The Berean Expositor
Volume 43 - Page 213 of 243
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This is similar to the first epistle and Rom. 16: 20. So concludes two of the earliest
letters of Paul. It should hardly be necessary to say that no doctrinal import can be placed
on the order of the epistles given in the A.V. Though the Thessalonian letters come last
in this grouping, no teaching can be deduced from this. To teach that these letters give
the climax of revelation given in Paul's epistles because of this position is false. The
Apostle was in the early stages of his ministry at this point and the climax was yet to
come in his prison letters after the nation of Israel had been set aside in unbelief at the
ends of the Acts period.
Those who hold the above mentioned view fail to understand the position of the
people of Israel during this time and the relationship of I Thess. 4:, with its emphasis on
the return of Christ, to the purpose then being worked out. So much is usually mentally
added by such to what is actually taught in this chapter that a distorted view is bound to
result. How many who read the words, `The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven
with a shout . . . . . then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with
them in the air . . . . ." add in their minds the thought that these believers are then taken
up to heaven? The addition of the word `up' in our English version partly suggest this
idea, but there is no warrant for it in the original Greek. There is no thought of direction
in the verb harpago; it could just as easily mean `caught downwards' as upwards. The
immediate context does not deal with what happens after this `catching away'. Only the
remoter context and what had already been revealed can guide us here.  It is the
descending Lord that these saints meet and as both these letters deal with the Lord's
arrival (parousia) there is nothing that need be added by ourselves in order to understand
what 4: 16, 17 is teaching. Those who do so evidently have an axe to grind and this is
not the way to get truth.
We have intensely grateful for these early epistles of Paul, showing us, as they do, his
faithful concern for the well-being of the Thessalonian saints, their zeal as well as some
of their problems which could only be resolved by understanding the purpose of God so
far as it had been revealed at this time. May we have grace to imitate their practical
keenness and outworking of the Truth, so that it can be said of us, as it was of them,
"Ye were ensamples to all that believe" (I Thess. 1: 7).