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Thread: 1 Thess. 4

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    1 Thess. 4

    But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. 15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. 16 For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words

    I bring up this topic in light of a blog post by prominent NT and Christian origins scholar Larry Hurtado. Dr. Hurtado made a passing remark that caught my eye:

    "Obviously, as Fredriksen emphasizes, Paul and that first generation held the eschatological conviction that Jesus return in glory and the consummation of Gods kingdom would take place within their lifetime (as reflected in Pauls reference to we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, 1 Thessalonians 4:15)."

    Dr. Hurtado (certainly not the only NT scholar) believes Paul was flat out wrong here.

    John Piper in an article briefly touches on the this verse and states:

    "..hes simply referring to those who are alive at the Lords coming and is including himself in that in hope, in possible expectation, in general, but not with an intent to teach that Jesus therefore cannot come before he dies."

    Do you think Piper is obfuscating the verse(s)? Isn't Paul referring specifically to the church of the Thessalonians (1Thes. 1:1)? Wouldn't it be more appropriate to say that Paul is specifically referring to the Thessalonians when he states: "who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with [the dead] to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever." The next verse seems to drive home that reality when Paul tells the Thessalonians to "encourage one another with these words." Paul is telling the Thessalonians to encourage one another with the promise that "who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with [the dead] to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever".

    Now we can certainly say that because the bible is inspired, that promise belongs to all Christian's throughout the centuries. Yet I don't think that resolves the contextual issue of the promise/belief being falsified -- specifically for the Thessalonians -- and therefore providing the Thessalonians with false hope. I hope to be wrong here, but how do you resolve this issue?
    Last edited by Scrawly; 12-05-2018 at 04:00 PM.

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    tWebber Faber's Avatar
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    I totally agree with Piper. Jesus gave no hint as to how soon He would return (despite what many modern futurists would claim). Paul had no idea. Only that the Man of Sin would be exposed and taken out of the way.

  3. Amen Jedidiah amen'd this post.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Faber View Post
    I totally agree with Piper. Jesus gave no hint as to how soon He would return (despite what many modern futurists would claim). Paul had no idea. Only that the Man of Sin would be exposed and taken out of the way.
    If Paul had "no idea" when Christ would return, then why did he seemingly give false assurance to the Thessalonians? Contra Piper, Paul is neither affirming he will or will not be alive when Christ returns. What Paul is affirming is that some among the Thessalonians (and perhaps himself) will be alive when Christ returns: "Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words". Please note that Paul tells the Thessalonians to encourage one another with the aforementioned words of some being alive at the Lord's return when they will meet those who have died in the air with Christ.
    Last edited by Scrawly; 12-05-2018 at 11:46 PM.

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    tWebber Faber's Avatar
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    Maybe Paul understood that his letters would be copied and passed on to other churches, possibly after he died, if the Lord hadn't returned by then. This was the case with the letters to Colossians and Ephesians.

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    Must...have...caffeine One Bad Pig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scrawly View Post
    But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. 15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. 16 For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words

    I bring up this topic in light of a blog post by prominent NT and Christian origins scholar Larry Hurtado. Dr. Hurtado made a passing remark that caught my eye:

    "Obviously, as Fredriksen emphasizes, Paul and that first generation held the eschatological conviction that Jesus return in glory and the consummation of Gods kingdom would take place within their lifetime (as reflected in Pauls reference to we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, 1 Thessalonians 4:15)."

    Dr. Hurtado (certainly not the only NT scholar) believes Paul was flat out wrong here.

    John Piper in an article briefly touches on the this verse and states:

    "..hes simply referring to those who are alive at the Lords coming and is including himself in that in hope, in possible expectation, in general, but not with an intent to teach that Jesus therefore cannot come before he dies."

    Do you think Piper is obfuscating the verse(s)? Isn't Paul referring specifically to the church of the Thessalonians (1Thes. 1:1)? Wouldn't it be more appropriate to say that Paul is specifically referring to the Thessalonians when he states: "who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with [the dead] to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever." The next verse seems to drive home that reality when Paul tells the Thessalonians to "encourage one another with these words." Paul is telling the Thessalonians to encourage one another with the promise that "who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with [the dead] to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever".

