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17 Then we who are alive will join them, transported together[a] in clouds[b] to have an encounter[c] with the Lord in the air,[d] and we will be forever joined with the Lord.

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  1. 4:17 Or “caught up together.” The Greek word harpazō is used as a figure of speech in Greek literature during the time Paul wrote this letter. The book of Enoch and the Dead Sea Scrolls use the same Greek word and imagery to describe spiritual victory, not a “rapture.” The word can describe being caught up in the victory of Christ’s unveiling. Also, there are Jewish apocalyptic texts that use the same phrasing as Paul’s writings but have nothing to do with a physical rapture.
  2. 4:17 There is no definite article before clouds. It is literally “in clouds.” Where the identifying article is missing, it often speaks of quality, or it is used as a descriptive term. The Greek word for “cloud” is often used in the Greek classics of a large body of individuals, and it is so used in this symbolic way in Heb. 12:1–2, speaking of the “great witnesses who encircle us like clouds.”
  3. 4:17 The Greek word apantēsis is not a verb (go to meet) but a feminine noun (a meeting or an encounter), and in this context it is the bride of Christ rising to be with Jesus to have an encounter or “[bridal] meeting.” This rarely used Greek word is also used in the parable of the ten virgins, referring to the virgins rising up to meet (have a meeting) with the bridegroom. See Matt. 25:1, 6.
  4. 4:17 This is the Greek word aer and is not the sky, but the air around us. See Eph. 2:2 where it is also used not in a literal sense.