"Who Is Returning from Heaven with Jesus?"
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Excerpt from "Why Most Christians Believe in a Post-Tribulation Rapture"
The Pre-tribulation Rapture doctrine teaches that "the Church" must already be in heaven (by way of the pre-trib rapture) prior to the Second Coming, so that they can return to the earth with Jesus. The Book of Jude is usually quoted because many English translations say that the Lord will come with His saints.
“Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints (hagiais myriasin), to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”” - Jude 14,15
The word translated above for “saints” is the Greek word, hagias, which can be translated either as “holy ones,” or "saints." But "holy ones" can also refer to the holy angels. So how can we know whether the Church, or an army of angels, will accompany Jesus to earth?
Matthew 25:31 gives us clarification about the holy ones who are coming with Jesus. Christ Himself stated that these "holy ones" are holy angels.
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels (hagiais oi aggelloi) with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.”
Verse 32 also places this Second Coming ahead of the same time of judgment described in Jude 15.
“All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.” - Matthew 25:32
So Matthew’s description of Christ’s return identifies these "holy ones" as the holy angels. The holy angels will be returning with Jesus - not holy people.
But even if some people should be included with the army of angels that are coming with Jesus, these could be any of the millions of Christians who have died over the ages before Christ’s return; because, “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”
The Church has had nearly 2000 years to add souls to the spiritual realm. Based on a 70 year generation, 97% of all the "saints" who have lived up until now are already residing in heaven with Jesus. Therefore, there is no requirement that any of the people, who might possibly be coming with Jesus and the angels, should have ever experienced the rapture. The rapture is simply not necessary to get more Christians into heaven in advance of His second coming.
Paul's Epistles to the Thessalonians contain the verses most often quoted as the basis for the theory of a pre-tribulation rapture. Amazingly though, the Thessalonians letters not only place the 1st Thessalonians Four rapture at Christ's second coming; but 2nd Thessalonians prepares the Church for persecutions and tribulations, and goes on to state expressly that "mighty angels", rather than saints, will be accompanying Christ back to earth.
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