By Mark Swarbrick
2 Thessalonians 2:1-9 is a passage that speaks of the Rapture, the Tribulation and the coming Antichrist and the sequence of those events. However, this passage of scripture is often misunderstood because many Christians today are not familiar with Old Testament phraseology. This passage uses term “the Day of the Lord” for the Tribulation, and those not familiar with Old Testament prophecy interpret the phrase incorrectly, leading to the false assumption that the rapture doesn’t happen until after the Tribulation. Here is an excellent comment from a reader who raises this very question, along with my response.
“There is one scripture portion I have difficulty reconciling with a pre-trib rapture and that is 2 Thessalonians 2:1-9. So if you can clarify your position on this I’d appreciate it. Paul introduces two preconditions that must take place before the day of the Lord and our gathering together to Him (the rapture) take place. We are told not to let anyone deceive us, that it will not come Unless the apostasy comes First AND the man of lawlessness is revealed. If we are raptured Before the 7-year tribulation begins and the man of sin is not revealed until the middle of the tribulation, then we would not know who this man is. Yet we are told in the previous verses, that the day of the Lord AND our gathering to Him will not take place until these two conditions are met.”
My response follows:
Let us examine this question. You state: “Yet we are told in the previous verses, that the day of the Lord AND our gathering to Him will not take place until these two conditions are met.” This statement is a false premise for the text does not state that, although many people mistakenly think it does. Let me show you why it does not say that.
When interpreting Paul’s letters it often helps to consider what situation the readers are going through. In the case of the Thessalonians, somebody had been erroneously teaching that they were now living in the time of the great Tribulation. Paul writes to correct this error.
In this passage to the Thessalonians, Paul speaks of two prophetic events, not one: One, The Rapture and two, the Tribulation. Verse one speaks of the Rapture: “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him…” Verse two speaks of a different event, namely, the Tribulation. Paul tells them that he doesn’t want them to 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.” The phrase “Day of the Lord” is the nomenclature use by the apostles for the Tribulation. It is a carry-over of Old Testament terminology for the “time of Jacob’s trouble.” Here are some examples:
Isaiah 13:6,9 – Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty…See, the day of the Lord is coming—a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger…
Ezekiel 30:3 – For the day is near, the day of the Lord is near—a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations.
Joel 2:2,11 – for the day of the Lord is coming. It is close at hand—a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was in ancient times nor ever will be in ages to come… The day of the Lord is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it?
Joel 2:31, 3:14-16 – The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord… Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. The sun and moon will be darkened and the stars no longer shine. The Lord will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the heavens will tremble.
Amos 5:18-20 – Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord! Why do you long for the day of the Lord? That day will be darkness, not light. It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him. Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not light—pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?
At the time of Paul’s writing to the Thessalonians, the new Testament had not yet been completed. The “Bible” read by Christians then was the Old Testament, consequently many were better versed in the Old Testament than many Christians today. Also consider that Paul, who was a “Pharisee of Pharisees,” and who stated that he “studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors…” was familiar with the Old Testament prophecies of the Tribulation. He therefore naturally spoke of these events to the Church using the terminology used in the Old Testament, calling the Tribulation by the Biblical name, The Day of the Lord.
In order to understand 2 Thessalonians 2:1-9 properly requires that this be understood. If you substitute the word “tribulation” for “the day of the Lord” then the passage makes perfect sense. Read it again with this understanding:
“Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him (the Rapture), that you not 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 (the Tribulation) has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it (the Tribulation) will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed… Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things?”
So you see, it is the Tribulation, not the Rapture, that can’t take place until the Antichrist and Apostasy come first. After speaking of the Antichrist and the terrible tribulation to come, Paul ends with the encouraging words that we won’t be here for the Day of the Lord, by saying, “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as first-fruits to be saved…”
Paul had already made it clear to them, when he was with them, that they would be raptured before the Tribulation, and thus saved from God’s wrath on earth, and that then, after the operation of the Holy Spirit through the Church was removed, the Antichrist would be revealed and the apostasy would come. Paul reminds them in verse 6 that they had already been told this, thus he says, “And now you know what is holding him back…” Yes, they knew because Paul had already told them and they understood the phrase “The Day of the Lord” referred to the Tribulation. So, when some of the Thessalonians thought that the Church was going through the Tribulation, Paul reminds them that it can’t be so, for first they would be raptured, then the apostasy and the Antichrist would come, and only then the could the Tribulation begin.
Author: Mark Swarbrick Comments are welcome. Scroll down to comment.
Related Article: You may enjoy my other article on a similar subject: Click Here – The Apostasy or The Departing.