Who are the saints / holy ones in 1 Thessalonians 3:13 and 2 Thessalonians 1:3–12?

Who are the saints / holy ones in 1 Thessalonians 3:13 and 2 Thessalonians 1:3–12?

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In June 2017 and May 2018, I had email exchanges with Prof. Larry W. Hurtado and Dean Craig C. Hill (two high-caliber NT scholars) about the second coming, the rapture and, more specifically, the saints in 1 and 2 Thess.

1 Thessalonians 3:13

2 Thessalonians 1:3–12

They did not satisfactorily answer my question(s):

Who are the saints / holy ones in 1 Thessalonians 3:13 and 2 Thessalonians 1:3–12?

Both Prof. Hurtado and Dean Hill say that the saints in 1 Thess. 3.13 refer to human believers/saints (I will only briefly quote them, I cannot reproduce all their email responses here):

Prof. Hurtado

Based on typical NT usage, I’d take the “hagioi” of 1Thess and 2 Thess
to be “saints” or believers. Zech speaks of “holy ones” as angels,
but the NT authors seem to have taken the word more as a label for
believers… If you do a study of all instances of “hoi hagioi” (holy
ones) in Paul, you will see that he characteristically applies the
term to believers in Jesus… I take the holy ones in 1 Thess 3:13 to
be believers, who are deceased and return with him. They are
“raptured”. They’re the deceased. Paul directly addresses the
question about them in 4:13ff… The passage in 1 Thess 4 doesn’t talk
about a “rapture” but a rising up of believers to meet the returning
Jesus… And, again, just run down all the instances in Paul of “hoi
hagioi” (holy ones). You’ll see for yourself how he uses the term…
First, in 1 Thess 3:13 the “parousia” of Jesus = his coming and
eschatological appearance/presence. Obviously, his “saints” will be
there with him. Second, the “meta” (with”) phrase “with all his holy
ones” seems to me to be inclusive of the believers addressed. I.e.,
you will be blameless before God . . . with all the holy

Dean Hill

Dear Brian, The possibility exists that 3:11-13 refers to angels, but
I think it is likelier that it refers to humans.

However, I still dont understand how the saint/holy ones in 1 Thess 3.13 can be human believers in light of 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 and 2 Thessalonians 1:3–12.

So 3 main passages:

1 Thessalonians 3:13

1 Thessalonians 4:13–18

2 Thessalonians 1:3–12

Other relevant texts:

Zechariah 14.5

Matthew 16.27

Matthew 24.30-31

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