A Sermon By Grover Gunn*
I remember one night in college when a simple
occurred to me for the first time: Where does the Bible teach that the
of the saints will occur seven years before the Second Coming of
Christ? I was
just lying in bed in my dorm room
question suddenly popped into my mind. To my dismay, I could not
of any place where the Bible teaches this. I think it was the next day
remembered that the Apostle John is summoned up into heaven at the
Revelation chapter 4. I knew that
that John's ascent at that
point in the Apocalypse represents the Rapture of the saints
church age and before the seven-year tribulation. That satisfied me at
time, probably because that is what I wanted to believe. I had no
doubt the only view I had ever been taught. In reality, Revelation 4:1
has nothing to do with the
Rapture question. John is
there caught up into heaven so he can witness some events in the
heavenly throne room. In chapter
10, John descends
back to earth (cf. vv. 1,8-9) and observes events for a time
earthly perspective. In chapter 15, John is again in heaven, and in
John descends back to earth. If John represents the raptured saints in
Revelation 4:1, then why does he not also represent
the raptured saints when he travels to and fro between heaven
in these later chapters?
I was not disturbed by this question again until
year at Dallas Theological Seminary. During that year, I took a course
English Bible taught by Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost, author of Things
to Come. During
that course, Dr. Pentecost covered 2 Thessalonians
chapter one, which talks about Christ's coming to dispense both
to the saints at Thessalonica and judgment upon their persecutors
Pentecost told us that Paul was there speaking to the saints at
representatives of the tribulation saints who will be alive at the
Coming. That seemed to me to be an artificial interpretation
designed to fit a preconceived system. The natural
that Paul is predicting what will happen at the Second Coming to both
century saints at Thessalonica and their persecutors. These first
saints will experience consummate relief at the resurrection unto life.
then will they be delivered both body and soul from the miseries of
Their persecutors will experience consummate punishment at the
unto condemnation. Only then will they be delivered both body and soul
their final judgment.
In 2 Thessalonians one, Paul speaks of both these
occurring at the Second Coming. In Dr. Pentecost's system, these two events are one thousand seven
apart, the first occurring seven years before the Second Coming,
second, one thousand years after the Second Coming.
considered was Titus 2:13. The popular view today is that the
will be a secret event. The only clue that anything has happened will
many people will suddenly and mysteriously disappear. Yet Titus 2:13
Rapture as a gloriously visible event. Titus 2:13 literally says, "looking for the blessed hope and
appearing of the glory of the great God and Savior of us, Jesus
Christ." In the Greek, there is only one article before these two
"great God" and "Savior,"
which indicates that they together describe one person. Thus,
both Savior and God. There is also in the Greek only one article before
designations "blessed hope" and "appearing of the glory,"
which indicates that they together describe one event. Thus, the ESV
translation "our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory." The NIV
has "the blessed hope -- the glorious appearing." The end time event
which Christians are "looking for" as their "blessed hope"
is not an invisible and secret coming but a glorious appearing.
The Rapture will also be not silent but noisy. In 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, we read that the Lord will descend with "a cry of command" (ESV) or "a loud command" (NIV). When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, "He cried with a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come forth!'" (John 11:43). At the time of the Rapture, Jesus will no doubt cry some command for the dead to come forth from their graves, and they will obey (cf. John 5:28-29). The dead in Christ will rise first, and then those who are alive will be caught up together with them. In addition to this loud cry of command, there will be the voice of an archangel and the trumpet of God. This definitive passage on the Rapture certainly does not characterize the Rapture as secret and silent.
1 Thessalonians 4:17 also says that the translated
saints will be caught up together
resurrected saints in clouds "to meet the Lord in the air."
Some argue that the saints will meet Christ in the air because there
will be a
seven year delay before Christ finishes His descent to earth. There is
explanation based on a special meaning of the Greek word here
"meet." This word "is to be understood as a technical term for a
civic custom of antiquity whereby a public welcome was accorded by a
important visitors" (Theological
of the New Testament
This word was "the ancient
expression for the civic welcome of an important visitor or the
entry of a new ruler into the capital city and thus to his reign" (The
New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, I.325).
words, when a king of antiquity
his capital city to begin his reign from that location, citizens
city went out to meet him and to escort him
into the city. It was the ancient equivalent of rolling out the
This word is
other places in the New Testament. It occurs in Matthew 25 in
parable of the foolish virgins:
midnight a cry was
heard: "Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!"
Then all the virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. ... the bridegroom
and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding and the door
also occurs in
Acts 28 in the account of Paul's arrival at Rome: And from
the brethren heard about us, they came to
meet us as far as the Appii Forum and the Three Inns. (v. 15a)
A second Greek word (υπαντησις), closely related
sense to the one already mentioned (απαντησις), is also used to refer
civic custom (TDNT,
I.3 80). These two
related Greek words are used interchangeably in the parable of
foolish virgins to refer to meeting the bridegroom (Matt. 25:1,6). This
Greek word is used in John 12:12-13 to refer
to those in Jerusalem who poured out of the city with palm
meet Jesus at His Triumphal Entry into the city:
The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: "Hosanna! 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!' The King of Israel!"
This Triumphal Entry meeting does appear to be a
parallel to the Rapture meeting of
Thessalonians 4:17. In both events,
people rush forward to acclaim Jesus as Messianic King and to
Him on the remainder of His journey.
in all of
these usages, there is no hint of any significant delay in the
The use of
the Greek word
translated "meet" in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 indicates that the
resurrected saints will meet the Lord in the air to honor Him with an
for the remainder of His descent to earth. Thus, the saints will meet
the air at His Second Coming to give Him the "red carpet treatment"
when He comes to earth to renew it and to rule over it for eternity.
* Grover Gunn is the Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church (PCA), Jackson, Tennessee. Visit his website for many excellent articles and sermons: http://grovergunn.net/andrew/andrew.htm