Evaluating Eis Apantēsin & Eschatological Hope

Paul's ConversIn Rapture or No-Rapture, That is the Question, I presented two different understanding of what Paul meant by the idea that Christians will be reunited again in the clouds to meet their returning Lord and King Jesus in the air ( 1 Thessalonians 4:17). Scholars who understand Paul as not teaching rapture, the idea that Christians will ascend to the sky to meet their Lord, have argued that eis apantēsin (“to meet”) ought to be understood as a technical term. Eis apantēsin, thus, connote the idea of meeting a visiting honorable dignitary.  In ancient Hellenistic Greek, the citizens of a particular city would often go outside their city to meet a visiting dignitary. These citizens will then joyously accompany him back to the city (Cameron 1922: 116; Gundry 1973; 104; Marshall 1983: 131; Elias 1995: 178-9; Martin 1995: 153; Green 2002:226; Wright 2004: 125).

Revisiting Erick Peterson’s work¹ , which I believe chiefly contributed to no-rapture reading, Michael R. Cosby explained that it is not always the case that eis apantēsin is used as a technical term to describing a Hellenistic Greek formal receptions. Cosby explained that “[s]ometimes ἀπάντησις describes a formal greeting of a dignitary, but often it does not. And some descriptions of such receptions do not use ἀπάντησις or ὑπάντησις (or the verb forms of these words)”(Cosby 1994: 20). The evidenced supporting “eis apantēsin” as a technical term for the formal reception of visiting dignitary is, thus, inconclusive (Weatherly 1996) Continue reading

Rapture or No-Rapture, That is the Question

Rapture of Saint Paul

Rapture, following Andy Woods, is the reunion of Christians who were dead in Christ with the living up in the sky. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, Woods explained, is “probably the clearest reference to the rapture found in all of the New Testament.” (Woods 2004: 312) Six decades back, Arthur B. Whiting made a similar declaration. This passage, according to Whiting, provides us with an orderly and detailed exposition of understanding the Rapture (Whiting 1945: 361).

Maintaining the cessation of the baptism with the Holy Spirit at the second advent of Christ Jesus, Merrill F. Unger holds that 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 provides evidence that the Church will be removed out of the world (Unger 1944: 362). Lewis S. Chafer concurred with Unger and added that Christ Jesus will come “only to the upper-air spaces and the believers [would be] gathered together unto Him” (Chafer 1952: 134) Continue reading

The Sinner: Eschatological Rapture, Hell & Heaven


The Sinner, a fictional Christian character in search of answers on the nature of the last things in 20th and 21st century I created, seeks the nature of the rapture and the final state of righteous and unrighteous. This article concisely presented two different answers the Sinner will get from N. T. Wright in Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, The Resurrection, and The Mission of the Church (2008) with Guy P. Duffield and Nathaniel M. Van Cleave in Foundations of Pentecostal Theology (1983).

On Rapture

Interpreting 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 and 2 Thessalonians 2: 1-3, Duffield and Van Cleave adopted a face-value literal approach. They would inform the Sinner that on Christ Jesus’ second coming, she will raptured (1983: 527- 30), transported from earth to heaven, to be with Christ Jesus.  Wright would strongly disagreed with Duffield and Van Cleave’s reading. Wright argued that there is no rapture because heaven is going to come here on earth. It is not the Sinner who is going to be with Christ, but Christ  “com[ing] back to us” (2008: 124). Wright argued,

“When Paul speaks of ‘meeting the Lord in the air,’ the point is precisely not—as in the popular rapture theology that the saved believers would then stay up in the air somewhere, away from earth. The point is that, having gone out to meet their returning Lord, they will escort him royally into his domain, that is, back to the place they have come from” (2008: 133) Continue reading

Parable of the Sinner & The Eschatological Hope

Christian of John Bunyon

The Sinner, in my re-modification of Nietzschean Parable of the Madman¹, ran up to the place called Golgotha, and cried incessantly: “I seek Life! I seek Life!” As many of those who did not believe in the accuracy of a mocking but ironically true description, ‘This is Jesus the King of the Jews’, placed above the head of a Nazarene hanged on the Roman cross, laughed at the insanity of the Sinner’s words.

