Will the Saints Return with Jesus?

Will the saints return with Jesus? Some passages seem to teach Jesus will return with his saints. Others teach he will return with his angels. So, which is it? Will the saints return with Jesus or will the angels or will both return with him?

Understanding the scriptures must first rest on the bedrock of a proper biblical timetable of eschatological events. When does the Rapture happen? This is the key to understanding and making sense of prophetic scripture. If Jesus comes for the saints in a pre-trib. rapture prior to the 70th Week of Daniel, in a pre-wrath rapture prior to the Trumpet and Bowl Judgments, or after the 70th Week in a post-trib. rapture makes all the difference in how one reads the scriptures. But only one of these theories is biblically correct. And scripture will properally align with only one of them.

Let’s look at a few of the verses behind the controversy:

So that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming (PAROUSIA) of our Lord Jesus with all His saints. (1 Thess. 3:13)

This is a core proof of the pre-trib. rapture supporters. They point to this verse and say, “See, the saints return with Jesus at the Parousia in Matt. 24:31. They have already been in heaven for 7 years and return with him in glory as he defeats the Antichrist.”

Let’s examine this verse and their claims a bit more closely. As always this will involve looking at the context of the verse and the actual meaning of the Greek words.


May the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father AT the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints. (1 Thess. 3:12-13)

This context  of 1 Thess. 3:13 makes zero sense if the word translated “saints” actually means “saints” .  The verse is clearly addressed to the Thessalonians and by extension saints throughout the ages. It is a prayer that Jesus may establish their hearts (and ours) blameless on the earth at the coming of Jesus. If the saints were already in heaven, their hearts would already be blameless! There would be no need for establishing (the beginning) of making our hearts blameless. This is clearly something that happens at the rapture not at the physical second coming.

THE Parousia

In 1 Thess. 3:13, the timing of Jesus’s coming is given as being at the parousia. This Greek word actually means “visit of a dignitary” or “visit of a king” and in the New Testament it usually refers to the return of Jesus. When referring to his return, it is always and specially in the SINGULAR and always in regard to the rapture. In the same epistle (1 Thess.) in the very next chapter, this event is described again:

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until THE coming (parousia) of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thess. 4:15-17)

In this most famous of all rapture passages, we clearly see the Lord is accompanied by his archangel (and probably other angels) but the saints are still on the earth and resurrected and raptured at that point. No one argues that this event is rapture, but notice it is THE parousia;  a singular event.

Also notice that the word parousia is not found in relation to Rev. 19:11-16, the only universally accepted New Testament passage describing the “physical second coming” when Jesus returns to fight Armageddon. This is NOT a parousia and not referred to as such in the Bible.

So when Paul says Jesus will come at the parousia with all his “saints,” it makes no sense. Jesus is not coming with his saints at the rapture.

The “Saints”

So every reader should be suspicious of the word translated “saints” in verse 13 since logically it can’t be “saints.” The Greek word is hagious which literally means “holy ones.” In the New Testament, the Greek word hagios is translated “holy” (such as Holy Spirit or holy city) or “holy ones” more than 160 times. The same Greek word is also translated “saint” more than 70 times. It carries the idea of purity, consecration, and holiness. And it absolutely can mean saint or saints. It can also on occasion mean angels such as in the Septuagint in Psalm 89:5; Daniel 4:13; and 8:13. In fact 1 Thess. 3:13 is parallel to a similar verse in Luke:

For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy (hagious) angels. (Mark 8:38).

In fact, Jesus coming with his angels is a very common theme in these other New Testament passages (Matt. 24:31, 2 Thess. 1:6-7, Luke 9:26, Matt. 13:41, Matt. 25:31, Mark 13:27).

In Jude, the original context of coming with his “holy ones” is found:

It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” (Jude 14-15)

We see that the apocryphal Book of Enoch is the original source of this quote and probably of Paul’s in 1 Thess. 3 as well.  This phrase (thousands of his holy ones)  is also used of angels in Deut. 33:2. In Zech. 14:5, the Lord is seen returning with his “holy ones” as well. In all these cases, the term should properly understood to be “angels.”

Also please notice these “Holy ones” execute judgment! This is not something the saints are doing, it is the task of angels.

So in conclusion, at the one and only parousia, Jesus returns with this holy angels. This only makes sense since all the saints are still on the earth (or their bodies are in the earth)  at the rapture (Matt. 24:31) when his angels gather the elect.

What about the souls of the Righteous Dead?

Some claim these verses refer to the souls of righteous dead saints who return with Jesus at the resurrection to re-inhabit their new resurrection bodies. 1 Thess. 4:14 supports this view:

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. (1 Thess. 4:14)

The souls of the dead are obviously body-less.  They are souls waiting to re-inhabit a new resurrection body. That is why Paul in 1 Thess. 4:17 envisions the dead in Christ “rising” first. Exactly how this occurs is unknown. The dead souls are obviously in heaven now and will re-inhabit their bodies later.

What About the physical Second Coming?

One question now remains. “What about Rev. 19 and the physical Second Coming?” How do the saints raptured in Matt. 24:31 return to the earth?

In Rev. 19, we see two references to the the white garments worn by the saints:

It was given to her (bride of Jesus) to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. (Rev. 19:8)

And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. (Rev. 19:14)

These references clearly show that the saints do accompany Jesus back to the earth at the physical Second Coming. Might the armies also include angels? Of course.


So in summary, this is a complex topic, made more complex because of misunderstanding of when the Rapture happens and what verses refer to what event!!

IMO, angels accompany Jesus at the parousia (rapture) and gather together the elect. The elect then join Jesus and return to the earth at the physical “second coming”. Angels might return at that coming as well and I rather suspect they do.






