“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”(1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 KJV).
1 Thess.4:13-18 is the classical Rapture passage. It is the gold standard. Any other Rapture passage of the Scriptures must contain some or most of the salient points of this passage. We shall examine this passage in oder to see what the salient points are. In order to fish out these salient points, we must understand first why our brother Apostle Paul wrote this First Epistle to the Thessalonians. Our brother Apostle Paul wrote this letter to correct a wrong teaching that has entered into the Church of the Thessalonians. Some of the brethren in the Church of the Thessalonians or some invited teachers have confounded the minds of the brethren by the teaching that the resurrection is past alread and that the suffering and persecutions the brethren in Thessalonica were passing through were as a result of the outpouring of the wrath of God in the Day Of The Lord. In other words the Day of the Lord has begun, and the Thessalonian brethren were in the Day Of the Lord. This teaching was subverting the faith of some of the Thessalonian brethren who embraced it. If this teaching were true, it meant that the Thessalonian brethren had missed the Rapture and would be eternally separated from their loved ones. Paul wrote to correct this wrong teaching. The resurrection of the dead in Christ will occur at Christ’s second Coming. Because Jesus conquered death, at His second Advent, He will bring those who died or slept in the Lord with Him. We, the living the remaining, will not go before those who died in Christ.
In order not to be tedious and somewhat pedantic, we shall not repeat points we have already proven when we studied this passage in the original Greek language. Why the living the remaining? We have established that the Greek word rendered remaining here is “perileipomenoi” which means “to survive,” “to remain” or “to leave here and there.” We are the living who have survived the Great Tribulation. Our pretrib brethren will be quick to point out that there is no mention of the Great Tibulation in this passage. Sure, but it is alluded to by the phrase, “the living the remaining.” What are we survivors of? We are the survivors who have passed through the Great Tribulation. Those of us who shall be alive and remaining after the Great Tribulation shall be caught up(Greek: harpageisometha, derived from harpazo which means to catch up), raptured to meet them in the sky. And this event will occur when Christ descends from Heaven with a shout accompanied by His holy angels. The archangel in their midst shall blow the trumpet. The voice of the archangel sounding the trumpet of God shall wake up the dead in Christ. His voice in the trumpet sound shall cause them to rise from the dead first. The dead in Christ shall be raised. They will be the first to rise from the dead and meet Christ in the sky. Then we, the living the remaining shall be translated instantly to meet them in the sky. The phrase, the living the remaining is hyphenated in the Greek original(the living-the remaining; hoi zontes-hoi perileipomenoi). It is obvious from the text that the living or surviving remnants come out of the Great Tribulation. From henceforth, we shall forever be with the Lord, never to part again.
First, the Rapture occurs at the resurrection of the dead in Christ. The first to rise from the dead on this occasion would be the dead in Christ. The dead in Christ come back with Jesus. The living and the dead are raptured together but the dead in Christ shall be the first to ascend after Christ’s descent from the sky. This event occurs at the “Prarousia,” the second Coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus the Christ. There is no honest exegete who will separate the Rapture from the second Coming of Christ. The Rapture is one of the prime events of the second Coming of Christ. There is no way we can separate the two without doing violence to the Scriptures.
Christ’s descent from the Heavens is announced to the whole world by the accompanying brightness which will brighten the sky from one end of the Heavens to the other and the shout, and the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God. The darkened universe brought about by the cosmic and celestial disturbances associated with the breaking of the sixth seal will be dispelled by the appearance of His Coming, the Shekinah in the Heavens. We see here that the resurrection of the dead is linked up with the “Parousia,” Christ descent at His second Coming and our gathering together to meet Him in the sky. This is the comfort of the saints in the midst of the Great Tribulation. There is nothing secret, sudden, silent about this incident(except for those who are not expectant of His Coming), being preceded by the Great Tribulation(fourth and fifth seals) and the cosmic and celestial disturbances of the sixth seal.
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”(Matthew 24:29-31 KJV).
Let us now examine this passage of the Scriptures in the Olivet Discourse, and see if it has the salient points of the classical Rapture passage. The event described in this passage occurs after the [Great] Tribulation of those days and is followed by the darkening of the Sun, Moon, and Stars which no doubt is cosmic and celestial disturbances association with the breaking of the sixth seal. The Great Tribulation of those days corresponds with the fourth and fifth seals. The breaking of the sixth seal throws the Earth into utter darkness and frigidity. The darkness and cold is dispelled by the appearance of the Coming of the Son Of Man which is the Shekhinah Glory. The tribes of the Earth will be mourning as they see the Son Of Man Coming in power and great glory. Why? Because He is about to punish them for their evils. This is the same sequence of events outlined in Rev.6. After the cosmic and celestial disturbances(12-14) is the sudden realization by the Beast marked earth-dwellers that God’s wrath is about to begin and who shall be able to stand? Therefore, they seek vain refuge and enter into the rocks and the mountains saying, “fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him sits on the throne, for His wrath is about to begin, and who shall be able to stand.” This is equivalent to the inhabitants of the Earth shall mourn in the Thessalonian passage.
Christ appears in the sky. He dispatches His angels with the great sound of the trumpet. Then the saints are gathered from one end of Heavens to the other. In the classical passage in Thessalonians, the narrative is picked up from the sixth seal, the darkening of the Sun, Moon, and Stars. Here, the author goes back and picks up the narrative from the fourth and fifth seals, the [Great] Tribulation of those days. This is followed by the sixth seal, the darkening of the Sun, Moon, and Stars. We see the appearance of the Shekinah after the sixth seal, the darkening of the Sun, Moon, and Stars. Then He dispatches His angels with the trumpet of God to gather together His elect from one end of the Heavenly to the other. We see here that all the essential elements of the classical Rapture passage are present in this passage in the Olivet Discourse, with the explicit additional information that this events is preceded by the [Great] Tribulation of those days which as we have shown is implied in the classical Rapture passage in Thessalonians by the hyphenated phrase, “the living-the remaining” or “the living-the surviving.” Armageddon is not in view in this passage. It is still some time away in the future. We do not know exactly how many years away because we are not told.
We can see that there is no way an honest exegete can factor in Armageddon into the equation at this time. It is theological gimmickry to say that those who were taken were taken into the Millennium.