Thursday, January 22, 2015

1 Cor 15 and the Rapture


1 Corinthians 15:51-58

A New Testament mystery is a revealed secret. We have seen that we live in the dispensation of the Mystery. Another mystery that was revealed to the Apostle Paul is the mystery of the rapture. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Paul gives us the revelation of the rapture. However, in 1 Corinthians 15:51-58, he reveals the mystery of the rapture. In this passage we see:


Paul opens this section in 1 Corinthians 15:51 with the word, “Behold, I show you a mystery.” The word behold introduces not only a new section upon the general subject a resurrection, but also a new fact. The Old Testament saints knew of and longed for the coming resurrection. Two of their own were taken without seeing death; Enoch and Elijah (Hebrews 11:5, 2 Kings 2:11). They knew that when the Messiah came to set up their kingdom that He would resurrect them (Job 19:25-27). Now Paul is about to reveal a fact they did not know. It was a mystery and an important one. This is brought out by the original word order which reads “Behold, a mystery to you I tell.” The emphasis is on the word mystery.


1 Corinthians 15:51 tells us that the mystery that Paul is revealing is twofold:
  • First, that death is not inevitable. He plainly declares: “We shall not all sleep.” The word “sleep” in the context means death. We shall not all see death says Paul. That grim reaper will not cut down all, for when Christ comes there will be believers that are alive. They will not experience death.
  • Second, Paul reveals that those who are alive will be changed. The Greek word here is very interesting, for it is the word allasso meaning to make other than it is, to transform. The heart of this mystery is that not only are the resurrected ones going to have new bodies, but so are those who are alive at His coming. We, who are alive and caught up (raptured) will be transformed.


This transformation will be instantaneous. It will occur “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Cor. 15:52). The Greek word for moment is atomos, a compound word which is made up of two words meaning it cannot be cut and lateral means an indivisible moment. The Greek word for twinkling is rhipe indicating a rapid movement such as the rush of the wind. Our transformation will be in an instant, a fraction of a second we will be changed.

It will occur at the last trumpet of this dispensation. This is the signal for which the church is listening. In 1 Thessalonians 4:16, we read at the rapture we will hear the trump of God. When that signal comes we will be “caught up” to meet the Lord in the air, which will be the time of our transformation.

The debate is when is this last trump spoken of here? Many identify it as the seventh trumpet of Revelation 11:15. This sounds good, however, there are serious problems with this.
  • First, the seventh trumpet is not the last trumpet in Scripture. This is clear from Matthew 24:31 which refers to the time of Revelation 19. The seventh trumpet is last only in the sense of the six which preceded it, but is not the absolutely last trumpet.
  • Second, there is no indication that the seventh trumpet signals a resurrection of any type in Revelation 11. In fact, many events follow this seventh trumpet.

No, the trumpet of 1 Corinthians is not the seventh trumpet of Revelation, but is the last trumpet of this dispensation of grace. It will come even before the first of the seven trumpets of Revelation is blown. It will come to signal our catching up to be with the Lord before the Day of the Lord occurs. In this connection, note that the Greek word used is salpinx and is a military allusion. The great expositor, Harry Ironside explains the allusion this way:
When a Roman camp was about to be broken up, whether in the middle of the night or in the day, a trumpet was sounded. The first blast meant, “Strike tents and prepare to depart.” The second meant, “Fall into line,” and when what was called “the last trump” sounded it meant, “March away.”[1]


“Both those who are resurrected and those who are alive will go through the same type of change. We will be made incorruptible and immortal. The word incorruption is apohthartos, meaning not liable to corruption or decay, and many translated it imperishable. The word is used of God Himself in Romans 1:23, as well as the Word of God (1 Peter 1:23), and our inheritance (1 Peter 1:4). For the resurrected they will be raised from corruption to incorruption, for us who are alive our bodies will be changed into incorruptible bodies.

The word immortal is athanasia which is only found twice in the Greek New Testament (here and 1 Timothy 6:16). It refers to God, who alone has immortality in and of Himself (1 Timothy 6:16). It also refers to those who will take part in the rapture and will become immortal. It is then that death will be “swallowed up by life” (2 Corinthians 5:4).

These two types of changes are absolutely necessary. This is emphasized by the word “must” (1 Corinthians 15:53). It is then our humble estate will be in “conformity with the body of His glory” (Philippians 3:21). We will instantaneously be incorruptible and immortal.


