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He Is Coming With All His Saints
1 Thessalonians 3:13

From the Writings of Marvin J. Rosenthal
Published in Zion's Fire Magazine in July/August, 1997

Previously, I wrote a Zion's Fire article entitled "The Church's Trojan Horse." In the article, I shared my understanding of the biblical chronology of Christ's second coming. I reminded my readers that Satan is the father of lies (Jn. 8:44). And, in that connection, I wrote:

At the end of the last century, he inserted a falsehood into the Bible-believing Church of America. It entered deceptively, much like a 'Trojan Horse.' It remains inside the camp and is now so ingrained in the mind-set of many believers that to even question its biblical basis is to subject oneself to scorn and intimidation.

I refer, of course, to the Trojan Horse of pretribulation rapturism.

No one takes issue with the statement that Satan is the "father of lies." But suggest that many Christians, however unintentionally, have been deceived into believing one of his lies - well, that's another story - that pushes a "hot" button. His lies, we think, are reserved for the unsaved, perhaps even for Christians not quite as conservative or discerning as we are, but not for us.

I realized that my words were strong, and I gave careful consideration before using them. They are not words that I blurted out and now wish I could rescind. I knew that they would not endear me to some of my brethren, but I also believe that they are true and need desperately to be said.

The article was written out of love for the true Church, and with a desire to inform and prepare one generation of believers for what I believe the Bible teaches will be a time of great trouble which is coming on the earth - not routine trouble, mind you, not the normal troubles of life, but unique and intense trouble - associated with the Antichrist and largely directed against true believers. I fear that those who do not believe the Church will be here when the Antichrist arises will, by that very fact, be the most confused and vulnerable when he does appear. If left unchallenged, for Satan it will be a coup.

If, believing as I do, I do not blow a trumpet - if I do not sound an alarm - then I am an unfaithful watchman.

A long time ago, I read a poem that impacted me greatly. As best my memory recalls, it went something like this:

To every man there openeth
A way, and ways, and a way;
And some men take the high way,
And some men take the low;
And in between, in the misty flats,
The rest walk to and fro;
To every man there openeth
A way, and ways, and a way;
And some men take the high way,
And some men take the low;
And every man determines
The way his path shall go.

I am neither contentious nor combative by nature; I have no agenda to accomplish, no mark to make, and no notoriety to achieve. I am a sinner and a beggar who has found Jesus, the One who is the "Bread of Life." As a result, I have one consuming desire - to tell other beggars where to find the Bread.

What I understand God's Word to teach, I believe passionately, and what I believe passionately, I attempt to proclaim forcefully. When there is very strong evidence to warrant it, I am not above publicly changing my position. What I will not do is dilute or hide my theological convictions to avoid problems, please more people, or to "build" a bigger ministry. If I seek to please men, I am not a servant of Christ.

We "grow" in grace and (we grow) in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus (2 Pet. 3:18). If there is a need to grow, that presupposes that we do not now know everything. When a church, a fellowship, or a denomination hedges itself about with a cloak of doctrinal perimeters; when it thinks that it alone has all truth; when it will not open that hedge to legitimately consider alternative views, even when there is sufficient evidence to warrant it - when it condemns and passes resolutions so that the members in its fellowship cannot think for themselves lest they be ostracized, it courts the danger of becoming cultic, however orthodox it may think itself to be, and however much it might decry the accusation.

When I wrote the article, "The Church's Trojan Horse," I anticipated a strong response from certain quarters. It quickly came in the form of a larger than usual number of letters and calls. Many raised legitimate questions or graciously disagreed (and that's commendable). Others, it appeared, wanted to dismember my bodily parts and launch them on a one-way trip into space.

Much of the criticism came over my comment concerning the Pauline expression "with all his saints." I stated that the word "saints" in 1 Thessalonians 3:13 was not referring to believers, but rather to angelic beings; that at Christ's second coming He would not be accompanied by the raptured and glorified Church, as many teach, but by a great angelic army. I expressed my view of the text this way:

Paul wrote these words to the Thessalonians: 'To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming [parousia] of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints' (1 Th. 3:13).

I then went on to say:

'Saints,' in this verse, is an unfortunate and inappropriate translation. 'Saints,' in this verse, does not refer to believers. The Greek word hagios should be translated 'holy ones' and is a reference to angelic beings. These angelic beings will accompany Christ at His coming [parousia] (cf. Mt. 25:31; 2 Th. 1:7-8; Rev. 19:14).

Then I added this comment:

In no sense, then, can 1 Thessalonians 3:13 be used to support the teaching that the Lord comes for the Church at the beginning of the seventieth week and then with the Church at its end, as some contend.

Some, evidencing exasperation, have responded by saying, "Who cares? I'm tired of the debate. We need unity; we need evangelism; we need godly living; we do not need prophecy." With such voices I strongly disagree. We don't need sensationalism; we don't need speculation; but we sure do need the prophetic Scriptures. They tell us how it is all going to end. They reveal the struggles along the way. They encourage us to press on. They give us hope in an otherwise hopeless world. And if, as many suspect, we are racing toward the end of the age, we need the prophetic Scriptures more than ever before.

