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Matthew 18:20 makes it sound like he's here with us:

For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 makes it sound like he's not here with us:

Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.

How is Jesus with us when two or three are gathered, if he is still hanging out in the clouds?

closed as off-topic by Dan Apr 16 '16 at 4:32

  • This question does not appear to be about the analysis of biblical text within the scope defined in the help center.
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Questions about "us" are clearly seeking to apply the text to a (presumed) Christian audience, which is off topic here. Also, the connection between these two texts is not clear (aside from a Christian belief in canonicity). This question has been migrated to Christianity.SE. If you'd like to focus the question on a specific text and understanding it within its original historical, linguistic, or literary context (not on its devotional implications for modern-day religious groups), please edit and vote to reopen. – Dan Apr 16 '16 at 4:35
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Because God is both immanent and transcendent. He is omnipresent and not bound by the confines of His creation (transcendent). He is uniquely separate from His creation; thus He is not "hanging out in the clouds". But for those who are in Christ (to whom the scripture is addressed) He is also immanent--with them at all times through His indwelling. In fact, we are baptized into the body of Christ upon conversion and thus are one with Him. Additionally, God is eternal and not at all bound by His own creation of time. So there is no challenge with His being with the "two or three" (or one) and elsewhere simultaneously.

The most frequent misapplication of this text implies that He is NOT with us unless we have two or three together (in unity or harmony) in His name. Of course, if He is not with us while we are alone, then we do not belong to Him. Finally, the text is addressing church discipline and is referring to the unity of voice among those who seek to correct a disobedient believer. It is not referring to physical location.

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

  • Can you add the verse and source, please? Thank you. – Daisy Apr 15 '16 at 2:17
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1. Question Restatement:

As I understand it, the question is asking if "there I am in the midst of you", (Matthew 18:20) - should be interpreted figuratively or literally.


2. The Context - and The Greek

Matthew 18:1 begins, stating that Jesus' Hebrew name is "Immanuel, God With Us", in reference to Isaiah:

NASB, Isaiah 8:10 - Devise a plan, but it will be thwarted; State a proposal, but it will not stand, For God is with us, (כִּ֥י עִמָּ֖נוּ אֵֽל).

In Matthew 18, Jesus is largely speaking to conflict, and the pursuit of unity, how they should find resolution - To forgive - and to release, (λύσητε, Matthew 18:18) in Heaven and Earth, (Matthew 18:15-20), or exceptionally to bind.

  1. In their midst, (μέσῳ) - Midst also has the meaning of "Between" - which immediately stirred up all of the passages in Scripture with this same idea, (Greek Search). Especially between David and Johnathan in 1 Sam 20:23.

  2. συνηγμένοι - Does mean "gathered together" - but it also sits in the same context as Matthew 18:19, Interlinear - with συμφωνήσωσιν, "chorus of voices", a symphony, unity).

  3. To Petition, αἰτήσωνται - Is inflected in the Greek in the Middle Voice, indicating that the Petitioners are making an appeal to God for their own benefit, (Strong's Reference).


3. Answer - Unity, for The Ministry of Reconciliation:

2 Corinthians 5:18 - Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.

Jesus' Words - Were Undoubtedly For Reconciliation:

NASB, Matthew 18:21 - Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

In Scripture, there are Many Examples of this Term being used Idiomatically, both "positively" and "negatively", ("Judge Between", Biblical Search).

In the Negative Sense:

NASB, 1 Samuel 24:12 - May the Lord judge between you and me, and may the Lord avenge me on you; but my hand shall not be against you.

And in the Positive Sense:

NASB, 1 Samuel 20:23 - As for the agreement of which you and I have spoken, behold, the Lord is between you and me forever.”

  • Then if it was figurative "But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world." (1 Corinthians 11:32) does this disciplinary action occur while we are alive, or after Jesus returns and separates the sheep from the goats, allowing us to get condemned with the world till he arrives? – Decrypted Apr 2 '16 at 15:36
  • Of in Hebrews 12:11 "Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." and 7-8 "If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons." – Decrypted Apr 2 '16 at 15:40
  • As always as it is with understanding to learn how you see it brings much joy for it shows me where its at in its journey, stick with it I'm glad to see you getting this far. For there are many roads to understanding and understanding has many doors. Of one door one can stand and find great joy when a friend comes to visit. Oh how many doors I wish to visit! And how many roads I have never traveled! This is why we have such a great God. He is just pure wonderful awesomeness, and I thank you for traveling to the door he has shown me. – Decrypted Apr 2 '16 at 15:54
  • @elikakohen The words you analyzed were from 3:19. The phrase "there am I in the midst of you appears in verse 20. – user10231 Apr 2 '16 at 20:32
  • This surely has something to do with immanuel (cf. 1:23 > 28:20). – Susan Apr 2 '16 at 22:34

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