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. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 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. 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. 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.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-17
The theme addressed by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 has been the subject of much doctrinal discussion within the Christian church for the last 200 years. Whoever does not search the Word of God or study the history of the church might think that what most Christians believe today about the coming of the Lord was exactly what the early church and Christianity believed for two thousand years. Certainly, for all Christians, the coming of our beloved Lord Jesus Christ should be the most anticipated event of our earthly life.
A large part of the present Christian church firmly believes that before the terrible events that the Bible calls the great tribulation arise, the Lord will come secretly for His church in what many call the rapture. And as the word rapture, as interpreted today does not appear in the Bible, those who justify this event nonetheless call it rapture, in a clear reference to what it says in 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-17: we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them. The question is whether the church always had that belief or not.
Indeed, just as many Catholics mistakenly think that their church has always believed in the pope’s infallibility, Mary’s Immaculate Conception, or her role as co-redemptory, many Christians think that she has always believed in the rapture. However, the principle of this doctrine dates back to the year 1830, when a 15-year-old girl named Margaret McDonald in Port Glasgow, Ireland received a special “revelation” according to which the Second Coming of Christ would take place in two stages; the first to gather a group of “ready and selected” believers who would be taken to heaven to meet the Lord before the appearance of Antichrist, or before the Great Tribulation.
Now, the Bible says nowhere that Jesus Christ will return in two stages. And Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3, Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to Him: We ask you, brothers, not to be easily upset in mind or troubled, either by a spirit or by a message or by a letter as if from us, alleging that the Day of the Lord has come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way. For that day will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction. By 2 Thessalonians 2: 1-3 we see that before the coming of the Lord will come apostasy and Antichrist.
Finally, Revelation 1:7 denies the secret coming of Jesus Christ, Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. Let us await His coming, conscious that it will be a victory, whether or not we are part of the beheaded of the great tribulation. God bless you.