Before you read this study, please be certain that you are familiar with the three modes of thought concerning the timing of the “Rapture”, the time when Christians will be transformed into immortal bodies and will join the resurrected righteous dead to meet Jesus as He is returning to Earth to rule for 1,000 years.
The three modes of thought are:
1. Pre-Tribulation: Jesus returns invisibly just before the Great Tribulation and “raptures” (takes up) the Christians and the righteous dead to Heaven, leaving the rest of the living to face 7 years of tribulation at the hands of the Antichrist.
2. Mid-Tribulation: Jesus returns invisibly just as the Tribulation starts (3 ½ years after the rise of the Antichrist) and takes the living Christians and the resurrected righteous dead to Heaven, leaving the rest of the world to face the Tribulation.
3. Post-Tribulation: Jesus returns only after the Tribulation, putting an end to both the Tribulation and the battle of Armageddon at the same time, taking up the living Christians and the resurrected righteous dead just before He destroys the Antichrist and the Armageddon armies. In this scenario, Christians WILL suffer through the entire Tribulation.
Scripture is clear as to when it will happen, but too many Christians don’t know all of them, thus the three theories. I have put the truth in condensed form in this study, but the full version is contained in the End Times Studies in this Web site.
Ok, here we go.
Ancient Thessalonika (sometimes called Salonika), now called Thessaloniki was founded in 315 B.C. by one of Alexander the Great’s generals named Cassander who took the territory of Macedonia after Alexander’s death in 323 B.C.
Thessalonika became one of Greece’s largest cities under Greek and later, Roman rule, was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1430 A.D. and was finally returned to Greece in 1912 when the Ottoman Empire fell..
Paul is thought to have written his first letter to the Thessalonians in about 52 A.D. possibly from Athens or Corinth and is thought to be the oldest of the New Testament books.
I THESSALONIANS 1:1-10
1 PauL, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers,
3 remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father,
4 knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God.
5 For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake.
6 And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit,
7 so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe.
8 For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.
9 For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,
10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
It is interesting that Paul addresses a single church, rather than “the churches” as he does in his other letters. Perhaps there was only one church in Thessalonika or it could have been a fledgling church.
Oddly enough he doesn’t identify himself as an apostle as he does to other churches, seeming to indicate that he was well known to the Thessalonians. He also mentions Timothy and Sylvanus as if they were well-known to the church also.
Paul commends their zeal, love, faith and works of righteousness which have been a model and example to the churches in both Europe and Asia, their having seen the miracles which Paul performed to prove His Gospel, and the love and sincerity with which he preached.
Many were attracted to Paul’s preaching, as the Greco-Roman gods were often capricious and cruel, and stories of them punishing men for slight infractions or even on a whim were frequent. There was no Heaven either, all of the dead wandered forever in a dark, gloomy underworld called Hades.
Yet here Paul was speaking of a loving God who loved His children, forgave their sins and promised a glorious, everlasting life of peace and joy in Heaven. What’s not to like?
Paul is happy at their conduct as well, for word concerning the Thessalonian church had spread, being a living testimony of the conduct of Paul and his companions and an advertisement of the faith they preached.
1 THESSALONIANS 2:1-5
1 For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain.
2 But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict.
3 For our exhortation did not come from error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit.
4 But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts.
5 For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness—God is witness.
Paul reminds them of the history of their faith, how he and his companions were mistreated while in Phillipi, not because they were evildoers or deceivers, but they preached their faith in honesty, their persecutions, endurance and perseverance showing that the faith they followed was real, something they truly believed in, not consisting of man-made fables.
They preached a simple truth, not using great swelling words, neither did they demand payment for their teachings, nor did they elevate themselves, but were humble in the sight of all men, very different from the usual teachers of man-made philosophies such as Stoicism, Nicolaitanism, and Epicureanism which were rampant at the time.
I THESSALONIANS 2:6-12
6 Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ.
7 But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children.
8 So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.
9 For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God.
10 You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe;
11 as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children,
12 that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
No reason is given, but Paul felt it to be important to remind the Thessalonians of the conduct that Paul, Timothy and Sylvanus showed when they first preached the Gospel there. I suspect that he was showing the difference between himself and the conduct of worldly teachers of his time.
Other teachers usually demanded payment and food for their efforts, but Paul, being a tentmaker by trade was careful to live by his own means so that he could teach the Gospel for free, although Scripturally he had every right to expect to be paid for his teaching.
As he himself said;
I CORINTHIANS 9:13-14
13 Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar?
14 Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.
The priests and the Levites were dedicated to offering sacrifices for the people and maintaining the Tabernacle (and later the Temple). That was their only job, so commanded by God, and as such they were allowed to eat of the offerings of meat, grains, fruits and other foods dedicated to the Lord.
Even so, preachers and teachers could expect to be paid a reasonable wage by their listeners for their work. And Paul preached the Gospel to the Thessalonians without charge, out of sincere love, without expecting payment so as to not burden his hearers.
I THESSALONIANS 2:13-16
13 For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.
14 For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans,
15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men,
16 forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost.
