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What 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 says about the rapture

It's helpful to know the rapture doctrine did not develop until very late in Christian history, only within the last couple hundred years. So the earliest Christians, people like Augustine, people like Aquinas, and Luther, they didn't really have this doctrine in their mind.

So where did this doctrine originate?

The doctrine of the rapture isn't established through one text. The language of rapture comes through actually the Vulgate Latin translation of the bible where a similar word is used in First Thessalonians.

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The rapture doctrine actually comes from a theological theory that combines parts from all over the New Testament and even some of the Old Testament. It's a theory that one could have, but it's important to know it actually can't be established firmly by any one text. It's a theory.

Some people have that theory. Some people don't. I don't think when it comes to eschatology the early Christians were concerned about getting a particular timeline right.

I think the big message that the New Testament gives is one of hope and one of the sense that when God comes in victory and in judgment, he comes to rebalance justice in the world. I think that's the big message we get out of scripture and so doesn't really help for me to map this out perfectly, as much as it is to get that sense that when Paul says, "We'll be with the Lord forever. Comfort one another with these words."

That's the heart of the issue. That's the thing I want people to take with them from Paul's eschatology.

This post has been lightly edited from the original transcript for clarity.

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