Evangelicals commonly use Scripture from Thessalonians as proof for the rapture; that is, at the end times of the second coming there will be a time of trial and darkness in which half the population will die, and the Lord will come back to earth in person. They claim that those who express faith in the Lord will be taken up to be with the Lord in a rapture, similar to the way Elijah was taken up. They say that the Lord will show up riding on a white horse leading an enormous parade; all of which is a literal interpretation of the Bible. I believe this literal interpretation is greatly mistaken. All these scriptures have an internal sense and are referring to heavenly events in which the captives are released from the evil forces that have intercepted them in the world of spirits, not to earthly events. They mistake the great joy of the release of the captives from the false heavens in the spiritual world for what they call the ‘rapture’, that is, the ‘elect’ on earth being taken up to heaven at a second coming of Jesus to earth. Also, the extreme language of the light and darkness used in the Gospel of John, and especially in Paul’s letters, addresses the immediate, dire situation of evil oppressing humanity, but Evangelicals mistakenly interpret this language, formulating a doctrine of terrible times coming in the future, known as the mellinniem. This also the source of ‘fire and brimstone’ preaching. As everyone modern times has seen the end times and second coming has been predicted to occur on a certain date several times – and much to their embarressment – it never happens. (It will never happen because it has already happened as I wrote about in articles on the second coming.) All of this is to show that interpreting the Bible in a purely literal sense causes mistakes which is understandable since most people were not aware of the internal sense.
But with the internal sense we can understand these verses very deeply. When Paul writes to the people, “Ye are all the children of light and the children of the day; we are not of the night, nor of darkness”. We can see how he is urging the people to come out from under the spell of sin. They felt sin as a communal, cosmic force oppressing them. Paul was showing them that Jesus defeated these forces. Evangelicals see this language as meaning that Jesus removed sin ‘en mass’ from all Humanity, unilaterally. They say that He sacrificed himself as payment, or ransom, for our collective and individual sins, that he removed these sins from our bodies and souls. But this is not the case, and not even possible, because as said above the relationship between God and man is reciprocal and man must work out his salvation in cooperation with God, in freedom. In reality, Jesus’ acts of redemption were to battle and defeat the oppressive cosmic forces of evil, to put all hell back into its place, and to restore order in heaven. He indeed did these things by the might of His divine soul alone, but He did them by restoring freedom to humanity, so that humanity could have a direct relationship to God (himself); and not by cleansing sin from the bodies of all people and removing evil from people’s bodies and into himself. No-one can remove, or ‘bear’ the sins of another, not even God (He probably could, but He doesn’t). Everyone must cooperate with God to change their heart for the better from their own will for it to be real. It is understandable these misunderstandings have stood so long when we consider that humanity knew mainly the literal sense of the Bible. Without an understanding of the internal sense of the Word, fundamentalists interpret that Jesus will show up on earth and lead the people on a white horse into the new millennium. So, the constant preaching about Jesus bearing our sins and the constant waiting for Jesus to show up in a white cloud goes on and on; it has become tradition.
The language of dark and light is often taken as metaphor, which is true, but it is also a very real thing at the time for the people. From the beginning of Jesus’ ministry there emerges in the language of the gospels a stark contrast between dark and light in many ways, but in reference to our subject here, this is especially seen in the great new view of the cosmos that Jesus introduced that is so different from Jewish tradition. When John baptises Jesus, the scriptures read: “Behold, the heavens were opened and He saw the spirit of God descending like a dove.” (John 1:32). How greatly this contrasts with the people’s traditional view of the cosmos! When the ‘heavens opened’ instead of a flood inundating them, or demons plaguing them, a gentle and innocent dove comes down along with the immensely powerful, comforting, and authoritative voice of God. When Stephen was stoned to death, he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the son of man standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56). Again this is a restorative vision of the heavens, a vision of love and protection par excellence for the weary and numb psyche of the people. Imagine the relief, comfort, and sense of liberation for those who saw it and heard the story. In Acts, Peter also sees a vision of the heavens opening: “And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending upon him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth (Acts 10:11). He is then given the prophetic vision that transforms his prejudice, as well as the prejudice of his Jewish followers, towards the gentiles. The vision is repeated to him three times, and He repeats the vision three times to his listeners in order to penetrate the people’s external habit of being. To be able to see the heavens opened represents the opening of spiritual sight, which is the essence of Jesus’ mission. At the end, Peter says, “I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, John indeed baptized with water, but you shall baptize with the Holy spirit” (Acts 11:16). This remembering is a deep and transformative opening of the soul to the internal teaching of Jesus. In these verses, the light and the dark are in their primeval moments of clash and transformation and the battle ground is the hearts and minds of the people.