November 12, 2017
Pentecost 22A
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18


Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:17-18)


The early followers of Jesus believed that he would return with the Kingdom of God in their own lifetime but as time passed they began to have some doubts. In particular the Thessalonians were worried about their loved ones who had died and were no longer able to be present when Jesus finally returned. They wondered if their untimely deaths had eternally separated them from the new life that was promised upon Christ’s return? To these fears Paul proclaims that no one will be left behind, that even the dead shall be raised unto life eternal with God.


It’s ironic that these words written by St. Paul to comfort the Thessalonians would become one of the foundational verses in the theological novelty known as the “rapture.” This fringe movement in Christianity began in the 1830’s and is still alive today as witnessed in the recent movie “Left Behind.” The premise is that these verses speak of a day when Christ will appear and suddenly take all the faithful away from the planet of earth just before God unleashes a time of judgment and great destruction upon those who are left behind.


Lutheran Theologian Barbara Rossing, in her book “The Rapture Exposed,” does a great job unpacking the true meaning of these controversial verses. In particular she writes, “Paul’s description of ‘meeting’ the Lord in the air employs a very specific Greek word for greeting a visiting dignitary in ancient times: apanteis, a practice by which people went outside the city to greet the dignitary and then accompanied him into their city.”


So it is that Jesus is not coming back to “rapture” us away and then destroy the earth and those left behind. It’s actually the opposite, Christ is returning to be with us, Paul proclaims that we will meet him in the air and then accompany him back to the earth ushering in the fullness of the kingdom of God. Rossing writes in the preface to her book, “God is coming to heal the world, not to kill millions of people. God loves the world, and God will never leave the world behind.”


      1. Love Will Never Leave You Behind - Greg Ronning




Love will never run out of time
Love is always patient and kind
Love will never give you up
Love ain’t proud or arrogant
Love will never leave you behind


Love will never turn on you
Love bears all things, Love is true
Love will never say it’s over, I’m done
Love hopes and believes, it’s just begun
Love will never leave you behind


Love will never leave you alone and afraid
Love casts out fear, – love remains
Love will never push you out or aside
Love will forever – abide
Love will never leave you behind


You heard it said, but I say to you
I love to tell the story because it’s true
The same old story, again and again
Believe in this, – Love never ends
Love will never leave you behind


Love will never run out of time
Love will never leave you behind



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