    Now we can certainly say that because the bible is inspired, that promise belongs to all Christian's throughout the centuries. Yet I don't think that resolves the contextual issue of the promise/belief being falsified -- specifically for the Thessalonians -- and therefore providing the Thessalonians with false hope. I hope to be wrong here, but how do you resolve this issue?
    I agree with Dr. Hurtado on a lot of things, but I respectfully disagree with him on this. As far as I can tell, Paul's emphasis is that Christ will return and what will happen then, not on whether or not Paul himself or those currently in the Thessalonian church will necessarily be alive. I take the "we" to be "believers living at the time of Christ's return." While it is possible to interpret it to mean "the believers living now", it is certainly not necessary to do so, and we should look for other clues from Paul and let scripture interpret scripture. John Piper's full statement on the verse from your reference is as follows:
    Source: John Piper

    when Paul uses the word we to refer to those who may be alive at the Lords coming we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:15) I dont think we should say Paul is teaching that he must be alive when the Lord comes, and that therefore the coming of Jesus must be within Pauls lifetime. If Paul really meant to teach that when he used the word we, then what are we to make of his words in Philippians 1:2023, where he says this?

    It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose [life or death] I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

    That does not sound like an apostle who considers it part of his teaching that he cannot die before the second coming. No way. I think when Paul says, We who are alive . . . until the Lords coming, hes simply referring to those who are alive at the Lords coming and is including himself in that in hope, in possible expectation, in general, but not with an intent to teach that Jesus therefore cannot come before he dies.

    © Copyright Original Source


    It is true that 1 Thessalonians is one of Paul's earliest letters, and that his views may have evolved by the time he wrote Philippians, but I don't think there's a warrant for reading the text in such a way that it necessarily happened that way.
    Enter the Church and wash away your sins. For here there is a hospital and not a court of law. Do not be ashamed to enter the Church; be ashamed when you sin, but not when you repent. St. John Chrysostom

    Veritas vos Liberabit<>< Learn Greek <>< Look here for an Orthodox Church in America<><Ancient Faith Radio

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  7. Amen Chrawnus amen'd this post.
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    Quote Originally Posted by One Bad Pig View Post
    I agree with Dr. Hurtado on a lot of things, but I respectfully disagree with him on this. As far as I can tell, Paul's emphasis is that Christ will return and what will happen then, not on whether or not Paul himself or those currently in the Thessalonian church will necessarily be alive. I take the "we" to be "believers living at the time of Christ's return." While it is possible to interpret it to mean "the believers living now", it is certainly not necessary to do so, and we should look for other clues from Paul and let scripture interpret scripture. John Piper's full statement on the verse from your reference is as follows:
    Source: John Piper

    when Paul uses the word “we” to refer to those who may be alive at the Lord’s coming — “we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:15) — I don’t think we should say Paul is teaching that he must be alive when the Lord comes, and that therefore the coming of Jesus must be within Paul’s lifetime. If Paul really meant to teach that when he used the word “we,” then what are we to make of his words in Philippians 1:20–23, where he says this?

    It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose [life or death] I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

    That does not sound like an apostle who considers it part of his teaching that he cannot die before the second coming. No way. I think when Paul says, “We who are alive . . . until the Lord’s coming,” he’s simply referring to those who are alive at the Lord’s coming and is including himself in that in hope, in possible expectation, in general, but not with an intent to teach that Jesus therefore cannot come before he dies.

    © Copyright Original Source


    It is true that 1 Thessalonians is one of Paul's earliest letters, and that his views may have evolved by the time he wrote Philippians, but I don't think there's a warrant for reading the text in such a way that it necessarily happened that way.
    I think it's important to emphasize that:

    1) This letter was originally and specifically written to the Thessalonian church

    2) Paul told those original recipients to encourage one another with very certain words

    We can therefore envision the letter being read by those Thessalonians as one member gets up and yells: "beloved brothers and sisters! Let us not grieve for our deceased brethren! For we who are alive, who are left until the coming of our Lord, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air!". This seemingly indicates that Paul intended the Thessalonians to be under the impression that the coming of the Lord would happen soon, and naturally some in the Thessalonian church would still be alive, perhaps including himself.

