Sunday Morning Greek Blog

January 13, 2012

Who Is, Who Was, and Who Is Coming (Revelation 1:4, 8; 4:8; 16:15; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–5:11)

I’m feeling kind of rusty. It’s been over three weeks since I’ve posted anything, but then, in those three weeks, I had my kids for the holidays, the holidays themselves, three repairs on the car, two round trips to Illinois, my dad and step mom both in the hospital at different times, and a partridge in a pear tree. Life has been pretty hectic. Things are getting back to normal, though, and after getting reacquainted with my Civilization IV game, I’m ready to get back in the blogosphere.

For those of you who aren’t on my Facebook friends’ list, I did in fact accomplish my 2011 resolution: I read through the entire Greek New Testament. I realized I haven’t written anything about Revelation yet, so I think I’ll take the next few posts to do that. In the meantime, I’ve started reading through the Greek NT again, so I will continue to post on other topics as well in the coming year.

There’s No Future Like the Present

One of the things that struck me almost right off the bat in Revelation was the Greek version of the phrase “Who is, who was, and who is to come” (NIV; ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος). At first glance in the English translation, this looks like a present tense verb (“Who is”), a past tense verb (“Who was”; 4:8 switches the order of the first two), and a future tense verb (“Who is to come”). But ὁ ἐρχόμενος is not future tense! It is actually a present tense participle, so it should imply the continuous aspect, that is, the action is currently underway. While “who is to come” does signal Jesus is coming, it doesn’t reflect the emphasis of the present tense in Greek. A better translation might be “Who is already coming.” Yes, he’s on his way, and he’ll be here soon.

But this isn’t the only place the NIV and many other versions imply a future tense that isn’t there in the Greek. We find the same thing in 1 Thessalonians 5:2, where Paul says, “You know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” The verb there is ἔρχεται., present tense. So the early church didn’t look at as Jesus’s second coming as something in the distant future. They thought of it as something under way even as they wrote and read the New Testament.

When Is He Coming?

Now I can hear the anticipation out there: What is Scott’s millennial view? Well, I won’t beat around the bush. I lean toward being a post-tribulation amillennialist. (I hope WordPress’s server is ready for the barrage of comments I’ll receive on that little revelation!) When Jesus died and rose again, he established his kingdom, the body of Christ, on earth through the preaching of Peter and subsequent missionary activity of his disciples and other followers. The church represents the “millennial” (I take the term to be figurative for “a long time”) reign of Christ. I also believe we are in the time when Satan has been let loose to deceive the nations and the elect, so I think we’re beyond the millennial period now and waiting for the final consummation of history in Jesus’s triumphant return.

I can hear some of you shouting at your computers and iPhones: “But what about the rapture? Isn’t that supposed to happen before Satan is let loose?” First of all, let me say that the word “rapture” (or any Greek equivalent) is never found in the New Testament. The events described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13–5:11 are commonly referred to as the “rapture.” But these events I think could more appropriately be called a resurrection. After all, the dead bodies are raised first in that passage. Those of us who are alive will be “snatched up” (ἁρπάζω) as a resurrection from our mortal flesh. This is the same word John uses to describe what happens to the child born of the woman in Revelation 12:5. It’s also the word used in Matthew 12:29 (NIV): “Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.”

This makes a nice segue to when I think Jesus’s second coming will happen. The watershed verse in my mind that tells me when Jesus is returning is Revelation 16:15: “Look, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to walk around naked and have others see his shame.” First of all, we have another present tense form of the word for “come,” so that aspect is reemphasized. Second, and more convincing in my mind, is the language of coming like a thief. I think this ties directly in with passages like Matthew 24:43, 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 2 Peter 3:10, and Revelation 3:3. No less than four different New Testament authors (Matthew, Paul, Peter, John) use this imagery of Christ’s return. But also notice when Jesus says he is coming: just before the final bowl of wrath is poured out. Since Paul connects the “coming” with the “snatching” in 1 Thessalonians 4–5, I have to believe that the body of Christ will remain on the earth during the entire tribulation of scrolls, trumpets, and bowls.

If You’ve Got Ears, Listen Up!

Don’t think you’re going to avoid the tribulation just because you’re a Christ follower. I don’t think God has ever let believers off that easily. Noah had to endure a flood; Abraham nearly sacrificed his own son; Moses spent 80 years in the wilderness; David spent years running from Saul. We Christ followers are going to experience (and may already be experiencing) the tribulation. Otherwise, why would Paul and Peter put such emphasis on being found holy, spotless, and blameless (Ephesians 1:4; 2 Peter 3:11–14)? Why the emphasis on “being ready” if we’re not going to live through it (or die in it!)?

Conclusion

Christ is on his way. We don’t know when: no one does. It may be 2012; it may not be until 2512. But we know he is true to his word, patient with the lost, and that he will come at the appointed time to win the final battle over sin and evil. Eternity with him will be glorious to say the least. I’m looking forward to it. I hope you are too.

Peace

Scott Stocking

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2 Comments »

  1. (Scott – feel free to delete this for any reason – If you can’t delete tell me and I’ll try on this end)

    I agree!

    I was blessed, in an odd way, to have been raised atheist.
    In college I read ‘The Late Great Planet Earth’ and was aware enough of the state of the world to recognize the truth therein.
    I prayed the prayer in the back of the book.
    And began a slow crawl out of abject ignorance about GOD.
    Once I got an idea of what HE wanted I spent two yrs trying to disprove HIS word.
    Based on the premise, “If GOD was not big enough to keep HIS word true and intact HE was not big enough to save a slimeball like me”.
    Once that was resolved (miraculously) I made it a point to read every biography and autobiography of every christian leader I could find
    from Fenelon and Madam Guyon to Pat Robertson.
    I went at each point of doctrine without ANY preconceived ideas.
    I didn’t care if healing was for this age or not I just wanted to know the truth.

    So too I went at the entire area of eschatology.
    There are at least 4000 books on the subject and no two of them are the same.
    Sure many share the broad strokes but only if you don’t go too deep.
    Why is this? Because GOD has not revealed all as yet. So just trust HIM and walk in faith.

    My ‘official’ position is neither “pre”, “mid, or “post” (or any of the other subs) is is “PAN”.
    IE; I think it’ll all pan out in the end!

    Though I lean strongly the same way as the author and believe I could win
    a debate with any “pre” believer…I JUST DON”T CARE!!!!!
    “Why?”, you ask….
    Because if I’m wrong I get to go ANYWAY!

    If the “pre” guys are wrong ..are they ready? Can their faith take the jolt?
    In the last days their will come a great “falling away”. (apostacia – “to become divorced from”) 2 Thess:2:3
    And I worry that the cultish dedication to this “pre” doctrine might be the biggest cause. (http://is.gd/LiPaM3)

    One of the clearest and most constant proofs of cultism is the putting some point of doctrine
    above the place of CHRIST or in a place higher in importance than GOD’s word has it.

    I choose to believe in GOD’s wisdom, mercy, and faithfulness.
    I know HE knows best and that regardless of the storm to come I’ll end up with HIM.
    And this entire life was never the point…it is only the prep.

    Comment by Mitch Graves — January 28, 2012 @ 5:43 pm | Reply

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Mitch. The “panmillennialist” position is a popular one with those of us who don’t care to debate finer details of eschatology. We know we’re going, so that’s all that really matters. “When” is not so relevant. Thank you for reading the blog. Peace to you.
      Scott

      Comment by Scott Stocking — January 28, 2012 @ 9:48 pm | Reply


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