5. Key Greek Words and Terms
Coming, parousia · Tribulation, thlipsis – NOT Wrath · Wrath, orge/thumos · Take, paralambano · Now Concerning, peri de · Falling Away, apostasia · Descend From, katabaino ek · To Meet, apantesis · Remain, perileipomai
2. coming, advent as the first stage in presence
A) of human beings, in the usual sense
B) in a special technical sense of Christ (and the Antichrist).
a) of Christ, and nearly always of his Messianic Advent in glory to judge the world at the end of this age.1
a. (presence) the presence of an object at a particular place – ‘presence, being at hand, to be in person’
b. (arrival) to come to be present at a particular place – ‘to come, to arrive, to come to be present’2
1. a being present, presence
2. arrival, the Advent – N.T.3
literally, "a presence," para, "with," and ousia, "being" (from eimi, "to be"), denotes both an "arrival" and a consequent "presence with."4
2. the presence of one coming, hence the coming, arrival, advent5
This word, parousia, is the word usually translated "coming" with reference to the coming of Christ. The nature of this word alone does not lend itself too easily to a pre-tribulation rapture theory in which Jesus only temporarily appears in the sky. The idea is "he has come, he has arrived, he is now here." This is the word used in the two major "rapture passages" (1 Cor. 15:23, 50-52; 1 Thess. 4:15-17) as well as others as the hope for the church (1 Thess. 2:19; 3:13; 5:23; James 5:7, 8; 2 Peter 3:12; 1 John 2:28). It is also used in passages where it clearly relates to the second coming after the Tribulation (Matt. 24:3, 27, 37, 39; 2 Thess. 2:8; 2 Peter 3:12). The same could be said for apokalupsis, "revelation," and epiphaneia, "appearing."6
Once again, the most reasonable conclusion is that they refer to the same event, unless there is reason to believe otherwise. Pre-tribulationists claim that parousia is used differently for Christ’s coming with his saints and Christ’s coming for his saints. The problem with this is that in the chapter before the one clear rapture passage, the paruosia which Paul had in mind had already been described as "with all his saints" (1 Thess. 3:13), and even in the rapture passage it states that he will bring the dead in Christ with him when he comes for the church (4:14-16).
Furthermore, if Paul uses the word parousia, "coming," to refer both to the second coming after the Tribulation and to a pre-Tribulation rapture, then how would even the Thessalonians he was writing to know when he was referring to each one? If these are different events we would expect him to differentiate more clearly. Or, to put it differently, if post-tribulationists are guilty of confusing the rapture and the second coming then how can you blame us when even Scripture does not make a clear distinction?
Tribulation, thlipsis – NOT Wrath
rare in extra-Biblical Greek, and there literally, pressing, pressure. Frequent in the LXX and our literature, in the figurative sense of oppression, affliction, tribulation.7
trouble involving direct suffering – ‘trouble and suffering, suffering, persecution’8
literally pressure, a pressing together; only figuratively in the NT of suffering brought on by outward circumstances affliction, oppression, trouble (Rom. 5:3); especially to be regarded as participation in the sufferings of Christ (Col. 1:24); of sufferings of the end time, tribulation, trouble, distress (Mark 13:19); called the great tribulation, the time of great trouble (Matt. 24:21; Rev. 7:14).9
primarily means "a pressing, pressure," anything which burdens the spirit.10
properly a pressing, pressing together, pressure; in Biblical and ecclesiastical Greek metaphorically, oppression, affliction, tribulation, distress, straits.11
This word is found forty-five times in the New Testament. In the majority of these instances it is used of Christians who are suffering for being Christians. Tribulation is for believers. I could find only three clear examples where it is used of unbelievers.12 Jesus said, "In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). It would seem that the Great Tribulation is merely the time of great pressure for Christians. Persecution has been bad in the past, and it is still bad in other countries today, but there is yet to come a time of "great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will" (Matt. 24:21). But this is NOT the wrath of God. Even regarding this time period Jesus states that the tribulation in view is by unbelievers on believers: "Then they will deliver you to tribulation" (v. 9, emphasis added).
