In the interlinear of the verse there are few words that I am hoping will indicate whether or not Paul's rapture is simultaneous with the rising of the dead (so that as the others ascend he is swept up as well) or if they ascend and some other time in the future Paul also ascends.

1 Thess 4:17 ἔπειτα ἡμεῖς οἱ ζῶντες οἱ περιλειπόμενοι ἅμα σὺν αὐτοῖς ἁρπαγησόμεθα ἐν νεφέλαις εἰς ἀπάντησιν τοῦ κυρίου εἰς ἀέρα· καὶ οὕτως πάντοτε σὺν κυρίῳ ἐσόμεθα.

The first word, ἔπειτα is often translated "after". In the example I posted it is "then". Does this word suggest that they take place at completely different times?

What about περιλειπόμενοι? It is translated "remaining". Does that mean, "not leaving yet" and so indicating that Paul would not be rising until later? Or does he mean those still alive?

And finally, does ἅμα σὺν αὐτοῖς (often rendered "together with them") suggest simultaneity or does it allow for a later ascension for Paul?

  • I double-posted this question (sort of) at B-Greek if anyone wants to follow what will likely be an informative discussion, the link is here: ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/…
    – Ruminator
    Commented Dec 6, 2018 at 22:51

2 Answers 2


"Then" is a time separator. The dead in Christ would rise first - vs. 16. The context is of their concern about those who had already died before Christ returned (vs. 13-14).

"for this to you we say in the word of the Lord, that we who are living -- who do remain over to the presence of the Lord -- may not precede those asleep," (1 Thess. 4:15, YLT)

The Christians at Thessalonica expected Christ's return in their lifetime, or they would not have been asking Paul how their family and friends who had already died would be taken care of. His return in that century was the background of this question. Paul was assuring them that those who had already died in the Lord would be first to be risen from Hades - the realm of the dead (Luke 16:22-31).

Those who remained over to the presence (coming) of the Lord would not go before those who "slept". The "then" separator is life. The living must still face death first. It has always been that man must die and then he will face judgment. 1 Thess. 4 is part of the process of Heb. 9:27.

"and as it is laid up to men once to die, and after this -- judgment," (YLT)

Not as the KJV has it "the judgment", but just judgment. God has always judged each individual at their death, otherwise there would not have been that separation of Paradise and Tartarus in the realm of the dead, that prison called Hades.

"and Abraham expireth, and dieth in a good old age, aged and satisfied, and is gathered unto his people." (Gen. 25:8, YLT)

"And these [are] the years of the life of Ishmael, a hundred and thirty and seven years; and he expireth, and dieth, and is gathered unto his people;" (Gen. 25:17, YLT)

"And Jacob finisheth commanding his sons, and gathereth up his feet unto the bed, and expireth, and is gathered unto his people." (Gen. 49:33, YLT)

As also was Aaron (Num. 20:24), and Moses (Deu. 32:50), and David (1 Kings 2:10), and Josiah (2 Kings 22:20) and many others.

The realm of the dead was the prison with gates that could not hold Christ (Acts 2:27, 31), and into which Christ went after His death (Luke 23:43) with the thief on the cross. He preached to those in that prison (1 Pet. 3:19) in paradise. Christ held the keys to the gates of Hades (Rev. 1:18). And He gathered all of those dead out of Hades at His coming in the first century AD at the destruction of Jerusalem (Matt. 25:31-46) which was the follow-on discussion from Matt. ch. 24, and part of the "all things" that were fulfilled in that generation at the destruction of the temple.

He took those that had already died out of Hades at that time (AD 70), separating the sheep in paradise (Abraham's Bosom) and the goats out of Tartarus.

"Then" those that remain at His coming... those that had not yet died.. live until they die, and at their death, if they die in the Lord (Rev. 14:13) "then" they will be taken up into heaven to be with all the rest of the saved.

Life goes on. Life continued on after His return in that generation. We must all live our lives on this earth realm, and those that die in the Lord follow the process of being subject to the judgment at our death that has always occurred. The only difference is that now, since AD 70 that prison of Hades is gone. Christ threw it into the lake of fire after the destruction of Jerusalem, and after the separation of the dead out of Hades.

