Sunday, October 17, 2010

A bit more on 1 Thessalonians 4

Let's look at 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 in a bit of detail to get a firmer grip on this idea of the Rapture. And let's look at it verse by verse and just work our way through it.

4:13 - "But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope."

It is important to note how this passage begins. The concern that people have is what happens to those who have died (or as Paul terms it, fallen asleep). There was an understanding that the return of Christ was imminent. What then of those who have died - do they miss out on the "Kingdom"? See, at the time there was an understanding that there would be a cool reign on Earth (hence why Millennialism is often called a "Jewish myth"). First off, Paul desires to contradict this false understanding of Christ's return, so that we might have hope for those who have already died.

4:14 - "For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.

Again, note how there is a tie into Christ's death and resurrection. This is good news - this is a focus on the joys of life everlasting and the resurrection of the dead.

4:15 - For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.

Note here the concern for the faithfully departed - we aren't going to gain anything on or over them - they will be full partakers in everything -- there is an equality, an equal share for the saints of all times and ages in the world to come.

4:16 - For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

Note here how when Christ Returns, it will be an obvious and open return. At His return He will come with a cry of command (I think along the lines of "Lazarus, come forth"), the voice of an archangel, the trumpet of God. Again - this won't be a secret thing, or a piecemeal thing - when Christ returns... boom, there He is. And what happens - the dead rise. The faithfully departed are departed no longer - Body and Soul restored. Then...

4:17 - Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

And now we get the phrase "caught up" - raptured. But note what happens - those who are raised and those who are left are raptured together... this rapture is simply the description of all of the saints being gathered and brought together to be with Christ eternally.

There are no multiple parts. There are no complex steps. There's no people left behind to wait until the "real" second coming. Everyone together, with Christ - it's all good.

And thus, it is all good. Therefore encourage one another with these words. - 4:18.


Anonymous said...

I've always thought that upon our death we all find ourselves at the Parousia. That all the saints are raised together, in other words, those who die in the faith today are raised at the same time as Abraham, David, the Apostles and all of our loved ones who died before us.

I'm not speaking of "soul sleep" per se, but rather, if one considers that "time" is part of creation then it makes sense that upon death we step outside of time into eternity. As such, at death we find ourselves "timetravelling" (for lack of a better word) to the moment of the Parousia.

I think this tracks with Luther's thought on their being no discernible "intermediate state" for the deceased.

I think it also dovetails nicely with the eschatological components to the Lord's Supper.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

What I will say, ano - this is one of those places where Scripture doesn't give a complete detailed mechanic, so I'm not going to be super dogmatic. What I will say is this.

Those who have died in a faith are with Christ now.

They and we will be raised.

There will be new heavens and a new earth.

I don't have to figure it out, because I'll simply be along for the ride.