In this article on 1 Thessalonians 4 and The Second Coming of Jesus, A Personal Revelation author Eric Fugett examines the passages in 1 Thessalonians 4 with regard to the “Second Coming of Jesus”.
1 Thessalonians 4 and the Second Coming of Christ
By Eric Fugett
I recently sat down with a preacher and tried to explain my preterist view of the “End Times” to him. After I had explained all of the usual suspects pretty well, he immediately turned to 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 and asked me what that had to do with the destruction of Jerusalem. After I began my explanation, he then went on to ask me why the Thessalonians needed to know about the destruction of Jerusalem. We had been intensely discussing these issues for almost two hours and it was now for me to go. I told him that I would get back to him with an answer.
As I was driving home from the church office, I began thinking about why the Thessalonians needed to know about the destruction of Jerusalem. I will now attempt to explain to you why not only the Thessalonian church, but every 1st Century church needed to know about the destruction of Jerusalem.
In Acts 13:5, after Paul & Barnabas have been sent out by the church, the first place that we are told that they proclaimed the word of God was in the Jewish synagogue at Salamis. In Acts 13:14, when they entered Pisidian Antioch, Paul and his companions also went to the synagogue. In Acts 14:1, we are told that Paul and Barnabas usually went to the Jewish synagogue when they entered a city. We are told in Acts 17:2 that it was Paul’s custom to go to the Jewish synagogue when he entered a city. As a matter of fact, the city that Paul entered in Act 17:1-2 was Thessalonica. I could go on, but I think I have established that when Paul entered a city, the first place that he usually went was to the Jewish synagogue. I believe it is more than reasonable to conclude from this, and the passages in John 7:35 and James 1:1, that there were probably Jews, of the dispersion, (who had been scattered since Assyria & Babylon attacked the 10 Northern and two Southern tribes respectively) in every church in the first century.
We know from the gospel accounts of the crucifixion, as well as from the book of Acts, that Jews from other places came to Jerusalem for certain holidays (Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 15:21, and Acts 2:1-12). So, if the Second Coming of Jesus is referring to the 3 ½ year period that Rome attacked Jerusalem, culminating in its destruction in 70 AD (See my article on the 1st & 2nd Coming of Jesus), then wouldn’t it make sense for Paul and John (the book of Revelation) to warn members of the church not to go back to Jerusalem if the time for its destruction was drawing near? After all, didn’t Jesus himself warn the apostles that Jerusalem would be destroyed (Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21)? Didn’t Jesus say that He would return on the clouds (meaning that he would send a nation for judgment purposes as in Isaiah 19:1, Jeremiah 4:13, Ezekiel 1:4, 1:28, and Daniel 7:13) and bring judgment on that generation of his time (Matthew 10:23, 23:36, 24:34, Mark 13:30, and Luke 21:32). So with the above given as an introduction, let us now begin to examine 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11.
Paul begins in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 by talking about those who die, but refers to them as being asleep like he does in 1 Corinthians 15. 1 Corinthians 15 is not the only other place that we find the state of the dead being referred to as a state of “sleeping” (See Matthew 9:24 or Mark 5:39 or Luke 8:52, Acts 7:60, and Acts 13:36). We know that the dead were conscious and in holding places because of passages like 1 Samuel 28, Matthew 17:1-8 or Mark 9:2-13 or Luke 9:28-36, Luke 16:19-31 (find one parable where Jesus uses a real name), Revelation 6:9-11, possibly 2 Corinthians 12:1-4 if it occurred when Paul was stoned and left for dead, and the historical writing entitled, “Josephus’ Discourse to the Greeks On Hades”. So if verse 13 is referring to the dead, then verses 14-17 are referring to “The Resurrection”. I think most, if not all of you, will agree with that statement. So let’s examine how and when this resurrection of the dead is to occur.
According to verse 14, “The Resurrection” will occur at the time of the Second Coming of Jesus. Verse 15 tells us that those who are/were currently dead will/would be resurrected before those who are/were alive at the time Paul was writing. The next thing we are told, in verse 16, is that some trumpet will sound at Jesus’ command and at the time that those who are dead will be resurrected. Then verse 17 tells us that after the dead are resurrected, those who are alive, will from that time forward get to go to be with Jesus and the resurrected forever. Is it possible this means that those who die in Christ, after the resurrection of the dead occurs, will from that time forward never have to go to a holding place but will go straight to heaven to be with God? I guess the only way to answer that question is to keep reading.
Most people usually stop with verse 17 or 18. However, Paul’s thoughts on this subject continue into chapter five. In verses 1-3, Paul tells his contemporaries that he does not have to give them dates or times, because this day of the Lord will come unexpectedly. In verse four, he says that while people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly. Now where have I heard this “Day of The Lord” phrase with reference to people crying peace, and with some type of destruction involved? I think these phrases were used in reference to Babylon’s destruction of Jerusalem (See my article on the Day of The Lord, Jeremiah 6-11, particularly 6:13-14, 8:10b-11, Ezekiel 13:10). So if the Day of the Lord in the Old Testament referred to the first destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon, then maybe the Day of the Lord in the New Testament is referring the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome. Maybe that explains why there hasn’t been a temple for almost 2,000 years. Maybe it also explains why the church is referred to as the New Jerusalem (Galatians 4:26, Hebrews 12:22-23, and Revelation 21:1-10).
Let’s not forget that all of this is to occur, from what we just read in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:3, at The Second Coming of Jesus. Again, I ask, is it possible that what the Second Coming of Jesus is really referring to is the 3 ½ years that Rome laid siege to Jerusalem from the time around Passover of 67 AD to the destruction of the city in 70 AD just before the Jewish Feast of Trumpets (See my article on the 1st & 2nd Coming of Jesus)? Is it possible that the first seven trumpets of the book of Revelation were in reference to the Feast of Trumpets from 63 AD to 69 AD (Read my book, “A Personal Revelation”)? Is it possible to date the book of Revelation as September 11/12 63 AD, based on John being in the spirit on the Lord’s Day and then hearing the first trumpet in Revelation chapter one (See my article on Dating the Book of Revelation)? I guess that’s only true if the Feast of Trumpets occurred on a Sunday evening in 63 AD. IF you check a calendar (http://www.abdicate.net/cal.aspx) you will find this to be true. So is it also possible that The Resurrection occurred on the Feast of Trumpets in 70 AD (See my article on The Resurrection of The Dead)? Eight is the number of resurrection in the Bible (Jesus rose on the 8th day was a popular saying in the church, Noah’s family was the only survivors of the flood, and Vespasian was the true 8th emperor of Revelation 17 that revived Rome after Nero’s death.).
Paul ends his discussion on this topic, with his contemporaries (those who are as verse 17 puts it, “still alive”), about The Coming of the Lord or Second Coming of Jesus (not a coming of the Lord) in verses 4-11. He warns them to stay alert, bringing to mind such parables as “The Ten Virgins, and others at the end of Matthew 24-25. He reminds that God did not appoint them to suffer wrath and that Jesus died so that they/we could receive salvation. Therefore, as Paul says, “He died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” Let us, who are alive and left today, not forget why we are here either.