Now, those that die in the Lord are resurrected, changed in a twinkling of an eye (1 Cor. 15:52), and ascend at our death to be with all the rest in the Lord in heaven. Those souls that die without being covered by the blood of Christ face condemnation for having refused the most precious gift from God, and will be cast out (Matt. 22:13).

1 Thess. 4:17 was not speaking of a simultaneous "rapture" with those that had already died. Christ's resurrection changed the process. Those that were Christ's at His coming in AD 70 were those that had previously died and were waiting in paradise in Hades. Then those that remained, those who had not yet died would be taken up one by one at their deaths. The only corporate "rapture" was for those souls who were waiting in that realm of Hades, which no longer exists.

Please see "The Gathering of The Elect" at my blog here, also "The Resurrection In Three Parts" here.

  • Hi Gina, powerful stuff. I am looking more for an analysis of the Greek but you provide an excellent framework for understanding the verse, particularly the word "then" which is what first got me thinking about the Greek of it so +1.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Dec 6, 2018 at 12:54
  • 1
    Then, Strong's Gr 1899 "epeita", meaning then, thereafter, afterwards. Thayer's Gr Lex b. "in enumerations it is used α. of time and order". So, first those who had already died, then afterwards those who still remained / lived when they die.
    – Gina
    Commented Dec 6, 2018 at 14:47
  • You can add that to your answer (though hopefully not with Strong's but rather a lexicon, such as Thayer's) because appealing to Strong's is actually circular. Strong's is copying the KJV. But there are 3 words/phrases in the original question and they all rise and fall together.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Dec 6, 2018 at 15:07
  • Also, would it be more accurate to say that ἔπειτα is an "order indicator"? BDAG gives: ① being next in order of time, then, thereupon... And also, ② being next in position of an enumeration of items, then Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 361). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. In other words, I don't see where it suggests that one thing happens, time passes, then another thing happens.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Dec 6, 2018 at 15:11
  • 1
    Yes. First those already dead in orderly fashion - Daniel standing in his lot (Dan. 12:13), then each of us in our turn as we pass from this life to the next.
    – Gina
    Commented Dec 6, 2018 at 22:58

I can answer parts of your question, but honestly I was about to post the same basic question myself. Thank you for asking first!

  1. The phrase ἡμεῖς οἱ ζῶντες οἱ περιλειπόμενοι εἰς τὴν παρουσίαν τοῦ κυρίου are those living and remaining unto the coming of the Lord, which Paul included himself in when he wrote the epistle, though he is now part of the other, contrasting group, οἱ νεκροὶ ἐν Χριστῷ the dead in Christ.
  2. The word ἔπειτα requires what precedes as a necessary precursor, per HELPS Word Studies, Copyright © 1987, 2011 by Helps Ministries, Inc. So it does require a strict sequence.
  3. My question is whether the phrase ἅμα σὺν αὐτοῖς together with them, modifies ἁρπαγησόμεθα will be snatched up, which would mean the dead are resurrected first but remain on the ground until everyone is caught up together, OR, whether it modifies the phrase ἀπάντησιν τοῦ κυρίου εἰς ἀέρα meeting the Lord in the air, which would mean the dead are with the Lord first, and then the living are snatched up to join together with them. My Greek grammar skills aren't good enough to discern which ...
  • Hi and thanks for your answer. As to point #1, Paul was not expecting to "sleep": [1Co 15:51-58 KJV] 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. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal [must] put on immortality.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Dec 21, 2018 at 0:44
  • 54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where [is] thy sting? O grave, where [is] thy victory? 56 The sting of death [is] sin; and the strength of sin [is] the law. 57 But thanks [be] to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Dec 21, 2018 at 0:44
  • It is counter-intuitive but Jesus has already swallowed up death in victory: [Isa 25:8 KJV] 8 He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken [it]. He emptied Hades: [Eph 4:8-10 KJV] 8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men...
    – Ruminator
    Commented Dec 21, 2018 at 0:48
  • [Rev 20:6, 14 KJV] 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. ... 14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. [Rev 21:8 KJV] 8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Dec 21, 2018 at 0:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.