The two events of 1 Thess. 4.16-17 (the sleeping saints rising up from Hades and the rapture of the living saints) merge into one glorious event (a meeting together with Jesus in the air). Now these questions come to mind: If the living saints – as all too many Preterists believe – still remain on the Earth post-70AD then …
1. How would their lives have changed?
2. How would they even KNOW of a change – if all of this was invisible?
3. And – if they DID know – why would they not have written about the great change that just happened? This would have been a tremendous evangelical Exhibit A.
But what we have instead is 30 – 40 years of silence from Christians. But what we do have in this same period is gnostics filling in the void. What void? The earlier Christians had all been raptured away – just as Paul had had written.
But could it be possible that this rapture was totally invisible, invisible to any physical observation? Hardly. The saints at that time witnessed a real event, the ones living rising up with the ones who had died. They rose up together to meet the Lord in the air. Just as Paul said they would.
The disagreement here among Preterists is on the nature of the event, what kind of resurrection the saints had, both the living and the dead. It makes no sense that it would be invisible. I suspect that there were testifying visible signs just like the ones reported earlier by Josephus, Tacitus, etc There are precedences even during the NT of visible signs signifying spiritual events. Temple veil torn, tongues of flame, whooshing sound, and so on.
By far the biggest visible sign was the living saints suddenly disappearing.
If anyone doubts that this is exactly what happened they need to read the passage again.
Given that at the time of the Parousia we already have Christians over a wide area – over the greater part of what is now Europe. Those who argue that this was merely a spiritual “change of address” with no physical change in that generation of believers have the likelihood of the majority of them being totally unaware of the change, still awaiting for the event, still suffering various afflictions – contrary to Paul’s inspired promise of relief.
Do you see the problem? It seems the only choice we have is a real rapture in AD 70 with dead and living saints rising up to meet Jesus in the air or a rapture still to come. But this second choice is contrary to a great body of evidence.