Didn’t Paul Expect To Be Gone?

Q. Somebody asked me a question and I didn’t know what to answer, I hope you can help me out. We were talking about 1 Thessalonians 5. In verse 6, referring to the 2nd. Coming, Paul includes himself in the verse like he is going to be waiting for the Lord also. But doesn’t he suppose that he and the church will be in the presence of God by then? I get the impression that Paul or any other writer in the Bible talk as if they will be on earth at the second coming.

A. Paul’s use of the phrase “Day of the Lord” in 1 Thes. 5:2 refers to the Great Tribulation, not to the 2nd Coming. Verse 3 helps make that clear when he says the world will be caught by surprise and won’t escape the judgment. All this is in the 3rd person.

Then in verse 4 he switched to the 2nd person to differentiate the Church from the world, saying we shouldn’t be surprised to see this coming because we should be awake and alert, as if watching for signs of it. And in verses 9-11 he confirmed that we’re not appointed to suffer wrath because the Lord died for us, and we should encourage one another.

This is consistent with his earlier promises in the letter that Jesus will rescue us out of the time and place of the coming wrath (1 Thes. 1:10), his prayer that we’ll be in the presence of God when the Lord returns to Earth at the 2nd Coming (1 Thes. 3:13) and that the Lord will catch us up to be with Him (1 Thes. 4:16-17).

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