The purpose of this paper is to distinguish the "day of Christ" (Phil.1: 10) from the "day of the Lord" (1Thess.5: 2). I hope to show that the former involves the union of Christ with the ecclesia also known as His body and complement (Eph.1: 23). We are anticipating this day with excitement and are rejoicing as we consider its glorious ramifications. The latter, as I also hope to show, occurs after our union with Christ and is primarily concerned with the events leading up to and including the union of Christ with the faithful of Israel on the earth. It sets the stage and incorporates our Lord's reign on David's throne for a thousand years.
These are important matters for us to consider. Paul writes, we are "anticipating that happy expectation, even the advent of the glory of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ, Who gives Himself for us, that He should be redeeming us from all lawlessness and be cleansing for Himself a people to be about Him, zealous for ideal acts. Speak of these things and entreat and expose with every injunction. Let no one slight you" (Titus 2:13-15).
In order for us to anticipate our "happy" expectation we have to know something about it. This can only be done by examining the scriptures as the holy spirit guides us. We endeavor to correctly cut the word of truth lest we apply something to us that is meant for another people at another period of time (2Tim.2: 15).
As we grow in realization concerning this glorious advent of our God and Saviour, we are to be speaking concerning it, always entreating and exposing because it is easy for us to be slighted. This is what Hymeneus and Philetus were doing. They were swerving as to the truth concerning resurrection, thus subverting the faith of some (2Tim.2: 17,18). The Thessalonians also had their faith shaken by hearing false teaching on this subject. And if this could happen to such a mature ecclesia as the Thessalonican which was a model to all others, one that super-abounded in love and was pleasing to God in their walk, then surely we too, can be deceived. This then, is a matter worthy of our continual study.
"The day we anticipate with rejoicing."
The following scriptures record the day that we as members of the body of Christ are anticipating. Like Paul, we are yearning to be with Christ for it is much better than either this life or death. Whether we are living or dying, Christ is to be magnified, but in our hearts we long for that day when we shall be together with our Lord and Saviour (Phil. 1:23).
1) Phil.1: 6 "having this same confidence, that He Who undertakes a good work among you, will be performing it until the day of Jesus Christ." God is operating in us to will as well as to work for the sake of His delight (Phil.2: 13). He is training us to be disowning irreverence and worldly desires, that we should be living sanely and devoutly in the current eon (Titus 2: 12). This work will continue until we enter into His presence.
2) Phil.1: 10 "for you to be testing what things are of consequence, that you may be sincere and no stumbling block for the day of Christ filled with the fruit of righteousness that is through Jesus Christ for the glory and laud of God." An important part of our walk now is to be "testing what things are of consequence." In order to please God, we should not be configured to this eon, but be transformed by the renewing of our mind, for us to be testing His will (Rom.12: 2). We do this by His spirit operating in us to be growing in maturity, examining and correctly cutting the word of truth. The testing continues until we will be united with Him.
3) Phil.2: 16 "All be doing without murmurings and reasonings, that you may become blameless and artless, children of God, flawless, in the midst of a generation crooked and perverse among whom you are appearing as luminaries in the world, having on the word of life, for my glorying (boasting) for the day of Christ, that I did not run for naught, neither that I toil for naught." As we live from day to day we should be luminaries in the world. After all, "the God Who says that, out of darkness light shall be shining, is He Who shines in our hearts" (2Cor.4: 6). But then again, how can we not be luminaries when we consider this wonderful treasure that is within these earthen vessels. In one way or another the life of Jesus will be manifested in our mortal flesh (2Cor.4: 7-12).
4) Eph.4: 30 "And do not be causing sorrow to the holy spirit of God by which you are sealed for the day of deliverance." Even if we walk in a way that does not please God, we still have the consolation knowing that we are sealed for the day of deliverance. As Rom.8: 23 states, "we ourselves also, who have the firstfruit of the spirit, we ourselves also, are groaning in ourselves, awaiting the sonship, the deliverance of our body." This occurs when we meet our Lord. He will transfigure the body of our humiliation, to conform it to the body of His glory" (Phil.3: 21).
5) Rom.13: 11,12 "This, also, do, being aware of the era, that it is already the hour for us to be roused out of sleep, for now is our salvation nearer than when we believe. The night progresses, yet the day is near." The salvation here is the deliverance of our bodies. There is a sense in which we have been saved, are being saved, and will be saved. Our salvation will be complete when our Lord Jesus Christ extricates us out of the present wicked eon (Gal.1: 4).
"The event that brings us into His presence."
Gal.1: 4 is a good segue into the description of the "outlifting" or extricating event of that future day. I'd like to list four passages that give us further details concerning this event. As you read these in chronological order as they are found in the canon, notice the progression of details supplied by the apostle Paul.
