THE RAPTURE SERIES 15: THE BELIEVERS’ LAST BATTLE (PART 4 OF 4)

0 RAPTURE

END OF SERIES – CONCLUSION

“Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Hebrews 2:8-11).

These marvelous words reveal to us that not only is Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith, but all things will be put under His subjection. Jesus, the Living Word of God, has created all things and “for whom are all things, and by whom are all things” including our perfect salvation! It is both literally and physically impossible for me to fully comprehend the last line of this verse, “he is not ashamed to call them brethren.” However, my admission does not change the fact that we have indeed become His brethren, sons and daughters of God. We are so much a part of God’s family that no earthly family can ever compare. The final answer to the Lord’s high priestly prayer is yet to be fulfilled, “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one” (John 17:23).

If we as believers would realize just a fraction of the glorious things God has wrought for us, we would not take ourselves too seriously. We would worry much less about things we can’t change and while we remain on earth, our lives would be filled and overflowing with the peace that passes all understanding.

I wanted to convey these few words of encouragement to you in my conclusion of the Rapture series.

Throughout this study, we laid down some indisputable facts regarding the reality of the Rapture—facts which cannot be moved or removed by any interpretation. Jesus said that He will come again to take us to Himself. In order for that to happen, certain events in history had to first take place.

We must never be so naive as to think that such events as the uproar of the nations, wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, floods, fires, pestilences, and others take place coincidentally. That is far from the truth because these phenomena serve only one purpose: to call out a people for His name. God does not make mistakes, nor does He need to apologize. His resolutions are eternal because He is from everlasting to everlasting.

When we understand God’s plan for mankind we shouldn’t have much difficulty comprehending the words of Amos 3:6, “… shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?” (Amos 3:6). When we grasp these things spiritually, we see that we do not need to worry about the frightening events taking place in the world today. In holy reverence, we can sing with the hymn writer, “He’s got the whole world in His hands….”

Calling Out of His People

We have thoroughly discussed the relationship between Israel and the Church. God chose Abraham, from whom He brought forth a nation, Israel. She in turn brought forth the man-child Jesus, “… who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron” (Revelation 10:5). Jesus: Son of God, and Son of man. On Calvary’s cross, He accomplished the greatest redemptive work in history when He cried out, “It is finished.” Since then, the final selection process has been progressing. From Israel and all the nations of the world, God is gathering a new people, born again of His Spirit, for His heavenly kingdom. This selection is no longer limited to Israel, who received a distinct promise of territory. Today, anyone who, by the grace of God, has an ear to hear may respond to the message, believe it, and as a result, be added to the innumerable host of heavenly citizens comprising the Church of Jesus Christ.

The selection process has been taking place since 33 A.D. and will be completed when the fullness of the Gentiles comes in, at which time the Rapture will take place.

In the Bible, God has given us many examples of His intention to save mankind. One example was the salvation of Noah and his family. Only those who entered the ark by faith were saved from the flood. The same principle is valid today; those who enter the heavenly ark through the door (Jesus Christ) are saved for eternity.

Light And Darkness

During these many centuries, God in His grace has not sent destructive judgment upon the powers of darkness, but He has permitted darkness to exist parallel to the light. Every person born on planet Earth either continues in the way of darkness or comes to the Light. John testifies of Jesus when he says, “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9). It is the job of the children of light to exemplify the way to the Light to those in darkness, which is why Jesus said to His Church, “ye are the light of the world.”

Darkness includes all things on earth. Everything we see, hear, or touch outside of the Gospel is subject to darkness. Every nation and every government on our planet is subject to darkness. The god of this world, the prince of darkness, rules the earth, as evident in 2nd Corinthians 4:3-4, “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” This dark force cannot destroy the children of light because, as we illustrated earlier in the series, light is stronger than darkness. However, God in His counsel has determined that darkness will eventually cover the entire world. We concluded that this cannot take place while the Church is still present.

The Great Tribulation

The prophets of both the Old and New Testaments, as well as Jesus Himself, prophesied that the Great Tribulation would come on planet Earth and that it would be a time such as has never been experienced before, nor will it be repeated. In those days of darkness mankind will voluntarily believe the great lie, that salvation may be obtained through good behavior and does not depend on any particular form of religion. This philosophy is accepted today as “politically correct.” The continuous success of the world in relation to peace and prosperity will reinforce humanity’s belief that they should be centered on themselves instead of the Savior.

Second Thessalonians 2:9-10 says, “Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” The truth is that man cannot save himself; he is lost. He’s not lost because of the bad deeds he may have committed, but because he is a sinner by birth. To the question, “What must you do to end up in Hell?” the answer is nothing! Everyone from birth is destined to Hell. For that reason, God the Father sent Jesus so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. Just as a person does not have to do anything particularly bad to remain Hellhound, the same applies to a person who wants to go to Heaven but does not have to do anything to get there other than believe.

Virtually all religions, including much of Christianity, are proclaiming that man must either work for his salvation or at least contribute his part so that he may qualify. That is the great deception of Satan. Those who embrace that belief do not love the truth. Continuing in verse 11, we read, “for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.”

The great contradiction of the present day is the existence of the Church. Within the Church, there is a light which stands in opposition to darkness. As long as this light remains on Earth, the Great Tribulation, the epitome of darkness, cannot take place. The moment the Church is removed, darkness will prevail and the lie will be accepted as truth, which has been clearly and thoroughly addressed in this series.

The Spirit Must Depart For Jesus To Return

Israel’s salvation cannot take place as long as the Church is present on earth. We find support of this in Jesus’ response to the disciples, “. ..It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you” (John 16:7).

Plainly, Jesus was saying that if He did not depart, the Comforter would not come; but when He did depart, the Comforter would indeed come.

Now this will take place in reverse. Jesus cannot literally and physically come back to earth as long as the Comforter [the Holy Spirit] remains on earth.

The Comforter dwells in the heart of the believer! Therefore, it is impossible for Jesus to come back with His saints unless they are first taken out of the way so that He can come back to earth with them!

What Are You Waiting For?

Please allow me again to ask, “What are you waiting for?” If you are waiting for the Great Tribulation, then you cannot be waiting for Jesus. If you are waiting for the appearing of the Antichrist, then you cannot be waiting for Jesus. If you are waiting for better times, for peace and prosperity, then you cannot be waiting for Jesus. If you are not waiting for Jesus, you are not a child of God.

If you are not a child of God, at this point you should be asking yourself, “How can I become a child of God?” It is almost too easy to be true, yet it is true! Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved! Right after you have read the last lines of this series, get down on your knees and confess to God that you are a sinner. Admit that you cannot save yourself. Realize that you are in need of redemption. Someone else must pay for your sins; you can’t do it yourself. If that is the case, you are on the right track toward salvation. You may pray a simple prayer: “Dear God: I realize that I am a sinner and I believe that Jesus Christ paid for my sins when He died on Calvary’s cross, pouring out His blood as full payment for my sins. I now consciously and deliberately ask Jesus to save me from my sins, come into my heart and make me a child of God.” When you sincerely pray this, then the prophetic Scripture will be fulfilled, “Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.” And the wonderful promise of John 3:36 will be instantly fulfilled in your life: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life!”

(MAIN SOURCE: The Great Mystery of the Rapture – Arno Froese – 1999)

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THE BLESSED HOPE OF THE THESSALONIANS

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(NOTE: THIS IS QUITE A LENGTHY STUDY OF APPROXIMATELY 16 PAGES. A DOWNLOADABLE PDF COPY CAN BE FOUND AT THE END OF THE STUDY FOR OF THOSE WHO WANT TO USE IT FOR FUTURE REFERENCE)

BACKGROUND

Thessalonica, modern Thessaloniki, was the largest and most important city in the Roman province of Macedonia, the second most important city in the Byzantine Empire after Constantinople and a thriving seaport.

The Jewish presence in Thessalonica was significant and influential (cf. Acts 17:1, 5–9). As they jealously watched Paul’s success at winning Gentiles to Christ, the Jews’ smoldering resentment burst into flame. The threat to Thessalonica’s status as a free city was significant; if they failed to maintain order, the Romans would intervene.

Paul was deeply concerned about them. To Paul’s immense relief and joy, Timothy brought an encouraging report about the situation in Thessalonica when he met Paul at Corinth. (Acts 18:5) But though Timothy’s report was on the whole encouraging, there were some issues at Thessalonica that concerned Paul. Because the persecution that drove the missionaries out of Thessalonica had not abated, the church needed encouragement to stand firm (1:2–10; 2:13–16). He was also concerned that the new converts not slip back into the pagan immorality so prevalent in their culture (4:1–8).

The apostle Paul also was concerned about the Thessalonians’ reputation with those outside the church; therefore, he encouraged them to continue to love each other fervently and to work diligently (4:9–12). The first letter also corrects a wrong understanding about the end times (4:13–5:11), and instructs the Thessalonian congregation in the basics of Christian living (5:12–22).

Paul had instructed the Thessalonians about the end times while he was with them (2 Thess. 2:5) as well as in his first letter to them. Yet they were still confused, fearing they had missed the Rapture and were in the Day of the Lord. Though the severity of the persecution they were undergoing contributed to that mistaken belief, the main reason for their confusion came from some false teachers who taught that the Day of the Lord had arrived.

In his second inspired letter, Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to stand firm and remain faithful to the Lord despite their suffering and reassure them that the Day of the Lord had not arrived.

THE THESSALONIANS ANTICIPATED THE RETURN OF CHRIST

just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” (1 Thes. 2:11-12)

Paul stated the singular end of their and our call—entrance into His own kingdom and glory. Though they, as all believers, had not yet seen either the millennial kingdom or the eternal kingdom, they were already citizens of the redeemed kingdom over which God now rules (Luke 17:21; Col. 1:13; cf. Rom. 14:17). Thus, they had a present share in the glory of God as well as a promise of the future glory in the kingdom yet to come. All true believers look forward to sharing in the full glory of the heavenly kingdom when God raises them to be like Christ and with Him for eternity (Ps. 73:24; Prov. 3:35; Rom. 9:23; 1 Cor. 15:43; Phil. 3:20–21; Col. 3:4; 2 Thess. 2:14; 1 Peter 5:10; cf. Matt. 5:12; John 14:2; Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17; Heb. 4:9; 11:16; 1 Peter 1:3–4; Rev. 7:16–17).

“They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.” (1 Thes. 1:9b-10)

The church in Thessalonica waited for His Son from heaven … that is Jesus. Those who love Christ long for and anticipate His return. The apostles displayed such a desire when they saw Jesus’ ascension:

“He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9–11)

Paul unquestionably affirmed that the One who once ascended to heaven is also the One who believers wait for, the One whom He [God] raised from the dead, that is Jesus. The reference to the Resurrection establishes the ground for the return of Jesus Christ. God raised Him from the dead because He was pleased with His sacrifice for sin and because He wanted to exalt Him to the heavenly throne from which He will return to exercise His sovereign right to rule as King of Kings (Acts 2:24, 32; 3:15; 4:10–12; 5:30–32; 13:33–35; 17:31; cf. Rom. 1:3–4; 2 Cor. 13:4; Eph. 1:19–23). The word for wait is used only here in the New Testament and refers to expectant waiting—sustained, patient, trusting waiting.

Waiting is a recurring theme in the Thessalonian letters (1 Thess. 2:17, 19; 3:13; 4:15–17; 5:8, 23; 2 Thess. 3:6–12).

The true believer eagerly looks forward to Christ’s return because he knows it brings to fulfillment and satisfaction God’s eternal purpose, which is, as Paul stated it, to rescue us from the wrath to come. Rescues denotes the deliverance the Lord provides. He is the Rescuer, Deliverer, and Savior of those otherwise headed for divine judgment and eternal punishment. In the ancient world, the idea of divine wrath was accepted, but there was no genuine hope of rescue from it. By contrast, in the postmodern world the idea of divine wrath is rejected, so the Rescuer is not needed or heeded.

Orgē (wrath) describes God’s settled opposition to and displeasure with sin. In this context the wrath is God’s eternal judgment against sin. Some believe the wrath to come only refers to the Great Tribulation, and see this rescue as the promise of the pretribulation Rapture, expounded upon later in this epistle. But the immediate context of Paul’s discussion in 1 Thessalonians goes further and mainly refers to election and salvation rather than eschatology.

“and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.” (1 Thes. 3:13)

The final objective of Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians was that they might look to their glorification, which produces a purifying hope. The only way the Thessalonians would actually live in such hope was for God to establish their hearts without blame in holiness before (literally, “in the presence of”) Him. Paul wanted them to be pure at heart, so as to desire the coming (parousia, “presence”) of the Lord Jesus.

The apostle knew that the promise of Christ’s return to Rapture and reward the church is the essence of believers’ purifying hope. He explains the event in 4:13–18 as the hope that produces comfort and serves as motivation to holy living.

THE BLESSED HOPE – THE RAPTURE

Of all the end-time events, the Rapture of the church seems to generate the most interest and discussion. The young church at Thessalonica also had questions about that event, so Paul addressed their concerns in this passage. But unlike most modern-day treatises on the subject, Paul’s concern was not just doctrinal, but pastoral. His intent was not to give a detailed description of the Rapture, but to comfort the Thessalonians. The intent of the other two passages in the New Testament that discuss the Rapture (John 14:1–3; 1 Cor. 15:51–58) is also to provide comfort and encouragement for believers, not to fuel their prophetic speculations.

When Paul penned this epistle, the Thessalonians had been in Christ only for a few months. The apostle had taught them about end-time events, such as Christ’s return to gather believers to Himself (e.g., 1:9–10; 2:19; 3:13). They also knew about the Day of the Lord (5:1–3), a time of coming judgment on the ungodly.

