Study of the “Day of the Lord” in the Scriptures, Part 10 :: By Ron Ferguson

The New Testament References to The Day of the Lord

The DAY OF THE LORD is “The Day of Jehovah,” and its usage is always associated with something dire, with judgment, and with events outside the implementation of man. In other words, it is the intervention of God with the power of God in the affairs of this world. It has a primary application to Israel, but that is always extended often to a wider field, and that involves the world. Its main focus is in the Tribulation that is coming. Part 9 completed the references in the Old Testament we looked at, and now we move to the New Testament references. We continue:

[1]. 1Thessalonians 5:2-4 “Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you 1Thess 5:2 for you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. 1Thess 5:3 While they are saying, ‘Peace and safety!’ then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child and they shall not escape, 1Thess 5:4 but you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief.”

This is a vital passage and one we must understand so as not to be overtaken by error and disquiet. Most conservative scholars of Bible prophecy will understand this passage, but careless preachers and teachers, and those who read superficially, are misleading people. Why, even in Paul’s time, the Thessalonians were misled in their thinking.

Because the Thessalonian Christians had entered into persecution, they thought they were in the Tribulation (Day of the LORD). They were so worried about it that they contacted Paul, who wrote this letter to them to explain why they were not in the Tribulation. In the three weeks among these new converts from paganism, Paul taught all about the Christian faith and also all about eschatology (Rapture, Tribulation, Second Coming). Yet there are some today who say Bible prophecy ought to be downgraded because it is not properly understood or it will confuse the people. They are false teachers who deny their churches the great promises of the Bible. Many of them are wolves of confusion. The second letter to this church also takes up that theme.

In verse 2, Paul says firstly that the Day of the LORD will come as a thief in the night. We know the Day of the LORD does not commence until AFTER the Rapture, so this “thief in the night” term has nothing to do with the Rapture, only the Day of the LORD.

It upsets me greatly that people go on using this term for the Rapture. It is absolutely wrong. The Lord DOES NOT come as a thief for His Church. He comes in LIGHT and love to claim His bride, not prowl around like a thief in the night trying to steal something. Please, never use the thief in the night term for the Rapture. It is dishonoring. It is the false teacher, the one puffed up, who keeps insisting on using this term for the Rapture. They are promoters of confusion.

What “the thief in the night” expression means is that the great wrath of God comes on the world when it does not expect it, just like a thief who is unexpected. More particularly, this term will apply to the day of the Second Coming when the Lord appears in glory and great anger at Armageddon. The Lord used the reference – Matthew 24:42 “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming, Matt 24:43 but be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into.”

In the Olivet Discourse, He speaks to His Jewish disciples, and it is the Jewish disciples to whom He says, “For you do not know which day your Lord is coming,” and that is the Second Coming.

The words “thief in the night” refer to the Second Coming and NOT to the Rapture. None of Matthew 24 is connected with the Rapture. It is all about “the signs of Your Coming and the end of the age” and is 100% Jewish orientated. Be careful how you apply the term! Again, it is the false teacher who keeps pushing Matthew 24 as the Rapture.

Peter wrote – 2Peter 3:10 “but the day of the Lord will come like a thief in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.” There you have its exact setting. The simile of a thief is matched with the Day of the LORD, not with the Rapture. Again, it is distressful to suggest the Lord is a thief for His Church. Never use that term regarding the Rapture!

Then you have one other reference that is so precise – Revelation 16:15 (“Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his garments, lest he walk about naked and men see his shame.”) Here, right at the end of Revelation, when the Second Coming will be just around the corner and the 7 years of Tribulation will be coming to an end, the Lord says He is coming. BUT He is coming like a thief. NOT, NEVER the Rapture.

By the way, this Revelation verse will connect exactly with the parable of the virgins in Matthew 25. Staying awake will be important for the Second Coming (not in the sense of “no sleep” but being alert). Whether they realize it or not, those who falsely teach that the Rapture is in Matthew 24 and that the Rapture is like the thief are promoting the idea that the Church is going to be in the Tribulation.

