“For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.”
Paul was on the horns of a dilemma. He had a desire to be with Christ in eternity, the better of the two options. The apostle also had a desire to continue to have an effective ministry in time. In this verse, he gave the first side of the dilemma.
“For I am hard-pressed between the two,”
Paul was in a squeeze. He was pressured in his mind. His was the pressure of two (v. 21) excellent options: to have full fellowship with the Lord Jesus and to have a productive ministry. He perceived death from two viewpoints: (1) a departing and (2) being with Christ.
“having a desire to depart”
The word “depart” is used as a nautical term—a loosing of the anchor before setting sail. 2 Timothy 4:6 uses a term with the same root: “The time of my departure is at hand” (his death was imminent). Death is an embarking upon a voyage; it is to leave the body. So death is more than leaving this life; it is a separation from the body: “I have a desire to leave this body.” The soul and spirit do not remain in the body at death. They leave the body. When a Christian goes to a graveside service, he takes only the “remains” of his loved one. His loved one is not there; he has loosed the anchor of his soul and departed into the presence of the Lord Jesus.
“and be with Christ,”
This is the second description of death. It is one thing to visit a friend; it is another to live with him permanently. It is one thing to fellowship with the Lord Jesus; it is another to fellowship with Him perpetually! Heaven is to be with Christ. That was Paul’s “desire” (yearning, longing). He wanted to be “in conjunction with” Christ (cf. 3:10).
“which is far better.”
It is far better for a Christian to die than to live, although few of us believe it. In this verse, Paul said that the “gain” of verse 21 (“to die is gain”) is “far better”—not just “better” but “far better.” To be absent from the body for the believer is “to be present with the Lord,” not present with the worms in the grave! It is better because the soul departs the body at death and goes into the presence of the Lord.
Death for the Christian is no bleak, black terminus of existence; it is a separation from the physical body and an entrance into fellowship with Jesus Christ.
Do you look upon death with dread or as a “departure” from planet earth into the presence of the Lord Jesus?
The Lord Bless you. As said in Hebrew, shalom.
I was at a lunch today with my husband and a friend of ours. We were talking about the Lord and the Scriptures during about 5 hours at this visit. During this time our friend said something that caused me to research the Scripture once more on a subject I believed I knew. He said that it is not “sure” that when Paul said he wanted to be out of the body and present with the Lord that it didn’t mean present with the lord “soon as we leave”. He said there would be a time before that and that there could be a soul sleep sort of. He was saying the church believes we’ll go right home to the Lord, but that was a wrong understanding. He sounded more for the soulish sleep first then what we believe. As I am searching the Scriptures I can’t see this understanding. Phil 1:21-25, 2 cor 5:6-8. I did find you web page though. Thank you for your insight. Do you have any more Scriptures on this matter?
Valerie, it appears that Paul was caught up (term used for the rapture) into the third heaven where the Lord dwells (2 Co 12:2). Paul could not determine whether it was an in the body experience or out of the body experience. This was not an experience that Paul “wanted” but actually experienced. It is important to recognize that this was an experience unique to Paul and not set as a pattern for all Christians.
There is no biblical evidence for “soul sleep.” 2 Co 5:8 says “to be absent from the body is to be face-to-face with the Lord.” The onus of proof rests on the person who makes the assertion of soul sleep. Evangelical Christianity rejects soul sleep; it is a doctrine of cults.
Grant, what happened to the resurrections? Paul has created has created some confusion – to me anyway:
1 Thessalonians 4:15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.
5 But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.
Roger, I am not sure about your question. Paul’s entrance into heaven was not a resurrection. 1 Th 4 is the rapture both of the body and soul of believers at the end of the church age. Re 20 is a resurrection at the end of the age to enter into the Millennial state. There is also a resurrection of unbelievers unto condemnation.
Please show me where the Bible says anything about a church age and a rapture? I have heard this many times in my 67 years and no one has ever shown it to me. 1 Th 4 makes a direct statement about what will happen to the dead and the living as it does in 1 Cor 15:51-53.
The Rapture Debate
By: Sid Litke , Th.M.
The rapture is Christ’s return to take believers to heaven with Him. Pretribulationalism is the view that this event may occur at any moment (imminent). Thus it is before (pre) the 7-year Tribulation. The key passages teaching about the rapture are John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:51-57 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
The word “rapture” is not in the Bible except that it comes from that Latin word in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 translated in English as “caught up.” So the “rapture” describes well the event of Christ returning to catch up living and dead church age believers to take them to heaven.
A. John 14:1-3 – The expectation of the rapture is based on the explicit promise of Christ. “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again and receive you to Myself.”
B. 1 Corinthians 15:51-58
1. The rapture is for all church age believers, dead or living.
“We shall not all sleep (die) but we shall all be changed (transformed bodies at the rapture – see below), (15:51).
2. The rapture will bring an instantaneous change.
“The dead will be raised imperishable” – a glorified body (15:52).
“and we (living believers) will be changed” – a glorified body (15:52).
C. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
1. Christ will personally return. “The Lord Himself will descend from heaven” (4:16).
2. Church age believers who have died will be raised. “The dead in Christ shall rise first” (4:16).
3. Church age believers who have not died will be “raptured” – physically taken to heaven. “We who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them (resurrected believers) in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (4:17).
4. We will be together with the Lord and with believing loved ones. “And then we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (4:17,18; cf. 4:13).
The rapture is the next prophetic event to take place. We do not know when it will happen. The expectation of Paul was that it could happen at any time.
The Key Passages
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 teaches that Christ will return in the air to resurrect Christians who have died and then “rapture” (Latin for “caught up”) living believers together with dead so that all will from then on be “with the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 15:51-53 teaches that at the rapture (compare “trumpet”, “dead raised” – 1 Thessalonians 4:16) resurrected Christians and living Christians will all receive “glorified” bodies (compare Jesus’ glorified body – John 20:19; 21:1,13).
Pretribulationists believe that Christ will return in the rapture, prior to the tribulation, to take believers to heaven. They understand the second coming of Christ in judgment to be after the tribulation (as in diagram).
Posttribulationists believe that the rapture of Christians and the second coming occur together after the tribulation.
Other less popular views are that the rapture will occur in the middle of the tribulation (midtribulationalism) or that the rapture will occur before the tribulation but only spiritually mature Christians will go (partial rapture theory) or that the rapture will occur during the last half of the tribulation but before the final judgments (pre-wrath rapture view).
Selected Arguments For a Pretribulational Rapture
No tribulation passage mentions the church.
Revelation 4-18 , which describes the Great Tribulation includes no reference to the church. Phrases such as, “those in Christ,” “the body of Christ,” or “the church” are not found. Tribulation believers are called “saints” or the “elect” – general terms that can apply to believers in any age. Actually no Old or New Testament passage on the tribulation mentions the church (Deuteronomy 4:20; Jeremiah 30:4-11: Daniel 9:27; 12:1,2; Matthew 24:15-31; 1 Thessalonians 9:10; 5:4-9).
Several passages explicitly state that Christians won’t go through the tribulation.
Revelation 3:10 teaches clearly that believers will be kept “from the hour of testing” (Revelation 4-18 – the Great Tribulation). Posttribulationalists must either change the meaning of these words or push all the catastrophes of the tribulation to the end of the tribulation or suggest that believers somehow are protected from the tribulation judgment on the earth. None of these explanations fit the facts. 1 Thessalonians 1:10 similarly states that Christians are to “wait for His Son from heaven…Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.” 1 Thessalonians 5:9,10 teaches the same truth.
The imminence of Christ’s return demands a pretribulational rapture.
According to the pretribulational view Christ could return at any time (imminence). Many passages suggest this (1 Corinthians 1:7; Philippians 3:20; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Timothy 6:14; Titus 2:13; Revelation 22:20; etc.). According to other rapture views there is no imminence. Christ’s return for believers would be a predictable moment (middle of tribulation, end, etc.).
There is nobody to live in the millennium in the posttribulational views.
When the tribulation ends, there must be some people left in their natural bodies to live in and populate the millennial earth (Isaiah 65:7-25, etc.). If, as posttribulation-alists believe, the rapture of believers and the Second Coming of Christ in judgment are both at the end of the tribulation, there is no one left to populate the millennial earth. All believers are in heaven – raptured or resurrected. All unbelievers are destroyed and in hell. But in the pretribulational view, there is no problem. Many people will be saved during the tribulation (Revelation 7:4,9,14). Of those, many will be martyred (Revelation 6:11; 7:14; 13:15) but some will survive to the end of the tribulation (Matthew 24:22; Mark 13:13). These will enter the millennium in natural bodies (Matthew 25:34; the ones “left” enter millennium – Matthew 24:40,41 and Luke 17:34-37).
The Rapture and Second Coming are separate events.
The events of the rapture of the church and the Second Coming of Christ in judgment are distinctly different making it impossible to combine them into one event (as posttribulationalism does).
The Rapture of the Church The Second Coming of Christ
Christ returns in the air
(1 Thessalonians 4:17). Christ returns to the earth
The Rapture brings comfort
(1 Thessalonians 4:18). The Second Coming brings judgment
The Rapture concerns the church – “In Christ” (1 Thessalonians 4:14,16). The Second Coming concerns Israel and the nations (Zechariah 12:2-9).
The Rapture changes the bodies of believers (1 Corinthians 15:51-53). The Second Coming changes the hearts of Jews (Zechariah 12:10).
There is no scripture that says Christians will not be here during the tribulation, only that “some” will be protected from it – Luke 21:36.
Why should we get the rapture period right? It is not for the elect, but for those who are not and have a desire to be. Will we not be held accountable if we send them into the arms of the antiChrist?
Pre-tribulation rapture theory:
One taken, one left:
Mt 24:40 Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
41 Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
Lu 17:35 Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
36 Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
The following needs to be taken in context starting at Lu 21:5.
Lu 21:36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
Sign of Jesus coming:
Mt 24:30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
Mt 26:64 Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.