Christians have suffered persecution since the church began. History shows that when the church was regularly being persecuted they were able to endure, but when persecution let off for a good period of time and then began again–every time without fail–multitudes would renounce their faith in Christ. If we are going to go through this time period, then it is of utmost importance that we are psychologically ready for it. There is no excuse for this to take us by surprise. Jesus said, "Behold, I have told you in advance" (Matt. 24:25).
orge – anger, indignation, wrath
1. as a human emotion
2. of the wrath of God . . . of the divine reaction towards evil; it is thought not so much as an emotion as in terms of the outcome of an angry frame of mind (judgment), already known to OT history, where it sometimes runs its course in the present, but more often is to be expected in the future, as God’s final reckoning with evil.
1. passion, passionate longing
2. anger, wrath, rage13
A) anger – a relative state of anger – ‘anger, fury’
B) punishment – divine punishment based on God’s angry judgment against someone – ‘to punish, punishment.’ Though the focal semantic element in orge is punishment, at the same time there is an implication of God’s anger because of evil.
A) fury – a state of intense anger, with the implication of passionate outbursts, - ‘anger, fury, wrath, wrage’
B) intense desire – an intense, passionate desire of an overwhelming and possible destructive character – ‘intense desire, overwhelming passion’14
1. passion, anger, wrath15
1. the soul, heart of desire for meat and drink
2. as the seat of anger16
originally any "natural impulse, or desire, or disposition," came to signify "anger," as the strongest of all passions.
"wrath" (not translated "anger"), is to be distinguished from orge, in this respect, that thumos indicates a more agitated condition of the feelings, an outburst of wrath from inward indignation, while orge suggests a more settled or abiding condition of mind, frequently with a view to taking revenge, Orge is less sudden in its rise than thumos, but more lasting in its nature. Thumos expresses more the inward feeling, orge the more active emotion. Thumos may issue in revenge, though it does not necessarily include it. It is characteristic that it quickly blazes up and quickly subsides, though that is not necessarily implied in each case.17
In Biblical Greek anger, wrath, indignation . . . anger exhibited in punishing, hence used for the punishment itself. . . . The orge attributed to God in the N. T. is that in God which stands opposed to man’s disobedience, obduracy (especially in resisting the gospel) and sin, and manifests itself in punishing the same.
1. passion, angry heat, anger forthwith boiling up and soon subsiding again, (orge on the other hand, denotes indignation which has arisen gradually and become more settled.)18
The first thing I want to do is to distinguish both of these words from thlipsis, "tribulation." We are not appointed for wrath, but we are to expect tribulation. Second, I am not saying that although believers are exempt from God’s orge, they will have to endure his thumos. I am merely saying that we are only specifically promised to be "delivered from" the orge of God (Rom. 5:9; 1 Thess. 1:10). It is this slow, steady anger of God that has been building up for thousands of years which will be released on unbelievers when he returns. A believer cannot experience this. This would apply whether they were saved before or during the Tribulation. The anger of God is against sinners, unbelievers.19 As already pointed out, salvation entails being saved from God’s wrath (Rom. 5:9). One cannot hold that people will be saved during the Tribulation and yet will experience the wrath of God. If this is possible, then in what sense are they saved?
Now concerning the word thumos, I do not believe that Christians will experience this either, but the way in which we are spared is different. As discussed earlier, when we read about the bowls of God’s wrath (thumos) being poured out in Revelation 16, we see the selective nature of this judgment. I do realize that there may be some overlap in these words. My point is not to deny any similarity.20 I am merely saying that when the Scripture speaks of the wrath to come or the day of wrath (orge in both cases) it is specifically making reference to the second coming when Jesus comes "in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thess. 1:8, KJV). This is what believers are promised to be "delivered from" (1 Thess. 1:10). I believe we will also be spared from the less intense but more immediate thumos of God in a way similar to the way in which he spared Israel from the plagues in Egypt. Even so, we would not have to be spared from the thumos for his promise to be fulfilled.