16 thoughts on “Will the Saints Return with Jesus?”

  1. Hi, Nelson. This is off the subject, but hope you can respond from here on this. I’ve just gotten your book Revelation Deciphered and am on page 107 about the book of life. I don’t believe in predestination, but believe everyone, all the way from Adam have a chance for salvation. Could it be that the Book of Life has all the names in it of everyone from Adam to the Rapture. And since scripture warns about names being blotted out, that that’s what will happen when the books are opened. Anyone who didn’t receive Christ will have his name blotted out, instead of God predestinating who would be saved (although, I know He knows that.) That would definitely show the wicked that they had the same chance as the righteous, just didn’t take it.

  2. Nelson
    It may sound like I’m being awkward, but I’m not.
    I’ve always seen Christ himself as the first fruits.
    Though he led the captives in Hades to heaven , I think those who resurrected in matt28 who died under the law,, had to die again like Lazarus, as Heb 11v40 says they can’t be perfected without us.

    Just my thought.


    1. What you present is a possibility Linda. Scripture isn’t 100% clear on the fate of these Old Testament saints nor is it clear exactly who the Elders are.

      A couple clues they might be raptured along with Jesus. Notice in Acts 1:10 that two “men” appear in white robes, not angels. Might they be angels in the appearance of men, yes, but I take it they are men. How did they get their white robes?

      Second, the elders are described as having white robes which is reserved for humans in revelation. If they are human, how did the elders get there?

      But these are weak proofs can could be interpreted another way, so I’m in no way saying your theory isn’t right.

      1. Nelson

        Ok thanks.

        They’re only my thoughts, and I’m just figuring something’s out.
        To be honest , i just assumed that all heavenly beings wore white garments, as the angels in John 20v12.
        As for the 24 elders, I assumed again that they were the divine council mentioned in. Job, I’ve since found that others suggest this too.
        Like you say though, something’s are not 100% clear.

        1. In chapter three of “Rapture: Case Closed?” we discuss the three theories about the elders: 1) the pre-trib. theory that they are symbolic of the raptured church or are representatives of the church, 2) they are divine beings, 3) they are the OT saints of the first fruits resurrection.

          The book goes on to prove that #1 above is false. However, both of the other possibilities are possible. I don’t take a firm stand on either although I favor the first fruits resurrection theory. Dr. Michael Heiser favors the divine council theory.

  3. Hi Nelson, this reminds me of Matt. 27:51-53

    51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

    So many questions:
    Isn’t this the first resurrection?
    Or did they die again like Lazarus?
    Or are these the 24 elders in heaven?

    1. This topic is addressed in my new book “Rapture: Case Closed?” on page 53, Adri. This very well may the first fruits resurrection and the 24 elders. The new ENHANCED EDITION (with 25% more material) will be published and available on Amazon sometime around Sept. 23. I will announce the publication date.

  4. I’m going to post a new video this weekend on the picture for this article, from Revelation 19, ” I saw an angel standing in the sun”


  5. Taking a balanced view, including all relevant scriptures, we have 1) The Rapture where Christ comes but doesn’t set foot on the earth. The occasion is for all saints/believers to be ‘caught up’ necessitating the opening of graves for those ‘asleep’ in Jesus. All saints of Old and alive leave planet earth taking on new bodies. It is a myth, albeit it a nice one, that believers who ‘die’ are immediately with the Lord in heaven/paradise. Wrong – they are ‘asleep’ awaiting the resurrection. The object of the graves being opened is to demonstrate that the ‘asleep’ in Yeshua duly arise to new life. 2) subsequent to the Rapture, Christ will return to earth – to the Eternal City Jerusalem, to finally deal with the devil, evil, sin and exercise judgement etc

    1. I wanted to ask Rev Douglas, if what you say about just being asleep in the grave, how does when Jesus says to one of the sinners on the cross with him ” today you will be with me in paradise ” fit in???.. many thanks

      1. Mr. Kitty, Rev. 6:9-11 clearly shows the souls of martyrs in heaven, not asleep in the grave. In 1 Thess. 4:14, Jesus says he brings those who sleep with him. How are these things possible if we are asleep in the grave?

  6. Very interesting analysis. Several things to discuss. First, the 1 Thess 3 passage could be “angels” as you stated, but it also makes as “saints.” Here is why the saints could come with Jesus even to the rapture.

    1 Thess 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep IN JESUS.

    God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus TO THE RAPTURE. Jesus is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jesus is the one who walked in the garden with Adam and Eve and met Moses on Sinai. Many Christians do not know that. Sleeping in Jesus applies to all the saved of all time. Noah, Job, etc. This group was set free from Hades by Jesus 2000 years ago. (Long Story) Remember, Enoch and Elijah were taken to heaven, not the paradise side of Hades. This is the group of saints that God brings with Him to the rapture of those IN CHRIST.

    16 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.

    Notice how Paul words this. In Christ, not in Jesus as he just said two verses earlier. In Christ refers only to those who know Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah. This group, Christians only, refers to the last 2000 years of saints. Therefore, God does bring the saints of old to the rapture of the church. This isn’t a huge deal to understand, but it will encourage many that want to met these old saints that we have read so much about.

    1. Yes, 1 Thess. 4:14 answers the question. However, I think it much more than just New Testament saints who will be resurrected. 1 Cor. 15:23-26 teaches there are only two resurrections prior to the end of the Millennial Kingdom (the first fruits at the time of Jesus’s resurrection and the main harvest resurrection.)
      Yet Daniel is told in Dan. 12 that he will be resurrected at the time of the return of Jesus. Thus the Old Testament saints who placed their faith in the coming messiah are also included.

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