Since the beginning of the Church, good and godly men have sometimes disagreed in their interpretation of prophetic truth. But that men have disagreed does not give license to ignore. We are to descend into the mines of God's prophetic Scriptures and dig for gold - not "fool's gold," but the "real McCoy."

Every major doctrine held precious by Bible-believing Christians has had to be fought over during the last nineteen centuries. Church history is filled with records of those conflicts. Some men have had to give their lives in defense of truth, which we, today, often take for granted. The great doctrines of the Church have been forged on the anvil of conflict. Nothing can make more urgent the burden to share the gospel than a healthy, biblical awareness of the conflict that is rapidly shaping up between the Antichrist and the true Christ.

God is my witness that over the last few years I have received thousands of letters and calls from believers from all over the world who have said that coming to a "prewrath rapture" understanding of Christ's return and the end of the age has revolutionized their lives and given to them a passionate zeal for sharing the gospel.

I have, from time to time, received appeals for unity. Frequently, when you read the small print in their appeal, they usually mean unity by capitulation to their position. There is another word for that kind of unity - it's called "surrender."

Indeed, it is beautiful for brethren to dwell together in unity (Ps. 133:1). But that truth must always be wed to the Pauline testimony: "I am set for the defence of the gospel" (Phil. 1:17). It was not unity when Paul withstood Peter to his face. Speaking of that confrontation, Paul wrote: "I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed" (Gal. 2:11). Paul rightly understood that a critical doctrine was at stake. At that moment, unity wasn't the priority - truth was. The New Testament is filled full with conflict necessitated by the need to defend proper theology.

The Meaning of the Word "Saint"

In the New Testament, the Greek word hagios is translated "holy" or "holy ones" more than 160 times. The same Greek word is also translated "saint" more than 70 times. Hagios carries the idea of purity, consecration, and holiness.

The apostle Paul, speaking of the gospel, said: "Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy (hagios) scriptures" (Rom. 1:2). And to the Roman believers he wrote: "But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints [hagios]" (Rom. 15:25). In the first instance, hagios is translated "holy"; in the second instance, it is translated "saints."

The Roman Catholic Church developed a theological system through which it confers upon selected individuals the designation "saint." Unfortunately, this unbiblical practice has tended to obscure the true biblical meaning of the word.

Every true Christian, whether a babe in Christ or one who has walked with the Lord many years, is a "saint."

Every true Christian, whether living piously or worldly, is a "saint."

The word "saint" describes a status which every believer possesses before God. It is wholly a consequence of being in Christ. In Him we are positionally pure, consecrated, holy - thus we are "holy ones" or "saints," irrespective of how we may be living.

The Bible exhorts those who are saved, and therefore positionally "saints," to experientially live saintly (holy) lives (Rom. 12:1; Eph. 1:4; 1 Pet. 1:16).

It is conspicuously clear that the New Testament repeatedly uses the Greek word hagios ("saint") as a designation for all true believers (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 16:1; Eph. 1:1).

The Meaning of the Word "Saint" in the Old Testament

In the Old Testament, the situation is similar to the New Testament. The Hebrew word kadosh is sometimes translated "holy." The prophet Isaiah wrote: "And one cried unto another, and said, Holy [kadosh], holy [kadosh], holy [kadosh], is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory" (Isa. 6:3). And sometimes it is translated "saints." The psalmist proclaimed: "And the heavens shall praise thy wonders, O LORD: thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints [pl., kedoshim]" (Ps. 89:5).

The Hebrew word kadosh, then, means "holy" or "holy one" and is often translated "saint." What is of importance is that kadosh is sometimes used of men who have found favor with God, and it is sometimes used of angelic beings. Both men and angels are referred to as "holy ones" or "saints."

The psalmist wrote: "And the heavens shall praise thy wonders, O LORD: thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints [kedoshim]. For who in the heaven can be compared unto the LORD? who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the LORD?" (Ps. 89:5-6).

Speaking of the "saints" who are "sons of the mighty," the Ryrie Study Bible states: "These references are to angels" (Ryrie Study Bible, p. 861).

The prophet Daniel wrote: "I saw in the visions of my head upon my bed, and, behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven" (Dan. 4:13). Commenting on this "holy one" [kadosh], Walvoord wrote:

In the light of the full revelation of the Word of God, the most natural conclusion is that this person described as 'a watcher and an holy one' is an angel sent from God even though the word angel is not used.1

Again Daniel wrote: "Then I heard one saint [holy one] speaking, and another saint [holy one] said unto that certain saint [holy one]" (Dan. 8:13). And once again the word "saint" is referring to an angelic being.