But some issues about the details of their gathering to Christ troubled them. First, they seem to have been afraid that they had missed the Rapture, since the persecution they were suffering (3:3–4) caused some to fear they were in the Day of the Lord, which they obviously had not expected to experience (2 Thess. 2:1–2). Furthering that misconception were some false teachers, about whom Paul warned in 2 Thessalonians 2:2, “[Do] 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 has come.” But the persecution they were experiencing was not that associated with the Tribulation or the Day of the Lord.

The Thessalonians’ fears that they were in the Day of the Lord and thus had missed the Rapture imply that the Rapture precedes the Tribulation. If the Thessalonians knew that the Rapture came at the end of the Tribulation, persecution would not have caused them to fear they had missed it.

But of gravest concern to the Thessalonians were those of their number who had died. Would they receive their resurrection bodies at the Rapture, or would they have to wait until after the Tribulation? Would they miss the Rapture altogether? Would they therefore be second-class citizens in heaven? Were their deaths chastisement for their sins (cf. 1 Cor. 11:30)?

Paul wrote this section of his epistle to alleviate the Thessalonians’ grief and confusion. He was concerned that they not … be uninformed … about those who are asleep and thus grieve as do the rest who have no hope. Since their grief was based on ignorance, Paul comforted them by giving them knowledge.

The Thessalonians’ ignorance about the Rapture caused them to grieve. It was to give them hope and to comfort them that Paul discussed that momentous event, giving a fourfold description of it: its pillars, participants, plan, and profit.

THE PILLARS OF THE RAPTURE

“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord,” (1 Thes. 4:14–15a)

The marvellous truth that the Lord Jesus Christ will return to gather believers to Himself is based on three unshakeable pillars: the death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, and the revelation of Christ.

THE DEATH OF CHRIST

For if we believe that Jesus died (4:14a)

Paul’s simple statement summarizes all the richness of Christ’s atoning work, which provides the necessary foundation for the gathering of the church. His death satisfied the demands of God’s righteousness, holiness, and justice by paying in full the penalty for believers’ sins. Christians have been made acceptable to God and thus fit to be gathered into His presence.

When believers die, their spirit goes immediately into conscious fellowship with the Lord, while their bodies temporarily sleep in the grave, awaiting the Rapture.

THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST

and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. (4:14b)

The resurrection of Christ indicates that the Father accepted His sacrifice, enabling Him to “be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). Christ’s resurrection proves that He conquered sin and death, and became the source of resurrection life for every Christian. God will treat those who died trusting in Jesus in the same way He treated Jesus Himself, namely by resurrecting them.

The phrase even so links believers’ resurrections inextricably to the resurrection of Christ. In John 14:19 Jesus said, “Because I live, you will live also.” In the most detailed passage on the resurrection in Scripture, Paul wrote that “Christ [is] the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Cor. 15:23). Earlier in that same epistle, he stated plainly, “Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power” (1 Cor. 6:14).

To further assuage their fears, Paul reassured believers that God will bring with Him [Jesus] those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. Their fellow believers who died will not miss out on the Rapture but will return with Christ in glory. God will bring the spirits of dead believers will come from heaven with Christ to meet their resurrected bodies.

By demonstrating God’s acceptance of His atoning sacrifice, the resurrection of Christ buttresses the first pillar on which the Rapture is based, the death of Christ.

THE REVELATION OF CHRIST

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, (4:15a)

Paul’s teaching on the Rapture was not his own speculation but direct revelation from God. The phrase this we say to you by the word of the Lord has the authoritative tone of an inspired writer revealing what God has disclosed to him. Some argue that the word of the Lord was something Jesus said while He was here on earth. But there are no close parallels to the present passage in any of the Gospels. Nor is there any specific teaching in the Gospels to which Paul could be alluding.

Although the Lord talked in the Gospels about a trumpet and the gathering of the elect, the differences between those passages and the present one outweigh the similarities, as Robert L. Thomas notes: Similarities between this passage in 1 Thessalonians and the gospel accounts include a trumpet (Matt. 24:31), a resurrection (John 11:25, 26), and a gathering of the elect (Matt. 24:31)…. Yet dissimilarities between it and the canonical sayings of Christ far outweigh the resemblances…. Some of the differences between Matthew 24:30, 31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15–17 are as follows: (1) In Matthew the Son of Man is coming on the clouds, … in 1 Thessalonians ascending believers are in them. (2) In the former the angels gather, in the latter the Son does so personally. (3) In the former nothing is said about resurrection, while in the latter this is the main theme. (4) Matthew records nothing about the order of ascent, which is the principal lesson in Thessalonians. (“1, 2 Thessalonians,” in Frank E. Gaebelein, ed. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 11 [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979], 276–77)

Further, in 1 Corinthians 15:51 Paul referred to the Rapture as a mystery; that is, a truth formerly hidden but now revealed. That indicates that Jesus did not disclose the details of the Rapture during His earthly ministry. (He referred to the Rapture in John 14:1–3 in a general, nonspecific sense.) Paul’s teaching on the Rapture was new revelation, possibly given by God through a prophet (such as Agabus; Acts 21:11) but more likely directly to Paul himself.

The Rapture, then, does not rest on the shaky foundation of whimsical theological speculation, but on the sure foundation of the death, resurrection, and revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ.

THE PATRICIPANTS

we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. (4:15b)

Two groups of people will participate in the Rapture: those who are alive at the coming of the Lord and those who have fallen asleep. That Paul used the plural pronoun we indicates that he believed the Rapture could happen in his lifetime. He had a proper anticipation of and expectation for the Lord’s return, though unlike many throughout church history, the apostle did not predict a specific time for it. He accepted Christ’s words in Matthew 24:36, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”

Several other passages express Paul’s fervent hope and expectation that he himself might be among those who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord. In Romans 13:11 he wrote, “Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.” The salvation of which he wrote was the redemption of the body (Rom. 8:23) that takes place when Christ returns. “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51–52). As he concluded that letter Paul wrote, “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. Maranatha” (1 Cor. 16:22). Maranatha comes from two Aramaic words that mean “Oh Lord, come!” and expresses Paul’s strong hope that the Lord would return soon.

THE STEPS OF THE RAPTURE

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. (4:16–17)

Having reassured the Thessalonians that their departed loved ones will not miss out on the Rapture, Paul gave a step-by-step description of that event.

First, the Lord Himself will return for His church. He will not send angels for it, in contrast to the gathering of the elect (tribulation saints) that takes place at the Second Coming (Mark 13:26–27).

Second, Jesus will descend from heaven, where He has been since His ascension (Acts 1:9–11), “at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3).

Third, when Jesus comes down from heaven, He will do so with a shout. Keleusma (command) has a military ring to it, as if the Commander is calling His troops to fall in. The dead saints in their resurrected bodies will join the raptured living believers in the ranks. The Lord’s shout of command will be similar to His raising of Lazarus, when “He cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth’” (John 11:43). This is the hour “when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live” (John 5:25). The righteous dead of the church age will be the first to rise—a truth that must have greatly comforted the anxious Thessalonians.

Fourth, the voice of the archangel will sound. There is no definite article in the Greek text, which literally reads, “an archangel.” In Jude 9, the only other passage in Scripture that mentions an archangel, the archangel is Michael. He adds his voice to the Lord’s shout of command.

Fifth, to the Lord’s command and the archangel’s voice will be added the sounding of the trumpet of God (cf. 1 Cor. 15:52). Trumpets were used in Scripture for many reasons. The trumpet at the Rapture has no connection to the trumpets of judgment in Revelation 8–11. It seems to have a twofold purpose: to assemble God’s people (cf. Ex. 19:16–19) and to signal His deliverance of them (cf. Zech. 1:16; 9:14–16).

Sixth, the dead in Christ will rise first. As noted above, the dead saints will in no way be inferior to those alive at the Rapture. In fact, they will rise first, their glorified bodies joining with their glorified spirits to make them into the image of Christ.

Finally, those believers who are alive and remain will be caught up together with the dead saints in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Harpazō (caught up) refers to a strong, irresistible, even violent act. In Matthew 11:12 it describes the taking of the kingdom of heaven by force. In Acts 8:39 it speaks of Philip’s being snatched away from the Ethiopian eunuch; and in 2 Corinthians 12:2, 4 it describes Paul’s being caught up into the third heaven.

It is when living believers are caught up that they are transformed and receive their glorified bodies (Phil. 3:21). “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” believers “will be changed” (1 Cor. 15:52), rescued from the grasp of Satan, the fallen flesh, the evil world system, and the coming wrath of God.

A CASE FOR A PRETRIBULATION RAPTURE – TIMING OF THE RAPTURE

The time of the Rapture cannot be discerned from this passage alone. But when it is read with other Rapture texts (John 14:3; Rev. 3:10; cf. 1 Cor. 15:51–52; Phil. 3:2–21), and compared to judgment texts (Matt. 13:34–50; 24:29–44; Rev. 19:11–21), it is clear that there is no mention of judgment at all in the Rapture passages, whereas the others are major on judgment. It is therefore necessary to conclude that the Rapture occurs at a time other than the judgment.

It is best, then, to separate the two events. That initiates the case for the Rapture to occur imminently, before the elements of judgment described in Scripture as leading up to the Second Coming in judgment.

Again, no solitary text of Scripture makes the entire case for the pretribulation Rapture. However, when one considers all the New Testament evidence, a very compelling case for the pretribulational position emerges, which answers more questions and solves more problems than any other Rapture position. The following arguments present a strong case in favor of the pretribulation Rapture.

First, the earthly kingdom of Christ promised in Revelation 6–18 does not mention the church as being on earth. Because Revelation 1–3 uses the Greek word for church nineteen times, one would reasonably assume that if the church were on earth rather than in heaven in chapters 6–18, they would use “church” with similar frequency, but such is not the case. Therefore, one can assume that the church is not present on the earth during the period of tribulation described in Revelation 6–18 and that therefore the Lord has removed it from the earth and relocated it to heaven by means of the Rapture.

Second, Revelation 19 does not mention a Rapture even though that is where a posttribulational Rapture (if true) would logically occur. Thus, one can conclude that the Rapture will have already occurred.

Third, a posttribulational Rapture renders the Rapture concept itself inconsequential. If God preserves the church during the Tribulation, as posttribulationists assert, then why have a Rapture at all? It makes no sense to Rapture believers from earth to heaven for no apparent purpose other than to return them immediately with Christ to earth. Further, a posttribulational Rapture makes the unique separation of the sheep (believers) from the goats (unbelievers) at the return of Christ in judgment redundant because a posttribulational Rapture would have already accomplished that.

Fourth, if God raptures and glorifies all believers just prior to the inauguration of the millennial kingdom (as a posttribulational Rapture demands), no one would be left to populate and propagate the earthly kingdom of Christ promised to Israel. It is not within the Lord’s plan and purpose to use glorified individuals to propagate the earth during the Millennium. Therefore, the Rapture needs to occur earlier so that after God has raptured all believers, He can save more souls —including Israel’s remnant—during the seven-year Tribulation. Those people can then enter the millennial kingdom in earthly form. The most reasonable possibility for this scenario is the pretribulational Rapture.

Fifth, the New Testament does not warn of an impending tribulation, such as is experienced during Daniel’s seventieth week, for church-age believers. It does warn of error and false prophets (Acts 20:29–30; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1–3), against ungodly living (Eph. 4:25–5:7; 1 Thess. 4:3–8; Heb. 12:1), and of present tribulation (1 Thess. 2:14–16; 2 Thess. 1:4; all of 2 Peter). Thus it is incongruous that the New Testament would be silent concerning such a traumatic change as Daniel’s seventieth week if posttribulationism were true.

Sixth, Paul’s instructions here to the Thessalonians demand a pretribulational Rapture because, if Paul were teaching them posttribulationism, one would expect them to rejoice that loved ones were home with the Lord and spared the horrors of the Tribulation. But, in actuality, the Thessalonians grieved. In addition, with a posttribulational teaching one would expect them to sorrow over their own impending trial and inquire about their future doom; however, they expressed no such dread or questioning. Further, one might expect Paul to instruct and exhort them concerning such a supreme test as the Tribulation, but Paul wrote only about the hope of the Rapture.

Seventh, the sequence of events at Christ’s coming following the Tribulation demands a pretribulational Rapture. A comparing and contrasting of Rapture passages with Second Coming passages yields strong indicators that the Rapture could not be posttribulational. For example: (a) at the Rapture, Christ gathers His own (vv. 16–17 of the present passage), but at the Second Coming, angels gather the elect (Matt. 24:31); (b) at the Rapture, resurrection is prominent (vv. 15–16 of the present passage), but regarding the Second Coming, Scripture does not mention the resurrection; (c) at the Rapture, Christ comes to reward believers (v. 17 of the present passage), but at the Second Coming, Christ comes to judge the earth (Matt. 25:31–46); (d) at the Rapture, the Lord snatches away true believers from the earth (vv. 15–17 of the present passage), but at the Second Coming, He takes away unbelievers (Matt. 24:37–41); (e) at the Rapture, unbelievers remain on the earth, whereas at the Second Coming, believers remain on the earth; (f) concerning the Rapture, Scripture does not mention the establishment of Christ’s kingdom, but at His second coming, Christ sets up His kingdom; and (g) at the Rapture, believers will receive glorified bodies, whereas at the Second Coming, no one will receive glorified bodies.

Eighth, certain of Jesus’ teachings demand a pretribulational Rapture. For instance, the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matt. 13:24–30) portrays the reapers (angels) removing the tares (unbelievers) from among the wheat (believers) in order to judge the tares, which demonstrates that at the Second Coming, the Lord has unbelievers removed from among believers. However, at the Rapture, He takes believers from among unbelievers. This is also true in the parable of the dragnet (Matt. 13:47–50) and in the discussion of the days of Noah and the description of the nations’ judgment, both in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24–25).

