WHO ARE THE “SAINTS” IN 1 THESSALONIANS 3:13?
by Shawn Brasseaux
The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 3:13, “To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.” Are these “saints” Christians or angels?
A King James Bible critic quibbled that the word “saints” here is “an unfortunate and inappropriate translation.” He continued, “It is not believers but angelic beings.” Beloved, there is absolutely nothing “unfortunate” or “inappropriate” about how the 1611 translators handled the Greek text here. Any and every dependable Greek dictionary defines “hagios” as “holy, set apart; holy things or holy ones [saints].” A related word and concept is “sanctification.” “Saints” is a perfectly acceptable translation of the underlying Greek. The problem is not with the translation, but with people who are so “scholarly-minded” that they do not know how to use the English Bible!!
Such detractors, as you probably noticed, assume that the Bible term “saints” can only apply to believers. This is a misconception. Not merely can people be set apart for God’s purposes, but angels can be sanctified too. Consequently, Scripture speaks of the “elect angels” (1 Timothy 5:21) as the “holy angels” (Revelation 14:10). They are in contrast to “the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41; cf. Revelation 12:7,9) and “the angels which kept not their first estate” (Jude 6). Since there are “holy” (good) angels, it is not surprising to find God’s Word calling them “saints.” Remember, they are set apart for the purpose for which God created them—they serve Him.
Look for yourself: God has no problem calling good angels “saints!”
- Deuteronomy 33:2: “And he said, The LORD came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them.”
- Job 15:15: “Behold, he putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight.” Considering the connection to the “heavens,” these are angels as opposed to people. They are actually angels before they fell and followed Satan in his rebellion; hence, they have corrupted the heavens, or outer space (cf. Ephesians 6:12; Revelation 12:7-12).
- Jude 14-15: “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” These saints are angels, not humans, not (Keep reading to see the parallel verses!)
- Psalm 68:17: “The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place.”
- Matthew 16:27: “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.”
- Matthew 25:31: “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:….”
- Mark 8:38: “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
- Luke 9:26: “For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels.”
- 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8: “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:….”
- Revelation 19:14: “And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.” (These are not Christians, but angels. Let the earlier verses govern the interpretation.)
WHY CHANGE 1 THESSALONIANS 3:13?
The critic denounced “saints” in 1 Thessalonians 3:13 because (as you saw) he contended that Jesus Christ returns with angels not Christians at His Second Coming. His critical remark was founded upon the notion that “saints” can only mean believers. Such a verse modification is wholly unnecessary. Our earlier brief survey of verses demonstrated that assumption to be incorrect. We do not have to change the Bible text to teach our favorite doctrine. Friends, that is heresy!! Actually, we should not adjust the Bible text to communicate our pet dogma; rather, we should modify our doctrine to fit the Bible.
(The justification for changing this verse is a misconception. Make note! The critical eye, quick to “correct” the Bible, does nothing more than pervert something that was originally sound. Good was perceived as evil, so changing it in an attempt to make it “better” actually introduces error that was never there in the first place.)
God’s Word is the final authority, not our opinions. How dangerous it is to alter the Holy Bible, when in God’s mind it does not change! Jesus Christ indeed does not return with Christians at the Second Coming, but we do not have to challenge or alter Scripture to show it. All we have to do is compare verses (we did earlier, and we will do more now).
OUR HEAVENLY DESTINY: THE HEAVENLY PLACES
We the Church the Body of Christ, those of us who have trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour (1 Corinthians 15:3-4), our destiny is the heavenly places. If we are already in the heavenly places—and we are during the seven-year Tribulation—we have no reason to return to Earth at the Second Coming. We have already been established in the heavenly places, ruling and reigning for God’s glory. Notice our eternal destiny as members of the Body of Christ!
- Ephesians 1:3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:….”
- Ephesians 1:20-23: “Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”
- Ephesians 2:6-7: “And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”
- 2 Corinthians 5:1: “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
- 2 Timothy 4:18: “And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
Now, back to 1 Thessalonians 3:13!
WHO ARE THE “SAINTS” IN 1 THESSALONIANS 3:13?
As we observed, “saints” in Scripture can be a title for either believers or angels. The context indicates which one it is. As pertaining to 1 Thessalonians 3:13, “saints” is actually Christians. But, it is not speaking of any Christians—or even angels—returning to Earth at the Second Coming (as often assumed—the error the aforementioned critic attempted, but failed, to correct). Actually, while the faultfinder was nitpicking and offering a “better” term, he was (in fact!) misreading the verse. He was doubly confused!
Read the verse carefully in context: “And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints” (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13).
This speaks of us Christians being presented before Father God. After the Rapture, our gathering together unto Christ in the air (2 Thessalonians 2:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), we go to the Judgment Seat of Christ for our Christian doctrine and earthly service to be reviewed (Romans 14:10-12; 1 Corinthians 3:9-15; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10). After that, the Lord Jesus Christ will present us before the throne of His Heavenly Father. It is here that our Heavenly Father will appoint us to fulfill offices in the heavenly places. These roles will be consistent with our doctrine and service already determined at the Judgment Seat. Jesus Christ comes to Father God with His saints, Christians. Again, 1 Thessalonians 3:13 has nothing to do with Christians or angels at the Second Coming. The Second Coming is not in view here anyway.
Contrary to popular belief, the Bible does not restrict the word “saints” to believers or Christian people. According to some verses, angels can be set apart for God’s purposes as well. We must therefore rely on the context to restrict the definition (whether angels or people).
In the case of 1 Thessalonians 3:13, the word means Christians not angels. However, that is not to say that this verse says Christians will return at the Second Coming (another common misconception). First Thessalonians 3:13 is Jesus Christ bringing Christians from the Judgment Seat of Christ, to stand before the throne of Father God, so Father God can designate their (our) roles in the government of the heavenly places!! If you want to see more about this special event, see Ephesians 5:27 and Colossians 1:22.