“Where is Life?” the Sinner cried; “I will tell you. We have killed Him – you and I. Death have finally and victoriously won. Hope is lost. It stung and killed Life at the cross. Men forever lost. Wretched men that we are! Who will rescue us from this perishable body of death?”

The theological study of last things presents an eschatological hope to the Sinner. The death of Life at the cross was the death of Death. It was impossible for Life to be held by Death. The resurrection of Life was the confirmation that the Sinner and the Church, who are found in Life, would also put on the imperishable body of life. Life has already but not yet rescue His Church. Death was swallowed up in victory by Life. The Sinner and the Church can now rejoice with a new song: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

This two parts article sketchily and theatrically compared the eschatological hope of N. T. Wright in Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, The Resurrection, and The Mission of the Church (2008) with Guy P. Duffield and Nathaniel M. Van Cleave in Foundations of Pentecostal Theology (1983) would provide the Sinner, a fictional Christian character in search of answers on the nature of the last things in 20th and 21st century, I created.

Next: Parable of the Sinner: Eschatological Rapture, Hell & Heaven

Early Church’s Kingdom of God: Hail King Jesus


The kingdom of God, the restoration of God’s eternal and sovereign lordship over earth as it is in heaven, was understood by some of the early Christians to encompass the present and future dimensions, and both the physical and spiritual aspects. Their understanding has being echoed throughout the church history.

The future dimension of spiritual and physical aspect is of Christians commanded to live a life of holiness, love and peace in order to inherit the Kingdom of God (Iren. Frag. 42; Pol. Phil. 5.3; Barn. 21.1) while on the other hand, the present dimension, also of spiritual and physical aspect, is of Christians being the people who are redeemed, the prince of evil has no authority over them nor cannot he thrust them out of the kingdom of Christ (Barn. 4.13) and “where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church, and every kind of grace.”(Iren. Aga. Her. 3. 24.1)

Some of post Apostolic fathers also followed a similar understanding of the Kingdom of God. Clement of Alexandra contended that Christians are called to the kingdom of God with a calling that require them to live a life worthy of the kingdom, loving God and their neighbour. He wrote, “[b]ut love is not proved by a kiss, but by kindly feeling. But there are those, that do nothing but make the churches resound with a kiss, not having love itself within.” (Clem. Al. Paed. 3.11)

In a similar manner John Calvin, during reformation, echoed the same theme when he explained that when the Church is sincere with the word of God, “there we cannot have any doubt that the Church of God has some existence, since his promise cannot fail, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”(Calvin Ins. 4.1.9) N. T. Wright established this point even better: “If we believe it and pray, as he taught us, for God’s kingdom to come on earth as in heaven, there is no way we can rest content with major injustice in the world.”(Wright 2009: 97)

Wright rightly captured the long echoed traditional understanding of the kingdom of God,

The kingdom comes through the ministry of Jesus and the preaching of the gospel in all the world. It is both the reign and the realm of God for, although in the present age the locus of the kingdom in the world is diffuse, it is defined by the presence of Jesus at the right hand of the Father. It is both present and future until its consummation at Jesus’ return. It is also at least one possible theme by which biblical theology can be integrated. It is the focus of both creation and redemption: God’s plan of redemption is to bring in a new creation. The entire biblical story, despite its great diversity of forms and foci, is consistent in its emphasis on the reign of God over his people in the environment he creates for them. (Wright 2004, 218)

There is both futuristic and present dimension, the physical and spiritual aspect of God’s kingdom.  Christians, it’s citizens, are called to live now, caring for the poor, widows and orphanage, feeding the hungry, makers of peace as they love and bless those who prosecute them but at the same time proclaim the lordship of Christ and the hope of the future when God’s reign on earth as in heaven is restored. For Christians both now and future, physical and spiritual counts because Christ reigns over all.


Calvin, John (1949), Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge. London: J. Clarke.

Wright, N. T. (2004). Matthew  Everyone, Part 2: Chapters 16-28. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

_________________ (2009) ‘Building for the Kingdom: Our Work is Not in Vain’, in Ralph Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne (eds.), Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader 4th edn.; Pasadena: William Carey Library.

