My Opinion: Matthew 24:29-31 and I Thessalonians 4:13-18 Describe the Same Event

In I Thessalonians chapter 4 the Apostle Paul gives a famous description of the rapture, in which he tells us how Jesus will come back some day to take all believers up to be with Him. Here is what The Apostle Paul Says about the coming rapture:

But 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. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep 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 not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For 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 will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain 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. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. (I Thessalonians 4:13-18 NASB)

Now, in Matthew Chapter 24 Jesus Christ gives us a description of His Second coming to Earth. He specifically mentions that this coming will take place after the tribulation. Parts of His description sound similar to the description given above by the Apostle Paul. Here is what Jesus says specifically about the moment in which He will come back to Earth:

“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.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. (Matthew 24:29-31)

There has been much debate over whether or not the two passages quoted above refer to the same event. Many evangelical Christians who believe in a pretribulation rapture would say that these two passages refer to separate events. Pretribulationalists believe that Jesus will come to gather the church to himself as described in I Thessalonians 4, before the tribulation. They would then claim that Jesus will later return to Earth 7 years after the rapture has happened as described in Matthew chapter 24.

I, however, disagree with this view. I am a post-tribulationalist. I believe that the rapture described in I Thessalonians 4 will happen at the exact same time as Christ’s return to earth at the end of the tribulation as described in Matthew 24. There has obviously been a lot of debate over whether or not these two passages could be talking about the same events. My pre-tribulation friends argue with great sincerity that these two passage could not be the same event because of the great contradictions in them. Their camp has drawn up long lists of differences between the two passages attempting to prove their inherent incompatability. I object to their lists on the grounds that most of what they list is purely subjective. In fact, it is my opinion that there is not a single detail in either of these passages that contradicts the other. Yes, there are some details in one that are left out in the other, but this does not in anyway prove that they are not the same events. I believe that they probably are the same events because there are several striking similarities and no contradictions at all.

In order to prove that there are no discrepancies between these two passages, I will go through every given detail of the I Thessalonians passage from verses 14-18 and show that they are compatible with Jesus’ coming after the tribulation as described in Matthew 24:29-31, as well as the parallel synoptic accounts in Mark 13 and Luke 21.

Let us begin by examining verse 14:

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. (I Thessalonians 4:14 NIV)

The first detail we see about the rapture is that when Jesus will come with “those who have fallen asleep” meaning the dead believers. The Matthew 24:29-31 passage makes no reference about dead believers when Jesus comes back. However, neither does it exclude the possibility. In fact, the parallel passage in Mark supplies us with an interesting detail that is missing from Matthew’s description of Jesus speech. According to Mark, Jesus said this:

Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven. (Mark:26-27 NASB)

In this passage the “elect” are being gathered not only from all over on the Earth, but also from heaven itself, which is probably a reference to the deceased saints. So based on Mark’s account I would say that the two events are in complete agreement so far. Both events indicate that the saints will be gathered both from Earth and from heaven. The Thessalonians account is only slightly more specific in that it mentions that the dead saints will actually be gathered first before the living saints. The Mark account neither confirms nor denies this exact sequence.

Now let us look at verse 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 not precede those who have fallen asleep. (I Thessalonians 4:15 NASB)

Verse 15 really does not give us any new information. It simply repeats a very important fact, namely, that the dead will be raised before the living. I believe that this event is referring to the “first resurrection”mentioned in Revelation 19:5. If I am right, then there can be no tribulation rapture, for Revelation 19:5 describes the dead saints as being resurrected after the tribulation, and I Thessalonians 4:15 specifically states that the rapture will not precede the resurrection of the dead saints.

Now let us start on verse 16:

 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven” (I Thessalonians 4:16a)

This line tells us that God will not rapture the believers directly to heaven. Rather, Christ Himself will apparently leave heaven in His glorified body to come for us personally. It is my opinion that this detail does not make a lot of sense if the rapture happens before the tribulation. Why Jesus have to descend from heaven only to immediately turn around and go back? Would a direct rapture of the believers to heaven really be any less personal? I believe that the reason why Christ descends is because He is on His way to Earth to set up the millennial kingdom. The Matthew account clearly pictures Jesus leaving heaven and on His way to Earth “coming on the clouds of the sky” (Matthew 24:30). Once again the Thessalonians account of the rapture is consistent with Matthew’s account of Christ’s second coming.

