And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them; and they also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”
Ah, the cloud elevator– problem; it was not, nor will it be, a cloud elevator–consider the context! But before we do I would like to welcome those returning, for what ever reason, I thank you for putting up with me. To those who may have stumbled on to my missives, welcome to you too. You have found the home of the CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics, where; Context is King, Author’s Aspirations to his Audience are Apex, Genre is the General, Expository Exegesis of Examples Enlightens and Dividing Rightly the Word of Truth either confirms or cancels our preconceived notions and presuppositions. Here we mine for gold in the sacred Scripture. We attempt to unlock the caged Scripture which has been caged by our tradition, teachings and our culture. Unless you are learning for yourself, you only know what you have been taught. Therefore it is important to study the Scriptures for yourself and to utilize a hermeneutical tool such as the CAGED method. There are a lot of pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers out there that twist the Scriptures for their own sordid gain. My biggest caution would be to warn against those on television; as we know, even “real” television is rarely real. Find a good faith family, that is, find a good church that has multiple truth-teachers and do not rely on the idiot box for Spiritual growth. Plus, the biggest part of a worshipful walk is serving others.
Today’s text is another example of how we take some things out of context, take other things out of context, string them together in a way which was never intended and use confluent conjecture to come to conclusions. What I mean by confluent conjecture, is that many pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers, teach as doctrine the debatable details of two similar situations or scenarios, that may or may not be stating the same things. Let’s look at an obvious example before considering today’s text.
The following is my favorite verse ripped out of context: “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'” Problem; this was written to those in the Babylonian exile and in the context of this letter to them, they are instructed to pray for Babylon. Therefore, that also should apply to us. Many pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers, will string this verse together with, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land,” to promote their peace and prosperity gospel. It sounds good and it is Scripture but these are two completely separate contexts. Although one is a direct result of people not heeding the other, these statements are ripped off the pages and pasted together to promote a confluent conjecture, as it pertains to peace and prosperity. What does Paul say to Timothy? “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Pragmatically, how many of our brothers and sisters pray fervently and seek God’s face but are persecuted, even to death?
Now, considering today’s text, notice exactly how it reads; “And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them; and they also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.’” Does this sound like a cloud elevator? Better still, does it sound like a rapture? You may think that it does but that is only because that is what you have been taught. I know that I am crossing a line here and stepping on some toes but I have learned from the Master how to win an argument. Actually, to my faithful followers I have taught you how to win an argument. We see it multiple times in Matthew as Jesus always turned the tables on the Pharisees and scribes by using their own words against them. To win an argument, one rarely has to defend one’s position but rather point out the hypocrisy in the respondent’s opinion. A good example is, those who claim to cling to science, don’t. At least not biology, anatomy, chemistry or physiology. Feeling like a woman but being chemically, biologically and anatomically a man, means that you are a man that feels like a woman. I am not here to debate transgender issues but to point out the hypocrisy in the argument. The sad thing is that the same thing holds true for the dogmatic dispensationalist. When they try to prove that the pre-tribulational rapture is true, they will almost always use confluent conjecture between 1 Thessalonians four and today’s text, saying, If you don’t believe that rapture is in the Bible, look at the ascension of Jesus, Elijah and Enoch” They will also claim that Philip was “raptured” from the Ethiopian and Paul was “ratptured” to the third heaven, even though Paul admits that he doesn’t know how it happened (we will come back to this). They then will go on to describe and define the word, “rapture,” which is not found in the original Greek. That doesn’t mean that it’s not true, but it does mean we must closely examine the word which they define as rapture because some things do get lost in translation. I promise you, we are in complete agreement with the word, for the most part. The same thing that they tell you is the same thing that I will tell you, to a certain degree; let’s assume that I will take it one step further. Still, this is why I am troubled, Jesus was not raptured, not by a longshot. But I am getting way ahead of myself, again.
“Rapture,” from the French and ultimately from the Latin word, “raptura.” We will come back to this. In 1 Thessalonians 4:17, we read, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. 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.” We get not only our definition of ‘Rapture” from this text, but the idea itself. Problem, the confluent conjecture is exactly that, the merger of two separate scenarios. But as always, I am still getting way ahead of myself.
In English, the translators chose to use such words as, “caught up,” “gathered,” and “taken,” rather than the word “rapture,” from the Latin, “raptura.” Let’s look at what Strong’s says, concerning this Greek word, translated to Latin and then to some circles of English speakers as, “rapture.”
“Will be caught up;”
“ἁρπαγησόμεθα (harpagēsometha) from harpazo. Verb – Future Indicative Passive – 1st Person Plural; Strong’s Greek 726: To seize, snatch, obtain by robbery. From a derivative of haireomai; to seize.”
