This post is appearing on my blog tomorrow, but I thought I’d preview it here first:
The Daily Office reading earlier this week included 1 Thessalonians 5.4-11. Reading it I noted something curious.
The passage here follows a discussion about the timing of the Day of the Lord. Paul in this text says that those who are “awake” and who “belong to the day” don’t have to fear being surprised by the Day compared to those who are “asleep” and who “belong to the night.” This is a binary opposition you find a lot in the bible.
The curiosity occurs toward the end of the passage where Paul discusses Jesus’s death. In relation to these two groups–the awake and the asleep–Paul says this:
What is odd here is that, given Paul’s dichotomy, we’d expect him to just talk about the awake. We expect Paul to say something like this: “He died for us, those who are awake, so that we may live together with him.” Instead, Paul includes the asleep along with the awake: “He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.”
Of course, given my universalist sensitivities I’m intrigued by the inclusion of the asleep, who earlier in the passage are said to “belong to darkness,” in Paul’s final vision of salvation. For comparison with the NIV above, here is the ESV:
I’ve never see this passage referenced in a discussions of universalism. Have you? Given how Paul describes the two groups earlier in this text it is startling to find them both embraced by the salvation story toward the end.
Christ died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.
That’s Good News.