Let us now read a little bit more of verse 16:

 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, (I Thessalonians 4:16a&b)

The three new details that we have provided here are that the will be a loud shout, a voice of the archangel, and the trumpet of God. One of these details is mentioned in Matthew’s account. He says quite clearly that there will be a “great trumpet” when Christ returns (Matthew 24:31). The trumpet provides us with strong evidence that the rapture will be after the tribulation, because it is also mentioned in the other rapture passage in I Corinthians 15:52, where it is referred to as “the last trumpet.” Those who claim that the I Corinthians passage is talking about a tribulation rapture have difficulty explaining how the “last” trumpet could possibly be sounded 7 years before the “great trumpet” of Matthew 24. Certainly the “great trumpet” must not be very great if it does not even merit consideration in I Corinthians 15! I don’t see how there can be a later trumpet than the last trumpet.

Now, to get back to verse 16, I must be honest and admit that there are two details mentioned here that are not specifically mentioned in the Matthew 24 passage, namely, the shout and the voice of the archangel. However, as I have said before, Just because something is not mentioned in both accounts does not mean that they are not the same event. Neither account is exhaustive: the Holy Spirit only inspired each write to give a small snapshot of what will happen. The important point is that these details are not contradictory: there is no reason why there cannot be a shout or a voice of an archangel in addition to the trumpet mentioned in Matthew 24. These added details fit well with the illustration we see in Matthew 24:30 of Jesus attracting the attention of all people on Earth. These added details in I Thessalonians 4 make complete sense when one reads Matthew’s account.

Now, let us finish verse sixteen:

the dead in Christ will rise first (I Thessalonians 4:16c)

This is a detail that we have seen twice before. Obviously Paul must have thought that it was very important to mention it a third time. As I have already pointed out, this detail fits well with the assertion in Mark 13:27 that saints will be gathered not only from Earth, but also from “the farthest end of heaven” when Jesus comes back at the end of the tribulation.

Now at last we are ready for climactic verse seventeen:

Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air (I Thessalonians 4:17a)

This verse provides a very important detail: it provides the exact meeting place where Jesus will rendezvous with those who are raptured from the Earth. It says specifically that the living saints will be caught up together with the dead saints in the clouds to meet Jesus in the air. Pretribulationalists frequently argue that this verse contradicts the account of Matthew 24, because the Matthew passage says that the saints will be gathered together by angels rather than be raptured personally by Christ (Matthew 24:31). Actually, though, there is no inconsistancy here. The Matthew 24 passages says that Jesus will be seen “coming on the clouds of the sky” about the time that he sends out the angels to gather the elect to himself. It is certainly reasonable to suggest that the angels will bring the elect back to Jesus in the clouds, in agreement with I Thessalonians 4. It is interesting to note that the I Thessalonians passages does not depict Jesus coming personally to the exact location of each saint on Earth, but clearly says that they will be gathered to him at a single location in the air, a detail that is easy to match with the Matthew 24 description. Pretribulationalists like to emphasize the “personal” nature of Christ’s gathering of the saints in I Thessalonians 4, as if to imply that the gathering of Matthew 24 is impersonal, but really there are no factual inconsistencies between the two accounts. Yes, the accounts might view the events from a different angle and distribult emphasis a little bit differently, but none of the facts are incompatible with each other.

Finally, let us finish up with one more little detail from verse 17:

“so we shall always be with the Lord.” (I Thessalonians 4:17b).

This is the last tidbit that Paul gives about the rapture in I Thessalonians 4. He emphasizes that once Christ comes for us he will remain with us forever. This last detail is certainly no challenge for us postribulationists to accept. In fact, both pretribbers and post-tribbers are in agreement here: once Jesus comes, he’s not going to desert His church. The Matthew 24 passage says nothing to dispute this.

So let me close by saying that there is, in my opinion, nothing in I Thessalonians 4 that proves or even indicates that it is describing a separate event than that described in Matthew 24. I know that my pre-tribulation brothers and sisters will have trouble agreeing with me on this, as you believe very sincerely that the differences are insurmountable. However, I personally think that the differences between the two are easily exaggerated. I do not doubt the intentions of those of you who disagree with me on this. I know that you love Christ and are looking eagerly forward to His second coming the way that I am. In fact, one thing that I admire about you is your zeal in waiting for the Lord’s return. I just happen to think that you are seven years wrong about when He’s going to come back for the church. In the great scheme of things, that’s really not a very big difference.

 

In Christ’s name,

-Daniel Schilling.

You may e-mail me at schildan10@gmail.com with any questions about this or other articles on my blogs.

