1 Thessalonians 3:13 and a pre-tribulation Rapture?

Posted on July 21, 2018

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1 Thessalonians 3:13 (NKJV)
so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.

After preaching a sermon recently, I was approached by a member of the congregation. He politetly told me that he believed in a post tribulation rapture, and that I had put a pre-trib spin on my sermon. I initially thought this strange, because the rapture wasnt even the point of the message. Anyway, he gave me a code so that I could download his ebook explaining the rapture. I kindly accepted, and in turn referenced him to my blog.

I’m nowhere near completing the book, as its rather lengthy and my time is limited, but for the most part, I havent seen anything new in his arguments. One point; however, did stand out to me. He referenced 1 Thessalonians 3:13 as a proof that the rapture occurs post-tribulation. His argument is if Christ returns at the end of the tribulation with ALL of His saints, that the rapture could not have occurred pre-tribulation, because it would have to include those saints who are saved during the tribulation.

As I began researching this, I became distracted by the erroneous context in which is was presented. I began a wild goose chase, seeking answers to questions that didn’t really exist. It turns out that I had forsaken the most basic rule of Bible study. . . context! When I finally remembered this, I re-read the passage in its entirety. . . and it all made perfect sense. It was definitely a DUH moment for me.

1 Thessalonians 3:11 – 4:18 (NKJV)

Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.
Plea for Purity
Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus.
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.
A Brotherly and Orderly Life
But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.
The Comfort of Christ’s Coming
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. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

If we follow through from 1 Thessalonians 3:11, into the 4th chapter, the context would indicate that this is a reference to the rapture, not the post-tribulation return of Christ to establish His earthly Kingdom (Revelation 19). So, beginning at 1 Thessalonians 3:11, we see the entirety and purpose of Paul’s prayer. It’s so the “He may establish” their “hearts blameless in holiness before God. . .”

This transformation of a believer’s heart would take place at the believer’s initial encounter with Christ (in this case, the rapture), NOT later at His post-tribulation return to earth. That’s because this transformation is necessary for admission into heaven, where only “righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). And Revelation chapter 19 makes it clear that Christ returns to earth with His saints, who are already in heaven at the conclusion of the 7 year tribulation. We simply cannot look solely at the phrase “all His saints”. I admit, that a cursory reading of 1 Thessalonians 3:13 does look like Jesus’ post-tribulation return, but the context, particularly in light of chapter 4, makes it clear that it’s a reference to the rapture, and it includes all of His saints at the time of the rapture. I’m sure that the counter argument would be that the context shows that the rapture and return happen very closely together. That might make sense, if not for the rest of scripture, which points toward a pre-tribulation rapture.

This gentleman firmly believes his position, which is fine. There is no willful deception or malice at play. It’s simply a classic case of over thinking, and the presumption of a post-tribulation rapture. This resulted in creating a problem where none existed. So far as I can tell, that’s the case with his entire book. There is no reason that it should take 500 pages to explain any single doctrine of Scripture. That simply shows that he is over thinking and over complicating things, and going to great lengths to prove his presumption of a post-tribulation rapture. By the way, I think that if any of us are honest, we would all admit to being guilty of being somewhat presumptuous on this issue. However, one should be able to explain any doctrine of Scripture in a concise and clear manner. Anything else serves to do nothing but confuse people, and cause them to chase down answers to questions that don’t exist. Contrary to what is stated in the book, none of the differing rapture views are heretical, because none of them undermine the fundamental foundation of Scripture or the plan of salvation. The only reason I even posted this, is because the 1 Thessalonians 3:13 argument piqued my interest. However, if we aren’t careful, these types of arguments can consume large amounts of time, and detract from our service to Christ. We would do well to heed Paul’s words to Titus.

Titus 3:9

But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless.

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