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Many believers may have seen or heard the words “parousia” and “rapture”. This article clarifies their origin and meaning. It will be shown that they do have a biblical background. However, that does not mean that the various dogmas that have been created around those words would be biblical.
The noun parousia occurs in 24 places in the Greek text of the New Testament. (It was used in such meanings as “coming” and “presence”.) And so, it certainly is a biblical word. But, this does not mean that the various parousia-related dogmas would be biblical.
The first occurrence of that word in the Greek NT text is found in this verse:
Matthew 24:3 Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, [Greek parousia] and of the end of the age?” (NKJV91, comment added)
In several passages in the Greek NT text, the word parousia refers to the time when Jesus was to come for his own (the saints [a]). Here are some of those passages: Matthew 24:3, 27, 37 and 39, 1 Corinthians 15:23, 1 Thessalonians 2:19, 3:13, 4:15 and 5:23, 2 Thessalonians 2:1, James 5:7 and 8, 2 Peter 1:16, 1 John 2:28.
(A note: For instance in the 1769 KJ version, parousia is translated 2 times as “presence” and 22 times as “coming”. The Latin Vulgate version translates it 3 times as praesentia, “presence” and 21 times as adventus, “coming”.)
a In this article, the word “saints” refers to those who received the Holy Spirit in biblical times, first century CE or earlier.
The noun “rapture” refers to the act of “carrying off”. It comes from the Latin raptus which is related to the verbs rapio and rapto which likewise referred to carrying off. It appears that the concept “rapture” is derived from 1 Thessalonians 4:17 where the Latin text of the Vulgate version has the verb rapio. That passage records how the apostle Paul told the saints in Thessalonica that they would be carried away, to meet Jesus in the clouds. So, in that way, also the word “rapture” has a biblical background. But, this does not mean that the various rapture-related dogmas would be biblical.
Let us consider the verse in question. It records how the apostle Paul wrote to the saints in Thessalonica, regarding the event when they were to be gathered and taken up to Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 4:16 […] And the dead in Christ will rise first. 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. (NKJV91)
Now, that is something Paul wrote to the saints in Thessalonica in the first century, concerning what was about to happen to them. So, how is it – do 1 Thessalonians 4:17 and similar passages have any bearing on people of our day? The article nga040.htm provides some food for thought, in regard to that question.
As was noted above, the word “rapture” is connected to 1 Thessalonians 4:17 where the Latin text of the Vulgate version has the verb rapio. In the Greek text of that verse, the word in question is the verb harpazô which meant such things as “to seize” (hastily), “to snatch”, “to carry away”. That verb is found in 13 passages in the Greek text of the New Testament. Here are some of the verses in question:
2 Corinthians 12:2 I knew a man in Christ, above fourteen years ago (whether in the body I know not, or out of the body I know not; God knoweth) such an one caught up [b] to the third heaven. 3 […] That he was caught up [b] into paradise, 4 and heard unspeakable things, which it is not possible for man to utter. (WES, note signs added)
b “Caught up”, verses 2 and 4 – the Greek text has the verb harpazô in the forms harpagenta and herpagê. The Latin text of the Vulgate version has raptum and raptus.
1 Thessalonians 4:16 […] And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up [c] together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. (NKJV91, note sign added)
c “Caught up” – in this verse, the Greek text has the verb harpazô in the form harpagêsometha. The Latin text of the Vulgate has rapiemur.
Revelation 12:5 She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up [d] to God and His throne. (NKJV91, note sign added)
d “Caught up” – here, the Greek text has the verb harpazô in the form hêrpasthê. The Vulgate’s Latin text has raptus.
The Scriptures contain several prophecies that have not been fulfilled yet. This world is still in the hands of wicked powers. In the future, Jesus will return and put an end to those wicked ones. Before that, God will send his two witnesses. During their work, there will be a great persecution of those who turn to God. It is in those coming times that the great, innumerable multitude of the book of Revelation will be formed. There will also be a time of Judgment, and there are many other prophesied things that still remain to happen.
But, many prophecies have already been fulfilled.
The article nga040.htm considers such passages as 1 Thessalonians 4:15–17, and the question what happened to the saints, why they vanished from the scene, some time after the middle of the first century. That article considers even Matthew 24:31 and 34, 1 Corinthians 15:51–52, and several other relevant scriptures. And also, such things as the difference between trumpets of God and those of angels, and what the apostle Paul meant and referred to when he wrote about a “last” trump or blast.
Parousia (the event when Jesus came back, for his own) and rapture (when the saints were carried away by angels and taken up to Jesus) certainly are mentioned in the Scriptures. Jesus, Paul and others made it clear that those people were to be caught away. Several New Testament passages show that that event was imminent, and that it was to happen while some of Jesus’ disciples still remained physically alive. The article nga040.htm has more on this.
See also the “recommended reading” section, below.
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Recommended reading here at the Bible Pages, on related as well as other matters
An explanation of the short names for the bible-translations that are quoted or mentioned at this site. → nsa090.htm
What happened to the saints? Why is there no record of their doings, after the middle of the first century? → nga040.htm
Who are the 144000 and the great multitude of Revelation 7? And, who are the first-fruits or virgins of Revelation 14:1–4? → nta030.htm
What does the Bible say about the matter of resurrection? → nba080.htm
What does the Bible say about the “great tribulation”? On Matthew 24:21 and Revelation 7:14. → nta040.htm
What does the Bible say about Heaven? Were the saints to go there? What about others? What does it look like, in Heaven? → nba040.htm
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