11 October 2017 Bible Reading
Today’s reading from First Thessalonians contains one of the simplest statements about the Second Coming of the Christ at 4:16-17,
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with God’s trumpet. The dead in Christ will rise first, 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. So we will be with the Lord forever.
The preceding quote is taken from the World English Bible, which is translated from Greek texts. Although it may not be readily apparent from this translation, First Thessalonians 4:17 is the one verse in the Bible which serves as the foundation for the premillennial concept of the rapture – this is the verse where premillennialists get the word rapture.
The Greek texts of First Thessalonians 4:17 use the verb form ἁρπαγησόμεθα (harpagisometha), which means “we shall be caught up” or “taken away”. If you are using a Greek dictionary or other study aid, look this up as the verb harpazō (ἁρπάζω). You may occasionally see a translation of the verse containing the adverb “suddenly” as a modifier of “will be caught up together”. While the Greek verb ἁρπάζω carries with it the idea of quick or forceful action, the addition of this adverb by English translators is an unnecessary compromise of their work.
Since the verse is correctly translated “will be caught up together”, where do English speaking premillennialists get the word rapture? When Jerome translated the Bible into the Latin Vulgate, he translated the Greek ἁρπαγησόμεθα as rapiemur, from the verb rapio meaning “to catch up” or “take away”. While good English translations do not use the Latin form in this verse, the Latin word is not unfamiliar to English speakers: we use the word raptor to describe certain birds, such as hawks, based on the way they strike and carry away their prey.
Today, premillennialists use rapture, instead of a clear, simple English translation, because it can be made into a concept that is not constrained by the actual inspired text. The concept of the rapture within premillennialist doctrine is very different from the truth found in God’s Word. For example, the passage in First Thessalonians makes it clear that the timing of the Lord’s return is unknowable, like a thief in the night. There is nothing to imply that the Lord will come multiple times, nor is there any idea that only certain groups of humans will be part of the experience; on the contrary, where the text specifies which humans it uses the word “all”. Despite its obvious error, the false teachings of premillennialism are pervasive in American society. A good example of this is that most Americans have been taught to associate the word rapture with the Book of Revelation, where neither the word nor the idea appear.
16 Behold, I will send for many fishermen, says Yahweh, and they shall fish them up; and afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the clefts of the rocks. 17 For my eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from my face, neither is their iniquity concealed from my eyes. 18 First I will recompense their iniquity and their sin double, because they have polluted my land with the carcasses of their detestable things, and have filled my inheritance with their abominations. 19 Yahweh, my strength, and my stronghold, and my refuge in the day of affliction, to you shall the nations come from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Our fathers have inherited nothing but lies, vanity and things in which there is no profit. 20 Shall a man make to himself gods, which yet are no gods? 21 Therefore behold, I will cause them to know, this once will I cause them to know my hand and my might; and they shall know that my name is Yahweh.
17 The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is engraved on the tablet of their heart, and on the horns of your altars; 2 while their children remember their altars and their Asherah poles by the green trees on the high hills. 3 My mountain in the field, I will give your substance and all your treasures for a plunder, and your high places, because of sin, throughout all your borders. 4 You, even of yourself, shall discontinue from your heritage that I gave you; and I will cause you to serve your enemies in the land which you don’t know: for you have kindled a fire in my anger which shall burn forever. 5 Yahweh says: Cursed is the man who trusts in man, and makes flesh his arm, and whose heart departs from Yahweh. 6 For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, a salt land and not inhabited. 7 Blessed is the man who trusts in Yahweh, and whose trust Yahweh is. 8 For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, who spreads out its roots by the river, and shall not fear when heat comes, but its leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. 9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it? 10 I, Yahweh, search the mind, I try the heart, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings. 11 As the partridge that sits on eggs which she has not laid, so is he who gets riches, and not by right; in the middle of his days they shall leave him, and at his end he shall be a fool. 12 A glorious throne, set on high from the beginning, is the place of our sanctuary. 13 Yahweh, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you shall be disappointed. Those who depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken Yahweh, the spring of living waters. 14 Heal me, O Yahweh, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for you are my praise. 15 Behold, they tell me, Where is Yahweh’s word? let it come now. 16 As for me, I have not hurried from being a shepherd after you; neither have I desired the woeful day; you know: that which came out of my lips was before your face. 17 Don’t be a terror to me: you are my refuge in the day of evil. 18 Let them be disappointed who persecute me, but let not me be disappointed; let them be dismayed, but don’t let me be dismayed; bring on them the day of evil, and destroy them with double destruction. 19 Thus said Yahweh to me: Go, and stand in the gate of the children of the people, through which the kings of Judah come in, and by which they go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem; 20 and tell them, Hear Yahweh’s word, you kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that enter in by these gates: 21 Yahweh says, Be careful, and bear no burden on the Sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem; 22 neither carry a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath day, neither do any work: but make the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your fathers. 23 But they didn’t listen, neither turn their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear, and might not receive instruction. 24 It shall happen, if you diligently listen to me, says Yahweh, to bring in no burden through the gates of this city on the Sabbath day, but to make the Sabbath day holy, to do no work therein; 25 then shall there enter in by the gates of this city kings and princes sitting on David’s throne, riding in chariots and on horses, they, and their princes, the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and this city shall remain forever. 26 They shall come from the cities of Judah, and from the places around Jerusalem, and from the land of Benjamin, and from the lowland, and from the hill country, and from the South, bringing burnt offerings, and sacrifices, and meal offerings, and frankincense, and bringing sacrifices of thanksgiving, to Yahweh’s house. 27 But if you will not listen to me to make the Sabbath day holy, and not to bear a burden and enter in at the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day; then I will kindle a fire in its gates, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.