1) 1Cor. 15: 51 "Lo! A secret to you am I telling! We all, indeed, shall not be put to repose, yet we all shall be changed, in an instant, in the twinkle (tossing) of an eye, at the last trump. For He will be trumpeting, and the dead will be roused incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal put on immortality."
2) 2Cor.5: 1,2,8 "For we are aware that, if our terrestrial tabernacle house should be demolished, we have a building of God, a house not made by hands, eonian, in the heavens. For in this also we are groaning, longing to be dressed in our habitation, which is out of heaven.... We are encouraged, and are delighting rather to be away from home out of the body and to be at home with the Lord."
3) Phil.3: 20,21 "For our realm is inherent in the heavens, out of which we are awaiting a Saviour also, the Lord, Jesus Christ, Who will transfigure the body of our humiliation, to conform it to the body of His glory,..."
4) 1Thess.4: 13-18 "Now we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are reposing, lest you may sorrow according as the rest, also, who have no expectation. For if we are believing that Jesus died and rose, thus also, those who are put to repose, will God, through Jesus, lead forth together with Him. For this we are saying to you by the word of the Lord, that we, the living, who are surviving to the presence of the Lord, should by no means outstrip those who are put to repose, for the Lord Himself will be descending from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the Chief Messenger, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ shall be rising first. Thereupon we, the living who are surviving, shall at the same time be snatched away together with them in clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. And thus shall we always be together with the Lord. So that, console one another with these words."
Notice in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul refers to our change as being a secret. (This is the first time in Scripture that Paul mentions our change and that not all will be put to repose.) He mentions four details in relation to this change:
a) The speed of it will be in an instant.b) It will occur at the tossing of an eye.c) It will occur at the last trump.d) We will become incorruptible and immortal.
In this text Paul also mentions that some believers will not experience death.
In 2Corinthians 5, Paul adds that our new body of God is one "not made by hands" and that we long to be at home in the new body with the Lord.
In Philippians 3 Paul gives deeper and more precious details of our change. Not only do we put on incorruption and immortality, but also our new body that is "not made by hands" is actually going to conform to the body of His glory. This was hinted at in 1 Cor.15: 35-53 but is clearly stated by the apostle in this text. The change from humiliation to glory fits us for our "city state" which has all along existed in the heavens and is the place which Christ leaves in order to meet us in the air.
In 1Thess.4: 13-18 Paul continues to add more details and confirms what he has written in previous letters. For example, from the 1 Corinthian passage we may not know for sure if the dead are to be raised first. It simply says, "the dead will be roused incorruptible, and we shall be changed" (vs52). It's not until 1Thess.4: 16 that we learn for sure that "the dead in Christ shall be rising first. Thereupon we, the living..."
In 1 Corinthians Paul simply uses the pronoun "He" when referring to our Lord trumpeting. Later, in 1Thess.4, Paul refers to Him as "Jesus", "the Lord Himself", and the"Chief Messenger."
In 1Cor.15 we are told that the change in body occurs at the last trump. In 1Thess.4 the trumpet is referred to as the "trumpet of God."
1Cor.15, 2Cor.5, and Phil.3 all tell us important details about the change into our new body while 1 Thess.4 gives the details of that event. First, we, the living, do not outstrip those who are put to repose, for the Lord Himself descends from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the Chief Messenger, and with the trumpet of God. The result is the dead in Christ will rise, thereupon we, the living, shall at the same time be snatched away together with them in clouds to meet the Lord in the air. All of us chosen to be in the body shall be snatched away at the same time and together, to meet the Lord in the air. What a tremendous expectation! More will be said on these specific points later, but for now I wanted us to see the progression and unification of thoughts by the apostle Paul concerning this particular day of our Lord Jesus Christ—how we anticipate it and are consoled as it becomes more embedded in our hearts.
All of the preceding passages deal with the expectation for people of the current era who are being called into the body of Christ. Yet, there is another day which we must distinguish from this one, as it arrives much later and primarily concerns God's chosen nation and the promises given to her dating all the way back to Abraham. This day is referred to as the "day of the Lord."
The apostle Paul mentions this day at least twice in his Thessalonian letters.
1) 1Thess.5: 1,2 "Now concerning the times and the eras, brethren, you have no need to be written to, for you yourselves are accurately aware that the day of the Lord is as a thief - thus is it coming!
2) 2Thess.2; 1-3 "Now we are asking you, brethren, for the sake of the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to Him, that you be not quickly shaken from your mind, nor yet be alarmed, either through spirit, or through word, or through an epistle as through us, as that the day of the Lord is present."
Concerning the former passage of 1Thess.5: 1,2, notice that it follows a lengthy description of the "snatching away" event of chapter 4:13-18. It seems to me that the apostle Paul is addressing two aspects of our Lord's presence because he didn't want the Thessalonian believers to be confused concerning their own expectation. I tend to think that Paul shared much more on this subject when he was with them in person, for later when their faith was indeed shaken, he reminds them: "Do you not remember that, still being with you, I told you these things" (2Thess.2: 5)?
