Dr. H. Wayne House  


Dr. H. Wayne House
1995 Pre-Trib Sudy Group

Differences between 1 Thessalonians 4 and Matthew 24

I. The Nature of the Problem

House: One of the many battlefields often frequented by eschatological combatants is the question as to whether the coming of our Lord spoken of in the Olivet Discourse (most fully given in Matthew 24 but also provided in Mark 13 and Luke 17) is the same coming as discussed by the apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4. Attendant to this dilemma are the similar idea presented in 1 Thessalonians 5 and 2 Thessalonians 2.<

An important factor to consider is that when comparing similar passages, each passage does not HAVE to contain each and every detail on the subject.

House: Posttributionalists consider the two passages as referring to the coming of Christ at the end of seven year period of God's judgments on the earth. On the other hand, pretribulationists, with the exception of Matthew 24:36-44, generally believe that the Matthean passage gives information on the current age through the seventieth week of Daniel, or the seven year tribulation period, up to the coming of Christ in judgment.<

1. Prewrathers “on a third hand,” consider that both passages refer to the one and only second coming that will occur at the 6th seal, at some unknown day and hour after the midpoint of the 70th week and AT LEAST 5 months before its end. 

2. The pretribbers cannot SPLIT UP Matthew 24. It is either ALL referring to a second coming at Armageddon or ALL referring to a second coming at which time the rapture will occur. If they attempt to use verses 24:36-44 to support an “any moment” rapture, then they are bound to the context, that Jesus is talking bout His second coming “after the tribulation of those days” (verse 29). And it will indeed occur, at some unknown day and hour, but only AFTER the tribulation has been cut short by the sovereign decree of God the Father.

House: The Olivet Discourse and the 1 Thessalonians 4 passages have many terms and events that appear to refer to the same phenomena and thus serve as the basis of identifying 1 Thessalonians 4 with the revelation of Christ at the end of the tribulation rather than a rapture or rescue of the church from the world prior to the time of God's judgment, the Day of the Lord.<

Where House’s paper comes up short, is his limiting the scope of his examination to only two passages. ALL the second coming passages need to be called upon in order to determine whether there are two separate events or one in view, when Christ and the apostles mention the return of Christ. When all the passages are examined side by side, it will be seen that they all refer to the one and only second coming at an unknown day and hour after the tribulation of those days has been cut short by the sovereign decree of God the Father.

House: II. The Similarities of the Olivet Discourse (Mt. 24:3-31) and the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians4:13-18.
There  are at least four types of similarities between the Olivet Discourse and the discussion in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18: (1) both passages have a coming of Christ mentioned, (2) both have Christ coming in the clouds, (3) both have the angels of God accompanying Christ, (4) and both passages have a gathering of God's people.<

I have no dispute with the data that show the similarities between Mat. 24 and 1Thes. 4.
That similarity can be seen in several other passages as well.
However, he does not represent ALL the similarities. Let me add one.
At Mat. 24, the gathering is INTO the sky, “from one end of the sky to the other.”
Compare with Mark 13:27, “from the farthest end of the earth TO the farthest end of heaven.”
1Thes. 4 is a gathering into the sky.

House: Moreover, in seeking to determine if the meaning in one passage of Scripture, like Matthew 24, is the same as the meaning in another passage, like 1 Thessalonians, it is the dissimilarities that must given special attention, not the similarities. <

However, I repeat that not every detail needs to be mentioned in each second coming passage.

House: IV. Dissimilarities between the Coming of Christ in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and the Olivet Discourse (Mt 24:3-31)
A. The Two Texts are Asking, and Answering, Different Questions
Matthew24 begins with the disciples of Christ going with Him through the temple area and responding to His comments on the temple's destruction. There questions regarding the destruction of the temple and His subsequent coming of Messiah with its attendant ending of the present age giving way to the age of Messiah were very natural. Christ's answer to clarify His coming in the heavens in judgment after the temple's destruction and at the end of the age (including the tribulation period, Daniel's 70th week) deals in detail with these questions.<

Jesus is teaching the disciples as the foundation layers of the church. The information He is giving is FOR THEM. It is NOT for the nation of Israel.  He answers about the signs of His coming and then gives details about His coming. Paul does not have to give those kinds of details. However, in the very next chapter, Paul does relate His coming to a time of “peace and safety” via the contract with the beast.

House: On the other hand, Paul the apostle is responding to the matter of the death of saints in view of an eager anticipation of an imminent coming of Christ for His church. The natural discussion centers in the certainty of a future resurrection founded in the redemptive acts of the Savior which takes on an eschatological and apocalyptic dimension, salvation as a future historical event.<

Each second coming passage does not need to mention EVERY detail about that subject.
In Matthew 24, Jesus is teaching about His second coming, and at 1Thes. 4, Paul is talking about the second coming.
The similarities have already been noted.
The statement that House makes, “in view of an eager anticipation of an imminent coming of Christ for His church,” is misleading. Imminence is only a reality within the context of the occurrence of the signs that Jesus taught about in Matthew 24.
At Matthew 24 there is the second coming.
At 1Thes. 4 there is the second coming.

