Keep Watching for the Lord’s Return! :: By Todd Hampson

A word study: Leipó—”The Left Behind Ones”

My recent article highlighting 7 (of the many) reasons to believe in the pre-trib view could have contained many more. For example, I could have included the fact that the 7-year tribulation period is the 70th Week (of years) of Daniel chapter 9. The 70-weeks prophecy is specifically about God’s plan for the Jewish people. The church is not seen in the prophecy. Additionally, the Old Testament refers to this future time of judgment as “the time of Jacob’s (Israel’s) trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7). The main focus of the tribulation has nothing to do with the church.

Also, as I study deeper into various texts, I find more details that support the pre-trib rapture. Consider these compelling details I accidentally uncovered while researching the details about what the idiom “like a thief in the night” is all about.

First, a little background is needed. The idiom “like a thief in the night” refers to the high priest or captain of the guard who would make his rounds at night to see if the temple priests were staying awake and keeping the sacrificial fire lit. If he found them sleeping, he would use his torch to set their clothes on fire. They would run out naked and ashamed. We are to stay awake.

So, that’s a quick overview of the meaning of the idiom behind 1 Thessalonians 5, but the detail I discovered that supports the pre-trib rapture is another fascinating matter which I’ll now explain.

Similar to Old Testament passages about the tribulation period, the New Testament also portrays this time of judgment as coming suddenly and unexpectedly—but not to everyone. Those who are watching carefully will be able to “see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). We learn more about these phenomena in 1 Thessalonians chapter 5. Many people reference verses 1-2 about the day of the Lord coming like a thief, but they fail to read the next few verses. Read the full passage below carefully.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-6—”Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord (i.e. the tribulation period) will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober.” (emphasis mine).

The passage above details 2 groups of people. First, we have those who are in the dark, sleeping, and are caught by surprise. Second, we have brothers and sisters who are “of the light” and “children of the day,” and who are not caught by surprise. A quick study of the Greek words that are used sheds even more light on these two groups, and this is the little discovery I wanted to share with you.

While the Greek words used for the group that is awake/not caught by surprise are adelphoi and uioi (literally, “brother” and “son”). These are those who are in the family of God (both male and female, of course).

The Greek word used for the “others” (i.e. Let us not be like “others” who are asleep) is loipoi (literally, “the rest/remaining”). The root word of loipoi is leipó and literally means “to leave behind.” This further supports the position of the pre-tribulation rapture. When we do a little digging, we find there are 2 distinct groups. The brothers and sisters (who will not be caught by surprise by the tribulation period—because they won’t be here), and the group that is left behind and caught by surprise.

The rapture does not begin the tribulation period (the finalizing/confirming of a covenant by the antichrist does), but it is the domino that sets all other events in motion. We learn in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8 that the antichrist will not rise to power until after the Church is removed from the earth via the rapture.

Here’s what we read in those 3 verses: “And now you know what is holding him (the antichrist) back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he (the Holy Spirit who indwells each believer) is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.” (emphasis mine)

So, when you look at the details of 1 Thessalonians 5 and 2 Thessalonians 2, it becomes even more clear that the rapture will trigger the revealing of the antichrist, and those who are believers will not be taken by surprise, and those who are not believers will be left behind. This squares with every other teaching about the rapture and the beginning of the tribulation.

While I believe all believers (even those not watching) will be taken in the rapture (1 Corinthians 15:51 says we will all be changed), I also believe many believers will not be watching. They will not be left behind, but they may have regret that they were not watching. While salvation is a free gift that Jesus already paid for, Heavenly rewards should drive us to sprint to the finish line. Paul indicates there are rewards waiting for those who watch until the end (2 Timothy 4:8). Let’s all keep the fire lit! Let’s all continue watching! This anchors our faith, gives us an eternal perspective, and keeps our faith strong in the midst of trying times.

Todd Hampson |