Thursday, December 14, 2006

I have been studying for an exam I have today at seminary in a course called "Rapture Systems." In this course, we survey the different rapture systems out there (pretrib, posttrib, mid-trib, partial rapture, pre-wrath, preterist, etc) as well as survey a bunch of the eschatological passages in order to get the overall view of the NT teaching on the rapture of the saints.

As I have been studying for today, I have been immersed in 1 Thessalonians 5. I am convinced that this chapter is teaching about the tribulation. Let me clarify, this is NOT a continuation from chapter 4 (v.13-18) which is clearly speaking of the rapture. We recognize that Paul does NOT continue the new thought but rather he transitions into a brand new thought (or a new topic) from the Greek construction, peri de (1 Cor 7:1; 8:1; 12:1; 16:1). Thus, if Paul was speaking of the rapture in 1 Thess 4, then he begins a NEW topic in chapter 5, thus discussing the tribulation period on the earth (or the Day of the Lord).

1 Thessalonians 5:9 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

There have been 3 main views as to what the "wrath" is here in v.9:

(1) Present, Physical Wrath that the Thessalonians are facing - we know this cannot be the answer because there was much physical persecution of the believers for their faith at this time in the city of Thessalonika. Paul was not telling them that they would have NO problems, no wrath, no tribulations, no trials, etc. in their lifetime.

(2) Hell - this is a viable option, but yet it fails when the immediate context is observed. Even in the Thessalonian epistles at large, soteriology is NOT the main issue here. Paul is dealing with eschatology and the deliverance from the future eschatological wrath (1:10; the Lord's coming (2:19; 3:13); the rapture (4:13-18); and the Day of the Lord (tribulation period (5:1-11). Paul's emphasis here is NOT to tell the believers that they have been saved from the eternal wrath of God. Though this is a good thought, it is not to be found in the context. Furthermore, why would Paul tell them that "God has not destined us for wrath but for obtaining salvation." We do NOT obtain salvation because we are saved from hell. Rather, we obtain salvation because of the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. Thus the ramification of that finished work at Calvary was that we have been saved from the eschatological wrath of God, but justification is NOT the main theme of Paul's letter here.

(3) Tribulation - this seems to be the best option given the immediate context of chapters 4-5 as well as the whole context of the books of Thessalonians as a whole. Paul has just talked about the rapture (4:13-18) and then he says, "peri de," now concerning a new issue...Let's talk about the Day of the Lord (5:1-11). Then he says in v. 9, but just to let you know believers, that God has not appointed us for wrath in the Tribulation, but rather for obtaining the full salvation that we will ultimately have when we are glorified and with our Lord Jesus Christ. This is eschatological hope here. This is the beautific vision - as Edwards would say. This is the hope of glory of every believer.

V. 11 concludes by saying, "therefore, encourage one another." If the believers in Thessalonika knew that they would HAVE to endure a 7 year tribulation period and THEN obtain salvation in heaven, what kind of encouragement would that be? What kind of encouragement would that be? Most of you will die martyr's deaths in the Tribulation, they will be gruesome and horrible, but don't fret, you will be in heaven? NO. Paul is NOT saying that. Rather he is saying, because you will be completely exempt OUT OF (Gk. ek) the Tribulation period, that is cause for great rejoicing, comfort and encouragement of the believers.

4 comments:

psychohmike said...

I think you would do well to continue on into 2 Thes 1. You will see that it is speaking of a future judgement but one that was to come in their lifetime. In other words not still future to us.

Geoffrey R. Kirkland said...

Mike,

Thank you for the comment. I did a large semester paper on this passage. I know that Piper uses this to prove Post-trib as well as one of my roommates, but I think there is sufficient evidence to show that Paul is NOT talking about POST-trib here. Though I do reckon that this is a HARD text for Pre-tribbers.

However, thank you for the comment. If you'd like, email me and i'll send you my paper to look over.

Blessings to you brother,

Geoff

kirklandgr@masters.edu

Geoffrey R. Kirkland said...

Mike,

By the way, I don't think preterism is found in the eschatology of Paul - especially in the Thessalonian epistles. For example, if you take this preterist view, then you have to say that all that occurs in 1 Thess 4 and 5 ALSO took place in Paul's lifetime. That means that the rapture happened, the second coming (ch. 5), the Day of the Lord/Tribulation, revealing of the man of Sin (Antichrist, etc). This clearly did NOT happen in paul's lifetime, unless you do some MAJOR allegorical interpretation and thus leave the literal, historical, grammatical interpretation of the Bible.

I'm interested in your comments.

Blessings,

Geoff

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