Concerning the latter passage in 2Thessalonians, it seems obvious to me that Paul informed them that they would be snatched away before the arrival of the day of the Lord. More will also be said about this point later, but for now I think we can agree from the text that they were surprised, yet not only surprised, but alarmed that they might have been in that day.
It is true that Paul never says clearly in any of his letters that the body of Christ will be snatched away at a certain date before the arrival of the day of the Lord. However, there is much circumstantial evidence which points to this fact as well as showing that the two events are to be kept apart. The day in which we meet our Saviour is not synonymous with the day of the Lord. And, as I've said earlier, to realize this for certain, we all need to examine the scriptures for ourselves and to test what things are of consequence. This is not an easy task. It takes work. This is why Paul says we need to "endeavor" as we attempt to correctly cut the word of truth.
"Why I believe the snatching away occurs before the day of the Lord."
Perhaps a look at the beginning of Paul's ministry will help explain the time line of these two days.
After our Lord's resurrection from among the dead, He appeared to His disciples and instructed them that they will be baptized in holy spirit after not many of these days. They then asked Him saying, "Lord, art Thou at this time restoring the kingdom to Israel?" Yet the Lord said to them, "not yours is it to know times or eras which the Father placed in His own jurisdiction" (Acts 1: 5-8).
It seems that they associated the baptism of holy spirit with the restoration of the kingdom. This would agree with much of the Hebrew prophecy (Isa.32: 14,15; Ez.20: 41; Jer.23: 3-8; Joel 2: 28-31) and Peter's quote at Pentecost (Acts 2: 16,20). Peter later encouraged the people to repent and turn about for the erasure of their sins; so that seasons of refreshing should be coming from the face of the Lord (Acts 3: 19).
Therefore, in the early years after our Lord's resurrection, the Israelites were expecting the outpouring of God's spirit and the imminent restoration of their terrestrial kingdom. Yet as we continue to read throughout the record of Acts, we notice a decline spiritually among the Jews while at the same time there appears to have been a spiritual awakening among the nations through the ministry of the apostle Paul. This is what the writer of Hebrews was indicating when he wrote, "By faith we are apprehending the eons to adjust to a declaration of God, so that what is being observed has not come out of what is appearing" (Heb.11: 3). God was manifesting an adjustment within the eons. Instead of events pointing to the restoration of Israel's kingdom, something else was being observed. Israel, in part, was being calloused and cast aside, while people of the nations were receiving salvation and a celestial expectation. These Hebrews though, were given faith to believe this fact and what great faith it would have been, for the ministry that they were observing certainly did not logically flow from what had been appearing.
Luke also gives us a picture of this eonian adjustment in Acts chapter 13.
From Paul's conversion in chapter 9, nothing is really recorded which would indicate that he had received an evangel and ministry unknown to the twelve and outside the scope of Judaism. However, in chapter 13, Luke accurately records information that pictures Paul's entire ministry and gives us the key to who is snatched away and to some extent, when it occurs.
First we learn Barnabas and Saul (soon to be referred to as Paul), are severed by the holy spirit for the work to which they were called (13: 2). Rom.1: 1 explains this work as the evangel of God while Gal.1: 15 explains that it was Judaism itself that they were severed from. So, simply stated, the two men were severed by holy spirit fromJudaism for the evangel of God.
Next we read that they came upon a Jew that was withstanding them and seeking to pervert a Gentile from the faith (vs6-8).
Next Luke subtly records Saul is also Paul (vs9). This is interesting for we read in the keyword concordance of the CLNT, pg. 219, the name Paul "is probably derived from the root cease, and indicates the present interval, marking the cessation of divine dealing with Israel until God restores them to Himself." So just the change in name hints at a present parenthetical operation of God unseen by previous prophets and apostles, not to mention many within orthodox religion today.
Next we read that the hand of the Lord is on the Jew causing him to be blind, not observing the sun until the appointed time (vs11).
And finally, while the Jew is stumbling around in darkness, the Gentile perceiving what has occurred, believes the teaching of the Lord (vs11,12).
This is such a beautiful and concise picture of what God is doing in this current era. Israel as a nation has been set aside, not permanently, but until God finishes His work among all the nations. Currently, Israel is not God's favored nation. Likewise, since they have been set aside (Rom.11: 15), so has their covenant relationship that was instituted at mount Sinai through the messengers and Moses (Gal.3: 19). God is now conciliated to the world and is not reckoning our offenses to us (2Cor.5: 18,19). Today's administration is not one of law but is described as the administration of God's grace and was first entrusted to the apostle Paul (1Cor.9: 17; Eph.3: 2). Recipients of the evangel based on this administration primarily include Gentiles. As the picture in Acts indicates, while Israel is set aside, Gentiles are hearing the word for themselves and are believing. This is the force of Paul's words near the conclusion of the book of Acts when he says, "Let it be known to you (Jews), then, that to the nations was dispatched this salvation of God, and they will hear" (Acts 28: 28). From Acts 13 until the present time, Gentiles have been hearing the evangel concerning their salvation of God for themselves, without having to hear it from the Jews. In fact, it's probably safe to say that not only have the nations been hearing the evangel of God apart from the Jews, but in spite of them. I say this because just as the Jew in Acts 13 was perverting the Gentile from the faith, so were the Jews constantly hindering Paul in his endeavors among the nations.
