1 Thessalonians 4:17, The Parousia, part I of III

After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

//As I enter this discussion, I want to be clear that I am not preaching a particular set of beliefs. I am merely explaining what the Bible writers were saying as they wrote. But I don’t always know what to make of what the Bible really says, so what you do with this information, how or whether it changes your beliefs, is up to you.

Virtually all Christians picture the parousia as an event where God-fearers are lifted up to heaven to dwell with the Lord. Artwork abounds of this glorious moment, and the picture seems to match the verse above. But is that really what Paul meant? Let’s look at the meaning of the Greek words parousia, the arrival of Christ, and his apantesis, or reception, as used by Paul in Thessalonians to describe how the Christians will meet Jesus in the air.

Picture a king arriving as a visitor to a city. A cluster of citizens, a welcoming committee, go out to meet him, and escort him into the city. This is precisely how these Greek words are used elsewhere.

Paul is not saying that we are lifted up to heaven. He merely imagines that we will rise up to the sky as a welcoming committee to invite the Messiah down to earth.

More tomorrow.


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