Paul expresses his pride in the Thessalonian church in the fact that God had prepared their hearts to receive the news of the Gospel, and that they turned away from idols to serve Him in sincerity and truth.
He reminds them that the persecutions they have endured are not unique but are the same as other Christians in Judea and world-wide. He notes that it is usually the Jews themselves who start the persecutions, and as Luke describes in the Book of Acts, the Jews frequently stirred up the prominent people of the cities with blasphemous lies against the Christians.
These unbelieving Jews are hostile to anyone who isn’t one of “them”, and there is no pleasing them, no matter what one does. They hate competition and are violently opposed to anyone or anything that threatens their self-perceived religious position and authority, and as Paul said, they murdered both the Lord Jesus and their own God-sent prophets.
They do not enter the Kingdom of Heaven themselves, and forbid teaching others who are trying to attain salvation, the truth of the Gospel that they might enter Heaven. Jesus spoke of these people when He said concerning the experts in the Law of Moses;
52 “Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.”
This also brings up an important point. The “keys” that Jesus gave Peter are the keys of KNOWLEDGE of what is required to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, keys that are given to ALL of us who believe, especially to those who preach or teach the Gospel so that others might understand and turn to Christ. Heaven’s gates have no locks, and as Jesus is both the door and the doorkeeper of the Kingdom, Peter does not determine who enters and who does not.
A good example of these keys is found in the book of Acts;
26 Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert.
27 So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship,
28 was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet.
29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.”
30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?”
The eunuch was apparently familiar with the requirements for worship in Judaism but didn’t know about the prophecies concerning Jesus, so the meaning of what he read was hidden from him. Philip, using his keys of knowledge unlocked the meaning of the prophecy and how it had been fulfilled in Jesus. The result?
35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.
36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?”
37 Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.
39 Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.
The Catholic Church teaches that Jesus gave Peter special power to bind and loose things (such as binding Satan and his demons both in Heaven and Earth) and to loose people from Satan-generated afflictions (disease, demon possession, etc. ) here on Earth.
There is no place in Scripture where Peter uses any special authority, neither do any of the Apostles defer to him. They understood what the keys were, and that Peter and the rest of the Apostles had the same keys of knowledge as well and were expected to disseminate that knowledge to everyone.
And as for authority to bind and loose, that was given to ALL OF US when Jesus said;
19 Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
Just like Mary, Peter was only a chosen vessel used by God for a purpose. Neither of them are greater in God’s sight than any of us and are NOT to be worshiped or prayed to!
I THESSALONIANS 2:17-20
17 But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire.
18 Therefore we wanted to come to you—even I, Paul, time and again—but Satan hindered us.
19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?
20 For you are our glory and joy.
Paul’s love for the members of the church is expressed by his eagerness to see them again, showing that this was not a “numbers game” as some churches practice, making those who wish to join a church register and sign a membership agreement so the pastor and elders can see how many members they have. It shouldn’t matter if there are ten members or a thousand, preach the Gospel and let God take care of the membership.
1 THESSALONIANS 3:1-5
1 Therefore, when we could no longer endure it, we thought it good to be left in Athens alone,
2 and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith,
3 that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this.
4 For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know.
5 For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain.
Paul was worried that the persecutions that he was suffering might frighten the Thessalonians and cause them to “fall away” lest the same things happen to them. So he sent Timothy to check on them, and reassure and remind them that this had been prophesied earlier, and was now taking place.
1 THESSALONIANS 3:6-13
6 But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always have good remembrance of us, greatly desiring to see us, as we also to see you—
7 therefore, brethren, in all our affliction and distress we were comforted concerning you by your faith.
8 For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord.
9 For what thanks can we render to God for you, for all the joy with which we rejoice for your sake before our God,
10 night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face and perfect what is lacking in your faith?
11 Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you.
12 And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you,
13 so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.
Paul relates how he has been refreshed by the report of Timothy, that the Thessalonian church is thriving, and the members are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Paul and his companions.
He takes great comfort knowing that his original labor in establishing the church wasn’t in vain, and again, his love and concern for the church is shown in his letter.
I THESSALONIANS 4:1-7
1 Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God;
2 for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus.
3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality;
4 that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor,
5 not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God;
6 that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified.
7 For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.
Paul urges the Thessalonians to continue walking in the laws of the Lord, knowing that as they grow and remain faithful, God will give them greater responsibilities. He also reminds them of the popular temptations Satan uses, warning them to treat their wives with respect, not as a means of merely satisfying feelings of lust, and especially to not commit adultery.
1 THESSALONIANS 4:8-12
8 Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.
9 But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another;
10 and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more;
11 that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you,
12 that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.
Paul reminds them that the laws he preaches are not from Man but from God, and rejecting God’s commands is to reject God Himself. He also urges them to be as blameless as possible in the eyes of those outside the church, giving them no opportunity to criticize and blaspheme God’s name or His church. Besides, who knows if their conduct will attract someone to follow Jesus?
13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.
