THE SECOND COMING
A “stealth” event; Christ witnessed by believers only (1 Thessalonians 4:17)
A public event, Christ witnessed by everyone (Revelation 1:7)
Christ comes for His bride to take her to heaven (John 14:1-3)
Christ returns with His bride to set up His 1,000 year Kingdom (Revelation 19:11-16)
Occurs prior to the beginning of the Tribulation (Rev. 3:10; 1 Thess. 5:9)
Occurs at the end of the Tribulation (Matthew 24:29-35)
Ushers in a time of great distress on earth (Matthew 24:15-28)
Ushers in a time of great peace on earth (Isaiah 2:6; 19:21, 23-25)
Believers are rescued from the wrath of God (Revelation 3:10)
Believers rule with Christ (Revelation 20:4)
Church age believers receive their glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:50-54)
OT saints receive their glorified bodies (Isaiah 26:19-21)
Christ comes in the air (1 Thess. 4:14-17)
Christ comes to the earth
Imminent, could happen at any time
At least seven years away (Daniel 9:26-29)
No signs precede it
Many signs precede it, including the Tribulation (Matthew 24:3-35)
A time for great joy for believers
(1 Thessalonians 2:19-20)
A time of great mourning for unbelievers
Two Great Days: The Day of the Lord and the Day of Christ
What The Bible Has To Say About The Future: Part 3 in a Series of 9 – By Dr. James M. Boice
To the people of the ancient east the stars had great significance. They were the means by which people determined the hours of the night and the seasons of the year. The morning star was particularly important for it heralded the rising of the sun and the coming of a new day. The Lord Jesus Christ is our morning star, according to the book of Revelation (Revelation 22:16). He is coming. The dark night of human history may be long and filled with grim terrors, but the Daystar is coming and with Him the dawning of a new age.
We will consider the importance of this theme in biblical prophecy, to distinguish between two important aspects of Christ’s coming under the descriptive phrases “the day of the Lord” and “the day of Jesus Christ,” and to develop the relevance of the theme of the Lord’s return.
A Prominent Doctrine
It is unfortunate that in our day the second coming of Jesus Christ has faded to a remote and sometimes irrelevant doctrine in the opinion of many persons, even, it seems, within large segments of the evangelical church. That may be true in part because many extravagant, foolish, and utterly unscriptural teachings have been linked to the doctrine of the Lord’s return. But that has been true of all biblical doctrines at some point of history, and that alone should not deter us from seeking to appreciate a theme which is prominent in the Word of God.
How prominent is this doctrine? In the New Testament 1 verse in 25 deals with the Lord’s return. It is mentioned 318 times in the 260 chapters of the New Testament. It occupies a prominent place in the Old Testament, inasmuch as the greater part of the prophecies concerning the coming of Christ in the Old Testament deal, not with His first advent in which He died as our sin-bearer, but with His second advent in which He is to rule as King. The return of Jesus Christ is mentioned in every one of the New Testament books except Galatians (which deals with a particular problem that had emerged within the churches of Galatia) and the very short books of the New Testament such as 2 and 3 John and Philemon.
The various New Testament writers obviously believed in the Lord’s return. Mark traced the origins of his belief to the very words of Jesus. The first reference to the return of Jesus in Mark occurs in chapter 8. There is recorded Peter’s great confession of faith – “You are the Christ” – which was in turn the occasion of a greater revelation by Christ of the most important events that were to come in His ministry. First, He foretold His death and resurrection. He spoke of discipleship. Then, at the very end of the chapter, He spoke of His coming again. Jesus said, “For whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Mark 13, where Jesus outlined what would come in the last days, is also full of this doctrine. Jesus spoke of the horror of the days immediately preceding His return, then added, “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.” At this point the discourse moved on to teach that the disciples should be watching for this return; Jesus emphasized the point by an illustration: “It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake — for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning– lest he come suddenly and find you asleep” (34-36).
Finally, this doctrine is mentioned in the account of Christ’s trial before the Jewish high priest (Mark 14). Jesus answered a question about whether or not He was the Messiah by saying, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62). Here are three expressions of the truth of Christ’s return in a book which most scholars consider to be the oldest of the four gospels.
In the other three gospels the same doctrine is prominent. Matthew and Luke repeated most of the sayings about the second coming given by Mark, sometimes with additions and variations, and John added others. For instance, John recorded a number of lengthy farewell discourses given by Jesus just before His crucifixion. In one of these Jesus declared, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:1-3). Christ’s return is also referred to in the last chapter of John’s gospel, in the record of Jesus’ conversation with Peter after His resurrection. The reference is incidental to Jesus’ point, but is all the more authentic on that account. Jesus had been encouraging Peter to faithfulness in discipleship, but Peter with his usual impetuosness turned and saw John. He asked Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:21-22). John himself then points out that although many of the Christians of his day had interpreted that to mean that John would not die until Christ came back, that was not what Jesus had said. He had said only that even if that were the case, it should not affect Peter’s call to faithful service.
In all four gospels, then, there are unmistakable quotations from Jesus Christ to the effect that He would return to this earth a second time in glory, and these are quoted in such a way that we cannot doubt that the early church believed that these promises were to be fulfilled literally and in detail, possibly within its lifetime.
Paul’s letters are also full of this doctrine. To the church at Thessalonica he wrote, “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). To the Philippians Paul wrote: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:2–21).
Peter called the return of Jesus Christ our “living hope” (1 Pet. 1:3). Paul called it our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13), John declared with conviction: “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him” (Rev. 1:7a). The same author ended the New Testament with the words, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).
In these verses and in many others the early Christians expressed their belief in a personal return of Jesus Christ, a return which would be the first of the unfolding events prophesied in the end time. The return of Jesus would be associated with a time of great wickedness on earth, the resurrection and transformation of their own bodies, an earthly rule of Jesus, and a final concluding judgment upon all men and nations. They comforted themselves with these truths in the midst of persecution or some while attempting to live their lives on a moral plane that would be honoring to the returning One.
The Day of the Lord
In the picture I have just presented, however, two important ideas have been merged. Therefore, to paint the prophetic picture for the end times in clearer detail and to have a basis for understanding some of the most important New Testament prophesies we must distinguish between them.
The first idea is associated with the phrase “the day of the Lord.” This phrase is quite prominent in the Old Testament, but it occurs frequently in the New Testament too, even in the context of some of the passages I have been quoting. This phrase is a technical phrase used initially by the Old Testament prophets to designate a future period of catastrophic judgment. Literally, it the day of Jehovah, the day in which Jehovah will break silence and intervene in history to judge Israel and the Gentile nations. The characteristics of this day can be seen in the following quotations:
“For the LORD of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up–and it shall be brought low” (Isaiah 2:12).
“Wail, for the day of the LORD is near; as destruction from the Almighty it will come!…Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light” (Isaiah 13:6, 9-10).
“Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! Why would you have the day of the LORD? It is darkness, and not light, as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him. Is not the day of the LORD darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?” (Amos 5:18-20).
It is obvious from the reference to the darkening of the sun, moon, and stars that this is the event referred to by Jesus in Matthew 24, where Jesus taught that He would exercise judgment. It is also the event of which Peter spoke when he wrote,
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (2 Peter 3:10).
In the liturgy of the church this is expressed by the Dies Irae, which means the day of the wrath of God. From an examination of these and other texts (Jer. 46:10; Lam. 2:22; Ezek. 30:3ff.; Joel 1:15; 2:1-11; 3:14-16; Zeph. 1:7-2:3; Zech. 14:1-7; Mal. 4:5) several things are clear.
- First, the day of the Lord is the day of God’s judgment.
- Second, the day is still future.
- Third, it is preceded by a time of great trouble on earth.
- Fourth, it is followed by the earthly rule of the Messiah.
- Fifth, it has nothing to do with the church of Jesus Christ, for the church is not in these prophecies and was, in fact, completely unknown to the Old Testament writers who compiled them.
To be sure, as Kenneth S. Wuest, who summarized much of the data in his collection of Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, observed, “Some of the references to the day of the Lord in the Old Testament have a fulfillment in the past, and are precursors of the day of the Lord to follow (Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies From the Greek New Testament, vol. 3 [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1966, p. 35]). But that does not alter the fact that the strict fulfillment of most of these prophecies awaits a future day.
That day is coming. The disasters of this life — pestilence, famine, wars, natural catastrophes — are only little judgments which come in the most part from man’s activities. When the day of God’s wrath is revealed, these things will pale by comparison, and no one who is not united to Christ by faith will be able to stand against Him.
