1 Thessalonians 5:1-11v2 - “Day of the Lord” will come as a thief in the night.
v3 - While people are saying “Peace and safety” destruction will suddenly come.
v4 - But, we as Christians, are not in darkness that the day will overtake us like a thief. We will not be surprised.
v6 - Be alert concerning the coming day.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18v13 - Sets up context as those who are asleep.
v14 - God will bring with Him those who have died in Christ.
v15 - We will not precede the dead in Christ.
v16 - Jesus will descend with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet. Hardly a secret coming. Dead will rise first.
v17 - Together with the risen dead we will be caught up to meet Jesus in the air to be with Him always.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-12vv1-2 - Paul comforts the Thessalonians that the “day of the Lord” had not yet come.
v3 - “Day of the Lord” will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed.
Day of the Lord
Mal. 4:5-6 says that Elijah comes before the great and terrible day of the Lord. He will restore the children’s hearts to their parents so that God will not strike them down. In 1 Cor. 5:5 Paul delivers one who has his father’s wife over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. According to 1 Cor. 1:8, Jesus will confirm us to the end, blameless in the day of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul showed that he will be proud for those he ministered to, in the day of the Lord Jesus. (2 Cor. 1:14). 1 Thes. 5:2 shows us that the day of the Lord will come like a 'thief in the night', for those in darkness (v4). Before the day of the Lord can come, there must first be an apostasy (rebellion) and the man of lawlessness must be revealed. (2 Thes. 2:2) 2 Pet. 3:10 describes the day of the Lord coming like a thief, in which the planets will be destroyed. Jesus is clear; after the tribulation, He will return (Mt. 24:29-31). The 'coming first' of antichrist’s rebellion and his revelation would not matter to Christians if they will not be here anyway. When we see all the events of the tribulation, recognize that Christ is near (Mt. 24:33 – Mk. 13; Lk. 21). Jesus commands us to watch for the Second Coming, but never for a pre-tribulation rapture. Jesus will come like a thief (Rev. 16:15). Blessed is the one who watches for it. This statement is made in the middle of the description of the 6th bowl of God’s wrath at the end of the tribulation.
A Few known delays to the Second Coming
The great commission is definitely a delay (Mt. 28:19-20; 24:14). The gospel will be preached as a witness to all nations. It is interesting that the word “nations” comes from the Greek word ethnos, from which we get our word “ethnic.” The gospel will be preached, not just to “nations” as we know it in terms of political boundaries, but to every ethnic group, and then the end will come. It is also very interesting that the Great Commission is given with the promise that Jesus will be with us “even to the end of the age.” In this context, why would He be with us until the end of the age if it is not to be with us as we fulfill the Great Commission?
Peter’s death (Jn. 21:18-19; 2 Pet. 1:14), as foretold by Jesus, at an old age is also a definite delay to the Second Coming of Jesus. If the rapture could come at any time, then delays such as this must have killed the expectancy of early Christians who knew about them.
The delay caused by the tribulation does not need to kill our expectation of the Second Coming either (Mt. 24:29-31). Here Jesus is clear as to when He would return…after the tribulation.
Not destined for wrath!?
1 Thess. 5:9 says that “God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” In this passage, not being destined for wrath has nothing to do with not being destined for the tribulation. The salvation talked of is not from the tribulation, but salvation from our sins through the death of Christ (v10).
The seven bowls of Revelation are specifically called the “bowls of the wrath of God.” The seven bowls are aimed at:
1. “people who had the mark of the beast and who worshiped his image.”
2. “every living thing in the sea died.”
3. those who “poured out the blood of saints and prophets.”
4. given “to scorch men with fire” causing them to blaspheme the name of God and not to repent so as to give God glory.
5. “on the throne of the beast” and they blasphemed God.6. opens the Euphrates to allow God’s enemies through to Armagedon.
7. against Babylon and the cities of the world, and they blasphemed God.
These bowls are not directed at Christians. No harm is to be done until God’s servants are sealed (Rev. 7:1-3). Revelation 3:10 tells us that Christians are to be kept from the hour of testing. Does this mean that Christians will be taken out of this world before the tribulation?
Hardly! The only other place 'keep from' appears in the New Testament Greek is in John 17:15. Again, it is John using the phrase. There it clearly means protection in the world from evil. To be 'kept from' anything does not conjure up the meaning of 'removal from', to the logical mind. Rather, it paints a picture of being in a situation, yet 'kept from' the harm associated with that situation.
Christian relief from persecution will not occur at a rapture before the tribulation, but “when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire.” (2 Thes. 1:7 New American Standard Bible). This is at the end of the tribulation.
The apostle John wrote the most detailed prophecy concerning the tribulation and the coming of Christ. How is it that he forgot to write at least one line describing the return of Jesus before the tribulation?
