1 Thessalonians Chapter four establishes the fact of the Rapture. Now 1 Thessalonians Chapter five documents the when of the Rapture. Premillenarians have often disagreed and debated the “when” of the Rapture. The three most common viewpoints that compete for attention are all tied to the Tribulation Period with either a “pre,” “mid” or “post” chronology. It is my belief the Christian community could have been spared this contention, if only all had come to understand clearly the implications of the Mystery which God had provided for the “obedience of faith” (Rom. 16:25-26).
The “but” separating Chapter four from Chapter five sets up an important contrast between the Day of Christ and the Day of the Lord – between “comfort” and “sudden destruction” – between “children of the night” and the “children of the day” – between Mystery and “times and seasons”/prophecy: a contrast between what had been prophesied and what had not.
“But” concerning the “times and seasons,” Paul said, “ye have no need that I write to you.” “Why?” you ask! Because the Old Testament Scriptures spoke often of the prophetic “times and seasons” of which the “Day of the Lord,” with its children of night and sudden destruction, was a part. The Old Testament saints and these Thessalonian “brethren” had “perfect” knowledge of this since this was an oft-repeated subject of prophecy. Also, Paul had rehearsed these prophetic facts in time past with these saints (2 Thess. 2:5).
What they didn’t know before! What had been a total mystery, now revealed to them, was news about a coming of Christ in the air, wherein the dead believers would be raised and the living saints would be transformed and together translated! And now for the first time, they find out the when of the Rapture! Paul, according to the revelation of the Mystery, tells them that they were not appointed to wrath but to obtain salvation” (Rom. 5:9; 1 Thess. 5:9; 1:10)! This “wrath” of God is the chief characteristic which describes the whole of the Tribulation Period, not just a portion thereof (Zeph. 1:15, 18; 1 Thess. 1:9-10; Rev. 6:16-17; 11:18; 14:19; 15:1, 7; 16:1, 19). And now, thank God, the Body of Christ will not be touched by the storm-tossed seas of judgment any more than God’s wrath affected those who were safe inside of Noah’s Ark.
It is worth pointing out that those to whom Paul is writing are already saved, i.e., their souls are saved; therefore, the salvation spoken of here must refer to a physical salvation or bodily deliverance (Phil. 1:19): i.e., members of the Body of Christ will be physically/bodily delivered from the wrath of God before the Tribulation.
The Apostle Paul picks up on this theme in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17, because the concern of the Thessalonians was their welfare and future in view of the pending judgment. Some had even been “shaken in mind” and “troubled,” mistakenly thinking that they had missed the Rapture (Vs. 2)! The contest here is entirely and unquestionably Daniel’s Seventieth Week (Dan. 9:24-27). Paul reassured the saints that the “Day of the Lord” (“Lord” not “Christ,” *See Greek text on 2:2) “shall not come” except “first” there must come “a falling away” (2:3). If this “falling away” is the unexpected and unannounced Rapture, it would explain how the “Day of the Lord,” could follow immediately on the heels of the Rapture “as a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:2). This chronology is important and is reemphasized in 1 Corinthians 15:23-24.
The Greek word from which “falling away” (2:3) is translated, is Apostasia and is preceded by the definite article HA. This, therefore, must be referring to a particular, definite, recognizable incident. The idea that this refers to some gross departure from Spiritual truth simply does not fit. As bad as things are now or shall be in the future, it is not likely that things could become worse than they were in the “dark ages,” so as to be identified as “the Apostasy.”
No! The departure here is not one from truth but, rather, a departure of the Body of Christ from earth “to meet the Lord in the air!” This is why the Apostle Paul says he is “thankful.” Paul is excited and rejoicing that believers were, “from the beginning chosen,” to be “delivered” from the dark and dreadful “Day of the Lord.” This choosing occurred in the normal way that any believer is chosen, i.e., “through sanctification and belief of the truth” (Vs. 13).
These chosen ones represent the one and only obstacle to the manifestation of the “man of sin.” Referring to believers, Paul reminds us, “you know what [Body of Christ] withholdeth that he [man of sin] might be revealed in his time” (Vs. 6) and “only he [Body of Christ]who now restrains will do so until he be taken out-of-the-way [delivered out of ‘wrath”] (Vs. 7)…” then shall that Wicked One be revealed” (Vs. 8). Just as surely as Lot had to be removed before the fire could fall on Sodom, the Church, too, must be removed from earth before the “wrath” of God falls!
Furthermore, the chosen ones are “called by our gospel.” This is not a generic gospel but, rather, by “our” gospel: a specific gospel which Paul owns, i.e., the Gospel of the Grace of God – the Gospel of the Mystery. The purpose of this calling and deliverance is “to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Vs. 14) – not wrath – not the terrors of the Day of the Lord!
Why is it hard for some to accept the uniqueness of God’s Mystery program for the Body of Christ – a program that is distinctive in its calling, administration, deliverance and destiny? Why must so many in Christendom labor to fit their prophetic thinking into God’s prophetic design for Israel – a time uniquely fitted for Israel’s discipline and ultimate salvation, i.e., “the time of Jacob’s Trouble” (Jer. 30:7) /the Seventieth Week of Daniel (Dan. 9:24-27)? When believers fail to apprehend the truth of the Mystery, it places many precious truths for the Body of Christ in jeopardy, including the truth of the Rapture. (NOTE: The reader may wish to investigate the Doctrine of the Mystery by requesting a free copy of my study, “Paul’s Distinctive Revelation.”
In verse fifteen, Paul tells us to “stand fast and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle.” The preciousness of this wonderful truth is evident by Paul’s assurance that it came to us because God “hath loved us” and given us reason for “everlasting consolation and good hope through grace” (Vs. 16).
The exhortation to “comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:18; cf., 5:11) and “comfort your hearts” (2 Thess. 2:17) would seem to be both a little late and inappropriate to give to someone after or during Daniel’s Seventieth Week of Tribulation. Rather, the thing that comforts believer’s hearts now is the imminent, Pre-tribulational return of Christ. We eagerly await the return, rest and reward! This is our comfort! This is our incentive for godly living and soul winning. Praise God, we are listening for the “shout” when we shall see the Lord Jesus and our loved ones who “sleep in Jesus!”
“Oh, joy! Oh, delight! Should we go without dying,
No sickness, no sadness, no dread and no crying,
Caught up thro’ the clouds with our Lord into glory,
When Jesus receives His own.”
O Lord Jesus, how long, how long
Ere we shout the glad song,
Christ returneth! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Amen, Hallelujah! Amen.”