On social media I keep coming across people, professing Christians, who attack the pre-Tribulation rapture doctrine. You can answer their objections biblically, and it is like they don’t even read the Scriptures you point to, but just continue their attacks, saying the same thing over and over again.
Have you ever noticed that some people point to 2 Thessalonians 2:3 to show that the Church will still be on earth when the Antichrist rules the earth, however, others point to verse 8 to show that the Church (the true believers) will be raptured before the Beast, the man of sin, is revealed.
At first glance it appears that each side has a point;
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;
This passage very clearly says that our gathering unto him (the Lord Jesus Christ) will not happen until the Antichrist is revealed.
What the bible does not say is also very important; this passage DOES NOT say that the Antichrist will rule the earth before the rapture, only that he will be REVEALED first.
Most of the first group I mentioned try to tell us that this passage is teaching us that believers will have to endure the Tribulation before being caught up in the rapture! This is actually a heresy, designed to cause believers to despair, rather than trust the Lord. These people make up the ranks of the “preppers”; groups of people who hoard food and weapons in hopes that they will survive the Tribulation, hunkered down in their bunkers.
This is a fleshly strategy and is not based on faithful Scriptural interpretation. It is a strategy that is destined to fail!
The second group, who point to the second part, are a little closer to the Scriptural teaching, but they also are ignoring the teaching of the earlier part of the chapter;
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.
The “he” in verse 7 is actually the Church, or the particular ministry of the Holy Spirit in the Church. In relation to the Lord, the Church takes on a feminine, submissive role, but in relation to the world, and the spirit of Antichrist, the Church is a warrior, which is a very masculine role! The Holy Spirit will still save after the Church is removed, just as He saved before the founding of the Church, but the unique relationship with the Church on the earth will end when we are removed.
Very clearly this passage is teaching that the Antichrist will be revealed AFTER the rapture! This passage is often used to teach that there will be no signs before the Rapture. This, however, is incorrect. There are many signs of the End Times before the rapture, including the Psalm 83 war, the war of Ezekiel 38-39, and the complete regathering of Israel (Zephaniah 2:1-3).
In order to understand any part of Scripture we need to have an understanding of every verse that touches on the same subject. God never contradicts Himself, and so a correct understanding of any subject will not contradict any other part of Scripture. We have to learn to harmonize all of Scripture.
Here’s what Amos says;
Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets. Amos 3:7
Nothing means nothing! The biggest prophetic event since the cross will be the Tribulation period, and God will certainly warn His people that it is about to occur!
So, isn’t this what is happening here? I think what Paul is saying is that the Antichrist will be revealed to those who are in the place of the prophets today, the true believers of Jesus’ Church, then the rapture, and then the Antichrist will be revealed to the world in general.
No doubt the believers will attempt to warn other “Christians”, and their neighbours, but no one will listen. In fact they will be persecuted for disrespecting such a “good man”. Finally when the rapture occurs, then some will understand, but it will be too late for them. They will die during the Tribulation, but they will have the opportunity to glorify the Lord in their deaths.
One thing most of these people forget is to read Scripture in context. Forgetting this rule is the “rule” when it comes to Amillennialists, Preterists, and Post-millennialists, but even Dispensationalists sometimes fall into this trap.
What is the context of 2 Thessalonians 2? 2 Thessalonians 1 of course! Well, let’s look at what this passage says;
6 Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; 7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, 8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
You see Paul is continuing with the same thought in chapter 2, as he addresses in chapter 1.
So where are those who are “troubled” going to rest? Here is a hint, it is in the same place as the authors of this book are resting, Paul, Silas, and Timothy; Heaven! They have been in Heaven for almost 2,000 years in a spiritual form, but they will be coming back to earth to get their bodies back, some day soon, and then they will return to Heaven with the raptured saints!
The wording of verse 6 is an invitation to the saints to come to Heaven while the Tribulation takes place on the earth! This is the rapture in 2 Thessalonians 1!
The word “tribulation” simply means trouble, and does not necessarily mean the Great Tribulation, but in this case the context dictates that this IS the Great Tribulation! Then, the authors write chapter 2 to elaborate on what they have just said in chapter 1! They are simply continuing with the same thought!
Notice in verse 6, his reference to “it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;”. The authors are predicting a time of world-wide, intense persecution, shortly before the rapture.
This persecution will occur during and between the Psalm 83 war and the war of Ezekiel 38-39. Many professing Christians will interpret this time as being the Tribulation itself, but in reality it is the time of “wars and rumours of wars”, Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24:6. This is the “final straw” that the Lord is referring to with His promise to “recompense tribulation to them that trouble you”.
Christians in North America, and the UK have had many generations without severe persecution, but we can now see that time coming on the horizon. Since the founding of Israel, Christians in the Holy Land have been relatively unmolested, but after the Gog/Magog war, where “Christian” nations join with Muslim nations to attack Israel, the reaction in Israel will be persecution against true believers.
The time to prepare is now. Now is the time we need to be in the Word and in prayer. When I was a teen I found it difficult to be in the Word every day, but now as we see these things forming on the horizon we need to be motivated to study the Word. You need to know the Word, but don’t worry about preparing sermons for those who persecute you, let the Lord take care of that.
9 But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them. 10 And the gospel must first be published among all nations. 11 But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost. Mark 13:9-11
(Just one final note: the Christian Church building is modelled after the Jewish Synagogue. It is certain that the End-Times persecution of believers will actually occur within “Christian” Church buildings, as well as Jewish Synagogues!)
And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. Luke 21:28