Every Now and Then: Why the Word "then" is Important!
17 Then we who are alive and remain
That small word, "then" has huge implications. In fact, it destroys the rapture idea altogether!
There are two Greek words for "then":
Strongs 1534, εἶτα, eita.
Strongs #1899, ἔπειτα, epeita
Eita, "then" means immediately following a sequence of events. It means right after.
Epeita is eita with a prefix giving it the idea of "then afterwords". It means some period of time later. For example:
Galatians 1:18, "THEN (epeita) after 3 years..."
Galatians 2:1, "THEN (epeita)14 years later..."
Paul says that after the dead in Christ rise (spiritually from Hades) first, THEN (epeita) IN SOME INDEFINITE PERIOD IN THE FUTURE... we who are alive and remain will be caught up together.
This, without question, places a definite unknown time gap between the two. This is decidedly not an end of the world passage. Keep reading and it will all come together.
Catch This: Then We...Will be CAUGHT UP together with them...
The Greek word that some call rapture, is Strongs #726 harpázō – properly, seize by force; snatch up, suddenly and decisively – like someone seizing bounty (spoil, a prize).
This word is used by Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4, "I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one CAUGHT UP to the third heaven." It CAN mean bodily or it CAN mean spiritually.
The entire rapture doctrine is quickly crumbling. What do you think this means? Does it not indicate that those who were dead in Christ first were the first ones to be caught up into the glory cloud presence of God, while at some later point, when we die in the uncertain future, we too will be caught up together with them to forever be with the Lord? Doesn't it mean that we who die in Christ as his prize are suddenly brought into the heavenly realm? Yes, indeed, it does mean this.
In fact, notice two words describing it. First is clouds and second is in the air. The cloud language is imagery for the glory cloud of God in the temple. It is the cloud that was in the natural temple through the burning of incense by the priests. It was the cloud that came at the dedication of the temple under Solomon. It is the same temple cloud into which Jesus ascended. This definitively defines it as a spiritual event.
It is the picture from the Day of Atonement where the greater priest Christ comes out of the temple cloud to bless the people. Did you know Josephus records that eyewitnesses saw the cloud of glory depart from the temple before it's destruction in 70AD? It was left desolate. Jesus did not come to refill it, but destroyed the temple instead (through Rome). It is the temple cloud that the moment we die, we are spiritually snatched up into to be with the Lord forever.
In order to reaffirm this Paul says, "in the air". This is used by this same Paul to describe the spiritual realm in Ephesians 2:2 where he says the "prince of the power of the air". He is declaring that in that very spiritual realm, now as a believer the triumphant Christ will escort us through and into the temple glory of the holy of HOLIES in the heavenly realm to be with Him forever.