Biblical Eschatology

A Biblical study of eschatology and the pre-tribulational & post-tribulational rapture views of the end times.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11

It is believed that 1 Thessalonians was written by Paul around 52 AD. Therefore, some may argue that due to the early date, and the fact that some believe the gospels were written at a later date, then Paul could not be quoting Jesus. According to CARM, "it is generally believed that Matthew was written before A.D. 70 and as early as A.D. 50."1

Even if the gospels were not written until after 1 Thessalonians, there would still have been a strong oral teaching. Additionally, as CARM points out, there is a consensus that even if the gospels had a later date there was probably what they refer to as a Q Gospel (also called Q source or Q document), that essentially contained a comprehensive account of what Jesus did and said during His first coming and was the reference text used by the gospel writers. It is also confirmed by Luke in compiling his gospel that he drew on the eyewitness accounts that were probably written down.
Luke 1:1-2 ESV
1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us,
Whatever the case may be, when you look at the Greek, it is clear that Paul is referencing Jesus' Olivet Discourse as well as some other things Jesus stated about His return.

First Thessalonians 4:15 starts by stating, "For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord" (ESV). The Greek phrase in verse 15 ἐν λόγῳ Κυρίου would be literally translated, "in the speech (or word) of the Lord." Basically Paul is saying, in the Lord's own words. In other words, Paul was saying the equivalent of what we say in English, "To quote Jesus." And that is exactly what is found. If you look at it in the Greek the whole passage is basically one giant quotation of Jesus.

Here are some close parallels found in the New Testament:

Matthew 22:15 ESV
Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words (ἐν λόγῳ).
Luke 3:4 ESV
As it is written in the book of the words (ἐν βίβλῳ λόγων) of Isaiah the prophet, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
John 8:31 ESV
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, "If you abide in my word (ἐν τῷ λόγῳ τῷ ἐμῷ), you are truly my disciples,
It is argued by some that the living being raptured basically at the same time the dead are resurrected was not taught by Jesus. That is just not true at all.
Matthew 24:31 ESV
And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
If you read Zechariah 6, it is made clear that the four winds of heaven is the earth. Therefore, in Matthew 24:31 Jesus is saying that those whom he gathers are the elect who are currently alive and living on the earth.

In John 6, over and over again Jesus stated he would raise all believers. He never specified dead or living believers. "For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day" (John 6:40 NASB).

Martha understood this to mean dead Saints as well as the living when she states (about Lazarus who had died), "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day" (John 11:24). Looking at the Olivet Discourse we see the state of affairs of those who are living, not dead!
Matthew 24:40, 42 ESV
40Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 42Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.
Matthew 25:10 ESV
And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut.
Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4 was not trying to prove that the living would rise in the rapture. They already understood this. What they didn't understand is that the dead would raise with them.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 ESV
13But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
There is no where in scripture that says Paul was teaching something that was only revealed to him.

Multiple times Paul talks about divine revelation from God and he uses the word ἀποκάλυψις (apokalypsis). Several times he speaks directly about how he received divine revelation (apokalypsis) about the gospel of Christ. However, never once does he mention specifically that he received divine revelation (apokalypsis) regarding the rapture or coming of Jesus.

Fact: the Greek words λόγος (logos) and ἀποκάλυψις (apokalypsis) never appear together in the same verse in the New Testament! Ever!

A perfect example is 2 Corinthians 12:1, where Paul talks about receiving "revelations of the Lord" ἀποκαλύψεις Κυρίου. He never uses λόγος (logos) in this passage, and specifically states it was divine revelation by using ἀποκάλυψις (apokalypsis). Ephesians 3:3-6 is another perfect example. Paul in speaking of the gospel of Christ says that it was ἀποκάλυψιν ἐγνωρίσθη μοι "made known to me by revelation." He specifically states it was made by revelation ἀποκάλυψις (apokalypsis), and once again never uses the word λόγος (logos).
Galatians 1:11-12 NASB
11For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation ἀποκαλύψεως (apokalypsis) of Jesus Christ.
Paul said that he received the doctrine of the gospel through direct revelation from Jesus Christ. Some assume that everything Paul taught was based on a divine revelation from Jesus Christ. This may be a stretch. Obviously, wherever he didn't have a divine revelation from Jesus the Holy Spirit would have led Him since all scripture is inspired by God. Even if Paul received the doctrine of the rapture as a direct divine revelation from Jesus, it does not prove that he wasn't quoting the Olivet Discourse. Obviously, Jesus or the Holy Spirit could have revealed to Paul the exact words Jesus spoke in the Olivet Discourse. In his epistles, Paul obviously quoted words Jesus stated during His first coming. For instance, he quotes Jesus in what he said when he instituted communion (cf., 1 Corinthians 11:25-26). In his communion discourse Paul indicates he is quoting Jesus with the Greek word λέγων (logos), which is the same word used by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 before starting his discourse on the rapture.