In 1 Corinthians 15:54-58 gives us the results of our transformation. They can be divided into two sections:
  • We see the future results. This is seen in the words “when…then” (15:54). When the fulfillment of the mystery of the rapture happens, then we will have a transformed body which will result in a victorious body. We will be victorious over death (15-54-55) and sin (15:56). The source of this victory is Jesus Christ (15:57).
  • It has present results (15:58). The word “therefore” reaches back to this mystery. Because of knowing the mystery it produces certain results in the present. The doctrine of the rapture is not just for the head, but also the heart. This doctrine determines duty. The word “be” is in the imperative, and denotes duty in light of this mystery. It leads to certain results in the here and now. This duty is brought out by the words: “steadfast, unmovable, and always abounding” (15:58). The first is faithfulness which is described by the two adjectives—steadfast and unmovable. The word steadfast is hedraios, meaning set, fixed, settled, firm, never to be uprooted or unsettled. It implies a fixed purpose of the heart. Second, the word “unmovable” is ametakinetos, denoting resistance against forces which move us away from our allegiance (cf. Hebrews 13:9). Faithfulness involves both being firmly in place and resistance to forces that try to move us away from the truth. In addition, the truth of the rapture produces activity, which is brought out by the words “always abounding.” The Greek word is perisseuo, which in this context means to abound in performance. It is a present active participle indicating continuous action.  We can abound in his work because His grace abounds in us (2 Corinthians 9:8; Ephesians 1:7-8). We are to be open channels of His abounding grace. Lastly, we have assurance. We are to know that our “toil is not in vain in the Lord.” This knowledge gives us assurance. The knowledge of the Rapture gives us an assuring hope. The present results speak of our sanctification.

My friend, does the knowledge of this mystery have a sanctifying influence in your life? Do you abound in the work of the Lord, knowing that at any moment the trumpet could sound and you could find yourself in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ? May the knowledge of this blessed hope produce in us such a desire.

[1]  Harry Ironside, FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS, [Loizeaux Brothers, Neptune, NJ 1971], 529.  

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Snapshots of Jesus in Mark #9

Mark 9:33-37

Photography can be deceptive. Have you ever see a picture where an item is hidden within a photo? It may be a lizard within the rocks. You can easily miss it without close examination. You have to search out the item. This is what Jesus is doing in this Scripture. The real intent is not immediately seen in the setting.

In this snapshot provided by Mark, the context is how little the disciples understood the essence of greatness. Their perspective was internal, even selfish. They saw themselves as valuable, even essential in the service of God. They had been discussing all day who was the greatest (9:33-34). The human heart always seeks out gain and selfish gratification—even in believers. I call this the reservoir mentality. It wants to hold the blessings and honors of God for oneself. The reservoir wants to dam up the living water of Christ to show off how much it can hold. It shows people the amazing amount it can hold. These types of believers fail to see the purpose of their existence.

It is this attitude that Jesus deals with here. As Jesus often does in his dealing with the disciples, he simply asks a question—“what were you discussing on the way?” (v. 33). Simple but direct. With this type of question you immediately know that you were doing the wrong thing. You have no good answer. You just keep silent.  Guilt and shame drape over you like a blanket. What we fail to understand is that greatest is a comparative term. It prides itself in rank. This is clearly seen in their disputing. Their false assumption, and one we can get caught up in, is that obtaining rank now among others assures us rank in God’s kingdom.  

He answers with a paradox: “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all” (v. 35). Williamson observes: “Jesus does not despise the desire to be first, but his definition of greatness stands the world’s ordering of priorities on its head and radically challenges a fundamental assumption about achievement.”[1]

Jesus illustrates this by taking a child in his arms, and declaring: “Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me” (v. 37). Here Jesus is hiding greatest in the photograph of a child. The child represents Tthe most needy of society. In the world of Jesus, children were considered as people of dependence, having no power, and as needy. True greatest is reaching down (grace in action) and receiving them. The word receiving means to have concern, care, and kindness toward them. It also involves an element of protection and provision. The basis for the action is in my name. Greatest involves not selfishness, but selflessness. Greatness in the eyes of Jesus is ministry. It is sharing the blessings of grace. It is not being a reservoir of the grace granted to us, but a channel of the grace to others. The action of being a channel of grace in reality shows Christ the giver of grace. Are you a reservoir or a channel? The difference determines greatest in the eyes of our Lord.   

