Tuesday, October 13, 2009

1 Thessalonians 1:10

In the previous article I sought to defend the use of Revelation 3:10 as exegetically valid in the Grace Brethren Statement of Faith. The other verse in the Statement which has been challenged is First Thessalonians 1:10 - "and to wait for His Son from heaven, Whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, Who rescues us from the wrath to come."

Granted, genuine believers from varying eschatological viewpoints will either claim this verse as a proof-text or at least a text that fits within their approach. The critical discussion pivots around the extent of the meaning of the phrase "the wrath to come".

Is "the wrath to come" the "second death/lake of fire" poured out on unbelievers at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:12-15)? Probably all believers would say "Yes", that Jesus rescues us from the coming wrath of Hell. Those who are amillennial, postmillennial, or non-"tribulational"-premillennial would probably limit the extent of the meaning of "the wrath to come" to that. Of course, believers are already rescued from any present experience of God's wrath (John 3:36, Romans 8:1), but the issue in First Thessalonians 1:10 is future wrath, not present.

But, does the "wrath to come" only refer to the believer's rescue from Hell (and perhaps some pre-realized deliverance from present wrath), or does "wrath to come" include more? Those who understand Revelation chs 6-18 as describing a yet future sequence of events, see Revelation 6:17 as a crucial verse for this discussion - "the great day of their wrath has come". There will be a future time of God's wrath on earth, and it will happen during the six seals of Revelation 6 and extend beyond that. The verb "has come" (elthen) is aorist indicative, "referring to the previous arrival of the wrath, not something that is about to take place" (from Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7 An Exegetical Commentary, Moody, 1992, p.457). Any attempts to make elthen into a futuristic aorist, draining any wrath out of the first six seals of Revelation 6, does so quite unnaturally, unusually, and incorrectly.

Thus, the entirety of the seven years of Revelation 6-18 contains the wrath of God. The "pre-wrath" deliverance from future wrath promised in First Thessalonians 1:10 includes deliverance from the wrath of God that will come within the first six seals of Revelation 6. Comparing this discussion with the one in the previous article indicates that what is being spoken of in Revelation 3:10 is also being spoken of in First Thessalonians 1:10.

Therefore, the Grace Brethren Statement of Faith has used First Thessalonians 1:10 properly, as it has Revelation 3:10.