“Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you…”
Chapter 2 transitions from more general subjects of prophecy to a specific subject–the Day of the Lord. The Thessalonians misunderstood some things about prophecy so Paul corrects these errors in the first 12 verses. Nowhere else in the Bible can we find a similar consideration of this subject of Scripture.
In 1 Thessalonians Paul taught the Thessalonians that the Day of the Lord would come as “a thief in the night” (5:2). They falsely drew an implication from the imminent coming of Christ that He was coming immediately. Because of their severe persecution, they thought that they were now in the Tribulation. Paul shows in the first five verses how the church will escape the wrath of God’s Tribulation on earth.
Paul softens his correction of the Thessalonians with the word “brethren.”
concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ
Paul shows that the Lord will not come until there first come three events: 1) a falling away of the church in apostasy, 2) the removal of the restrainer of the man of sin, and 3) the manifestation of the man of sin.
Paul used the word “coming” for the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians 2:9 and 4:15 before the coming Tribulation. The New Testament also uses the word “coming” for the Revelation (Second Coming) of Christ at the end of the Tribulation (Matthew 24:27, 37, 39). Our context indicates that the Rapture is referred to by the clause “our gathering together to Him.” Paul is speaking to the church at Thessalonica.
The chapter as a whole deals with the Day of the Lord, that is, the period beginning with the Rapture, including the Tribulation and the Second Coming. The next verse shows that the Thessalonians bought into erroneous doctrine about future events. They concluded that they would have to go through the Tribulation before Christ would come back. Since the Thessalonians were experiencing persecution, they thought that Jesus’ coming was near.
and our gathering together to Him,
The “coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” and “our gathering together to Him” are one and the same event because both phrases are governed by the definite article “the”.
One day all Christians will come together as a single group at the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:17). We will all be one then. There will be no doctrinal differences. Every nuance of truth will be perfectly clear at that time. Jesus is the grand meeting place around whom the church gathers. He is the focal point of our accord.
“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 thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:17-18 ).
The only other occurrence of “gathering together” in the New Testament is in Hebrews 10:25 referring to a church gathered together in assembly worship.
“…not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).
we ask you
Paul corrects the Thessalonians by appealing to their own logic–he “asks” them (entreat). This is the idiom of grace. He does not use a condescending approach or a stern reprimand. This is the first approach to people who fall into error. If this does not work, you must use an approach like Paul used with the Galatians (castigation) because they entrenched themselves in error. When it comes to a subject like prophecy, there is room for a more moderate approach to truth.
The best is yet ahead.
The Bible teaches that there will be an unprecedented period of tribulation on the earth of seven years. Jeremiah calls it “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7). This is a time of trouble for Israel and Gentiles, not the church. Confusing Israel with the church is a great error of interpretation. The Rapture has to do with the church but the Tribulation has to do with bringing Israel back to God (Daniel 12:1).
The best is yet ahead for the church. One day Jesus will come to snatch us into heaven. We call this the Rapture or the translation of the church. This is our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13).
Note the distinctions between the Rapture and the Second Coming:
· The Rapture is for the church only
· Jesus comes in the air
· Jesus comes for the church
· He rewards believers
· Physical body becomes immortal
· Christ as Bridegroom
· Translated to Heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18)
· Mystery (1 Corinthians 15:50f)
· The Second Coming is a worldwide event
· Jesus comes to the earth
· Jesus comes with the church
· He judges unbelievers
· Environment changed
· Christ as King and Judge
· Taken away in judgment (Matthew 24:37f)
· Known event (Zechariah 14:4)