Obviously it cannot be dogmatically stated either way whether he taught the rapture based on divine revelation or by merely quoting what Jesus stated in the gospels. However, to say it is based on divine revelation must be asserted based on pure conjecture, since there is zero evidence of this in the New Testament.

In the Old Testament you will also find the phrase ἐν λόγῳ κυρίου. In 2 Chronicles 30:12, it is clear that the reference was in quoting what was written in the Law. The ESV states that the king and the princes were merely informing the people what was commanded in "the word of the Lord."

This same phrase also appears in 1 Kings 13:1, 2, 5, 32, and 20:35. Here a prophet is merely quoting what the Lord said to that prophet. This is clear based on 13:2 which states, "thus says the LORD" (ESV). The prophet received this based on divine revelation, by the Lord speaking to that prophet, and then the prophet quoted verbatim the words spoken by the Lord.

Therefore, all occurrences of the Greek phrase ἐν λόγῳ κυρίου are quotations. The fact that some were received by divine revelation, and others from reading the law does not detract from the fact that all are quotations.

Since all examples are quotations, it is only a mater of determining whether there is evidence that Paul was quoting things Jesus said during His first coming or if these are quotations after the fact, similar to the book of Revelation. Jesus taught a coming at the end of the tribulation and never spoke specifically about a coming before the tribulation. This puts the burden of proof on pretribulationists to prove this chronology. However, not one passage in scripture shows a chronology of the rapture occurring before the tribulation.

Paul uses only seventeen verses to describe details on the rapture. He was not explaining a new doctrine; he was merely clarifying what Jesus had already taught. If this were some new doctrine, Paul would have spent more time on the topic. Two whole chapters in Matthew are devoted to Jesus' explanation in the Olivet Discourse.

In this article I will go verse by verse and show that Paul was merely re-quoting what Jesus had already taught.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-15 NASB
13But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring ἄξει with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.

Revelation 19:14 NASB
14And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.
Jude 1:14-15 NASB
14It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, "Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, 15to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him."
1 Thessalonians 3:13 NASB
13so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.
Zechariah 14:5 NASB
5You will flee by the valley of My mountains, for the valley of the mountains will reach to Azel; yes, you will flee just as you fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him!
Deuteronomy 33:2 NASB
2He said, "The LORD came from Sinai, And dawned on them from Seir; He shone forth from Mount Paran, And He came from the midst of ten thousand holy ones; At His right hand there was flashing lightning for them.
John 11:25 NASB
25Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies,
John 6:40 NASB
40"For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day."
What was Paul's hope? His hope was that there would be a resurrection of the righteous. He wasn't teaching a new doctrine. He was simply explaining to the Thessalonians what that doctrine entailed.
Acts 24:15 NASB
15having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.
1 Thessalonians 4:15 NASB
15For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive [οἱ ζῶντες] and remain [οἱ περιλειπόμενοι] until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.

The greek of verse 15 εἰς τὴν παρουσίαν [parousia] τοῦ Κυρίου translated "until the arrival [parousia] of the Lord." Parousia is a noun, not a verb. If this is a formal title of an event, then "the coming" is a proper translation. However, if this is not a title, then arrival is more accurate. Paul using the word parousia would be familiar to the early Christians because this is the same wording used elsewhere.
Matthew 24:3 NASB
3As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"
Greek: τὸ σημεῖον τῆς σῆς παρουσίας [parousia]
Translated: the sign of your arrival [parousia]
This same language is repeated by Jesus in Matthew 24:27, 37 & 39 ἡ παρουσία [parousia] τοῦ Υἱοῦ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου "the coming of the Son of Man." Paul also uses this same language in 1 Corinthians 15:23 ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ [parousia] αὐτοῦ "at his arrival [parousia]."

Each usage of parousia is preceded by an article. This makes it appear that parousia was a technical term, and therefore, these verses are all describing the same event.

The rest of 1 Thessalonians 4:15 will be commented on with verse 17.

1 Thessalonians 4:16 NASB
16For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ [οἱ νεκροὶ ἐν Χριστῷ] will rise [ἀναστήσονται] first.