 

Gifts of prophecy are not the best spiritual litmus test

Originally posted on God's Truth For Sheboygan:

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. (I Corinthians 13:2 NIV)

Today there is a renewed interest in the gift of prophecy among evangelical Christians. There is also a desire among many to possess the kind of faith that can literally move mountains, and the ability to fathomall Biblical mysteries and knowledge. I think that one of the reasons why people want to possess these gifts is so that they can confirm their relationship to God in a tangible way. They want to prove to themselves that God really does exist, that He loves them, and that He is pleased with the way that they are living their lives.

But there is a much better test of a spiritual relationship with…

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The Wrong Motivation Makes Preaching Worthless

Originally posted on God's Truth For Sheboygan:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (I Corinthians 13:1)

There are many Christians today who are gifted speakers. Some of them are very good at speaking in their native tongue. Others are good at learning and speaking in foreign tongues. Still others claim to speak in angelic tongues. But God is not pleased with any of these speakers if they do not speak out of a motivation of love, even if they sound good, or their message is orthodox.

I believe that speaking that is not done out of love is worthless. Now, when I say worthless, I do not mean that it has not value to those who are listening. Indeed, God is so powerful that He can use even the words of spiteful people to to spread truth…

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Just because you say someone is not a Christian does not make it true

Originally posted on God's Truth For Sheboygan:

Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. (I Corinthians 12:14-16)

The one true church, the body of Christ, is made up of many different people, and none of us are exactly the same. Sometimes we can get discouraged because we do not think that we are as holy or spiritual as other Christians and we may be tempted to say “because I am not like them I do not belong to the body.” But the Apostle Paul…

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Stop disrespecting the unity of God’s church

Originally posted on God's Truth For Sheboygan:

There exists one universal church made up of all true believers in Jesus Christ. The unity of this church is not just an ideal or a goal; it is an established fact, brought about by the working of the Holy Spirit in many souls. Any Christian who is truly saved values the grace of God above all else, and this makes him a brother of all other Christians who have the same value. Although Satan is constantly attacking the unity of God’s church and attempting to destroy it, the church remains and will always remain intact. God will protect it from destruction. As long as there are believers there will always be a church.

Sadly, there are some Christians that show little respect for the fact of church unity. They seek to deny it’s reality by pretending that other believers are not members of God’s church. They make new rules…

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Baptism does not guarentee salvation

Baptism is not of itself a guarantee of salvation. There will no doubt be many baptized people in hell. The Bible gives an example of a baptized person who was not saved. His name was Simon, and he lived in the ancient region of Samaria. This man made a profession of faith when he heard Philip the evangelist preach about Jesus, and afterwards he was baptized (Acts 8:13).

However, Simon was not a true believer. Yes, he had been properly baptized, and yes, he said he believed, but he had not repented of his sins and Jesus Christ was not master of his life. Simon was still saw himself as master of his own life, living for his own selfish purposes. That is why, when he saw the Apostles performing great miracles, he was foolish enough to believe that He could purchase the power of the Holy Spirit with money (Acts 8:19).  The Apostle Peter instantly recognized that this man, although he was baptized and was living among Christians, was not a true believer. Here is what the Apostle Peter told him:

Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God.

The Apostle Peter told Simon bluntly that he had no part or share in God’s true church, and that the result of his current course would be that he would perish without eternal life . The problem wasn’t that Simon hadn’t been baptized; Simon had already been baptized in the presence of Philip the evangelist. Peter states that the problem is that his heart is not right before God. Clearly, not all people who are physically baptized are brought to salvation by the Holy Spirit, or else Simon would have been saved. But Simon was continuing to rebel against God in his heart, even though he had been physically baptized and was pretending to be a Christian.

The Apostle Peter then goes on to tell Simon what he needs to do to in order to make his heart right before God:

Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” (Acts 8:22-23)

The solution that Peter gives to Simon’s unbelief is repentance. Yes, Simon already had afactual belief in Jesus, but it was not true belief because it was not accompanied by repentance. Simon had not been sorry for his sins. Simon was not interested in serving Christ. He was still only interested in serving himself. He had only joined the Christian movement because he had been wowed by the impressive miracles (Acts 8:13).

The same solution applies to us today. We are not saved simply because we have been baptized or because we say that we believe in Jesus. We are saved when we believe in Jesus for real. Becoming a Christian is really not that hard. True faith simply requires a humble heart. You don’t need to be a theological genius who knows everything about the Bible. You just need to believe that Jesus died for your sins, and you need to repent of them. You must beg God to forgive you, and willingly make him first in your life. Your faith in Jesus does not need to be complicated, but it must be sincere.