No one can be sure of defending himself even from man-made destruction. For instance, there is an extensive military radar network called DEW line (Distant Early Waning), which stretches across the North American Continent. This line of defense has cost the United States billions of dollars. It was designed to limit to a minimum the breakthrough of Soviet long-range bombers coming to wreak nuclear destruction on the United States; but today it is outmoded by missiles. Man can never defend himself adequately against the possibility of future destruction.
Thus, too, does he stand before God. Man has run away from God, and God has pursued him. God came to die for him in Jesus Christ. God has warned us of judgment — distant warnings and near warnings, early warnings, and late warnings — and He has warned us that He can penetrate any defense which we may try to throw up against Him. Man stands naked before God. The day of judgment is near. If you are not yet a believer, let me encourage you to turn to Christ. Martin Luther looked at this day and wrote for those of his time:
Great God, what do I see and hear!
The end of things created!
The Judge of mankind doth appear
On clouds of glory seated!
The trumpet sounds, the graves restore
The dead which they contained before:
Prepare, my soul, to meet him.
If you are a believer in Christ, let me encourage you to look up and be faithful to Him.
The Day of Christ (The Rapture)
The second major idea is associated with the phrase “the day of Jesus Christ.” That is not the same as “The day of the Lord.” The day of Jesus Christ is a happy day rather than a day of judgment. Moreover, far from warning men to fear it, the New Testament actually speaks of it as an event to be warmly anticipated. Christians are to be ready and watching, and they are to encourage one another because of it.
What is the nature of this day? The clearest answer to this question is in the verses already quoted from Paul’s first letter to the Christians at Thessalonica. They were in sorrow over certain of their number who had died, and Paul wrote to them to comfort them with the thought that they would see their departed friends once again at the day of Jesus Christ. He describes it thus:
“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
Quite obviously, this day does not concern Christ’s earthly rule. It is an aspect of His coming to draw believers out of this world to Himself. He will come in the air and gather His church up to meet Him, first those who have died and then — almost in the same instant — those who are living.
Jesus described this event, also stressing its unexpected and selective nature:
“Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:40-42).
In biblical theology this event is generally called the rapture. It is the first in the whole series of events prophesied for the end times. It is possible that at this point some of this teaching has become confusing. So let me elaborate upon the distinction between the day of Jesus Christ and the day of the Lord by looking at the way the Apostle Paul dealt with a similar confusion in his day.
Wherever he went, Paul apparently preached the full body of Christian doctrine as it had been revealed to him. And that included, quite naturally, the doctrine of the Lord’s imminent return to be followed, after certain events, by God’s judgment. These events included persecution and great tribulation. We know that this doctrine had been accepted by the church at Thessalonica, for Paul alluded to it in his first letter, reminding the Christians there that they were to be comforted by the doctrine of the Lord’s return in face of the death of their friends. Some time after he had written this letter, however, a time of persecution broke out in the church at Thessalonica. Because the persecution seemed terrible and intense, someone began to teach that the persecutions were those leading to the day of the Lord, with its ultimate judgements, and that the Christians in Thessalonica, therefore, had missed the rapture. The Thessalonians may actually have received a letter purporting to be from Paul which affirmed this idea (2 Thessalonians 2:2).
News of their distress reached Paul, and he immediately wrote to the Thessalonians again, attempting to explain the meaning of their present persecution assuring them that they had not missed the coming again of the Lord Jesus Christ for those who believe in Him. First, he dealt with the meaning of present persecution. This occupies the first chapter. Then, in the second chapter, he begins to deal with the view that Christians might already be going through days of tribulation.
“Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-5).
Paul’s main points clearly were that the present suffering of the Christians at Thessalonica was not the tribulation prophesied in the Old Testament and taught by himself, that the final tribulation would not come until after the Christians were caught up to meet the Lord Jesus Christ in the air, therefore, that the coming of Christ rather than the final judgment should be uppermost in the minds of believers.
(Note: There is a view in prophetic theology known at “posttribulationism.” According to this view, the church of Jesus Christ will go through the great tribulation, after which Jesus will return for those believers who are remaining. In reply, it is enough to note that, although the church has gone through periods of great persecution in the past and undoubtedly may go through intense persecutions before Christ’s return, nevertheless, the view of a posttribulation rapture is impossible for the simple reason that it makes meaningless the very argument that Paul was presenting in the Thessalonian letters. Paul was arguing for the imminence of Christ’s return. That is to be a major source of comfort for suffering believers. If Christ will not come until after the great tribulation [that is, a specific time of unusual and intense suffering still in the future], then the return of the Lord is not imminent and tribulation rather than deliverance is what we must anticipate. In view of the Bible’s message we must be careful not to adopt any view which turns our minds from Christ. If anything must occur before we see Christ personally, then the anticipation of that event will turn our eyes from Him to it. We may even guess that Satan will try to turn the believers’ eyes from Christ to events or signs that are supposed to precede Him and we should be warned accordingly).
All these themes will be treated in later articles, but even at this point we need to note the importance of the two events which Paul says must take place before the day of God’s judgment. The second event is the appearance of one whom he calls “the man of lawlessness” (2 Thess. 2:3). This person will attempt to centralize all human worship in himself, and will actually sit in the temple at Jerusalem, claiming that he is God. Since that has not happened, says Paul, the day of the Lord is yet future.
The first event that must take place before the day of the Lord comes is called “the falling away” in the Authorized Version of the Bible (2 Thess. 2:3). This is an unfortunate translation. The basis for this translation lies in the fact that elsewhere in the Bible a time of great apostasy or “falling away” from true Christian doctrine is prophesied for the time preceding the Lord’s return. Although this is true in itself, however, it is not the meaning of the Greek word here. The word apostasia, preceded by the definite article. Apostasia has given us our word “apostasy,” but the word itself simply means “a departure.” In a context where the truth or falsity of doctrine is in view, the word would naturally mean, “a departure from true doctrine” or “apostasy.” But here, where the issue is the past or future coming of Jesus Christ for his saints and where a particular event is specified by the use of the article, the word can mean equally well “the departure of believers to be with Jesus” or “the rapture.”
In Kenneth S. Wuest’s study, referred to earlier, these following additional facts are elaborated. Apostasia occurs in the New Testament only twice. But it is based on the verb aphistemi which occurs fifteen times. Eleven times it is translated “depart,” never “a falling away.” Unfortunately, most of the English versions follow the leading of the Authorized text (The ESV translates apostasia as “rebellion”). But it is significant that in the versions that precede the publication of the King James Bible — those of Tyndale (1534), Coverdale (1535), Cranmer (1539), and the Geneva Bible (1560) — apostasia was translated as “departure,” and the reference was obviously to the much-anticipated rapture of God’s saints.
It is worth pointing out that precisely the same order of events is presented in 1 Thessalonians. Once again the two different days — the day of the Lord and the day of Jesus Christ — are in view, as well as two distinct classes of people. The day of the Lord is a day that should concern unbelievers. Paul speaks of this group as “they” and “them.” The day of Jesus Christ is for believers only. Paul speaks of this class as “us” and “you.”
“For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief…So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober…For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:2-4, 6, 9).
Paul’s teaching clearly indicates that the rapture, “the day of Jesus Christ,” must come first. Then will come the unfolding of the other events of prophecy, beginning with a period of great tribulation and continuing though Christ’s return to earth to judge Israel and the nations, the millennium, the final judgment, and a complete transition from the life of this world to the life of eternity.
These are the two greatest days of future world history — the day of Jesus Christ and the day of the Lord. Every man who has ever lived must stand before the Lord Jesus Christ on one of these two days. Which will it be in your case? Will it be the day of the Lord with its judgments? Or will it be the day of Jesus Christ with the joy of seeing Him and the glorification and rewarding of believers? Believers wait only for the coming of Jesus Christ, and they rejoice, knowing that this the next event in the unfolding of God’s prophetic timetable.
A Practical Doctrine
Thus far in our study of the return of Jesus Christ we have dealt with the importance of the doctrine of the New Testament books and with the precise meaning of His return as it is related to the catching away of believers first and to God’s judgment. It would be wrong to stop at this point, however, for we must go on to see that the doctrine of the Lord’s return is practical. In other words, it should have a bearing on our lives.