16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
Paul expounds on the hope of every believer in Jesus, namely the promised resurrection of the righteous dead at Jesus’ return. The rest of the world has no sure hope of resurrection, so they in desperation have created their own beliefs in what happens after death. Some believe that death is the end, with nothing afterward, some believed in Hades (not Hell)
where the dead wander forever in a gloomy environment, some have their own versions of Heaven and Hell, etc.
But with these beliefs, there is no sure proof that what they believe is true. And when death takes them they desperately hope that they’ve made the right choice. There are no ‘second chances’.
However, we who believe in God and Jesus have hope because we have proof of God’s promises in the Bible, through historical, archaeological, and geophysical evidence, and through prophecies that have been fulfilled to the letter sometimes thousands of years after they were made.
We also have proof in the very order of the universe, from the macrocosmic to the subatomic, that everything is orderly, obviously created by an outside Intelligence, following physical and mathematical laws that were created and set before the universe came into being.
The more scientists discover, the more they are astounded by the order they see in Creation. It is reported that more and more scientists today are no longer saying ‘If God created this...’ but are saying ‘When God created this...’
Paul spoke of this when he said;
20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,
21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
22 Professing to be wise, they became fools,
23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
In these things we place our hope in that the greatest enemy of Mankind, Death itself, will be defeated and destroyed by our God, a hope reinforced and proven by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
An even greater hope and joy is the fact that some now living will never die but will be changed into glorified, immortal bodies when Jesus comes to claim His kingdom. The righteous dead will be resurrected in new immortal bodies, then the living believers will be changed into glorified immortal bodies as well. Then all the believers will be taken up to meet Jesus in the sky as He is coming down from Heaven and we will be with Him forever.
This concept is known by Christians as the ‘Rapture’. We know that it WILL happen, the biggest question is WHEN will it happen?
1 THESSALONIANS 5:1-4
1 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you.
2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.
3 For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.
4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.
Paul exhorts that we should always be ready for Jesus’ return, no matter what time of day, or what year He returns. I suspect that Paul understood that it would be in the distant future, his being well aware of John’s prophecy of Revelation, but he was also probably aware of Jesus’ warning of;
32 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
33 Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.
34 It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch.
35 Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning—
36 lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping.
37 And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!”
Those who do not know Jesus’ words or prophecies will be caught by surprise when He returns. Jesus said that His return will be just like the time of the Flood;
36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.
37 But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark,
39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
Paul is warning us that Jesus’ coming will be a surprise to non-believers, but those who believe in Him and understand the prophecies will discern the times and will understand the approximate (though not the exact time) of His coming.
A pre-Tribulation rapture would give the world 7 years warning of His return and would violate the warnings of His coming “as a thief”, in other words unexpectedly. A mid-Tribulation rapture would indicate that Jesus was coming in 3 ½ years and would also violate His promise of coming like a thief. A post-Tribulation rapture would fit His description perfectly.
And for those clinging to a pre or mid-Tribulation rapture view read the verses below, (especially verses 15-16), remembering that Jesus said He is coming “as a thief”;
12 Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared.
13 And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
14 For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
15 “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.”
16 And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.
The final battle of Armageddon is about to start, and Jesus is STILL warning that He is coming as a thief!! And if THAT doesn’t convince you that the post-Tribulation rapture is the truth, nothing else will!!!!
Irrefutable proof of the timing of the Rapture is given in the 4-part End Times study series in this site. The thread winds through numerous books of the Bible, but leaves a unmistakable trail that can be easily followed and understood.
1 THESSALONIANS 5:5-11
5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness.
6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.
7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night.
8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.
9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.
11 Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.
Paul is telling his audience to be awake spiritually and watch, to not assume that Jesus’ return is a long ways off. Even Jesus doesn’t know when the exact time of His return will be, as only the Father knows this, but He gave us signs to watch for, signs we’re seeing even now.
Besides, we don’t know how long we’ll live so we need to be ready anyway in case death takes us before His return.
1 THESSALONIANS 5:12-28
12 And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you,
13 and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.
14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.
15 See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.
16 Rejoice always,
17 pray without ceasing,
18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
19 Do not quench the Spirit.
20 Do not despise prophecies.
21 Test all things; hold fast what is good.
22 Abstain from every form of evil.
23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
24 He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.
25 Brethren, pray for us.
26 Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.
27 I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read to all the holy brethren.
28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
Paul closes with final instructions for proper Christian behavior. Note especially verse 21!!!! We are to test everything, comparing teachings and doctrines against Scripture before following them, as there are far too many un-Scriptural doctrines in the churches today!
We are also to honor the elders and teachers in the church, as God has commissioned them to shepherd the flock, exposing erroneous and poisonous teachings and doctrines within the churches, and guide those struggling in the faith.
Treat others with the same gentleness that we expect others to treat us, that there be no dissensions within the church.
Don’t despise prophecies, but test them (and the prophets themselves as described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 14) and prove their accuracy as with all Spiritual gifts. (See also the study in this site concerning testing and purposes of the gifts)
Finally, be a good example to those outside the churches, so as to attract them and introduce them to Jesus.
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