Saturday, October 18, 2014

Snatched Up For A Meeting by Gary Manning

"The release of the movie Left Behind has again drawn attention to the Christian belief in the rapture. The movie tries to portray the chaos in the world as millions of Christians suddenly disappear. This image has interested Christians for quite a while. I recall watching the Thief in the Night series of movies back in the 1970s (the Antichrist had sideburns!). But I am interested in a question that is often overlooked: what is the point of the rapture in the Bible?

The idea of the rapture is based primarily on one passage in the Bible. In referring to the second coming of Christ, Paul says:

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive who remain will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and thus we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thess. 4:16-17)

The word "caught up" translates the Greek word ἁρπάζω (harpazō), which merely means to catch, snatch or take away. Our word rapture is based on the Latin translation of that word, raptus.

But I think that the purpose of the snatching is more important than the snatching itself. Paul says that we will be caught up "for a meeting (ἀπάντησις, apantēsis) with the Lord." What kind of meeting is this? (I hope it's not like some of the meetings that I am summoned to!) What did it mean to the first readers of Paul's letter? 

The word ἀπάντησις (along with its verb form ἀπαντάω and cognate synonyms ὑπάντησις and ὑπαντάω) is often used for a specific kind of meeting. In the ancient Mediterranean world, arriving rulers and other respected figures had to be met and welcomed outside the city.

A quote from Josephus illustrates this well-known custom:

But while these kings were spending time with him [Agrippa I], Marcus, the governor of Syria arrived. So the king [Agrippa], in order to keep proper respect toward the Romans,went out of the city to meet him [ὑπαντάω], about seven stadia [= one mile]. (Josephus,Ant. 19.340)

Agrippa (known in Acts 12 as the Herod who executed James and died of a worm infestation) showed respect by giving a formal welcome (ὑπαντάω) to the Roman governor a mile outside the city. Josephus uses the same set of words to describe the triumphal entry of Alexander the Great in Jerusalem (Ant. 11.327-329), as well as triumphal welcomes to other notables such as Vespasian, Titus and Jonathan (see Ant.13.101, Wars 7.100, 7.119, Life 1.411).

This custom of welcoming outside the city is also found in the Bible. When residents of Jerusalem come out to meet Jesus at his triumphal entry, it is called a ὑπάντησις (John 12:13). Sometimes it is practiced on a smaller scale. In Jesus' parable of the virgins, the bridesmaids are called outside to meet the bridegroom (Matt 25:1, ὑπάντησις; 25:6, ἀπάντησις). When Jesus goes to see Mary and Martha, Martha comes to meet him (ὑπαντάω) outside of town; quite likely, Jesus stops there and sends a messenger in so that she can meet him (John 11:20-30). 

The servants of the Galilean nobleman meet him (ὑπαντάω) outside when he returns to find his healed son (John 4:51). When Paul comes to Rome, Christians come out to meet him (ἀπάντησις) at Three Taverns, eleven miles from Rome (Acts 28:15). Other examples of this custom (and the same ἀπάντησις word-group) can be found in Gen 14:17, 18:2, 19:1, 33:8, Jdg 4:18, 11:31, 34 and Matt 8:34.

So this kind of meeting is a formal welcome, like a triumphal entry. Residents of the city go outside the city to welcome the visiting king and bring him back into the city. It is a time both of celebration and honor for the arriving dignitary. This meaning fits very well in the passage in 1 Thess 4. The Christians in Thessalonica were uncertain about what happened to their brothers and sisters who  died (1 Thess 4:13-15). They did not know if those who had died would be able to participate in the return of Christ. 

Paul encourages them: not only will "the dead in Christ... rise first," but all the saints, living and dead, will participate together in a triumphal welcome of Jesus. Just as residents of a city go out to welcome a king and accompany him in, all the saints will rise to welcome Jesus to earth. The point of the snatching is not to escape, but to be part of a "meeting," the triumphal entry of Jesus." 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Soul Food

My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times. (Psalm 119:20 ESV)

My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word! (Psalm 119:25 ESV)

The soul is the immaterial part of us that houses our thoughts, emotions, and our wills. It is the very core of our being. Our souls have the capacity to grow and become stronger and more in tune with God. But they must be fed. The word of God is what our souls must feast on to grow and to stay healthy.  The soul has the capability to grow and expand as it receives and obeys God's Spirit anointed words. But if we neglect our souls they will begin to dry up and shrivel spiritually. The Scriptures bring wisdom, understanding, and discernment to our inner person.

