This is a continuation of our study of the four unities of 2 Thessalonians 4. By looking closer at these four we can see that the commonly accepted eschatologies of both futurists and the majority of Preterists, respectively, are in error. This was brought up in the previous articles.
The four unities are:
Unity of Time
Unity of Action
Unity of Essence
Unity of Place.
The previous article examined more thoroughly the first two unities, time and action. This article will look more closely at the unities of essence and place. All of these studies are to show that that what happened in AD70 involved both general classes of believers, living and deceased believers in Christ, in a single, unique event. It is an event that is largely misunderstood because of the heavy, obscurant influence of tradition over the Biblical record.
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.
Unity of Essence (And for this one I need to go to other passages)
The two groups, those who have died in faith and those still living, were essentially different in AD70. We can probably agree on this. The first group no longer had physical bodies, those still in the world did. Two different essences, physical and spiritual (and non-physical). But these two groups overgo a change. The ones who have died are released from Hades. The ones on Earth will undergo a change in their bodies. Before the events of that day of the Rapture they will have had the same essential bodies as those who were in Hades.
I Corinthians 15:50-53:
50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.
53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality
This is what I mean by unity of essence. The disembodied and the still-living will both be fitted for Heaven. That means, obvously, a change from the physical since “flesh and blood cannot enter into the Kingdom of God”.
And this is where many Preterist err seriously. They may conclude that the dead in Christ go to be with Him, but they insist (many of them) that those living on the Earth go on living, with only a positional change. But this is contrary to the text!
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 change in the living saints just does not satisfy the text here.
Audience relevance, that precious tool of Preterists is conveniently forgotten when it comes to 1 Thess. 4:13ff. Read the passage following passage with Thessalonian eyes. Put yourself in their sandals – especially those who have lost, say, a beloved husband or wife (verse 13). What is the comfort Paul is giving them? The implication is that they are going to be together when all saints, the living and previously dead, go up to meet Christ.
More importantly than this even, both groups are with Christ forever. And we, all Christians throughout the centuries, will also join them when we die. The proof for that is in plenty of other passages.
This passage, rightly understood, has plenty of comfort. It did for the Thessalonians, Romans, and all saints throughout the Roman Empire of the first century. And it does for Christians of all countries and times – especially if properly understood.
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