Israel's hope

By pushing aside the curtains of tradition a window opens to a glorious new view which will more than compensate for any sense of loss we might feel. And we all want the truth.
Thus far in our lesson we have seen that Scripture opposes the tradition that the Gospel and Acts were the beginning of the new “church” era. We have seen from Scripture that they were the ends of the ages. The return of Christ to the earth was expected in the life of the believers at that time and the Kingdom of Heaven did not mean the Kingdom in Heaven but the rule of Heaven on the earth with Christ dwelling on the Holy Hill of Zion. Pentecost was not the “birthday” of anything. Peter and Paul’s messages during Acts spoke of this wonderful return of Christ to redeem Israel and restore the Kingdom. Email if you would like back issues.
The mainstream denominational systems claim 1Thess.4 is the “rapture” of “the church”. That is, that Christ will come out of heaven, snatch resurrected and changed believers to the air then take them all back into heaven. But is this what Scripture teaches? Let us examine the passage very carefully verse by verse.
The opening verse shows Paul assuring them regarding those who have died;
1Th 4:13 But I would not have you ignorant, brothers, concerning those who are asleep, that you be not grieved, even as others who have no hope.
Our understanding will grow if we start where Paul starts. Some of the Thessalonians had fallen asleep, they had died, and the living were grieving. Paul comforts them with this wonderful explanation of the hope before them at that time;
1Th 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will also bring with Him all those who have fallen asleep through Jesus.
Please note the “even so” in this verse. Just as the Lord Jesus died and rose again, even so in the same way, God will through the Lord Jesus, bring with Him, those who are asleep in Christ. The Lord Jesus died and rose again, believers of that time died and would rise again at the last Trumpet, this is the wonderful assurance Paul is giving here.
In considering 1Thess.4, we have need to discard the false teaching that all dead believers are already in heaven and “coming back with Him to the air”. Let us now reconsider Paul’s words;
1Th 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will also bring with Him all those who have fallen asleep through Jesus.
How will God bring through the Lord Jesus those who are asleep in Christ? The answer is simple, just as Christ died and rose again even so those asleep in Christ will rise again. This is how they will be brought with Him back to the earth. Let’s consider the next verse;
1Th 4:15 For we say this to you by the Word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord shall not go before those who are asleep.
The words “go before” should stand out for those who think anyone who has died in Christ has “gone before”. No believer gets to be with the Lord before any other believer in 1Thess.4. Paul clearly says we, and that “we” of Scripture does not include you and me today. It included the believers at that time and Paul himself. At that time, Paul said we shall not go before those who are asleep. Tradition fails to “test things differing” and places every believer today in the “we” of a previous administration and contradicts Paul’s teaching saying that the dead have already gone before the living. Paul says no one is going before anyone else and I think we should stand with Paul and the Lord who inspired him. Paul continues his exposition about those who are dead that is, asleep in Christ;
1Th 4:16 For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ shall rise first.
Notice, the dead will rise first when the Lord descends out of Heaven with a shout, the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God. This passage is about those who are asleep in Christ, not about the Lord bringing Christians out of heaven. In 1 Cor.15:51-57 Paul tells us that “this mortal shall put on immortality” at the last trumpet. How is it that tradition tells us we are immortal if Paul says we are yet to put it on? In 1Tim.6:16 Paul clearly says “Christ alone has immortality” and if only Christ has immortally then we dare not claim it for ourselves. I think we should accept the Scriptures on this matter don’t you?
Paul’s assurance for those Thessalonians who were grieving at the loss of loved ones was that the dead will be raised first at the coming of the Lord. He goes on to say;
1Th 4:17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. And so we shall ever be with the Lord.

This is the “rapture” verse and as always with traditions, the focus is on the phrase “caught up together” rather than the reason for the being “caught up together”. The dead believers of that company, who will be raised from the grave, and the living believers who will be changed (1Cor.15:51), will be caught up together TO MEET the Lord in the air. This is where tradition and the Word of God part ways. Tradition says that this body of resurrected and changed believers is snatched back into Heaven. The Word of God does not say this. It says they are caught up together to meet Him as He descends out of Heaven. Look at what the Word says;
1Th 4:16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven... KJV, MKJV. 1Th 4:16 .... the Lord himself will come down from heaven... ISV
1Th 4:16 ... the Lord Himself shall come down from Heaven.. LITV
There is not one word or phrase in this passage which says that the Lord and this company are going back into heaven. Examine carefully please. We might think it says that because of what has been ingrained by tradition but we cannot inject into Scripture what we want it to say. The faithful believer stands on what God says, not what tradition thinks God says.
