One of the most controversial passages in the Bible is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17. Currently, these words are being interpreted as describing a secret Rapture at the beginning of a supposed seven-year period of Tribulation, which will then be followed by the visible Second Coming of Jesus Christ. But 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17 is really a description of the Second Coming of our Lord, and that it is at that time that the truly faithful will be “caught up.”
Paul wrote: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write to you. For yourselves know that the day of the Lord so cometh like a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then cometh sudden destruction upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But you brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief” (1 Thessalonians 4:16 – 5:4). Here Jesus comes down from heaven, true believers are caught up together, and sudden destruction comes upon the lost. All of this takes place on “that day,” which is “the day of the Lord,” not in segments of events over periods of years.
These words occur near the end of Paul’s first letter to the early Thessalonian Christians. Paul wrote a second letter to these very same Christians which taught exactly the same thing. In 2 Thessalonians 2:1, Paul wrote to the same group about “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him” (a perfect parallel to 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17).
And in chapter one, Paul wrote about this same gathering. After describing the “persecutions and tribulations” which these early believers where enduring, Paul wrote: “And to you who are troubled, rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.” (2 Thessalonians 1:7 – 10).
Careful comparisons reveal that all these passages – 1 Thess. 4:16 – 5:3; 2 Thess. 1:7-10; 2:1 – describe the very same day when Jesus Christ comes down from heaven, when His faithful people are gathered together, and when sudden destruction comes upon the lost. When all three sections are put together, it becomes clear that Jesus is coming with a shout, a voice, a trumpet, with mighty angels, to catch up true believers and to destroy the lost. There is no secret about it.
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In His service,