Ninth, Revelation 3:10 teaches that the Lord will remove the church prior to the Tribulation. In the Greek, the phrase “I also will keep you from” can mean nothing other than “I will prevent you from entering into.” Jesus Christ will honor the church by preventing it from entering the hour of testing, namely Daniel’s seventieth week, which is about to come upon the entire world. Only a pretribulational Rapture can explain how this will happen.

Thus, the Rapture (being caught up) must be pretribulational, before the wrath of God described in the Tribulation (Rev. 6–19). At the Rapture, living believers will be caught up together with the believers raised from the dead as the church triumphant joins the church militant to become the church glorified.

The final step in the plan of the Rapture is the blessed, comforting truth that after Christ returns to gather us (believers) to Himself, we shall always be with the Lord.

THE PROFIT OF THE RAPTURE

Therefore comfort one another with these words. (4:18)

The benefit of understanding the Rapture is not to fill the gaps in one’s eschatological scheme. As noted at the beginning of this chapter, Paul’s goal in teaching the Thessalonians about the Rapture was to comfort them. The “God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3) grants to all believers the encouraging comfort of knowing that Christ will one day return for them. At that monumental event, the dead in Christ will be raised, join with the living saints in experiencing a complete transformation of body and soul, and be with God forever. Therefore, there was no need for the Thessalonians to grieve or sorrow over their fellow believers who had died. No wonder Paul calls the return of Christ “the blessed hope” (Titus 2:13).

THE ANTICHRIST REVEALED AFTER THE RAPTURE

“Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 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 has come.” (2 Thes. 2:1–2)

This final Antichrist, as Scripture depicts him, has yet to appear on the world’s stage. And since he must appear before the Day of the Lord begins, the Thessalonians’ fears that they were already in that terrible time of judgment were groundless. Based on that truth, Paul made an urgent request of them to properly comprehend the events surrounding the Second Coming.

“Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?” (2 Thes. 2:3–5)

Out of all the precursors of the Day of the Lord (e.g., Joel 2:31; 3:14; Mal. 4:5), Paul singled out the apostasy. He was not, of course, setting a posttribulational date for the Rapture. His point was merely that the apostasy will precede the Day of the Lord and since it has not yet taken place at the time he wrote to them, the Day of the Lord could not have arrived.

The basic meaning of apostasia (apostasy) is “revolt,” or “rebellion.” The word marks a deliberate defection from a formerly held religious position. Paul was not referring here to apostasy (defection from the gospel truth) in the general sense. There have always been apostate churches, like that at Laodicea (Rev. 3:14–22), as well as apostate individuals (Heb. 10:25–31; 2 Peter 2:20–22). Such generalized apostasy, because it is always present, cannot signify a particular time period.

Apostasy will reach its peak in the end times: “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these…. But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Tim. 3:1–5, 13; cf. 1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Peter 3:3–4; Jude 17–18)

Nor does Paul have in mind the apostasy during the Tribulation, of which Jesus warned in Matt.  24:11–12, 24. The apostasy will be a blasphemous act of unprecedented magnitude. The apostle identified the apostasy by naming the key character connected with it: the man of lawlessness. Understanding who that key person is, is a prerequisite to identifying the apostasy event. Anomia (lawlessness) literally means “without law” (cf. 1 John 3:4). Even in the end times, when “lawlessness is increased” (Matt. 24:12), this Satan-energized leader will stand out as the one whose depraved, wicked, lawless leadership sweeps over the whole world—with influence never before seen.

The aorist tense of the verb translated revealed points to a definite time when this man will appear. It implies that he was previously present and known, but his act of apostasy will unveil his true evil identity.

The title man of lawlessness has been identified with many different individuals, including Antiochus Epiphanes, Caligula, Nero, and in the last century, Hitler, Stalin, and others. But the close association of the man of lawlessness with the Day of the Lord rules out historical persons; otherwise, the Day of the Lord might have come centuries ago. The man of lawlessness cannot be Satan, for he is distinguished from the devil in verse 9. Nor can this be a reference to a principle of evil, for the text specifically identifies him as a man. He can be none other than the final Antichrist.

The Antichrist will exalt himself by taking his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. The temple, the symbol of God’s presence, is the most fitting place for Satan to orchestrate the ultimate act of blasphemy—a wicked man displaying himself as being God. This apostasy, to which Paul refers here and which Jesus called the “abomination of desolation” (Matt. 24:15), referring to Daniel’s prophecy, will take place at the midpoint of the Tribulation (Dan. 9:27). Then, there is coming a satanic false religion that will dominate the world like no other in history (cf. Rev. 17).

“And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. Then that lawless one will be revealed that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, (2 Thes. 2:6–10a)

As the phrase and you know indicates, the Thessalonians understood what force currently restrains the Antichrist because Paul had told them when he was with them. Therefore, he did not repeat it here—a fact that has led to endless speculation as to what it is. The Greek verb translated restrains (katechō; “to hold back,” “to hold down,” “to suppress”) appears in this text as a neuter participle, prompting commentators to suggest numerous options as to the identity of that restraining force. But basically none of those opinions is satisfactory. The most significant problem with all of them is that they are human forces.

The most logical of those choices, the church, has never been able to restrain even human evil. It may do so to some extent in the lives of its members, but the outside world continues to grow worse and worse—a situation that will especially characterize the end times (2 Tim. 3:13). If no human or angelic power restrains, that leaves only the power of God to hold back the purpose of Satan for his Antichrist.

Though the Antichrist may be restrained, evil will not be; in fact, the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Mustērion (mystery) describes something “which has been kept secret for long ages past” (Rom. 16:25) and is incapable of being known unless revealed by God. The true character of lawlessness is already at work (cf. 1 John 3:4); and “even now many antichrists have appeared” (1 John 2:18; cf. 4:3). Evil, lies, hypocrisy, immorality, and false religion permeate the world and grow increasingly worse, so that every generation is more wicked than those before (2 Tim. 3:13), but sin’s ultimate manifestation is yet to come. When the restraint is removed and the Antichrist appears, the true character of evil will be manifested. It should be noted that not only will the man of lawlessness be revealed, but God will also release demons from being bound in hell to inundate the earth (Rev. 9:1–19).

The change in gender from the neuter participle translated “what restrains” in verse 6 to the masculine participle rendered he who … restrains is significant. The sovereign, divine force that currently restrains the Antichrist is exerted by a person—the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13 where Jesus used a masculine pronoun with the neuter noun translated “Spirit”). Only He has the supernatural power to hold Satan in check.

He will continue His restraining work until the midpoint of the Tribulation. The removal of the Holy Spirit’s restraint therefore cannot be identified with the Rapture of the church, since that event takes place three and a half years earlier, before the Tribulation. Remember that the Holy Spirit needs to be present during the first half when the Gospel is preached by the 144,000 Jewish evangelists, the two witnesses and the flying angel.

The phrase taken out of the way must therefore not be interpreted to mean that the Holy Spirit will be removed from the world. That is impossible, since He is omnipresent. Nor could anyone be saved during the Tribulation (cf. Rev. 7:14) apart from His regenerating work (John 3:3–8; Titus 3:5). The phrase refers not to the removal of the Holy Spirit from the world, but rather to the cessation of His restraining work.

The Antichrist’s power and signs and false wonders will not only be deceptive tricks, like falsifying his own death and resurrection (Rev. 13:3, 12, 14; 17:8, 11), but also actual manifestations of Satan’s supernatural power. They will cause people to believe the lie that he is a divine being and worship him. John saw that the Antichrist’s deluded followers “worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?’” (Rev. 13:4; cf. vv. 12–15). Antichrist will mislead the world with all the deception … wickedness has at its disposal.

The Antichrist’s malevolent, deceptive, deadly influence will extend to all those who perish. Only God’s elect will not be taken in (Matt. 24:24). The unregenerate, being children of the arch-liar Satan (John 8:44), will inevitably fall for the lies of his emissary (cf. 1 Cor. 2:14; 2 Cor. 4:3–4). Through him, Satan will deceive the whole world (Rev. 12:9); all those who “[receive] the mark of the beast and those who [worship] his image” (Rev. 19:20; cf. 2 Cor. 4:4).

“because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.” (2 Thes. 2:10b–12)

The phrase the love of the truth appears only here in the New Testament, and adds a compelling thought to Paul’s argument. The unregenerate are eternally lost, not because they did not hear or understand the truth, but because they did not love it. The truth includes both “the word of truth, the gospel” (Col. 1:5), and the Lord Jesus Christ, who is truth incarnate (John 14:6; cf. 1:17; Eph. 4:21).

The terrifying reality is that God will seal the fate of those who hate the gospel by sending upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false. He will sentence unbelievers to accept evil as if it were good and lies as if they were the truth. Those who continually choose falsehood will be inextricably caught by it.

God will use Satan as an instrument of His judgment, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. Satan will, through Antichrist and the false prophet, delude the world into believing the lie that Antichrist is God. Unbelievers will be confirmed in that belief because they will choose not to love the truth, but rather to take pleasure in wickedness.

THE COMING OF THE DAY OF THE LORD

“Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.” (1 Thes. 5:1–3)

After the world experienced the terror of two world wars, the horror of the Holocaust, the brutality of the Korean conflict, the hopeless futility of the war in Vietnam, as well as innumerable revolutions, riots, assassinations, and acts of terrorism, a crucial question is, Where (if anywhere) is history going?

The Bible reveals history to be the outworking of the purposeful plan of the sovereign, creator God. Job confessed, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).

Through the prophet Isaiah, God declared, “My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure” (Isa. 46:10), and “I act and who can reverse it?” (Isa. 43:13). Jesus Christ is the central figure in history; the Old Testament points to His coming, and the New Testament describes and expounds His life, death, resurrection, and second coming.

As history continues to unfold the eternally planned purposes of God, one event looms large on the horizon: the Day of the Lord. That event will mark the end of man’s day, as God acts in judgment to take back direct control of the earth from the usurpers (both human and demonic) who presently rule it. It will be an unprecedented time of cataclysmic judgment on all unrepentant sinners.

Most preachers strive to be positive, affirming, and comforting, and hence rarely preach on God’s wrath, vengeance, and judgment. But to ignore such truth is to “shrink from declaring … the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27). It is to forsake the preacher’s responsibility to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2). Scripture repeatedly warns of God’s judgment and the eternal punishment of unbelievers. Judgment was a major emphasis of both the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles. But the one who spoke most often about judgment was the Lord Jesus Christ. All true preachers must follow His example, as did Paul (cf. 1:10; 2:16; 4:6; 5:9; 2 Thess. 1:5–9).

Paul had preached the sobering truth about the Day of the Lord to the Thessalonians during his relatively brief stay in their city (2 Thess. 2:5). After he left, questions arose in their minds about both the Rapture and the Day of the Lord. Timothy likely conveyed those concerns to Paul when he returned from his trip to Thessalonica (3:2, 6). Having answered their questions about the Rapture in the previous passage (4:13–18), Paul now dealt with the Thessalonians’ concerns about the Day of the Lord. From the blessed event of the catching away of the church, Paul turned to the horrible event that follows it —the destruction of the wicked rejecters of the Lord Jesus Christ. As it was in dealing with the Rapture, Paul’s purpose in writing this section on the Day of the Lord was not primarily theological and eschatological but pastoral and practical.

The phrase the times (chronos) and the epochs (kairos) refers in a general sense to the end times (cf. Dan. 2:21; Acts 1:7). Though the two words may be used here in an overlapping sense, there is a subtle difference in meaning between them. Chronos refers to chronological time, to clock time or calendar time. Kairos, on the other hand, views time in terms of events, eras, or seasons, such as the times of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24). Taken together, the two terms suggest that the Thessalonians were curious about the timing of the end-time events. That both nouns are plural indicates that many different time periods (cf. Dan. 7:25; 9:24–27; 12:7, 11, 12; Rev. 11:2–3; 13:5) and events (e.g., the Rapture, the rise of Antichrist, the salvation of Israel, the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments, the Second Coming, the battle of Armageddon, the sheep and goat judgment, the binding of Satan, the millennial kingdom, the loosing of Satan and subsequent worldwide rebellion at the end of the Millennium, the Great White Throne judgment, and the new heavens and the new earth) make up the end times.

As Paul replied to the Thessalonians’ questions about the Day of the Lord, Paul discussed three aspects of that momentous event: its coming, character, and completeness.

For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” (5:2–3a)

What the Thessalonians already knew full well was that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night—suddenly, unexpectedly, unwelcomed, and harmfully. It will be a terrifying shock to those who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ. Akribōs (full well) describes careful, accurate, painstaking research (cf. Matt. 2:8; Luke 1:3; Acts 18:25). The Thessalonians knew for certain that the Day of the Lord will arrive unexpectedly. Obviously, then, the time of its arrival will not be revealed; no sane thief announces in advance what time of the night he plans to rob someone.

In the Olivet Discourse—Jesus’ own sermon on His second coming—He also used the imagery of a thief in the night to refer to the unexpectedness of His return:

“But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into” (Matt. 24:43; cf. Rev. 16:15). Like the Day of the Lord, the exact time of the Second Coming will not be revealed, though there will be signs that Christ’s return is imminent (Matt. 24:4–33). Jesus put every generation on notice that they must live in expectation of His return and the events of the Day of the Lord that lead up to it.

The metaphor of a thief coming is never used to refer to the Rapture of the church. It describes the coming of the Lord in judgment at the end of the seven year Tribulation period, and the judgment at the end of the thousand-year kingdom of Christ on earth (2 Peter 3:10). A thief coming is not a hopeful, joyful event of deliverance, but an unexpected calamity.

