Hi everyone. Today’s excerpt from my book on the rapture is taken from a chapter titled “WHAT PAUL AND JESUS DIDN’T SAY”, because what they didn’t say is as instructive as what they did say. But first, I wish to disassociate myself with certain religious ads which are being placed upon my blog. I’m not a part of any organization or cult. For the record, again, I am a born-again Christian, trusting only in the sacrifice and resurrection of the only Son of God for my salvation.
WHAT PAUL DIDN’T SAY: CLUES FROM 2 THESSALONIANS CHAPTER 2
Paul warned the Thessalonians not to be falsely led into the notion that the “day of the Lord” had already arrived. Evidently some such deception was going around at that time. Exactly when will the day of the Lord come, and what will it look like? According to Peter, the day of the Lord includes the destruction of this present earth (2 Peter 3:10-13), and according to Paul it will include sudden destruction falling on an ungodly world of people (1 Thessalonians 5:1-4). Peter’s sermon early in the book of Acts declares that the day of the Lord will occur after the sun is darkened and the moon turns to blood (Acts 2:20). So the “day of the Lord” seems to include the tribulation, or perhaps the wrath of God as discussed in a previous chapter, and following events.
Paul told the Thessalonians what must happen before the day of the Lord can begin. He said:
“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition” (2 Thessalonians 2:3 KJV).
In a bout of circular reasoning which says, “We know the rapture comes before the tribulation, therefore Paul is speaking of the rapture here”, it’s claimed that Paul’s motivation was that the saints in Thessalonica were afraid they’d missed the pre-tribulation rapture, and had been “left behind”. But there’s no word about the rapture here. Please notice what Paul did not say. He didn’t say anything like this:
“The day of the Lord cannot come before we’re all taken into heaven and gathered to him-therefore comfort one another with these words”.
This to me is very telling. It seems a serious omission, if Paul really knew and was preaching, as some claim, that there was a rapture coming before Antichrist is revealed and before any other tribulation events occur. The whole world can today read Paul’s discussions on the rapture, in 1 Thessalonians and in 1 Corinthians. It isn’t a secret, and Paul had already shared the “mystery” of the resurrection and the rapture in his first letter to the Thessalonians, in order to encourage the Church. The rapture therefore didn’t need to be hidden any more-if it ever was-and there’s no attempt in Paul’s letters to hide the rapture as though it’s some sort of secret. Yet in his instruction to a predominantly Gentile church-to a believing church which was fearful that the day of the Lord had begun; a church which Paul said was not in darkness but in the light of salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:4-6); in his warning about the first signs of the true beginning of the tribulation, he does not mention the rapture at all. The first sign of the Day of the Lord, said Paul, will be a falling away, and the second the appearance of the man of lawlessness. The rapture is missing from the list!
OUR BEING GATHERED TO HIM
The second chapter of 2 Thessalonians is, “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him” (verse 1). It’s very important to bear in mind that the content of this first verse is the reason for Paul’s following discussion. Significantly, and I don’t mean to be flippant, it’s connected with the second verse, and the phrase “the day of the Lord”. So in relation to the coming of Jesus and our gathering to him, Thessalonians were not to think that the day of the Lord had already come.
There’s no reason to consider “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” and “our being gathering to him” as two separate events. It’s important to see that the two are not spoken of independently in the following discussion. The “coming” of Jesus is mentioned again, and it’s undoubtedly his appearance in power and glory for all the world to see (verse 8) but “our gathering to him” is not mentioned again. Why is that, when it’s part of Paul’s subject in this chapter?
The possible answer is that if the two are actually one, and parts of the same set of events rather than being separated by seven years or more, there would be no need to mention them separately. As an everyday example of distinctions which are in fact inseparable, we might talk with our families about getting together for “the coming weekend and our trip to the mall”, or we might talk about “the coming birthday party and the cake-lighting ceremony”. The weekend and the trip to the mall are immediately and inseparably associated, as are the party and the cake-lighting ceremony.