Rom.11: 25 confirms these thoughts. Paul states, "For I am not willing for you to be ignorant of this secret, brethren, lest you may be passing for prudent among yourselves, that callousness, in part, on Israel has come, until the complement of the nations may be entering." Because the word "secret" is used here, indicates that this is the first time Paul announces the callousness of Israel. Just as Acts 13 stated that the Jew, Bar Jesus, would be blind until the appointed time, so will Israel be calloused, in part, until an appointed time when the complement of the nations may be entering.
Until then, just as the picture illustrates, Paul's ministry among the nations is in full operation. It's a ministry that involves people of all nations. Collectively these called out ones make up the ecclesia which is Christ's body, a term only found in Paul's letters. We are also called the complement of the One completing the all in all (Eph.1: 23). I repeat, it is a ministry in operation now. While Israel is in a "cast away" condition, God's temple is in each one of us who are being called into this body (1Cor.3: 16).
Let's think for a moment now concerning those of us that are being called out today who are said to have the homing of God's spirit and are said to be a "temple of God." We are primarily of the nations and are living in a period of time completely unknown by all prophets and apostles and writers previous to the apostle Paul. We are believing the evangel of our salvation while Israel and her mount Sinai covenant concerning law are cast aside. This is an age marked by God's conciliation and grace. We are His ambassadors proclaiming a well message in a foreign land, as our realm has all along existed in the heavens (Phil.3: 20). However, no person knew of our "real home" before Christ revealed it to Paul for it was part of God's larger secret that He kept concealed from the eons and from the generations. Yet beginning with Paul, He has been in the process of manifesting the glorious riches of this secret to His saints among the nations (Col.1: 24-27). Paul explains this secret as being "Christ among you, the expectation of glory."
Christ among us gives us an expectation of glory. If prophets of old did not know of the ecclesia, the body of Christ, then neither could they have known of its future purpose and calling. As the spirit leads, belief in Christ is given to people from all nations and when the time is right in God's scheme of things, we will be extricated or snatched away to meet the Lord in the air. All of this occurs during the unseen interval of time pictured in Acts 13 and confirmed in Rom.11: 25. The body of Christ is now the temple of God. It is a temple built on grace during a time that law and the previously favored nation is cast aside. It only makes sense that this temple be "lifted out" before God removes the callousness of Israel, thus reestablishing them as His chosen people bringing them back under the old covenant and the construction of their future glorious temple.
However, what if we weren't removed? How would we fit in Israel's expectation? The circumcision evangel given to Peter (Gal.2: 7-9) involves a spiritual and fleshly standing before God. In that evangel Israel is clearly the favored nation and justification occurs with the presence of law. If we were still here when Israel again is brought under the rod of the covenant (Ez.20: 34-44), we would have to change our message. For example, we now teach that God is conciliated to the world, not reckoning offenses to us (2Cor.5: 18,19). This statement is true in this era, but would be a false teaching in future eras. This is why Paul proclaims that "Now is a most acceptable era! Lo! Now is a day of salvation" (2Cor.6: 2).
We proclaim, based on Paul's writings and Heb.11: 3 that Israel is cast away and is blinded and calloused in part. This again only refers to this period of time in which God is operating among the nations, calling out Christ's body. This would be a ludicrous teaching once God has poured His spirit upon His people and they become a nation of priests.
We realize from Paul's letters that we don't need to keep the feasts and all the rituals that were a vital part of Judaism. We realize that our salvation is secure, that we are sealed with the holy spirit of promise for the day of deliverance (Eph.1: 14; 4:30) and that we are complete in Christ (Col.2: 10). However, in that future day when Israel is brought under the rod of the covenant, their traditional rituals and ceremonies will once again be very important. In fact, someday they will be keeping all of these rituals perfectly for God will make it so by placing His spirit in them. It is then that our Lord's sermon on the mount will be fulfilled (Matt.5).
We now proclaim a righteousness apart from law (Rom.3: 21-24). Could you picture us saying this when the law is once again established? I don't think so.
These examples should be enough for us to realize the wide variety of problems that would exist if the members of Christ's body who are being called out today were still here when Israel once more becomes God's people and are brought under their former covenant.