[1]  Lamar Williamson, Jr., MARK, [John Knox Press, Atlanta, 1983], 170.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Luke 16:19-31

One-third of Christ’s teaching found in the Gospels is in the form of parables. Although some believe they are fairy tales or folk tales not actual events. All the parables of Christ’s were given from the standpoint of reality found in either common experiences of mankind or nature. Parables have a common element, they are based on reality. A parable is taken from the realm of worldly reality and communicates a spiritual reality. The parable of Lazarus and the rich man is no exception.

Setting of the Parable

This parable is found in a series of parables given in the company of both his disciples and the Pharisees and scribes. In Luke 15, the Lord IS attacked for eating with publicans and sinners. Jesus, therefore, gives three parables that deal with the wrong attitude expressed toward people. In chapter 16, the Lord turns His attention to disciples and gives a parable showing the wrong attitude and use of material possessions (16:1-13). The Pharisees react by “scoffing at Him” (16:14). The Greek word ekmukterizo, means to turn up your nose, sneer at, or ridicule. The reason for scoffing is that they were “lovers of money” (16:14). After confronting their attitude (16:15-18), Jesus gives the parable.

The Emphasis of the Parable

The emphasis of the parable is the rich man. Everything in the parable focuses on him. Lazarus is used as a point of contrast. The contrasts are numerous, as well as being sharp and clear: life/afterlife: rich/poor; Heaven/Hell, to name a few. The contrasts are used to show the results of wrong attitudes toward people and material possessions. It condemns such shameful handling of such precious gifts and shows the just compensation that results.

The Parable

The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is divided into a simple threefold division: their life, death, and afterlife.

The Lives of the Rich Man and Lazarus (16:19-21)

The life of the rich man is one of sumptuousness and selfishness. He is dressed like royalty: “clothed in purple and fine linen.” Hendricksen says “His living day by day in dazzling splendor marks him as a showoff, a strutting peacock.”[1] The word “fared sumptuously” indicates he lived festively. He was a party animal. Such luxury and attitude produced indifference. Indifference will dam up a heart of sympathy and make one blind one to the gate of opportunity.

In contrast the life of the beggar, Lazarus, was one of suffering, need, and shame (16:20-21). He laid in his misery, hoping for mercy from the unmerciful. No mercy came except from the dogs. What an indictment of man’s inhumanity to man! He received no grace but that of God’s (Lazarus means God helps).

The Death of the Rich Man and Lazarus (16:22)

The only common ground between the two men is death. It is the common heritage of all. The appointment of death is sure (Hebrews 9:27). The suffering of the beggar and the feasting of the rich man ended on common ground—the grave.

In death there rings a noticeable difference between the two. Lazarus was “called by the angels into Abraham’s bosom.” The phrase denotes comfort, peace, and blessedness that is absent from what we read of the rich man. The rich man “died and was buried.” Hendricksen notes: “Note the meaningful contrast: nothing is said about the beggar’s burial; on the other hand, nothing is said here about the rich man’s soul as to what happened to it at the moment of death.”[2]

The Afterlife of Lazarus and the Rich Man (16:23-31).

The emphasis of this section is on the rich man rather than Lazarus. Verse 23 continues the through of the last half of verse 22 concerning the rich man. He died, and now we are informed of his destination—“in Hell.” This must have come as a surprise for the rich man. According to Pharisaic doctrine, he should have been transported into God’s presence and eternal life. That did not happen. Instead of blessedness, he was tormented in Hell. The word is Hades and refers to the region of the underworld, a region where spirits who are lost await the final judgment.

Contrary to popular opinion, Abraham’s bosom is not a part of Hades. Marten Woudstra makes this clear:
Hades and Abraham’s bosom are distinct places, not two compartments of the same place. If Abraham’s bosom were intended to have reference to one of the divisions of Hades, then the other division would have been mentioned with equal precision. Hades is mentioned in connection with Dives [the rich man] only; the other place is “afar off.” Hades is associated with being in torment; the latter appears to be the consequence of being in Hades. If Hades were a neutral concept there, then the contrast with the rich man’s former sumptuous state would not have been expressed.[3]

Christ does not communicate the doctrine known as soul sleep in this passage. There is clearly conscious existence after death. They talk (16:24), recognized others (16:23), feel (16:24), and show concern (16:28). Each man is conscious of who they are, where they are, and what they feel. They are not in an unconscious state of sleep.