At 1Thes. 4, there is a “thief in the night” idea via chapter 5:2. That image of imminence is based on the teachings of Jesus.
At Matthew 24, there is a “thief in the night” idea via verses 36-44. There is no imminence outside of that context; a context that is established at verse 29, “after the tribulation of those days,” and at verse 33, “even so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.”

Jesus did not NEED to mention the details that Paul mentions. Jesus gives the basic outline.
At Mat. 24 Jesus will gather the elect INTO the sky by using angels (Mark 13:27).
At 1Thes. Paul does not say HOW the gathering will take place except that the dead in Christ will come with Jesus.
At Mat. 24, Jesus comes to gather His elect, which is described later IN THE CONTEXT as “one will be taken.” Every time that the word ELECT is used by the apostles, it is referring to those who are believers.
At 1Thes. 4, the dead and living believers are gathered.
Jesus does not HAVE to mention that the dead will also be raised at that time.

House: B. The sense of urgency in 1 Thessalonians versus watchfulness toward the future in the Olivet Discourse.<

This is not accurate. There is the same sense of urgency in both passages.
1Thes. 5:1-11, “like a thief in the night.”
Matthew 24:36, “But of that day and hour no one knows.”
Matthew 24:43-44, prepared for the thief in the night.

And there is the sense of watchfulness in both passages.
In the Thessalonian passage it is at 1Thes. 1:10, “and to WAIT for His son from heaven . . . Who delivers us from the wrath to come.”
Matthew 24:42, “Therefore be on the alert, for you don’t know which day your Lord is coming.”

House: In 1 Thessalonians 4:13 we observe that the apostle has a sense of urgency to explain the matter of the coming of Christ to receive His church in view of the deep concern of the Thessalonians over the death of some of the believers. The experience of the church within its own community, then, is in view, not cataclysmic events occurring in the world or in nature.
In Matthew 24, the concern is about events in the world around, from persecution to tribulation, events in nature, the destruction of the temple, the rise of antichrist and antichrists.<

In the Thessalonian passage, the urgency is mentioned at chapter 5:1-11.
Every detail does not HAVE to be mentioned in each passage.
At 2Thes. The concern is about the CHURCH and its present experience of tribulation (affliction). Paul indicates the possibility that this affliction could be relieved for them and him by “the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire.”

House: C The importance of the death and resurrection of Christ salvific
Concepts in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 versus the in the Olivet Discourse
The essence of the kerygma, the death and resurrection of Christ is pivotal in 1 Thessalonians and serve as the foundation for, the teaching of Christ's coming with those who had died to be reunited with their bodies as well as with living believers. The salvation offered is not merely deliverance from the physical wrath of God but escape from that wrath relates to the soteriological dimensions of Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection. A similar idea is found in a later book by Paul,1 Corinthians, where the certainty of the resurrection directly depends on the reality of the resurrection of Jesus.

In the Olivet Discourse the coming does not impinge on the ketygma but on the Messiah's nature and mission of judgment. The closest one gets is the statement of the gospel of the kingdom, but this is stated in general terms rather than "the gospel" as described by Paul in Romans 1:16. The comes to gather His elect for sure, but the emphasis is not on gathering them to Him in the air and the elect are not resurrected ones, but the Jews, most likely, scattered in the diasporas to the four corners of the earth (v. 31). His coming, as well, is primarily not one of comfort, but one that brings mourning (v. 30) and judgment on the earth (probably vv. 36-41; v. 29).<

Jesus does not have to give a salvation invitation in His Olivet Discourse. It is not necessary. However, the FACT of a salvation issue is certainly presented in Matthew 24.
Verse 9, “you will be hated by all nations ON ACCOUNT OF MY NAME.”
This gospel of the kingdom is most assuredly the SAME gospel of salvation that is taught by Paul, etc.
There is ONLY ONE GOSPEL. There is only one way to get saved.
Matthew 24 is not dealing with the earthly kingdom of Jesus, but with the history of the church from His resurrection until His return in the clouds of the sky.
The significance of the gospel of the kingdom is that through faith/trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ, one becomes a member IN the kingdom of God, a child of God and an ambassador for the Messiah.
Acts 8:12, “But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike.”
Acts 19:8, And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading about the kingdom of God.”
Acts 28:31, “preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Col. 4:11, “fellow workers for the kingdom of God.”
Rom. 14:17, “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
1Cor. 4:20, “For the kingdom of God does not consist in words, but in power.”

House: D. The gathering together and catching up (1 Thess. 4 & 2 Thess 2) versus being taken away (cf. Jn 14:3) & left in the Olivet Discourse (cf. Lk 17)
The terminology of the removal of the church from the earth is "catching up" and being "gathered together" with Christ. On the other hand, Matthew 24 speaks about being taken away in judgment. <

Luke 17 does not prove that the ones TAKEN, are taken in judgment.
And how can House say above, “with the exception of Matthew 24:36-44,” indicating that most pretribbers use that as a rapture passage, and then discount the very same language at Luke 17?

