After my post Apokalypsys received some pretty positive feedback asking for a follow up and more details, I thought I would write a walk through on 2 Thessalonians 2 to explain my perspective on the rapture timing. Before I get too far into the details, I just want to clarify that my deepest meaning for my writings is simply to get you to fall madly, crazy, head over heels in love with Jesus. I want to ignite a passion in you for him where you want to be in his embrace, 24 hours a day, constantly in a state of non-stop worship. I want you to be excited to marry him, to be excited to be called his, to swoon in his presence. With that said, let’s take any dive into the apocalyptic as part of our story with him, that one day we will be in his embrace, we will find ourselves in heaven in our Father’s house with him while some of these events unfold before he sets his Kingdom up on Earth. One of my main sources is an amazing Greek scholar Alan Kurschner who’s ministry page you should definitely check out right after reading this for the in-depth details.
First the backstory: The context of 2 Thessalonians is clear from the first couple verses of chapter 2 and we can deduce some basic facts of the story that might not be spelled out for us exactly. Paul had, at some time prior, visited the Thessalonians and told them (at least in part) how the end times would unfold. Since that time, the Thessalonian church had, for some reason, begun to worry that they missed the rapture. Paul writes chapter 2 of this letter to address these concerns.
Starting in verse 1 (using the NIV),
“Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters” v.1
Paul refers to the rapture in verse 1 as the παρουσία (translit. parousia), which means “arrival,” “coming,” “presence,” or “advent.” This is the same event, the same parousia, Paul refers to in that most famous rapture passage in 1 Thessalonians 4:15,
“According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming [parousia] of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.”
The parousia is also mentioned by Paul in Titus 2:13, a source where the term “the blessed hope” for the rapture comes from. Here’s Titus 2:11-13 for the context,
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing [parousia] of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ
Back to 2 Thessalonians 2. In verses 2 and 3,
“not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. 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, the man doomed to destruction.”
So here is where we see that the Thessalonians had their original thinking from Paul’s teaching perturbed in some way, whether by prophecy or letter or word of mouth. Paul writes to stress the day of the Lord had not come yet.
The meat and the potatoes for what I’m searching for here comes starting at “for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.” Read in the NIV, “the day” being the day Jesus comes back cannot come until after the rebellion occurs and the antichrist is revealed (few eschatological scholars would dispute the man of lawlessness is anyone other than the antichrist). This would make prewrath an almost open and shut case. Let’s walk the logic on that one if you didn’t catch it the first time…
The Thessalonians were concerned the rapture, the parasousia, had already taken place and that they had missed out on being with Jesus. Scary state of mind to be in, right? Paul was trying to realign their thinking by stating that the day of the rapture, of the parousia, cannot happen until two things occur: 1) the rebellion occurs and 2) the antichrist is revealed.
Let’s tackle 1) first:
Pretribbers (Pre-tribulation rapture believers) argue that the Koine Greek word for “rebellion” is best translated as a spatial departure. If that was true this passage would read instead as “for that day will not come until the rapture occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed…” The Koine Greek word in question here is ἀποστασία (translit. apostasia). This word form (a noun) is used exclusively in Koine Greek literature as a spiritual or non-spatial falling away. It’s apostasy. It’s a falling away from the faith. There is no known usage of this word to refer to anything other than a spiritual or a political rebellion, no known usage of this word to ever mean a spatial departure in all Koine Greek literature for 300 years between the 2nd century BC and 1st century AD. That’s a bold statement. We’re talking 300 years of the noun form of apostasia never being used as a spatial departure. And the only time we can find any usage of the form apostasia referring to a spatial departure is in the 5th century AD. You can’t apply that usage back on a 1st century AD document without committing the anachronistic fallacy and butchering your argument. Read Alan’s article for the vetting out of this in the gritty details. The tl;dr of this one is that Paul isn’t referring to the rapture here, which the rapture is a spatial departure. The apostasy here, the spiritual and/or political rebellion, is something else. It could be either A) a mass falling away in the church due to the delusion God will send on the Earth after the antichrist appears (2 Thessalonians 2:11) or B) a mass political rebellion, chaos from which perhaps the antichrist and his empire will arise out of (as in Daniel 9; however, I stress we do not know the initial and directly preceeding conditions of the rise of the beast, the antichrist’s empire), or C) some combination of A) and B) or something else we haven’t thought of yet. Regardless, Paul is saying there will be an uprising, an uprooting which will occur and which will be evident to believers in the church as he told the shaken and perturbed Thessalonians to look for this as one of the two signs preceding the rapture.
2) The antichrist
The antichrist arrives in the 1st seal in Revelation 6,
I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.
This is problematic as well for pretribbers since the rapture must happen before Jesus starts opening the seals in chapter 6. They allow for the possibility that the antichrist might be on the scene today, but that he won’t be fully revealed until after the rapture. Paul is saying the opposite here, the antichrist must be revealed first before Jesus can come back for us in the rapture.
So if the rapture doesn’t occur until after the antichrist comes, when does occur it in Revelation? That’s both difficult and easy to answer. Difficult in that John never once says specifically that these are the people from the rapture. Pretribbers have nothing to support an argument that the rapture happens before the seals are broken except for the thought that after chapter 3 the church isn’t mentioned again for awhile. They also take John’s door to heaven in chapter 4 verse 1 as an allusion to that being the timing for the rapture. However, this is all conjecture and I’m not interested in conjecture, I’m interested in facts.
The easy way to answer this is between chapters 6 and 7. In 1 Thessalonians 5:9 Paul writes,
For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Pretribbers use this verse as reasoning for their doctrine of immanence (that Jesus can come at anytime without any signs preceding his arrival), they reason that the entire tribulation is God’s wrath. Again, this is conjecture. The Bible never says specifically that the entirety of the tribulation is God’s wrath. The word for wrath in the above verse from 1 Thessalonians 5:9 is ὀργή (translit orye). And actually the first time warth, or orye, is used in Revelation is right after the 6 seal is broken and it’s so bad that the kings and princes of the earth make this lament,
They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath [orye] of the Lamb!”
If this is the start to God’s wrath beginning on earth, the rapture should occur very soon to the 6th seal occurring. It does in Revelation 7:9-14,
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language,standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”
All the angels were standing around the throne and around the eldersand the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”
I answered, “Sir, you know.”
And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Who else is referred to as “every nation, tribe, people and language” other than the Bride, the church? No one. That’s self-evident from our nature and from Jesus’ intention for the Bride. Matthew 28:19,
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
and just our own thinking in the mind of Christ,
John Eldredge made a beautiful proposition that the 7th seal broken ushering in 30 minutes of silence (Revelation 8:1) is us standing silentawe at the beauty of God and Heaven. That’s a lovely thought. I don’t know if John intentionally meant a prewrath position when he wrote it, but the sentiment and spirit of what he was trying to convey makes a lot of sense here.
So what are the implications of this and what we might face in the tribulation? Read Revelation chapter 6 tonight and see what we will walk through…as far as Rapture timing, I’m calling it.