(1) First of all, the imminent return of the Lord Jesus Christ should be an incentive to godly living. That is the point Jesus Himself made when talking about His return in Matthew 24. The chapter is filled with imperatives: “See that no one leads you astray” (v. 4); “See that you are not alarmed” (v. 6), “flee to the mountains” (v. 16); “pray” (v. 20); “do not believe it” (vv. 23, 26); “learn” (v. 32); “know” (v. 33). Jesus concluded with the warning, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44). The apostle John, who undoubtedly heard the Lord on this occasion, later made the identical point in one of his letters, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who this hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).
This thought should affect every aspect of your personal life — your prayer life, your choices in the area of ethics and morals, even your social concerns. Lord Shaftesbury, the great English social reformer and a mature Christian, said near the end of his life, “I do not think that in the last forty years I have ever lived one conscious hour that was not influenced by the thought of our Lord’s return.” In his case, the expectation of meeting Jesus was undoubtedly one of the strongest motives behind his social programs.
Are you looking for Christ’s return? In an earlier study of this same subject I once wrote:
If you are motivated by prejudice against other Christians or others in general, whether they are black or white, rich or poor, cultured or culturally naive, or whatever they may be–then the return of Jesus Christ has not made its proper impression on you. If you are contemplating some sin, perhaps a dishonest act in business, perhaps trifling with sex outside marriage, perhaps cheating on your income tax return–then the return of Jesus Christ has not made its proper impression on you. If your life is marked by a contentious, divisive spirit in which you seek to tear down the work of another person instead of building it up–then the return of Jesus Christ has not made its proper impression on you. If you first protect your own interests and neglect to give food, water, or nothing to the needy as we are instructed to do in Christ’s name–then the return of Jesus Christ has not made its proper impression on you (James Montgomery Boice, Philippians: An Expositional Commentary [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1971], p. 249).
(2) The second result of a belief in the imminent return of the Lord Jesus Christ should be an effort on our part to comfort Christians who are suffering, particularly those who are suffering the close loss of a friend or relative. We have already seen how the Apostle Paul did this in the case of his friends at Thessalonica. They suffered persecution. They had lost friends through death. Paul wrote to them, reminding them of the blessed hope of Christians. He then observed, “Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18).
Dr. R.A. Torrey, a former president of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA) and a great Bible teacher, wrote along the same line: “Time and again in writing those who have lost for a time those whom they love, I have obeyed God’s commandment and used the truth of our Lord’s return to comfort them, and many have told me afterwards how full of comfort this truth has proven when everything else has failed” (R.A. Torrey, The Return of the Lord Jesus [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1966], p. 15). The return of the Lord Jesus Christ is the one doctrine with which God commands us to comfort suffering saints.
(3) Finally, the return of the Lord Jesus Christ should make us more and more energetic in evangelism. If it is true that the Lord is coming, then it is not true, as scoffers say, that all things will “continue as they were from the beginning” (2 Peter 3:4). The end is in sight. The days for evangelism are numbered. Is it not a lesson for our own time that, when the disciples began to ask Jesus Christ for specific details of the time of His coming after His resurrection and before His ascension, He brushed their requests aside and instead reiterated the church’s great commission to evangelize throughout the duration of this age? They were not to look for a precise timetable. They were to go into the world with the Gospel.
He said to them “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:7-8).
These were Jesus’ last words on earth. The next words we hear may well be the question: “How well have you carried out my commission?”
James Montgomery Boice, Th.D., (July 7, 1938 – June 15, 2000) was a Reformed theologian, Bible teacher, and pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from 1968 until his death. He is heard on The Bible Study Hour radio broadcast and was a well-known author and speaker in evangelical and Reformed circles. He also served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy for over ten years and was a founding member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.James Boice was one of my favorite Bible teachers. Thankfully – many of his books and expositions of Scripture are still in print and more are becoming available. He was one of only a handful of reformed theologians that was premillennial in his eschatology (Steven J. Lawson, John MacArthur, Erwin W. Lutzer, S. Lewis Johnson, Rodney Stordtz, John Hannah and John Piper also come to mind). However, what makes him really unique is that he was not Historic Premillennial – but leaned Dispensational (Held to a pre-tribulation rapture) as well. This article was adapted from Chapter Three in one of the first of James Boice’s plethora of books, and is entitled: The Last and Future World, Grand Rapids, MI.: Zondervan, 1974 (currently out of print). This book is based on 9 sermons that Dr. Boice preached at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia in 1972. Though this book was written almost 40 years ago – it is just as relevant as when it was first written since many of the prophecies taught in the Scriptures and addressed by Dr. Boice in this book have yet to be fulfilled. Scripture verses are quoted from the more modern English Standard Version – DPC.
Dr. John Walvoord’s 50 Arguments For A Pretribulational Rapture
In previous discussion of premillennialism in relation to the Tribulation, the respective arguments for pretribulationism, partial rapture, posttribulationism, and midtribulationism have been examined and the pretribulational position in general sustained. By way of conclusion and summary, some fifty arguments for pretribulationism can now be proposed. It is not presumed that the statement of these arguments in themselves establishes their validity but rather that the previous discussion supports and justifies this summary of reasons for the pretribulational view.
For the sake of brevity, the term rapture or translation is used for the coming of Christ for His church, while the term second coming is uniformly used as a reference to His coming to the earth to establish His millennial kingdom, an event that all consider posttribulational. While the words rapture and translation are not quite identical, they refer to the same event. By the term rapture, reference is made to the fact that the church is “caught up” from the earth and taken to heaven. By the term translation the thought is conveyed that those who are thus raptured are transformed in their physical bodies from natural and corruptible bodies to spiritual, incorruptible, and immortal bodies. Strictly speaking, the dead are raised while the living are translated. In common usage, however, this distinction is not normally maintained.
In the discussion, the posttribulational view is considered the principal contender against pretribulationism and is primarily in mind in the restatement of the arguments. The other positions, however, are also mentioned insofar as they oppose pretribulationism on some special point. The preceding discussion has pointed to the preponderance of argument in support of the pretribulational position, and the following restatement should serve to clarify the issues involved.
1. While posttribulationism appeared as early as 2 Thessalonians 2, many in the early church believed in the imminency of the Lord’s return, which is an essential doctrine of pretribulationism.
2. The detailed development of pretribulational truth during the past few centuries does not prove that the doctrine is new or novel. Its development is similar to that of other major doctrines in the history of the church. Hermeneutics
3. Pretribulationism is the only view that allows literal interpretation of all Old and New Testament passages on the Great Tribulation.
4. Pretribulationism distinguishes clearly between Israel and the church and their respective programs.
Nature of the Tribulation
5. Pretribulationism maintains the scriptural distinction between the Great Tribulation and tribulation in general that precedes it.
6. The Great Tribulation is properly interpreted by pretribulationists as a time of preparation for Israel’s restoration (Deut. 4:29-30; Jer. 30:4-11). It is not the purpose of the Tribulation to prepare the church for glory.
7. None of the Old Testament passages on the Tribulation mention the church (Deut. 4:29-30; Jer. 30:4-11; Dan. 8:24-27; 12:1-2).
8. None of the New Testament passages on the Tribulation mention the church (Matt. 13:30, 39-42, 48-50; 24:15-31; 1 Thess. 1:9-10, 5:4-9; 2 Thess. 2:1-11; Rev. 4-18).
9. In contrast to midtribulationism, the pretribulational view provides an adequate explanation for the beginning of the Great Tribulation in Revelation 6. Midtribulationism is refuted by the plain teaching of Scripture that the Great Tribulation begins long before the seventh trumpet of Revelation 11.
10. The proper distinction is maintained between the prophetic trumpets of Scripture by pretribulationism. There is no proper ground for the pivotal argument of midtribulationism that the seventh trumpet of Revelation is the last trumpet in that there is no established connection between the seventh trumpet of Revelation 11, the last trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15:52, and the trumpet of Matthew 24:31. They are three distinct events.
11. The unity of Daniel’s seventieth week is maintained by pretribulationists. By contrast, posttribulationism and midtribulationists destroy the unity of Daniel’s seventieth week and confuse Israel’s program with that of the church.
Nature of the Church
12. The translation of the church is never mentioned in any passage dealing with the second coming of Christ after the Tribulation.
13. The church is not appointed to wrath (Rom. 5:9; 1 Thess. 1:9-10; 5:9). The church therefore cannot enter “the great day of their wrath” (Rev. 6:17).
14. The church will not be overtaken by the day of the Lord (1 Thess. 5:1-9), which includes the Tribulation.
15. The possibility of a believer escaping the Tribulation is mentioned in Luke 21:36.
16. The church of Philadelphia was promised deliverance from “the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth” (Rev. 3:10).