In our subsequent discussion of the weekend we may not need to mention the mall again: the subject of the mall is already accepted as a part of the coming weekend. When the weekend comes we will go to the mall. We may not mention the lighting of the cake again, but just the birthday party. The cake lighting is already an acknowledged part of the birthday party. When we have the birthday party we will light the cake. Similarly, “our being gathering to him” in Paul’s first verse of this chapter may well just be an intrinsic part of “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”, so that when Jesus Christ comes we will be gathered to him, and there’s no need to mention the “gathering” again.
THE DAY OF THE LORD
In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul associated “the day of the Lord” not with a pre-tribulation rapture, but with judgment:
“For you know very well that ‘the day of the Lord’ will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety’, destruction will come on them suddenly…” (1Thessalonians 5:2-3).
In his second letter Paul says about the day of the Lord:
“Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed…” (verse 3).
Believers were not afraid that they’d missed a pre-tribulation rapture: that isn’t what Paul said. It seems instead that they were afraid that the day of the Lord had come, and perhaps that they had missed “the coming of the Lord”.
Since Paul had said at the beginning of the second chapter that his following discussion concerns “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him”, and if by this Paul meant a pre-tribulation rapture, the following discussion should be about the rapture, if that was what the believers thought they had missed, should it not? Instead, it’s about “the day of the Lord”-the time of prophesied events on the earth, and “the coming of the Lord”, which, Paul informs us, comes after two unmistakable signs. Put simply: first in the realm of significant events would come a “falling away” and the revealing of Antichrist, as signs of the coming of the day of the Lord.
So where is “our being gathered to him” in the remainder of the second chapter, if this phrase is referring to a pre-tribulation rapture? Has Paul forgotten his subject? It must be there somewhere. Wouldn’t a more honest, straightforward reading tell us that “the day of the Lord”, and “the coming of the Lord” is synonymous or closely contemporaneous with “our being gathered to him”? Is this perhaps why Paul placed “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” in the same sentence as “our being gathered together to him”?
The only “coming of the Lord” which Paul writes about in this chapter is the one which sees the Antichrist brought to justice:
“…whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:8 ESV).
There’s not a separate and distinct “coming of the Lord” in the passage to bring about our gathering to him.
The two signs Paul gives-or rather the fact that they haven’t yet occurred- are given to believers in the church as reassurance and evidence that the day of the Lord had not yet come. However, the rapture is not given- in any form. Paul did not say, “We would not be here if the day of the Lord had begun”. There’s no mention of the rapture not having taken place yet as reassurance. And perhaps more importantly, there’s no mention of the coming of the Lord before the day of the Lord! Surely, if Paul is aiming to inform the people and to stop them being deceived into thinking the rapture had happened already, he would say something about the rapture. He might say “Hey church, we apostles are still here-we haven’t been snatched up yet, so don’t sweat! Our snatching-up is still to come, and it will come before these events unfold!”
We saw that Paul’s topic in this chapter is “the coming of the Lord and our gathering to him” (verse 1), yet his following discourse is on the day of the Lord and things that must happen before it. Why didn’t he write about the rapture? Trying to squeeze the pre-tribulation rapture into this passage, when it is not here, is a way of avoiding facing up to the reality of what it is saying.
Again, Paul’s topic is the coming of the Lord and our being gathered to him. At what point in Paul’s discussion does he write of Christ’s coming? Is it before Antichrist is revealed? No, it’s after the point when we see Antichrist defeated:
“And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the splendor of his coming” (verse 8).
The “coming” Paul speaks of is the event at which Antichrist is stopped and judged (verse 8). Paul does not speak of the “gathering” as a separate event, either here or earlier in the sequence of events.
Let’s look back at Paul’s first Thessalonians letter, and the passage widely seen as Paul’s informative talk on the rapture. In it he says:
“…we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord…” (1 Thessalonians 4:15).
Paul is using the same phrase “the coming of the Lord” in his rapture talk as he uses in his “day of the Lord” talk to bring judgment in the second letter, again indicating that the two are one.
Thanks again for reading this long post. The next post will continue with what Jesus didn’t say.
*ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE, by Nicholas Fisher, available on Amazon (see the link below).