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In June 2017 and May 2018, I had email exchanges with Prof. Larry W. Hurtado and Dean Craig C. Hill (two high-caliber NT scholars) about the second coming, the rapture and, more specifically, the saints in 1 and 2 Thess.

1 Thessalonians 3:13

2 Thessalonians 1:3–12

They did not satisfactorily answer my question(s):

Who are the saints / holy ones in 1 Thessalonians 3:13 and 2 Thessalonians 1:3–12?

Both Prof. Hurtado and Dean Hill say that the saints in 1 Thess. 3.13 refer to human believers/saints (I will only briefly quote them, I cannot reproduce all their email responses here):

Prof. Hurtado

Based on typical NT usage, I'd take the "hagioi" of 1Thess and 2 Thess to be "saints" or believers. Zech speaks of "holy ones" as angels, but the NT authors seem to have taken the word more as a label for believers... If you do a study of all instances of "hoi hagioi" (holy ones) in Paul, you will see that he characteristically applies the term to believers in Jesus... I take the holy ones in 1 Thess 3:13 to be believers, who are deceased and return with him. They are "raptured". They're the deceased. Paul directly addresses the question about them in 4:13ff... The passage in 1 Thess 4 doesn't talk about a "rapture" but a rising up of believers to meet the returning Jesus... And, again, just run down all the instances in Paul of "hoi hagioi" (holy ones). You'll see for yourself how he uses the term... First, in 1 Thess 3:13 the "parousia" of Jesus = his coming and eschatological appearance/presence. Obviously, his "saints" will be there with him. Second, the "meta" (with") phrase "with all his holy ones" seems to me to be inclusive of the believers addressed. I.e., you will be blameless before God . . . with all the holy ones/saints".

Dean Hill

Dear Brian, The possibility exists that 3:11-13 refers to angels, but I think it is likelier that it refers to humans.

However, I still dont understand how the saint/holy ones in 1 Thess 3.13 can be human believers in light of 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 and 2 Thessalonians 1:3–12.

So 3 main passages:

1 Thessalonians 3:13

1 Thessalonians 4:13–18

2 Thessalonians 1:3–12

Other relevant texts:

Zechariah 14.5

Matthew 16.27

Matthew 24.30-31

6 Answers 6

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I will preface this with saying that I believe the saints referred to in 1 Thessalonians 3:13 is a reference to the angelic host. The reason is primarily two-fold:

First, this is spoken of in clear language elsewhere.

Matthew 25:31

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.

Mark 8:38

For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

The second reason is the fact that Christ comes the second time to resurrect His people and take them with Him. They're not already with Him now.

John 6:40

And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Matthew 24:30-31

Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

John 14:1-3

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

1 Thessalonians 4:15-17

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

This last verse is especially important, as it tells us that those who are alive will not go to heaven before those who are asleep (dead). Rather, the order of events is given quite clearly: Christ comes with all the holy angels. Then He calls up into the air those who were alive to see Him come. Then, both the living and the dead together at the same time go with Jesus to heaven as per John 14:1-3. This is the manner with which we are reunited with our Lord.

So it cannot be that those who come with Christ are the dead in Christ. Christ comes, bringing His angels, to gather up His people. It does not make any sense that Christ is bringing His people to come get the people He is bringing!

With that in view, we may now understand 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 accurately:

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.

Christ will "bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus" back to heaven when He comes a second time. This is not saying that He brings the dead in Christ with Him on His way to the earth, but rather, that they will not be left in the grave when Christ comes; and that He will also bring them to heaven when He takes the living saints there.

Now, with regards to 2 Thessalonians 1:10; it seems quite clear that these saints being referred to are the redeemed. The immediate context suggests as much.

2 Thessalonians 1:10-12

when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.

Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul is here saying that, because they believed the testimony of the prophets and apostles, these saints will be glorified when Christ comes the second time. Thus, he states that he is constantly praying for us to be worthy of this calling; and defines the calling as being glorified in Christ, and having Christ glorified in us.

