For approximately 150 years now, since the time that John Nelson Derby promoted the pre-tribulation rapture theory, most of the church has misunderstood the correlation in occurrence of that of the rapture and second coming. Much of the church today maintains the belief that the rapture will occur prior to the tribulation era, while Christ’s second coming, or Parousia in Greek, will transpire sometime following the conclusion of the three and half year period. But what evidence is there to support such a notion? Let us look at the argument that is proposed, and then proceed to breakdown the argument and see where the evidence leads.
“Now brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 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. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 nkjv
Proponents of the differentiation of the gathering of God’s people and the Parousia put most of their weight on these few verses and the ones that follow, of which we will examine here shortly. Somehow, for at least what I have seen so far, the devote followers of the separation point to the first verse as an indication, or proof rather, that the gathering and the Parousia are indeed separate events, and that the gathering precedes the Parousia in the last days timeline. How, precisely? Not sure as no articles I have personally read shred any light on that conclusion. If indeed the first verse is “proof” (of which you would need much more evidence to make the case stand), and it reveals a timeline of occurrences, then the Parousia would precede the rapture as indicated by the sequence found within the text-“the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (primary) and our gathering together to Him (secondary).”
In Matthew 24, Jesus Himself explains how the chronological events will unfold:
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the earth to the other.”matthew 24:29-31 NKJV
As would could easily conclude from the text, Christ’s coming occurs immediately after the tribulation era and precedes the rapture, henceforth making the events both separate and one and the same. Christ comes back to judge the world and gather His elect at the same time. Parousia first followed by the gathering.
In 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 we see Paul explaining the coming of Christ and the rapture occurring simultaneously:
” For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.”1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 NKJV
Again the evidence points towards the Parounia occurring first which then is followed by the resurrection of the dead in Christ and the gathering together of those that are “alive and remain”-hinting at that of the believers who survived the tribulation era. The sound of the trumpet is in correlation to the last trumpet found in the book of Revelations, of which Paul touches on again in the book of 1 Corinthians chapter 15. The last trumpet takes place after the tribulation era is complete and the wrath of God is set to be poured out on the earth.
This passage is echoed and expressed in detail in Revelations chapter 19 and 20, revealing the Parounia, resurrection and rapture in vivid detail:
“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war…He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called the Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.”Revelations 19:11,13-14 nkjv
“And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.”Revelations 20:4-5 nkjv
Here we see the Parounia taking place and the resurrection of which takes place during the Parounia and judgment of the world and beast. As Paul stated in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 that the alive and remaining in Christ will by no means be taken up until the dead are resurrected first, so is this scenario layout for us in Revelations 19 and 20 where we see Christ coming followed by the resurrection of the dead which includes those that died during the tribulation era, meaning that the second coming, rapture and resurrection all occur simultaneously and following the tribulation era.
Now, as with any argument, there are the counter arguments, of which the proponents of separation recede to their one of their last arguments, and that is the saints coming with Christ. How could saints descend with Christ during His second coming if the church has not been raptured? The dead in Christ have not been resurrected either, so how could He return with His saints? A plausible explanation can be found by examining what is meant by the term “saints” being used, and then correlating it with other pieces of scripture.
“So that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.”1 thessalonians 3:13 nkjv
“Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.'”Jude 1:14-15 NKjv
It seems to put a hamper on much of what I have proposed thus far, and yet just a little research will help shed some light on this impeding issue. The Greek word being used for both verses is “hagios,” which can be translated as saints or holy. This word is often translated holy and used for the first word for Holy Spirit. But the word is also used in several places for holy angels. Two verses in particular that correlate with the scene laid out for us by both Paul and Jude are found in both the book of Matthew and Mark, and the words are stated by Christ directly.
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.”Matthew 25:31 nkjv
“For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”Mark 8:38 nkjv
As you can see, the evidence points towards a better understanding of the scripture as referencing that of angels rather than Christian saints. Christ will descend with His angels at the sound of the last trumpet, and the dead will be resurrected followed by the rapture of those that are still alive, all of which occur after the tribulation era. Therefore, we can conclude that the evidence directs us to both a separate and single occurrence that unfolds after the three and half year period known as the tribulation, of which Christ’s return precedes the resurrection and rapture.
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