Two Second Comings in 1 Letter--Could It Be That Way?

As I was studying for my Sunday night sermon I again noticed that Paul makes another reference to the coming (parousia) of Christ in 1 Thessalonians 5.23. This is the 4th time Paul has specifically identified the parousia in this letter. Since I was at the end of the 1st letter I went on to read the 2nd letter to the church at Thessalonica and I noticed that Paul immediately goes into describing the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in chapter 1. In verse 1:7, Paul speaks of the Lord Jesus being revealed from heaven with his might angles in flaming fire inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God.

Now at this point I want to know has Paul made a 7 year jump in time and events. If I assume that the reference to the parousia in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 is a pre-tribulation rapture I must now ask: Is Paul now talking about something completely different? Is this the same “coming” as in v. 23 of the last chapter in the previous letter written by the same man and to the same church? Or is it a different event?

So what happens if I keep reading? When I get to chapter 2 v. 1, I see that Paul is talking about the coming (parousia) of the Lord Jesus again. Only in this verse he specifically mentions ‘our being gathered together to him.’ So I wonder has Paul made another shift in comings. Is Paul going back and forth with another jump back in time? Is our gathering different from the rapture? Certainly not! But in the context of the chapter it would certainly need to be. It seems that the gathering is closely associated with the parousia.  

Is Paul going back and forth between the pre-tribulation rapture and the post-tribulation Second Coming? Is this what is happening? I know for sure that the coming of Christ in 2 Thessalonians 2 is NOT a pre-tribulation coming because Paul specifically identifies the revelation of the Beast, the man of sin or lawlessness—the Antichrist as happening before Christ comes. So our gathering together to him must not be the pre-tribulation rapture or we are gathered in him twice.

Perhaps the rapture gathers us the first time from the earth but then after 7 years in heaven we need to be gathered again to go back to the earth. Is this what is being described? If the answer is ‘yes’ I want to know how would I know this from what the Bible says. In other words what in the scripture alerts me to the transition back and forth from one chapter to another since Paul doesn’t switch words? 

Why don't you study it out for yourself and make a list of the 7 reference and write rapture or 2nd Coming next to each of the references to the parousia and then ask how did I make my decision?

In 2 Thessalonians 2:8, Jesus Christ kills the Antichrist with the “breathe of his mouth and brings to nothing at the appearance of his coming (parousia).”

So what am I to make of all these references to the parousia? There are a total of 7 of them between both letters. Will I actually have a standard of interpretation that says Paul is using the same word to describe two different events separated by 7 years when he specifically identifies things that give a time marker with the parousia in 2 Thessalonians 2?

How inconsistent should I be? If I am going to inconsistently interpret the text should I not have a reason for doing that?

Wouldn’t I need some text to tell me that the same word is used in a different way for two different events one that happens before the tribulation and one after?

Why don’t you read it for yourself from chapter 5 of 1 Thessalonians to the end of 2 Thessalonians and see if you don’t agree with me that Paul is in all probability describing the same event which occurs at the end of the tribulation and includes our gathering together to him (the rapture)?

The more I study the Bible, the more convinced I am that I have previously let a particular system of eschatology--pretribulational dispensationalism determine how I read and interpret the scriptures.  

Have you?

Our Gracious God

As I was studying for Sunday morning’s sermon I came across this great verse and I want to share it with you in the middle of the week.  The verse is found in Nehemiah 9:17.

Nehemiah 9:17 (ESV)
17They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.

The ‘they’ in the verse are the Israelites who did not want to go into the Promised Land. Instead, they decided they wanted to return to the bondage of living in Egypt. In the verse, I want you will notice that Nehemiah states they stiffened or hardened their neck—this refers to their steadfastness in their commitment to return to Egypt. In fact, they went so far as to appoint a leader to take them back into bondage. But Nehemiah says the LORD is ready to forgive. Then he goes on to articulate God’s attributes. God is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. And He does not forsake his people.

Let me ask you: Could there be a greater list? He is forgiving, gracious, merciful, slow to anger, rock solid in his love for His people and faithful to keep his promises!

What an example he is to me! In fact it is the gospel that flows out of these attributes. And since it is that gospel that saves me from hell I must be motivated to apply and live out these attributes with others. Don’t you think?