Questions on the End Times after reading Letters to the Thessalonians

Readers of the blog know I have been reading through the letters to the Thessalonians. These letters are written after Paul’s brief stay in the city, having been chased out by rioters protesting the spread of the Gospel. These letters are probably best known for their references to various events that will occur in the end times.

The information provided in these letters address the specific concerns that the Thessalonians have about the end times. As we read them we have to remember that we are only seeing one half of the conversation. We don’t have a full picture of what misconceptions these new believers had. Complicating things further, Paul’s responses provide summarized pieces of information that are meant to help the Thessalonians remember the details that he had already imparted (1 Thess 5:1-2; 2 Thess 2:5-6).
In the first letter, after expressing his joy regarding the firm faith of the new, persecuted believers, Paul addresses the concern that Timothy brought to his attention. It seems that the Thessalonians are concerned about the fate of loved ones who are in Christ but have died. What will happen to them when Christ returns? Paul explains that both those who are alive and those who have died will all meet Christ at His coming and be with Him forever (1 Thess 4:13-18).

Another concern is addressed in the second letter. Here Paul informs the Thessalonians that the coming of the Lord has not come yet. It seems that misinformation was being spread that the day of the Lord was upon them (2 Thess 2:1-12). Between the two letters the challenge facing the young church seems to have shifted from worrying about dead believers who will miss a future event, to a concern that living believers had missed a recently past event.

In this post, we will make some observations and ask some questions based on what Paul writes in these letters.

Imagery from NASA

Imagery from NASA

Does Jesus gather the elect in one major event or two?

Paul describes an event in chapter 4 of the first letter, which many consider the same event described in 1 Cor 15:50-57. This event is often called the rapture. Paul describes another event in chapter 5 and chapters 1 and 2 of the second letter. This event is called the the day of the Lord, and has several events that will precede it, including the apostasy and the revelation of the Antichrist, who Christ will slay at His coming. The question is does Paul describe two separate events (a rapture and the 2nd coming) or are these all descriptions of the same event (the 2nd coming). Continue reading

An Ancient Theologian takes an ironic look at Judgment Day

497px-TertullianTertullian closes out his work, Prescription against Heretics, reminding his readers that we all will stand at the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor 5:10). In his mind he imagines all of the excuses that the heretics and those they deceived will offer to Christ for their rejection of Him.

Allowing his imagination to continue, Tertullian, with unmistakable sarcasm, paints a picture of what judgment might look like for the disciples of Christ who endured in their faith should the heretics prevail in their argument and be given entrance into the kingdom. Each biting comment is a jab at one of the false doctrines that were prevalent during his time. The text (in italics) that follows is an excerpt from the concluding chapter of his book.

If, however, any, being mindful of the writings and the denunciations of the Lord and the apostles, shall have stood firm in the integrity of the faith, I suppose they will run great risk of missing pardon, when the Lord answers: Continue reading

Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Occupy the Bible League [Part 2]

This is the continuation of the story started in part 1.

I encourage you to read part 1 if you have not done so already before jumping into the story in this post.

“Catch!”, Holmes yelled as he tossed a Bible in my direction. “Turn to Luke 19 and start reading in verse 11 if you would be so kind.”

I almost remarked about the Bible not being a KJV but thought better of it. The Bible I now held was an ESV and it read as follows:

As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. He said therefore, “a nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.'”

“Stop!” cried Holmes, which shocked me for I had barely started. “Why was Jesus telling this parable?”

I re-read the text to myself, then blurted that the crowds were expecting Jesus to bring about the long awaited Kingdom of God.

“Yes, and do you know when this event purports to take place?” asked Holmes. The headings surrounding the passage gave me all the clues I needed and even I was able to deduce that it was just prior to the “triumphal entry” when Jesus rode in Jerusalem on a donkey prior to being crucified.

“Right you are”, encouraged Holmes, “and what do we know of this event and those that follow”.

“Well, from what we know of the accounts of Jesus, his miracles and proclamation that the kingdom is at hand has raised Messianic expectations among the people. Now that Jesus is going into Jerusalem it is at a fever pitch. Yet 5 days later he will be crucified. 3 days after that He will rise from then dead and 40 days later He will ascend into heaven.” I shared. “We also know that Jesus has promised His disciples that He would return.”

“Well done”, Holmes remarked. “Now, you know my methods, dear Watson. Apply them here.” Continue reading