One of the first rules of Bible interpretations is "The Obvious Meaning is the Obvious Meaning". That's why someone reading the Bible on their own can easily see that adultery, homosexuality, and other sexual perversions are all sins. People have to be taught to see something else.
Since my childhood - when I have read 1st and 2nd Thessalonians, I have always assumed that both Epistles were talking about the same Day of the Lord, and the same Gathering. And almost all Christians (up until the nineteenth century) have thought the same thing. That's the obvious meaning when people read the Bible on their own.
Paul was a strong believer in order and orderliness. So his end-times verses contain a number of conditional, "This" can't happen until "that," statements.
· In 1st Thessalonians Four, Paul says the Lord's Coming can't happen until the resurrection of dead.
· In 2nd Thessalonians Two, the Lord's Coming can't happen until the appearing of the Man of Sin and the Apostasy.
Anyone studying end-times prophecy is familiar with these conditional statements.
Now let's look at another conditional statement in 1st Corinthians Fifteen. Here, Paul starts off with the resurrection of Jesus. But then he transitions to the time of the end - and begins to discuss the general resurrection of the dead. This is also the section of Scripture where Paul says "we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed" - obviously referring to the rapture.
Paul's conditional statement here in 1st Corinthians is actually a quote from Psalms 110. Speaking of Jesus, Paul says "He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet." And then Paul adds, "The last enemy that will be destroyed is death." Jesus had personally already overcome death. Paul associates the death which is this last enemy - with the general resurrection of the dead.
Peter also made a conditional statement concerning Jesus' return in Act Three Verse 21, where he says that "Jesus must remain in heaven until the time of restoration of all things."
Now let's go back to Thessalonians. Watch what happens.
In 1st Thessalonians Four, since Jesus must sit at the Father's right hand until His last enemy - death - is subdued, He can't descend from heaven until the dead are raised. Christ's coming or descending cannot precede the resurrection of "those who have fallen asleep."
In 2nd Thessalonians Two, Paul mentions two more enemies and these are straight out of Daniel Chapter 12. Because neither one of these are the last enemy, these two problems must be resolved even before the resurrection of the dead. You could say that these are the next-to-the-last enemies." So "that Day" and the Gathering cannot happen until the Man of Sin is revealed and the Falling away come first.
Paul had evidentially already explained this order of Christ's enemies during a previous visit. Probably much the same as he had written about it to the Corinthians. Paul expected that just reminding them of the conversation would put an end to the rumors that "that Day" had already come.
But the real death blow to the Pre-tribulation rapture theory is right there in 1st Thessalonians Chapter Four. Jesus must remain in heaven until the time of restoration of ALL things. Jesus is either seated in heaven, or He's descending from heaven. First Thessalonians Four says He's "descending from heaven." Jesus' coming and descending from heaven is a technical indicator - signaling that all of Jesus' enemies have been made His footstool. Paul would never write about Jesus coming and descending from heaven unless he was referring to the actual Second Coming of Christ. And Jesus must remain in heaven until the restoration of all things, not until the beginning of the tribulation.
It's not necessary
to measure how far Jesus' feet came to touching the ground before He is met be
the saints. The fact that, in 1st Thessalonians Four, Jesus no longer remains seated in heaven is all we need to know. The dead are raised and the restoration of
all things has come. Jesus' descending accompanied by great fanfare and the
resurrection of the death all point to a rapture during the Second Coming of
Christ. This is the obvious meaning.
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