Full Text for Leading Thoughts on Eschatology in the Epistles to the Thessalonians, part 7 (Text)

(!tuurur~itt IDqrulugual flnut41y Continuing LEHRE UND VVEHRB MAGAZIN FUER EV.-LuTH. HOMILETIK THEOLOGICAL QUARTERLy-THEOLOGICAL MONTHLY vol.xm September, 1942 No.9 CONTENTS Page Leading Thoughts on Eschatology in the Epistles to the Thessa- lonians. L. Fuerbringer _________________________________________________ 641 False Principia Cognoscendi in Theology. W. H_ T. Dau _____________ 654 Luther: A Blessing to the English. WlIllnm Dallma lln . _________ 662 Henry Melchior Muehlenberg. W. G. Polack ________________ ...:..... ________ 673 What Makes for Effective Preaching? ;J. H. C. Fritz ___________ 684 , Outlines on the Wuerltemberg Epistle Selections ______________ 692 MisceUania _________________ . ______________ . __________________________________ 699 Theological Observer. - Kirchlich-Zeitgeschichtliches ________ 709 Book Review. - Literatur ______ . ________ . ______ . ________________ . ______ 716 Ein Predlger muss nleht alleln wei- den, also dass er die Schafe unter- weise. wle aie rechte Christen sollen leln. sondern auch daneben den Woel- fen weh-ren, dass aie die Schare nicht angrel£en und mit talscher Lehre ver- fuehren und Irrtum elntuehren. Luthe-r Es 1st keln Ding. da8 die Leute mehr bel der K1rehe behaelt denn die gute Predlgt. - ApologW, Arl_ 24 If the trwnpet glve an uncertain sound. who shall prepare hl.maelf to the battle? - 1 Co-r. 14:8 Published for the Ev. Luth. Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States CONCORDIA PUBLISHING HOUSE, St. Louis, Mo, Concordia Theological Monthly Vol. XIII SEPTEMBER, 1942 No.9 Leading Thoughts on Eschatology in the Epistles to the Thessalonians VII The passage chosen for the seventh and final article on the leading thoughts on eschatology in St. Paul's letters to the Thes- salonians is one of special beauty and rich content. In the preced- ing articles we have shown on the basis of the two letters that the Lord will surely come, and come suddenly, as a thief in the night, 1 Thess. 5: 1-3; that He will not come before the Man of Sin has made his appearance, 2 Thess. 2: 1-12; that when He comes, He will come to take vengeance upon the unbelievers and to glorify the believers, 2 Thess.1: 3-12. In the passage which we shall con- sider in the final installment, 1 Thess. 4, 13-18, the apostle points out that Christ's Second Advent will transpire in separate acts. In vivid detail St. Paul pictures four separate and distinct events oc- curring at His coming, 1) Jesus will appear in glory; 2) the dead in Christ shall rise; 3) the Christians still living shall together with those raised from the dead be caught up; 4) together they shall ever be with the Lord. 1 Thess. 4: 13-18. Because of the importance and heavenly comfort of these lessons the ancient Church has very properly chosen this passage also, as one of the great escha- tological pericopes of the church year, assigning it as the epistle for the Twenty-fifth Sunday after Trinity. "I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, conce?'ning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope." V. 13. "I would not have you to be ignorant," is a transitional form introducing a new and important thought; cpo Rom.n: 25; 1 Cor. 10: 1; compare also the positive expression "I would have you know," 1 Cor.n: 3; Col. 2: 1. While the matter he has in mind is not altogether unknown to Paul's readers and, in fact, was referred to already in this letter, cpo 2: 19; 3: 13, it is of 41 6 '12 Eschatology in the Epistles to the Thessalonians sufficient importance to warrant a more thorough instruction, par- ticularly since the Thessalonians were in need of such indoctrina- tion, as we gather from vv.10 and 11 and 3: 10. Far from addressing the disturbed and perplexed Christians in harsh terms, reprimand- ing them for their ignorance or forgetfulness, he admonishes them as beloved brothers. The tone and spirit of the entire passage prove the sincerity of his brotherly affection, his patience with the young Christians, realizing that many of them had emerged from the ignorance and superstition of pagandom only a short wrJle ago. Paul's intention is to instruct them with regard "to them which are asleep." This phrase is used as a euphemism for "those who have died." It is the translation of the Hebrew J;J~, 1 Kings 2: 10. A similar Greek term is %O.1tE11(\ELv, 1 Thess. 