Part 3 of 3: “The Day of the Lord Begins with the Rapture”
Addendum to the three-part series: “Does the ‘Day of Christ’ and the ‘Day of the Lord’ Refer to the Same Event?”
This is Part 2 of 3
The Second Coming (Parousia) Begins with the Rapture
In this article, I will consider the relationship between the rapture (and resurrection) to the Parousia that concerns our main question on whether there is an intervening separation between these two events. If the rapture occurs on the same day as the beginning of the Parousia (second coming), then by extension, the biblical prophecies that are described to occur before the Parousia necessarily will occur before the rapture. There are several key passages from Jesus and Paul that will inform the answer to our question.
The Parousia According to Paul and Jesus
There are three passages in particular where Paul links the resurrection or rapture to the Parousia.
First, in Paul’s magnificent resurrection passage in 1 Cor 15, he explains that one of the first divine purposes of the Parousia is the resurrection: “But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits; then when Christ comes [parousia], those who belong to him [will be resurrected].” For Paul, there is no temporal, intervening period between the resurrection and the Parousia. The resurrection of course is not the Parousia itself but a constituent of the larger unified, complex second coming. The resurrection will be one of many divine purposes of Jesus’s Parousia. A bit further, Paul expounds on the resurrection of the dead, where he mentions the mystery that the last generation of the church, who are alive at Christ’s Parousia, will not have to die because they will receive their new bodies without dying: “I will tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed” (1 Cor 15:51). Thus, there is an integral link between the resurrection and the Parousia of Christ. Paul does not disconnect the resurrection from the Parousia, let alone disconnected by a seven year intervening period!
Second, in 1 Thess 4:15–18, Paul connects the resurrection and rapture with the Parousia, specifically in 1 Thess 4:15, where Paul writes, “For we tell you this by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming [parousia] of the Lord, will surely not go ahead of those who have fallen asleep” (cf. vv. 16–17). Paul clearly teaches that the last generation of the church—those who are alive in Christ—survive right up to the beginning of the Parousia: “who are left until the coming [parousia] of the Lord.”
Third, in his second letter to the Thessalonians, he links the Parousia with the rapture: “Now regarding the coming [parousia] of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to be with him [the rapture], we ask you, brothers and sisters . . .” (2 Thess 2:1).
Pretribulationism claims the Parousia mentioned by Jesus in Matt 24 is a different Parousia (or a different “phase”) than what Paul taught 1 Thess 4. It is argued that Jesus teaches a Parousia after the seven-year period, while Paul teaches a different Parousia or phase before the seven-year period. In other words, pretribulationists claim that Paul addresses an “imminent-rapture” Parousia, while Jesus addresses an “Armageddon” Parousia that occurs seven years later. As I mentioned, many pretribulationists prefer to describe this framework in terms of a “two-stage” single Parousia rather than two distinct Parousia comings.
Regardless how the pretribulation interpreter conceives it—a two-stage Parousia or two distinct Parousia comings—they cannot escape the point that both Paul and Jesus are speaking of the inception of the Parousia. Paul describes the initial aspect of the Parousia of Christ by instructing that the resurrection and rapture will happen immediately when Christ comes back (1 Thess 4:15). Paul instructs that the last generation of the church will survive up to the beginning of the Parousia.
In Matt 24:27–31, Jesus also draws attention to the beginning of the Parousia by instructing that the sign to the Parousia (v. 27) will be his glory that will burst through at this return (vv. 30–31). Jesus’s sign will announce this Parousia. Jesus also connects the event of the gathering of the elect with the Parousia:
“For just like the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so the coming [parousia] of the Son of Man will be. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. “Immediately after the suffering of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man arriving on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet blast, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matt 24:27–31)
In addition, Jesus’s parables and similitudes corroborate this point by illustrating the beginning point of his Parousia (see Matt 24:37–25:30). Jesus’s instruction of the gathering of the elect is the rapture of the saints, because when we compare it with Paul’s teaching, Paul explicitly states that the major event that begins the Parousia is the rapture.
Jesus and Paul therefore consistently address the beginning point of the Parousia. Jesus and Paul teach that there will not be any intervening period between the rapture and the Parousia. Rather, they view the deliverance of God’s saints as the first purpose for the Son’s return, which will be followed immediately with God’s judgment. To maintain pretribulationism, an intervening period between the rapture and the Parousia is necessary for their framework to work, because it allows the pretrib interpreter to situate prophesied signs and events within this intervening period (i.e. Daniel’s seventieth week).
In fact, this is exactly what pretrib teacher Thomas Ice admits: “An interval or gap of time is needed between the rapture and the second coming in order to facilitate many events predicted in the Bible in a timely manner” (emphasis mine). This intervening period is then necessary to maintain their Parousia presupposition, but the analysis has shown that there is no evidence for this to work.
These observations underscore that there is no intervening period of time between the rapture and Jesus’s Parousia. The rapture, along with the resurrection, are the first events that will happen when Christ’s Parousia begins. Similarly, as the birth of Christ was the first event of his first Parousia, the rapture and resurrection will be the first events of the second Parousia.
 “Why I Believe The Bible Teaches Rapture Before Tribulation” http://www.pre-trib.org/articles/view/why-i-believe-bible-teaches-rapture-before-tribulation Accessed 4/18/16