1 Thess. 4:13 – 18
13, But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
14, For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
15, For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
16, 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:
17, 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.
18, Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
By making a big deal out of “unity” I am just underscoring that this is one single, tremendous event, that happens to both groups of believers: The dead in Christ, waiting in Hades and the living saints. The more we dwell on this point the clearer the picture becomes.
It is not something that happened in an (ethnically and geographically) limited way in AD 70 but with the Main Event still in the future (as some futurists and Partial-Preterists believe).
Neither can this profound event have happened and yet having the surviving saints of the time still physically on the Earth, unchanged and still unrescued from ongoing tribulation. Aside from proofs that I will get to below that this is impossible we have the express words of Jesus (Matt. 24:22) that “ unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved“. The “cutting short” is the Rapture.
Neither is it a mere positional change for living believers from that time onward (per Max King Preterists). A careful study of these unities show that is a Scriptural and logical impossibility.
Unity of Time: One event.
“the dead in Christ shall rise first: , Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them”
Although there are technically two stages of the event here they must necessarily have happened almost simultaneously.
Unity of Action
Same passage: “rise first“, “caught up together“
What happened to the dead is what happened to the living. However different the two groups started from the same event brings them together.
Problem for the futurist: The dead in Christ must still be in the ground, or in Hades, if their scenario is to be believed. Yet Scripture foretold that this event would happen in that first-century generation.
Unity of Essence (And for this one I need to go to other passages)
Although the two groups were quite different prior to the Rapture, only the living saints being still physical, both groups are now made fit for eternity.
“Flesh and blood cannot enter into the Kingdom of God“, I Cor. 15:50
“For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” Matt. 22:30
“We shall be like Him” 1st John 3:2
And how shall we be like Him: As He was “in the days of His flesh” (Heb. 5:7) or as He prayed to return to in John 17:5?
Now, if we believe the Max King version of Preterism, we have two groups who are quite different, however they might concede this change on those who were in Hades the King Preterists have believers who are still quite physical. So they are forced to make the change here of the surviving Christians merely positional. Or they emphasize the ongoing nature of the change, as Christians die they are translated into their new life and presence with Christ. Well, that is true, but these passages are not speaking of Christians throughout the ages. They are speaking of – and to – Christians of that time.
Unity of Place – in the clouds, with Christ forever – NOT on Earth.
We have the two groups both in one place. They are first in the clouds. Note: This is very important. The saints on the Earth are in the clouds. No longer making footprints on the Earth. A mere positional in the living saints just does not satisfy the text here.
They are with Christ forever. And we will join them when we die. The proof for that is in plenty of other passages.
I welcome any comments and feedback on this post. I do not pretend to have all the answers on this. Experience has taught me that hastily stated dogmatic positions can quickly be regretted. The Internet is really good for reality checking. But also for iron sharpening iron, which is what I hope this is.
When I first wrote the earlier post I was annoyed to see that verse 18 was bolded and in a much larger font. I do not know how that happened but I am glad now that it did. I left it as it is. What better emphasis than that last verse!?
This passage, rightly understood, has plenty of comfort.
For first century Christians it proved that their faith in those numerous and specific promises of relief and reward from Christ and His Apostles was well-placed.
For us it is also an assurance of our reward and relief. The faith is the same. So is the Object.
“All the promises of God are Yes and Amen in Christ Jesus.” 2 Cor. 1:20