The Great Gathering

There is coming a final gathering when the saints will be assembled before Jesus in glory, but the wicked will be collected and cast from his presence

Cemetery Sun - Photo by Simeon Muller on Unsplash
The New Testament portrays the coming day when both the righteous and the unrighteous are “
gathered” before Jesus, the former for vindication, and the latter for condemnation. And consistently, this event is linked to the “arrival” of Jesus at the end of the age and the resurrection of the dead - [Photo by Simeon Muller on Unsplash].

In his parable of the “Wheat and Tares,” Jesus presents a picture of the final harvest when he sends the “reapers to gather up first the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them but gather the wheat into my barn.”

In his interpretation, he locates this event at the “end of the age.” The “reapers” represent the “angels” sent to “gather all things that cause stumbling” out of his kingdom. They will be cast into the “furnace of fire.” In contrast, the righteous will “shine forth as the sun” - (Matthew 13:30, 13:40-43).

ON THE MOUNT OF OLIVES

In his ‘Olivet Discourse,’ Jesus describes his ‘parousia’ or “arrival” more clearly. On that day, all humanity will see the “Son of Man coming on clouds.” He will dispatch his “angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together [‘episunagô’] his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” – (Matthew 24:27-31).

In his parable of the “Sheep and Goats,” Jesus illustrates the judgment that will occur on that day. When the “Son of man shall come in his glory,” he will be accompanied by “all the angels.”

He will then take his seat on the “throne of his glory,” and all nations will be “gathered before him” for judgment. At that time, he will separate the “sheep” from the “goats.” The “sheep” will inherit the kingdom, but the “goats” are destined for “everlasting punishment” - (Matthew 25:31-46).

IN THESSALONICA

In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul describes the ‘parousia’ or “arrival” of Jesus, a day when faithful believers will be his “crown of glorying.” And he prays that God will establish their hearts “blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the arrival of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” – (1 Thessalonians 2:19, 3:13).

At his “arrival,” the righteous dead will be resurrected and reunited with those still alive, and together all will be “caught up in clouds” and “meet” Jesus as he descends from heaven, and he will be accompanied by the “voice of an archangel and the trumpet of God.” And it is at the sound of the “trumpet” that the “dead in Christ” will rise from their graves – (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul describes the final day when the “revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power” will occur. On that day, he will “render vengeance to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” They will suffer “everlasting destruction.”

In contrast, on that very same day, Jesus will be “glorified in his saints, and marveled at in all those who believe” - (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

And in the very next chapter, Paul describes the future “Day of the Lord” and the ‘parousia’ or “arrival” of Jesus. That day will mean “our gathering together unto him.”

Paul echoes the words of Jesus about the “gathering together of his elect,” using the noun form of the verb episunagô, a rare word in the New Testament (noun, episunagôgé). The noun form means a “gathering together, a collection.”

IN CORINTH

In his Corinthian correspondence, Paul declares that just as “in Adam, all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive, but each in his own order, Christ the first fruits, then they that are Christ's, at his arrival [‘parousia’].”

Once again, the resurrection of the righteous is linked to the “arrival” of Jesus at the end of the age. Not only so, but that event will mean nothing less than the termination of death – (1 Corinthians 15:20-28).

And “at the last trumpet,” the dead will be raised and those believers still alive will be transformed. Mortal men will “put on immortality,” and “death will be swallowed up in victory” - (1 Corinthians 15:51-57).

Thus, the New Testament paints a consistent picture. The “arrival” or ‘parousia’ of Jesus will be accompanied by angelic activity and the sound of the “trumpet.” The righteous dead will be resurrected and gathered to him along with those saints who are still alive on that day. And each saint, whether dead or alive, will be transformed and receive his or her immortal body.

At the same time, the wicked will be gathered before him for judgment. The righteous will inherit the kingdom and immortality, but the wicked will receive “everlasting punishment from the face of the Lord.” And in each passage, the New Testament refers to one and only one “coming” of Jesus to gather his saints.



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