5: 10, ~hich means "to sleep," while %OLJ.tiiv means "to cause to sleep"; the middle and passive, "to sleep, to fall asleep." Adopting the language of Christ, John 11: 11, Paul frequently uses this term for those who died as believers in Jesus, 1 Cor. 11: 30; 15: 6,18. This expression was used also by the Greeks and Romans, who often designated death as a brother of sleep, since the dead person resembles one sleeping. Christianity has injected a new content into the word. When one has fallen asleep, he again awakes, arises, returns to the activities of his calling. This term, therefore, is especially suitable in this connection where the apostle is about to speak of the resurrection of the dead. The text1Ls receptus has the perfect tense, "who have fallen iMooo/1EV, "prevent," is here used in its usual sense of precede, come earlier, before. The English word "prevent" here retains its original Latin meaning, to come before. The double negative ou /111 emphasizes that something shall certainly not occur. These words of Paul can be understood only as an expression of Pauls' expectation that he together with his readers would live to see the Lord's coming. Paul did not live to see it. More than 1800 years have passed since this expectation was voiced. Hence many interpreters conclude that Paul was mistaken. Others turn and twist the clear words, so that they no longer refer to Paul and his contemporaries but to the Christians actually living at the Parousia. Both interpretations are wrong. We have no reason to charge Paul with having been mistaken, least of all in this case, where he quotes a word of the Lord. On the other hand, the words must be interpreted as they read, and undoubtedly they refer to Paul and his readers. Interpreters who refer these words to the Christians living at the Last Day, regard them as figurative lan- guage, as an ena1lage personae or an UVUXOLVOOOL<;, communicatio, attributing an action or a state to a whole body while it actually refers to only a part of it. According to this interpretation, Paul wanted to say that we Christians in general, that is to say, those of 648 Eschatology in the Epistles to the Thessalonians us who are still alive at the Advent of Christ, the Church of the latter days, shall not precede those that sleep. While "we," YII.tEL<;, may be used in this communicative sense, this usage can hardly apply here, since very clearly tvvo classes of Christians are con- trasted, "we which are alive" and "they which are asleep." More- over, chap. 5: 4 the same statement is made concerning those that live at Paul's time, and cannot be taken figuratively as referring only to those living at the end. Other interpreters, therefore, sug- gest as the correct sense: "we who live in our posterity." That is adding a thought not expressed in the words. Still others trans- late hypothetically: we, if, provided, we are still alive. This inter- pretation is rendered impossible by the definite article, which identifies the survivors with "we." All these interpretations are makeshifts. We must not forget that the time of the Advent is unknown to man, unknown also to the apostle. Mark 13: 32; Acts 1: 7; 1 Thess. 5: 1-4. Whenever Paul therefore speaks of the Last Day, he must speak of it as if it could possibly come during his lifetime. Cp.1 Cor. 15:51,52; 1 Cor. 7:29-31; 1:7,8; Rom. 13:11; Phil. 4: 5; 1 Thess 5: 4. And since in our passage and in 1 Cor. 15 two classes of Christians are distinguished, the living and dead, Paul could not speak otherwise than he does, since he certainly belonged to the living while writing these letters. (These two classes, of course, were in a state of constant flux.) On the other hand, Paul was not certain whether he would live to see the Day of the Lord. That is evident from our letter, chap. 5: 10, "whether we wake or sleep." Here we have the key that solves the dif- ficulty, particularly since Paul elsewhere speaks of the Parousia as in the distant future, and as if he were one of those to be raised on that Day. Cpo 1 Cor. 6: 14 (which casts an illuminating light on 1 Cor. 15: 51 and our passage); 2 Cor. 4: 14; Phil. 3: 20, 21; Acts 20:29; Phil. 2:17; 2 Tim. 4:6. We must not forget that Paul knew that the Man of Sin would have to be revealed before the Parousia, 2 Thess. 