Biblegems # 63
Question: Who are the “holy ones” Paul is referring to in 1 Thessalonians 3:13 who will be with Jesus when He returns?
There are three possibilities as to whom “all His holy ones” refers to. Either the phrase refers to all God’s angels, or all of those who are saved (the dead in Christ and those who are raptured at His appearing), or to a combination of God’s angels and the resurrected redeemed.
Some commentators say the phrase cannot refer to both angels and the redeemed of the Lord because “Paul would hardly include two such diverse groups in the same category.”1
The apostle Paul has much to say about the Lord’s Return throughout his letters. In 2 Thessalonians he talks about the Lord being glorified in His people at His Return:
2 Th. 1:10 …on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.
Paul stated previously, in his first letter to the Thessalonians, that the dead in Christ will join with those who meet the Lord in the air at His Return:
1 Th. 4:15 According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. (16) For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. (17) After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
This “joining” of those who are raptured and those who are already with the Lord in heaven would constitute “all His holy ones,” if “holy ones” refers only to people and not angels. However, this joining of the living and dead in Christ at His return happens, we are told by Paul, “with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God” (1 Thess. 4:16). The timing is important in identifying the “holy ones.”
Jesus spoke of this same event in Matthew 24:
Matt. 24:31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.
Notice that according to both Jesus and Paul, the Rapture takes place at the trumpet call of God, which Jesus says is blown by angels (Matt. 24:31), and Paul says is accompanied by the voice of the archangel. All this, Jesus says, is at the visible return of Jesus Christ to planet earth (Matt. 24:30) immediately after the Great Tribulation (Matt. 24:29).
“All his holy ones” refers to all those who are in Christ at His appearing, together with all the angelic army of heaven.
1 The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Frank E. Gaebelein, Ed., Zondervan,1415 Lake Drive, S. E. Grand Rapids, MI 49506. ISBN: 0-310-36440-X Copyright © 1990 Electronic text hypertexted and prepared by OakTree Software, Inc., Version 1.5, in loc.