Author: Ron Graham
The Second Coming of Christ
—in the Thessalonian letters
When Paul wrote to the church of the Thessalonians, he made several references to the second coming of Christ, Paul told the Thessalonians that the second coming had not yet taken place. He reminds them of certain things concerning the nature of the second coming. Paul had taught them these things personally when he had been with them.
1 The Personal Return of Christ
Paul teaches the Thessalonians that Jesus will arrive in person, not in some indirect or symbolic sense.
1Thessalonians 1:10 Paul recalls that part of serving the living God is to "wait for his Son from heaven". The second coming has not occurred so long as Jesus has not left heaven. It is in the nature of the second coming that Jesus comes "from heaven" to earth (cf Acts 1:11, John 14:2-3).
1Thessalonians 2:19 Paul reminds the Thessalonians that they will be "in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming." They would know the second coming had not yet occurred, so long as they remained absent from Christ (cf 1John 3:2).
1Thessalonians 4:16-17 Paul emphasizes that "The Lord Himself shall descend", not someone acting as his representative or instrument, but "the Lord himself". Paul reminds the Thessalonians that Christians "meet the Lord" at his second coming. It is in the nature of the second coming that Jesus is present in person among Christians both dead and living.
2 The Resurrection and the Rapture
Paul teaches the Thessalonians that when Jesus comes, there will be a resurrection of all saints who have died, then a rapture of all saints together, those raised from the dead and those remaining alive.
1Thessalonians 4:16-17 The Thessalonians would know the second coming had not occurred so long as they found themselves separated from other brethren by death. It is in the nature of the second coming that living Christians are reunited with those who have died, that is to say, "together with them" and no longer separated (cf John 5:28-29).
2Thessalonians 1:10 When he comes in that day, he will "be glorified in his saints" and "admired among all those who believe". Until they found themselves in that great assembly, they would know the day when he comes was still future.
2Thessalonians 2:1 What Paul calls "the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" he also calls "our gathering together to Him". Until they found themselves caught up in that great ingathering, they would know the Lord had not yet come.
3 World Destruction at the End of Time
Paul teaches the Thessalonians that Jesus will come as the great destroyer of the antichrist and all his works. The antichrist was already at work. There would come a great apostasy. But the fiery wrath of Christ would slay and everlastingly destroy the wicked and their works at his coming.
1Thessalonians 5:2-9 There was to be a "sudden destruction" during a period of apparent "Peace and safety." No place in the world was safe from the coming wrath and destruction (cf 2Peter 3:7-13). The only way to be safe was to ensure that you were not "in darkness" in that day.
2Thessalonians 1:7-10 "In flaming fire" the wicked would be "punished with everlasting destruction" from the presence of the Lord. Until the Thessalonians saw all the wicked cast with Satan into eternal hell, they would know the second coming had not yet occurred (cf Matthew 25:41,46, Revelation 19:20).
2Thessalonians 2:8 The lawless one would be "consumed" and "destroyed" in the bright and fiery coming of Christ. While the Thessalonian's still found themselves in a lawless world, they would know Christ had still not come.
4 Judgment of All Mankind
Paul reminds the Thessalonians of the coming judgment day when all mankind will be judged. One will either be found blameless or else be condemned on that day.
1Thessalonians 5:23 Paul's benediction for the Thessalonians is that they be "blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" When are they judged blameless? At the coming of Christ. It was in the nature of the second coming that this judgment be made.
2Thessalonians 1:5-10 The Thessalonians will be "counted worthy of the kingdom of God" whilst those who do not obey the gospel will be "repaid" with "vengeance" and "punishment" This is "the righteous judgment of God". And when does it take place? "When he comes, in that day". Until the Thessalonians saw this judgment, and their reward, they would know that the second coming was yet future.
2Thessalonians 2:1,12-14 Paul reminds the Thessalonians that "all" would be "condemned" who did not believe the truth, but the Thessalonians could look forward to the obtaining of glory. Paul is teaching this "concerning the coming of our Lord". This is when all the wicked are condemned and all the saints are glorified. Until the day of this judgment arrives, the day of Christ's coming is still awaited (cf 2Timothy 4:1).
Note:— Article Source. The above article was originally published as a contribution to the AD70 debate in Australia circa 1985.