There are however, no contradictions, no difficulties once we realize Paul was severed from that "system" for a work involving a people with a "celestial calling" (Heb.3: 1) that will indeed be snatched away before God reestablishes His relationship and fulfills His terrestrial promises to Israel. This is the easy solution and is indeed the purpose of God. All of this was a secret, concealed from the eons in God. Herein lies the difficulty because God is not manifesting the glorious riches of this secret to everyone. He only manifests it to those whom He is willing (Col-1: 26). This is the motivation behind Paul's prayer in Eph.1: 17. He asks our Father that He "may be giving us a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the realization of Him, the eyes of our heart having been enlightened, for us to perceive what is the expectation of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of the enjoyment of His allotment among the saints, and what the transcendent greatness of His power for us who are believing..."
"Details from scripture verifying that the day in which we enter into our Lord's presence is not the same day in which Israel enters into His presence."
1) Rejoicing as opposed to fear.
The day of Christ (Phil.1: 6,10; 2: 16), for which we are anticipating, is a day of rejoicing. It's the day of our graduation, the day of deliverance from these bodies of corruption and humiliation into our new glorious, celestial bodies like that of our Lord's (Eph.4: 30 PhiL3: 20).
However, the day of the Lord, at least at its inception, is a horrifying time, marked with fear and darkness. We know this in part from the following language of 2Thess.2: 1-5. "Now we are asking you, brethren, for the sake of the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to Him, that you be not quickly shaken from your mind, nor yet be alarmed, either through spirit, or through word, or through an epistle as through us, as that the day of the Lord is present. No one should be deluding you by any method, for, should not the apostasy be coming first and the man of lawlessness be unveiled, the son of destruction, who is opposing and lifting himself up over everyone termed a god or an object of veneration, so that he is seated in the temple of God, demonstrating that he himself is God? Do you not remember that, still being with you, I told you these things?"
Unlike us with the day of Christ, these Thessalonian believers were not looking forward to being in the day of the Lord. Just the thought that this was so, caused them to be shaken from their mind and alarmed. They were being deluded by a counterfeit letter written by someone other than Paul, apparently suggesting that they had been in that day.
It is no wonder these believers were afraid. If this were true, then one of two things had happened. Either Paul was wrong when he told them they would be snatched away before the inauguration of the day of the Lord, or Christ had already come and taken those who really were part of His body. The Thessalonians would have thought they had been left behind. Either view would have been disturbing to say the least and would have brought despair and fear upon them.
By the way, notice this passage is further evidence that our snatching away into Christ's presence, or, as Paul says: "our assembling to Him" (2Th.2: 1) must occur before the events that usher in the day of the Lord. I suppose this is another reason why we are looking forward to that day, for not only do we finally see our own Saviour face to face, but we do so before the great affliction that's closely associated with the day of the Lord.
2) Signs, or no signs?
In Matt.24: 3 the disciples ask Jesus, "What is the sign of Thy presence and of the conclusion of the eon?" In Israel's case, they look for signs concerning His presence (Matt.24: 30). For them to believe, they have to see signs (Jn.2: 11, 23; 6: 2; Mk. 16: 20;
Lu.2.12; 1Cor.1: 22). In fact, earlier in His ministry Jesus told the people "if they should not be perceiving signs and miracles, they should under no circumstances be believing" (Jn.4: 48).
Knowing this, then, also explains how Satan will be able to deceive so many during the great affliction. He too, will use signs and false miracles with every seduction during the dark inception of the day of the Lord (2Thess. 2: 9-11). The very presence of the son of destruction, also known as the lawless one, is in accord with this operation (2Thess.2: 8-11).
We, however, do not look for signs. There is absolutely nothing that we can look for here on the earth that gives us a clue that our snatching away is near. The only thing we know for sure is that day, the completion of our salvation, is nearer than when we first believed (Rom.13: 12). Until then, we need to be "observing how we are walking, not as unwise, but as wise, reclaiming the era, for the days are wicked" (Eph.5: 15).
3) Who are taken along and who are left behind?
Notice the language in Matt.24: 37-42; "For even as the days of Noah, thus shall be the presence of the Son of Mankind. For as they were in those days before the deluge, masticating and drinking and marrying and taking in marriage until the day on which Noah entered into the ark, and did not know till the deluge came and takes them all away, thus shall be the presence of the Son of Mankind. Then two shall be in the field;
one is taken along and one is left: two grinding at the millstone; one is taken along and one left. Be watching, then, for you are not aware on what day your Lord is coming."
In this passage, who are taken along and who are left behind? I think we would all agree that the ones taken along are the unbelievers and the ones left behind are the believers. This was the case in Noah's day during the flood and it will also be the case in the future day of the Lord. In Noah's day the ones taken along were killed. Many will also be killed in the events leading up to the presence of the Son of Mankind. As Matt.24: 28 states, "Wheresoever the corpse may be, there will the vultures be gathered" (see also Lu.17: 26-37). Yet other verses seem to indicate that many of the Jews will be cast out of the kingdom, perhaps joining those of the nations in the eonian fire of chastening (Matt.8: 11,12; 13: 24-30; 36-43; 47-51; Lu.13: 28-30).