1. take (to oneself), take with or along with accompanying of the persons
2. take over, receive21
to take or bring someone along with22
1. to receive from another
2. to take upon oneself, undertake
II. c. acc. pers. to take to oneself, associate with oneself as a wife or mistress, an adopted son, a partner or ally23
besides its meaning "to receive," denotes "to take to (or with) oneself"24
1. to take to, to take with one’s self, to join to one’s self
2. to receive something transmitted25
The purpose for the study of this word is that, with reference to the second coming, Jesus says that in some cases, one will be "taken" and another left (Matt. 24:37-42). Pre-tribulationists have claimed that this means that those who are "taken" are killed in judgment. They appeal to the fact that Jesus had just said that when the flood came many people were "taken" away. Now a casual reading of the English would seem to support their view; however, in Greek these are two completely different words which only overlap in the vague sense of our English word "taken." The first is airo which can mean "to take away, remove . . . even by killing,"26 but the second is this word paralambano which means "to receive, or to take with oneself." It is used of Joseph "taking" Mary to be his wife (Matt. 1:20, 24) and later of "taking" her and baby Jesus into Egypt (2:13, 14). Again it is used of the devil "taking" Jesus to the temple and to the mountain (4:5, 8), of Jesus taking Peter, James and John with Him (17:1; 26:37), of Him "taking" the twelve (20:17). It is also used for "receive," as in John 1:11, "He came unto His own and His own received Him not."27 The meaning of "receive" or "take with" fits with every occurrence of this word in the New Testament, and most demand such a meaning. The meaning of "take away" is nowhere found. Now this is very significant in our understanding of this passage. Jesus is going to receive these people or take them with himself. Once again this fits in nicely with the rapture, but in context the parousia in view is "after the tribulation of those days" (Matt. 24:29).
Now Concerning, peri de
Without going into a detailed discussion of the meaning of this phrase, it has been stated by pre-tribulationists that, since this is Paul’s usual way of introducing a new topic (now concerning . . .),28 he begins to speak of something different in 1 Thessalonians 5:1 from what he had been talking about in the preceding chapter. They claim, therefore, that the day of the Lord must be different from the rapture.
Now I would agree with them that Paul does change his topic somewhat, but the two are not completely unrelated. In 1 Corinthians 7:1, Paul begins with "Now concerning the things about which you wrote . . ." Most scholars would agree that not only what immediately follows but most of the rest of the book is a response to what they had written him. What I see in 1 Thessalonians 5:1 is not that Paul now moves on to discuss a different event but that he now moves to discuss the "times and seasons" of that event. He says "Now concerning the times and seasons," not, "Now concerning the day of the Lord."
Falling Away, apostasia
rebellion, abandonment in the religious sense, apostasy . . . Of the rebellion caused by the Antichrist in the last days 2 Thess. 2:3.29
to rise up in open defiance of authority, with the presumed intention to overthrow it or to act in complete opposition to its demands.30
late form of apostasis, defection.31
"a defection, revolt, apostasy," is used in the NT of religious apostasy . . . In 2 Thess. 2:3 "the falling away" signifies apostasy from the faith. In papyri documents it is used politically of rebels.32
a falling away, defection, apostasy; in the Bible namely from the true religion: Acts 21:21; 2 Thess. 2:3.33
Whether this refers to a rebellion, a religious apostasy, or a combination of the two in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is not relevant to the discussion. The point here is that some pre-tribulationists have tried to say that apostasia refers to a physical "departure." Since Paul said that the day of the Lord will not come until the apostasia comes first, they see this as a reference to the rapture. Their basis for this meaning is that the cognate verb, aphistemi, can mean "to depart." In addition, every English translation before the King James version translated this word as "departure."
Now, taking the last point first, I would think that, since most modern translations are done by pre-tribulationists, if they could legitimately translate this as "departure," then they would. However, not one of them does. Second, it is fallacious to define a noun by its cognate verb, especially when we have many occurrences of the noun itself in extra-biblical literature to examine for its meaning. This is called the "root fallacy." However, even the primary meaning of the verb is "to revolt."34 Wayne House argues for the meaning of "departure" at length but can not provide one example of this meaning in the Koine period.35 It is interesting that Paul does not use the word apostasia for his own departure (2 Tim. 4:6), and neither does Peter (2 Peter 1:15). Third, in addition to the fact that knowledge of Koine Greek has come a long way since before the KJV, simply because they translated this word as departure does not mean that they had a physical departure in view but probably meant a departure from the faith. This is strengthened by the fact that no one was a pre-tribulationist at this time, which we will discuss in chapter 7.