The hope of that time was that both living and dead believers would be caught up together to “meet” the Lord as He descended from, “out of”, heaven.
The word “meet” (apantesis) only occurs four times in the New Testament. Since this is the word the Holy Ghost teaches, we should look carefully at it and understand fully what it means. It occurs twice in Matt.25 which of course is a Kingdom on the earth setting. Let us examine this first usage of the word “meet”.
Mat 25:1 Then shall the kingdom of Heaven be likened to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Before we read too quickly, when is the THEN of this first verse? It is in the time when the Lord returns to the earth as He had been describing in the previous chapter. In Matthew 24:29-31 we read of the Lord descending out of Heaven in the clouds and with the Trumpet blast just as we do in 1Thess.4. At that time, when He returns to the earth, THEN the wise virgins will go to MEET him.
Mat 25:6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom comes! Go out to meet him.
These virgins are not going away with the bridegroom. In eastern marriage the bridegroom comes to the bride’s home. There the marriage supper is enjoyed. The wise virgins represented those who “watched” (Matt.25:13) and were thus rewarded with a meeting with the Bridegroom as He came to the marriage.
This “meeting” has nothing to do with the Lord “appearing” in the heavenly places. This is the Lord coming back to the earth. We know this from the very context of these first occurrences of this word “meet”;
Mat 25:31 But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He shall sit on the throne of His glory. Mat 25:32 And all nations shall be gathered before Him. And He shall separate them from one another, as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats.
The throne of His Glory is on the earth, the nations are on the earth, see Joel 3. The Lord will come with all His Holy angels with Him and these are the “saints” or “holy ones” of Jude 14 and 1Thess.3:13.
The next occurrence of this word “meet” is in Acts;
Act 28:15 And the brothers from there hearing of us, they came to meet us as far as the market-place of Appius, and Three Taverns. Seeing them, thanking God, Paul took courage.
The brothers from Rome came to “meet” Paul. The brothers from Rome did not jump in a ship and turn around and go back to Jerusalem with Paul. Paul continued on to Rome. Those believers who are “caught up together” go to a meeting in the clouds in the air, then they return to the earth with the Lord.
In every case this word “meet” does not mean continuing on into the place from whence the one being met came. On the contrary, it means to go out and meet the one coming to the place from which those meeting came. In other words, 1Thess.4 is about that company of that time going up from the earth to meet the Lord in the air as He descends to the earth out of heaven.
Let us also note that those caught up to meet the Lord were only caught up to the air. The air being the place of the clouds;
1Th 4:17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. And so we shall ever be with the Lord.

We, the church which is His Body, do not have any inheritance in the air or the clouds. The meeting was in the air, which word is not used for “heaven”, see Acts 22:23, 1Cor.9:26, 14:9, Eph.2:2, Rev.9:2 and 16:17. We will not be with the Lord forever in the air. These believers of the Acts period were expecting to go to a meeting in the air as the Lord descended to the earth where the Kingdom of Heaven would be enjoyed and they would judge the world and angels, 1Cor.6:2-3.
The church of 1Thess.4 that goes to meet the Lord in the air is not our company, nor is the meeting in the air our hope today.
It is time for tradition which puts “going back into heaven” in this passage to be exposed for what it is; a falsehood and a deception. I repeat, not one word or phrase in 1Thess.4:13-18 can be found to remotely suggest that anyone, either the Lord or the believers who meet Him, are going back into Heaven.
We are not robbed of hope when we put aside the error of tradition.
We want the hope given us by the Lord through our Apostle Paul after Israel were put aside at Acts 28. The hope before us today is Ephesians 2:4-7 which is realized when Col.3:1-4 takes place. Col.3:1-4 takes place before 1 Thess.4, as we shall see in later studies.