If you do not believe, if you are instead worshiping your own selfish desires above God, then your baptism is a farce. If you are not sure if you are saved or not, then read your Bible (perhaps I John would be a good, short book to read) and pray to God in humility. God loves everyone and “is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (I Peter 3:9). God is both generous and loving; therefore, ask Him to give you the power to believe (Mark 9:24). The Bible is very clear that you must repent and believe. Those who do not repent and believe will go to hell, even if they have been baptized. If you refuse to repent of your wickedness, you alone, not your church, are responsible for the consequences of your unbelief (Luke 13:3).

Feel free to contact me at schildan10@gmail.com with any questions.

In Christ’s name,

-Daniel Schilling

True Wisdom Is Not About The Power Of The Intellect

The human brain is a miraculous creation, but it is also very limited. There is much that it can ponder, but very little that it can know for sure. We think that we each think that we can figure out the meaning of life by our sheer intelligence, and yet all the conclusions we arrive at are necessarily based on assumptions, many of which are inevitably wrong. We brag about how much we know, but we cannot figure out truth by ourselves.

Fortunately, there is a God who is capable of assisting us in our search for truth. He knows all and reveals the truth to the humble. We need to pray that God would reveal the truth to ourselves and those around us, just as the Apostle Paul prayed to God to give the truth to his friends:

 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. (Ephesians 1:17)

The only one capable of giving the truth is the one true God, the glorious Father, who raised His Son Jesus Christ from the dead. He is capable of sending us the Holy Spirit whose presence is marked by wisdom and revelation. It is from the Godhead that true knowledge comes: it is not the natural result of a high IQ or a college degree. We are not to seek the truth simply for the truth’s sake, but so that we can have a relationship with God. True wisdom is valuable because it allows us to know him better.

Real Christians Should Exhibit Evidence Of The Holy Spirit In Their Lives

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you,remembering you in my prayers. (Ephesians 1:15-16)

Why was the Apostle Paul so happy to see the Ephesians’ faithfulness to the Lord and love for each other? Because it was evidence that they were genuine Christians, that they were saints, God’s elect. These actions were evidence that the Holy Spirit was indwelling them, and of course, the Holy Spirit only indwells those who are saved:

When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13b-14)

Christians are given the Holy Spirit the Moment they believe

When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13b-14)

Christians are “elected” or “chosen” in Christ before the foundation of the world. However, we were not given the promised Holy Spirit to dwell inside us until the day when we believed. The Holy Spirit is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession. What this means is that the Holy Spirit is a down payment signifying God’s promise to completely transform us at the ressurrection (I Corinthians 15:52). We are still sinners now, and yet we have the Holy Spirit inside of us. He gives us the power to choose to serve God rather than ourselves. Proof that the Holy Spirit is inside us is when we accept Jesus Christ as the Son of God and our Savior and obey Him in our hearts. Of course many people will pretend to obey Jesus and believe in Him for appearance’s sake, but only those who really do trust Him in their heart have been sealed by the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, I urge everyone reading this blog post to admit that they are horrible sinners, to repent of their sins and believe in Jesus Christ alone for salvation, if they have not already done so.

It was always part of the plan

in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. (Ephesians 1:12-13a)

Some people become Christians when they are very young, others when they are old.  Some people learn the truth about Christ from childhood, while others, God allows to wander most of their lives in hopelessness and despair until they finally hear the gospel and believe. This is not because God loves some Christians more than others, but rather, that He has an unique role for all of them. When God allows someone to be raised in a Christian home and come to know Him at a very young age, God is glorified by the results, by empowering the person to live a lifetime of consistent integrity. On the other hand, when God saves some one who is very old, after years of being lost in sin, God is still glorified, as a compassionate God who saves the weakest out of most desperate circumstances. God is glorified in both cases, and His love for both believers is complete. They will both spend eternity in fellowship with Him in heaven.

The Apostle Paul had been a Christian longer than most of not all of those at the church of Ephesus when he penned the letter above. He was one of the first to put our hope in Christ. The Ephesians were saved later, being included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Neither group is superior or inferior to each other. The individuals in both groups were equally “elect,” chosen by  God before the foundation of the world. They were always going to be saved, He was never going to abandon any of His children, but God had reasons for waiting unto the appropriate moment for it to come to fruitiation.

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