by A.E. Knoch

1 Thessalonians 1:10

C. V. . . . Who rescues us from [sublinear OUT OF] the coming indignation.
A. V. . . . which delivereth us from  the wrath to come.

As the sublinear shows, the CONCORDANT VERSION, if rendered literally, should read, "out of the coming indignation." This seems to land us in a dilemma. Rom.5:9 tells us that we shall be saved from the indignation of God. In this very epistle we are distinctly told that God did not appoint us to indignation (1 Thess.5:9).

The reading OUT OF for FROM is practically certain. None of the editors who had the evidence we now have, except perhaps Bishop Ellicott and Alford, favor the old reading. Indeed it is no longer included among readings which are in any doubt. All three of the great uncials have it OUT OF. As this is a more unusual reading than FROM, it would not be very likely to take its place. Even should it occur with one copyist, it would hardly be done by three different persons working independently. We shall find that the evidence for OUT OF is so strong that no one, unless (as in our case) they wished it to be otherwise, would dare to change it.

We will touch but lightly on the minor points of difference between the versions. We use Who of Christ rather than which. Rescue is one of eleven words which the A. V. translates deliver. They render three words wrath. This one they translate anger in Col.3:8, where it is followed by another term, which they render wrath. It is notable how often the translators were forced to the correct meaning where there is a series of words of similar significance. When a number of words of similar meaning came close together, the translators often had to follow the concordant method, and distribute the English equivalents with a greater degree of accuracy. Had they used the meanings thus obtained elsewhere it would have added much to the value of their work. For instance, if this word means anger when it comes before another term which means wrath, it always means anger and never wrath, even though there is no synonym to crowd it out of its wrong place. Once they render this word indignation (Rev.14:10). It evidently means indignation in a good sense, and anger in a bad. Used of God it should always be indignation, for God's anger is always justified.

But the most important change, at first sight, seems to have little effect on the sense of the passage. The text has no "infinitive," to come. It should read coming. But what difference can there be between the wrath to come, and coming indignation?

There is a vast difference and, as this distinction is the clue to the real understanding of the passage and removes all the difficulties to which the reading OUT OF gives rise, we will study it at some length.

To take a well-known example: the slave in Matt.16:3 said he was ashamed to beg. This means that he had not begged. Had he said that he was ashamed of begging, we would infer that he had been doing it. The ending--ing--gives us, the impression of an action going on at the time.

Now, if we will turn to our passage, and consider the old rendering carefully, we will find that it, too, has difficulties. We can understand how those who remain to the coming of the Lord will be delivered from the divine indignation which follows their removal from the earth. But the deliverance, or rescue, here spoken of is not that future deliverance, but was effective in their case, and is in ours, though they never came near the "wrath to come." This shows us that we must view this indignation not merely as something future, but having a vital relation to the Thessalonians and to us in the present. Thus the logical thought and the grammatical form are in accord. Our rescue is not out of indignation, but out of coming indignation. We shall not only avoid it when it comes, but we are already free from the dread and despair which its coming involves. We are at peace with God.

To illustrate: The wrath to come may be figured by a terrific storm, such as most of us have seen, coming to devastate and destroy. By lying on our faces we may be saved through it. Some of Israel will endure through the great time of affliction. Or we may be saved out of it, as a ship may ride out of a storm which has overtaken it. But with the storm warnings of these days, ships escape out of a coming storm by getting out of its path before it reaches their position. We can imagine with what relief the passengers read of a coming hurricane out of which they will be rescued by storm warnings, though they never see the storm itself.

In English it may seem a little strained to speak of rescuing out of coming indignation. We would prefer from and have so rendered it in the version. Yet, in the livelier language of inspiration there is nothing out of the way, indeed, the very reverse.

This change makes this passage intensely practical. As in the days of the Thessalonians God's indignation is coming. Not a distant, far off prophetic event, but a constant gathering of forces which will some day engulf the world in ruin. But we not only know that they will never destroy us in their future manifestation I but we have a present realization of being outside the sphere of their operation. In Christ we are perfectly safe outside the path of coming judgment.

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