But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And 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, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
We are going to hang around theses verses one more day. As I said last time when I first reread these verses last week I thought I was going to go down a different path than the one I did last Friday. This is my original thoughts on these verses.
As many of you that have been following me from the start know I grew up in the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Back then there were three main groups of Lutherans, the Evangelicals, The Lutheran Church of America and the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Since that time the first two have merged to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. The Missouri Synod still remains separate and there are other smaller Lutheran church denominations in the US. While they have their differences they all share a common start with Martin Luther. Luther had some very strong opinions as to which books of the New Testament should be in the Bible and which should not. In particular he did not think James belonged nor Revelations. However cooler heads prevailed and both remain in all Protestant Bibles. That did not mean that much teaching came from either book when it came to the church I attended.
In fact I cannot recall a time when any sermon taught anything in either James or Revelations. Today’s verses were also absent from anything I ever heard in church. By now you are probably wondering if there is a point to all this. There is I promise.
Back when I was young there was little emphasis on individuals reading the Bible from cover to cover. In fact I suspect that most people only read what was in the Sunday bulletin never straying too far from it. I felt that if it was important surely the pastor would mention it so I naively believed that I had a thorough knowledge of the Bible. After all had I not spent the first twenty years of my life going to church?
So when people talked about the rapture and since I had never been exposed to these particular verses I felt they were making things up. After all if it was in the Bible wouldn’t I have been taught about it? Turns out I was wrong. It was in the Bible along with a lot of other verses I had not been exposed to. I had to apologize to Gail about this one as I was sure she was wrong about anything in the Bible mentioning the rapture. Turns out I was partially right. Paul used the Koine Greek word ἁρπαγησόμεθα (harpagisometha), which means “we shall be caught up” or “taken away”. Later when the Bible was translated into Latin harpagisometha was translated to raptus meaning a carrying off, different words but essentially the same meaning. Raptus is where we got the English word Rapture, so I was actually wrong.
I have come a long way to make two points. First, it is amazing how Christians from different denominations can be exposes to different verses all their lives and because of that have completely different beliefs in what is and what is not in the Bible. One denomination stresses one thing and de-emphasis something else or leaves it out entirely. Another does just the opposite, all done in order to get the correct message out. Correct per the denomination but not necessarily correct per God. God gave us His Word He did not give us authority to only teach what we find comfortable or what agrees with the doctrines we like.
This leads me to the second point I want to make, READ THE BIBLE!! Don’t let someone in the pulpit determine what parts of God’s Word you hear no matter how learned they are. Your pastor has maybe twenty or thirty minutes once a week to get God’s word to the congregation. You might have another thirty or forty minutes in a Bible study/Sunday School class. Chances are even if you go every week of your life something will get left out.
It is up to you to read God’s Word for yourself. There are many programs and Bibles that have a system so you can read the Bible in a year. There are many audio Bibles that can be listened to in a year or less. Listening is great, I do it often, but it cannot replace actually reading the Word. Will you understand all of it? Most likely not but you will be surprised how easy God’s Word is to understand. God has placed other Christians in our lives to help us with the hard parts. Ask your pastor or Bible study leader for help. They will be over joyed you asked. If you have never read the Bible all the way through you may be surprised with what is in it, I know I was.
One last word of advice. If you start one of the Bible in a year programs do not be discouraged if you fall behind. I did the first time. In fact I started with Genesis and got bogged down. Then I changed course and started with Matthew and read the entire New Testament and then went back to Genesis and read straight through to Revelation. Over the years I hope to cover as many of the books in the Bible through these writings as the Lord gives me time to but don’t wait on me. Dive in, you will not regret it.
Have a blessed day,