Here in verse 16 the Greek says αὕτη ἀναστήσονται [anistēmi] πρῶτον [prōtos] which could be translated "will be resurrected [anistēmi] first [prōtos]." The word used in the New Testament for the resurrection is ἀνάστασις (anastasis) and its verbal cognate is anistēmi.

Interestingly a simiar phrase is used in Revelation 20:5 ἡ ἀνάστασις [anastasis] ἡ πρώτη [prōtos] translated "the first [prōtos] resurrection [anastasis]." Here instead of using the verbal cognate anistēmi, John uses the noun form anastasis. It is possible that John was using this as double entendre to make the point that not only was this the first resurrection, it was also the same resurrection referred to by Paul.

John quotes Jesus using this same terminology, such as John 6:39 ἀναστήσω [anistēmi] αὐτὸ ἐν τῇ ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ I will raise them (resurrect them) up on the last day. Similar phrases are also found in John 6:40, 44 & 54. Later in the book of John, Martha realizes that Jesus' use of anistēmi was a reference to the resurrection.
John 11:23-25 NASB
23Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again [anistēmi - Ἀναστήσεται] ."
24Martha said to Him, "I know that he will rise again [anistēmi] in the resurrection [anastasis] on the last day.
25Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection [anastasis] and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies,
Matthew 24:30-31 NASB
30And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory. 31"And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.
Some say that the rapture and the gathering together are different events. But this can't be so. Pretribulationist Dr. Paul D. Feinberg, in reference to 2 Thessolonians 2, correctly stated, "Paul calls it our gathering to him. He is definitely speaking to Thessolonian Christians who were members of the church. He uses the first person pronoun in 1 Thessolonians 4. Therefore I cannot escape identifying the gathering with the catching up."

It is noted that Old Testament saints were not in Christ, and therefore do not take part. However, it was said that the disciples would take part in the rapture on the last day, as well as Lazarus.

I moved verse 15 here, to show the parallel with 17.

1 Thessalonians 4:17 NASB
17Then we who are alive [οἱ ζῶντες] and remain [οἱ περιλειπόμενοι] will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.
Greek: ἔπειτα ἡμεῖς οἱ ζῶντες οἱ περιλειπόμενοι ἅμα σὺν αὐτοῖς ἁρπαγησόμεθα ἐν νεφέλαις εἰς ἀπάντησιν τοῦ Κυρίου εἰς ἀέρα καὶ οὕτως πάντοτε σὺν Κυρίῳ ἐσόμεθα.

We meet ἀπάντησιν [apantēsis] the Lord in the air. In addition to here, apantēsis is only used in two other places in the New Testament Acts 28:15 and Matthew 25:6. Interestingly enough, Matthew 25:6 is another reference to the rapture, and proves yet again, Paul was quoting Jesus.
Matthew 25:6 NASB
"But at midnight there was a shout, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet ἀπάντησιν [apantēsis] him.'
Most Bibles have περιλειπόμενοι translated as "remain"? We will see, however, that it really means "survive." I found only two occurrences total in secular Greek literature of "περιλειπόμενοι." Both secular references have the meaning of survival. Note the Greek says οἱ περιλειπόμενοι (that survive) not καὶ περιλειπόμενοι (and survive). καὶ is the Greek word "and." Since καὶ does not precede περιλειπόμενοι in this verse, "and" should not appear there if you are translating this literally.

For instance:
Josephus, Against Apion 1.35
"But if any war falls out, such as have fallen out a great many of them already, when Antiochus Epiphanes made an invasion upon our country, as also when Pompey the Great and Quintilius Varus did so also, and principally in the wars that have happened in our own times, those priests that survive ( περιλειπόμενοι ) them compose new tables of genealogy out of the old records..."
Polybius. Histories 3.62.10
"When the fight was finished, too, the surviving ( περιλειπόμενοι ) captives congratulated the one who had fallen no less than the victor, as having been freed from many terrible sufferings, while they themselves still remained (survived) ( ὑπομένοντας ) to endure them.
Therefore, the best translations are:
1 Thessalonians 4:15
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive that survived until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.
1 Thessalonians 4:17
Then we who are alive that survived will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.
So why does Paul in verses 15 and 17 write "alive that survive" and not just "alive"? Why the double positive? And what are they surviving from? The only answer that would make sense is if they survived the tribulation, just as Jesus taught! In the Bible, double positives are used to stress a point. Also, note that each time περιλειπόμενοι is preceded by the definite article οἱ. This means that you cannot take part unless you survived something. This also destroys the doctrine of imminence since something most occur first since all those raptured must have first survived some event.