We are looking for the “appearing” of the Lord. The appearing takes place in heavenly places where Christ is seated at the right hand of God which is certainly not in the air. The appearing takes place before the trumpet and before the Lord descends out of Heaven to the earth. But we shall have to leave the appearing for a future lesson.
We must “distinguish things that differ”, Phils.1:9-110 MKJV.
Last lesson we examined “the rapture” theory in the light of Scripture context. Not one word or phrase in 1Thess.4:13-18 provided any hint that either our Lord or those who would “meet” him in the air were returning back into heaven. Those believers were going to “meet” Him as He descended out of Heaven to the earth just like Moses did in Exodus 19.
We have noted that the Gospels and Acts were not the beginning of anything but were in fact the “ends of the ages”. During that time the believers were to be blessed with faithful Abraham in the inheritance promised to him (Gal.3). They were expecting the Lord’s return. For recent lesson in this series please visit; .
This lesson we shall examine the second letter to the Thessalonians which will also prove the hope was all earthbound. In his second letter, Paul wrote of prophetic things regarding Israel and her final days.
When Paul wrote these letters, Israel remained God’s people (Roms.11:1-2). Israel was not cast aside at the Cross or Acts 2 or 9 or 13. God’s purposes for the earth were in operation during that time. When Israel was finally put aside at Acts 28, the hope of Thessalonians was postponed and a new hope revealed. We are working towards making this new hope clear to all our readers.
Before we look at the second letter here is the opening commendation of Paul in the first;
1Th 1:9 For they themselves witness what kind of entrance we had to you, even how you turned from idols to God in order to serve the living and true God,
1Th 1:10 and to wait for His Son from Heaven (whom He raised from the dead), Jesus, who delivered us from the wrath to come.
The preposition “ek” translated “from” in verse 10 is defined by Strong’s as “out of, from, by, and away from” and not in any sense means to go to Heaven with His Son.
In chapter two Paul assures them he wanted to visit but was hindered;
1Th 2:18 Therefore we desired to come to you, truly I, Paul, both once and twice; but Satan hindered us.
1Th 2:19 For what is our hope or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are you not even to be in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?
The original word for presence means “in front of, before, as in the presence of” and the original word for “coming” which is parousia, means “a being near”, “the coming, the arrival of”. The believers were only going to meet Him when He arrived. Please see these Acts period references where “parousia” means arrival, not departure; 1Cor.16:17, 2Cor.7:6, 10:10. After Israel were set aside at Acts 28, Paul uses parousia twice and never in a context of our Lord “second coming”, see Phils.1:26 and 2:12.
Parousia was used in ancient manuscripts to denote the arrival of a dignitary, not the departure of anyone to go and be where the dignitary originated. Parousia is used by Paul seven times in the two Thessalonian epistles. Here are a couple more references;
1Th 3:12 And may the Lord make you to increase and abound in love toward one another and toward all, even as we also toward you, 1Th 3:13 in order to establish your hearts blameless in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.
When considering verse 13 we need to remember that “with all His saints” might not mean with all the Christians. Saints means “holy ones” and could refer to either Christians or other beings obedient to the Lord. Consider this verse;
Mat 25:31 But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He shall sit on the throne of His glory. By the way, there are 76 references to angel and angels in the book of the Revelation another book which describes the Lord’s “second coming” in power.
The Acts period hope was the Lord’s parousia, that is, His personal presence on the earth. This they expected in their lifetime and Paul wanted the Thessalonians to be blameless right up until that day of glory;
1Th 5:23 And may the God of peace Himself sanctify you, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blamelessly at the coming (parousia) of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We now turn to 2Thessalonians will show beyond doubt that the hope was the return of the Lord to the earth to deliver Israel from their enemies.
In the 2nd chapter Paul repeats that the Lord Jesus was coming back to the earth and they would be gathered to meet Him in the clouds as He descended;
2Th 2:1 Now we beseech you, my brothers, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him,
Then Paul goes on to set this return of the Lord in exact frames of reference so that His friends would not be deceived. These terms of reference are the very things which show the hope of Thessalonians is not ours today;
2Th 2:2 that you should not be soon shaken in mind or troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word or letter, as through us, as if the Day of Christ is at hand.
