The Day of the LORD in relation to the rapture
The Thessalonian epistles stand in a unique position to explain to us the relationship of the phrase “The Day of the LORD” in relation to the coming of Christ, which coming includes the rapture of the church. The phrase “The Day of the LORD” is not unique to Paul, and neither is the theme of the coming of Christ; yet the truths concerning the church are more fully revealed in Paul’s writings than in any other author. As such, we should carefully examine how the phrase is used in I and II Thessalonians.
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
I Thessalonians is the passage which contains the well known rapture passage. Paul instructs believers not to grieve for departed believers in the same way that unbelievers grieve for their departed loved ones. The reason for this is that Christian believers will be raised from the dead, brought from heaven to earth with Christ when He comes again, be “caught up” to meet Christ as He descends, and forever be united with the Lord Jesus. Paul describes this event (referred to as the rapture by most) and includes both living saints and departed saints as participating equally in the event. Departed saints rise first, then living saints are caught up to be with Christ. Believers have this hope, unbelievers do not.
There are three sounds which accompany this coming of Christ. There is a cry of a command. This command is quite authoritative, possibly being a military command. A related word is used in Acts in reference to government officials commanding orders to civilians. It is a stimulating cry designed to arouse the hunted for a chase such as by hounds. Secondly there is the voice of an archangel. We only know of one archangel in scripture, Michael. He has a special role in end times events. Third, there is the trumpet of God. Other end times passages also refer to a trumpet being blown in relation to the return of Christ.
1 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, There is peace and security, then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
After describing this event, Paul continues teaching the Thessalonians that they already have significant knowledge of this event. Paul had been in their presence teaching them of these things and now he reminds them of what he had previously taught them. He states that they understand that the Day he has just spoken of has certain times and seasons which will precede it. He also refers to the Day just described as The Day of the LORD. But notice that only Christians will recognize the indicators which precede the Day of the LORD.
The Day of the LORD (which includes the coming of Christ and rapture of the church) will come like a thief in the night to those who are in spiritual darkness. But Christians are not in that spiritual darkness, so the Day of the LORD will not catch them like a thief in the night. Christians walk in spiritual light and will understand the signs which occur beforehand. The sign which Christians will see is the proclamation of “peace and safety”. However, this statement of peace and safety does not refer to true security. On the heels of this announcement, sudden destruction will come like a thief in the night to the world yet Christians will be prepared. So while the world in general is saying that peace and safety has arrived, Christians should know better.
The last thing we should realize from this passage about the Day of the LORD in relation to the rapture, is the reference to the wrath of God. Paul points out that believers should be prepared for this day because we are not appointed to the wrath of God, but to obtain salvation. This should prompt us to connect the Day of the LORD and coming of Christ with the wrath of God. In contrast to experiencing the wrath of God, believers will experience salvation which results in living with Him (Christ). So when Christ comes, raises the dead, and raptures the church, this spares the church from the wrath of God immediately following.
5 This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering 6 since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.
Now for the clarification in II Thessalonians. Paul writes concerning the tribulation and persecution that the Thessalonians church was experiencing. He reminds them that they are suffering for the kingdom of God. Then he commits the vengeance for this suffering into the hands of God. This vengeance will occur when Jesus comes in glory with flaming fire accompanied by His mighty angels. Before the coming of Christ there is tribulation for the church. After the coming of Christ there is the vengeance against those who had been persecuting the church. This coming results in relief and rest for the church.
1 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. 5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6 And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
Then in chapter 2, Paul refers to the aforementioned coming of Christ as the Day of the LORD. He first mentions two things which will occur at the same time, the coming of Christ and the gathering of the church to be with Christ. Then he states that this Day of the LORD has not come and will not come until two things occur first. Before examining these two things, we should notice that Paul is writing of the same coming here in II Thessalonians as he was in I Thessalonians. In I Thessalonians, he wrote a false cry of peace and safety, then Christ’s coming, the church being gathered to him, it happens on the Day of the LORD, and the wrath of God immediately follows. Here in II Thessalonians, he writes of persecution for the church, then the coming of Christ, the gathering of the church, it happens on the Day of the LORD, then the vengeance against those who had been persecuting the church immediately follows. They are obviously describing the same coming.
The two events which precede the Day of the LORD are named and explained. The apostasy is sometimes translated as the rebellion or the falling away. It is later explained as the strong delusion which will lead so many to embrace a lie because they refused to love the truth and be saved. The other is the man of sin being revealed. This is explained as the son of destruction taking a place in the temple of God and proclaiming himself to be God. His coming is accompanied by Satan’s power, false signs, and wicked deception. The coming of this man of sin will precede the coming of Christ as will the apostasy.
We should be able to come to some very simple conclusions about the Day of the LORD and the rapture of the church based on I and II Thessalonians. The Day of the LORD acts as a dividing event between two time periods.
Before the Day of the LORD, there is persecution and tribulation for the church.
After the Day of the LORD, there is vengeance against the ungodly for that persecution.
Before the Day of the LORD, there is a false cry of peace and safety by the world.
After the Day of the LORD, there is sudden destruction for the world.
Before the Day of the LORD, there is a man of sin proclaiming to be God.
After the Day of the LORD, there is the destruction of the man of sin by Christ.
Before the Day of the LORD, there is an apostasy which causes many to embrace a lie.
After the Day of the LORD, those who have embraced the lie will be destroyed.
Before the Day of the LORD, the man of sin is exalted.
After the Day of the LORD, Christ is glorified in the church.
Before the Day of the LORD the times will have been characterized by persecution for the church, the world falsely saying there will be peace and safety, the man of sin deceiving the world by Satanic power, and a great apostasy which includes many believing the lies of the devil. The Day of the LORD will begin with the coming of Christ, the dead in Christ being resurrected, the living church being raptured (granting us relief), then those believers will always be with the LORD. The Day of the LORD will continue after this coming and gathering to be a time of wrath, vengeance, punishment of the ungodly, and destruction of the man of sin.
The previous study shows that the PreWrath Rapture is the most scriptural position. In simply examining these two letters of Paul, we have come to some very simple, yet profound conclusions regarding the Day of the LORD and the rapture of the church. If we were to cross reference other passages, we could expand our events to include even more detail. Referencing Joel 2:28-32 would show that there will be cosmic signs just before the Day of the LORD. Zephaniah 1:14-16 would show us that the Day of the LORD is a day of wrath announced with a trumpet blast and battle cry. Matthew 24:29-31 would place the coming of Christ with a gathering of the elect, but also noting that the nations will mourn as they see Christ coming in glory and power. This passage also shows cosmic signs acting as portents to the coming of Christ placed immediately after the great tribulation. The sixth seal of Revelation and Isaiah 2:10-21 could be examined as well.
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