Tuesday, January 24, 2012

AN OLIVE BRANCH - NO THORNS, HONEST!

I have been following the recent discussions about the "rapture" of the church. I put it in quotes because it can be a controversial doctrine in Christian circles. A friend pursued this subject with me, and I obligingly (and willingly) joined him.

We believers must wrestle with the Scriptures and allow God to win. It usually happens when a brother or sister, who has a better handle on that Scripture than we do, comes and shows us where we are wrong in our thinking. This is God's grace, and nothing less.

To recap, I Thessalonians 4:13-18 says:

"The Coming of the Lord
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, gthat you may not grieve as others do hwho have no hope. 14 For isince we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him jthose who have fallen asleep.

15 For this we declare to you kby a word from the Lord,4 that lwe who are alive, who are left until mthe coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For nthe Lord himself will descend ofrom heaven pwith a cry of command, with the voice of qan archangel, and rwith the sound of the trumpet of God. And sthe dead in Christ will rise first.

17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be tcaught up together with them uin the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so vwe will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words."(Biblia.com)

This passage describes an  event future to its readers: the Rapture of the Church in the first century A.D.  Paul is explaining to the church at Thessalonica that their grief over lost loved ones who believed in Christ is not hopeless. They would indeed see them again - at the Rapture!


So Who Are "We?"

The argument is over whether the "we" in verses 15 and 17 (orange with yellow) includes the readers in Thessalonica, or is it only the writers of the epistle--or is it something else.  The "exclusive-we" is a Greek form of the word that defines a group as being separate from its audience, i.e. we - but not you.

This is indeed a valid argument. But "context is king," as Ed Stevens* says. To say that it excludes the readers of Paul's epistle to the Thessalonian church is hard to swallow. I would say that it distinguishes between the living saints and those who are dead:
  "...we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord will not precede [go before] those who have fallen asleep."(v.15)
 Therefore, the exclusive-we, in context, distinguishes the living body of believers from those who are dead!

Whew!

* Ed Stevens was interviewed by Michael Loomis on AD70.net for the program, "Then and Now." This podcast helped me to solidify the explanation and understanding of the fulfilled view of the Rapture.

His notes are here:

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