Q. I have a question about 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. It seems to me this is a problem for the pre-trib rapture. Paul states “we who are alive and remain until the coming of the LORD shall not proceed those who have fallen asleep…” In other words, believers are on the earth just before the resurrection of the saved, which clearly occurs after the tribulation, then after they are raised (on the last day as JESUS stated several times in John 6) we who are alive and remain will be caught up with them…” Paul includes himself in a group that remains until the resurrection of the saved, so they have come through the tribulation. This is a major problem for me. How do you explain it?
A. When lifted out of the entirety of Scripture and considered in a vacuum, 1 Thes. 4:13-18 does not prove a pre-tribulation rapture. But neither can it be a description of the 2nd Coming. The Lord doesn’t come all the way to Earth like He does at the 2nd Coming, and while the Bible describes a resurrection at the 2nd Coming (Rev. 20:4), there’s no mention of living believers being taken to Heaven at that time. Quite the opposite, believers are described as coming back with Him (Rev. 17:14).
Believers alive on Earth at the 2nd Coming will go directly into the Millennial Kingdom in their natural state and will dwell on Earth (Matt. 25:34). So 1 Thes. 4:13-18 speaks only of a rapture. Putting it together with 1 Thes. 1:10, Rev. 3:10, Romans 11:25, Acts 15:13-18, tell us it will happen before the end times judgments begin.
And where John 6 is concerned, a careful study of the Gospels will show that Jesus never openly taught the doctrine of the rapture. He only spoke of the 2nd Coming. It was given to Paul to introduce this and he did so for the first time some 20 years after the resurrection.