The important biblical term the day of the Lord describes God’s cataclysmic future judgment on the wicked. It is mentioned explicitly nineteen times in the Old Testament (Isa. 2:12; 13:6, 9; Ezek. 13:5; 30:3; Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14; Amos 5:18 [2 times], 20; Obad. 15; Zeph. 1:7, 14 [2 times]; Zech. 14:1; Mal. 4:5) and four times in the New Testament (cf. Acts 2:20; 2 Thess. 2:2; 2 Peter 3:10), and is alluded to in other passages (cf. Rev. 6:17; 16:14). It will be the time when God pours out His fury on the wicked; in fact, Scripture three times calls the Day of the Lord the “day of vengeance” (Isa. 34:8; 61:2; 63:4).

The Day of the Lord must be distinguished from the “day of Christ” (Phil. 1:10; 2:16), the “day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6), the “day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor. 5:5), and the “day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:8); all of those terms refer to the time when believers will receive their rewards from the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 14:10; 1 Cor. 3:11–14; 4:1–5; 2 Cor. 5:9–10). The Day of the Lord must also be distinguished from the “day of God” (2 Peter 3:12), which refers to the eternal state.

The Old Testament passages dealing with the Day of the Lord often convey a sense of imminence, nearness, and expectation: “Wail, for the day of the Lord is near!” (Isa. 13:6); “For the day is near, even the day of the Lord is near” (Ezek. 30:3); “For the day of the Lord is near” (Joel 1:15); “Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; surely it is near” (Joel 2:1);

“Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision” (Joel 3:14); “For the day of the Lord draws near on all the nations” (Obad. 15); “Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is near” (Zeph. 1:7); “Near is the great day of the Lord, near and coming very quickly” (Zeph. 1:14).

The Old Testament prophets envisioned historical days of the Lord that would preview the final, eschatological Day of the Lord. God often used providentially controlled circumstances, such as using one nation to destroy another, or natural disasters, as instruments of His judgment. But those historical days of the Lord were merely a prelude to the final eschatological Day of the Lord, which will be far greater in extent and more terrible in its destruction. The Old Testament Day of the Lord passages often have both a near and a far fulfillment, as does much Old Testament prophecy.

The Day of the Lord will not come until “the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God” (2 Thess. 2:3–4). The rise of Antichrist and his desecration of the temple (Dan. 9:27; 11:31; 12:11; Matt. 24:15) will precede the coming of the Day of the Lord.

Unbelievably, incomprehensibly, despite these obvious, unmistakable signs, most people will still be caught by surprise when the Day of the Lord comes.

The terrible outpouring of God’s wrath in judgment will happen while they are saying, “Peace and safety!” The only explanation for such a ludicrous, absurd response is that people will be deceived by false prophets. God declared of the false prophets who plagued Israel: “It is definitely because they have misled My people by saying, “Peace!” when there is no peace. And when anyone builds a wall, behold, …. And you will know that I am the Lord. Thus I will spend My wrath on the wall and on those who have plastered it over with whitewash; and I will say to you, ‘The wall is gone and its plasterers are gone, along with the prophets of Israel who prophesy to Jerusalem, and who see visions of peace for her when there is no peace,’” declares the Lord God. (Ezek. 13:10–16)

Unbelievers’ susceptibility to the false prophets’ deception is a sign of God’s judgment on them. In 2 Thessalonians 2:10–12 Paul wrote that those deceived by the Antichrist will “perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.” As a result, the sudden, unexpected coming of the Day of the Lord will sweep them away in judgment.

THE CHARACTER OF THE DAY OF THE LORD

then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, (5:3b)

In 2 Thessalonians 2:3 Paul reminded the Thessalonians that the Day of the Lord (v. 2) “will not come unless the apostasy comes first.” That apostasy will include a worldwide system of false religion.

Olethros (destruction) does not refer to annihilation, but separation from God (cf. 2 Thess. 1:9). It does not mean the destruction of being, but of well-being (cf. 1 Tim. 6:9); not the end of existence, but the destruction of the purpose for existence. God will accomplish the destruction of unbelievers by casting them into the eternal torment of hell (2 Thess. 1:9).

Acts 2:19–20 describes the Day of the Lord as a time of “wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come.”

By using the term them (a reference to unbelievers), Paul reassured the Thessalonians that they will not face destruction. As he states plainly in verse 4, the Thessalonians will not experience the Day of the Lord; they will be raptured before it begins. As noted earlier, the Day of the Lord will come suddenly and unexpectedly on unbelievers. They will fail to heed the many precursors that should have warned them of its imminent arrival, just as labor pains coming upon a woman with child warn her that the birth of her child is imminent.

and they will not escape. (5:3c)

The tragic result of unbelievers’ unpreparedness for the Day of the Lord is that they will not escape divine judgment. The use of the double negative ou mē stresses the comprehensiveness of the Day of the Lord, which will bring destruction on every unbeliever alive when it comes. In the sobering, pensive words of the writer of Hebrews, “How will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Heb. 2:3).

Believers should be comforted by the reality that they will be raptured before the coming of the Day of the Lord and not experience its horrors.

THE DISTINCTIVENESS OF BELIEVERS’ NATURE

But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; (5:4–5)

The phrase but you introduces a contrast with verse 3, where Paul used the pronouns “they” and “them” to refer to unbelievers who will not escape the Day of the Lord. The familial term brethren further emphasizes Paul’s point. As God’s children, the Thessalonians would not experience the Day of the Lord, because unlike unbelievers, believers are not in darkness; they possess an entirely different nature. They do not belong to the night; they are not part of Satan’s evil kingdom.

Because their nature is distinct from unbelievers, believers need not fear that the day would  overtake them like a thief. The Day of the Lord is a “day of darkness” (Joel 2:2; Zeph. 1:15); “the day of the Lord … will be darkness and not light…. Will not the day of the Lord be darkness instead of light?” (Amos 5:18, 20). It is for the night people; thus day people need not fear the Day of the Lord; they will not be part of it.

Far from being in the darkness, believers are all sons of light and sons of day (cf. Luke 16:8; John 12:36; Eph. 5:8).

For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. (5:9–11)

The most sobering truth in Scripture is that God will judge the wicked and sentence them to eternal hell (Matt. 3:12; 13:40–42, 50; 18:8; 25:41, 46; John 3:36; 5:29; Acts 24:25; Rom. 2:5, 8; 9:22; 2 Thess. 1:9; Heb. 6:2; 10:26–27; 2 Peter 2:9; 3:7; Rev. 14:9–11; 20:11–15; 21:8). On the other hand, the blessed truth for believers is that God has not destined us for wrath (cf. 1:10; John 3:18, 36; 5:24; Rom. 5:1, 9; 8:1, 33–34).

Believers will not experience the wrath God will pour out on unbelievers on the Day of the Lord, and for eternity in hell. The word destined expresses the inexorable outworking of God’s sovereign plan for believers’ salvation. In Matthew 25:34 Jesus promised that believers will “inherit the kingdom prepared for [them] from the foundation of the world.”

Orgē (wrath) does not refer to a momentary outburst of rage, but to “an abiding and settled habit of mind” (Richard C. Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament [reprint; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983], 131). It is a general reference to the final judgment, when God’s wrath will be poured out on the wicked (Matt. 3:7; John 3:36; Rom. 1:18; 2:5, 8; 3:5; 4:15; 5:9; 9:22; 12:19; Eph. 5:6; Col. 3:6; Rev. 14:9–11). But God’s wrath here must also include the Day of the Lord, since that was the Thessalonians’ primary concern. Paul assured them that they would face neither temporal wrath on the Day of the Lord (cf. Rev. 6:17), nor eternal wrath in hell.

The marvelous reality is that all believers will live together with Him, as Jesus Himself promised:

Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:1–3; cf. 1 Thess. 4:17) They will live forever in God’s glorious presence, where “there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 22:5).

Paul concluded his discussion of the Day of the Lord by exhorting the Thessalonians to encourage one another and build up one another. Based on the truth he had given them, they were to reassure the anxious and fearful that they would not experience the Day of the Lord. His concluding phrase, just as you also are doing, affirms that they were already committed to encouragement.

“we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure. This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering.” (2 Thes. 1:4–5)

Paul expressed that pride because he was greatly encouraged by the Thessalonians’ spiritual growth and the absence of significant problems in the congregation, irrespective of all the persecutions and afflictions which they endured. Instead of being consumed with personal happiness, fulfillment, comfort, success, or prosperity, they were living out Jesus’ command to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matt. 6:33).

Their suffering was not, of course, the basis of the Thessalonians’ salvation but the evidence of it. Through His purging, chastening, purifying work in their lives, God prepared them to be worthy of the kingdom, for “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22; cf. 1 Thess. 2:12; 1 Peter 5:10).

“it is only just for God … to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well … when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed.” (2 Thes 1:6a, 7a–b, 10)

Not only will Christ return to bring retribution to unbelievers but also to give relief to believers. Just as God’s justice demands that He bring retribution on unbelievers, so also it is only just for Him to give relief to the redeemed. The due penalty for sin has been paid by the Lamb of God; divine justice has been satisfied by His death for sinners; believers’ eternal rest is secure.

When He comes, two things will happen that will bring relief to believers. First, Christ will be glorified in His saints on that day. There is coming a day in which God will be glorified through believers in a manner never before seen.

This is the glorious manifestation of believers that Paul wrote about in Romans 8:18–19: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.” This glorification will be the final and full redemption of all believers alive when Jesus Christ comes in glory. That requires some explanation. Some believers will already be in the glorified condition, having been raptured before the Tribulation. They will have been in heaven since then in the place prepared for them (John 14:1–3) in resurrection glory enjoying their rewards and fellowship with their Lord. They will return with Christ (Rev. 19:14) to the earth for the Millennium, to join the saints still alive on earth who will receive the earthly kingdom and reign of the Savior. Apparently at the time of Christ’s return, Tribulation saints and Old Testament saints, whose spirits have been with the Lord, will be raised and fully glorified to join those descending from heaven.

This is the resurrection spoken of by Daniel: “Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” (Dan. 12:1–3)

All the living believers who enter the kingdom will see the glorified saints.

Second, believers will be marveled at among all who have believed. Since only believers enter the kingdom, as the judgment of the sheep and goats makes clear (cf. Matt. 25:31–46; Rev. 20:6), the redeemed will wonder at the glory of Christ that is fully revealed in the resurrected saints.

Lest the Thessalonians fear that they might miss out on the relief Christ will bring when He returns, Paul reminded them that they would be among the glorified saints because our testimony to you was believed.

(Main Source: New Testament Commentary 1& 2 Thessalonians – John MacArthur)

DOWNLOADABLE FILE : THE BLESSED HOPE OF THE THESSALONIANS

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THE RAPTURE SERIES 11: PROPHETIC SHADOWS OF THE RAPTURE

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The apostle Peter makes a profound statement in 1st Peter 2:5, “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” Peter is describing the believers as “lively stones:” stones used to build a spiritual house.

To build a house you need stones, bricks, blocks, lumber, steel, and concrete. The ultimate destiny of all these materials is to be used in putting the house together so that it can be occupied.

As the work progresses, the day comes when the last stone is placed into the walls of the house and it is finished. What happens then? The owner comes and occupies the house!

Solomon’s Temple Made by Gentiles

We need to take a look at the building of Solomon’s temple as the spiritual temple. Unlike the tabernacle in the wilderness that was built by the Israelites, the glorious temple that stood on Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem was prefabricated by Gentiles. We find the record of this project in 2nd Chronicles 2:17-18, “… Solomon numbered all the strangers that were in the land of Israel, after the numbering wherewith David his father had numbered them; and they were found an hundred and fifty thousand and three thousand and six hundred. And he set threescore and ten thousand of them to be bearers of burdens, and fourscore thousand to be hewers in the mountain, and three thousand and six hundred overseers to set the people awork.”

Today’s modern machinery manufactures all kinds of goods for average people to put together. Most of us have bought furniture such as a shelf or a cabinet that needed to be assembled. Excitedly we brought it home, took it out of the box, unwrapped it, and looked at all the parts. After carefully reading the instructions, we assembled it. Yet, often we were disappointed because the parts did not fit together perfectly. We might have had to drill an extra hole or enlarge an existing one. If that has been your experience, you are not alone. This kind of thing happens every day.

Yet, when we read about the assembling of the temple in Jerusalem, we notice it was absolutely perfect, “… the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither: so that there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building” (1st Kings 6:7). For all practical purposes, we can say that the temple built of stone in Jerusalem was a technological miracle.

The Spiritual Temple Will Be Finished

After the temple was finished, it was dedicated. We read of this in the fifth and sixth chapters of 2nd Chronicles. Solomon prayed extensively and in very precise detail, then followed God’s answer in chapter 7, “Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the house. And the priests could not enter into the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD had filled the LORD’s house. And when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the Lord upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever” (verses 1-3). God took possession of His house. Even the service of the priests became insignificant; the holiness of the Lord had filled the temple.

Church And World Look Alike

This is a wonderful picture of the Church of Jesus Christ. Right now, we are insignificant “stones “in our earthly tabernacle, yet nothing is apparent of the glory of God which already dwells within us.

In an airport, a shopping center, or a large city, thousands of people walk by, none of whom have any visible characteristics that would identify them as Christians. That is because we are still in our “old tabernacles” which have no promise. However, within these old tabernacles are the perfect “stones” that will fit perfectly into this new glorious spiritual temple but will remain hidden from all natural eyes.

Silently, without any spectacles, and neither depending on nor disregarding the organizational structure of the local church, Christian ministries and denominations, the Lord is building His Church, adding to it daily such as should be saved. The moment the last “stone ” is added to the temple, “fire will come down from heaven, ” that is, Jesus will appear in the clouds of Heaven and our old, natural body will be consumed and translated in a split-second. In the twinkling of an eye, we will suddenly be transformed into the likeness of His glorious body. In that instant, we will recognize the perfect, glorious, spiritual habitation of God!

