Since the Rapture has made headlines lately, here are some observations.
The New Testament was written in Greek. Some argue that it was originally done in Hebrew, but they cannot provide ancient Hebrew (or Aramaic or Syriac) manuscripts to back that up. All of Paul’s churches used Greek as their principal language. Paul himself had grown up speaking a dialect of Greek known as koine. It is for this reason that many serious students of the Scriptures decide to study that language, just as many others study Hebrew.
Unfortunately, much of what we hear about Greek in books or from the pulpit is false or misleading. For example, some preach that the word agape means “divine love,” whereas phile means “human love or affection.” This is simply not the case, and the words are often interchangeable in the New Testament. I shudder every time I hear the words “I know that it says thus-and-such in your Bibles, but the Greek really says, etc.” Listen: English Bible versions – with a few exceptions – were carried out by leading experts in the field of the original languages, who have gone to great lengths to express the meaning of the original in English. You can trust your English Bible.
Yet, every once in a while there is a gem in the original Greek that is difficult to communicate in English. For example, the NIV of 1 Thess 4:17 has, “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” The other versions are similar and equally reliable. In my forthcoming commentary on 1 and 2 Thessalonians (Zondervan) I opted to translate verse 17 as: “we who still live and remain will be taken up together with [those who were dead] in the clouds to welcome the Lord in the air.” “To meet,” a verb in most versions, represents a Greek preposition and noun, “for a meeting” (eis apantesin). Nevertheless, a verb in English captures the original Greek equally well.
But one might ask, what happens after the Christians meet the Lord in the air? Where do they go? (more…)