17. It is characteristic of divine dealing to deliver believers before a divine judgment is inflicted on the world as illustrated in the deliverance of Noah, Lot, Rahab, etc. (2 Peter 2:5-9).
18. At the time of the translation of the church, all believers go to the Father’s house in heaven (John 14:3) and do not immediately return to the earth after meeting Christ in the air as posttribulationists teach.
19. Pretribulationism does not divide the body of Christ at the Rapture on a works principle. The teaching of a partial rapture is based on the false doctrine that the translation of the church is a reward for good works. It is rather a climactic aspect of salvation by grace.
20. The Scriptures clearly teach that all, not part, of the church will be raptured at the coming of Christ for the church (1 Cor. 15:51-52; 1 Thess. 4:17).
21. As opposed to a view of a partial rapture, pretribulationism is founded on the definite teaching of Scripture that the death of Christ frees from all condemnation.
22. The godly remnant of the Tribulation are pictured as Israelites, not members of the church as maintained by the posttribulationists.
23. The pretribulational view, as opposed to posttribulationism, does not confuse general terms like elect and saints, which apply to the saved of all ages, with specific terms like church and those in Christ, which refer to believers of this age only.
Doctrine of Imminency
24. The pretribulational interpretation teaches that the coming of Christ is actually imminent.
25. The exhortation to be comforted by the coming of the Lord (1 Thess. 4:18) is very significant in the pretribulational view and is especially contradicted by most posttribulationists.
26. The exhortation to look for “the glorious appearing” of Christ to His own (Titus 2:13) loses its significance if the Tribulation must intervene first. Believers in that case should look for signs.
27. The exhortation to purify ourselves in view of the Lord’s return has most significance if His coming is imminent (1 John 3:2-3).
28. The church is uniformly exhorted to look for the coming of the Lord, while believers in the Tribulation are directed to look for signs.
The Work of the Holy Spirit
29. The Holy Spirit as the restrainer of evil cannot be taken out of the world unless the church, which the Spirit indwells, is translated at the same time. The Tribulation cannot begin until this restraint is lifted.
30. The Holy Spirit as the restrainer must be taken out of the world before “the lawless one,” who dominates the tribulation period, can be revealed (2 Thess. 2:6-8).
31. If the expression “except there come a falling away first” (KJV) is translated literally, “except the departure come first,” it would plainly show the necessity of the Rapture taking place before the beginning of the Tribulation.
Necessity of an Interval Between the Rapture and the Second Coming
32. According to 2 Corinthians 5:10, all believers of this age must appear before the judgment seat of Christ in heaven, an event never mentioned in the detailed accounts connected with the second coming of Christ to the earth.
33. If the twenty-four elders of Revelation 4:1-5:14 are representative of the church as many expositors believe, it would necessitate the rapture and reward of the church before the Tribulation.
34. The coming of Christ for His bride must take place before the Second Coming to the earth for the wedding feast (Rev. 19:7-10).
35. Tribulation saints are not translated at the second coming of Christ but carry on ordinary occupations such as farming and building houses, and they will bear children (Isa. 65:20-25). This would be impossible if all saints were translated at the Second Coming to the earth, as posttribulationists teach.
36. The judgment of the Gentiles following the Second Coming (Matt. 25:31-46) indicates that both saved and unsaved are still in their natural bodies. This would be impossible if the translation had taken place at the Second Coming.
37. If the translation took place in connection with the Second Coming to the earth, there would be no need of separating the sheep from the goats at a subsequent judgment, but the separation would have taken place in the very act of the translation of the believers before Christ actually sets up His throne on earth (Matt. 25:31).
38. The judgment of Israel (Ezek. 20:34-38), which occurs subsequent to the Second Coming, indicates the necessity of regathering Israel. The separation of the saved from the unsaved in this judgment obviously takes place sometime after the Second Coming and would be unnecessary if the saved had previously been separated from the unsaved by translation.
Contrasts Between the Rapture and the Second Coming
39. At the time of the Rapture the saints meet Christ in the air, while at the Second Coming Christ returns to the Mount of Olives to meet the saints on earth.
40. At the time of the Rapture the Mount of Olives is unchanged, while at the Second Coming it divides and a valley is formed to the east of Jerusalem (Zech. 14:4-5).
41. At the Rapture living saints are translated, while no saints are translated in connection with the second coming of Christ to the earth.
42. At the Rapture the saints go to heaven, while at the Second Coming to the earth the saints remain on the earth without translation.
43. At the time of the Rapture the world is unjudged and continues in sin, while at the Second Coming the world is judged and righteousness is established in the earth.
44. The translation of the church is pictured as a deliverance before the day of wrath, while the Second Coming is followed by the deliverance of those who have believed in Christ during the Tribulation.
45. The Rapture is described as imminent, while the Second Coming is preceded by definite signs.
46. The translation of living believers is a truth revealed only in the New Testament, while the Second Coming with its attendant events is a prominent doctrine of both Testaments.
47. The Rapture concerns only the saved, while the Second Coming deals with both saved and unsaved.
48. At the Rapture Satan is not bound, while at the Second Coming Satan is bound and cast into the abyss.
49. No unfulfilled prophecy stands between the church and the Rapture, while many signs must be fulfilled before the Second Coming.
50. No passage dealing with the resurrection of saints at the Second Coming ever mentions translation of living saints at the same time. The blessed hope of the return of the Lord for His church is a precious aspect of faith and expectation. While learned and devout saints have not always agreed as to the content of this hope, the present discussion has attempted to justify this important aspect of truth. May the promise of our Lord “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3) bring comfort and hope to us in a modern world as it was intended to do for the disciples in the upper room on that dark night before the Crucifixion. “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’…He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon’“ (Rev. 22:17, 20).
Article adapted from John F. Walvoord. The Rapture Question. Grand Rapids, MI. Zondervan, 1979 (Chapter 20).
About Dr. John F. Walvoord
John F. Walvoord (May 1, 1910 – December 20, 2002) was a Christian theologian, pastor, and president of Dallas Theological Seminary from 1952 to 1986. He was the author of over 30 books, focusing primarily on eschatology and theology including The Rapture Question, and was co-editor of The Bible Knowledge Commentary with Roy B. Zuck. He earned AB and DD degrees from Wheaton College, an AM degree from Texas Christian University in philosophy, a ThB, ThM, and ThD in Systematic Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary, and a LittD from Liberty Baptist Seminary.
Walvoord was brought up in a Christian home, but had little interest in the faith until he was fifteen, when his family moved to Racine after his father accepted a position as superintendent of the junior high. They joined the Union Gospel Tabernacle where he committed his life to Christ after attending a Bible study on Galatians.
After continuing his education at Wheaton College, Walvoord went on to Texas Christian University and Dallas Theological Seminary where he completed his ThD in 1936. Seminary president and mentor Lewis Sperry Chafer appointed Walvoord registrar. During his tenure, he also taught systematic theology at the seminary, and pastored the Rosen Heights Presbyterian church in Fort Worth. Walvoord became more involved in the administration of the school, serving as Chafer’s assistant and secretary to the faculty, and upon Chafer’s death in 1952, became the seminary’s second president where he served until his retirement in 1986.
In addition to his responsibilities at the seminary, Walvoord earned a reputation as one of the most influential dispensational theologians of the 20th century and played a prominent role in advocating a rapture of Christians from the earth prior to a time of great tribulation, followed by a literal thousand-year millennial reign of Christ, and a renewed focus of God on the nation of Israel as distinct from the church.
The Revelation of Jesus Christ. Chicago. Moody Publishers (1966).
Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation. Chicago. Moody Publishers (1971).
Philippians. Chicago. Moody Publishers (1971).
Armageddon, Oil and the Middle East Crisis. Grand Rapids: Zondervan (1974, rev. ed. 1976 and 1990).
Jesus Christ Our Lord. Chicago. Moody Publishers (1974).
Major Bible Themes (with Lewis Sperry Chafer) Grand Rapids: Zondervan (1974).
The Blessed Hope and the Tribulation: A Historical and Biblical Study of Posttribulationism (1976).
The Rapture Question. Grand Rapids: Zondervan (1979).
The Millennial Kingdom. Grand Rapids: Zondervan (1983).
The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (with Roy B. Zuck). Wheaton: Cook Communications (1989).
The Holy Spirit: A Comprehensive Study of the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit Chicago: Moody Press (1991).