2Th 2:3 Let not anyone deceive you by any means. For that Day shall not come unless there first comes a falling away, and the man of sin shall be revealed, the son of perdition,
2Th 2:4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, setting himself forth, that he is God.
2Th 2:5 Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still with you?
2Th 2:6 And now you know what holds back, for him to be revealed in his own time.
2Th 2:7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already working, only he is now holding back until it comes out of the midst.
2Th 2:8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the breath of His mouth and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming (parousia),
2Th 2:9 whose coming (parousia) is according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
2Th 2:10 and with all deceit of unrighteousness in those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, so that they might be saved.
Paul clearly says in this passage that the “Day” they were looking for did not come until after apostasy, deception and the “abomination of desolation” was set up in Israel’s Temple in Jerusalem. What has Israel’s Temple to do with any heavenly purpose? Thessalonians is a context of Israel’s prophecy and prophecy of Israel is not prophecy about us today.
The Day of the Lord is one great subject of prophecy and the reader is encouraged to search through the prophets regarding this great day and read the elements in those O.T. passages. The Book of the Revelation is all about this “day of the Lord” (Revelation 1:1-2, 10) and so are the epistles to the Thessalonians. Remember, prophecy does not exist about the Church which is His Body, see Ephs.3:8-9 and Col.1:26.
The setting of Thessalonians is all prophetic and easily identified with Israel and the last years of its history. Please consider these words and phrases which link Thessalonians with Daniel, Isaiah, Matthew, Corinthians and Revelation as well as other Acts period epistles;
2Th 2:2 .. the Day of Christ (some have the day of the Lord) shall not come unless
2Th 2:3 ...first .. a falling away... the man of sin ... the son of perdition,
2Th 2:4 ... exalts himself above .. God, or that is worshiped ... he sits as God in the temple of God, setting himself .. God.
2Th 2:7 .. the mystery of lawlessness is already working, only he is now holding back until it comes out of the midst.
2Th 2:8 And then the lawless one will be revealed,
2Th 2:9 whose coming .. is .. with all power and signs and lying wonders,
Notice in this version nothing is “taken out of the way” in verse 7 but rather something “comes out of the midst”.
Let us see how Thessalonians fit in the purposes of God for the earth by comparing Scripture with Scripture. In the book of the Revelation we have the terrible trinity, Satan and the two beasts.
Satan is identified as the “old serpent” (Rev.12:9) who, having been cast out of heaven, attempts to destroy the faithful remnant then makes war on Israel, Rev.12:12-17. Eventually Satan is bound for 1000 years (Rev.20:2) then released and eventually destroyed, (Rev.20:7-10). Satan’s purposes against God and Israel are facilitated by the two beasts.
We read about the first beast (the antichrist) in Revelation 13:1-8. We notice that this individual is a great military power for as verse 4 says, “who is able to make war with it?” We notice this beast has a pseudo resurrection (v3) and it made war with “the saints”. This is not the church which is His Body but Israel. This military engagement lasts 3.5 years and the antichrist is empowered by Satan, the dragon.

The second beast is the first beast’s promotions manager. We can read about this second beast in Rev.13:11-18 (cp 16:13-14, 20:10). This second beast is the false prophet who deceives Israel by bringing fire down from heaven and other great wonders, compare 2Thess.2:9 above. This false prophet sets up an image to the beast which is given power to speak and worship of this image is demanded. I believe this to be the abomination of desolation of Daniel, Matthew and Thessalonians. Compare the image in Daniel 3.
So this terrible trinity of Revelation is composed of Satan who empowers an undefeatable military commander and a false prophet who deceives Israel with false signs and wonders. I think we have a great harmony between prophecies of the O.T., Thessalonians and Revelation. Eventually many kings of the prophetic world, who were also deceived by false miracles, gathered with forces to destroy Israel for “these will make war with the Lamb who will overcome them” (Rev. 17:14). The Lord returns to save Israel by destroying these armies set against “His people”. These events are described as “the fullness of the gentiles” and you can read about them in Romans 11:25-26 and Luke 21:20-27.
