First Baptist Church of Rahway, 177 Elm Ave., Rahway, New Jersey 07065 is a multi-cultural congregation that has a Blended English Service on Sunday Mornings, a Latino Service at 12:00, and a Service in Telugu at 3:30PM. For more information, call (732) 388-8626. Or click here to send an email. If you wish to help the Mission and Ministry of First Baptist financially click the Donate Button.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Rapture - The Correct Interpretation
Since today is the day the Rapture is supposed to arrive, I felt the need to help you all understand the correct way to interpret the passage that has caused so much trouble over the years.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 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. 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. 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. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Paul is writing to his friends in the city of Thessalonica, located in present day Greece. He starts the passage talking about friends and family who have died; those who sleep in death. Someone must have mentioned to him that they were concerned about their loved ones who had passed away. What kind of concerns? And so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. They are worried that their deceased loved ones will miss out when Jesus returns to the earth in glory. Paul has been preaching that the day of Jesus’ returning will happen soon (2 Timothy 4:8), and he has been preaching that when Jesus returns we will receive new bodies (Romans 8:23). What about our loved ones who have passed away before the blessed event?
Paul says, don’t worry all will be well. He says that when Jesus returns; the dead in Christ will rise first. In other words, our loved ones who had faith in Jesus will rise from the dust of the earth with new bodies. Then we will meet them in the sky; 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 then we will be with Jesus and our loved ones forever.
Where people go wrong with the interpretation of this passage is they assume Paul is making a prophecy. If he was he would say so. Instead he is encouraging his people to have faith that they will see their loved ones again, therefore encourage one another with these words. Think of this passage as a funeral message. Paul is preaching encouraging words to people who are deeply upset that their loved ones won’t be around when Jesus returns in his glory. Paul is saying to them, don’t worry God will make everything well.
Understanding the context of a passage is crucial to discerning the meaning. A careful reading of this text shows that Paul is writing supportive and uplifting words to people who have expressed a concern to him. He is not writing about an event that will happen 2,000 years into the future. If he was, he would have said so.
Pastor Bill Whitehead