(Contributor: “The Augustinian-Dispensational Perspective”) Five Views on Sanctification. Grand Rapids: Zondervan (1996).
(Contributor: “The Literal View”) Four Views on Hell. Grand Rapids: Zondervan (1996).
Matthew: Thy Kingdom Come, The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago (1974).
The Final Drama: Fourteen Keys to Understanding the Prophetic Scriptures. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications (1997).
Every Prophecy of the Bible. Colorado Springs: Cook Communications (1990, 2011).
The Church in Prophecy: Exploring God’s Purpose for the Present Age. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications (1999).
The Power of Praying Together: Experiencing Christ Actively in Charge, (with Oliver W. Price). Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications (1999).
Major Bible Prophecies. Grand Rapids: Zondervan (1999).
Blessed Hope. (Autobiography with Mal Couch), AMG Publishers (2001).
Prophecy in the New Millennium. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications (2001).
1 & 2 Thessalonians. Chicago: Moody Publishers (Reprinted, 2012).
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.(1 Thessalonians 4:13–18, NASB)
The study of the end times is the consuming passion of many in the church today. Sensational best-selling authors argue that current events fulfill their often dubious interpretations of biblical prophecy. Some claim to have figured out the secret that even Jesus in His Incarnation did not know—the time of the Second Coming (cf. Matt. 24:36). Tragically, some people get so caught up in the study of eschatology that they neglect the basic principles of spiritual growth and evangelism that the Second Coming is designed to motivate.
Of all the end-time events, the Rapture of the church seems to generate the most interest and discussion. The young church at Thessalonica also had questions about that event, so Paul addressed their concerns in this passage. But unlike most modern-day treatises on the subject, Paul’s concern was not just doctrinal, but pastoral. His intent was not to give a detailed description of the Rapture, but to comfort the Thessalonians. The intent of the other two passages in the New Testament that discuss the Rapture (John 14:1–3; 1 Cor. 15:51–58) is also to provide comfort and encouragement for believers, not to fuel their prophetic speculations.
When Paul penned this epistle, the Thessalonians had been in Christ only for a few months. The apostle had taught them about end-time events, such as Christ’s return to gather believers to Himself (e.g., 1:9–10; 2:19; 3:13). They also knew about the Day of the Lord (5:1–3), a time of coming judgment on the ungodly. But some issues about the details of their gathering to Christ troubled them. First, they seem to have been afraid that they had missed the Rapture, since the persecution they were suffering (3:3–4) caused some to fear they were in the Day of the Lord, which they obviously had not expected to experience (2 Thess. 2:1–2). Furthering that misconception were some false teachers, about whom Paul warned in 2 Thessalonians 2:2, “[Do] not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.” But the persecution they were experiencing was not that associated with the Tribulation or the Day of the Lord. It was merely the persecution that all believers can expect (2 Tim. 3:12) and that Paul had warned the Thessalonians about (3:3–4).
The Thessalonians’ fears that they were in the Day of the Lord and thus had missed the Rapture imply that the Rapture precedes the Tribulation. If the Thessalonians knew that the Rapture came at the end of the Tribulation, persecution would not have caused them to fear they had missed it. Instead, that persecution would have been a cause for joy, not concern. If the Day of the Lord had arrived, and the Rapture was after the Tribulation, then that blessed event would have been drawing near.
But of gravest concern to the Thessalonians were those of their number who had died. Would they receive their resurrection bodies at the Rapture, or would they have to wait until after the Tribulation? Would they miss the Rapture altogether? Would they therefore be second-class citizens in heaven? Were their deaths chastisement for their sins (cf. 1 Cor. 11:30)? They loved each other so deeply (cf. 4:9–10) that those thoughts greatly disturbed them. Their concern for those who had died shows that the Thessalonians believed the return of Christ was imminent and could happen in their lifetime. Otherwise, there would have been no reason for their concern. The Thessalonians’ fear that their fellow believers who had died might miss the Rapture also implies that they believed in a pretribulational Rapture. If the Rapture precedes the Tribulation, they might have wondered when believers who died would receive their resurrection bodies. But there would have been no such confusion if the Rapture follows the Tribulation; all believers would then receive their resurrection bodies at the same time. Further, if they had been taught that they would go through the Tribulation, they would not have grieved for those who died, but rather would have been glad to see them spared from that horrible time.
Paul wrote this section of his epistle to alleviate the Thessalonians’ grief and confusion. He was concerned that they not … be uninformed … about those who are asleep and thus grieve as do the rest who have no hope. Since their grief was based on ignorance, Paul comforted them by giving them knowledge.
The phrase we do not want you to be uninformed or its equivalent frequently introduces a new topic in Paul’s epistles (cf. Rom. 1:13; 1 Cor. 10:1; 11:3; 12:1; 2 Cor. 1:8; Phil. 1:12; Col. 2:1). The conjunction but and the affectionate term brethren (cf. (vv. 1, 10; 1:4; 2:1, 9, 14, 17; 3:7; 5:1, 4, 12, 14, 25) emphasize the change in subject and call attention to the new topic’s importance. In this case, Paul introduced not only a new subject but also new revelation he had received “by the word of the Lord” (v. 15).
Since it was their primary concern, Paul first addressed the question of those who are asleep. While koimaō (asleep) can be used of normal sleep (Matt. 28:13; Luke 22:45; Acts 12:6), it more often refers to believers who have died (vv. 13–15; Matt. 27:52; John 11:11; Acts 7:60; 13:36; 1 Cor. 11:30; 15:6, 18, 20, 51; 2 Peter 3:4). In verse 14 those who are asleep are identified as “the dead in Christ.” The present tense participle koimōmenōn (v. 13) refers to those who are continually falling asleep as a regular course of life in the church. They had grown increasingly concerned as their fellow believers continued to die.
It is important to remember that in the New Testament “sleep” applies only to the body, never to the soul. “Soul sleep,” the false teaching that the souls of the dead are in a state of unconscious existence in the afterlife, is foreign to Scripture. In 2 Corinthians 5:8 Paul wrote that he “prefer[red] rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord,” while in Philippians 1:23 he expressed his “desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better.” Those statements teach that believers go consciously into the Lord’s presence at death, for how could unconsciousness be “very much better” than conscious communion with Jesus Christ in this life? Jesus promised the repentant thief on the cross, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise [heaven; cf. 2 Cor. 12:4; Rev. 2:7]” (Luke 23:43). Moses’ and Elijah’s souls were not asleep, since they appeared with Jesus at the Transfiguration (Matt. 17:3), nor are those of the Tribulation martyrs in Revelation 6:9–11, who will be awake and able to speak to God. After death the redeemed go consciously into the presence of the Lord, while the unsaved go into conscious punishment (Luke 16:19–31).
Paul related this information to the Thessalonians so that they would not grieve. There is a normal sorrow that accompanies the death of a loved one, caused by the pain of separation and loneliness. Jesus grieved over the death of Lazarus (John 11:33, 35), and Paul exhorted the Romans to “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). However, the apostle did not have that kind of grief in mind here, but grief like the rest who have no hope. In Ephesians 2:12 Paul described unbelievers as “having no hope and without God in the world.” There is an awful, terrifying, hopeless finality for unbelievers when a loved one dies, a sorrow unmitigated by any hope of reunion. Commenting on the hopeless despair of unbelievers in the ancient world, William Barclay writes,
In the face of death the pagan world stood in despair. They met it with grim resignation and bleak hopelessness. Aeschylus wrote, “Once a man dies there is no resurrection.” Theocritus wrote, “There is hope for those who are alive, but those who have died are without hope.” Catullus wrote, “When once our brief light sets, there is one perpetual night through which we must sleep.” On their tombstones grim epitaphs were carved. “I was not; I became; I am not; I care not.” (The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, rev. ed. [Louisville: Westminster, 1975], 203)
Even those pagans who believed in life after death did not have that hope confirmed by the Holy Spirit; they merely clung to it without affirmation from God. But Christians do not experience the hopeless grief of nonbelievers, for whom death marks the permanent severing of relationships. Unlike them, Christians never say a final farewell to each other; there will be a “gathering together [of all believers] to Him” (2 Thess. 2:1). Partings in this life are only temporary.
The Thessalonians’ ignorance about the Rapture caused them to grieve. It was to give them hope and to comfort them that Paul discussed that momentous event, giving a fourfold description of it: its pillars, participants, plan, and profit.