When God's words are distorted or taken seriously out of context, they can become destructive to the soul. Satan himself quoted Scripture to Jesus out of their original context. Lies and distortions of the truth create strongholds in our minds that negatively effect our souls, which results in bad behavior. When our souls are living in constant contradiction to the truth we stay in a state of prenuptial anxiety.

Distorted views of God and false religious beliefs bring our souls to ruin. Our souls were created to commune and to be with God forever. So, receive the word of God within yourself gladly and obey the commands of Jesus, and abide with him. - Bobby

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Do You Hear Him Calling?

Why does the wicked renounce God and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”? (Psalm 10:13 ESV)

if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3 ESV)

The attitude of many in our nation has been to renounce God and the authority of his word. This new sense of "enlightenment" mocks God and seeks to eradicate his name from our national life. We have allowed great spiritual darkness into our land. The present course that we are on will prove to be disastrous, if we don't turn back to God. 

The church in America must be awakened to turn from our own sins and to pray. We are responsible for much of the moral chaos that we see in our culture. The lack of teaching on discipleship in many of our churches has resulted in many false conversions. Following Jesus as our Lord and walking away from our sinful, rebellious and self - centered lives is not optional.

The darkness that was sown into our culture during the sexual revolution of the 60's and 70's has resulted in a harvest of lawlessness, and we are presently reaping what we have sown. Sexual sin (both heterosexual and homosexual) has gone unopposed in many American churches. Truth and compassion must be expressed as we all take inventory of our own lives and repent of our sins. Greed and excessive materialism has infiltrated the Church, and with some, it has become its main message. 

We are called to be in the world, but not of it. God is full of mercy and it's time for his people to return to him. Do you hear Him calling? - Bobby

Monday, September 22, 2014

A Prayer For Persecuted Christians

Sovereign God,
we worship You
and we acknowledge that You know all of those
who suffer in Your name.
We remember those who are imprisoned for their faith
and ask that they would join with the Apostle Paul
to see that even though they remain captive,
their chains have furthered the gospel,
not frustrated it.
May they inspire and embolden their fellow believers
to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.
God of all comfort,
for those who are tortured both in body and mind,
give them the grace to endure
and to see their suffering as part of following in Christ’s footsteps.
Merciful God,
for those asked to pay the ultimate price;
who are martyred because of their love for You,
may they truly know Christ
and the power of His resurrection
and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings,
becoming like Him in His death.
Father God,
for those who are widowed and orphaned
may they know the comfort that comes from Your promised presence
even when they walk through the valley.
May they be strengthened by Your Spirit,
enabling them to rejoice with the psalmist
as they proclaim that the Lord will not abandon them in death.
Heavenly Father,
we ask that You would make us ever mindful of our brothers and sisters around the world
who need us to stand with them
as they suffer in Your name.
Teach us what it means
to overcome by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of our testimony;
we pray that we would not love our lives so much as to shrink from death.
O Lord, hear our prayer.

Friday, September 19, 2014

A Prayer Of Repentance

Most holy and merciful Father:
I confess that I have sinned by my own fault
in thought, word, and deed;
by what I have done, and by what I have left undone.
I have not loved you with my whole heart, and mind, and strength. I have not loved my neighbors as myself. I have not forgiven others, as I have been forgiven.
Have mercy on me, Lord.
I have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us. I have not been true to the mind of Christ. I have grieved your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on me, Lord.
I confess to you, Lord, all my past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of my life.
I confess to you, Lord.
My self-indulgent appetites and ways, and my exploitation of other people,
I confess to you, Lord.
My anger at my own frustration, and my envy of those more fortunate than I,
I confess to you, Lord.
My intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and my dishonesty in daily life and work,
I confess to you, Lord.
My negligence in prayer and worship, and my failure to commend the faith that is in me,
I confess to you, Lord.
Accept my repentance, Lord, for the wrongs I have done: for my blindness to human need and suffering, and my indifference to indulgence and cruelty,
Accept my repentance, Lord.
For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward my neighbors, and for my prejudice and contempt towards those who differ from me,
Accept my repentance, Lord.
For my waste and pollution of your creation, and my lack of concern for those who come after us,
Accept my repentance Lord.
Restore me, good Lord, and let your anger depart from me,
Favorably hear me for your mercy is great.
Accomplish in me and all of your church the work of your salvation,
That I may show forth all your glory in the world.
By the cross of your Son, our Lord,
Bring me with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.
- from The Book of Common Prayer