18 The word which came to Jeremiah from Yahweh, saying, 2 Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear my words. 3 Then I went down to the potter’s house, and behold, he was making a work on the wheels. 4 When the vessel that he made of the clay was marred in the hand of the potter, he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. 5 Then Yahweh’s word came to me, saying, 6 House of Israel, can’t I do with you as this potter? says Yahweh. Behold, as the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, house of Israel. 7 At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up and to break down and to destroy it; 8 if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do to them. 9 At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; 10 if they do that which is evil in my sight, that they not obey my voice, then I will repent of the good, with which I said I would benefit them. 11 Now therefore, speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, Yahweh says: Behold, I frame evil against you, and devise a device against you: return you now everyone from his evil way, and amend your ways and your doings. 12 But they say, It is in vain; for we will walk after our own devices, and we will do everyone after the stubbornness of his evil heart. 13 Therefore Yahweh says: Ask now among the nations, who has heard such things; the virgin of Israel has done a very horrible thing. 14 Shall the snow of Lebanon fail from the rock of the field? Shall the cold waters that flow down from afar be dried up? 15 For my people have forgotten me, they have burned incense to false gods; and they have been made to stumble in their ways, in the ancient paths, to walk in byways, in a way not built up; 16 to make their land an astonishment, and a perpetual hissing; everyone who passes thereby shall be astonished, and shake his head. 17 I will scatter them as with an east wind before the enemy; I will show them the back, and not the face, in the day of their calamity. 18 Then they said, Come, and let us devise devices against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, and let us strike him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words. 19 Give heed to me, Yahweh, and listen to the voice of those who contend with me. 20 Shall evil be recompensed for good? for they have dug a pit for my soul. Remember how I stood before you to speak good for them, to turn away your wrath from them. 21 Therefore deliver up their children to the famine, and give them over to the power of the sword; and let their wives become childless, and widows; and let their men be slain of death, and their young men struck of the sword in battle. 22 Let a cry be heard from their houses, when you shall bring a troop suddenly on them; for they have dug a pit to take me, and hid snares for my feet. 23 Yet, Yahweh, you know all their counsel against me to kill me; don’t forgive their iniquity, neither blot out their sin from your sight; but let them be overthrown before you; deal you with them in the time of your anger.
1 Thessalonians 4:1-5:3
4 Finally then, brothers, we beg and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, that you abound more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God: your sanctification, that you abstain from sexual immorality, 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in sanctification and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust, even as the Gentiles who don’t know God; 6 that no one should take advantage of and wrong a brother or sister in this matter; because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as also we forewarned you and testified. 7 For God called us not for uncleanness, but in sanctification. 8 Therefore he who rejects this doesn’t reject man, but God, who has also given his Holy Spirit to you.
9 But concerning brotherly love, you have no need that one write to you. For you yourselves are taught by God to love one another, 10 for indeed you do it toward all the brothers who are in all Macedonia. But we exhort you, brothers, that you abound more and more; 11 and that you make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, even as we instructed you; 12 that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and may have need of nothing.
13 But we don’t want you to be ignorant, brothers, concerning those who have fallen asleep, so that you don’t grieve like the rest, who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we tell you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left to the coming of the Lord, will in no way precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with God’s trumpet. The dead in Christ will rise first, 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. So we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
5 But concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need that anything be written to you. 2 For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord comes like a thief in the night. 3 For when they are saying, “Peace and safety,” then sudden destruction will come on them, like birth pains on a pregnant woman; and they will in no way escape.
For the Chief Musician. On an instrument of Gath. By Asaph.
81 Sing aloud to God, our strength!
Make a joyful shout to the God of Jacob!
2 Raise a song, and bring here the tambourine,
the pleasant lyre with the harp.
3 Blow the trumpet at the New Moon,
at the full moon, on our feast day.
4 For it is a statute for Israel,
an ordinance of the God of Jacob.
5 He appointed it in Joseph for a testimony,
when he went out over the land of Egypt,
I heard a language that I didn’t know.
6 “I removed his shoulder from the burden.
His hands were freed from the basket.
7 You called in trouble, and I delivered you.
I answered you in the secret place of thunder.
I tested you at the waters of Meribah.”
8 “Hear, my people, and I will testify to you,
Israel, if you would listen to me!
9 There shall be no strange god in you,
neither shall you worship any foreign god.
10 I am Yahweh, your God,
who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.
11 But my people didn’t listen to my voice.
Israel desired none of me.
12 So I let them go after the stubbornness of their hearts,
that they might walk in their own counsels.
13 Oh that my people would listen to me,
that Israel would walk in my ways!
14 I would soon subdue their enemies,
and turn my hand against their adversaries.
15 The haters of Yahweh would cringe before him,
and their punishment would last forever.
16 But he would have also fed them with the finest of the wheat.
I will satisfy you with honey out of the rock.”
6 Don’t exalt yourself in the presence of the king,
or claim a place among great men;
7 for it is better that it be said to you, “Come up here,”
than that you should be put lower in the presence of the prince,
whom your eyes have seen.