Jesus communicates the certainty and reality of blessedness of the saved and the future of the unsaved. There is a Hell for those who “obey not the gospel of Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:8). It confirms there is no second chance after death. Nowhere does the rich man who has died ever try to repent or express any hope of changing his location. At death one’s eternal destiny is settled. Luke 26:26 declares, “there is a great gulf fixed; so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.”  It is impossible to bridge the gulf. The gulf is sterizo, indicating a permanently and firmly fixed gulf, established or secured. The choices made in life cannot be reversed in the afterlife. Today is the day of salvation, not tomorrow. Faith is a choice that must be made today. There is no second chance after the grave.

Jesus closes with the blindness of unbelief. The rich man begs for someone from the dead to go to his brothers. He believes they will be converted (16:30). But unbelief will not see it that way. Lazarus (not the one here, but the one in John 11) came back from the dead and there was no great conversion. Christ would later rise from the dead. But those who did not believe Moses and the Prophets were not convinced, nor converted (cf. Matthew 28:11-15).

This parable is directed to the Pharisees (16:14). It attacks three popular doctrines that they held, and is still evident today.

  1. The Prosperity Gospel. The Pharisees held that wealth was a sign of righteousness and blessing of God. It was a sign of God’s approval. This gospel is being revived today. However, the parable brings out that this is a false gospel. Christ revealed that the possession of riches does not guarantee salvation, nor is it the evidence of God’s approval. Money is neither a sign of salvation nor sanctification. Wealth along with men who put their trust in wealth will perish.
  2. The Doctrine of Poverty. Corresponding to the above doctrine, the Pharisees believed that a person who was poor indicated his sinfulness. According to their view, the poor were hated by God, thus condemned. Being poor indicate God’s disapproval. Again this is a false doctrine. The lack of material things does not indicate God’s judgment. Lazarus came into God’s blessing not because he was poor financially, but poor in spirit. We are not to interpret that the lack of riches precludes salvation. Pentecost points out: “The beggar was “poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3) as well as poor in material blessings; because he was poor in spirit, he had his part in the presence of God.”[4]
  3. Salvation by Association. The Pharisees believed that because they were sons of Abraham, salvation was theirs. They “believed that Father Abraham sat at the gates of Hades and would not let one of his sons pass through.”[5] Neither being a physical descendant, nor being a member of an organized body, brings one salvation. Salvation does not come because one is born into a Christian family, or is a member of a local church. Salvation comes by grace through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-10). We are not to trust in riches, or the lack of them; but we are to trust in Christ and His work. We are “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).

[1]  William Hendricksen: NTC: THE GOSPEL OF LUKE, [Baker, Grand Rapids, 1978], 782.
[2]  Ibid, 784.
[3]  Marten H. Woudstra, “Abraham’s Bosom,” BAKER’S DICTIONARY OF THEOLOGY, [Baker, Grand Rapids, 1960], 19.
[4]  J. Dwight Pentecost, THE PARABLES OF JESUS, [Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1982], 112.
[5]  Ibid, 113. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Book Review: Exodus by Garrett

Duane A. Garrett, KREGEL EXEGETICAL LIBRARY: A COMMENTARY ON EXODUS, Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2014, 741 pp

Duane A. Garrett is a Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Theology, a former Pastor and missionary. He is well versed in the Old Testament and has produced a worthwhile commentary on Exodus. It fills a gap in the lack of recent commentaries on Exodus. It will be a welcome addition to your library. It is reader friendly, yet scholarly in its approach. I would classify it as a practical scholarly work for pastor and student.

He opens with an Introduction that is extended more than many other commentaries (130 pages). In this, he deals with the major issues that scholars normally deal with, but in a much more approachable way. He is not afraid to criticize scholarly efforts that do little good for the overall understanding of Exodus, such as source criticism which he argues has doubtful value. On the Hebrew text, he points out it is a remarkably clean straightforward text. He places high value on accurate translation, and provides his own translation of the text. He points out that some understanding of the history of Egypt, the land, setting for the Exodus is essential. He therefore, gives extensive time and space to help the reader understand the importance of Egypt to both the ancient world and its influence upon the text (where Egyptian words have made it into the text).

