Word of the Week
September 2, 2023
Throeō: Hyperventilating over Headlines
And you will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not frightened. . .
Matthew 24:6 NASB
Scan the daily headlines and you will find good reason to be depressed over the cavernous divides in our country. Ask Alexa for today’s news and you will hear a catalog of conflicts all over the world.
What do you feel when you hear about the missile strikes in Ukraine or the threats of nuclear responses? Do you get uneasy when you think about North Korea’s nukes or China’s claims to neutral sea lanes? Does it seem as if angry voices are clamoring all over the globe?
No wonder people are afraid of the future!
Of course, none of this is a surprise to God. The Bible announced long ago that “There will be terrible times in the last days” (2 Timothy 3:1). Jesus Himself laid out a long list of catastrophic events that would lead up to His return (Matthew 24-25). Conflict featured prominently: “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:6).
Wars and rumors of wars? And the rest of Matthew 24:6 goes on to say, “The end is not yet.” There’s worse to come.
Christ understood human nature, and He knew that events like these would light a fire of fear in the heart. That’s why He gave a simple command: Do not be frightened!
Jesus used a strong word for “frightened.” It’s the Greek word throeō, one of the several New Testament terms used to describe fear and anxiety. It occurs only three times in the New Testament:
Matthew 24:6 – Do not be frightened when you hear about wars and rumors of wars.
Mark 13:7 – The parallel account of the same conversation.
2 Thessalonians 2:2 – Paul asks the readers not to be shaken in mind or frightened (throeō) by the reports that had been circulating, falsely suggesting that the day of the Lord had already arrived and they had somehow missed out on Christ’s return.
Isn’t it interesting that we find throeō used exclusively to describe panic rooted in prophecy?
We are talking about more than just a mild concern. The word comes from a root that means “to cry out loud, to make an outcry, to scream.” Jesus is talking about people so disturbed by the chaotic events foretold for the last days that they are ready to scream.
The predictions of Scripture paint a dire picture of the days before Christ’s return, and the shape of world events certainly seems to be headed in that direction. But Christ warned His followers not to panic. God never intended us to be stampeded or depressed by the prophecies of the Bible.
How does He want us to respond to prophecy? Prophetic passages consistently come with recommended responses:
Be ready – Matthew 24:44
Be alert – Matthew 25:13
Be pure – 1 John 3:3
Be comforted – 1 Thessalonians 4:18
Be steadfast – 1 Corinthians 15:58
But never be afraid!
Bonus: I just found Max Lucado’s take on our tendency to worry about the world’s calamities. He imagines a lawyer standing in the maternity ward reading the fine print of a full disclosure statement (like the warnings in drug commercials) to a baby about to be born. The text:
Welcome to the post-umbilical cord world. Be advised, however, that human life has been known, in most cases, to result in death. Some individuals have reported experiences with lethal viruses, chemical agents, and/or bloodthirsty terrorists. Birth can also result in fatal encounters with tsunamis, inebriated pilots, road rage, famine, nuclear disaster, and/or PMS. Side effects of living include super viruses, heart disease, and final exams. Human life is not recommended for anyone who cannot share a planet with evil despots or survive a flight on airplane food.
Max Lucado, Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009, pp. 151-2.
The most common Greek word for “fear” is phobos, the word from which we get “phobia.” When we see the more unusual word throeō, we naturally want to learn it’s distinctive features. In this case, it can be helpful to consult Greek lexicons or other word study tools. Here is what I found in two sources:
Gingrich, Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament: “Of inward disturbance caused by outward circumstances.”
Edmund Hiebert, Commentary on Mark: “A natural feeling of alarm and agitation. Emotional upset that makes one unfit to carry on proper work.”
A good commentary is often a handy tool!
Q – In 1 Timothy 4:12, Paul tells Timothy not to let people look down on him because of his youth. How old was Timothy?
A – We don’t know his exact age, of course, but we can make a rough estimate. Timothy first appears in Acts 16:1, joining his team early in Paul’s second missionary journey, probably around AD 51. The fact that he was known and respected by Christians in two different towns (Acts 16:2) suggests that he was at least in his late teens. When Paul wrote 1 Timothy, at least 12 years had passed. The apostle had been imprisoned for 4 years in Caesarea and Rome, but had gained his freedom for a final round of ministry. So Timothy was at least 30, perhaps older. He was not a mere adolescent, but he did not have the decades of experience that a man like Paul could show.
I have celebrated enough birthdays to have a vested interest in old age. That’s why I plan to take a closer look next week at the Greek word for “elder.”
©Ezra Project 2023