The word maranatha is an Aramaic phrase transliterated into Greek which occurs in 1Cor.16:22. The meaning of this compound word has been debated among scholars. Does it mean our Lord has come or does it mean our Lord, come!? The context strongly indicates that the latter interpretation is the correct one. Uttering maranatha was a one word prayer invoking God's condemnation on those who opposed Christ Jesus. A similar expression is found at the close of the book of Revelation. After thrice noting the promise of the Lord, Behold, I am coming quickly (Rev.22:7, 12 & 20a), the author writes this prayer in vs.20 - - Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. Maranatha seems to have been a common petition among the faithful followers of the Lord. It was a watchword for the early church and a rallying cry inspiring courage and steadfastness. As their generation sped toward the consummation of the age in a soon-to-arrive AD 70 judgment (Mt.16:28 & 24:3 & 34), the anticipation of vindication and victory increased all the more as they eagerly awaited the Son from heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ (1Thess.1:10 and Phil.3:20). The early saints were exhorted to love His appearing (2Tim.4:8). Knowing the fear of the Lord, he persuaded men (2Cor.5:10-11). Likewise, James exhorted: be patient, strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand (Js.5:8). John, too, scripted a stirring procla- mation: He is coming with the clouds - - a coming which was to occur quickly (Rev.1:7 with 3:11 and 22:7, 12 & 20).
On the front end of 1Cor.16:22, we read, if anyone does not love the Lord, let him be anathema (i.e., accursed or cut off from the Lord). Paul uses both words (anathema and maranatha) in giving a stern admonition of warning to those who opposed Christ. Maranatha was a serious reminder that The Judge was coming to deal out retribution to those who failed to obey the gospel (2Thess.2:7-12). The Old Covenant comes to a close with a word of caution from the prophet Malachi: behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord...lest I come and smite the land with a curse (Mal.4:5-6).
Long ago, the well-known commentator Adam Clarke offered this note: “what the apostle said was prophetic and indicative of what was about to happen to the people. God was then coming to inflict punishment upon them...” Another famous student of the word, J. Stuart Russell, observed that (maranatha) would have no meaning if the event to which it refers were distant or doubtful; all its force lies in its certainty and nearness. He then punctuates his words adding, “the whole argument for the anticipated near approach of the parousia is clenched by the last word of the apostle...THIS ONE UTTERANCE SPEAKS VOLUMES.”
Terry Siverd / Cortland Church of Christ