This Week's Focus Passage

1 Thessalonians 4:18 ‘Wherefore comfort one another with these words.’

This Week’s Focus Passage: 1 Thessalonians 4:18

‘Wherefore comfort one another with these words.’


    The larger pericope in which the above statement is found, is contained in verses 13-18, of 1 Thessalonians, chapter four. It is well worth repeated reading:

But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that fall asleep; that ye sorrow not, even as the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that are fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we that are alive, that are left unto the coming of the Lord, shall in no wise precede them that are fallen asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the arch-angel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

We find, in the New Scofield Reference Bible, the note on our passage; particularly verse 4:17, where in this note, it is said, that, ‘This central passage on the blessed hope of the Church includes: (1) reassurance (vv. 13-14); (2) revelation (vv. 15-17, setting forth the return of Christ, the rapture of the Church, and the reunion of all believers); and (3) comfort (v. 18).

To the surprise of many, this ‘rapture of the church’ idea is not a historical teaching of the church. Indeed, this rapture-based theology has only been around for the past couple hundred years and predominantly in America. We have read a quote from the biblical scholar, N. T. Wright, as he refers to this rapture-based theology as an ‘American obsession’ and notes that few Christians in the U.K. hold any sort of belief in it. This is even more striking when it is considered that this teaching emanated from the U.K. in the person of John Nelson Darby, and the Plymouth Brethren of the British Isles. Yet, there is no denying of its influence in particular in the United States. We have an entire series of movies based upon novels written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, referred to as the Left Behind series. Additionally, we have seen over the years, impressions of this teaching on placards, as well as on ‘bumper stickers,’ such as the one with the warning, ‘In Case of Rapture, Someone Grab the Steering Wheel.’ 

Perhaps a more serious suggestion is to be found in the writings of one contemporary, who has suggested that this eschatological system know by the title, Dispensationalism, came to America through various ‘mission trips’ to the U. S. in the late 19th century, and that the notion of a ‘rapture’ found itself appealing to American Christians who were going through the atrocities of a Civil War, which, by all measure, must have looked like Armageddon: nation rising up against nation, brother against brother, son against father, etc. With more than half a million dead, who wouldn’t find a ‘let’s get out of here’ theology attractive? This mind set was exacerbated with World War 1 and the publication of the Scofield Reference Bible, which was handed out to soldiers in the trenches.  

    This same author goes on to write, that, “Two other events corresponded to the promotion of the ‘rapture’ in America: the conversion of Dwight L. Moody to the eschatological system (he later founded Moody Bible Institute and a major radio program, which would become important in the promotion of rapture theology) and the establishment of Dallas Theological Seminary, a dispensationalist training center. During the twentieth century the ‘physical rapture’ of the Church became a dominant eschatological view in America.” We have already noted these two particular individuals, Darby, Scofield, and Moody, but there came upon the scene another, and, he too, from the U. K. We refer to Arthur Walkington Pink, much better known as, A. W. Pink, who was born on April 1, 1886, in Nottingham, beside the River Trent, and in the Midlands of what was then accounted ‘the richest country of the world.’ 

We may discover, in the available biographies of Pink, that while he was trained, along with his brother and sister, by his parents in the Word, nevertheless, “their early training in the Scriptures showed no signs of bearing fruit. Slowly all three children appear to have drifted into lives of unbelief. In Arthur’s case it seems he was influenced by young people who had no such background as his own. In later memories of this time he refers to ‘the godless companions of our youth,’ and says that during energetic and thoughtless days among them there were a number of occasions when he was in imminent peril, brought face to face with death;’ sounds almost Bunyanesque, does it not? But the primary reason for our reference to Pink is his later history, as a Christian, and a preacher and author. His history can be easily discerned simply by a glance at his writings, and how that a biographer has noted the fact that Pink’s earlier writings were heavily influenced, and that not for good, by Plymouth Brethren writers, that is, by Dispensational writers. Pink began Studies in the Scriptures in 1922, a monthly periodical, and most of his published works are derived from these issues which continued until his death in 1952. 

    One of the eminent features of Pink’s life and writings is the fact that, as we have noted, he came to understand the errors of dispensationalism in his early years, and publicly disavowed them in further writings (something it would behoove some of our contemporaries of today to consider doing). In particular, he wrote a small volume with the title ‘Dispensationalism,’ in which he clearly, and humbly, set aside his earlier erroneous views. We take the liberty of quoting from that essay:

“But there is a further reason, and a pressing one today, why we should write upon our present subject, and that is to expose the modern and pernicious error of Dispensationalism. This is a device of the enemy, designed to rob the children of no small part of that bread which their heavenly Father has provided for their souls; a device wherein the wily serpent appears as an angel of light, feigning to make the bible ‘a new book’ by simplifying much in it which perplexes the spiritually unlearned. It is sad to see how widely successful the devil has been by means of this subtle innovation. It is likely that some of our own readers, when perusing the articles on the interpretation of Scriptures, felt more than once that we were taking an undue liberty with Holy Writ, that we made use of certain passages in a way altogether unjustifiable, that we appropriated to the saints of this Christian era what does not belong to them but is rather addressed unto those who lived in an entirely different dispensation of the past, or one which is yet future.”—A. W. Pink.    

Brethren, Comfort one another with these words. Even so, Come, Lord Jesus! And the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.—1 Thessalonians 5:23.


David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church 


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