Some partial preterists tell us that the Olivet Discourse was fulfilled in AD 70 but 1 and 2 Thessalonians (including the rapture) are yet to be fulfilled in the future. This does not hold up to scrutiny. Certainly Paul got his ideas, as expressed in his letters, from the prophetic words of our Lord, found principally in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, and Luke 21).
The language Paul used in these letters to the Thessalonians is so close to that of Matthew’s version of the Olivet Discourse that it seems probable that the source for Paul was Matthew’s material, either in oral or written form. Indeed, Paul indicates in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 that what he was saying was from Jesus himself. Consider how closely 1 and 2 Thessalonians tie to Matthew 24-25:
- Christ’s PAROUSIA—1 Thessalonians 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 8; Matthew 24:3, 27, 37, 39
- Christ returning FROM HEAVEN—1 Thessalonians 4:16; Matthew 24:30
- Christ coming with a SHOUT—1 Thessalonians 4:16; Matthew 25:6
- Christ descending with a TRUMPET—1 Thessalonians 4:16; Matthew 24:31
- Believers will MEETthe Lord—1 Thessalonians 4:17; Matthew 25:6
- A GATHERINGof the saints—1 Thessalonians 4:17; 2 Thessalonians 2:1; Matthew 24:31; 25:32. Compare to Matthew 13:39-43 where the gathering is placed at the end of the age and the final judgment.
- The CLOUDlanguage—1 Thessalonians 4:17; Matthew 24:30
- Christ being revealed with ANGELS—1 Thessalonians 4:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:7; Matthew 24:31; Matthew 25:31
- Christ coming like a THIEF—1 Thessalonians 5:2; Matthew 24:43. Compare to Revelation 3:3 and 16:15.
- Labor pains imagery and unexpected sudden DESTRUCTION—1 Thessalonians 5:3; Matthew 24:8, 39, 44
- Instruction for believers to be WATCHFUL/AWAKE—1 Thessalonians 5:6; Matthew 24:42
- Exhortation against DRUNKENESS—1 Thessalonians 5:7; Matthew 24:49
- Promise of SALVATIONfor some—1 Thessalonians 5:8; Matthew 24:13
- JUDGMENT/VENGEANCEby Jesus—2 Thessalonians 1:5-9; Matthew 13:39-43; 23:29-39; 24:30, 37; 25:32, 41, 46
- APOSTASY—2 Thessalonians 2:3; Matthew 24:10-11
- MAN OF LAWLESSNESS/FALSE CHRISTS—2 Thessalonians 2:3; Matthew 24:4
- MYSTERY OF LAWLESSNESS—2 Thessalonians 2:7; Matthew 24:12
- DECEPTION—2 Thessalonians 2:9-11; Matthew 24:24
Paul was clearly speaking point-by-point about the same events that Jesus foretold in the Olivet Discourse, which were limited in time to Jesus’ and Paul’s generation! The term “this generation” is used numerous times inside and outside of the Olivet Discourse, and consistently without serious debate means “the generation of those living at the time of Jesus.” There is no rationale for giving it a different meaning in the Olivet Discourse without seriously twisting Scripture—and thus no valid reason for placing the “rapture” in a different time frame. Paul does not use the term “this generation” in these letters, but clearly communicates the same (1 Thessalonians 4:15, 17; 5:8).
So, the events of 1 and 2 Thessalonians were in anticipation of the events surrounding the coming destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 when Jesus came—not physically, but IN JUDGMENT AGAINST THE APOSTATE JEWISH NATION AND TO RESCUE THE SAINTS, just as He had promised! Paul and Jesus were speaking of the exact same event, which was to occur while many of those living in the first century were still alive.
For more information about the rapture, see my article here:
(The above article is a summary from my book Christian Hope through Fulfilled Prophecy, available at Amazon.)