Rethinking 2 Thessalonians 2
I was trying to remember, this week, what got me started on this journey of discovery in the bible’s End Times prophecies. Since I was a child I had a curiosity in End Times prophecies, but something triggered a deeper search than merely accepting the system I grew up with. Something in the Word of God changed my thinking.
Many charge that pre-Trib rapturists believe in a pre-Trib rapture because they don’t want to be here for the Tribulation. The truth is we should not want to be here for the Tribulation;
Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD! to what end is it for you? the day of the LORD is darkness, and not light. Amos 5:18
No, we should not want to be here for the Tribulation, but that is not why I believe in a pre-Tribulation rapture.
My journey started with a literal reading of a foundational passage in 2 Thessalonians 2;
1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, 2 That ye 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. 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; 4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: 9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
I grew up in Dispensationalist circles, who emphasize verses 7-8. These verses say that something first, the taking away of “him who letteth (hinders)”, must occur before the Antichrist is revealed. Dispensationalists say that the “he” of this passage is the Holy Spirit. I agree.
The Holy Spirit was always here on the earth during the Old Testament times. You can read about how He came upon David, or Moses, or any of the Old Testament prophets. Something changed at Pentecost, after the Lord’s ascension, and the way the Holy Spirit interacts with humanity changed that day. It is this interaction which will change. The World will actually go back to the Old Testament times, at the rapture. The Holy Spirit will revert to dealing with the world through Israel, instead of the Church, but Israel will not be permanently indwelt as the Church is. (The possible exceptions are the 144,000, and the two witnesses)
I have heard prophecy teachers, and pastors, say that “I am not looking for the Antichrist, I am looking for the return of Jesus Christ”, to which I say “amen”. What they are ignoring, however, is that Paul is telling us, in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3, that the revelation of the Antichrist is a sign of Jesus’ coming for His Church! That’s right! The Antichrist himself is a sign of the rapture! The rapture will not be imminent until the Antichrist is revealed!
I don’t have an argument with Dispensationalists about their interpretation of verses 7 and 8, but I do have an issue with their ignoring verses 1-3. They seem to view these verses as part of a preamble, and not really important to the text, but the truth is that this section is equally important as verses 7-8.
In order to understand Scripture we need to learn to harmonize all of it, with the help of the Holy Spirit. If we leave relevant passages out, we will get a distorted view of prophecy! A prime example of this is Amillennialism, invented by Augustine of Hippo. This view of prophecy, along with the related views of Preterism and Post-Millennialism, are so twisted that they will actually lead professing “Christians” to embrace the Antichrist!
Pre-wrath, and Post-Tribulation rapturists focus on verses 1-3, and say that the Church will be here when the Antichrist is revealed. They are correct in this, but then they usually go on to state that the Church will be here for either the first half of the Tribulation period, or for the whole thing. In this they are wrong!
The passage only says that the believers will be here when the Antichrist is revealed, it does not say we will be here for the Tribulation itself!
But, here is the thing; both camps somehow seem reluctant to address the passages the other camp focuses on, however both are in the same chapter, and both were inspired by the Holy Spirit.
So, Paul is essentially saying that the Antichrist will be revealed before the rapture (vs 1-3), and he is also saying that the Antichrist will be revealed after the rapture (vs. 7-8)!
At first blush this seems like a contradiction in the bible; How can the Antichrist be revealed before, and after, the rapture?
Well, the answer is rather simple. Here is a clue;
Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets. Amos 3:7
You see this is a dual revealing. There are two groups of people in view in these passages; The Antichrist is revealed to one group before the rapture, and then he is revealed to another group after the rapture.
The first group are those who are in the place of the prophets today. They will be raptured.
No doubt many groups, and individuals, would claim that honour, but the truth is that today the heirs of the prophets are not the big names, but just humble members of the Lord’s Church; People who study Scripture, and who listen to the Holy Spirit as He speaks through His Word.
These people will understand who the Antichrist is, long before anyone else, and as faithful members of the Lord’s Church they will endeavour to warn their society of the danger. The problem is that the lost have no spiritual discernment, and the signs of the Antichrist will be mistaken as positive signs of a “man of God”, even by many in the “Church”! Why? Because most of the Church has accepted tradition as an authority over the plain teaching of the Scriptures!
I will leave it here, for now, and discuss some of the relevant signs next week.