‘Pre-tribulation rapture’ passages
Of all passages in the New Testament concerning the Second Coming of Christ, there is only one explicit 'catching away' passage, which can be found in 1 Thes. 4:13-18. In this study we will also include some other well known pre-tribulation passages (Jn. 14:1-3; 2 Thes. 2:1). None of these pre-tribulation passages notes anything about the constituent elements of a pre-tribulation rapture! The New Testament tells us nowhere explicitly of a pre-tribulation return, yet it speaks explicitly many times of a post-tribulation return.
We can discard Jn. 14:1-3 as a pre-tribulation rapture passage, due to the fact that Christ’s return mentioned in verse 3 simply says “I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” (New American Standard Bible). It could just as much (even more so) be that His return is after the tribulation.
Let’s look at 1 Thes. 4:13-18. Read this passage several times. Now, read it with the express purpose of noting the time that we will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, to be with Him always. What is that? It does not give a time of return?! How many times did you read it? How many times do we read to the end of a chapter thinking that it’s the end of the current subject? Now read 1 Thes. 4:13-5:11. In 5:1 Paul continues the subject of the return of Christ. In verse 2 he clearly links the day of the Lord to what we read in 4:13-18! We also have already shown that the day of the Lord comes after the tribulation. This puts the rapture of 4:13-18 after the tribulation.
Next, we have 2 Thes. 2:1-12. Paul says he is now writing “with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him” (2:1 New American Standard Bible). Paul clearly warns them in verse 2 not to be “quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come” (New American Standard Bible). What does Paul say concerning our gathering to Christ chronologically? Two things need to happen first:
1. The rebellion – meaning so given by BAGD – and
2. The revelation of the antichrist.
What does this mean? Christ returns after the tribulation.
The Lord’s coming is near
What about passages saying the Lord is near? How can the Lord be near and yet not be expected at any moment. (Rom. 13:11-12; Phil. 4:5; Heb. 10:25; Js. 5:8-9). The problem is that language of nearness is used elsewhere to describe the return of Christ after the tribulation (Mt. 24:33; Mk. 13:29; Lk. 21:28). Pre-tribulationism needs 'near' to mean 'any moment.' Compare 1 Pet. 4:7 and the 'near' passages in Jn. 2:13; 6:4; 7:2 and 11:55. The Jewish festivals mentioned in John were events set on the calendar and was incapable of happening at any moment.
‘After these things’
Assumptions are usually made concerning the past, present and future tenses (eg. “have seen”, “are”, “going to take place”) as having to do with the fulfillment of John’s visions in Revelation. Meaning, that future visions of the tribulation cannot be fulfilled until the fulfillment of the current vision. However, reading Revelation reveals that 'after these things' almost always refers to John’s personal experiences in receiving the many visions of the Revelation (Rev. 4:1; 7:9; 15:5; 18:1; 19:1). 'These things' refers to what happened to John in seeing a particular vision. So, 'after these things' would point to the chronological revelation of visions to John, not the chronological fulfillment of those visions. Therefore, 'after these things' in Rev. 1:19 does not mean that the tribulation is going to take place after the church age, but that they are going to take place in John’s seeing of later visions once he has finished seeing the current vision.
‘Church’ in Revelation
The word 'church' does not appear on Rev. 4-18. Does it mean the church was raptured before chapter 4? Hardly? Let’s look at some pointers.
1 - Words that elsewhere in the New Testament refer to the church are also used in chapters 4-18. These words naturally refer to the church. It is not that we have to force them to. God’s people (18:4; see 2 Cor. 6:16); witnesses (11:3; 17:6; see Ac. 1:8; 13:31); God’s servants (7:3; 19:2, 5; see Ac. 2:18; 4:29) and saints (13:7, 10).
2 - 'Church' does not appear in any of John’s description of heavenly scenes in chapters 4-18. Does this then imply that the church is not present in heaven, just like the absence of church in earthly scenes supposedly implies that the church is not present on earth?
3 - 'Church' in chapters 1-3 refers to particular local churches in a certain Roman province, while the tribulation described in chapters 4-18 has to do with the whole Roman Empire. This is why references to the saints are more general in nature.
4 - 'Church' does not appear in the scenes of Christ’s return after the tribulation. Does this mean the church is not there?
To say the word 'church' does not appear in Rev. 4-18 and therefore the church is not present during that time is like saying the word trinity is not present in the Bible and therefore the Trinity does not exist!
1 Cor. 15:51-52 and 1 Thes. 4:13-18 deal with the transformation and rapture, but do not mention the church! 'Church' is not found in 2 Timothy, Titus, 2 Peter, 1 and 2 John and Jude. Do we conclude from this that the promises and instructions there do not pertain to us because the term 'church' does not occur there? Should we throw out the book of Esther because the word 'God' is never used there? There are many other terms that refer to the church: elect, saved, light(s), spiritual house, Christians, believers, servants, disciples, ambassadors, household of faith, priesthood, chosen race, flock, body of Christ, holy nation, children of God, bride, etc.