Prophetic Necessities Of The Rapture

While no signs are directly connected to the Rapture, we do know that the regathering of the nation of Israel is a visible sign that the time is close at hand. At this moment, Israel is still blind and remains an enemy of the Gospel for our sake. But we know that God will fulfill every promise He has given His people. In the near future, they will recognize Him whom they have pierced.

The fact that this time grows closer every day, and that at least seven years must lie between the Rapture of the Church and Israel’s salvation, we realize that time is indeed running out. Are you ready?

Another Gospel=Another Church

The apostle Paul’s great concern was the building of the body of Christ. Read his words, “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2nd Corinthians 11:2). Paul’s concern was justified because many were preaching another Jesus. “For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted” (2nd Corinthians 11:4). False doctrine produces a false gospel, a false Jesus, false apostles, a false angel of light, and false ministers of unrighteousness. Let’s read this important statement, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (verses 13-15).

This warning exposes the fact that Satan, with his cunning devices, is imitating the Church of Jesus Christ. What is his reason? So that people will not be able to distinguish between the counterfeit and the genuine! Jesus is building His Church based on election and segregation; only those who believe can become genuine members. The devil builds his global church through integration; all become one in his religion.

When Will The Church Be Complete?

The fact that the Lord used a building as an example of the Church helps us to understand that the work of laying the foundation was completed almost 2,000 years ago. The building has been under construction ever since, and it is my personal conviction that it is almost finished. I believe the roof is on the house, the painters are inside and the furniture is being delivered. Therefore, the attempt to raise a Church in the likeness of the original one in Jerusalem is not only destined to fail, but the great imitator is the major driving force behind such ideas. Satan is building another church, but it is a false one!

We have already seen how the Old Testament temple of Solomon was built; it was perfect. The Church of Jesus Christ is perfect. We must not permit ourselves to become ensnared by the imitation being offered today. In the same way that the presence of the glory of God filled the house, God intends His presence to fill His Church. That, however, cannot fully take place while we remain in our old nature of flesh and blood. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that the Rapture take place, and at that time we shall receive our glorified bodies. The Church simultaneously constitutes the Bride of Christ and the perfect habitation of God in the Spirit.

Replacement Theology

It is significant that we repeat our admonition to make a distinction between the Church and Israel. In the April 1995 edition of Pre-Trib Perspectives, Thomas Ice quoted the following from Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s, Issues in Dispensationalism:

Six reasons supporting the notion that the Church is a distinct work in God’s household from His people Israel.

1)    The first evidence is the fact that the Church was born at Pentecost, whereas Israel had existed for many centuries. This is supported by “the use of the future tense in Matthew 16:18 which shows that it did not exist in gospel history.” Since the Church born at Pentecost is called the “Body of Christ” (Colossians 1:18), and entrance into the body is through “Spirit baptism” (1st Corinthians 12:13), Jew and Gentile are united through the Church. It is evident that the Church began on the Day of Pentecost since Acts 1:5 views Spirit baptism as future, while Acts 10 links it to the past, specifically to Pentecost.

2)    The second evidence is that certain events in the ministry of the Messiah were essential to the establishment of the Church—the Church does not come into being until certain events have taken place. These events include the resurrection and ascension of Jesus to become head of the Church (Ephesians 1:20-23). “The Church, with believers as the body and Christ as the head, did not exist until after Christ ascended to become its head. And it could not become a functioning entity until after the Holy Spirit provided the necessary spiritual gifts” (Ephesians 4:7-11).

3)    The third evidence is the mystery character of the Church. A mystery in the Bible is a hidden truth not revealed until the New Testament (Ephesians 3:3-5, 9; Colossians 1:26-27). Fruchtenbaum lists “four defining characteristics of the Church [that] are described as a mystery.

(a)    The body concept of Jewish and Gentile believers united into one body is designated as a mystery in Ephesians 3:1-12.

(b)    The doctrine of Christ indwelling every believer, the Christ-in-you concept, is called a mystery in Colossians 1:24-27.

(c)    The Church as the Bride of Christ is called a mystery in Ephesians 5:22-32.

(d)    The Rapture is called a mystery in 1st Corinthians 15:50-58. These four mysteries describe qualities that distinguish the Church from Israel.

4)    The fourth evidence that the Church is distinct from Israel is the unique relationship between Jews and the Gentiles, called one new man in Ephesians 2:15.” During the current church age, God is saving a remnant from the two previous entities (Israel and Gentiles) and combining them into a third new object-the Church. This unity of Jews and Gentiles into one new man covers only the church age, from Pentecost until the Rapture, after which time God will restore Israel and complete her destiny (Acts 15:14-18). 1st Corinthians 10:32 reflects just such a division when it says, “Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the Church of God.”

5)    The fifth evidence for the distinction between Israel and the Church is found in Galatians 6:16. It appears logical to view ‘the house of God’ (Galatians 6:16) as believing Jews in contrast to unbelieving Jews called ‘Israel after the flesh’ (1st Corinthians 10:18). This passage does not support the false claim of replacement theologians who claim that Israel is supplanted by the Church. Instead, the Bible teaches that a remnant of Israel is combined with elect Gentiles during this age to make up a whole new entity the New Testament calls the Church (Ephesians 2).

Replacement theology tries to teach that because Gentile believers are described as the “seed of Abraham” (Galatians 3:29) that this is equivalent to saying that they are Israel. This is clearly not the case. Paul’s description of Gentile believers in Galatians 3:29 simply means that they participate in the spiritual (salvation) blessings, i.e., that come through Israel (Romans 15:27; 1st Corinthians 9:11, 14). “Those who are the spiritual seed are partakers of Jewish spiritual blessings but are never said to become partakers of the physical, material, or national promises.” Therefore, Israel’s national promises are left intact awaiting a yet future fulfillment.

6)    In the book of Acts, both Israel and the Church exist simultaneously. The term Israel is used twenty times and ekklesia (church) nineteen times, yet the two groups are always kept distinct.”

Thus, the replacement theologian has no actual biblical basis for his claim that Israel and the Church have become one, or that the Church has replaced Israel as the fountain of God’s blessing and the Jews are cursed forever for rejecting Christ.

The Significance Of The Distinction

If Israel and the Church are not distinguished between, then there is no basis for seeing a future for Israel or for the Church as a new and unique people of God. If Israel and the Church are merged into a single entity, the Old Testament promises for Israel will never be fulfilled. These promises are usually seen by replacement theologians as spiritually fulfilled by the Church. The merging of Israel’s destiny into the Church’s not only molds into one what the Scriptures understand as two, but it also removes the need for the future restoration of God’s original elect in order to literally fulfill His promise that they will one day be the head and not the tail, “… the Lord shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the Lord thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them” (Deuteronomy 28:13).

The more the believer sees the distinct plan for Israel and the Church, the more he realizes the two separate callings.

A distinction between Israel and the Church, as taught in the Bible, provides a basis of support for the Pre-Trib Rapture. Those who merge these two entities, or replace Israel with the Church, cannot logically support the biblical arguments for the Pre-Trib position.

Before The Foundation Of The World

We do well to understand that the act expressed by our Lord Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross with the words, “…It is finished” was an accomplished fact from eternity and for all eternity. But it had to be fulfilled in “…the fulness of time.” Jesus was before the foundation of the world because He is from eternity. In John 17:24, we read, “…for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” And Ephesians 1:4 makes this statement, “. ..he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world….” Peter confirms, “Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (1st Peter 1:20).

Jesus came in the fullness of time and demonstrated His status as Messiah with great power, accompanied by signs and wonders. He defeated the devil on Calvary’s cross, died, was buried, arose on the third day and ascended into Heaven. He was Raptured! With His Rapture, He became the firstfruit from among the dead.

Victory Over Death

While victory over death has already been accomplished, it is not a visible reality as far as the body is concerned.

Every day, countless believers in the Lord Jesus Christ die and are buried, fulfilling the Scripture, “…absent from the body, and…present with the Lord” (2nd Corinthians 5:8). However, the visible final victory over the last enemy, which is death, has not been fulfilled so the Rapture is absolutely necessary.

First Corinthians 15:25-26 reads, “For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”

In order to solve this problem, the apostle Paul begins verse 51 with these words, “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1st Corinthians 15:51-53). The mystery is beginning to be revealed to us; we shall be changed. Our mortal body will be translated into a glorious body of immortality.

Verse 54 explains why this is necessary, “So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.” Only at the Rapture will death finally be defeated for the Church! Triumphantly, the next verse exclaims, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (verse 55).

In view of this wonderful prophetic fulfillment that is yet to come, the apostle Paul cautions believers, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (verse 58).

(MAIN SOURCE: The Great Mystery of the Rapture – Arno Froese – 1999)

THE RAPTURE SERIES 10: THE COMING OF THE LORD (PART B)

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Who Are The Two Witnesses?

It is our understanding that Moses and Elijah, two great men of Israel, will fulfill the office of the “two olive trees” and “two candlesticks” spoken of in Revelation 11.

Elijah was a servant of God who shut the heavens so that it would not rain. Moses raised his rod and turned the waters into blood. Revelation 11:5-6 reads, “…if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.” By supernatural power, these two witnesses will be in Jerusalem testifying the truth of God to the world.

During that time, the Church of Jesus Christ, the light of this world, will be in the presence of the Lord. Israel will remain blind, having accepted the Antichrist as her redeemer. As a result, God will supernaturally interfere, to leave a testimony on earth by sending Moses and Elijah as His witnesses.

Prophets Must Be Killed In Jerusalem

However, we read that these two prophets will be killed by the beast who rises up out of the sea. Their bodies will openly lay in the streets of Jerusalem as a testimony against the world. Revelation 11:8 confirms this by reporting, “… their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.”

Jerusalem, the most glorified city, will have experienced a negative transformation. No longer will she be considered the city of the peace and joy of the Lord, but she will be called “Sodom and Egypt.” Sodom was the epitome of sin against the Lord because of the Sodomites—or in today’s vernacular, homosexuals—who ruled that city with their publically exhibited practice, which is an abomination to the Lord.

Romans 1:24 testifies, “Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves.”

To be called “Egypt” would remind Jerusalem of the land of bondage, which prophetically shows that Israel will come into the bondage of the Gentile nations. This time, however, it will not be by force, but voluntarily, for Jesus prophesied that when another shall come in His name, they will receive him.

The fact that these two great prophets will die in Jerusalem reminds us of the words of the Lord “…for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem” (Luke 13:33). Elijah did not see death but was raptured into Heaven, therefore he did not die in Jerusalem. He crossed the Jordan River and then ascended into Heaven outside the borders of the Promised Land. Neither Moses nor Elijah have fulfilled Luke 13:33 in that they did not die in Jerusalem or in the Promised Land.

These two great prophets will return to Jerusalem, the center of the world, where they die, but will resurrect after 3 1/2 days and ascend into Heaven. Again, we see the Rapture demonstrated right in the city of Jerusalem.

When these two prophets are resurrected after 3 1/2 days, they will be raptured into the clouds of Heaven in view of all the people. As a result, a great earthquake will occur and, “… the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven” (Revelation 11:13). Subsequently, the Rapture of the true prophets will result in a revival among “the remnant” which undoubtedly refers to Israel, and they will give God the glory.

On the other hand, when the Rapture of the Church takes place, we find no indication in the Bible that it will result in repentance or the glorification of God. However, we believe that the “remnant “of Gentiles left behind, whose family members have been raptured, will indeed be very afraid and many will give God the glory and be converted.

The effect of the testimony of these two witnesses in Jerusalem points to Israel’s preparation for the outpouring of the Spirit of grace and supplication at the coming of Jesus.

Non Believers-Non Repentance

Let’s look at the different reactions to God’s supernatural interference as outlined for us in the book of Revelation. At the opening of the sixth seal we see that man is totally unrepentant. Beginning in Revelation 6:15-16 we read, “…the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.” Instead of repenting they try to hide from the wrath of the Lamb!

After one-third of the world’s population is killed, we read in Revelation 9:20-21, “…the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.”

When the fourth and fifth angel pour out their vials, we hear this shocking testimony, “… the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory. And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds” (Revelation 16:8-11). Instead of repentance there is blasphemy! This should have been enough to bring everyone to their knees. Verses such as this leave no room for the mocking attitude of those who say, “Well, I only believe what I see.” The people referred to in Revelation 16 see the indisputable evidence of the God of Creation with their own eyes, yet they still find no room for repentance, or space to believe.

Michael The Archangel

The book of Daniel specifically identifies Michael the archangel as being on Israel’s side, “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book” (Daniel 12:1). This verse is referring to the Great Tribulation. Michael the archangel is standing for the defense of Israel. We can well imagine that when the Rapture takes place, the “shout” that is heard will be the voice of Michael, for he will come in defense of Israel.

With the Church gone, there will be no more prayers for Israel, resulting in total darkness for her. For the first time in history, the Jews will be in danger of totally losing their identity. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that Michael come into action for this people because the Church is gone.

It is significant to note that Michael’s action on behalf of Israel will not be evident from the beginning. When the Church is raptured, the Jews’ trouble will have only just begun. After Israel has accepted the Antichrist as her Messiah, they must go through to the end of the seven-year tribulation. . .only then will Israel experience salvation.

The Meeting Place

Jesus is not coming to earth at the time of the Rapture. That will only happen when Jesus’ feet literally stand upon the Mount of Olives. This event will be fulfilled only after the Rapture takes place. In the very same manner He left Israel, He must return for Israel.

According to the Acts of the Apostles, when Jesus ascended into Heaven, the disciples looked up toward Heaven. Two unidentified men dressed in white gave this message, “…Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Jesus will physically come back to the Mount of Olives for Israel just as the prophets declared, “And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south” (Zechariah 14:4).

The meeting place for the Church with her Lord is described very clearly, “… in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air….” This first phase of the Second Coming, which we call the Rapture, is not for Israel or the world; it is only for His blood-bought believers, Jews and Gentiles!

