In Matthew 24:3 the Apostles asked Jesus what would be the sign of his coming or parousia (G3952). Jesus told them that his coming could not be hid (Matthew 24:27), and it would come upon the people suddenly when they least expected it (Matthew 24:37-39). Recently I wrote that Peter, James and John believed and taught Jesus coming would be in their expected lifetimes in the 1st century AD. What did Paul believe and teach? Did he agree with those who knew Jesus the longest, or did he teach something different?
Paul wrote about the raising of the dead (1Thessalonians 4:13-14) or the time when Christ would come. Paul claimed that Jesus would bring those who have died with him, because we who are alive at Jesus’ coming or parousia (G3952) would not be caught up with Christ before those who have died were raised (1Thessalonians 4:15). The resurrection of the dead would occur first (1Corinthians 15:52):
(1 Thessalonians 4:16 KJV) For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
Afterward, those who are alive and remain on the earth will be caught up with them to greet Jesus in the sky (1Thessalonians 4:17). Paul goes on to say that the Thessalonians already knew these things, because Paul taught them, while he was with them (1Thessalonians 5:1), yet this day would come upon the world unawares, as a thief in the night. In fact, when they expected peace, sudden destruction would come (1Thessalonians 5:2-3). After encouraging the believers further, Paul said he prayed that God would preserve them wholly—spirit, soul and body—until the coming (G3952) of the Lord (1Thessalonians 5:23; cf. 2:19 & 3:13).
It appears as though Paul also taught that the coming of Christ would be sudden, catching people unawares, but we wouldn’t have to wonder about the times. Everything would be clear enough for folks to understand as things developed. Paul did add that, when Christ would come, the resurrection of believers would also occur (cf. 1Corinthians 15). In 1Corinthians Paul argued against those who tried to say there was no resurrection for a certain group of dead ones. He concluded that, if there were no resurrection of all the dead, both he and the other Apostles were false witnesses (1Corinthians 15:15).
Jesus rose from the dead and became the Firstfruit of them who were dead (1Corinthians 15:20), for, as the Scriptures conclude, there is an order of the harvest. First, Christ rose, then they who have died in Christ will rise and be caught up with him (1Corinthians 15:23; cf. 1Thessalonians 4:13-15). This is pictured in the Old Testament in the Wave Sheaf Offering (Christ), which had to be offered before anything else could be harvested from the fields. This was the offering that blessed or sanctified the whole harvest (see Leviticus 23:9-14). The Wave Sheaf Offering pictured Christ’s sacrifice being accepted by God. It was offered on the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and occurred on the Sunday during the Passover season.
In Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians he again wrote of the coming (G3952) of Christ, saying the day would not arrive until the great falling away would occur (2Thessalonians 2:1, 3; cf. Matthew 24:9-10), and the Man of Sin would be disclosed—that is, he would bring destruction upon the Jews, for he is the Son of Perdition (destruction). His works had remained hidden, but he is responsible for the abomination that brought desolation to Jerusalem and the Temple. Paul concludes that this evil one would be destroyed in the unveiling of the Lord’s coming (2Thessalonians 2:8), which occurred cir. 66-70 AD. He was killed on the first day of the Jewish rebellion against Rome on the sixth day of the sixth month after serving 60 years as high priest.
We can see, therefore, that Paul was in complete agreement with the Apostles and James who also wrote about the coming of Christ. Jesus’ coming occurred in his judgment of the Jewish leadership and those who believed them rather than the Apostles and prophets, whom Jesus sent to the nation. The Jews, as a whole, rejected Jesus as their Messiah, and the nation was ultimately judged for their rebellion by being brought to rebel against Rome. The Lord’s judgment was brought about, just as it had always been under the Old Testament, when other nations were used to carry out the judgments of God.
What Paul does in his epistles is show the Man of Sin is connected with the Abomination of Desolation. Both brought destruction upon the nation. The Lord and Daniel point to the sin, but Paul points to a particular Man of Sin—the leader who brought the nation to sin. He was the Son of Perdition (or destruction). Moreover, Paul indicates that the time of the Lord’s coming was also the time of the resurrection of those who had died in Christ. This would also have included the righteous that had died under the Old Covenant and lived before the time of Christ. All looked forward to him and are found in him. So, even though Paul explains a little more about the coming of Jesus, his teaching is in basic agreement with that of the other Apostles.
May the Lord help us to see these things and keep us from falling into the errors of those who go about today preaching we can know the day and hour of our Lord’s return.