Concerning our Lord, we read of His advent, His presence and His unveiling. There is no good reason to say either of these words denote just one particular event.
The advent mentioned in II Tim. 1:10 was in the past; the one mentioned in I Tim. 6:14 is future. The grace which is given to us in Christ Jesus before eonian times, is now manifested because the advent of our Savior had already taken place. We are to keep the precept of I Tim. 6, unto His future advent.
The presence of Christ referred to in I Cor. 15:23, includes His descent from heaven for the body ecclesia; the one of which we read in Matt. 24:3, and in other verses of that chapter, does not. I have been present at a certain place many times. Christ will be present when He descends into the air, I Thess. 4:16, for the air belongs to the earth. He will be present later, when His feet stand on the Mount of Olives, Zech. 14:4.
The passage referred to in I Thess. is a new revelation. One will search in vain for any scripture which says Christ will descend into the air, BUT NOT TO THE EARTH, and snatch away Israel to meet Him there. When He comes to establish His kingdom He will come all the way to the earth. There would be no point in doing other wise, since the kingdom is to be on earth. But if those for whom He is coming are to be taken to heaven, it is most natural that He should snatch them away to meet Him in the air.
When Paul was in Thessalonica, he chose the Jews. However, he soon found that God had chosen certain "gentiles," I Thess. 1:4. While some Jews believed, the ecclesia there was preponderantly "gentile," as is proven by Paul's words, "You turned back to God from idols," I Thess. 1:9. Since they were "gentiles," they had no expectation of a place in the kingdom on earth, for no person of the nations, except proselytes, will have that privilege. Paul did not want those saints to be with out expectation, so he gave them the new revelation that the Lord will snatch them away for a meeting with Himself in the air. I repeat, no such promise is ever given to Israel.
It is well known that the seventieth heptad, or period of seven years, will take place early in the day of the Lord, and that the latter half of this heptad—three-and-half years—will be a time of great affliction, when God's indignation will be loosed.
So the apostle goes right on to discuss this, I Thess. 5:1-10. Whenever THEY, not YOU, may be saying, "Peace and safety!" then sudden extermination is standing over THEM unawares, even as travail over the pregnant, and THEY may by no means escape.
Then he turns to YOU—the saints to whom he addressed the epistle. YOU are not in darkness, that the day should be overtaking YOU as a thief. YOU are all sons of the light and of the day. Now he includes himself, and says WE are not of the night no of darkness. WE should not be drowsing. WE may be watching and sober. WE, being of the day, may be sober, putting on the cuirass of faith and love, and the helmet, the expectation of salvation, seeing that God did not appoint US to indignation, but to the procuring of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, the One dying for US, that, whether WE may be watching or drowsing, WE should be living at the same time together with Him.
Inasmuch as indignation is to be manifest in the affliction period, and as that period will be in the day of the Lord, and as Paul here is discussing the day of the Lord, it seems perfectly reasonable that the indignation mentioned in the passage refers to the indignation in that day. The salvation mentioned is not simply salvation from sin and death and enmity, for that is the blessed portion of all. Paul here refers to salvation from indignation. The faith and love mentioned are in connection with the same subject, and so is the expectation of salvation.
This passage does not tell us, beyond any possibility of doubt, that we shall be snatched away before the indignation comes, but other passages, in connection with this one, do teach it. In Eph. 1:12, we are said to be in a state of prior expectancy in the Christ. This is the correct rendering. The saints to whom Paul wrote were not the first to trust in Christ, as the King James Version has it. We are in a state of prior expectancy. Israel does not expect Him until the close of the great affliction. We expect Him before they do.
How long before? Will He descend for us sometime during the period of affliction? If so, point it out in the pre-written history of that period in the Unveiling! In that story we find the hundred and forty-four thousand, who are specifically said to be Israelites; we find a large company besides these, waving palms, showing that they, too, are Israelites; we find the select ones sheltered in the wilderness, and everything said about them show them to be a remnant of Israel.
Where is the body ecclesia in that story? The burden is on those who say the ecclesia is to be in that affliction. Let them show it to us, or admit that God is so careless that He neglected this important matter, or else admit the ecclesia is not there. I say the prior expectancy means we are expecting the advent of the Lord into the air before the period of affliction and indignation.
The unveiling mentioned in I Cor. 1:7, is the unveiling for which we are waiting. The word, "unveiling," does not refer to just one, specific event. The Son of God has already been unveiled in Paul, Gal. 1:16. Christ is to be unveiled to us, when He descends into the air to snatch us away. Is it not our fondest expectation that He Who is covered, so far as our view is concerned, shall be "from-covered" in that day? There is no good reason to think of this unveiling as being identical with His later unveiling to Israel, and to the world.
The later unveiling is mentioned in II Thess. 1:7. That passage, correctly rendered, reads, "—If so be that it is just of God to repay affliction to those afflicting you, (and to you who are being afflicted, ease with us), at the unveiling of the Lord Jesus Christ from heaven with His powerful messengers, in flaming fire dealing out vengeance to those who are not acquainted with God and those who are not obeying the evangel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall incur the justice of eonian extermination from the face of the Lord, and from the glory of His strength, when ever He should be coming to be glorified in His saints and to be marveled at in all who believe (seeing that our testimony to you was believed) in that day." Read it without the two parenthetical phrases, and you will get the sense of it.
We will be at ease, at the time of this unveiling. Our ease will not begin at that time; it will begin when He is unveiled to us, in answer to our prior expectancy. As the testimony to us was believed, so there shall be believing ones in the day of His unveiling as thought in this passage. We are suffering for the kingdom of God, (verse 5). That is, the kingdom in its broad sense—not in the narrow sense of the kingdom of the heavens. The latter is for Israel; the former is for all, finally, I Cor. 15:24, 50.
To be sure, we find ecclesias in the day of the Lord, but no one versed in the doctrine of grace would ever identify them as groups of the body ecclesia. One will search in vain for any promise that they shall be snatches away from the earth to meet the Lord in the air. The conquerors in Ephesus are to eat of the tree of life which is in the center of the paradise of God; those in Smyrna shall not be injured by the second death; those in Pergamos are to have hidden manna and a white pebble with a new name on it; the Thyatiran conquerors are to have authority over the nations, and shepherd them with an iron club; those in Sardis are to have white garments, and their names shall not be erased from the book of life; the ones in Philadelphia are to be pillars in the temple of God, and on them shall be written the name of God and the name of the city of God, the New Jerusalem; while the Laodicean conquerors shall be seated on the throne of Christ. These ecclesias are to be in the trial, or affliction, as is indicated by the term "endurance," in Un. 3:10. They are to be kept OUT OF, not FROM, the trial. That is, they will be kept and brought safely out of it. Evidence abounds that all these are Jewish ecclesias of the future Lord's day, 1:10.
What will our brethren do with the passage in Eph. 1:12? What does Paul mean by the phrase, "state of prior expectancy?" As the callousness of Israel is to continue until the full complement of the nations may be entering, Rom. 11:25, why do some contend that this complement of the nations is to be kept on earth to go through the great affliction? Let it be remembered that the period under consideration—the affliction period—is a time of judging in preparation for the kingdom on earth, and that it could serve no good purpose to the body ecclesia, whose destiny is among the celestials.
Stated briefly, we have the promise that we shall be snatched away for a meeting with the Lord in the air, (Thess.), that we are to have a place in the heavens eonian, (Cor.), that we are to be seated among the celestials, (Eph.), and that we shall be manifested with Him in glory, (Col.). If God intended to perform the useless deed of keeping us here to go through the great affliction, He certainly would have told us so, instead of giving us the prior expectation.