreted literally? Was Paul trying to tell us that he doesn't want Christians to ever physically sleep again? Of course not. This is not physically possible. Even Jesus had to sleep. (see: Matthew 8:24) So, if Paul wasn't speaking here of literal, physical sleep, then what was he actually saying? (109:19) see

Apparently the Christians back in those days were not "rightly dividing" Paul's teachings so Paul was telling them to wake up spiritually, to open their eyes to spiritual realities and to begin to "spiritually discern" his writings (109:20)

Paul continues by providing us with some even more specific examples of what he meant when he spoke of "sleep" and "death". Two thousand years ago, the Jewish people had failed to recognize the fulfillment of their prophecies. By not recognizing the return of Elijah from heaven as John the Baptist and similarly by rejecting Jesus as their Messiah they demonstrated that they had lost the true spirit of their teachings. This is what Paul meant when he called these people "blind", "asleep" and "dead" (109:21)

In the Book of Romans Paul explained that some of these "dead" people were raised from their spiritual deadness when they awoke to the fact that the promises contained in their scriptures had indeed been fulfilled and that Jesus truly was the Messiah. Referring to these newly awakened people, Paul wrote: "A few have (recognized Jesus as the Messiah)... but the eyes of the others have been blinded. This is what our Scriptures refer to when they say that God has put them to sleep, shutting their eyes and ears so that they do not understand what we are talking about when we tell them of Christ... it is even more wonderful when the Jews come to Christ. It will be like dead people coming back to life." (Romans 11:7 (Living Bible- Catholic Edition)) (109:22) see

Can you see what Paul was saying here? The Jewish people of Jesus' day obviously were very much physically alive. However, according to Paul, as a result of their misunderstanding and denial they were characterized as being dead... not physically dead but spiritually dead or spiritually unaware. Then, Paul explains that when these people finally began to understand the inner spiritual message hidden in their scriptures and when they woke up to the fact that Jesus truly was the Messiah... Paul says that this was like "dead people coming back to life". This was something that was so wonderful that, metaphorically speaking, it was like coming out of the grave of denial and rejection and being carried up to the heaven of belief and certitude (109:23)

This is also what Peter meant when he wrote that: "the gospel was preached also to them are dead, that they might... live according to God in the spirit (Pneumati)." (1 Peter 4:6 (KJV)) (109:24) see

This is what Peter and Paul both meant when they wrote of those who are "asleep" and those who will "rise again" (109:25)

"Caught Up...":- Paul continues his statement in 1 Thessalonians by next promising that the newly awakened Christians and those Christians who had risen from the dead will next "be caught up (Harpazo) together... to a meeting with the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord." (109:26)

The literal interpretation of this passage has inspired the birth of the modern Christian dogma of "the rapture". Most people have seen the bumper stickers which read: "Warning: in case of rapture this car will be vacant." There actually are people who literally believe that they will physically disappear from their cars and that there will be accidents because these cars will no longer have drivers behind the steering wheel (109:27)

What would Paul have thought about this literal interpretation? What did Paul actually mean when he spoke of being "caught up... to a meeting with the Lord in the air" ? Ask yourself, what are the examples of history? How were people raptured into heaven in the past? The answer, once again, can be found in the writings of Paul and the other Apostles (109:28)

The original Greek word which has been translated here as "caught up" is Harpazo. The word "rapture" actually is a human invention and appears nowhere in the Bible. Paul only uses this word twice in all of his writings... in 1 Thessalonians and in 2 Corinthians (109:29)

Paul was Raptured Too:- In Second Corinthians, Paul reveals that he too was raptured or "caught up (Harpazo) as far as the third heaven... and heard words so secret that human lips may not repeat them." (2 Corinthians (NEB)) (109:30)

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   Used with Permission - Joel Smith