    Now of course the Thessalonian brother or sister exclaiming: "beloved brothers and sisters! Let us not grieve for our deceased brethren! For we who are alive, who are left until the coming of our Lord, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air!" added "now this is just our hope in a general sense, but yes, we pray come, Lord Jesus!". That does strike me as implausible, almost an anachronistic interpretation in light of the Lord's delay some 2000 years later, but I could be wrong.

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    tWebber Faber's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scrawly View Post
    That does strike me as implausible, almost an anachronistic interpretation in light of the Lord's delay some 2000 years later, but I could be wrong.
    Either that or the Holy Spirit made a mistake.

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    Must...have...caffeine One Bad Pig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scrawly View Post
    I think it's important to emphasize that:

    1) This letter was originally and specifically written to the Thessalonian church
    Sure.
    2) Paul told those original recipients to encourage one another with very certain words
    Sure.
    We can therefore envision the letter being read by those Thessalonians as one member gets up and yells: "beloved brothers and sisters! Let us not grieve for our deceased brethren! For we who are alive, who are left until the coming of our Lord, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air!". This seemingly indicates that Paul intended the Thessalonians to be under the impression that the coming of the Lord would happen soon, and naturally some in the Thessalonian church would still be alive, perhaps including himself.

    Now of course the Thessalonian brother or sister exclaiming: "beloved brothers and sisters! Let us not grieve for our deceased brethren! For we who are alive, who are left until the coming of our Lord, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air!" added "now this is just our hope in a general sense, but yes, we pray come, Lord Jesus!". That does strike me as implausible, almost an anachronistic interpretation in light of the Lord's delay some 2000 years later, but I could be wrong.
    This does not necessarily follow. The way you're attempting to constrain the text, one would necessarily assume that ALL of the people present would still be alive. It is your exact scenario which strikes me as most improbable. Paul notably does not add any chronological markers here, or exhort the Thessalonian believers to imminently expect His return.
    Enter the Church and wash away your sins. For here there is a hospital and not a court of law. Do not be ashamed to enter the Church; be ashamed when you sin, but not when you repent. St. John Chrysostom

    Veritas vos Liberabit<>< Learn Greek <>< Look here for an Orthodox Church in America<><Ancient Faith Radio

    I recommend you do not try too hard and ...research as little as possible. Such weighty things give me a headache. - Shunyadragon, Baha'i apologist

  11. Amen Chrawnus amen'd this post.
  12. #9
    tWebber
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    Quote Originally Posted by One Bad Pig View Post
    This does not necessarily follow. The way you're attempting to constrain the text, one would necessarily assume that ALL of the people present would still be alive.
    No. The text says: "Then we who are alive, who are left.." This indicates that some will have died, but some will clearly be left because they were seemingly under the impression that Christ would return within a generation or so.

    It is your exact scenario which strikes me as most improbable. Paul notably does not add any chronological markers here, or exhort the Thessalonian believers to imminently expect His return.
    He exhorts the Thessalonians to encourage one another with the words that: we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with the dead to meet the Lord in the air.

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    tWebber Chrawnus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scrawly View Post
    No. The text says: "Then we who are alive, who are left.." This indicates that some will have died, but some will clearly be left because they were seemingly under the impression that Christ would return within a generation or so.



    He exhorts the Thessalonians to encourage one another with the words that: we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with the dead to meet the Lord in the air.
    I think you're putting far too much importance on the word "we". The main point is that those who happen to be alive will be caught up in the clouds together with the dead, who will be resurrected, to meet the Lord in the air. Paul simply used the word "we" to describe those who were alive because he happened to be alive (shocker, I know) at the time of writing the letter and thus counted himself among that group, for the time being.

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