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    .....Thank you for your contribution. Very good. However, it doesnt quite address what Prof. Hurtado refers to. For example, Prof. Hurtado and Dr. Hill would both agree with you that " It does not make any sense that Christ is bringing His people to come get the people He is bringing! " But, this is not what they are suggesting and their accepted viewpoint doesn't make this blunder. It's just that Hurtado says that the saints that will come with Christ in 1 Thess 3.13 are the dead from 1 Thess 4.13-14.
    – XegesIs
    Feb 19, 2019 at 0:45
  • 1 Thess. 4.14 : " For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, thus also God will bring those who have fallen asleep through Jesus together with him. " W. Hall Harris III et al., eds., The Lexham English Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012), 1 Th 4:14.
    – XegesIs
    Feb 19, 2019 at 0:46
  • You are both correct - look also at v15 which says (as pointed out correctly by Jacob M) that the living will not precede the dead and the dead are raised first and THEN the living go to be with Jesus. Any explanation must account for BOTH verses. The "bring with" is what happens when God returns to heaven with EVERYONE classified as righteous.
    – user25930
    Feb 19, 2019 at 10:48
  • Yes, @Mac'sMusings is correct. The "bring with" in 1 Thess 4:13-14 is referring to Jesus bringing those from the earth back with Him to heaven. It's not talking about bringing those from heaven to the earth with Him. Added this information to the post above.
    – Jacob M.
    Feb 19, 2019 at 19:44
  • Very well, I will accept this for now. Thank you Jacob M. and Mac's Musings
    – XegesIs
    Feb 19, 2019 at 20:06
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I think it matters how you read this sentence

“God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Thessalonians 4:14.

If you read that they are being brought from heaven as Christ comes down then it’s human saints. But I don’t see the evidence, based on the rest of the passage, that human saints that are dead(asleep) in Christ can be coming down with Christ if they firstly need to be awoken.

“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.” ‭‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭4:16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Following which those who are alive will join those who have risen.

The idea that Paul is communicating here, is that God will not leave anyone behind.

“God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Thessalonians 4:14.

and after He returns to earth with his heavenly host of holy ones, only to return back to heaven, on His return to Heaven, God will bring with him humans who have fallen asleep, not just those who are alive.

That’s all that’s saying. If you end up having fallen asleep in Christ, don’t worry He will awaken you and take you with Him.

And then Paul proceeds to explain that both the living and the dead will He bring back with Him. In what order and so on.

Therefore the text in question chapter 3:13 is referring to heavenly hosts as the saints or holy ones and not human saints or holy ones.

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  • And I didn’t add any additional reasons for chapter 3:13 because Jacob M used many of the verses i would have used. I have a few more but it’s the same message Jesus coming with heavenly hosts, not humans. So +1 to Jacob M Feb 19, 2019 at 4:12
  • Thank you Autdodidact. Very good. I'll consider all of your inputs. That's my understanding as well.
    – XegesIs
    Feb 19, 2019 at 20:08
  • It also makes a difference how you read this sentence, whether he is coming with the saints to heaven or to earth: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory." Is it a throne in the sky or on the dry land? Paul speaks of being "seated together with Christ in the heavenly places" etc.
    – Ruminator
    Feb 19, 2019 at 21:13
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    In 1 Thess 3.13, Chris is coming with his saints from heaven to earth, because this passage is clearly about the parousia (greek = appearance) and the parousia is always in every other passage about appearing from heaven with his saints and coming to earth, not the reverse. The background of the Parousia or the Second Coming is the Day of the Lord in the Old Testament such as Zech. 14.5
    – XegesIs
    Feb 19, 2019 at 22:04
  • The other verse that might show the idea of humans coming down is “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” ‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:8‬ But this verse doesn’t have a time perspective. It appears to say that at the point of death a person is immediately with the Lord and there is not raising from the dead necessary. Or the transfiguration event where Moses and Elijah were present or Jesus’ quote “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” ‭‭Mat 22:32‬ Feb 20, 2019 at 0:35
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Job 32;18-22

The holy ones or chosen one; both terms are used. Always refer to the ones that are going to rule with Christ.