If I'm understanding these verses correctly, they are suggesting that there will be a severing of the ideal seed from the darnel, or the just from the wicked at the harvest which is said to be at the conclusion of this eon, just before the Lord returns and rules on David's throne. It is then, immediately before and during Christ's reign, that the unfaithful and wicked find their lot cast outside in the outer darkness and furnace of fire where there will be lamentation and gnashing of teeth. They will be "cut asunder" and appointed a portion with the hypocrites. I think these are descriptions of the Jews cast out of the kingdom. They wait for generation after generation for the kingdom to come, and when it finally arrives, most of them miss it. They are either killed as some verses suggest or they will join the nations in the eonian fire of chastening (Matt.25: 31-46). In either case, they miss out on the blessings of the kingdom. They will be taken along. The ones that are left (contrary to what I was taught as a child) will enjoy the blessings of eonian life with the Son of Mankind, their Deliverer and their King.
Some may be asking at this point, "What does this have to do with our snatching away of 1 Thess.4?" I wanted to show in detail that in reference to the presence of the Son of Mankind (which is associated with the day of the Lord), the ones taken along refer to unbelievers, which will either be killed or cast out of the kingdom. The ones left behind will be the faithful and will enter into the long awaited kingdom of their Father. However, in our deliverance mentioned in 1 Thess.4 who are the ones taken along and who are left behind? Once again, I think you will agree that the believers in this case are taken along and the unbelievers are the ones left behind. This is the direct opposite of what transpires in the presence of the Son of Mankind described in Matthew's account. This may not be a major point, yet it is more circumstantial evidence supporting the view that our presence with our Lord and Saviour is not going to be at the same time as when Israel enters into His presence.
4) The Lord Himself
In many of the parables, messengers are sent just before the Son of Mankind returns. It seems their mission is to sever the wicked from the midst of the just (Matt. 13:49). We also know from Zech.14: 3 that when the Lord returns to the mount of Olives, all the holy ones are with Him.
However, when Paul speaks of Christ returning for us, the "Lord Himself is emphasized. I used to think that others could be with our Lord but after reading an article by Don Hayter (UR, vol.65, pg.164) I am now convinced that the phrase "the Lord Himself' truly is expressing that He is alone. Mr. Hayter's comments are so good on this matter, I've decided to include them in their entirety.
"1Thess.4: 16 might have read, "The Lord will be descending," and still convey the fact that the Lord will be coming down from heaven. The addition of "Himself adds something to the sense as well as giving emphasis. It is a form of phrase that occurs a number of times in the Scriptures. In 1Cor.15: 28, in the great passage on the consummation of the eons and subjection of all to God we read that "Then the Son Himself also shall be subjected to Him." The emphatic "Himself also" adds the sense that even the Son will be subject to His Father.
The construction is used five times in the Thessalonian epistles. In 3: 11, for example, we read, "Now may our God and Father Himself and our Lord Jesus Christ be directing our way to you!" It seems that when others are involved in what is said they are particularly mentioned. The phrase "our God and Father Himself" without any addition would indicate He alone.
When the two disciples were walking on the Emmaus road discussing the events of the previous few days in Jerusalem, "Jesus Himself drew near." He was alone as He approached. This is indicated in the words "Jesus Himself." Thus we may be confident that when the Lord comes for us, descending from heaven. He will be alone. No other will distract our attention. We shall have eyes only for the Lord. For this will be our first sight of Him."
5) Do we meet the Lord at the same time together or do the living at the day of His return "outstrip" those saints that have been put to repose?
According to Adlai Loudy's chart, "Things to Come" (which is based on Dan. 12), the saints that survive the great affliction of Daniel's 70th-7 shall see the Lord first upon His return to the Mount of Olives. Seventy-five days later, the reposing saints of that calling will be raised to see Him.
However, in 1Thess.4, Paul stresses the point that "we, the living, who are surviving to the presence of the Lord, should by no means outstrip those who are put to repose" (4: 15). "The living who are surviving, shall at the same time be snatched away together with them in clouds to meet the Lord in the air" (4: 17). "Outstrip is a word used in running or competition of one who goes ahead of his competitors and passes them in the race. It has in it the thought of leaving behind, going beyond and overtaking, Paul asserts that, in our entry into the presence of the Lord, we the living shall simultaneously together be snatched up in clouds to meet the Lord in the air" (UR, vol.65, pg.163).
One last comment I'd like to make concerning this point is that the words "at the same time" and "together" are not synonymous. One refers to the time of the snatching, the other to the proximity in space of the two parties. The snatching upward will occur at the same moment for all members in the body of Christ. "Wherever they may have died, in whatever region of the world, their swift transfer from earth to the air will happen at precisely the same moment. Also the movement upwards will be together. We shall not be spread over the expanse of the skies singly or in scattered groups according to where we were located in life or in death. We shall be assembled and rise as one company to meet the Lord" (UR,vol.65,pg.285).
