Sunday, June 22, 2008

Paul Explains Dying in Christ

Recently, I did some reading concerning the many challenges Paul faced. I was particularly struck with how Paul would deal with ideology. The next few post will be notes from how I interpret Paul’s efforts. Below is a passage from I Thessalonians chapter four:

13Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18Therefore encourage each other with these words.

Thessalonians I and II are both known as Eschatology. They speak of last day events. This appears to be the main concern for Paul having written to Thessalonica. In the above passage, Paul addresses a concern of the Thessalonians about mortality.

Imagine having been involved in paganism and now are converted to Christianity which is monotheistic. I read verse 13 and imagine these converted pagans had been promised many things in their worship of false idols. Now, for being a Christian they are confronted by persecution and death. Were the Thessalonians disillusioned as to what eternal life is?

Again, I imagine that the Thessalonians witnessed the physical death of those who were saved and received the promise of eternal life while (possibly) having believed ‘eternal life’ to be a never ending ‘physical existence’.

So, in verse 13, Paul follows up on an earlier statement made in 3:10 concerning the need to supply what is lacking in the Thessalonians faith. He says, “We do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep;”

Ignorance comes to us through the Greek word ἀγνοεῖν (an-o-ein). It means, “Lack of understanding and sin through not understanding”. So, Paul understanding the Thessalonians to have come from a background of Pagans who have no hope (ἐλπίδα [el-pee-da] – the object or thing hoped for) discusses the hope they should have with a proper perspective on death and dying in Christ. He uses the word κοιμωμένων (koi-mo-menon)for “slept” or “remained” ("having gone to bed"). Paul says, “Yes, they have remained”. Their bodies have perished and their spirits are waiting for Christ to come back.

Sleeping in death is the idea Paul delivered, reinforcing it with “having slept” (koimethentos) in verse 15.

Note: I had used different lexicons and Interlinier Bibles to gather understanding. As is the case, there are different Greek text due to not having a complete copy of the Koin Greek text for I Thessalonians . The text we read in our Bibles today comes from making comparisons in the available fragments of the ancient scrolls where there is not a complete ancient copy.


thekingpin68 said...

The Greek site looks very good. I have bookmarked it and it should complement my books.


jeleasure said...

Glad I could help. In fact, honored to have assisted someone with such credentials, as in yourself.
You are right about posting comments. I actually need to discipline myself more.