Two Rapture Categories

The Rapture involves two categories of believers: those who have already died in the Lord and those who are still alive at that moment. It is this great hope that the Church of Jesus Christ has had for many centuries: the sudden removal and translation of our bodies which leads us into the presence of the Lord.

The apostle Paul’s prayer and deep yearning gave him the comfort, “For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life”‘(2nd Corinthians 5:4). He had a living hope of the reality of the Rapture!

The apostle Paul also accepted the possibility that he would have to die and be separated from his physical body which he reveals in 2nd Corinthians 5:6, “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord.” In verse 8 he confesses, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” This is a demonstration of genuine faith, “…for we walk by faith, not by sight.” From the beginning, his hope, and by association, the hope of the Church, was the coming of the Lord in the clouds of Heaven. The early

Christians were waiting for the Rapture to take place at any moment, just as we are today. Nevertheless, they fully accepted the possibility that they might have to die first.

The Glorified Body

What is the difference between dying now and being in the presence of the Lord, or not dying and being raptured into the presence of the Lord? We have already seen the desire expressed by Paul in 2nd Corinthians 5:4 to be “…clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.” In other words, to have their body instantaneously translated into the likeness of His glorious body, which believers are to receive the moment of the Rapture. Read Paul’s words: “For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed, we shall not be found naked” (2nd Corinthians 5:2-3).

To understand this better, let us take a look at one of the mysteries that the Bible reveals in relation to the Rapture, “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1st Corinthians 15:51-53). This will take place instantaneously. A Dutch translation says “…in an inseparable moment of time…” In simple words, this means that the bodies in which we now dwell have no promise or future on earth.

Knowledge Of Death Brings Wisdom

May we urge you, dear reader, to recognize that day by day, we are getting older. You may have more aches and pains and some parts of your body may not function like they used to. If you are physically fit, you can rest assure that it won’t last. As impossible as it may sound, do not despair-but rejoice, for the end of this very short earthly life is the beginning of eternity. We do well to heed the admonition found in Psalm 90:12, “… teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” When our hope and faith is anchored securely in Jesus and not in our own works, we can rejoice with the full assurance that the best is yet to come!

Glory Without The Body

For this reason, we should not spend too much time or energy promoting the healing of the body, as many prosperity preachers and healing ministries try to do. The Bible says “… it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” While the body is important, as we have seen in Moses’ case, we must understand that our flesh and blood are only part of the outer shell which contains the new person. All who have died in the Lord Jesus are already in His presence without their glorified bodies. This means they are not “made perfect.” They are saved for all eternity, are secure forever and are already experiencing the glory of the Lord. Yet they must wait until they receive their glorified body which will take place at the Rapture.

Receiving our glorified bodies also includes the Old Testament saints. Hebrews 11 is the chapter of faith that begins with its definition: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Followed by the definition is the testimony of a great host of saints who claimed the victory because they believed.

Verse 35 reveals the difference between physical resurrection unto life and the better resurrection unto eternal life, “Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection.” The last two verses summarize their reason for waiting, “And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, recieved not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:39- 40). In simple terms, the saints cannot be translated until the Bridegroom receives His Bride: The Church.

The Best Is Yet To Come

To further clarify this matter, we read again from 1st Thessalonians 4:15, “For we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.” What does it mean to “not prevent them which are asleep”? Luther translated it this way, “We shall not advance (or be ahead) of those who sleep.” Verse 16 concludes with the following statement, “… the dead in Christ shall rise first.” They have been waiting longer than us and will be the first to receive their glorified bodies.

A Warning

At this point we must express to you a strong warning. When the Rapture does take place, it will be too late for you to belong to the Church. If you are not born again at that time you will definitely be left behind! The Rapture is the perfecting of the Bride of Christ. If you are left behind it will be too late to belong to the Church.

Dr. Wim Malgo used this example: “This change, the sudden renewal, will take place as quickly as the response of an electric lightbulb to the operation of a switch that is turned on. Suddenly, it is light! Only a moment before, the bulb looked grey and dismal but because it is connected to the power supply and the switch is operated, it is instantly transformed. This can be seen every evening in towns and cities everywhere, as thousands upon thousands of little glass bulbs are transformed in an instant when the switch is operated. This is a wonderful illustration of the transformation of God’s children when Jesus comes.”

Everything you have done for the Kingdom of God up until that point will count for eternity. In the same way, everything you have neglected to do or postponed will be a loss for all eternity!

No Endtime Signs For The Rapture

No signs will precede the coming Rapture. How vain is the attempt of man to think that he can pick the mind of the Almighty God by using mathematical theories to calculate the day of the Lord’s return? Many have been put to shame in the past and great damage has been done to the Church of Jesus Christ because some have tried to “figure out” the exact date of the Rapture. We may no the season that we are in, but none of us will know the exact date.

Waiting For Him Alone

Virtually all Bible-believing Christians agree that the Word of God warns us to be ready at any time. That being the case, any statement regarding the timing of the Rapture is contrary to Scripture. If someone tells us that the Rapture will take place at the beginning, middle, or even after the Great Tribulation, then we logically wouldn’t have to wait for the Lord today. If we are told to wait for something else to happen, such as the tribulation or the appearance of the Antichrist, our priority will shift: we do not need to wait for Jesus because something else is to take place first.

When we transfer this to the event of the Rapture, it becomes extremely dangerous because now we would have to change Titus 2:13 from, “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ,” to, “Looking for the coming of the Great Tribulation and the appearance of the Antichrist.” If that were true, we would have to wait for the beginning of the tribulation, or as recently popularized, the beginning of the Pre-wrath period.

Such an idea is extremely dangerous and diametrically opposes the teaching of the Holy Scripture.

Someone may object to this and say, “Hasn’t the Lord given us many signs that we should take notice of preceding His coming?” Yes, that is true. However, these signs were given for His physical coming to earth, or to be more precise, for Israel when He comes to the Mount of Olives. He was specifically addressing the people of Israel and gave them signs to notice. When He sent out His disciples, Jesus told them not to go to the Gentiles but only to the house of Israel because a promise was given to them that the kingdom of God would come on earth. In general, the signs of the Bible are given to the Jewish people, but the Jews themselves are a sign to us!

The fact that Israel became a nation in 1948, and is being established today as one of the power centers of the Middle East, indicates that the time is drawing near. We must heed the Lord’s words more than ever, “… when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:28).

(MAIN SOURCE: The Great Mystery of the Rapture – Arno Froese – 1999)

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THE RAPTURE SERIES 9: THE COMING OF THE LORD (PART A)

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The “coming of the Lord,” occurs in a threefold manner:

The outline below shows the distinction between each coming:

First Coming

His birth in Bethlehem.

First phase of the Second Coming

His arrival in the clouds of Heaven for the Rapture.

Second phase of the Second Coming

His coming to Israel to rescue His people and to end the rule of Antichrist.

The return of Christ, generally known as His Second Coming, will occur in a two-fold phase. This is not very obvious in the Old Testament because the prophets saw the coming of Jesus as one event. Only when we combine their visions do we get a detailed picture.

We will use Isaiah 61:1 -2 as our example, “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound. To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn.”

This statement was made approximately 700 years before Jesus was born. During those seven centuries, nobody claimed to be the anointed one of the Lord because no one could fulfill the requirements of being able to “… bind up the broken hearted” or “proclaim liberty to the captives.” This prophecy could only be fulfilled by Jesus.

In the fourth chapter of Luke we read, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord”(verses 18-19).

Notice that Jesus closes this passage with, “… the acceptable year of the Lord.” Then the next verse says, “And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister and sat down….” Yet Isaiah continues in the same breath, “…To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God….” Thus, we see that the Old Testament prophets viewed the coming of the Messiah as one event. However, Jesus clearly revealed that this one event would be interrupted by grace, “… the acceptable year of the Lord.”

Day Of Vengeance

The prophets proclaimed the coming of the Messiah and gave many details as to how He was to be recognized. Isaiah spoke of the Great Tribulation as “the day of vengeance, ” without mentioning the time of the Church.

The Spirit of God revealed to the writer that Jesus would come and fulfill those prophecies in detail. He would indeed preach salvation to Israel and the nations, but then Isaiah concludes with the words, “… the day of vengeance of our God…” That did not occur at the time of Jesus. Therefore, it stands to reason that a distinct time period would occur between the time of the “acceptable year of the Lord” and “the day of vengeance of our God.”

Today, we are still living in “…the acceptable year of the Lord….” Jesus deliberately stopped at that point. He closed the book and then said something remarkable, “… This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears” (Luke 4:21). This information should be sufficient in showing that Jesus’ coming almost 2,000 years ago is not His only one. He will come again!

We have previously read the words of the prophet Isaiah, but there is no harm done in reading them again, “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising” (Isaiah 60:1-3).

These three verses make a powerful but simple statement: Israel saw the light. However, the ultimate fulfillment of that prophecy did not take place, “… the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.” This most certainly is in the future.

We know from history that the Jews were the most persecuted, despised, and rejected people and no evidence is found that His glory was visible upon them nationally. Israel rejected the Messiah. They cried, “…Away with him. ..crucify him!” They said, “We have no king but Caesar.” This short statement has profound significance. They are not empty words, but they are the result of the continuous rebellion against the Living God which can be seen in Israel’s determined desire to be integrated into the nations of the world even today. Let’s look at history.

Israel Requests Equality

In Samuel’s time, Israel had collectively requested that a king rule over them instead of God. They desired to be equal with the surrounding nations. We read in 1st Samuel 8:4-5, “Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” This intense decision did not reflect on Samuel and his disobedient sons, but on Israel’s democratic rejection of the leadership of God, who told Samuel, “. ..they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them” (verse 7).

After Samuel had listed the disadvantages of having a king rule over them we read, “Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us; That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles” (verses 19-20).

Before Samuel died, again he testified to the people and reminded them of their mistake, “…ye said unto me, Nay; but a king shall reign over us: when the LORD your God was your king” (1st Samuel 12:12). We must emphasize this event because it marks the first time Israel expressed her desire to be equal with the nations of the world.

This has so much to do with the Rapture because the Rapture finalizes the election of God’s spiritual people on earth and therefore relates to the election of God’s heavenly people, the Church.

We have already dealt with the subject of separation and integration and learned that the Church, consisting of born-again believers, must be separated from the world.

Through the separation of the children of Israel, God brought forth His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Ironically, this separation was recognized by the heathen prophet Balaam. He answered Balak, “. ..lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations” (Numbers 23:9). Today, this remains a sore point for Israel and the world. Our modern society does not tolerate segregation, and insists that no one is special. Equality is the gospel of the end times and it is “politically correct” to treat all nations, races, and religions equally.

However, one nation is different: Israel. She, in fact, will not be counted equally with all nations of the world. At this point, that is exactly what modern Israel wants; she seeks equality and will obtain it. This will lead to the most successful integration the world has ever seen. But it’s only temporary.

Jesus Condemned By The World

When the first church was persecuted, a significant statement exposing Israel’s union with the nations was uttered in prayer , “For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together’ ‘(Acts 4:27). The enemies of Christ are listed as: Herod, a half-Jew; Pontius Pilate, a Roman; the Gentiles; and Israel. In a united front they opposed the Lord Jesus Christ at His first coming!

We can easily imagine that at the Second Coming of Christ, the nations will reject Him as prophesied. The Gentile nations, “… and the people of Israel were gathered together.” It is impossible for Israel to accept the Antichrist unless someone comes forward looking like the real Messiah of Israel.

Unbelief In Prophecy

So much was prophesied in the Old Testament about the coming Messiah. Yet when the time came for Jesus’ birth in the prophesied town of Bethlehem in Judea, no preparations were being made in Jerusalem for the birth of the King. It is only mentioned that some Gentiles from the east came to Jerusalem to announce His birth. “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem” (Matthew 2:1). They asked the right question to the right people in the right place, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him” (verse 2). The fact that Jerusalem was unprepared and Jesus came to the world unexpectedly is evident from the next verse, “When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him” (Verse 3).

What was King Herod to do? From historic writings, we know that he was paranoid, extremely fearful and took excessive precaution for his security. Then he heard of these foreigners who were coming from far away to announce the birth of a new King of the Jews. Naturally, Herod found this intimidating because He was the King of the Jews. If another was born, Herod would no longer be king.

Prophecy Fulfilled, But Not Believed

The king called his advisers, “And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born” (Verse 4). Herod asked the right people, for they knew the Scripture, read the prophets, and studied the Word of God.

He received an immediate answer, “… they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of ]uda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel” (Verses 5-6). This is as plain as day, the King born in Bethlehem was to rule Israel.

When we continue to read about this event, we notice something very strange. There is no report of the chief priests or scribes going to Bethelehem to witness the fulfillment of Bible prophecy. This proves that these “Bible believers” grasped the prophetic Scripture intellectually but had no living faith to produce action.

Again, we highlight the fact that the tangible fulfillment of Bible prophecy, the miraculous announcement of the birth of Jesus Christ, and the signs in the heavenly constellation did not produce living faith, but rather, unbelief.

Believing Prophecy Is Required

I take this opportunity once again to emphasize that no matter how great your experience is with the Lord, how many of your prayers have been answered, how often you have been healed, how many prophetic utterances you proclaim in the church, or how frequently you have the gift of healing the sick, it is all insignificant compared with the simple faith that Jesus is who He says He is.

He poured out His blood on Calvary’s cross for our sins, was buried, arose the third day, and ascended to Heaven with the clear message that He will come again. This knowledge does not come from any experience we may have had or from seminary training, nor can we obtain it through any other educational process. This knowledge comes from the living Word of God, the Bible!

The Suffering Servant

The New Testament describes the fulfillment of Isaiah 53 in detail. To reinforce this fact, let’s read just a few verses of this beautiful Messianic chapter, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows, yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:3-5).

