We have pointed out that the Greek word for “coming” in verse 15 is parousia, the same word as used in Matthew 24:3. Christ’s coming will be His presence with His believers. This parousia will begin from the time the overcomers are raptured to the throne, continue with His coming to the air (Rev. 10:1), and end with His coming to the earth. Within His parousia, there will be the rapture of the majority of the believers to the air (1 Thes. 4:15-17), the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10), and the marriage of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7-9).
Parousia denotes the Lord’s presence; it does not directly denote His coming. Of course, His presence involves His coming. If I am away from my family and then am present with them again, my presence includes my coming. Actually, my presence equals my coming. For this reason, the word parousia may be translated coming. It would be rather awkward to literally render it as presence. But even though this translation may be awkward, it would be correct to say “unto the presence of the Lord.”
According to the New Testament, the Lord’s parousia, His presence, will last a period of time. It may begin immediately before the start of the great tribulation. The Lord’s coming (the parousia) will begin probably near the start of the tribulation. At present, the Lord is in the third heaven. When the great tribulation begins on earth, the Lord will leave the throne in heaven and descend from the throne, concealed in a cloud, to the sky. Revelation 10:1 speaks of a “strong Angel coming down out of heaven, clothed with a cloud.” This strong Angel is Christ, who descends secretly from the third heaven to the air. Probably the Lord will stay in the air concealed by the cloud for a period of time, possibly more than three years. This is the reason we say that the Lord’s parousia will last a certain length of time.
When the Lord is in the air, He will do a number of things. He will rapture both the resurrected and the living believers. He will judge all the saved ones at His judgment seat. At that time the decision will be made by Him concerning who will join Him in the millennial kingdom and who will not. This judgment will, of course, take place after the rapture mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 4. This sketch should give us a general idea of the Lord’s coming according to the pure Word. This sketch is not according to strange or traditional teachings.
As Christians, we should live a holy life for the church life. This life has a hope, the hope that the Lord whom we are serving today will come back. At His coming back, the saints who have died will rise up from Paradise and the tomb to be caught up with those who are alive and remain.
AN ELEMENTARY WORD
This word concerning our hope was written to the believers as a comfort and encouragement in the death of their relatives. It is an elementary word concerning the Lord’s coming back and our being caught up to Him. If we would know the details, we need to study Matthew 24 and 25, the whole book of Revelation, 1 Corinthians 15, and other portions of the Word, including 2 Thessalonians. Once we study all these portions of the Scriptures, we shall see that the matters of the Lord’s coming and our rapture are not as simple as what is presented by many today. The details include the rapture of the overcoming saints, the judgment at the judgment seat of Christ, the reward in the kingdom, and the discipline by the kingdom. All these things are involved in the Lord’s coming and our rapture.
(Life-Study of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Chapter 16, by Witness Lee)