The Pillars of the Rapture
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord,(4:14–15a)
The blessed hope of the Rapture is not based on the shifting sands of philosophical speculation. Nor is it religious mythology, a fable concocted by well-meaning people to comfort those who grieve. The marvelous truth that the Lord Jesus Christ will return to gather believers to Himself is based on three unshakeable pillars: the death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, and the revelation of Christ.
The Death of Christ
For if we believe that Jesus died(4:14a)
Ifdoes not suggest uncertainty or doubt, but rather logical sequence. Paul says “since,” or “based on the fact that” we believe that Jesus died certain things logically follow. The apostle’s simple statement summarizes all the richness of Christ’s atoning work, which provides the necessary foundation for the gathering of the church. His death satisfied the demands of God’s righteousness, holiness, and justice by paying in full the penalty for believers’ sins. By virtue of Christ’s substitutionary death, when God “made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21), Christians have been made acceptable to God and thus fit to be gathered into His presence.
Significantly, Paul did not use the metaphor of sleep to refer to Jesus, but says that He died. Jesus experienced the full fury of death in all its dimensions as He “bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). His death transformed death into sleep for believers. T. E. Wilson notes, “Death has been changed to sleep by the work of Christ. It is an apt metaphor in which the whole concept of death is transformed. ‘Christ made it the name for death in the dialect of the church (Acts 7:60) (Findlay)’ ” (What the Bible Teaches: 1 and 2 Thessalonians [Kilmarnock, Scotland: John Ritchie Ltd., 1983], 45). When believers die, their spirit goes immediately into conscious fellowship with the Lord, while their bodies temporarily sleep in the grave, awaiting the Rapture.
The Resurrection of Christ
and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.(4:14b)
The resurrection of Christ indicates that the Father accepted His sacrifice, enabling Him to “be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). Paul taught that truth to the Romans when he wrote that “[Christ] was raised because of our justification” (Rom. 4:25). Christ’s resurrection proves that He conquered sin and death, and became the source of resurrection life for every Christian. I. Howard Marshall writes, “The death of believers does not take place apart from Jesus, and hence Paul can conclude that God will raise them up and bring them into the presence of Jesus at the parousia. God will treat those who died trusting in Jesus in the same way He treated Jesus Himself, namely by resurrecting them” (1 and 2 Thessalonians, The New Century Bible Commentary [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983], 124).
The phrase even solinks believers’ resurrections inextricably to the resurrection of Christ. In John 14:19 Jesus said, “Because I live, you will live also.” In the most detailed passage on the resurrection in Scripture, Paul wrote that “Christ [is] the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Cor. 15:23). Earlier in that same epistle, he stated plainly, “Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power” (1 Cor. 6:14). In his second inspired letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus” (2 Cor. 4:14).
To further assuage their fears, Paul reassured believers that God will bring with Him [Jesus] those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. Their fellow believers who died will not miss out on the Rapture but will return with Christ in glory. Some interpret the phrase God will bring to mean that the spirits of dead believers will come from heaven with Christ to meet their resurrected bodies. Others see in it the truth that at the Rapture, God will bring all believers, living and dead, back to heaven with Christ. While the first view is certainly true, the second one seems to be the emphasis of this passage.
What the passage does not teach is that the spirits of dead believers immediately return to earth with Christ for the establishing of the millennial kingdom. That view places the Rapture at the end of the Tribulation and essentially equates it with the Second Coming. It trivializes the Rapture into a meaningless sideshow that serves no purpose. Commenting on the pointlessness of a posttribulational Rapture, Thomas R. Edgar asks,
What can be the purpose for keeping a remnant alive through the tribulation so that some of the church survive and then take them out of their situation and make them the same as those who did not survive? Why keep them for this? [The] explanation that they provide an escort for Jesus does not hold up. Raptured living saints will be exactly the same as resurrected dead saints. Why cannot the dead believers fulfill this purpose? Why keep a remnant alive [through the Tribulation], then Rapture them and accomplish no more than by letting them die? There is no purpose or accomplishment in [such] a Rapture ….
With all the saints of all the ages past and the armies [of angels] in heaven available as escorts and the fact that [raptured] saints provide no different escort than if they had been killed, why permit the church to suffer immensely, most believers [to] be killed, and spare a few for a Rapture which has no apparent purpose, immediately before the [Tribulation] period ends?… Is this the promise? You will suffer, be killed, but I will keep a few alive, and take them out just before the good times come. Such reasoning, of course, calls for some explanation of the apparent lack of purpose for a posttribulational Rapture of any sort.
We can Note the Following:
(1) An unusual, portentous, one-time event such as the Rapture must have a specific purpose. God has purposes for his actions. This purpose must be one that can be accomplished only by such an unusual event as a Rapture of living saints.
(2) This purpose must agree with God’s general principles of operation.
(3) There is little or no apparent reason to Rapture believers when the Lord returns and just prior to setting up the long-awaited kingdom with all of its joyful prospects.
(4) There is good reason to deliver all who are already believers from the tribulation, where they would be special targets of persecution.
(5) To deliver from a period of universal trial and physical destruction such as the tribulation requires a removal from the earth by death or Rapture. Death is not appropriate as a promise in Rev. 3:10.
(6) Deliverance from the tribulation before it starts agrees with God’s previous dealings with Noah and Lot and is directly stated as a principle of God’s action toward believers in 2 Pet. 2:9. (“Robert H. Gundry and Revelation 3:10, ” Grace Theological Journal 3 [Spring 1982], 43–44)
The view that the raptured saints return to earth with Christ also contradicts John 14:1–3:
Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.
The phrases “My Father’s house” and “where I am” clearly refer to heaven (cf. John 7:34). Jesus promised to take believers back to heaven with Him when He returns to gather His people. There has to be a time interval, then, between Christ’s return to gather His people (the Rapture) and His return to earth to establish the millennial kingdom (the Second Coming). During that interval between the Rapture and the Second Coming, the believers’ judgment takes place (1 Cor. 3:11–15; 2 Cor. 5:10); a posttribulational Rapture would leave no time for that event.
The phrase in Jesus is best understood as describing the circumstances in which the departed saints fell asleep. They died in the condition of being related to Jesus Christ. Paul used essentially the same phrase in 1 Corinthians 15:18 when he wrote of those “who have fallen asleep in Christ.”
By demonstrating God’s acceptance of His atoning sacrifice, the resurrection of Christ buttresses the first pillar on which the Rapture is based, the death of Christ.
The Revelation of Christ
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, (4:15a)
Paul’s teaching on the Rapture was not his own speculation but direct revelation from God. The phrase this we say to you by the word of the Lord has the authoritative tone of an inspired writer revealing what God has disclosed to him. Some argue that the word of the Lord was something Jesus said while He was here on earth. But there are no close parallels to the present passage in any of the Gospels. Nor is there any specific teaching in the Gospels to which Paul could be alluding. Although the Lord talked in the Gospels about a trumpet and the gathering of the elect, the differences between those passages and the present one outweigh the similarities, as Robert L. Thomas notes:
Similarities between this passage in 1 Thessalonians and the gospel accounts include a trumpet (Matt. 24:31), a resurrection (John 11:25, 26), and a gathering of the elect (Matt. 24:31) …. Yet dissimilarities between it and the canonical sayings of Christ far outweigh the resemblances …. Some of the differences between Matthew 24:30, 31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15–17 are as follows: (1) In Matthew the Son of Man is coming on the clouds, … in 1 Thessalonians ascending believers are in them. (2) In the former the angels gather, in the latter the Son does so personally. (3) In the former nothing is said about resurrection, while in the latter this is the main theme. (4) Matthew records nothing about the order of ascent, which is the principal lesson in Thessalonians. (“1 & 2 Thessalonians,” in Frank E. Gaebelein, ed. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary,vol. 11 [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979], 276–77)
Nor is it likely that Paul is referring to a saying of Jesus not recorded in the Gospels (cf. Acts 20:35); he does not state or imply that he is directly quoting Christ’s words. Further, in 1 Corinthians 15:51 Paul referred to the Rapture as a mystery; that is, a truth formerly hidden but now revealed. That indicates that Jesus did not disclose the details of the Rapture during His earthly ministry. (He referred to the Rapture in John 14:1–3 in a general, nonspecific sense.) Paul’s teaching on the Rapture was new revelation, possibly given by God through a prophet (such as Agabus; Acts 21:11) but more likely directly to Paul himself. The Thessalonians had apparently been informed about the Day of the Lord judgment (5:1–2), but not about the preceding event—the Rapture of the church—until the Holy Spirit through Paul revealed it to them. This was new revelation, unveiled mystery.