He did not protest, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth”‘(verse 7).

He was crucified between two criminals and buried in the tomb of a rich man, “And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth” (verse 9).

Faith In The Word

It insults our Lord when we desire special confirmation or supernatural manifestation in order to validate the truths of the written Word. As believers, we can completely trust every detail in the Bible.

When we come across places in Scripture which we do not understand, or which may seem contradictory, we can be assured that God does not lie. Scripture supports Scripture and it is only because of our limited intellect that we fail to grasp the deeper truths presented in the Bible.

Jesus was despised and rejected at His first coming. Pouring out His blood, He died on Calvary’s cross and became “…the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

While Jesus was on earth, He promised that He would come again, “…I will come again, and receive you unto myself…” (John 14:3), “…I go away, and come again unto you… ” (John 14:28). Jesus desires to be with us; He purchased us with His own blood! Just think, if you make a purchase, don’t you want the product? How much more does our Lord Jesus Christ, who loved us so much that He gave His life so He might receive us unto Himself? Read His prayer in John 17:24, “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” The announcement of His return is indisputably clear in the Scriptures.

Rapture Is Not The Last Resurrection

The Church of Jesus Christ, consisting of those who have died in Him and those who are still alive at the moment of the Rapture, “…shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air…” (1st Thessalonians 4:17). This can’t be made any clearer, and should not be misunderstood.

Yet some say that this verse speaks about the last resurrection when all people will stand before the white throne of judgment. The Bible does not teach that we will see Jesus at the Great White Throne. Revelation 20:11 says, “… I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.” This is the ultimate judgment of all those who have rejected salvation in Jesus Christ.

Even the dead will be resurrected, as the next verse indicates, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God….” Again, there is no Lamb of God, no grace, no more salvation, only judgment. That will be the most horrible time for those who must stand before the throne of God. Undoubtedly, they will know they could have been saved, but will now realize that it is too late; there is no escape. Verse 13 categorically states, “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.” This judgment leads to condemnation. The result is described with the words, “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (verses 14-15).

The resurrection that we read of in 1st Thessalonians 4 has no relation to the one mentioned in Revelation 20. The Church “…shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (verse 17).

(MAIN SOURCE: The Great Mystery of the Rapture – Arno Froese – 1999)

THESSALONIANS –THE RAPTURE, THE DAY OF THE LORD & ANTICHRIST

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Through the prophet Isaiah, God declared, “My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure” (Isa. 46:10), and “I act and who can reverse it?” (Isa. 43:13).

Paul had preached the sobering truth about the Day of the Lord to the Thessalonians during his relatively brief stay in their city (2 Thess. 2:5). After he left, questions arose in their minds about both the Rapture and the Day of the Lord. Second Thessalonians was written from Corinth a few months after 1 Thessalonians

LONGING, WAITING, HOPING

“and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.” (1 Thes 1:10)

Those who love Christ long for and anticipate His return. To wait for the Lord’s return is a recurring theme in the Thessalonian letters (1 Thess. 2:19-20; 3:13; 4:15–17; 5:8, 23; 2 Thess. 3:6–12).

Paul also said:

“In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Tim. 4:8)

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” (Titus 2:11–13)

Wrath is God’s eternal judgment against sin. Unfortunately, in the postmodern world the idea of divine wrath is largely rejected, so the Rescuer is not needed or heeded.

As true believer we eagerly look forward to Christ’s return because we know that God will rescue us from the wrath to come. Some believe that the mentioning of “the wrath to come” refers to the tribulation and see this rescue as the promise of the pretribulation Rapture. But the immediate context of Paul’s discussion of election and salvation in chapter 1, rather than eschatology, mainly rules out temporal wrath and points to eternal wrath, as does the wrath mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 1:5:9—“For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

“For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.” (1 Thes 2:19–20)

Paul always lived and taught others to live in the light of Jesus Christ’s return (Rom. 13:12; Phil. 3:20; 2 Tim. 2:12; 4:8, 18; cf. 1 Cor. 1:7–8; Phil. 4:5; Titus 2:13), and here he plainly stated that the glory to come to believers when Christ returns, provides a powerful motivation for ministering.

The crown of exultation (cf. Prov. 1:9; 1 Cor. 9:25; 2 Tim. 4:8; James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4; Rev. 2:10; 3:11; 6:2) is the festive wreath or victor’s crown, awarded for athletic triumph, and exultation denotes the exuberant expression of joyful feelings, and sometimes is translated “boasting,” in the righteous sense. From the Greek, one can literally render this phrase, “the crown which is rejoicing.” Similarly, “the crown of life” (James 1:12) is “the crown which is life,” and “the crown of righteousness” (2 Tim. 4:8) is “the crown which is righteousness.” The “incorruptible” crown (1 Cor. 9:25 KJV) is the reality of salvation’s triumph over believers’ corruption. The crown or wreath denotes the overwhelming victory God gives His own over sin, suffering, death, and judgment (cf. 1 Peter 5:4).

“so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.” (1 Thes 3:13)

The final objective of Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians was that they might look to their glorification, which produces a purifying hope. The nature of that hope is best stated in 1 John 3:2, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (cf. Phil. 3:20–21).

Paul knew that the promise of Christ’s return to Rapture and reward the church is the essence of believers’ purifying hope.

THE RAPTURE

“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Thes 4:15)

The Rapture does not rest on the shaky foundation of whimsical theological speculation, but on the sure foundation of the death, resurrection, and revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ. Two groups of people will participate in the Rapture: those who are alive at the coming of the Lord and those who have fallen asleep.

In Romans 13:11-12 Paul wrote, “Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night [of man’s sin and Satan’s rule] is almost gone, and the day [of Christ’s return] is near.” The salvation of which he wrote was the redemption of the body (Rom. 8:23) that takes place when Christ returns.

He wrote to the Corinthians, “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51–52). As he concluded that letter Paul wrote, “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. Maranatha” (1 Cor. 16:22). Maranatha comes from two Aramaic words that mean “Oh Lord, come!” and expresses Paul’s strong hope that the Lord would return soon.

Paul fully realized that he might die before the Rapture. In 1 Corinthians 6:14 he acknowledged that he might be among those resurrected at the Rapture: “Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power.” He affirmed to the Philippians his desire that “Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death” (Phil. 1:20).

Paul lived in constant expectation of Christ’s return. But the apostle nevertheless reassured the Thessalonians that those of their number who had died would not miss the Rapture, which will also include those who have fallen asleep. Moreover, the living will not precede the dead. They will not take precedence over them or gain an advantage over them. Those who die before the Rapture will in no sense be inferior to those who are alive. All Christians will participate in the Rapture.

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thes 4:16–17)

First, the Lord Himself will return for His church. He will not send angels for it, in contrast to the gathering of the elect that takes place at the Second Coming (Mark 13:26–27).

Second, Jesus will descend from heaven, where He has been since His ascension (Acts 1:9–11).

Third, when Jesus comes down from heaven, He will do so with a shout. The Lord’s shout of command will be similar to His raising of Lazarus, when “He cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth’” (John 11:43). This is the hour “when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live” (John 5:25). The righteous dead of the church age will be the first to rise—a truth that must have greatly comforted the anxious Thessalonians.

Fourth, the voice of the archangel will sound. There is no definite article in the Greek text, which literally reads, “an archangel.” Jude 9 is the only other passage in Scripture that mentions an archangel, the archangel is Michael. Scripture does not say whether or not he is the only archangel (there were seven archangels according to Jewish tradition). Thus, it is impossible to say who the archangel whose voice will be heard at that Rapture is. Whoever he is, he adds his voice to the Lord’s shout of command.

Fifth, to the Lord’s command and the archangel’s voice will be added the sounding of the trumpet of God (cf. 1 Cor. 15:52). Trumpets were used in Scripture for many reasons. They sounded at Israel’s feasts (Num. 10:10), celebrations (2 Sam. 6:15), and convocations (Lev. 23:24), to sound an alarm in time of war (Num. 10:9) or for any other reason it was necessary to gather a crowd (Num. 10:2; Judg. 6:34) or make an announcement (1 Sam. 13:3; 2 Sam. 15:10; 20:1; 1 Kings 1:34, 39, 41). The trumpet at the Rapture has no connection to the trumpets of judgment in Revelation 8–11. It seems to have a twofold purpose: to assemble God’s people (cf. Ex. 19:16–19) and to signal His deliverance of them (cf. Zech. 1:16; 9:14–16).

Sixth, the dead in Christ will rise first, their glorified bodies joining with their glorified spirits to make them into the image of Christ, as the apostle John wrote: “We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2). Those who were in Christ in life will be so in death; death cannot separate believers from God (Rom. 8:38): “therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom. 14:8).

Finally, those believers who are alive and remain will be caught up together with the dead saints in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Harpazō (caught up) refers to a strong, irresistible, even violent act. In Matthew 11:12 it describes the taking of the kingdom of heaven by force. In John 10:12 it describes a wolf snatching sheep; in John 10:28–29 it speaks of the impossibility of anyone’s snatching believers out of the hands of Jesus Christ and God the Father; in Acts 8:39 it speaks of Philip’s being snatched away from the Ethiopian eunuch; and in 2 Corinthians 12:2, 4 it describes Paul’s being caught up into the third heaven. It is when living believers are caught up that they are transformed and receive their glorified bodies (Phil. 3:21). “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” believers “will be changed” (1 Cor. 15:52), rescued from the grasp of Satan, the fallen flesh, the evil world system, and the coming wrath of God.

TIMING OF THE RAPTURE

The time of the Rapture cannot be discerned from this passage alone. But when it is read with other Rapture texts (John 14:3; Rev. 3:10; cf. 1 Cor. 15:51–52; Phil. 3:2–21), and compared to judgment texts (Matt. 13:34–50; 24:29–44; Rev. 19:11–21), it is clear that there is no mention of judgment at all in the Rapture passages, whereas the others major on judgment. It is therefore necessary to conclude that the Rapture occurs at a time other than the judgment. It is best, then, to separate the two events. That initiates the case for the Rapture to occur imminently, before the elements of judgment described in Scripture as leading up to the Second Coming in judgment.

Although no solitary text of Scripture makes the entire case for the pretribulation Rapture, when one considers all the New Testament evidence, a very compelling case for the pretribulational position emerges, which answers more questions and solves more problems than any other Rapture position.

The following arguments present a strong case in favour of the pretribulation Rapture:

First, Revelation 6–18 does not mention the church as being on earth. Because Revelation 1–3 uses the Greek word for church nineteen times, one would reasonably assume that if the church were on earth rather than in heaven during the tribulation, they would use “church” with similar frequency, but such is not the case.

Second, Revelation 19 does not mention a Rapture even though that is where a posttribulational Rapture (if true) would logically occur.

Third, a posttribulational Rapture renders the Rapture concept itself inconsequential. If God preserves the church during the Tribulation, as posttribulationists assert, then why have a Rapture at all? It makes no sense to Rapture believers from earth to heaven for no apparent purpose other than to return them immediately with Christ to earth.

Fourth, if God raptures and glorifies all believers just prior to the inauguration of the millennial kingdom (as a posttribulational Rapture demands), no one would be left to populate and propagate the earthly kingdom of Christ promised to Israel. It is not within the Lord’s plan and purpose to use glorified individuals to propagate the earth during the Millennium. Therefore, the Rapture needs to occur earlier so that after God has raptured all believers, He can save more souls —including Israel’s remnant—during the seven-year Tribulation.

Fifth, the New Testament does not warn of an impending tribulation, such as is experienced during Daniel’s seventieth week, for church-age believers. It does warn of error and false prophets (Acts 20:29–30; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1–3), and of present tribulation (1 Thess. 2:14–16; 2 Thess. 1:4; all of 2 Peter). Thus it is incongruous that the New Testament would be silent concerning such a traumatic change as Daniel’s seventieth week if posttribulationism were true.

Sixth, Paul’s instructions here to the Thessalonians demand a pretribulational Rapture because, if Paul were teaching them posttribulationism, one would expect them to rejoice that loved ones were home with the Lord and spared the horrors of the Tribulation. But, in actuality, the Thessalonians grieved. In addition, with a posttribulational teaching one would expect them to sorrow over their own impending trial and inquire about their future doom; however, they expressed no such dread or questioning.

Seventh, Revelation 3:10 teaches that the Lord will remove the church prior to the Tribulation. In the Greek, the phrase “I also will keep you from” can mean nothing other than “I will prevent you from entering into.” Jesus Christ will honor the church by preventing it from entering the hour of testing, namely Daniel’s seventieth week, which is about to come upon the entire world. Only a pretribulational Rapture can explain how this will happen.

The final step in the plan of the Rapture is the blessed, comforting truth that after Christ returns to gather us (believers) to Himself, we shall always be with the Lord.

“Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thes 4:18)

Paul’s goal in teaching the Thessalonians about the Rapture was to comfort them. Paul calls the return of Christ “the blessed hope” (Titus 2:13).

