Paul’s Midrash on the Exodus :: By Jeff Van Hatten

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 – “Yeshua himself will descend from Heaven, with a loud shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the shofar call of Yahweh. The dead in Yeshua will rise first, then we who are still alive will be caught up in the clouds to meet Yeshua in the air.”

Did you know that Rabbi Paul’s writing in Thessalonians 4 is a typical rabbinical teaching style called a Midrash? Did you know that this Midrash parallels the exodus of the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt? Let’s examine how this is so:

The Journey Begins

Exodus 3:7-8 – “Then Yahweh said, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey.’”

Exodus 33:1 – “Yahweh said to Moses, ‘Leave, you and the people you brought up from the land of Egypt; and move on from here toward the promised land’” [i.e. Israel].”

Ezekiel 37:12-13 – “Therefore prophesy; say to them that Adonai Elohim says, ‘My people! I will open your graves and make you get up out of your graves, and I will bring you into the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am Yahweh — when I have opened your graves and made you get up out of your graves, my people!’”

The Hebrew slaves have been in Egypt for over four hundred years. Ezekiel refers to their redemption out of Egypt as being brought out of the grave – in other words, resurrected. Upon resurrection, they then leave Egypt as the Egyptians witness their departure (Exodus 12):

  • They received 14 days’ notice about their redemption, if you will, their “
  • They were witnessed as they departed.
  • And, in turn, witnessed to the Egyptians that their God, Yahweh, was greater than any other god.
  • It took them several months to get to Mount Sinai – they arrived in the third month (Exodus 19:1).

The resurrection of the Hebrew Slaves did not result an instantaneous disappearance. The resurrected Hebrew slaves represent the Dead in Yeshua in Paul’s Thessalonians Midrash (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

At Mount Sinai

Exodus 19:10-11 – “Yahweh said to Moses, ‘Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments; and let them be ready for the third day, for on the third day I will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.’”

Exodus 19:16-19 – “On the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud shofar sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God . . . As the sound of the shofar grew louder and louder, Moshe spoke; and God answered him with a thundering voice.”

Exodus 19:20 – “Yahweh came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain; and he called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.”

Upon arriving at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:9-20):

  • They received three days; notice that Yahweh was to descend.
  • Yahweh descends in a cloud and a shofar blasts so loudly that all the people trembled.
  • Moses is called up to the top of the mountain.
  • They witness Moses’ ascension, if you will, his “rapture” into the cloud.

Moses’ rapture was not an instantaneous disappearance, either. Moses represents Those Who Are Still Alive in Paul’s Thessalonians Midrash (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

The Parallels

In Exodus:

— The “dead” Hebrew slaves in the graves of Egypt were “resurrected.”

— The “resurrected” Hebrew slaves are a witness of Yahweh’s power over death to the Egyptians.

— They are gathered together, taken to Mount Sinai, consecrated, and become a people holy to Yahweh.

— Yahweh comes down from Heaven in a cloud and his voice is heard, sounding like thunder.

— Moses then ascends into the clouds.

In Thessalonians:

— The dead in Yeshua resurrected and are consecrated (made incorruptible) at the moment of resurrection.

— Yeshua comes down from Heaven in a cloud with a loud shout, sounding like thunder.

— The shofar (or trumpet), also known as the voice of Yahweh, sounds a long blast.

— The newly resurrected people rise up into the clouds.

— Then those who are already alive rise up into the clouds to meet them.

The Resurrections and Raptures

The Hebrew slaves’ resurrection from their Egyptian “graves” did not result in an instantaneous disappearance – it took time for them to walk away in full view of the Egyptians. It took more time to arrive at Mount Sinai.

Moses rapture was not an instantaneous disappearance, either – it took time for him to ascend while the people watched, several days after they had all arrived at Mount Sinai. His rapture did not take place at the same time as the dead slaves’ resurrection – he was still alive, having already been out of Egypt for forty years.

Matthew 27:52-53 – “The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.”

Of the Bride, Paul tells us that the dead in Yeshua rise first. Perhaps they too have a time of witnessing and traveling before they reach their destination – the clouds to meet Yeshua. Perhaps, only then do those who are still alive ascend.  The pattern of the Hebrew slaves’ resurrection and Moses subsequent rapture gives reason to believe that the pattern of the resurrection and subsequent rapture of the Bride will not result in an instantaneous disappearance, either. The scriptures in Matthew lend further support for this pattern. What do you say?


Both Peter and Paul employ a very typical rabbinical approach to scripture in applying Older Covenant passages to current or future events. John does the same thing throughout the Book of Revelation. This teaching style is called a Midrash. Rabbi Paul effectively takes the same approach to the Exodus narrative as Rabbi Peter takes to the Joel 2:28-29 prophecy:

  • Peter applies Joel 2:28-29 to the giving of the Spirit at Shavuot (Acts 2:17-21).
  • Paul applies the pattern of the exodus of the Hebrew slaves out of the graves of Egypt, their trip to Mount Sinai, and the subsequent ascent of Moses to meet with Yahweh on the mountain to the future rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).

Midrash on the Jewish Wedding: