We continue looking at the reasons that prove the Church, the Body of Christ, can have no part in the coming wrath of God in the Tribulation. God’s members of the Bride are delivered from that coming judgment. Of course, I know there are some who do not accept the Tribulation is the literal event the Bible describes, but I am not going down that track today.
. THE THIRD SCRIPTURAL REFERENCE – ALAS THE DAY OF THE LORD HAD COME!
For this, we look at 2 Thessalonians where that church had a real problem. In his visit to the believers for three weeks, Paul taught them about the DAY of the LORD. That is a common term in all the prophetic books for that period in history when God will intervene in the affairs of men with open judgment. This will be a terrible time on earth. (I have a full study on this “The DAY of the LORD” in the RaptureReady archives.) There is much in the Old Testament prophets explaining the events in the DAY of the Lord.
Anyway, Paul taught the Thessalonians that the DAY of the LORD was a terrible time of suffering and that it occurred in the Tribulation, but believers would be delivered from that terrible time by the Rapture. Paul wrote this – 2Thessalonians 2:1-2 “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.”
The saints at Thessalonica were greatly disturbed that they were in the DAY of the LORD because they were suffering persecution and trouble. In other words, they believed they were in the Tribulation and had missed out on the Rapture. The DAY of the LORD covers the period straight after the Rapture until the Millennium. The “coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him” is the Rapture.
They were disturbed they had missed out. Some false teachers were telling them the DAY of the LORD had come already. They wrote to Paul in their distress, and that is the background for 2 Thessalonians. In the previous letter, Paul detailed the Rapture in chapter 4. 2 Thessalonians is Paul’s response to their dilemma.
This is what he explained to them – 2Thessalonians 2:3-5 “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 very critical passage for the pre-Tribulation Rapture. Paul says the DAY of the LORD will not come UNLESS first has come “the apostasy.” It is extremely unfortunate that most Bible versions translate the Greek word ἀποστασία (apostasia) as an apostasy from the faith or as rebellion. Let us be very clear here: apostasy from the faith is not something of the last days. It happened in Laodicea, and look at the Roman Catholic church from 600 AD onwards, and of the Middle Ages and the horrible heresies of the 300 – 1000 AD, like Arianism and Gnosticism that decimated the Christian faith. Apostasy has always been with us. NO, the word does not mean apostasy! It means something else.
The word means “departure,” and it is not departure from the faith as in the 2 Thessalonian usage. It means a departure in location. That is, a translation from earth to heaven – the Church removed from earth to heaven. Some who want to defend the Church being in the Tribulation can get very abusive, as one did to me in a posting of mine in another place. Let me explain the use of this word better from a previous article I prepared in the past:
The expression (apostasia) normally means defection, revolt, or rebellion BUT it can also be translated by “disappearance” or “departure,” and it has been suggested by 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 and throughout history?) but to the translation of the church from the world.
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” or “going away.” And since the Greek text has the definite article [ἡ = THE], then a particular departure is in view. It is, and that departure is the removal of the Church. These are the 15 references. My text for these verses is the NASB.
Luke 8:13 “And those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation FALL AWAY.”
Luke 13:27 “and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; DEPART from Me, all you evildoers.'”
Luke 2:37 “and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. And she never LEFT the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers.”
Luke 4:13 “And when the devil had finished every temptation, he DEPARTED from Him until an opportune time.”
Acts 12:10 “And when they had passed the first and second guard, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened for them by itself; and they went out and went along one street; and immediately the angel DEPARTED from him.”
Acts 15:38 “But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had DESERTED them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work.”
Acts 19:9 “But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the multitude, he WITHDREW from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus.”
Acts 22:29 “Therefore those who were about to examine him immediately LET GO of him; and the commander also was afraid when he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had put him in chains.”
2 Corinthians 12:8 “Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might DEPART from me.”
1 Timothy 6:5 “Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such WITHDRAW thyself.” (AV)
Hebrews 3:12 “Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in FALLING AWAY from the living God.”
And, of course, 2 Thessalonians 2:3 our verse, and one other I have misplaced.
As can be seen, by far the most common usage of “apostasia” is departure or going away. It is the Church that will depart (be raptured) and go away to heaven, AND THEN the lawless Antichrist can be revealed, BUT NOT BEFORE. Paul is saying that because the Antichrist had not been revealed, then the DAY of the Lord has not arrived. They worried about missing the Rapture but Paul reminded them it had not happened, so no worry! They had not missed the Rapture because they died. Paul reminded them he had spoken all about these things when he was with them.
. THE FOURTH SCRIPTURAL REFERENCE – THE HOLY SPIRIT IS THE RESTRAINER IN THE CHURCH AGE
We look at the verses – 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8 “You know WHAT RESTRAINS HIM [the appearing of the Antichrist] now, so that in his time he may be revealed, for the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only HE WHO NOW RESTRAINS will do so until he is taken out of the way, and then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming.”
In verses 7-8, it is revealed that there is One here who is hindering the full release and revelation of iniquity. This one is the Holy Spirit, and only when He goes can iniquity become fully matured. Only the Holy Spirit can hold back the floodgates of evil rushing in like a torrent; the Church cannot do that; individuals cannot do that. The Holy Spirit WILL and CAN ONLY go when the true Church departs. And then that lawless one (world ruler, Antichrist) will be revealed, whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming (the Second Coming).