SANCTIFICATION’S GOAL AND CULMINATION

“be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thes 5:23c)

At the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, God will make all believers sinless forever. First Corinthians 15:50–54 affirms that reality: “Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

A NEW REVELATION

Although the Gospels talk about a trumpet and the gathering of the elect, the differences between those passages and the passage in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 outweigh the similarities, as Robert L. Thomas notes:

“Similarities between this passage in 1 Thessalonians and the gospel accounts include a trumpet (Matt. 24:31), a resurrection (John 11:25, 26), and a gathering of the elect (Matt. 24:31)…. Yet dissimilarities between it and the canonical sayings of Christ far outweigh the resemblances…. Some of the differences between Matthew 24:30, 31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15–17 are as follows: (1) In Matthew the Son of Man is coming on the clouds, … in 1 Thessalonians ascending believers are in them. (2) In the former the angels gather, in the latter the Son does so personally. (3) In the former nothing is said about resurrection, while in the latter this is the main theme. (4) Matthew records nothing about the order of ascent, which is the principal lesson in Thessalonians.” (“1, 2 Thessalonians,” in Frank E. Gaebelein, ed. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 11 [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979], 276–77)

Further, in 1 Corinthians 15:51 Paul referred to the Rapture as a mystery; that is, a truth formerly hidden but now revealed. That indicates that Jesus did not disclose the details of the Rapture during His earthly ministry. (He referred to the Rapture in John 14:1–3 in a general, nonspecific sense.) Paul’s teaching on the Rapture was new revelation, possibly given by God through a prophet (such as Agabus; Acts 21:11) but more likely directly to Paul himself. The Thessalonians had apparently been informed about the Day of the Lord judgment (5:1–2), but not about the preceding event—the Rapture of the church —until the Holy Spirit through Paul revealed it to them. This was new revelation, unveiled mystery.

THE DAY OF THE LORD

“Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. for you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.  hile they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.” (1 Thes 5:1–3)

From the blessed event of the catching away of the church, Paul turned to the horrible event that follows it, namely the destruction of the wicked rejecters of the Lord Jesus Christ. As history continues to unfold the eternally planned purposes of God, one event looms large on the horizon: The Day of the Lord. That event will mark the end of man’s day, as God acts in judgment to take back direct control of the earth from the usurpers (both human and demonic) who presently rule it. It will be an unprecedented time of cataclysmic judgment on all unrepentant sinners.

The phrase the times (chronos) and the epochs (kairos) refers in a general sense to the end times (cf. Dan. 2:21; Acts 1:7). Chronos refers to chronological time, while kairos views time in terms of events, eras, or seasons, such as the times of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24).

The Thessalonians did not need to know when the Day of the Lord would come; they already knew all that God intended them to know. There were no need of anything to be written in this regard.

“For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child and they will not escape.” (1 Thes 5:2–3)

The Thessalonians knew for certain that the Day of the Lord will arrive unexpectedly. Jesus said, “But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into” (Matt. 24:43; cf. Rev. 16:15). Like the Day of the Lord, the exact time of the Second Coming will not be revealed, though there will be signs that Christ’s return is imminent (Matt. 24:4–33).

The metaphor of a thief coming is never used to refer to the Rapture of the church. It describes the coming of the Lord in judgment at the end of the seven year Tribulation period, and the judgment at the end of the thousand-year kingdom of Christ on earth (2 Peter 3:10).

The biblical term the day of the Lord describes God’s cataclysmic future judgment on the wicked. It is mentioned explicitly nineteen times in the Old Testament (Isa. 2:12; 13:6, 9; Ezek. 13:5; 30:3; Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14; Amos 5:18 [2 times], 20; Obad. 15; Zeph. 1:7, 14 [2 times]; Zech. 14:1; Mal. 4:5) and four times in the New Testament (cf. Acts 2:20; 2 Thess. 2:2; 2 Peter 3:10), and is alluded to in other passages (cf. Rev. 6:17; 16:14). Scripture three times calls the Day of the Lord the “day of vengeance” (Isa. 34:8; 61:2; 63:4).

The Day of the Lord must be distinguished from the “day of Christ” (Phil. 1:10; 2:16), the “day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6), the “day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor. 5:5), and the “day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:8); all of those terms refer to the time when believers will receive their rewards from the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 14:10; 1 Cor. 3:11–14; 4:1–5; 2 Cor. 5:9–10). The Day of the Lord must also be distinguished from the “day of God” (2 Peter 3:12), which refers to the eternal state.

The historical days of the Lord, as mentioned in the Old Testament, were merely a prelude to the final eschatological Day of the Lord, which will be far greater in extent and more terrible in its destruction. These passages often have both a near and a far fulfillment, as does much Old Testament prophecy.

Unlike the Rapture, which will not be preceded by any signs, there will be several precursors that will herald the arrival of the eschatological Day of the Lord. Some of these precursors will be discussed later on in this article.

The terrible outpouring of God’s wrath in judgment will happen while they are saying, “Peace and safety!” The lying deceivers will dupe the world into believing that peace and prosperity are just around the corner, despite the ominous signs that the Day of the Lord is fast approaching.

Olethros (destruction) does not refer to annihilation, but separation from God (cf. 2 Thess. 1:9). God will accomplish the destruction of unbelievers by casting them into the eternal torment of hell (2 Thess. 1:9).

By using the term them (a reference to unbelievers), Paul reassured the Thessalonians that they will not face destruction. As he states plainly in verse 4, the Thessalonians will not experience the Day of the Lord; they will be raptured before it begins. The Day of the Lord will come suddenly and unexpectedly on unbelievers. They will not escape divine judgment. “How will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Heb. 2:3).

THE DISTINCTIVENESS OF BELIEVERS’ DESTINY

“For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” (1 Thes 5:9–11)

The blessed truth for believers is that God has not destined us for wrath (cf. 1:10; John 3:18, 36; 5:24; Rom. 5:1, 9; 8:1, 33–34).  Believers will not experience the wrath God will pour out on unbelievers on the Day of the Lord, and for eternity in hell.

The word destined expresses the inexorable outworking of God’s sovereign plan for believers’ salvation. Orgē (wrath) does not refer to a momentary outburst of rage, but to “an abiding and settled habit of mind” It is a general reference to the final judgment, when God’s wrath will be poured out on the wicked (Matt. 3:7; John 3:36; Rom. 1:18; 2:5, 8; 3:5; 4:15; 5:9; 9:22; 12:19;Eph. 5:6; Col. 3:6; Rev. 14:9–11). But God’s wrath here must also include the Day of the Lord, since that was the Thessalonians’ primary concern.

Salvation in this passage refers to glorification. Jesus declared, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” Nor will they face His condemnation, because “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).

The marvelous reality is that all believers will live together with Him, as Jesus Himself promised: “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. (John 14:1–3; cf. 1 Thess.4:17)

Paul concluded his discussion of the Day of the Lord by exhorting the Thessalonians to encourage one another and build up one another.

THE SECOND COMING

“when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marvelled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed.” (2 Thes 1:10)

When He comes, two things will happen regarding the believers.

First, Christ will be glorified in His saints on that day. There is coming a day in which God will be glorified through believers in a manner never before seen.

This is the glorious manifestation of believers that Paul wrote about in Romans 8:18–19: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.” This glorification will be the final and full redemption of all believers alive when Jesus Christ comes in glory.

Some believers will already be in the glorified condition, having been raptured before the Tribulation. They will have been in heaven since then, in the place prepared for them (John 14:1–3) in resurrection glory enjoying their rewards and fellowship with their Lord. They will return with Christ (Rev. 19:14) to the earth for the Millennium, to join the saints still alive on earth who will receive the earthly kingdom and reign of the Savior. Apparently at the time of Christ’s return, Tribulation saints and Old Testament saints, whose spirits have been with the Lord, will be raised and fully glorified to join those descending from heaven.

This is the resurrection spoken of by Daniel: Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground willawake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. (Dan. 12:1–3) All the living believers who enter the kingdom will see the glorified saints.

Second, believers will be marveled at among all who have believed. Since only believers enter the kingdom, as the judgment of the sheep and goats makes clear (cf. Matt. 25:31–46; Rev. 20:6), the redeemed will wonder at the glory of Christ that is fully revealed in the resurrected saints.

THE ANTICHRIST YET REVEALED

“Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 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 has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?” (2 Thes 2:1–5)

Paul wrote this section to deal with the Thessalonians’ loss of hope and joy through confusion about the end times. He had already given them explicit instruction about both the Rapture (1 Thess. 4:13–18) and the Day of the Lord (1 Thess. 5:1–11). Yet only a few months later, they had become confused, again fearing that they had missed the Rapture and were in the Day of the Lord. They were directly assaulted by the deception of some false teachers. Paul adds strong evidence to prove that they are not in the Day of the Lord: The Antichrist had not appeared, and his coming will occur just before the Day of the Lord comes.

Man’s religious history has also been plagued by false christs, false teachers and countless other charlatans and wolves in sheep’s clothing. But one is coming who will surpass them all, both in the extent of his power and the evil of his person. He is known in Scripture by many names. In this chapter, Paul describes him as “the man of lawlessness” (v. 3), the “son of destruction” (v. 3), “that lawless one” (v. 8), and “the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan” (v. 9). But he is best known as the Antichrist (1 John 2:18).

Daniel 7:25 depicts him as a blasphemer who “will speak out against the Most High.” He also will “make alterations in times and in law,” replacing the world’s religious ceremonies and observances with new ones in honor of himself and introducing a satanically inspired morality.

But Antichrist’s oppression will be divinely limited to “a time, times, and half a time” (v. 25; cf. 9:27; Rev. 11:2, 3; 12:14; 13:5), the last three and a half years of the Tribulation when his reign of terror is in full swing.

The Thessalonians had forgotten that Paul told them when he was there that the Day of the Lord will not come unless the apostasy comes first. It is important to note that he did not tell his readers that they would live to experience the apostasy and the unveiling of the man of lawlessness. Paul’s point was merely that the apostasy will precede the Day of the Lord.

The basic meaning of apostasia (apostasy) is “revolt,” or “rebellion. Apostasy will reach its peak in the end times as seen in 2 Tim.3:1–5, 13; cf. 1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Peter 3:3–4 and Jude 17–18. But Paul’s use of the word apostasy in this passage reveals that he had in mind not a general flow or trend, but a specific, identifiable act of apostasy. The apostasy will be a blasphemous act of unprecedented magnitude. The apostle identified the apostasy by naming the key character connected with it: the man of lawlessness.

After initially posing as the friend of religion (cf. Rev. 17:13), The Antichrist will suddenly reveal his true nature when he commits blasphemy against God and opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship (cf. Rev. 13:15–16). He will exalt himself by taking his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. He will thus desecrate the temple by committing the abomination of desolation spoken of in Matt. 24:15.

Paul takes a deeper look at the man himself. He lists four aspects of Antichrist’s career: his revelation, destruction, power, and influence.

HIS REVELATION

“And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. Then that lawless one will be revealed” (2 Thes 2:6–8a)

The Greek verb translated restrains (katechō; “to hold back,” “to hold down,” “to suppress”) appears in this text as a neuter participle, prompting commentators to suggest numerous options as to the identity of that restraining force. The most significant problem with most of opinions expressed is that they relate to human forces and therefore cannot restrain the supernatural power of Satan that seeks to release the Antichrist. The most logical of those choices, the church, has never been able to restrain even human evil.

God does the restraining so that in his time he will be revealed. Not even the purposes of hell operates independently of God’s sovereign timetable. In Isaiah 46:10 God declares, “My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.”

Though Antichrist may be restrained, evil will not be; in fact, the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Evil, lies, hypocrisy, immorality, and false religion permeate the world and grow increasingly worse, so that every generation is more wicked than those before (2 Tim. 3:13), but sin’s ultimate manifestation is yet to come. It should be noted that not only will the man of lawlessness be revealed, but God will also release demons from being bound in hell to inundate the earth (Rev. 9:1–19).

The sovereign, divine force that currently restrains Antichrist is exerted by a person—the Holy Spirit. Only He has the supernatural power to hold Satan in check. Some believe that He will continue His restraining work until the midpoint of the Tribulation. The removal of the Holy Spirit’s restraint therefore cannot be identified with the Rapture of the church, since that event takes place three and a half years earlier, before the Tribulation.

The phrase taken out of the way must not be interpreted to mean that the Holy Spirit will be removed from the world. That is impossible, since He is omnipresent. Nor could anyone be saved during the Tribulation (cf. Rev. 7:14) apart from His regenerating work (John 3:3–8; Titus 3:5). The phrase refers not to the removal of the Holy Spirit from the world, but rather to the cessation of His restraining work.

HIS DESTRUCTION

“whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming;” (2 Thes 2:8b)

Just as Antichrist will be revealed at God’s appointed time, so also is the moment of his destruction divinely ordained. At the height of his power, when he seems invincible, he will meet his end. Daniel 7:26 says, “His dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever”; Daniel 11:45 notes that “he will come to his end, and no one will help him.” Revelation 17:11 declares that Antichrist “goes to destruction,” and that destruction is graphically described in Revelation 19:20: “And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.”

The Lord will slay him with the mere breath of His mouth.” The concept that the Lord will destroy His enemies with the breath of His mouth stems from the Old Testament. Isaiah 11:4 says that the Lord “will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.”

HIS POWER

“that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish,” (2:9–10b)

The Antichrist’s great power will not be his own but will be in accord with the activity of Satan. The Antichrist’s power and signs and false wonders will not only be deceptive tricks, like falsifying his own death and resurrection (Rev. 13:3, 12, 14; 17:8, 11), but also actual manifestations of Satan’s supernatural power. Power (miracles; cf. Matt.7:22; 11:20, 21, 23, etc.) refers to supernatural acts; signs point to the one who performs them; wonders describes the astonishing results. They will cause people to believe the lie that he is a divine being and worship him.

DELUSION AND JUDGEMENT

“because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.” (2:10c–12)

“Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins…. But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me. Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.” (John 8:24, 45–47)

The terrifying reality is that God will seal the fate of those who hate the gospel by “sending upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false.” He will sentence unbelievers to accept evil as if it were good and lies as if they were the truth. The story of Pharaoh is a grim reminder that God will judicially harden the hearts of those who persist in hardening their hearts against the truth.

Satan as an instrument of His judgment, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. Satan will, through Antichrist and the false prophet, delude the world into believing the lie that the Antichrist is God. Unbelievers will be confirmed in that belief because they will choose not to love the truth, but rather to take pleasure in wickedness.

(Main Source: The MacArthur New Testament Commentary – 1 & 2 Thessalonians by John MacArthur)