House: It should be granted that this terminology closely resembles words used of the rapture in 1and 2 Thessalonians (gathered) and John 14:3 (receive, paralambano), but the association is not exact. The gathering in 1 Thessalonians is gathered together with Christ (and 2 Thess 2:1 by previous reference of 1 Thessalonians 4) whereas the mention in Matthew 24 speaks only of being gathered together by angels, without reference to where the gathering occurs. The use of paralambano in John 14:3 is dearly in the context of Christ's coming for His disciples, whereas the paralambano in Matthew 24 is in a strong context of judgment (compare Luke 17:26ff).<

House is so confused it is almost humorous. Such a scholar should know by now to compare scripture with scripture. Mark’s record of the Olivet Discourse indicates more specifically what is involved with the gathering of the elect.  Mark 13:27, “And then He will send forth His angels and HE will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth, to the farthest end of heaven.”
Jesus does the gathering BY USING the angels.

And what is this, “closely” resembles idea? The words are identical.
At Mat. 24:31 and Mark 13:27, the verb is episunago, gather together.
At 2Thes. 2:1, the noun is episunagoge, gathering together.
Furthermore, “took them all away” at Matthew 24:39, is airo. This is the judgment of the flood.
In Luke 17, the verb that is used is, “destroyed.”
Later in Matthew 24:40-41, and at Luke 17:34-36, the verb for “taken” is pralambano. This presents an entirely different idea than the destroyed and “took them all away” of the earlier verses.
And the use of paralambano at John 14:3 is an exact parallel to what Jesus taught to the disciples earlier.
He did not give them mixed signals, but spoke precisely to communicate precise events.

House: E. The Son of man theme (Dan 7, etc.) in the Olivet Discourse versus the Lord and Savior in 1 Thess. 4
The Son of man theme is found throughout chapter 24 of Matthew (and parallel texts), strongly picking up the theme of Daniel 7 and 9. Such a Messianic designation would not be missed on the disciples nor on the Sanhedrin at Christ's trial (mentioned earlier). This theme is totally missing from the rapture passages in 1 and 2 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians 15.<

But the title Son of Man does not HAVE to be mentioned, and its absence does not prove a thing.
The title is a Messianic title of course. And it is directly related to the fact that the Messiah will be both GOD and MAN, and on that basis provide salvation for mankind through His sacrifice on the cross. That is why Jesus uses that title at John 6:27 and 12:23.
”Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man shall give to you, for on Him the Father even God, has set His seal.”
”And Jesus answered them saying, the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
John 6:53, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.”
Should we remove “church” application from these verses?
Also John 3:13, 14; and 5:27.
And why does Steven use the title Son of Man when he is about to go to heaven to meet Him? Acts 7:56.
This “son of man” argument has no substance whatever.

House: F. Judgment in Matthew 24:3-31 but Salvation in 1 Thessalonians 4
1Thessalonians begins with a statement of deliverance for the people of God from the coming wrath (1:10). Such an idea is present in both chapters 4 and 5 when speaking of the church at the coming of Christ. He rescues His people; they are not to endure the wrath He will bring on the earth but will be taken out of harms way. Certainly they could be kept by God through the time of wrath (as are the two witnesses and the 144,000 Jewish converts), but He has different plans for His bride. On the other hand, the major emphasis in Olivet Discourse is His coming as Son of man to execute judgment and assert the Ps 2, 110 and the Daniel 7 passage kind of Messianic role.<


This is another empty argument.
The mention of WRATH at verse 1:10 indicates that when Jesus comes, it will be a time of judgment for those left behind.
At 2Thes. 1:6-10, Jesus is coming back to RESCUE the church AND execute judgment on the unbelievers left behind.
And it has already been shown that the context in Matthew 24 is that of deliverance, as Jesus gathers His elect out from the earth, gathering them together and TAKING them to Himself, while preparing to execute judgment on the unbelievers left on the earth.

House: G. Archangels and the great shout in 1 Thessalonians 4 and angels and a shout in Matthew 24
A host of angels is present in the gospel of Matthew (24), their function together the elect throughout the earth. No such role is mentioned in 1 Thessalonians. They rise with the shout of the Christ, very similar to His shout for Lazarus to rise from the dead. Only the archangel, possibly Gabriel in view of the trumpet.<

As I said before, each passage does not HAVE to mention every single detail about the second coming.
However, 2Thes. 1:7 does in fact, mention many angels.
”And to give relief to you and to us as well, at the revelation of our Lord Jesus from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire.”
THIS is His arrival to gather His church out from the earth, which was mentioned in His previous letter to the Thessalonians and is referred to a few verses later at 2:1.

The pretribbers never look at 2Thes. 1:6-10. Some try to rationalize it away. But the language is very clear.
The conclusion is that the failure of pretribbers to compare ALL the scripture on this subject has resulted in a faulty view of the rapture and an erroneous eschatological system.


Questions and comments are always welcome

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