The departure (wrongly translated “apostasy”) must happen first. It will kick start the whole of the Tribulation. I hope it can be seen that “the departure of the Church” must occur before any release of judgment upon the earth. Surely, Noah is a pertinent lesson here. He was raised from the earth while the judgment raged below.
Lawlessness is most certainly at work in a serious way right now. This is evident in the political field, in the police force, in increasing racism, and in the judiciary. I am horrified at what I am hearing about so much miscarriage of justice in the United States. Just in people’s dealings with one another, riots and Islamic protests, lawlessness is charging ahead in all Western democracies.
Can you ever imagine what it would be like if the Holy Spirit was not restraining the full outbreak of lawlessness? It would be indescribable. When the Holy Spirit departs with the Church, the lawless one will come into prominence and will be accepted by a lawless world.
This Thessalonians section is certain proof that the Church must leave before the onslaught of wickedness in the Tribulation. With the Church out of the way, evil will have its fullest day.
. THE FIFTH SCRIPTURAL REFERENCE – CHRIST IN RETRIBUTION
This next reference may not be quite as clear as the previous one, but placed in context, the passage is in the prophetic revelations from God through Paul. This is the passage:
2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 “After all it is only just FOR GOD TO REPAY WITH AFFLICTION those who afflict you, and TO GIVE RELIEF TO YOU WHO ARE AFFLICTED and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be REVEALED FROM HEAVEN WITH HIS MIGHTY ANGELS IN FLAMING FIRE, dealing out RETRIBUTION to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, WHEN HE COMES TO BE GLORIFIED IN HIS SAINTS ON THAT DAY, and to be marvelled at among all who have believed, for our testimony to you was believed.”
What is being said here is a general comment for the afflicted Church. It is not pointing at a specific time, but it certainly refers to the Tribulation time. The Lord will give relief to His afflicted people, which is the Rapture. The revealing with His mighty angels in flaming fire is the Second Coming. Jesus comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, which has two applications. The first – He will be glorified in His saints at the Rapture when He comes for them, and second, He will be glorified in His Tribulation saints (the Jewish believers) at the Second Coming.
We, the believers caught up in the Rapture, will marvel at our Redeemer Lord, just as the Tribulation saints will marvel at the Lord when He comes in glory in Revelation 19.
. THE SIXTH SCRIPTURAL REFERENCE – COME UP HERE!
To understand the progression in the book of Revelation, you must carefully note this verse – Revelation 1:19 “Write therefore the things which YOU HAVE SEEN, and the THINGS WHICH ARE, and the things WHICH SHALL TAKE PLACE AFTER THESE THINGS.” That places the book in three parts, the first being what John had seen, and that is Chapter 1; the second being “the things that are,” and that included the 7 churches of John’s time. However, those 7 churches outline in a special way the whole history of the Christian era right to the present and incorporate the last one, Laodicea, the wayward, arrogant church that well represents our period in history. The 7 churches are wonderfully true to the period they represent. That brings us to the end of Chapter 3, the end of the church age.
The third part is “the things which shall take place AFTER THESE THINGS.” That is simple to understand, and the text is saying that from Chapter 4 until Chapter 22, the whole book is prophetic from that point. It speaks of all that is future.
However, to begin that third section of “the things which shall take place after these things,” there is a very important verse, a MOST IMPORTANT verse – Revelation 4:1 “After these things I looked, and behold, A DOOR STANDING OPEN IN HEAVEN, and the first voice which I had heard like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me said, “COME UP HERE, and I will show you what must take place after these things.”
That is the Rapture, and immediately after that, we have the Church in heaven present at the great worship of God, and that is Chapters 4 and 5. At the start of Chapter 6, the seals are broken and the Tribulation begins.
Revelation is so clear that the Rapture must precede the Tribulation. There is no wriggle room in that book. I think the very words spoken by the Lord at the Rapture will be, “COME UP HERE.”
. THE SEVENTH SCRIPTURAL REFERENCE – THE THIEF IN THE NIGHT
We return to 1 Thessalonians where we need to apply logic to understand this reference. Look at it – 1 Thessalonians 5:2-6 “for you yourselves know full well that THE DAY OF THE LORD WILL COME JUST LIKE A THIEF IN THE NIGHT. 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, BUT YOU, BRETHREN, ARE NOT IN DARKNESS, THAT THE DAY SHOULD OVERTAKE YOU LIKE A THIEF, for YOU ARE ALL SONS OF LIGHT AND SONS OF DAY. We are not of [the] night nor of darkness, so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.”
Paul continues explaining The DAY of the LORD, which, if you remember, always applies to the Tribulation and into the Millennium, never to the Church age. He says that Day will come like a thief in the night when sudden destruction bursts on an un-expectant world. A thief comes in the night, in the darkness, but Paul says we don’t belong to the darkness because we are sons of light.
The DAY of the LORD is the Tribulation coming into the world, but Christians won’t be overtaken because we are children of light, not of darkness. The Lord raptures us home before that DAY falls on the earth. We don’t belong to the darkness of the world because we belong to the light of God. The Church will not go into the darkness of the Tribulation. Those who teach that are in error and demean the work of Christ in suffering on the cross.
We end this study in the next part.