QUESTION: First Thessalonians 3:13 says Jesus will come “with all His saints.” Who are all these saints? “Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another, and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.”1 Thessalonians 3:11-13
ANSWER: Acts 17:1-10 tells us that the apostle Paul was in Thessalonica for three Sabbath days, or about three weeks. During this time several people were saved. Paul taught them basic truths and exhorted them to walk worthy of God, who had called them to His own kingdom. When unbelieving, opposing Jews instigated rioting, these new brethren sent Paul on to Berea by night. These first believers at Thessalonica were commended for having “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Th. 1:9-10 NKJV). Among other truths, it is clear that Paul taught them about the Lord’s coming. They were looking for Him to return. Yet, as is the case with many believers today, these new believers were not quite clear on the sequence of events associated with the Lord’s return, the event we often term The Second Coming of our Lord. We have benefited from their lack of clarity on the subject, for this was an important reason for the two letters the Spirit inspired Paul to write to them.
That the Lord would return to this earth with thousands of His saints to execute judgment on the ungodly had already been prophesied by Enoch long before the Flood (Gen. 5:22-24; Heb. 11:5; Jude 14-15). The Flood in Genesis 6-8 obviously was not the fulfillment of this prophecy, nor can we point to any other time or event in history indicating that this prophecy has been fulfilled. It still awaits fulfillment.
Revelation 1:7 refers to the visible Second Coming of our Lord to this earth where He was rejected and crucified. Revelation 19, in symbolic language, gives us additional details as to the timing of this event. The great harlot – that false ecumenical religious system that will incorporate all of professing Christendom (perhaps even other religions) – will have been judged and overthrown during the Great Tribulation. Heaven rejoices over this righteous judgment. The saints of God will have appeared at the Judgment Seat of Christ and received their rewards for the things done in their bodies. Those who form the Church are viewed collectively as the Lamb’s wife, or bride, arrayed in a fine linen garment representing the righteous acts of the saints. The other saints of God in heaven are viewed as guests at the marriage supper of the Lamb.
Not all saints are a part of the Church. Ephesians 5:25-33 shows us that the Church is the Bride of Christ. The Church began at Pentecost – when the Holy Spirit baptized 120 believers into one body – and it will be complete at the Rapture. The wedding guests will include Israel and other Old Testament saints beginning with Adam. Miscarried and aborted babies, young children dying before God holds them accountable and those whom God sees as lacking mental ability will be included in this vast company of guests as well. This wonderful work accomplished on Calvary by our Lord is sufficient for all who do not reject or neglect this great salvation God freely offers them.
Right after the marriage supper of the Lamb we are presented with Christ’s visible return to this earth to execute judgment, put down evil, and set up His kingdom. He returns “with all His saints” (1 Th. 3:13), not just with the Church. Prior to the Tribulation the dead in Christ will be raised from the dead, those of us alive at that time will be changed, and together we shall all be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 sets this glorious hope, commonly called the Rapture, before us.
At present the soul and spirit of a believer who dies goes to be with Christ. Philippians 1:23 says this “is far better.” The body is buried or otherwise disposed of. But at the Rapture the believer’s soul and spirit will be reunited with his body, but this body will be changed, “conformed to His glorious body” (Phil. 3:21). Thus, after the Rapture we will be with the Lord in heaven as complete persons – spirit, soul and body. We shall ever be with the Lord, never again to be separated. This is the blessed portion of all the dead in Christ.
When the Lord Jesus returns to judge on earth, we will be associated with Him and will be following Him. The rewards He gives for faithfulness to Him during our lifetime will be enjoyed during the Millennium, the 1000-year reign of Christ.
Let’s sum up this vast subject. At the Rapture all the dead in Christ will be raised, and living Christians will be changed and caught up together with them. No unsaved dead will be included in this company. We believers will appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ to give account of how we have lived, and there we will be given rewards for all we have done that has pleased Him. This time will be followed by the marriage supper of the Lamb when we are displayed in glory as the Bride and Wife of the Lamb. During this time the earth will have been reeling under God’s well-deserved wrath, the seven years of tribulation, the second half being called the Great Tribulation. At the end of this period the Lord will return visibly to earth with all His saints (not merely His bride) who had earlier been caught up to be with Him. He will deal with the armies of this world and their leaders. These armies will have united against Him, against this “invasion from outer space,” as they may possibly term it. He will not actually fight but will be completely victorious by the word of His mouth. The Lord Jesus will then judge the nations, set up His kingdom and reign in righteousness for 1000 years. During this time Satan will be bound and powerless to deceive the nations. We will reign with Him for 1000 years.
This summary only takes us as far as the Millennium, not to the eternal state of the believer. We have gone a little beyond the question in this article, trusting that the additional comments help put things into proper perspective.
Answered by Eugene P. Vedder, Jr.
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org