|By: r. Renald Showers; ©1996|
|Bible Prophecy Questions Answered by Leading Christian Scholars.|
Dr. Renald Showers: One of the passages that is often a question mark with regard to the timing of the Rapture is 2 Thessalonians Chapter 2. Paul in verse 1 says, "Now, we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and by our gathering together unto Him." That’s definitely a reference to the Rapture, when Christ is going to come out of Heaven and gather His saints together with Him. Let me point out to you, the Greek language, what it says is: "We beseech you, brethren, on behalf of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto Him." Let me tell you why Paul was saying that. Paul had taught the Thessalonian Christians, we understand, that the Lord would come and rapture the Church saints out of the world before the future Day of the Lord would begin at the beginning of the seven-year Tribulation period with the outpouring of God’s wrath. But after Paul had taught the Thessalonians that and had left the city, somebody had sent a letter or had passed on words through some form to them to the effect that Paul now was teaching that the Day of the Lord had already begun and that they as Christians were already in the Day of the Lord. And obviously, that false teaching would completely contradict what Paul had already taught them about the Church saints being raptured to Christ: that they’d be raptured out before the future Day of the Lord would come.
The Thessalonian Christians were shaken by this because the false teachers said Paul himself is the one who has taught this, that the Day of the Lord has already started; you’re already in it. And they were using as evidence the fact that the Christians were already being persecuted and saying, "Well, look, the Day of the Lord is here."
So Paul is writing to rebut that false teaching, to try to drive home the point, "Christians, you’re not in the Day of the Lord. And I’m writing to you on behalf of the teaching I already gave to you about the coming of the Lord to gather us together to Him in the Rapture. I’m writing in defense of that teaching that we’re going to be removed from the earth before the Day of the Lord, and therefore, we as Christians will not be here when the Day of the Lord comes," and to drive home to them that the day of the Lord has not started. He says to them in verse 2, "that you be not soon shaken in mind or be troubled neither by spirit nor by word nor by letter as from us as that the day of Christ is at hand."
Now, many of the Greek manuscripts which are regarded as very reliable say that "the Day of the Lord is at hand." And literally, it’s that the Day of the Lord, in essence, is already here. That was the problem. Somebody had said, "You’re already in the Day of the Lord." And that contradicted what Paul had taught to the effect that Christians would be removed before the Day of the Lord began. So to prove to them that the Day of the Lord had not already started, Paul says in verse 3, "Let no man deceive you by any means, for that day [the Day of the Lord] shall not come except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition"—who is the Antichrist. He’s saying that the evidence that the Day of the Lord isn’t already here and you’re not in it is the fact that two things that have to happen before the Day of the Lord will take place have not happened yet, namely, the apostasy and the revelation of the man of sin.
Paul is not teaching here that the apostasy and revelation of the man of sin have to take place before the Rapture takes place. What he’s saying is, the apostasy and the revelation of the man of sin, or the Antichrist, have to take place before the Day of the Lord begins. The implication being that the Antichrist would already be on the world scene and in a position of power before the Day of the Lord and the seven-year Tribulation period begins. He would have to be that in order to make or confirm the covenant with Israel at the very beginning of the seven-year Tribulation period. Certainly Israel would not enter into a confirmed covenant relationship with this man if he weren’t in a position of authority or power to confirm such a covenant with him. So Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2 is not saying that here are two things that have to happen before the Rapture: the apostasy and the revelation of the man of sin or the Antichrist. What he is saying is, here are two things that must take place before the Day of the Lord begins, not before the Rapture begins.