To sum up then, we have Satan on the earth, the Antichrist who is a military power and the false prophet. These characters are set in the prophetic earth and the final years of Israel’s history when an image is set up in Israel’s temple. In other words, the book of Revelation deals with the “kingdoms of this world” (Rev.11:15, 15:1-4) and the crushing of gentile dominion over Israel when the Lord returns to take his authority. This is precisely the setting of Thessalonians.
Now let us consider some other passages of Scripture which speak of the same things. For brevity I cannot post every verse but trust the reader will examine each reference. Please compare Is.11:4 (where “smite the earth” could be “smite the oppressor”), Daniel 7:24-25, 9:26-27, 11:31, 12:11, Joel and then this passage;
Mat 24:6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled, for all these things must occur; but the end is not yet.
Mat 24:7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines and pestilences and earthquakes in different places.
Mat 24:15 Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand).
Mat 24:16 Then let those in Judea flee into the mountains.
Mat 24:17 Let him on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house;
Mat 24:18 nor let him in the field turn back to take his clothes.
Mat 24:19 And woe to those who are with child, and to those who give suck in those days! (Let the reader reconsider 1Cor.7)
Mat 24:20 But pray that your flight is not in the winter, nor on the sabbath day; (Sabbaths no hindrance to a Gentile)
Mat 24:21 for then shall be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world to this time; no, nor ever shall be. Mat 24:23 Then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ! Or, There! Do not believe it.
Mat 24:24 For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders; so much so that, if it were possible, they would deceive even the elect.
Our Lord speaks to the 12 disciples of these very things which are later featured in the book of Revelation and Thessalonians. Not only so, He goes on to add specific details as to what will take place after the wars, deception, false christs and false prophets;
Mat 24:29 And immediately after the tribulation of those days, ...
Mat 24:30 And then the sign of the Son of Man shall appear in the heavens. And then all the tribes of the earth shall mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of the heaven with power and great glory.
Mat 24:31 And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.
How plain can words be? “immediately AFTER the tribulation of those days... they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of the heaven with power and great glory.. angels....trumpet ..gather His elect.
The coming of the Lord in Matthew 24 is in an identical setting of Thessalonians. If Matthew 24 and Revelation is about Israel’s deliverance by the Lord’s coming, then so is Thessalonians.
The word “elect” in Matthew 24 refers to Israel and it is they who shall be gathered from the four winds of heaven. It is Israel who will see Christ at God’s right hand from where He descends to the earth. It is the tribes of Israel who will “mourn for Him”, see Matt.24:30, Zech.12:10 and Isaiah 53.
Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians are perfectly in harmony with these prophecies regarding Israel. The abomination of desolation is the image set up by the false prophet in the middle of the last 7 years of Israel’s history. The “lawless one” of 2Thessalonians 2 is destroyed with the Lord’s coming, that is His parousia or personal presence on the earth. Not one element of Thessalonians has to do with God’s’ purposes for the church which is His Body seated in the heavenly places above the clouds and the air and the prophetic earth.
The setting of 2Thessalonians is exactly the same setting of Matthew 24, the prophecies listed above and the book of Revelation. The “second coming” of our Lord is after the final 3.5 years of Israel’s history which years are called the “day of Jacob’s trouble (see Jer.30:7). During that time the remnant wandering in the wilderness will be praying “lead us not into tribulation but deliver us from the evil one”. If these things of prophecy, Revelation and Matthew have nothing to do with our Lord as Head of the Church which is His Body in the heavenly places, then how can the same things in Thessalonians be about us and our hope today?
After those horrific final three and a half years, our Lord descends to the earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords and He saves Israel by destroying the armies set against them. These events were in view during the Acts period and the believers of that time were waiting for the Lord’s return. They were waiting for His return because they would go and meet Him as He descended, then they would rule and reign with Him on the earth. However, Israel and the hope associated with her was put aside and postponed at the end of Acts. These things will all take place in the future. The “rapture” is a false concept of a past and postponed hope dragged into the present.
The “rapture” theory is a human endeavor which mixes the hope before us today with the earthly purposes of God for Israel. The “rapture” drags back from Paul’s later epistles a hope which has nothing to do with the earth and forces it into an earthly context and thus blinds nearly all of Christendom from their hope of today.
May the Lord give us space and time to show this new hope of glory as found in those letters of Paul written after Israel were put aside.

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