Between the years 220 and 170 B.C., the Hebrew Old Testament was translated into the Greek language. It was translated by Jewish scholars for the Jewish people because, with the spread of Hellenism (the Greek philosophy and culture), Greek had transplanted Hebrew as the primary language of the Jewish people. This translation was called the "Septuagint" (meaning seventy) in honor of the seventy scholars who did the translation.

The Greek Septuagint was the Old Testament Bible used by the Jewish people in the first century. It is a widely accepted fact that many Old Testament quotes found in the New Testament were taken from the Septuagint.

In the Septuagint, the word kedoshim (holy ones) was translated "angels" in Psalm 89:5; Daniel 4:13; and 8:13. It was also translated "angels" in another highly significant verse. In a text speaking of Armageddon and the Lord's second coming, the prophet Zechariah wrote:

And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints [for 'saints' the Septuagint reads 'angels'] with thee (Zech. 14:5).

The expression "and all the saints" appears to be a parallel of Paul's statement to the Thessalonians, "with all his saints" (1 Th. 3:13).

The Dead Sea Scrolls add their testimony to the Hebrew Old Testament and the Septuagint. They are uniquely important documents because they immediately precede and then parallel the writing of much of the New Testament. The scroll The Manual of Discipline uses the term "angel" for bad spirits (i.e., bad angels), and for good spirits (i.e., good angels) the term "holy ones." And in the scroll The Thanksgiving Psalms angels are spoken of in the expression "the army of the 'holy ones.'"

It is clear that in the Judaism of the period immediately preceding the New Testament, "holy ones" was an accepted and familiar designation for angels.

In light of these facts, it would be most natural for the New Testament writers to speak of angels as "holy ones" (hagios).

An Analogy with the Word "Elect"

The Greek word eklektos (elect) means "chosen out, selected, to be chosen as a recipient of special privilege."

The word "elect" is found sixteen times in the New Testament. Add to "elect" the words "elects" and "election," and there are a total of twenty-three usages in the New Testament. It is used once of "elect" (chosen) angels (1 Tim. 5:21). It is used once of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is referred to as "a chief corner stone, elect [chosen], precious" (1 Pet. 2:6). It is used of all believers: "And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" (Lk. 18:7-8). The word "elect" is used in the New Testament of angels, of the Lord Jesus, and of all believers.

In exactly the same way, the Greek word hagios, translated "holy ones" or "saints," is used to refer to angels or the redeemed. Only the context can tell which is in view.

The Context of the Word "Saint" in 1 Thessalonians 3:13

In Paul's epistles, he often breaks out into brief prayers for those to whom he is writing. For the Thessalonians, he prayed: "To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints" (1 Th. 3:13). Since he is praying that believers on the earth will have their hearts established at the Lord's coming, he is clearly distinguishing between believers on earth and the "saints" (holy ones) who will come with the Lord from Heaven. It is impossible for the Church to be in two places at the same time. They can't have their hearts "established" (the idea is firm and unmoved) until Christ comes and at the same time accompany Him at His coming.

It is also significant that in the same epistle Paul writes: "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" (1 Th. 4:16). The archangel (probably Michael) is specifically said to be with the Lord at His coming. He is a high order of angelic being, but he is an angel. And to the same Church, in his second epistle, the apostle encouraged: "And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels" (2 Th. 1:7). Once again, angels are clearly said to be with the Lord in connection with His coming.

The gospel writers add their testimony.

Matthew wrote: "The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity" (Mt. 13:41).

Mark wrote: "Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels" (Mk. 8:38).

Luke wrote: "For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy angels" (Lk. 9:26).

At the birth of the Son of God, angels were present (Lk. 2:9-10, 13).

At the death of the Son of God, angels were present (Mt. 26:53).

At the resurrection of the Son of God, angels were present (Mt. 28:2).

At the second coming of the Son of God, angels will be present (Mt. 25:31).

First Thessalonians 3:13 cannot be used as a proof text by those who teach that Jesus is going to rapture the Church and then return with the Church (with all His saints) seven years later. The text is clearly speaking of angelic beings.

Jesus is the Lord of Hosts. At His command, a myriad of angelic beings who make up His army instantly goes into action. In that these powerful, holy angels are repeatedly spoken of as being with the Lord at His coming, we are right to understand that they play a very important role in the Church's rapture and in the judgment of the wicked.

Concerning the Rapture, the Lord himself taught, "And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Mt. 24:31).

The Scriptures also inform us that it is angels who blow each of the seven trumpets (Rev. 8:6), and pour out each of the seven bowls (Rev. 16:1). These trumpets and bowls are part of God's wrath during what the prophets refer to as the Day of the Lord.

Since these angels are holy, powerful, glorious beings who do our Lord's bidding, it is welcome news to know He is coming with all His "saints."

End Notes

1Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation, John F. Walvoord, Moody Press, p. 102 (1971)

He Is Coming With All His Saints
1 Thessalonians 3:13

From the Writings of Marvin J. Rosenthal
Published in Zion's Fire Magazine in July/August, 1997