Verse 3 is “then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child and they shall not escape.

All that relates to the thief in the night, just more confirmation that it applies to the Second Coming and not to the Rapture. We don’t face destruction. The people there at that time will not escape the destruction and terror, but we will because we won’t be here. Great is the mercy and grace of God that has made an escape for us through our Lord Jesus Christ and called us to Him. We should always be grateful and look to Him as our coming Bridegroom in light, coming to claim His redeemed Bride. (A bridegroom does not go about as a thief!)

Verse 4 – “but you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day [the Day of the LORD] should overtake you like a thief,” again is logical. We are not in darkness. We are children of light and children of the Light. The Day of the LORD is all about gloom, darkness, terror and all the other signs we have been considering. That day won’t overtake us because we will not be here to be overtaken! It does not apply to us at all. We have to be taken before it can happen. Those who claim the Church goes through the Tribulation, or through half the Tribulation, talk rubbish, and it is dishonoring to the Lord who delivered us from the wrath to come by enduring the wrath against sin for us on the cross. We are children of the light where Christ dwells, not children of darkness where the thief will operate.

[2]. 2Thess 2:1-5 “Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him, that you may 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. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?”

((This is a crucial passage linking the Day of the LORD with the impossibility of it for Christians.

These Thessalonians continued to be disturbed about being in the Tribulation, which they understood as part of the Day of the LORD, correctly so. NOTE – In assuring them, Paul states two reasons why they cannot be in the Day of the LORD (therefore not in the Tribulation).

NOTE – HERE IS THE FIRST REASON. THE SECOND ONE IS IN THE NEXT PART – PART 11. The first reason is this – for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first.” A lot of material is around regarding this “apostasy,” and most of it is false and misleading. There are those who preach that there must be a great decline in the world in the Christian faith before the Lord can return for His Church, a great falling away from the faith, and they base it on this verse. I suppose it is easy to be conned by that when we know what the conditions are like today in the world with liberalism, denial, rejection of biblical authority, and humanism and socialism running some if not most churches. The reason for the great decline of our times is NOT this apostasy matter but two definite reasons.

The first is that we are in the days of Laodicea, the last of the prophetic churches of Revelation 3, a church (it is also a church period) where all is lukewarm and the Lord is shut outside the door. The second reason is that Paul stated prophetically that it would be so – 1Timothy 4:1 “The Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.” Those two reasons are clear. A very careful consideration of these words – “for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first” – should lead you to conclude something special is being stated here, not a decline in church doctrine and belief and practice. It is something special!

Now, what is this apostasy?

KJV – 2Thessalonians 2:3 “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.”

NASB – 2Thesslonians 2:3 “Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.”

These verses speak of the Day of the LORD without using that term. 2 Thess 2 v 3 declares that there must first be a “falling away” (KJV) or “apostasy” (NASB).

The Greek words used for this expression are “o apostasia,” generally translated “apostasy” or “falling away.”

The expression normally means defection, revolt or rebellion, BUT it can also be translated by “disappearance” or “departure.” And it has been suggested by the great Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest in Prophetic Light in the Present Darkness and by E. Schuyler English in Rethinking the Rapture that the reference is not to an apostasy from the faith (didn’t that occur some 1,600 years ago?) but to the translation of the Church from the world, that is, the departure of the Rapture.

Wuest points out that the word “apostasia” is derived from the root verb “afistami,” which means to remove, withdraw, depart, go away, etc. Of its 15 occurrences in the New Testament, it is 11 times translated “depart,” and Wuest accordingly argues that the substantive must mean “departure.” Since the Greek text has the definite article [o = THE], then a particular departure is in view. There is one, and that departure is the removal of the Church, THE Rapture. These are the references to the use of “apostasia/afistami.” (NASB) ))

SPECIAL NOTE: This is not a good place to end, but not to do so will make the next part far too large or far too small.

Part 11 is to follow.