Gospels’ Kingdom of God: Here Comes The King

screen-captureThis article concisely explored the Synoptic Gospels’ theme of the kingdom of God. The Old Testament, to which I did not explored, presents a rich background that is craftily captured by Goldsworthy:

The idea of the rule of God over creation, over all creatures, over the kingdoms of the world and, in a unique and special way, over his chosen and redeemed people, is the very heart of the message of the Hebrew scriptures. (Goldsworthy 2000: n.p)

In the Old Testament, the story of Israel reveals that God is the Lord over creation, fall, redemption and final glorification. In New Testament, Israel’s story becomes Christians’ story.

Mark and Matthew announced the dawn of the kingdom of God in the person of Christ Jesus (Matt. 1:1) and in His teachings and miraculous works (Mark 4: 35-41; Matt. 12:28). These works revealed that Jesus, the son of David, was the Lord over sickness, demons and evil spirits, nature, death, and people. N. T. Wright put it well,

Jesus was announcing that the long- awaited kingdom of Israel’s god was indeed coming to birth, but that it did not look
like what had been imagined. The return from exile, the defeat of evil, and the return of YHWH to Zion were all coming about, but not in the way Israel had supposed. (Wright 1996: 201)

Luke merged the kingship and priesthood roles of Jesus son of David, son of Abraham. Jesus is the King who is given the throne of his father David and He reigns “over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”(Luke 1:32-33) In the person and works of Jesus, the Lord God of Israel has not only visited His people but also redeemed them. The author of the epistle of Barnabas poetically wrote, “by cross Jesus holds His kingdom, so that [through the cross] those believing on Him shall live for ever”(Barn. 4.9)

Luke addressed the Jewish political expectation of the coming of God’s Kingdom, that would overthrown all powers against God and handling the power over to God’s Messiah, which overlooked that the Messiah had to suffer before he entered into His glory (Luke 24:25-27). It appears, in Acts 1:6, that even in the light of resurrection, Jesus’ disciples held a similar expectation about the restoration of the kingdom of Israel. The time of full restoration is know by God alone, according to Jesus, the task that was at hand was that of a Spirit-empowered witnessing of His person and works to the whole world (Acts 1:7-8).

Clement of Rome thus concluded,

Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first-fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe.(1 Clem. Cor 42)

Those who responded with repentance and baptized into the lordship of Jesus through the disciples’ and early Church’s witnessing of the person and works of Jesus  “receive the blessings of the kingdom, the forgiveness of their sins and the eschatological power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; 19:5–6; 22:16)”(ibid). According to Charles Erdman, “The very essence of the Gospel becomes embodied in the promise of a place in the Kingdom for all who will repent of sin and believe in Christ.”(Erdman 1966: 35)

The time is coming and now is here to hail the King of the Jews. He is the King over all. He is here. He reigns.

Erdman, Charles (1966) The Gospel of Mark: An exposition. Philadelphia: Westminster.

Goldsworthy, G. (2000) ‘Kingdom of God’ in Alexander, T. D., & Rosner, B. S. (Eds.) New dictionary of biblical theology. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Wright, N. T. (1996) Jesus and the Victory of God: Christian Concepts and the Question of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Wright’s New Perspective Approach to Romans 9:14-25

NT Wright

N. T. Wright believes that both Reformed and Wesleyan-Arminianism approaches misses the flow of Paul’s case in Romans 9 because they import Augustine-Pelagic controversy into the text. Wright’s New Perspective1 approaches Romans 9:14-252 as a demonstration of covenant faithfulness of God and the identity of the “member of his people”3.