Dan 7:18,21,22,25,& 27. If you notice in these scriptures the wild beast battles with the Holy ones while they're on Earth. You can tie these scriptures back to Rev 1:6, Rev 5:9,10. If someone cares to reference these scriptures to many others you'll see a pattern with the Holy ones are Kings and Priests they are the same ones as the anointed they are spoken in Revelation chapter seven verse 3 & 4 144,000 also revelation 14:1. There are so many scriptures that ties back to them being King and Priests I could not possibly write them all down at the moment. Understanding of the Bible only comes through God's spirit and to prove my point the Pharisees and scribes were teachers and leaders of the people and they didn't even recognize who Jesus was because as God says I'll stop up their ears where they can not hear. And if you go to John 10:16 these are the other sheep these are the 144,000 the 12 apostles were set aside and when he spoke I have other sheep I also must bring in and they will be under one Shepherd it is 144,000. The Jehovah's Witnesses have a similar thought although they prophesize about things they do not understand and they are wrong so many times so now they're considered a false prophet. So in closing what is going to happen if you look at chapter 7:1 verse 13 14 of Rev above you will see the 144,000 and then you will see the great crowd they are two different groups they do not get sealed along with the 144,000 although they do come to the Great Tribulation there's two resurrections the scripture says the second ressurection is voided by death the first resurrection is all through revelation chapter 6 20 21 22 it talks about the second death those are resurrected although the first resurrection they cannot die by the second death those are the 144,000 and the 12 apostles the great crowd that no man can number in verse Rev 7:14 they can die the second death.

I wish everyone could understand what God's purpose is he never needed you in heaven his purpose was always for you to live on Earth when he created Adam and Eve he had no other intentions and God always fulfills his purpose he always he cannot fail and he will not fail. My father tells me many things but you can't get people to listen. It was no different when Jesus walked the Earth. Satan sure has been successful and blinding the minds of the people for he even keeps transporting himself into an angel of Light and we all know that he's a father of the lie and the misleader of people while by the time John wrote revelation people were always going sideways as Jesus spoke to the seven congregations just think how far they are now from the truth of God's word but Jesus said You shall know the truth and it will set you free. Prepare your heart for God go into the inner room and shut the door and beg for his mercy and his knowledge because he desires everyone to be saved but unfortunately as Jesus said in Matthew chapter 25 if the days wasn't cut short no flesh would be saved that tells you how misled everyone is and we are in the time the time is short. You go into Revelation 21 and 22 you can see the kingdom come down to earth and it's over mankind I could go into great detail about Revelation 20 to 22 but most people won't believe it's just a vision and it's not to be understood. Daniel's chapter 7 through 12 and Revelation have so many parallels.

One Last Thing Before I Go and maybe someone will get the sense of it we all want to help each other but to be helped you have to be humble that's what Jesus said as he washes disciples feet. If you would start looking at Greek scriptures from a standpoint that everything in there was talking to the anointed who are going to rule with Jesus as Kings and Priests Revelation chapter 2 verse 25 through 27 he says you're going to rule over the Nations what nations the nations of the Earth if you go back to revelation 21:22 they will bring this nation's glories into the camp into the temple and it's so wonderful but you have to look at the Greek scriptures of who he's talking to and what's going to happen at the end remember the 12 tribes ruling over the people Levi's the priest and the King Revelation 21 and 22 it was a foreshadow of the pattern of what's coming Paul talked about it so much

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    – agarza
    Mar 9, 2023 at 13:52
  • It would seem that those deceived will not be freed until the 2nd resurrection. Not many will know the truth in this age. Though millions think they do but believe some strange and very unbiblical ideas. Try some more paragraph breaks - makes it easier to follow. What do you mean 'the second resurrection is voided by death'? +1
    – Steve
    Mar 10, 2023 at 10:22
  • Go into revelation and read to the chapters and reference back to all the scriptures that talk about the second death the anointed 144,000 and the disciples are of the first resurrection Revelation 20 says and these will not be harm by the second death they are the rule with Christ as Kings and Priests there is so much information there but many people miss it there is a whole theme through revelation from Jesus to John of what's going to take place at the end. As I said before Daniel chapter 7 through 12 plays a part to revelation
    – Michael
    Mar 10, 2023 at 15:18
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"Who are the saints / holy ones in 1 Thessalonians 3:13 ...?" The answer depends upon who you ask or which commentaries you consult. For example:

As to 1 Thess. 3:13 --

"It is difficult to know exactly what this means. The following summary of the difficulty is from Kelcy.