2. These passages give us the clue to the correct inter- pretation of our passage. All that is necessary is to picture to ourselves vividly the situation in apostolic times. The last of the wonderful works of God had been accomplished in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Only one remained, the return of Christ unto judgment. For this day the Christians longed and prayed with earnest desire. But at no time could they know for certain whether they would live to see this day, live to see the revelation of the Man of Sin, live to see him consumed by the spirit of the Lord's mouth and destroyed with the brightness of Christ's coming, 2 Thess. 2: 3,8. Else they would have actually known the thnes and seasons, Acts 1: 7, that day and that hour which no man knoweth, Mark 13: 32. Cpo Acts 1: 11; Matt. 16: 27; 24: 25; 1 Pet. Eschatology in the Epistles to the Thessalonians 54U 4: 7; James 5: 8; 1 John 2: 18, and the eschatological discourses of our Lord. "For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the a1'changel and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first." V. 16. Verses 16 and 17 prove the assertion that the living shall not precede the dead in the Lord's Advent; they picture the succession of the separate stages of the Parousia. "Himself," a.l,.t6~, like 3: 11, is the subject, emphatically placed at the beginning of the sentence; "the Lord" is the ap- position. Himself, the Lord, the main person, will appear in person, descending from heaven. Purposely He is again called "the Lord," as in v.15, not "Jesus," as in v. 14. The Lord comes in the fullness or His glory and majesty. He will descend from heaven upon the earth, for the crucified and risen Savior now is enthroned at the right hand of God in the heavens, Rom. 8: 34; Eph. 1: 20; Col. 3: 1; Phil. 3: 20. Now He will come upon the earth for the second time but in a manner altogether different from His first coming; in a novel, unheard-of manner. Cpo Acts 1: 11. This coming is described by three prepositional phrases. He comes "with a shout." , Ev in connection with verbs of coming denotes accompaniment, together with; and ?(E/cE1JOlta., occurring only here, designates the commanding word of a military officer, of the general, a military order rousing the army to action. Luther's translation, "Feld- geschrei," the shout of the soldiers, is incorrect, and the "shout" of the Authorized Version not exact enough. The word is also used of the command issued by the driver to his horses, of hunters to the dogs, of the captain of a ship to the rowers. This word of command does not issue from the Father. It is Christ's command directed to all His own sleeping in their graves. As the general rouses his army to renewed activity after the night's rest, so the great Captain of our salvation rouses His followers, His warriors, from the sleep of death, John 5: 28,29. Christ descends "with the voice of the archangel." At His coming Christ will be surrounded by myriads of angels; cpo 1 Thess. 3: 13; 2 Thess. 1: 7; Matt. 13: 41; 16: 27; 24: 31; 25: 31. Among these angels there are various orders and classes, and the highest order, the leaders, are the archangels. One of these leaders is Michael, Jude 9; Rev. 12: 7 (although both passages may refer to Christ Himself), and accordingly some inter- preters believe that Michael is the archangel referred to here; others suggest Gabriel, Dan. 8: 16; Luke 1: 19,26, although he is never called an archangel; still others, Raphael, Tobit 12: 15; cpo with Rev. 8: 2. The term archangel corresponds to the term "prince," Dan. 10; 13,21; 12: 1. No matter who this archangel is, on the Last Day he is Christ's herald, proclaiming His coming and perhaps Christ's resurrection command. Christ descends from heaven "with 650 Eschatology in the Epistles to the Thessalonians the trump of God." The Jews used trumpets to call the people together, Num.10: 2; 31: 6; Joel 2: 1. The manifestations of God in the Old Testament were frequently accompanied by the sound of trumpets; Ex. 19: 16; Reb. 12: 19; Ps. 47: 6; Zech. 9: 14. So Christ's glorious Advent will be ushered in by the blowing of the trumpet of God, 1 Cor. 15: 52; Matt. 24: 31, so called in contrast to man-made trumpets to convene an assembly at some man's command. Here it is God and His Christ, God of God, Lord of Lord, who proclaims a unique, marvelous assembly. This trump of God, sounded by the archangel or another member of the angelic host, is the divine signal, the command of Omnipotence, that the dead shall rise, 1 Cor. 15: 52. The sound of this trumpet penetrates the graves of all the believers wherever they may rest. The sound of this trumpet has divine, living, life-giving power. We