That those raptured must first survive is not a new concept. It is echoed in other passages of scripture.
Revelation 2:11
11'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.'.
This was also emphasized by Jesus in the Olivet discourse. This is yet another connection that Paul is making to what Jesus said.
Matthew 24:9-10 ESV
9"Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. 10And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.
Matthew 24:13 ESV
13But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Matthew 24:22 ESV
22And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.

1 Thessalonians 4:18 NASB
18Therefore comfort one another with these words.

Paul exhorts us to comfort others who have lost loved ones. There is hope; this is the same comfort Jesus gave Martha when Lazarus died.
John 11:24 NASB
21Martha then said to Jesus, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22"Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You." 23Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." 24Martha said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." 25Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" 27She said to Him, "Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world."

1 Thessalonians 5:1 NASB
1Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you.

Greek: Περὶ δὲ τῶν χρόνων καὶ τῶν καιρῶν
But concerning the times and the seasons

Why did Paul not have to write about the time and seasons? They already knew the time and season since it was a doctrine that was previously taught by Jesus in a way anyone could understand. Here Paul quotes both Matthew and Mark. The phrase Περὶ δὲ occurs only twelve times in the Bible.
Matthew 24:35-36 NASB
35"Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. 36"But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.
Greek: Περὶ δὲ τῆς ἡμέρας ἐκείνης καὶ ὥρας
But concerning that day and hour
Mark 13:31-32 NASB
31"Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. 32"But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.
Greek: Περὶ δὲ τῆς ἡμέρας ἐκείνης ἢ τῆς ὥρας
But concerning that day or hour
1 Thessalonians 5:2 NASB
2For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.
Matthew 24:43-44 NASB
43"But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 44"For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.
Note in both Mark 13:31-32 and Matthew 24:35-36, Jesus talks about the Heavens and Earth passing away and then states it occurs at an hour they are not aware of. In Matthew 24:43-44, Jesus said the day would come like a thief. Where else does it say that Jesus would come like a thief? All such references are in an obvious post-trib context.

Peter connects both what Paul said and what Jesus said together. When He comes, He will destroy the heavens and the earth, and it will be like a thief. In fact, in 2 Peter 3:15, Peter even states that he is talking about the same exact things Paul spoke of when he says, "just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction" (NASB). This raises the question, where did Paul state these things if Peter is not referencing 1 Thessalonians 4?
2 Peter 3:10 NASB
10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.
Matthew 24:29-30 NASB
29"But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30"And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory.
Verse 29 is a description of what occurs immediately before the day of the Lord, the same day that Paul and Peter say that the rapture takes place on.
Acts 2:20 NASB (cf. Joel 2:31)
Peter said this is the event we are looking for.
Titus 2:13 NASB
13looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,
2 Peter 3:14 NASB
14Therefore, beloved, since you look προσδοκῶντες for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless,
In 2 Peter 3:14 προσδοκῶντες is a "Present Participle." That means that the day Peter was speaking of, the reader of his time was actively looking for, every single day. This is the exact same idea found in Titus 2:13.

1 Thessalonians 5:3 NASB
3While they are saying, "Peace and safety!" then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.
Matthew 24:8 NASB
8"But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.
1 Thessalonians 5:4-8 NASB
4But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; 5for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; 6so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. 7For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. 8But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.
Matthew 24:48-51 NASB
48"But if that evil slave says in his heart, 'My master is not coming for a long time,' 49and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; 50the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, 51and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 NASB
9For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him.
Matthew 24:51 NASB (Ref. all of Matthew 24:48-51 above)
51and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 24:13 NASB
13"But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.
Pre-tribulationists use 1 Thessalonians 5:9 to prove a pre-trib rapture since it says we are not appointed to wrath. I am writing a separate article on this topic, which will be published soon.


We Are Not Appointed to Wrath

The Timing of the Rapture

The Testimony and Parables of Jesus

Does apostasia in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 refer to the rapture?

The Church Not Found In Revelation

The Resurrection

1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11, New Doctrine or Just a Clarification?

Who Escapes What in Revelation 3:10?

Imminence Refuted

John 14 - In My Fathers House

Harpazo the Greek Word for Rapture

Behold! I tell you what mystery means

The Dead in Christ & Tribulation Saints

Andy Woods

Revelation is NOT Chronological

Is the Holy Spirit the Restrainer?

What I believe - Day of the Lord Timeline

Understanding Zechariah 14

Blasted Hope or Blessed Hope?

Understanding Greek Pronouns and Their Importance

The Comfort Given by Paul

The Rapture in Revelation 7, Part 1

The Rapture in Revelation 7, Part 2

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