When you are in a “Sunday morning, church worship service,” do you take notes? I do and have for quite sometime. I also often take notes in Bible study, Sunday school and have been known to pull off the road while driving, listening to religious radio shows to take a quick note. Usually it’s because of a golden nugget that some pastor has mined. Nevertheless the converse is also true–if a pastor or preacher, theologian or teacher says something suspicious, I record it and consider the context, aspiration, genre, examples and divide rightly. At a fairly recent sermon series on 1 Thessalonians, I was taking notes.
The sermon speaker said, “the word Rapture is not in our Bible, but it is in the Latin version, translated as “Caught up” in English. The Greek word used is “Harpazo.” It is a strong, irresistable and violent act. Jesus returns to the air and invades the devil’s domain, snatching his church away from the devil because he is the Prince of power of the air– it is his domain.” Almost all pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers would more or less agree with this statement. Problem; they then proclaim that Jesus was raptured to heaven in Acts, chapter one, verse eight–today’s text. And the following is how one wins an argument by using one’s words against them. Consider the context!
“Harpazo” is defined, by the dogmatic dispensationalists as, “a strong, irresistable and violent act.” They will also use such Scripture as, “in the twinkling of an eye,” to describe the supersonic speed of which we will be snatched. But read Acts one-eight again and see if the pieces fit. “And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them; and they also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.'”
Does this sound like a violent act? If it was in the twinkling of an eye, how did the disciples watch? Notice also that he didn’t ride on the cloud but that the cloud received him–he disappeared into the cloud. Notice also that the angels (there is no reason to think that the white clothed men were not angels) said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”
It was only the disciples of Jesus who were present that saw the ascension. Surely Jesus had followers who resided in Jerusalem, why weren’t they there? Which makes me think about logistics, metaphors, cross-cultural contamination, confluent conjecture and prophecy. Was this event predictable? Is Jesus leaving the earth unexpectedly? Did anybody see this coming? Did anyone understand what has happened?
Psalm 68:18; “You have ascended on high, You have led captive Your captives; You have received gifts among men, Even among the rebellious also, that the LORD God may dwell there.” Paul writes in Ephesians 4, “Therefore it says, ‘WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES, AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.’ (Now this expression, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)” An expository exegesis of examples enlightens us that the ascension of Jesus was not only predictable and explained but that it was not a “rapture,” by the apostle Paul, who may have been “raptured” himself.
In one of the weirdest passages of all Scripture, Paul wrote to the church at Corinth; “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up [Harpazo, raptura, rapture] to the third heaven. And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows— was caught up into Paradise…” Paul does not say that it was him but it most likely was, he also states clearly that he doesn’t know if it was in the flesh or apart from the flesh. Philip however, was “raptured” in the flesh.
After Philip was instructed by an angel to go to the desert road, he showed an Ethiopian eunuch that Isaiah spoke of Jesus and the Eunuch was converted. Somehow there happened to be water adjacent to this desert road and the eunuch was baptized. Lord willing we will discuss this much more in the future. “And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched [harpazo, raptura, rapture] Philip away; and the eunuch saw him no more, but went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus; and as he passed through he kept preaching the gospel to all the cities, until he came to Caesarea.” To the Ethiopian eunuch, Philip simply vanished, he didn’t ascend into a cloud.
After the resurrection Jesus was restored to his rightful authority. Once again, Paul wrote that Jesus, “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, [harpazo, raptura, rapture] but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”
Did the Father or the Holy Spirit rapture Jesus or did Jesus ascend to heaven of his own accord? Jesus has spoken much about his ascension, which is symbolic of his departure, yet he remains. Yes, it is an enigma, wrapped in a riddle, masked in mystery. Jesus said to Mary, in the Gospel of John, after his resurrection, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren, and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.” He also, before his crucifixion, said; “But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you no longer behold Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said, that He takes of Mine, and will disclose it to you.”
Jesus leaves, physically speaking, to “make room” for the Holy Spirit. In our last missive in Matthew we read, “I am with you always.” Jesus’ ascension was certainly symbolic but was it symbolic of the pre-tribulational rapture? Yes, the angels say to the disciples that Jesus will return in the same way as he left. Our minds should go to Daniel 7 and 9, and Revelation 1. But to think that Jesus’ departure is symbolic of a pre-tribulational rapture is confluent conjecture. Jesus was not snatched, grabbed, tugged or caught up, he left at the appropriate time to send his Holy Spirit.
Lastly, our words for rapt, and rape, come from the Latin word, “raptura.” Turns out, it is a powerful and violent act. I told you that I would take it one step further. Two points: there’s a reason why the translators don’t use the word “rapture.” And more importantly, Jesus physically departed to send his Spirit, under his own authority. He was not snatched away.