read accordingly, "And the dead in Christ shall rise." It will hardly be necessary to state that we cannot define the nature of this trumpet. Heavenly facts and events are pictured in language that man can understand; cpo Rev. 8: 1-13. The resurrection of the dead is the purpose intended and achieved by the Advent of Christ; XUL therefore is consecutive, "and so"; "and in consequence of this," "the dead in Christ shall rise first." The phrase "in Christ" is correctly connected with "the dead"; it does not belong to "shall rise." That this resurrection is made possible only by Christ is evident from the entire context, while it was necessary to state to which dead the statement is to be referred. The apostle removes all doubt as to this question. The dead in Christ, those dead that have fallen asleep in Chri:;;t and even in death are still united with Christ; cpo Rom. 14: 8, 9; these dead alone are in the mind of the apostle in this entire context. He speaks of the relation of the Christians having fallen asleep to those still living when He shall come. Cpo 1 Cor. 15: 18,23; Rev. 14: 13. Grammatically this interpretation would seem to demand the definite article before EV XQw"t4), but there are exceptions to this rule, as Winer and other grammarians have proved. "The dead in Christ shall rise first." Very emphatically the adverb is placed at the end of this statement, adding another amazing and comforting fact to the amazing truth of the resurrection of believers. This "first" is the definite and satisfactory answer to the questions and doubts of the Thessalonians. But just this little word "first" has been pointed out by chiliasts of every time and age as incontrovertibly proving a first resurrec- tion, the resurrection of the just referred to in Luke 14: 14, a thou- sand years later than which the resurrection of the wicked would take place, Rev. 20. This interpretation, the favorite one in our day among the Fundamentalists, has absolutely no foundation in the Eschatology in the Epistles to the Thessalonians G 51 word "first" as used by Paul in our passage. The word "first" cannot mean here a first resurrection in contrast to a second one occurring later. That is made impossible by the clause introduced by "then," EJtEL1:U., v.17. This clause does not speak of a second resurrection, nor of a time much later, but of an event connected with the coming of the Lord, v. 16, and the resurrection of those having fallen asleep prior to this coming; and this event is not the resur- rection of the wicked, nor a resurrection at all, but of the catching up in the clouds of those living, together with, at the same time with, those having been raised from their graves. The unmistakable purpose of the passage is to allay the fear of the Thessalonians that their deceased fellow Christians would be at a disadvantage on the Day of the Coming of Jesus. Far from falling short of any blessing and joy of that Day, they will rather be the first to experience its blessed miraculous power; they will be raised from death and corruption, body and soul re-united, and then only, and not before, those having lived until that Day will be caught up; and again not a moment before those that had died, but together with them. We have already repeatedly called attention to the fact that this whole passage deals v.rith the resurrection of the dead Christians and that the scopus, the purpose of this instruction, is to comfort the Christians with respect to their deceased brethren in faith, v.18. We repeat that the apostle in the present discussion leaves out of consideration entirely the general resurrection which is taught Dan. 12: 2; John 5: 28,29; 2 Cor. 5: 10; Acts 17: 31,32; 24: 25. N either can chiliasts defend their doctrine of two separate resur- rections by referring to Rev. 20. There J olm speaks of spiritual resurrection, as can readily be proved. If a resurrection of the body were meant, only the martyrs would participate in this resur- rection, only those "that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus," Rev. 20: 4. Furthermore, only the souls are spoken of as living, while not a word is said about the re-union of the soul with the body. Finally, only martyrs could then escape "the second death," v.6, "the lake of fire," v.14. According to Scripture, resurrection consists in the restoration of bodily life, in the re-union of the soul, the principle of life, with its body, fro~ which it was separated by