In addition to the future catching up of believers, there are examples in both the Old and New Testament which provide solid precedent for this event. In some of these examples, the person was in a visionary state, or out of the body. In other accounts, there is no indication of any other state than a normal state of mind. Each passage bolsters the case that the prophesied massive catching up of believers in the future both can and will happen exactly as described in I Thessalonians chapter 4, just after the resurrection of the dead in Christ. Below some of the passages, the Latin Vulgate and the transliterated Greek versions of the passage are provided to facilitate word studies.
- The disappearance and translation of Enoch
Gen 5:22 After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God for three hundred years, and he had other sons and daughters.
Gen 5:23 The entire lifetime of Enoch was three hundred and sixty-five years.
Gen 5:24 Enoch walked with God, and then he disappeared [ayin] because God took him away [lâqach].
Gen 5:24 kai euhresthsen enwc tw qew kai ouc hurisketo oti meteqhken [took him away] auton o qeoV (LXX)
In describing this event, the Hebrew simply states that Enoch was no more, or was no longer present or visible. The NET renders the verb ayin with the pronominal "he" as "he disappeared". The phrase "God took him away" uses the common Hebrew verb lâqach or "took". There is an interesting parallel passage describing this event in Hebrews chapter 11:
Heb 11:5 By faith Enoch was taken up [metetethe] so that he did not see death, and he was not to be found because God took him up [metetheken]. For before his removal [metatheseos] he had been commended as having pleased God.
The Greek metatheseos means to transpose two things, one for another, or to exchange one thing for another. In using this verb, both the author of Hebrews, and the Greek Septuagint translation of Genesis 5:24, are trying to convey the idea that Enoch was physically and suddenly removed from sight. One interesting description of Enochís departure outside the Bible is found in the writings of Josephus the Jewish historian:
Enoch succeeded him, who was born when his father was one hundred and sixty-two years old. Now he, when he had lived three hundred and sixty-five years, departed and went to God; whence it is that they have not written down his death.
A second source describes the departure of Enoch as a whirlwind with chariots of fire and horses. While it is not known whether this is accurate, it is almost exactly the same description that is given of the departure of Elijah to heaven.
- Obadiahís words to Eljiah just prior to the incident with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel
I Kin 18:12 But when I leave you, the Lordís Spirit will carry you away so I canít find you. If I go tell Ahab Iíve seen you, he wonít be able to find you and he will kill me. That would not be fair, because your servant has been a loyal follower of the Lord from my youth.
Notice that Obadiah seemed to be keenly aware of the Spiritís ability to snatch up Elijah physically and take him somewhere else, as well as Elijahís favor with the Lord to afford such an opportunity. Perhaps this was a foretelling of what would later happen to Elijah.
- Elijahís translation in a chariot of fire and a whirlwind
II Kin 2:11 As they were walking along and talking, suddenly a fiery chariot pulled by fiery horses appeared. They went between Elijah and Elisha, and Elijah went up to heaven in a windstorm.
II Kin 2:12 While Elisha was watching, he was crying out, "My father, my father! The chariot and horsemen of Israel!" Then he could no longer see him. He grabbed his clothes and tore them in two.
Elijah joined Enoch as one of only two men in the Bible who did not die a natural death. In I Kings chapter 18, Obadiah exclaimed his fear that the Lord would carry away Elijah so that he could not find him, and in II Kings chapter 2, that came to pass. These two men had such an anointing and alliance with the Lord that they were taken alive into heaven. Another Old Testament prophet experienced a supernatural catching up: Ezekiel.
- The snatching away of Ezekiel to see visions in Jerusalem
Eze 8:1 In the sixth year, in the sixth month, on the fifth of the month, as I was sitting in my house with the elders of Judah sitting in front of me, the hand of the Sovereign Lord touched me.
Eze 8:2 I saw a form that appeared to be a man. From his waist downward he was like fire, and from his waist upward he looked like a bright glowing substance.
Eze 8:3 The form of a hand stretched out and grabbed me by the hair of my head. Then a wind lifted me up into the air and brought me in visions from God to Jerusalem, to the door of the inner gate which faces north. This was the location of the statue which provokes to jealousy.
Notice that Ezekiel was apparently calmly sitting in his house with several elders with him. Suddenly, without his consent, he was snatched up forcibly and taken in the air to Jerusalem. This must have been a physical snatching rather than a visionary state because he was grabbed by his hair and lifted into the air.