Key to understanding the history of the Exodus is the date of the event. There has been much debate on the subject. This is a major portion of the introduction (48 pages). In covering the date and its major views, which he breaks down in the late date, the early date, the very early date, and the very late date. In examining the date, he makes clear in spite of recent developments and movement to make this a factual event; he declares “The exodus of Israel from Egypt is historical and occurred as described in the book of Exodus” (p. 46). He thereby confirms his conservative stance. There can be little question that scholars gravitate around two major dates—the early date (around 1447 BC) and the late date (around 1250 BC). He deals with each side fairly, and in light of important factors as they relate to the date (i.e. Biblical date, Hebiru, the store cities, Raamses, Conquest Archaeology, Jericho, Hyksos, the price for slaves, etc). He warns about trying to come up with a year based strictly on computations of years because of the uncertainly based on being unsure of interpretations that we understand them correctly (see his comments on page 91). After discussing the two main views, he turns to wants the reader to understand that based on Biblical evidence and archaeological evidence it is possible to argue on a very early date (1550 BC) or the very late date (1150 BC). He does not give either date much consideration, pointing out they have serious problems. He then moves on to deal with the reality of the Exodus, and issues of locations.  He points out that the student needs to be careful of being too definitive. He states: “I do no think it is wise or right to suppose that we can correct what seems to be a deficiency in the Bible and fix a date for the exodus, describe fully the historical setting, or name the pharaoh of the exodus. At the same time, I see nothing that causes me to distrust the biblical account” (p. 103).

Next, the introduction gives an outlined structure of the book of Exodus. He deals with the message of the book in terms of theology, pointing out that in some respects it is foundational for the theology of the Old Testament. It provides the foundation of their identity as the people of God. He sees the narrative in three major movement: the exodus, the journey to Sinai and the giving of the Law (Sinai covenant), and the sin of idolatry and its aftermath, including the building of the Tent of Meeting. He ends his introduction focusing on the God of Israel—YHWH and the man of God leading the exodus—Moses. He briefly show Egypt as a symbol of worldly power, and Israel as the people of God. Overall, it is one of the finest introductions I have read, and worth getting the book alone.

In his commentary, Garrett breaks the text into 7 sections. They are:
  • Part 1: Until Moses, 1:1-2:10. This acts as the prologue to the book of Exodus. It also confronts us with a major theological motif of the people of God facing persecution in this world.
  • Part 2: An Unlikely Savior, 2:11-7:7. This follows the life of Moses from his youth, call, and coming face to face with Pharaoh.
  • Part 3: The Twelve Miracles of the Exodus, 7:8-15:21. This includes the “ten” plagues along with the commissions of Moses and Aaron, and the hardening of the heart of Pharaoh and the crossing of the red sea. He has twelve miracles in chart form on page 271.
  • Part 4: The Journey to God, 15:22-19:25. This is an account of the journey from the red sea to Mt. Sinai. He sees the journey as a series of seven stages, each presenting a problem of crisis of faith, with the seventh breaking the pattern which he maintain is a symbol of entering God’s rest.
  • Part 5: The Sinai Covenant, 20:1-24:11. He maintains this is the governing document concerning the relationship between God and his people.
  • Part 6: The Worship of God, 24:12-31:18. It centers upon the Tent of Meeting, “the shrine that is at the center of Israel’s worship of YHWH” (p. 547).
  • Part 7: Sin and Restoration 32:1-40:38. It deals with the Golden calf and its aftermath. It also shows the importance of Moses’ intervention.

Each division opens with the author’s translation, assigning the technicalities to the footnotes. The structure of the passage under consideration, followed by commentary and theological points. Many include an Excursus about points in the passage, for example the first part has one on the Sargon Story and the Story of Moses. The commentary has an appendix on the Songs of Exodus. He suggests the book contains a number of previously unrecognized songs or poems in the text.

This commentary will be very helpful to anyone who makes use of it. It will be a delightful addition to your library, a stark contrast to the more critical works of recent years. It is faithful to the text, evangelical in approach, and its content are both understandable and interesting.  Garrett has done a great service in this stimulating work. It will make a real contribution to you and your library. 

(I received a copy of this book free of charge from the publisher Kregal Academic in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to give a positive review.)