'The word for "holy ones" is that commonly used for all Christians in the New Testament. On the other hand, the angels of heaven are frequently associated with Christ in the Second Advent.... Of course, the angels are also called "holy." ..... 'Christ will bring "them that have fallen asleep" with him ... and his holy angels shall likewise attend the event ... and, upon the basis of these Scriptures, the view is preferable that holds "saints" in this passage as including both.'" ~Raymond C. Kelcy, "The Letters of Paul to the Thessalonians" (Austin, Texas: R. B; Sweet Company, Inc., 1968), p. 64, cited in Vincent's Word Studies at 1.

"... with all his saints--including both the holy angels and the holy elect of men ..." ~ A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments by Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown, cited at 2.

  1. "With all his, Christ's, saints - Both angels and men." ~John Wesley's Notes on the Bible, cited at https://www.christianity.com/bible/commentary.php?com=wes&b=52&c=3
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  • @user28799.....Yes, it depends who one asks. We know that very well. But, I expect contributors here to show some critical thinking and exegesis of your own, alhtough it's ok to make citations and provide a short bibliography. I do have Logos Bible Software with critical scholarly commentaries, lexicons, dictionaries and I already looked through them for 2 years before asking this question. Hence, my conversations with Hurtado in 2017/2018 and Hill in 2018 after I carefully read all my available resources. To me, it seemed obvious in 2016/2017 that it was the angels, but then I questioned...
    – XegesIs
    Feb 20, 2019 at 22:38
  • My regrets if my answer disappointed you. FWIW at this point, I concur with the comments of Prof. Hurtato and Dean Hill. I'll review your question and the preceding answers later and comment again later if I have additional information. Feb 21, 2019 at 18:44
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Maybe I’m too knew of a born again Christian and haven’t got far enough in my studies or I’m over thinking it but I really feel it in my soul and the holy purity is opening Gods word more and more and I’m so grateful but my question on this is this::

  • my understanding RAPTURE and 2nd COMING are 2 events
  • so if the DEAD IN CHRIST rise first then WE ARE CALLED UP INTO THE CLOUDS TO MEET why is whomever he talking to HAVE TO WAIT AND SEE CHRIST PHYSICALLY COMING WITH HIS SAINTS FOR THE SECOND COMING .. shouldn’t whomever PAUL is telling it to HAVE ALREADY BEEN RAPTURED AND BE COMING DOWN WITH THE LORD to those who I would think are BORN AFTER the RAPTURE or weren’t saved at time of Rapture but whomever he was talking to is saved but either misses rapture or it’s post or mid trib rapture in one event ? Does this make sense thanks hope for feedback
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    – agarza
    Sep 21, 2021 at 3:22
  • Jesus was firstBORN of many brothers Col 1 - we will be reborn when raised if in the 1st resurrection to new spirit life as he was 1Pet 3:18. We are not yet reborn - that idea is not scriptural.
    – Steve
    Mar 10, 2023 at 10:25
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Oops. I'm not done yet. Let me start over: I'm still a babe in Christ and have a ways to go yet before I become matured in the Word but here's my two cents for whatever it's worth:

First of all, Paul tells us in 1 Thess. 4:13-14: "...concerning those who have fallen asleep ...God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.

And then in vss. 15-17, he says, "...we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means preceded those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven ...And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

So, which is it? He will bring with Him those who are asleep in Christ or do "the dead in Christ" have to wait until he comes to get them, which means, he couldn't be bringing them with Him if they are still in the grave?

But then, Paul says in 2 Cor. 5:8 that "he would rather be absent from the body, and be present with the Lord", which tells me that at the point of death, a person goes immediately to be with the Lord, and Matt. 22:32 tells us, "God is not a God of the dead, but of the living." 2 Cor. 5:8 and Matt. 22:32 tells me that we're still alive somewhere but our bodies are dead and in the grave.

So, what's my point? Well, if we're still alive somewhere then He could very well be bringing us with Him, and 1 Cor 4:15-17 could be referencing the resurrection of our bodies (when we get our glorified bodies) like Christ's. Does that make sense?

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