The Rapture, then, does not rest on the shaky foundation of whimsical theological speculation, but on the sure foundation of the death, resurrection, and revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Participants of the Rapture
we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.(4:15b)
Two groups of people will participate in the Rapture: those who are alive at the coming of the Lord and those who have fallen asleep. That Paul used the plural pronoun we indicates that he believed the Rapture could happen in his lifetime. He had a proper anticipation of and expectation for the Lord’s return, though unlike many throughout church history, the apostle did not predict a specific time for it. He accepted Christ’s words in Matthew 24:36, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone,” and Acts 1:7, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority.” At the same time, Paul understood the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, which illustrates the foolishness of not being constantly prepared for the Lord’s return (Matt. 25:1–13). The Lord expressed the point of that parable when He declared, “Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour” (Matt. 25:13; cf. 24:45–51). Paul thus avoided both common errors regarding Christ’s return; he neither got involved in date setting, nor did he push the return of Christ into the distant, nebulous future.
Several other passages express Paul’s fervent hope and expectation that he himself might be among those who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord. In Romans 13:11 he wrote, “Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.” The salvation of which he wrote was the redemption of the body (Rom. 8:23) that takes place when Christ returns. In verse 12 Paul added, “The night [of man’s sin and Satan’s rule] is almost gone, and the day [of Christ’s return] is near.” He wrote to the Corinthians, “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor. 10:11). Paul knew he was in the messianic age, the period between Christ’s first and second comings, the last days of human history. He likely had no idea that they would last as long as they have. Later in that epistle, Paul, as he does here in 1 Thessalonians, includes himself among those who might still be alive at the Rapture: “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51–52). As he concluded that letter Paul wrote, “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. Maranatha” (1 Cor. 16:22). Maranatha comes from two Aramaic words that mean “Oh Lord, come!” and expresses Paul’s strong hope that the Lord would return soon. Earlier in this epistle, he commended the Thessalonians for waiting “for His Son from heaven” (1:10). He expressed his desire for them that God “may establish [their] hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints” (3:13). Pronouncing a final benediction as he concluded this letter, Paul wrote, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:23). The apostle wrote to Titus that he was “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13).
On the other hand, Paul fully realized that he might die before the Rapture. In 1 Corinthians 6:14 he acknowledged that he might be among those resurrected at the Rapture: “Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power.” He affirmed to the Philippians his desire that “Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death” (Phil. 1:20). At the end of his life, sensing his imminent death, he wrote to Timothy, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:6–7). While acknowledging both possibilities, Paul used we because when he wrote, it was still possible for the Lord to return in his lifetime. By so doing, he conveyed to the Thessalonians his own longing for Christ’s imminent return.
Paul lived in constant expectation of Christ’s return. But the apostle nevertheless reassured the Thessalonians that those of their number who had died would not miss the Rapture, which will also include those who have fallen asleep. Moreover, the living will not precede the dead. They will not take precedence over them or gain an advantage over them. Those who die before the Rapture will in no sense be inferior to those who are alive. All Christians will participate in the Rapture.
The Plan of the Rapture
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.(4:16–17)
Having reassured the Thessalonians that their departed loved ones will not miss out on the Rapture, Paul gave a step-by-step description of that event.
First, the Lord Himself will return for His church. He will not send angels for it, in contrast to the gathering of the elect that takes place at the Second Coming (Mark 13:26–27).
Second, Jesus will descend from heaven, where He has been since His ascension (Acts 1:9–11). Earlier in this epistle, Paul commended the Thessalonians because they were waiting “for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus” (1:10). At his trial before the Sanhedrin, Stephen cried out, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56). The writer of Hebrews said of Christ, “When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3).
Third, when Jesus comes down from heaven, He will do so with a shout. Keleusma(command) has a military ring to it, as if the Commander is calling His troops to fall in. The dead saints in their resurrected bodies will join the raptured living believers in the ranks. The Lord’s shout of command will be similar to His raising of Lazarus, when “He cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth’” (John 11:43). This is the hour “when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live” (John 5:25). The righteous dead of the church age will be the first to rise—a truth that must have greatly comforted the anxious Thessalonians.
Fourth, the voice of the archangel will sound. There is no definite article in the Greek text, which literally reads, “an archangel.” In Jude 9, the only other passage in Scripture that mentions an archangel, the archangel is Michael. Scripture does not say whether or not he is the only archangel (there were seven archangels according to Jewish tradition). Thus, it is impossible to say who the archangel whose voice will be heard at that Rapture is. Whoever he is, he adds his voice to the Lord’s shout of command.
Fifth, to the Lord’s command and the archangel’s voice will be added the sounding of the trumpet of God (cf. 1 Cor. 15:52). Trumpets were used in Scripture for many reasons. They sounded at Israel’s feasts (Num. 10:10), celebrations (2 Sam. 6:15), and convocations (Lev. 23:24), to sound an alarm in time of war (Num. 10:9) or for any other reason it was necessary to gather a crowd (Num. 10:2; Judg. 6:34) or make an announcement (1 Sam. 13:3; 2 Sam. 15:10; 20:1; 1 Kings 1:34, 39, 41). The trumpet at the Rapture has no connection to the trumpets of judgment in Revelation 8–11. It seems to have a twofold purpose: to assemble God’s people (cf. Ex. 19:16–19) and to signal His deliverance of them (cf. Zech. 1:16; 9:14–16).
Sixth, the dead in Christ will rise first. As noted above, the dead saints will in no way be inferior to those alive at the Rapture. In fact, they will rise first, their glorified bodies joining with their glorified spirits to make them into the image of Christ, as the apostle John wrote: “We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2). Those who were in Christ in life will be so in death; death cannot separate believers from God (Rom. 8:38): “therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom. 14:8).
Finally, those believers who are alive and remain will be caught up together with the dead saints in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Harpazō (caught up) refers to a strong, irresistible, even violent act. In Matthew 11:12 it describes the taking of the kingdom of heaven by force. In John 10:12 it describes a wolf snatching sheep; in John 10:28–29 it speaks of the impossibility of anyone’s snatching believers out of the hands of Jesus Christ and God the Father; in Acts 8:39 it speaks of Philip’s being snatched away from the Ethiopian eunuch; and in 2 Corinthians 12:2, 4 it describes Paul’s being caught up into the third heaven. It is when living believers are caught up that they are transformed and receive their glorified bodies (Phil. 3:21). “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” believers “will be changed” (1 Cor. 15:52), rescued from the grasp of Satan, the fallen flesh, the evil world system, and the coming wrath of God.
The time of the Rapture cannot be discerned from this passage alone. But when it is read with other Rapture texts (John 14:3; Rev. 3:10; cf. 1 Cor. 15:51–52; Phil. 3:2–21), and compared to judgment texts (Matt. 13:34–50; 24:29–44; Rev. 19:11–21), it is clear that there is no mention of judgment at all in the Rapture passages, whereas the others major on judgment. It is therefore necessary to conclude that the Rapture occurs at a time other than the judgment.
It is best, then, to separate the two events. That initiates the case for the Rapture to occur imminently, before the elements of judgment described in Scripture as leading up to the Second Coming in judgment.
Again, no solitary text of Scripture makes the entire case for the pretribulation Rapture. However, when one considers all the New Testament evidence, a very compelling case for the pretribulational position emerges, which answers more questions and solves more problems than any other Rapture position. The following arguments present a strong case in favor of the pretribulation Rapture.
First, the earthly kingdom of Christ promised in Revelation 6–18 does not mention the church as being on earth. Because Revelation 1–3 uses the Greek word for church nineteen times, one would reasonably assume that if the church were on earth rather than in heaven in chapters 6–18, they would use “church” with similar frequency, but such is not the case. Therefore, one can assume that the church is not present on the earth during the period of tribulation described in Revelation 6–18 and that therefore the Lord has removed it from the earth and relocated it to heaven by means of the Rapture.
Second, Revelation 19 does not mention a Rapture even though that is where a posttribulational Rapture (if true) would logically occur. Thus, one can conclude that the Rapture will have already occurred.
Third, a posttribulational Rapture renders the Rapture concept itself inconsequential. If God preserves the church during the Tribulation, as posttribulationists assert, then why have a Rapture at all? It makes no sense to Rapture believers from earth to heaven for no apparent purpose other than to return them immediately with Christ to earth. Further, a posttribulational Rapture makes the unique separation of the sheep (believers) from the goats (unbelievers) at the return of Christ in judgment redundant because a posttribulational Rapture would have already accomplished that.
