Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Rapture and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3

A key verse to the time of the rapture (harpadzo) referred to in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 is found in Paul's second letter to the Thessalonians in verse 2:1-3. I teach that this event, the removal of the church, will occur before the beginning of Daniel's last "week" or the seven year tribulation. Friends of mine who attend one of my Bible studies hold to the mid-tribulation rapture that occurs at the 3 1/2 year mark or the half-way point of the tribulation. Still many others believe the church will continue on the earth through the entire seven year tribulation. This is an interesting study that has drawn good, Bible-believing Christians to the defense of any of these three positions of interpretation.

In 2 Thessalonians Paul writes to correct a mistaken understanding and application of his previous teaching. He writes:
"Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don't let anyone deceive you in any way for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction."
Several key phrases need to be correctly identified to keep Paul's comments in context. Again, the views Bible teachers have here will vary. These are some of the phrases:
  1. "coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him"
  2. "easily unsettled or alarmed"
  3. "the day of the Lord"
  4. "the day of the Lord has already come"
  5. "that day will not come until: A) the rebellion occurs, B) the man of lawlessness is revealed
Number 1 - "coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" is his appearing to take the church and "our being gathered to him" is the rapture itself.

Number 2 - "easily unsettled or alarmed" is from the Greek words "εἰς τὸ μὴ ταχέως σαλευθῆναι ὑμᾶς ἀπὸ τοῦ νοὸς μηδὲ θροεῖσθαι" and is translated in the NAS as "that you may not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed" (notice the NIV translates the thought of the Greek but the NAS translates the words) . The key words "unsettled" means "to shake, to cause to move to and fro, to cause to waiver like the shaking of a foundation." This word "unsettled" is used beside the word "mind" in the Greek meaning the shaking is being done in their mind, the faculty for reasoning or understanding. This is followed by the word "alarmed" which in the Greek means "to be disturbed, to be frightened, to be inwardly aroused." The report the Thessalonians had accepted had not changed their outward circumstances (there was no increase in persecutions, plagues, or marks of the beast, etc.) but the trouble was on the inside caused by unwarranted fear of something that had not yet manifested.

Number 3 - "day of the Lord" is an Old Testament term for God's Day, or period (Daniel's 70th week) of judgment on the earth and Israel's testing.

Number 4 - "day of the Lord has already come" tells us what they were so unsettled and alarmed about in the mind and inward being. They were anticipating the tribulation and its accompanying events.

Number 5 - Paul says that day worthy of fear will not come until "
the rebellion occurs" and "the man of lawlessness is revealed".

The Thessalonian believers wrongfully feared they had missed the rapture that occurs with the appearing of the Lord before the tribulation begins. The tribulation is a seven year period that includes judgment on the nations, but also, a time of testing for Israel in order to bring them to a place of repentance when God pours out on them "a spirit of grace and supplication" mentioned in Zechariah 12:10 (12:10-14:21).

This is the order of events presented in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3:
  1. Coming of the Lord to gather the church (rapture)
  2. "The Rebellion" and "revealing" of the anti-Christ
  3. The period of judgment known as the Day of the Lord, the seven year tribulation
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Galyn Wiemers