Friday, May 20, 2011

1 Thessalonians 4:15 - 17

15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.  1 Thessalonians Chapter 4 verses 15 - 17 (New International Bible version)

This passage is from the letters of Paul to early Christian communities.  Paul was born of Hebrew parents in the decade following the death of Jesus.  He was a tent maker who became convinced that Jesus was the son of God. He became a missionary, travelled widely and wrote letters to those he had met and proselytized.  He intended that the letters be read out loud.  The letters are chatty at times, sometimes solemn, and both praise the faith and remonstrate the failings of the community.  They make specific reference to events that had been shared by author and audience.  Read in a good contemporary translation the letters sound much like communications on similar subjects today. 

Those expecting rapture tomorrow, and an earthquake signaling the beginning of the end of the world base their reasoning, in part on Paul's first letter to the community of Christians in the bustling Macedonian city of Thessalonica.  Paul was a great communicator.  He painted pictures with his words. He spoke Hebrew and Greek.  The urgency and passion still resonate in his work.

Paul could not envision that Christians in the 21st Century would euthanize their pets, give away their possessions and spend all their savings, believing literally in his words.  Nor could he envision that some might take their own lives if the expected day of rapture passes uneventfully.  From our contemporary vantage point however, we can see the havoc that can be created in the lives of believers. We will know more tomorrow. 

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