6) Do we meet our Lord in the air or on land?
Israel will meet the Lord when He descends and actually stands on the mount of Olives (Zech.14: 3). A picture of this event is suggested in Acts 1:11. As Christ was ascending, two men in white attire standing beside the disciples, asked, "Men! Galileans! Why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus Who is being taken up from you into heaven shall come thus, in the manner in which you gaze at Him going into heaven. Then they return into Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet."
We, however, as members of the body of Christ, will meet the Lord in "the air" (Thess.4: 17) which is that part of the atmosphere that contains the mixture of gases essential to life on earth and is within sight of our current terrestrial home.
"One most important feature of this meeting place is that it is the territory of the Adversary, Satan, for he is the chief of the jurisdiction of the air. It is from the air that he controls earth's affairs. To him have been given all the kingdoms of the earth, and the affairs of mankind are under his sway, political and religious. He is a spirit making his headquarters in the air above us And it is here that we shall meet the Lord in the heart of the enemy's kingdom" (UR,vol.65,pg.287).
7) Which trumpet will we hear?
When the Lord comes for us, He sounds the "trumpet of God". Nowhere else do we read of the trumpet of God. Its use is an indication of the greatness of the occasion and its importance in relation to the rest of creation. It is indeed a great event, for it inaugurates the kingdom of Christ, especially that part of it termed the celestial Kingdom. It is the first great event since the cross that will lead up to the salvation and reconciliation of all at the consummation. It is the occasion when Christ is united with the members of His body. Thus is it a time of great importance and calls for the use of the trumpet of God. It will be the signal of our final salvation and entry into the presence of our Lord. The effect of this trumpet along with the voice is the rousing and change into our new glorified bodies, incorruptible and immortal.
This trumpet though, is not to be confused with the trumpet in Rev.11: 15. Our Lord does not sound that trumpet described as the seventh. Another messenger blows its blast (Rev.8: 2). It is accompanied by vastly different results from the one blown in 1Thess.4. No dead are roused by the seventh trumpet. The resurrection doesn't occur until the era that follows (vs18). The seventh trumpet is followed by judgment with dire calamities on those who are blighting the earth. The nations are angered. None ascend into the air. Living and dead are not united. The trumpet of God in Thessalonians seems to have nothing in common with this seventh trumpet in Revelation. In one we see salvation, in the other judgment.
(New information on this point: The Trumpet in Revelation, by its contexts, is blown at the end of the great affliction, for it is then that Christ returns to the earth and this world becomes the Kingdom of our Lord. His reign begins at this moment. This is in contrast to the trumpet in 1Cor.15 and 1Thes.4.)
8) The contrast concerning clouds.
This next point may seem trivial, yet the accuracy of Scripture enables us to see another distinction. When we meet the Lord in the air, we will go up in "clouds" (1Thess.4: 17). There has been much discussion on what is meant by "clouds" here, whether they are literal or figurative referring to the clouds of people. I tend to think these will be clouds of glory. We have to remember this is going to be a glorious event. I used to think it was going to be a secret, unobservable to the masses left behind. I no longer feel it has to be that way. Who knows? This event could even be a factor in the removal of Israel's callousness. To the eye, it may seem as clouds. Even the clouds in Israel's history were literal, but not natural. They were clouds of glory and power. I'm more and more inclined to think these clouds at the snatching away will be glorious literal clouds but not natural.
However, we see a distinct contrast in the case of our Lord's return for Israel. In Matt.24: 30 we read that "they shall see the Son of Mankind coming on the clouds of heaven with power and much glory." Also, Rev.1: 7 states that "He is coming with clouds, and every eye shall be seeing Him." Regardless of our interpretation of clouds, in Israel's case, Christ returns on or with clouds, whereas we go up to meet Him in clouds.
(I'm going to add Paul's Damascus Road experience, here, to picture the snatching away. Only Paul perceived what was happening. Others saw the light and heard the sound, but they were dumbfounded as to what was really happening. Only the 'Body' will hear Christ's voice and see Him and understand. The rest of the world will hear and see but not be able to perceive.)
9) To what extent do we expect the change in our bodies?
Our meeting with our Lord involves a secret. It has to do with our change. Paul hints at this in 1Cor. 15: 40 where we read, "There are bodies celestial as well as bodies terrestrial. But a different glory, indeed, is that of the celestial, yet a different that of the terrestrial..." and then in verse 49 he adds, "and according as we wear the image of the soilish, we should be wearing the image also of the Celestial." Then, in Phil.3: 20, the apostle gives us further light by saying our bodies of humiliation are going to be transfigured to conform them to the body of His glory. This change is vital for it fits us for our realm, which is located in the heavens. Yes, we have a place, a city in the heavens where Christ is seated at the present time. It is described as "light inaccessible, Whom not one of mankind perceived nor can be perceiving" (1 Tim.6: 16). Someday He will leave this place in order to meet us in the air. He is then going to lead us back to this same city for it has all along been our true homeland. Until then, we are ambassadors in a foreign country.