Romans 9:14-25, according to Wright, displays God faithfully accomplishing His purposes “even within that human rebellion and arrogance to bring about an even more glorious work of rescue, revealing his power, and gaining a worldwide reputation for performing extraordinary acts of judgment and mercy.”(Wright 2004: 14-5). Wright argued,

It is this ongoing purpose, despite the fact of Israel’s rebellion, that causes God to declare to Moses that he will proceed with his plan for the Exodus even though the people have made the golden calf, amounting to a declaration of independence from the true God. That is the setting for the passage in Exodus 33 which Paul quotes in verse 15. It then appears (verse 17) that God is doing with Israel itself what he did with Pharaoh, the king of Egypt who withstood God’s purposes to bring Israel out of slavery.(ibid)

“[Romans 9] does not necessarily relate to salvation.” wrote Thomas R. Schreiner, “Rather, Paul is describing the historical destiny of nations.”(Schreiner 1993: 26). Agreeing with Schreiner, Wright maintained that Paul’s case “[i]n standard Christian theological language, it wasn’t so much about soteriology as about ecclesiology; not so much about salvation as about the church”(Wright 1997: 119)4.

Paul invoking “the image of potter” in verses 20-21, was not designed to show a the final election5, contended Wright, but “was designed to speak very specifically about God’s purpose in choosing and calling Israel, and about what would happen if Israel, like a lump of clay, failed to respond to the gentle moulding of his hands.”(ibid 13) He added, “ ‘vessel of mercy’ doesn’t mean so much a vessel which receives mercy, but a vessel through which God brings mercy to others.”(ibid 16)

If Wright is right, then why would Paul’s anticipated “Why does God still find fault?” For who can resist his will?”(in verse 19b ESV) as a protest of his response toward an earlier objection, viz., “is God unjust”(verse 14)? I think Craig Keener’s observation, namely God’s purpose for forming vessels for glory is “conformity with his Son’s image (8:29) […] but endures those that are objects of his wrath for the sake of the others (9:22–23)”(Keener 2009: loc.4047), as more correct than Wright’s because from Keener’s reasoning, verse 19 objection logically follows.

Echoing Keener and contrary to Wright, David Brown argued that election, viz., God’s “right to choose whom He will [and in Rom. 9:17, He] punishes whom He will”(Brown 1997: n.p) is final. Brown contended,

If God chooses and rejects, pardons and punishes, whom He pleases, why are those blamed who, if rejected by Him, cannot help sinning and perishing? This objection shows quite as conclusively as the former the real nature of the doctrine objected to—that it is Election and Non-election to eternal salvation prior to any difference of personal character; this is the only doctrine that could suggest the objection here stated, and to this doctrine the objection is plausible.(ibid )

Representing one of Reformed commentators’ critic of Wright’s view of God’s election, Sam Storms believed that the objections in verses 14 and 19 would not have “been raised and dealt with by Paul at such great length had the issue in view been the historical or earthly status of individuals […]”. He wrote “[t]he objection, Paul’s vehement denial of unrighteousness in God, and his lengthy (vv. 14-23) explanation are intelligible only if eternal salvation and condemnation are at stake.”(Storms 2007: 126)

I am open for comments, positive critics and edification from my brothers and sisters holding New Perspective view because my reformed bias might have clouded my judgement of Wright’s approach.

What Say You: How right is Wright? Did Wright get Paul’s case in Romans 9 correct?

[1] There are many New Perspectives, but I focused solely on N. T. Wright’s
[2] Specifically Romans 9-11
[3] Which Paul  “now sees the torch being passed from a group consisting only of Jews (a selection from within Abraham’s physical family) to a group consisting of Jews and Gentiles together.”(ibid 15)
[4] Schreiner and Wright are correct in viewing Romans 9-11 as dealing with Israel as a nation but I think it’s both soteriological and ecclesiological.
[5]  Wright noted that in “the Old Testament, Israel goes into exile in order to be reshaped by God; where, in other words, the potter remoulds the clay.”(ibid 15)


Brown, D. (1997) Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Ro 9:17-19). Ed. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Keener, Craig S. (2009) Romans. A New Covenant Commentary. Cascade Books – Eugene, Oregon. Amazon Kindle Edition.

Schreiner, Thomas R. (1993) “Does Romans 9 Teach Individual Election Unto Salvation? Some Exegetical And Theological Reflections.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 36.1: 25-40.

Storms, Sam (2007) Chosen for Life: The Case for Divine Election, revised ed. Grand Rapids: Baker.

Wright, N. T. (1997)What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity? Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

_________ (2004). Paul for Everyone: Romans Part 1: Chapters 1-8. Both volumes include glossaries. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.