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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Hell, Romans 8:38, and The New Living Translation

I don't dislike the NLT, but we do need to be careful to remember that an "equivalence" is not a translation (and both are subject to bias).

I noticed that the NLT has this for Rom 8:38:

"And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love."

A wonderful thought for Christians! However, we have some bias slipped into the NLT here. The Greek reads "archḗ" and "dýnamis." Other translations render these "principalities" and "powers." These would be evil forces, no doubt, but should we impose on them "the powers of hell?"

The latter implies that "hell" is some sort of spiritual HQ. There is nothing in scripture to support that assumption. In fact (and ironically), these principalities and powers are far from the hell of tradition.

"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places."
-Eph 6:12 (NKJV)

"Principalities" here is the same Greek word as used in Romans. Where do we see these dark rulers? They are "in heavenly places" or "in the heavens." Gk: epouránios

Since the NLT translators assume some sort of HQ in "hell," they assume the principalities and powers of the evil enemy are coming from such a place. But just as the "gates of hell" are not some HQ (how do gates attack?), men have imposed their traditions and make the word of God of no effect.

"Making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down."
-Mk 7:13 (NKJV)
What triggered me when I saw it was the word "hell." I knew Paul only uses it ("Hades") once in all his preaching and writing and it is in reference to believers conquering the grave (Hades) in resurrection in 1 Cor 15.

I recommend word studies and checking the Greek/Hebrew when studying. And, as always, don't neglect the three most important factors in properly interpreting scripture: context, context, context.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

A Quick Look at 1 Thess 4 (The Rapture Verse) - Part 2


Now let's see about the ones with whom He comes. In the traditional rapture doctrine which relies on 1 Thess 4, it is assumed these are the deceased believers.
"It is with these words that we are to comfort our selves if believers die- fall asleep in Jesus. They shall return with Him when He shall be manifested; but, as regards their own portion, they will go away as He went, whether raised from the dead or transformed, to be for ever with the Lord."
-Darby's Synopsis of the New Testament, 1 Thessalonians 4
This is traditional "Classical Dispensational" view (the believers are the "saints" who escort the Lord.

Let's not ignore the witness of scripture. First, let's correct the translation of a similar passage in the Book of Jude.
Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”
-Jude 14-15 (NKJV

did come (Young's Literal)
came (Revised Standard)
has come (Darby)

Whether you hold this as a past or future reference, the "saints" here are coming to execute judgment. It is the messengers of God, the Angels, that come with the Lord in judgment.

Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives which lies before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley; so that one half of the Mount shall withdraw northward, and the other half southward. And the valley of my mountains shall be stopped up, for the valley of the mountains shall touch the side of it; and you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzzi′ah king of Judah. Then the Lord your God will come, and all the holy ones with him. - Zech 14:3-6

This is the Lord returning to the Mount of Olives after the defeat of Israel's enemies.  We see this again taught in the New Testament.

When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. -Matt 25:31-32
 Let's look again at 2 Thessalonians:
since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power... - 2 Thess 1:6-9

And back to the "rapture" passage in 1 Thessalonians.

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
-1 Thess 4:16-18 (KJV)

This time we note the "archangel" and the "trump of God."

 We know the archangel is Michael. And Michael is connected to the people of Israel.
Then he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? And now I must return to fight with the prince of Persia; and when I have gone forth, indeed the prince of Greece will come. But I will tell you what is noted in the Scripture of Truth. (No one upholds me against these, except Michael your [Israel's] prince).
-Dan 10:20-21

At that time Michael shall stand up,The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people;And there shall be a time of trouble,Such as never was since there was a nation,Even to that time.And at that time your people shall be delivered,Every one who is found written in the book. 
And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake,Some to everlasting life,Some to shame and everlasting contempt. -Dan 12:1-2
This is 1 Thessalonian 4. There shall be the Archangel, at the time of Israel's deliverance, who will ne connected to the Lord's return and the resurrection of believers.

In the Revelation, we see the "last trump" associated with the kingdoms of the earth becoming the kingdoms of Christ. 

Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” - Rev 11:15-16

Finally, we turn to the great resurrection chapter, 1 Corinthians 15.
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
This takes us back the resurrection which takes place when the Lord returns in the clouds with his angels with him to rescue Israel, at the last trumpet, at the voice of the archangel Michael.

A Quick Look at 1 Thess 4 (The Rapture Verse) - Part 1

I'll start by noting that I am a Dispensationalist. No surprise there. However, I don't identify with any of the traditional eschatological (end time) views associated with the position. That is, while I see many of the same end time scenarios similarly, I don't hold to any of the "rapture" positions (pre, mid, pre-wrath, post) while still holding to the concept of a future Tribulation and Millennium.

You can find thoughts on these elsewhere on this blog, but I just want to look at one aspect of the Second Coming of Christ; the coming in the clouds with His Saints.
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
-1 Thess 4:16-18 (KJV)

The Lord coming in the clouds should be expected. This is consistent with revealed truth.
And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.
-Acts 1:9-11 (KJV)
I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
-Dan 7:13-14 (KJV)
Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle.
-Rev 14:14

Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.
-Rev 1:7
Etc.

In 2 Thessalonians, we have commentary and completion of the thoughts from 1 Thessalonians:
since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power... - 2 Thess 1:6-9
The coming of the Lord is associated with the Lord coming in the clouds, with his "saints" (holy ones) at the end of the Tribulation to judge the living and dead in Israel and in the nations. Next time we'll look at this aspect of the Second Coming.

We must remember, however, that the dark days ahead are "the time of Jacob's Trouble." That is, while the whole world will be affected, the focus will be on Israel and her enemies. (See my study on the Parable of the Sheep and Goats to see how the nations will be judged at that time.)

So, the question remains, are Christians living at the start of the Tribulation still here? I do not see 1 Thess 4 as a promise of a pre-Tribulation catching away (rapture), but that does not mean God can not or will not remove believers in some way (or possibly keep them free from harm). The scripture is silent on this matter as far as I can see. This is why Ephesians teaches us in this age to be awake and prepared (Eph 5). There is blessing who love his appearing ("epiphenea").

We must rightly divide the three aspects of the Lord's coming (which we have covered elsewhere):

Parousia - presence of the King (e.g. Matt 24)
Apokálypsi̱ - the revelation
Epiphenae - the manifestation and appearing (e.g. Col 3:4)

We will move on to look at His coming with the saints (holy ones, angels).