When are we gathered to the Lord? Before the tribulation or after?
In 2 Thes. 1:7-12, Paul describes the coming of the Lord from heaven with His mighty angels. Compare this with Jesus’ description of His return in Mt. 24:30-31. Jesus places His return after the tribulation (Mt. 24:29). Looking at the rest of the context of 2 Thes. 1:7-12 (2 Thes. 1:7-2:13), we can see that our gathering to Him will not occur unless the rebellion occurs first and the antichrist is revealed. This means our gathering occurs after the tribulation.
Again, let’s look at 1 Thes. 4:13-18 (context – 1 Thes. 4:13-5:11). In this classic rapture passage (v17), Paul writes concerning its circumstances of a shout, the voice of an archangel and the trumpet of God. Jesus describes His return as coming on the clouds with great glory. He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet. True, the Thessalonians passage only mentions the archangel, but that does not mean the angels are excluded. They are merely not mentioned. In Revelation we see an angel (maybe the archangel) cry out with a loud voice. This corresponds very well with the shout of 1 Thes. 4:16. In 1 Thes. 4:16, it says that the Lord will descend with a shout. It does not necessarily mean the Lord is doing the shouting. It merely means that at the shout the Lord will descend. It fits perfectly with the Lord’s return in Rev. 19:11-18. When would this catching-up in 1 Thes. 4:17 occur then? After the tribulation.
Paul writes in 1 Cor. 15:50-58 about the fact that we will be changed in the twinkling of an eye… at the last trumpet. When is this last trumpet? For the answer we need to go to the book of Revelation. The seventh trumpet gets sounded in Rev. 11:15. This seventh trumpet could be the last trumpet, but even if it isn’t, can you see how far we are into the tribulation? If the rapture occurs at the last trumpet, then we will see at least some of the tribulation! Now, for the last trumpet, turn back to Mt. 24:29-31. Do you now see that we are caught up after the tribulation?
Can Christ return at any moment? Did Christ not say that “of that day and hour no one knows?” When Jesus said these words in Mt. 24:36 the context is clear. Jesus was talking about His own return which He clearly set as after the tribulation (Mt. 24:29-31).
First and Last things
In as series of numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7), which is first and which is last? ‘1’ is first and ‘7’ is last. In a series of letters (A, B, C, D, E, F, G), which is first and which is last? ‘A’ is first and ‘G’ is last. In a race of runners, which one is first and which one is last? The runner who crosses the line first is first and the runner who crosses the line last is last. Can anyone else be first except the one who came first, or can anyone be last except the one who came last? No! Then how is it that when the Bible speaks of a first resurrection, some want to force other resurrections before the first resurrection? Also, how is it that when the Bible speaks of the last trumpet, some want to force as much as seven (7) trumpets after the last trumpet?
Seven trumpets are introduced during the tribulation period (Rev. 8-11). If the last trumpet had already sounded, then why were these ones introduced? We already know that Jesus mentioned a great trumpet at the end of the tribulation with His return (Mt. 24:29-31). Paul writes about the last trumpet in 1 Cor. 15:52. This last trumpet has to refer to the trumpet in Mt. 24, because chronologically, the trumpet of Mt. 24 is the latest, and is sounded after the tribulation.
Why would 'first' mean anything but 'first' in the first resurrection if in the other eight (8) times of usage before Rev. 20, 'first' means 'first?' Try make 'first' mean something else when Jesus is called “the first and the last” (Rev. 1:17; 2:8); the Ephesians’ “first love” (2:4); John hearing again “the first voice” (4:1); the introduction of “the first creature” (4:7); the “first [angel] sounded” his trumpet (8:7); the second beast exercised “all the authority of the first beast” (13:12); the “first angel” poured out his bowl on the earth (16:2).
'First' also occurs after Rev. 2:5-6. It still means 'first' when “the first earth” passes away (21:1); the “first foundation stone” is jasper (21:19); Jesus is again called “the first and the last” (22:13). Why is the literal meaning of 'first' never questioned by pre-tribulationists except in Rev. 20:5-6?
Who is included in this first resurrection? According to pre-tribulationists only those who went through the tribulation since the others had to have been raptured before the tribulation. A casual reading of 20:4 seems to confirm this. Let’s look at this verse a little closer.