Mr 13:26 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.
Mr 14:62 And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.
1Th 4:17 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.
Christ’s first coming:
Heb 9:24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:
25 Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;
26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
Christ’s second coming:
Heb 9:27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
When will the rapture occur:
Signs of the anti-Christ:
All of Matthew 24 and Luke 21 is relevant.
Mt 24:3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
Mt 24:24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
2Co 11:14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
Mt 24:9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.
Re 2:10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
Luke 21:5 – 36: This is speaking of giving strength to the believer.
Rapture takes place:
Mt 24:29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
1 Cor 15:51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
Re 11:15 And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
1Th 4:13 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.
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
16 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:
17 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.
2 Th 1:1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
2Th 2:3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.
5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?
6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.
7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.
8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:
9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
Rev 20: 1 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
3 And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
Mt 24:27 For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
28 For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.
29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:
33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.
34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
Order of events:
7th trumpet – rapture comes at the last trumpet.
7 plagues because men refuse to repent.
Who does God take a preference for:
Did Jesus suffer tribulation before his crucifixion?
Why would man not suffer tribulation if Christ did?
1. You say there is “no passage” where the Bible says that Christians will not go through the Tribulation. This is not true. Note Re 3:10:
“10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.”
God promised the Philadelphia church that He would “keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.” That trial begins in Revelation 6. He did not say He would preserve them “through” the world-wide trial or that He would pull them out of the Tribulation after it began. The latter means would require different verbs and prepositions in the Greek.
The combination of the verb “keep” (t?rein) with the preposition “from” (ek) is in sharp contrast to the meaning of keeping the church “through” (dia), a preposition which is not used here.
The phrase “the hour of trial” (a time period) makes it clear that they would be kept out of that period.
The Greek article is much more powerful than the English definite article. Here we have a definite article before the words “the hour of trial” and the words “that is coming on the whole world. This is called a restrictive attributive. God is highly restricting and delimiting the church from going through the Tribulation, a peculiar and particular tribulation.
There is no biblical basis for the Pre-Wrath viewpoint.
2. There is nothing about the Rapture in the Sermon on the Mount (you quote many passages from the Sermon). His message was spoken to Jews, to Israel, not the church. One of the biggest issues in prophecy is the distinction between Israel and the Church. Thus, your premise is wrong about those passage. I realize that some uninformed Pretribulatonists use Mt 24, for example, as teaching the Rapture, but not Dispensational scholars.
3. I agree with you that God does not promise anywhere that Christians will not be spared from trial and tribulations in general. The book of 1 Peter clearly argues that Christians will suffer in time on earth. However, Revelation 3:10 is not dealing with that kind of tribulation but with a Tribulation that will come upon the whole world.
Rev 3:10 does not say they will not go through the tribulation (or protected in some way), it says they will be kept out of it; this is stated in many more places. Mat 24:27-34 (previous post) explains “exactly” when the “elect” will be taken out. The only way this can not be true is to say that the Church is not the elect. Many say that Christ will come 3 time – 1st was crucifixion, 2nd for the Church and 3rd to sit up His throne. This is not stated in the Bible either; Rev 20 gives the order of events for 2 resurrections and Paul states in The 4:15 that the dead would precede the living. Paul uses “we” in this verse which would include himself; is Paul one of those who would be considered the greatest of all Christians?
Rev 12 shows a picture of Israel during the tribulation (which is also the time of the 2 witnesses) and how they will be protected during it. Rev 7:14 speaks of those who came out the “Great Tribulation”; Rev 16:9 states that those that who are subject to the tribulation will not repent; if those in 7:14 came out of the tribulation and those in 16:9 did not repent, who are those in 7:14?
Roger, The essential meaning of the preposition ek is from, out from, or away from. The Greek word that would have been used of preserving the church in the midst of the Tribulation would have been dia (through).
The New Testament uses the Greek word en (in) three times with the verb t?re ? (Acts 12:5; 1 Pet. 1:4; Jude 21) and eis once (Acts 25:4), always implying previous existence within with a view to continuing in. T?re ? with ek conveys the polar opposite: continuous existence outside of something. The only occurrence of the phrase where t?re ? ek appears in Scripture is in John 17:15. In His High-Priestly prayer, Jesus prayed, “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.” Jesus did not pray that believers be preserved within Satan’s power. Christians have turned “from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18). The idea of t?re ? ek in John 17:15 is to be kept completely out of. Many believers in the Tribulation will be martyred. The idea of preserving believers through the Tribulation is contrary to what actually happens in the Tribulation.
Thus, this is an explicit promise that the Philadelphia church will not endure the hour of trial beginning in the time period noted in Revelation 6.
Regarding the word ek (out of), here is what Arndt, Danker, Bauer have to say about the word.
1. marker denoting separation, from, out of, away from
2. marker denoting the direction from which something comes, from
3. marker denoting origin, cause, motive, reason, from, of
4. marker used in periphrasis, from, of
5. marker denoting temporal sequence, from
6. various uses and units
As you can see, the overwhelming use of ek is separation from.
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