How can we be sure Paul was not speaking regarding the rapture and the catching away of the saints to be with him forever, meaning in our heavenly sky? To answer that question, we are to examine Paul’s message to the Church because Paul wrote saying that the dead in Christ shall rise first, then we who are alive shall be caught up in the air to meet them.
This is a strong argument for the rapture, but what is Paul saying? Well, speaking regarding the return of Jesus Christ, the message of Paul to the Church was that we will be with the saints who had passed on before us. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 “The dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
But what did Paul say to the Church preceding his statement concerning the saints being caught up in the air? Paul also wrote that we who are alive will not prevent the dead, rather we will not precede the dead in Christ, nor will the dead in Christ precede the living in Christ. Instead, we shall all at once be with the Lord upon his return.
1 Thessalonians 4:15 “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.” Because upon the return of Christ those who went on before in death shall return with Jesus to be united with the living who will at that very moment when the returning saints are being cloth with their new bodies, will also be united with them in our glorified bodies.
But until that day, the saints of the Highest will remain on the earth and will need to endure the persecution the world will bring against us, a world over which the Antichrist will reign according to the time given to him. And because of these reasons, Paul is encouraging the Church to love with the love of Christ, and that we are to remind each other, we will one day be united with those who had suffered and were crucified for the name and work of Christ by the hands of evil men.
2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” Paul later reminded the Church saying, Christ’s return will not be until there is first a great fallen away, suggesting, we will live through the tribulation and times of trouble, God’s wrath against the world until Christ returns to destroy the man of perdition.
God will consume the man of perdition with a vengeance because of his opposition of God and his Christ, and it will be on account of the persecution brought against the saints of God. Revelation 13:7 “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.” And Acts 9:4 “Saul, Saul, why persecutes thou me?” Understanding these things, Paul is reminding the Church, we are to stand firm in the face of persecution because the day of the Lord is at hand and we will soon be delivered from the power of the man of perdition when the Lord himself shall descend, not catch us away.”
2 Thessalonians 2:15-17 “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our teachings. Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which has loved us, and has given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comforts your hearts, and establish you in every good word and work.”