No such change is described in Israel's expectation. It is true that in resurrection they will be equal to messengers in that they will no longer be dying (Lu.20: 36), but their glory will be in line with their terrestrial calling. They will be incorruptible and immortal at best but will not experience the same change in glory as we do, being of the celestials. Remember, back in 1Cor. 15: 40 when Paul is announcing that the celestial glory is different from the terrestrial glory, the context is concerning our resurrected bodies (1Cor. 15: 35-53). Therefore, just as the Circumcision's new bodies will fit them for their terrestrial (on earth) calling, so our new glorified bodies will fit us for our celestial (on heavens) calling.
"The glory of our Lord's presence will differ on each occasion. For Israel He will appear as He was on the mount of transformation. His face shining as the sun. The brilliance of His glory will not be greater than His terrestrial saints can endure. For us He will come as the Celestial One with a different glory, one exceeding in brilliance of the noonday sun. But we shall be able to look and live, for we too shall be celestials, changed into beings with a glory similar to the Lord's" (UR, vol.65.pg.286).
10) Does He come to us by the title "lord" or as the "Son of Mankind?"
To the earth, Christ comes as "Son of Mankind." For us He returns as Lord and Chief Messenger.
11) Does our Lord come for us as a "thief in the night"? If we are drowsing, will we miss Him?
Concerning the day of our Lord, Paul says it will occur "as a thief in the night - thus is it coming" (1Thess.5: 2). The Jews, then, need to be watching and enduring. Mark writes, "he who endures to the consummation, he shall be saved" (13: 13). They must Beware! Be vigilant and pray, for no one is aware when the era is. They must be watching, lest the Lord comes suddenly and finds them drowsing (Mk. 13: 33-37; Lu.12: 37; Rev.3: 3; 16: 15; Matt.24: 13,42-44; 7: 21). Such language makes it seem like their eonian life with their Lord is a reward (in a relative sense), based on what they do beforehand.
In our case Paul says we are not in darkness, that the day may be overtaking us as a thief, for we are all sons of the light and sons of the day (1Thess.5: 4). Yet, even if we are drowsing (which means we have not been reclaiming the era and growing toward maturity), we still have the assurance of meeting our Lord when He comes for us. Paul says "whether we may be watching or drowsing, we should be living at the same time together with Him. Wherefore, console one another and edify one the other"" (1Thess.5: 10,11). "The death of Christ, not our conduct, our watchfulness or the lack of it, is the foundation on which our future salvation rests just as the salvation which we already enjoy" (cc,pg.312). Our eonian life is clearly seen to be a "gracious gift of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord" (Rom.6: 23). Nothing can remove us from our future deliverance for we are "sealed with the holy spirit of promise" (Eph.1: 13). A minor in the faith may think that this type of attitude would cause us to be lax in our walk, but instead, it only motivates us to try to please our gracious Father even more. Yet, even this motivation is sourced in God operating in us to will as well as to work for the sake of His delight.
Eutychus and Dorcas
God provides us with an example of each calling. First, in Acts 9: 36-43 we are introduced to a disciple named Dorcas who was said to be "full of good acts and alms." Being infirm, she dies, yet Peter being summoned to her, miraculously brings her back to life. Dorcas is a type of faithful Israel which will either be ready when the Lord returns, or will be raised from the dead shortly afterwards.
The account of Dorcas though, is quite different from that concerning a young man named Eutychus in Acts 20: 9-12. The only thing we know about him is that he fell asleep while Paul was arguing and dropped to his death from the third story. Nothing is recorded of his works, yet Paul, just as Peter did with Dorcas, miraculously brings him back to life.
In the former miracle, much stress is laid on the good works and almsdeeds that Dorcas did. Nothing of the kind is recorded of Eutychus, Indeed, he was not sufficiently watchful to keep awake when the apostle was preaching. I repeat, Dorcas is a type of those in the former resurrection (Rev.20: 4,5) that have worked as well as believed, and that resurrection is, in measure, deserved. But the saints of the present era of grace are like Eutychus. Paul's preaching fails to keep them awake. They are drowsing and undeserving. Nevertheless, such is the superabundance of grace, that in the snatching away, merit has no place, for we shall live together with Him whether we are watchful or drowsy (cc,pg.211).
Twice Paul wrote in 1Thessalonians that we are to console one another with the words he penned concerning that glorious day when we meet our Lord. Hopefully this paper has not only brought some consolation but has also edified. May each of us never be slighted concerning our expectation.
"Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, our Father, Who loves us, and is giving us an eonian consolation and a good expectation in grace, be consoling your hearts and establish you in every good work and word" (2Thess.2: 16,17). Amen!
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