death. "Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up to- gether with them in the clo1tds to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord." V.17. We have seen that "then" refers to "first," the closing word of v. 16. It introduces the second result of the Lord's coming down to the earth. First the resur- rection takes place, then the rapture. The "then" closely links these two acts. In this context the implied sense is "only then" when the dead believers have been raised, then and not at some 652 Eschatology in the Epistles to the Thessalonians earlier period of time. The phrase "we which are alive and remain" is to be taken in the same sense as in v. 15. "Together with them" refers to the believers who had died but are now raised. "Together," {hw., here does not mean all without exception, as, e. g., Rom. 3: 12. It is used here not numerically but temporally, at the same time with them, as, e. g., Acts 24: 26. Those who have been raised and those who were still alive will be caught up at the same time and in one company. Before the rapture can take place, the trans- formation taught 1 Cor. 15: 51-54; Phil. 3: 20,21 must have occurred. Our corruptible earthly body, the natural body, will be changed into a spiritual, glorified body, similar to Christ's glorified body. Only then is the rapture possible; cpo 1 Cor. 15: 44,50. Both the trans- formation and the rapture takes place "in a moment, in the twin- kling of an eye," 1 Cor. 15: 52. We "shall be caught up," literally, snatched, carried off suddenly. The term describes the swiftness and irresistible force by which those raised up together with the living ones will be carried upward. The term is to be understood as a real and actual bodily lifting up, ascending through the air. The passive denotes this ascent as one not due to our mvn strength, but to the power of God. Acts 8: 39. This ascension, or rapture, takes place "in the clouds." In the original the article is missing. We shall be caught up in clouds, either surrounded by clouds, or preferably, upon clouds, riding and sitting upon them as upon a throne. Clouds appear elsewhere in Scripture as the heavenly triumphal chariot. As such they serve God when He comes down from heaven; as such they serve the Christians when they are lifted up from the earth to heaven. Cpo Dan. 7: 13; Acts 1: 9, 11; Matt. 24:30; 26:64; Rev. 1:7; 14:14; 2 Kings 2:11; Rev. 11:12. The clouds of heaven descend to carry upward those ascending from the earth. As the Lord comes in majesty and glory, so they that are the Lord's own shall be carried toward Him gloriously, majestically. What a marvelous prospect! What a unique promise, approximated only Matt. 25: 6. The purpose of this ascent is "to meet the Lord," to be led into His presence. "In the air" is to be connected with "caught up" and means simply "into the air," €i<; UEQU, not "through the air," or "into heaven." The apostle does not mean to say that the air is to be the abiding dwelling place of the Christians together with Christ. The air, the atmosphere surrounding our earth, is merely their meeting place, when Christ descends from heaven and the glorified saints ascend towards Him. They meet midway between heaven and earth, in the air. The be- lievers go forth to meet the Lord, as the chief citizens of a common- wealth go forth to meet and greet and welcome their returning king; as a bride hurries forth to be with her bridegroom; cpo 2 Thess. 2: 1; Matt. 24: 31. In this manner God shall through Jesus Eschatology in the Ep-istles to the Thessalonians 653 bring with Jesus those that have fallen asleep, v.14. The other event of that great Day, the final Judgment of the world, is not men- tioned here because Paul's purpose was merely to quiet the doubts and misgivings of the Thessalonians concerning their dead fellow Christians. For this reason, in keeping with this purpose, nothing is said of the transformation of the believers and the general resurrection of all the dead. Paul permits another glance at the unspeakable bliss and joy of yonder world. He states the final goal of the several acts pic- tuxed, "and so shall we ever be with the Lord." "So," by virtue of this marvelous meeting and communion with the Lord. "Ever," for all times, without ceasing, we shall be with Him. "ViTith" Him, cruv, not !LEcU.. The latter term expresses rather an external com- panionship, the former, an intimate fellowship and communion. "We," the living and those that had fallen asleep, together