Fourth, if God raptures and glorifies all believers just prior to the inauguration of the millennial kingdom (as a posttribulational Rapture demands), no one would be left to populate and propagate the earthly kingdom of Christ promised to Israel. It is not within the Lord’s plan and purpose to use glorified individuals to propagate the earth during the Millennium. Therefore, the Rapture needs to occur earlier so that after God has raptured all believers, He can save more souls—including Israel’s remnant—during the seven-year Tribulation. Those people can then enter the millennial kingdom in earthly form. The most reasonable possibility for this scenario is the pretribulational Rapture.
Fifth, the New Testament does not warn of an impending tribulation, such as is experienced during Daniel’s seventieth week, for church-age believers. It does warn of error and false prophets (Acts 20:29–30; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1–3), against ungodly living (Eph. 4:25–5:7; 1 Thess. 4:3–8; Heb. 12:1), and of present tribulation (1 Thess. 2:14–16; 2 Thess. 1:4; all of 2 Peter). Thus it is incongruous that the New Testament would be silent concerning such a traumatic change as Daniel’s seventieth week if posttribulationism were true.
Sixth, Paul’s instructions here to the Thessalonians demand a pretribulational Rapture because, if Paul were teaching them posttribulationism, one would expect them to rejoice that loved ones were home with the Lord and spared the horrors of the Tribulation. But, in actuality, the Thessalonians grieved. In addition, with a posttribulational teaching one would expect them to sorrow over their own impending trial and inquire about their future doom; however, they expressed no such dread or questioning. Further, one might expect Paul to instruct and exhort them concerning such a supreme test as the Tribulation, but Paul wrote only about the hope of the Rapture.
Seventh, the sequence of events at Christ’s coming following the Tribulation demands a pretribulational Rapture. A comparing and contrasting of Rapture passages with Second Coming passages yields strong indicators that the Rapture could not be posttribulational.
(a) at the Rapture, Christ gathers His own (vv. 16–17 of the present passage), but at the Second Coming, angels gather the elect (Matt. 24:31);
(b) at the Rapture, resurrection is prominent (vv. 15–16 of the present passage), but regarding the Second Coming, Scripture does not mention the resurrection;
(c) at the Rapture, Christ comes to reward believers (v. 17 of the present passage), but at the Second Coming, Christ comes to judge the earth (Matt. 25:31–46);
(d) at the Rapture, the Lord snatches away true believers from the earth (vv. 15–17 of the present passage), but at the Second Coming, He takes away unbelievers (Matt. 24:37–41);
(e) at the Rapture, unbelievers remain on the earth, whereas at the Second Coming, believers remain on the earth;
(f) concerning the Rapture, Scripture does not mention the establishment of Christ’s kingdom, but at His second coming, Christ sets up His kingdom; and
(g) at the Rapture, believers will receive glorified bodies, whereas at the Second Coming, no one will receive glorified bodies.
Eighth, certain of Jesus’ teachings demand a pretribulational Rapture. For instance, the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matt. 13:24–30) portrays the reapers (angels) removing the tares (unbelievers) from among the wheat (believers) in order to judge the tares, which demonstrates that at the Second Coming, the Lord has unbelievers removed from among believers. However, at the Rapture, He takes believers from among unbelievers. This is also true in the parable of the dragnet (Matt. 13:47–50) and in the discussion of the days of Noah and the description of the nations’ judgment, both in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24–25).
Ninth, Revelation 3:10 teaches that the Lord will remove the church prior to the Tribulation. In the Greek, the phrase “I also will keep you from” can mean nothing other than “I will prevent you from entering into.” Jesus Christ will honor the church by preventing it from entering the hour of testing, namely Daniel’s seventieth week, which is about to come upon the entire world. Only a pretribulational Rapture can explain how this will happen.
Thus, the Rapture (being caught up) must be pretribulational, before the wrath of God described in the Tribulation (Rev. 6–19). At the Rapture, living believers will be caught up together with the believers raised from the dead as the church triumphant joins the church militant to become the church glorified. Clouds are often associated in Scripture with divine appearances. When God appeared at Mount Sinai, “The glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days” (Ex. 24:16). Clouds marked God’s presence in the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34), the temple (1 Kings 8:10), and at Christ’s transfiguration (Matt. 17:5). At His ascension Christ “was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9).
Some argue that the word meet suggests meeting a dignitary, king, or famous person and escorting him back to his city. They then argue that after the meeting described in this passage, believers will return to earth with Christ. But such an analogy is arbitrary and assumes a technical meaning for meetnot required by either the word or the context. As noted earlier in this chapter, that explanation also renders the Rapture pointless; why have believers meet Christ in the air and immediately return to earth? Why should they not just meet Him when He gets here? Gleason L. Archer comments, “The most that can be said of such a ‘Rapture’ is that it is a rather secondary sideshow of minimal importance” (Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Paul D. Feinberg, Douglas J. Moo, and Richard Reiter, The Rapture: Pre-, Mid-, or Post-Tribulational? [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984], 215). As was also noted earlier in this chapter, a posttribulational Rapture contradicts the teaching of Christ in John 14:1–3 that He will return to take believers to heaven, not immediately back to earth.
The final step in the plan of the Rapture is the blessed, comforting truth that after Christ returns to gather us (believers) to Himself, we shall always be with the Lord.
The Profit of the Rapture
Therefore comfort one another with these words.(4:18)
The benefit of understanding the Rapture is not to fill the gaps in one’s eschatological scheme. As noted at the beginning of this chapter, Paul’s goal in teaching the Thessalonians about the Rapture was to comfort them. The “God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3) grants to all believers the encouraging comfort of knowing that Christ will one day return for them. At that monumental event, the dead in Christ will be raised, join with the living saints in experiencing a complete transformation of body and soul, and be with God forever. Therefore, there was no need for the Thessalonians to grieve or sorrow over their fellow believers who had died. No wonder Paul calls the return of Christ “the blessed hope” (Titus 2:13).
Article above adapted from the commentary by John MacArthur. 1 & 2 Thessalonians. Chicago: Moody Press, 2002, 123-138.
About the Author: Dr.John MacArthur is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. Grace Church has grown from 450 members in 1969, when MacArthur accepted the pastorate, to over 12,000 today. He is also the president of The Master’s College and Seminary in Newhall, California, a prolific author of more than two dozen books, and the speaker on the worldwide radio broadcast, Grace to You, heard over 700 times daily–every half hour, day and night, somewhere around the world. The primary emphasis of MacArthur’s ministry has always been the expository preaching and teaching of God’s Word through a verse-by-verse exposition of the Scripture. His studies pay particular attention to the historical and grammatical aspects of each biblical passage. MacArthur’s recently published book, How to Get the Most from God’s Word, released in conjunction with The MacArthur Study Bible, is designed to fill what he sees as “an increased hunger for the meat of the Word.” He assures the reader that the Bible is trustworthy and that an understanding of Scripture is available to everyone. He then provides guidance on how to study the Bible and how to discern the meaning of Scripture for oneself. Dr. MacArthur explains that the book and the Study Bible have been “in the works for 30 years…the product of 32 hours a week, 52 weeks a year…dedicated to the study of God’s Word.” He asserts that “God’s Word is the only thing that satisfies my appetite, but it also arouses an even deeper hunger for more.” Among MacArthur’s other books are The MacArthur New Testament Commentary series, The Gospel According to Jesus, The Master’s Plan for the Church, Saved Without a Doubt, The Glory of Heaven, Lord Teach Me to Pray, Unleashing God’s Word in Your Life, Safe in the Arms of God, The Second Coming, Why One Way?, and Truth for Today, and Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ. His books have been translated into Chinese, Czechoslovakian, French, Finnish, Hungarian, Korean, Polish, Romanian, Spanish, and several Indian languages. Though occasionally viewed by some groups as a controversial figure for strong critiques of freudian psychology, trends in the modern charismatic movement as well as the self-esteem movement, John MacArthur is seen by many as a champion of correcting many of the ills of evangelical Christianity. He is also a champion of helping believers grow stronger in their relationship with God through the committed study of the Word and personal commitment to the local church. MacArthur spent his first two years of college at Bob Jones University, completed his undergraduate work at Los Angeles Pacific College, and studied for the ministry at Talbot Theological Seminary. John and his wife, Patricia, live in Southern California. They have four grown children — Matt, Marcy, Mark, and Melinda–and eight grandchildren.