Last week, we looked at the teachings of Jesus on the timing of the rapture; now, we turn our attention to Paul. Paul’s teaching on a pre-tribulational rapture in 2 Thessalonians 2 is probably the clearest of all on the subject. Yet, it is often missed because of a misinterpretation of one particular word. Look carefully at what Paul said in verses 1–8:
Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 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. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.
Our Gathering Together to Him
Let’s work our way through this passage. Notice first that Paul is going to speak to them about two things: the “coming of our Lord,” which is the Second Coming, and “our gathering together to Him,” which I believe is a reference to the rapture. This wording aptly correlates to what Paul describes in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, we will be “caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” He goes on, “we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.” I think the phrase “the day of the Lord” is actually the better translation here, although some of our Bibles read, “the day of Christ.” If you go back to the Old Testament, you will find the phrase “the day of the Lord” used quite often, and it is generally referencing what we call the Great Tribulation Period. Let me give you a couple of examples:
Wait, for the day of the Lord is at hand! It will come as destruction from the Almighty … Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He will destroy its sinners from it (Isaiah 13:6, 9).
Blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the Lord is coming, for it is at hand (Joel 2:1).
The Day of the Lord
These verses show us clearly that “the day of the Lord” is in reference to the Great Tribulation period. It begins with judgment and continues through the coming of Christ and the establishment of the kingdom of God.
In essence, Paul was saying, Do not let anyone deceive you into thinking that you are in the tribulation period. Remember, this church was going through tremendous persecution. All of these churches suffered greatly at the hands of the Roman Empire. Because of this intense suffering, they could have easily concluded that this must be it! But Paul said that the “falling away comes first” (2 Thessalonians 2:3), and we will consider what that means next time.