Descend From, katabaino ek
come down, go down, climb down36
to move down, irrespective of the gradient – ‘to move down, to come down, to go down, to descend’37
1. to step down, go or come down
2. to go down from the inland parts to the sea
3. to come to land, get safe ashore
4. to g down into the arena
5. of an orator, to come down from the tribune38
"to go down" (kata, "down," baino, "to go"), used for various kinds of motion on the ground (e.g., going, walking, stepping), is usually translated "to descend."39
to go down, come down, descend - 1. of persons, 2. of things40
The definitions given above are simply for the word katabaino. The preposition ek means "from, out of, away from."41 Taken together, this means that the Lord will be coming down out of or from heaven when we are caught up to meet him (1 Thess. 4:16-17). If he is coming down then where is he going? Why would he be coming down from heaven if not to return to the earth? Pre-tribulationists ask why we are caught up only to turn around, but they must answer why Jesus is here in movement, coming down from heaven only to turn around. Obviously one of us has to turn around once we meet. My point is that the word used for our meeting (apantesis) combined with the fact that Jesus is already on his way down when we meet him strongly favors a return for us, not for him.
To Meet, apantesis
meeting only in the formula eis apantesin (LXX frequently in friendly and hostile meaning) to meet42
to come near to and to meet, either in a friendly or hostile sense43
as an action a meeting, encountering; eis apantesin – to meet44
"a meeting" It is used in the papyri of a newly arriving magistrate. "It seems that the special idea of the word was the official welcome of a newly arrived dignitary" (Moulton, Greek Test. Gram. Vol. I, p. 14).45
a meeting; eis apantesin tinos or tini – to meet one.46
The word seems to have been a kind of technical term for the official welcome of a newly arrived dignitary – a usage which accords excellently with its NT usage.47
The use of apantesis in 1 Thess. 4:17 is noteworthy. The ancient expression for the civic welcome of an important visitor or the triumphal entry of a new ruler into the capital city and thus to his reign is applied to Christ. "Then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord (eis apantesin tou Kyriou) in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord." The same thoughts occur in the parable of the ten virgins. The virgins leave to meet the bridegroom (eis apantesin tou nymphiou) i.e. the Lord, to whom they wish to give a festive reception (Matt. 25:1).48
The point I wish to make here is that according to the papyri,49 which are what Vine, Moulton-Milligan, and NIDNTT are making reference to, this word came to have the idea of welcoming the arrival of someone important into the city. The purpose of the "meeting" is to escort the person in. This word occurs only three times in the New Testament and this meaning fits very well every time. It is first used in the parable of the ten virgins, in which they are told, "Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him" (Matt. 25:6). The bridegroom has been gone, and, as they see him returning, they run out to meet and welcome him. The second time this word is used is when Paul is on his way to Rome, and the disciples in the city went out to Three Inns "to meet" him. Once again, he is on his way to Rome and they go out to meet him halfway. The final use of this word is in the one rapture passage, in which the Lord is descending from heaven and we are caught up "to meet" him. As has been pointed out, he is already coming down when we are caught up to welcome him back. This answers the question some have asked, "Why are we caught up only to immediately return?" We are caught up to welcome our Lord back to earth. In fact, I believe that this is the very purpose for the rapture.
remain, be left behind50
to be left behind, with the implication of continuing to exist51
to be left remaining, remain over, survive52
"to leave over"53
to leave over; pass. to remain over, to survive54
This word is found only twice in the New Testament, both times in our rapture passage, and both times as a passive participle. This is where Paul speaks of the ones "who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord . . ." (1 Thess. 4:15 & 17). My point here is simply that the meaning of this word fits very nicely with a rapture that occurs right after a time of great persecution (tribulation). Those who are "alive and remain" will be those who have survived the persecution of the antichrist when the Lord returns.
1. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature; 2d ed.; ed. by W. F. Arndt, F. W. Gingrich, F. W. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 629-630. <back>
2. J. P. Louw and E. A. Nida, Louw-Nida Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains; 2nd ed, from BibleWorks version 4.0 (Big Fork MT: Hermeneutika Bible Research Software) CD-ROM. <back>
3. The Abridged Liddell-Scott Greek-English Lexicon, from BibleWorks version 4.0 (Big Fork MT: Hermeneutika Bible Research Software) CD-ROM. <back>
4. W. E. Vine, Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996), 111. <back>
5. Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, ncd.), 490. <back>
6. See chapter 2, "The Rapture," A Bad Term? <back>
7. BAGD, 362. <back>
8. Louw-Nida, CD-ROM. <back>
9. Liddell-Scott, CD-ROM. <back>
10. Vine, 17 <back>
11. Thayer, 291. <back>
12. Rom. 2:9, 2 Thess. 1:6 and Rev. 2:22. <back>
13. BAGD, 578-579 and 365. <back>
14. Louw-Nida, CD-ROM. <back>
15. Liddell-Scott also gives the meaning "natural impulse or propension: one's temper, temperament, disposition, nature." However, it reaches further back in time to cover classical Greek as well and this meaning no longer seems to be in usage by New Testament times. The same is true for thumos which it also defines as "soul, breath, life." <back>
16. Liddell-Scott, CD-ROM. <back>
17. Vine, 26-27. <back>
18. Thayer, 452 and 293. <back>
19. This is also illustrated in passages such as John 3:36; 5:24; Rom. 8:1; Eph. 2:3; 5:6. <back>
20. I also realize that twice Revelation speaks of the thumos of his orge (16:19; 19:15) but, as already shown, this occurs after the tribulation when we will no longer be here. <back>
21. BAGD, 619. <back>
22. Louw-Nida, CD-ROM. <back>
23. Liddell-Scott, CD-ROM. <back>
24. Vine, 615. <back>
25. Thayer, 484. <back>
26. BAGD, 24. <back>
27. These are not isolated passages. I used the occurrences in Matthew to show how the same author used this word and the one in John to show that it also has the meaning of "receive." <back>
28. This is illustrated best in 1 Corinthians 7:1, 25; 8:1; 12:1; 16:1 & 12. <back>
29. BAGD, 98. <back>
30. Louw-Nida, CD-ROM. <back>
31. Liddell-Scott, CD-ROM. <back>
32. Vine, 223. <back>
33. Thayer, 67. <back>
34. BAGD, 126. <back>
35. H. Wayne House, "Apostasia in 2 Thessalonians 2:3," in When the Trumpet Sounds, eds. Thomas Ice and Timothy Demy (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1995), 261-296. It is interesting that Paul Feinberg, also a pre-tribulationist, takes the opposite position in the very next chapter of the same book. <back>
36. BAGD, 408. <back>
37. Louw-Nida, CD-ROM. <back>
38. Liddell-Scott, CD-ROM. <back>
39. Vine, 160. <back>
40. Thayer, 329. <back>
41. BAGD, 234. <back>
42. BAGD, 80. <back>
43. Louw-Nida, CD-ROM. <back>
44. Liddell-Scott, CD-ROM. <back>
45. Vine, 402. <back>
46. Thayer, 54. <back>
47. J. H. Moulton and G. Milligan, Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1997), 53. <back>
48. Colin Brown, ed., New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1986), 325. <back>
49. The papyri are the common Greek writings which have only been discovered about 150 years ago. These are held to be much more reliable in defining New Testament words than the literary works which the other lexicons are referring to. This is because it has now become evident that, unlike the other literary writings, the New Testament was written in the language of the common people. <back>
50. BAGD, 648. <back>
51. Louw-Nida, CD-ROM. <back>
52. Liddell-Scott, CD-ROM. <back>
53. Vine, 521. <back>
54. Thayer, 503. <back>