Most translations connect those who had been 'beheaded for their testimony and the word of God' with those who had 'not worshipped the beast or his image,' making them the same group. The Greek is a little more explicit here in that these translations translate the word hoitines as if it were a definite relative pronoun, simply 'who.' There are other Greek methods to express such an idea. These methods are not used here though. hoitines is the plural masculine indefinite pronoun of the word hostis, meaning whoever or everyone who. This pronoun differs in gender from the souls (psuchas – feminine word) mentioned earlier. Its relative should agree with it. If the same group was meant, then haitines should have been used. So, two groups are mentioned here, translating as follows: “And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and everyone who had not worshipped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand.” These groups are, then, the martyred Christians who made it right through the tribulation. The second group would include those who had been Christians from before the tribulation and those who became Christians after the tribulation had started. This accords well with 1 Cor. 15:52, that “in the twinkling of an eye… the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” Therefore, the two groups of Rev. 20:4 have this common experience called “the first resurrection.”
Of this joint change at “the first resurrection” John uses a verb in its aorist tense to mean “they lived.” (Rev. 20:4). Most translations again battle with this verse to give something like “and they came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” Examples of translations like this are the New American Standard Bible and the New International Version. However, both verbs are in the aorist tense and should read “and they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” Examples of translations like this are the ASV, KJV, New King James Version.
So, what is the point of 20:4? This “first resurrection” is not a resurrection for Christian martyrs of the tribulation only (ie. the rest had been raptured before the tribulation?). No, verse 4 speaks of two groups (tribulation martyrs and everyone, whether pre-tribulational or current-tribulational, who had not bowed their knees to the antichrist.) It was not just the martyrs who “came to life” (wrong translation), but both groups after the twinkling of an eye, lived and reigned with Christ.
Persecution, suffering and tribulation
The pattern has been set. Christ suffered and so will we. The Scriptures are clear that we have been called for this purpose, “since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” (1 Pet. 2:21). When we suffer and we are treated harshly for doing wrong, no praise can be found in that, but only if we are so treated when doing right.
There is no Scripture that promises us that we will escape suffering, persecution and tribulation. Instead, we are told that we as Christians will endure the above. Persecution of Christians are happening in many countries all over the world. We can even see the beginning of persecution of Christians in the free-est country in the world, the USA. Every now and again one or other group like the ACLU would try to test the law in some or other area against Christians. Back in 2001, the ACLU tested the law against groups such as the Boy Scouts as to whether they have to appoint transsexuals onto their staff or leadership or not. More and more Christian beliefs are being pointed at as hate speech. These are merely the beginning of what later will become full-blown persecution. Do not think for a moment that a single 'Christian' president can stop this trend!
Jesus remains our example in word and deed. Whether it is in following that example in doing righteousness, praying for the sick, loving our neighbour, or in suffering, we need to follow Him. As He suffered outside the gate of the city, so we need to bear His reproach outside the camp of this world (Heb. 13:12-13). It is under this reproach that we must offer up a sacrifice of praise to God (v15).
If it happens that you are suffering for Christ, do not be surprised. This will become the norm for Christians in this world. Peter wrote to Christians in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia. All of these areas make up what today is called Turkey. This letter can apply to the Christians there today. Currently, Christians are being persecuted there. Peter wrote in 1 Pet. 4:12-19 that they should “not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you” (New American Standard Bible). Peter wrote this as if this was, and will be the natural way for Christians. It is in the degree that we share in the suffering of Christ that we should keep on rejoicing, because when Jesus is revealed in His glory we will rejoice with exultation. If the Spirit and glory of God rests on us, then we can perform great exploits for God! Perhaps… Rather, if the Spirit and glory of God rests on us we will be blessed if we are reviled for the name of Christ (v14).
Luke adds to this in Lk. 6:22-23, that we are blessed when we are hated, ostracized, insulted, and our names being scorned as evil for the sake of Christ. We are to be exceedingly glad when this happens for our reward in heaven will be great.
When Jesus spoke about the tribulation He never said “Look to the skies for I am coming to get you before someone hurts you.” No, He was clear that “they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name” (Mt. 24:9).
So, be forewarned! When you enter the tribulation, do not be surprised. You can believe in the pre-tribulation rapture all you like, but when you end up experiencing the tribulation, you will be unprepared.
While the wrath of God is being poured out on the antichrist and his followers, he will relentlessly persecute the Christians, and it will be at this time that we will find out what we are made of.
Please, realize that this message is there to warn you of the impending tribulation. This was not written to scare you to death, but to warn you, in the love of Christ, that the possibility (even probability) of you and I having to die for Christ, is growing daily as we are getting nearer to the time that the “man of lawlessness” will be revealed.
Do not be misguided by pre-tribulation theories. In order to get a pre-tribulation rapture out of the Bible, too much mental gymnastics must be performed. The straightforward meaning of Scripture says there is only one Second Coming… after the tribulation of those days.
23 April 2008
Here are 5 very good sermons--in MP3 format--on this subject by Bob Vincent, a Presbyterian Minister.
The Olivet Discourse, Part 1
The Olivet Discourse, Part 2
The Olivet Discourse, Part 3
The Olivet Discourse, Part 4
The Olivet Discourse, Part 5