in a happy re-union. Where the Lord is to remain forever with His own, is not stated here; only the inseparable communion is as- serted, we forever with the Lord, He forever with us. The place, of course, is heaven, J aIm 14: 2,3; 2 Cor. 5: 1; 2 Tim. 1: 18; the kingdom of everlasting glory and bliss. We note finally that not all men shall die and that the transformation is not to be regarded as a momentary death, cpo 1 Cor. 15: 51. "Wherefore comfort one another with these words." V. 18. That is the concluding exhortation introduced by the consecutive particle mcreE, so, on this account, because of the information given. And rr(J.Q(J.x(J.AEhE in keeping with the context demands the transla- tion, "comfort, console," not "exhort," as in chap. 4: 1. It connects with the "sorrow" of v. 13. Comfort one another "with these words," on the basis of these words, vv.15-17, spoken by the Lord and transmitted to you by me. An inexhaustible wellspring of comfort is here opened to all Christians weeping at the deathbeds and the graves of their loved ones. Their dead are not lost, are not at a disadvantage. They shall rise again, hurry to meet the Lord, to be forever with Him. Let us drink deeply of these living waters! In Oxyrhynchos in Egypt a letter of condolence has been discovered written by an Egyptian woman, Eirene, to a family of her ac- quaintance, closing with words that seem to agree with these closing words of Paul. And what comfort does Eirene dispense to the mOUTIlers? She assures them that together with them she mourns their loss. "I was grieved and wept as much over Eumoiros as over Didymos, and I did all that was fitting, as did all my family .... But still we can do nothing in such a case. So comfort yourselves"; quoted in the Expositor's Greek New Testament in locum. That illustrates Paul's expression "as others which have no hope." How 654 False Principia Cognoscendi in Theology grateful ought we to be for the firm and sure hope that the inspired Word of God, Holy Scripture, offers to us so freely! Maranatha. The Lord cometh! 1 Cor. 16: 22. "And the Spirit and the bride says, Come! And let him that hearcth say, Come!" "He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly! Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!" Rev. 22:17, 21. 4 • , L. FuERBRINGER False Principia Cognoscendi in Theology The Second of Tl:lree Public Lectures Delivered at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Mo., April 15, 1942 It is a fact, admitted also by scientists, that all theological knowledge, in the very nature of the case, must be derived from God Himself. It is a fact, furthermore, that God holds all who venture to speak for Him strictly to His Word when He declares: "To the Law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." Is. 8: 20. Lastly, it is a fact that God has issued a solemn warning by the first and the last writers of our Bible that no man shall dare either to add to or take away aught from the Scriptures, Deut. 4: 2; Rev. 22: 18, 19. This being so, we are amazed at the audacity of men who have tried to substitute for the Word of God, either in part or whole, a different source of knowledge for theology, to the incalculable damage of true theology. Foremost among false pYincipia cognoscendi in theology is human reason, not only that of outsiders to the Christian religion, but also that of the Christian himself. Attacks from this quarter upon theology come partly in the form of open defiance to, and absolute rejection of, the teachings of theology, which are de- nounced not only as supranatural, beyond reason, but also as un- reasonable, contrary to common intelligence; as attempts to hyp- notize the thinking faculty in man and to deprive him of his judgment. Partly these attacks come in the form of subtle insinua- tions to the theologian himself, who imagines that he must make the deep truths of God's revelation acceptable to the reason of men and that he is able to do so, because he has become enlightened by the Holy Spirit through his study of the divine Word and therefore can produce reasonable explanations of matters which on first blush appear inexplicable. Now, evidently the theologian must employ his ordinary in- telligence in his study of the Scriptures as of any other writing. To begin with, he must be able to read, to understand the meaning of words, to perceive the right connection of words to one another, and the structure of sentences and groups of sentences. When-