Thinking of the Lord’s coming rapture does not produce terror for true believers. It is a hope that produces excitement and comfort for those eagerly anticipating His return.
“Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:17-18).
In the verses above, taken from the fourth chapter of Paul’s first letter to the church at Thessalonica, Paul revealed the wonderful “mystery” (1 Corinthians 15:51) of the Rapture of the Church. In the time period after the Thessalonians received Paul’s first letter, they suffered even more severe persecution.
This intense persecution suffered by the Thessalonians caused them to be deceived into thinking that they were experiencing the first phase of the Day of the Lord, the time of God’s wrath which takes place during the entire Tribulation.
After receiving word of the deception being propagated among the church at Thessalonica by false teachers that the Day of the Lord had already begun, Paul wrote a second letter to the Thessalonians:
“Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2).
You may ask, if the Thessalonians believed that the Rapture takes place at the end of the Tribulation, why would they be so troubled if they believed that the return of the Lord Jesus and the Rapture was near? After all, the Lord Jesus Himself said that He would return on the clouds with power and great glory:
“Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27).
Shouldn’t they have been looking forward to this instead of back to the beginning of the Day of the Lord?
The Lord Jesus encouraged those who would see the Day of the Lord “begin” to happen to look to the skies for their redemption with Him:
“Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:28).
Again, why would the Thessalonians be so upset if they expected the Lord Jesus to arrive at the end of the Tribulation? Wouldn’t they be looking forward to His soon return, knowing that the clock had started and His return was very near?
Could it be that instead of being dismayed that the Lord would soon return to Rapture them, that they were actually upset that they had missed His return for them?
“If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3).
The Thessalonians also knew that Jesus said there was a way of escape:
“Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).
Paul had already explained to the Thessalonians in his first letter to them that they would not be caught off guard by the arrival of the Day of the Lord:
“But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3).
The Thessalonians knew that it was the children of the night who would be caught off guard and would “not escape” the sudden destruction. They knew that the Lord Jesus had told them to watch “and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things.”
They expected the Day of the Lord to arrive during a time of peace, not persecution. That’s why they were confused and deceived into thinking, based upon the persecution they were currently suffering, that the Day of the Lord had already arrived, catching them off guard, and they did not escape.
Remember, Paul spoke of the Rapture of the Church in the verses just before he told the Church that she would not have to be caught off guard by the return of Jesus, in 1 Thessalonians 4:17–5:4. Imagine no chapter break between these verses.
Paul also said that the world will be in a state of false peace when the Day of the Lord begins. He said that the Day of the Lord begins unexpectedly like a thief striking in the night, because the world will believe that it has achieved some sort of “peace and safety;” therefore, they will not be expecting an imminent cataclysmic event.
The world will be caught off guard in regard to the Day of the Lord; however, true believers will not.
If, as some say, the Rapture of the Church takes place at the end of the Tribulation, wouldn’t it mean that during the Rapture the Lord Jesus will descend to the earth after the Battle of Armageddon and begin the Judgment of the Nations (Matthew 25:31-46), and subsequently begin His in-Person reign?
If the Thessalonians expected Jesus to return to the earth at the Rapture, then why weren’t they ever more earnestly looking for His visible return? Why didn’t Paul, in an effort to reassure and comfort, reaffirm to them all of the rules on how to survive the Tribulation by denying the antichrist, and not being deceived by false miracles, etc.?
Another indicator of a Pre-Trib Rapture: Did Paul tell us to ridicule and shame each other in regards to the coming of the Lord? No, he did not.
How “comforting” is it to run around ridiculing and mocking everyone who is looking for Jesus to return at any moment? It’s almost as if some people enjoy “warning” those of us who hope in the return of Christ that we are going to be shamed when the Tribulation begins, and that we will have to suffer right alongside everyone else who hates our Lord.
How many times did Paul tell us to comfort one another instead of ridicule each other in regards to the return of the Lord? How many times did Paul try to comfort us?
“Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18).
“Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
“Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work” (2 Thessalonians 2:15-17).
The Thessalonians believed Paul when he told them that they were not appointed to suffer the wrath of the Day of the Lord. What began as a comfort to them was twisted into deception. That’s why they were so upset when they were deceived, no doubt through mocking and ridicule, into believing that they had missed the Rapture.
That is also why it is much more likely that Paul appealed to the Thessalonians that the Day of the Lord had not yet begun, on the basis that the Rapture will take place before the Tribulation:
“Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2).
“For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9).
Strong’s 4991 Cognate: sōtēría (from 4982 /sṓzō, “to save, rescue”) – salvation, i.e. God’s rescue, which delivers believers out of destruction and into His safety.
Maybe today is the Day of the Rapture.