There is an old story about three blind men who had never learned what an elephant was. Each was given a different part of the elephant to feel. One the trunk, another an ear, and the last its tail. Each then described the animal as something totally foreign as to what was the true appearance of Gods creature. The problem was none of the blind men had all the data required for a person to make an informed statement. Each was sincere in their belief, but were still holding to wrong opinions nonetheless. Their description would have been much more accurate if they would have felt the entire creature from head to tail in an orderly fashion.
The sequencing God puts to events can be a fascinating study for students of Bible prophecy. For instance, in Rev. 1:19 Jesus Christ tells the Apostle John to write down "the things which you have seen" (referring to the appearance of Christ recorded in Rev. 1:13-18), "the things which are (in the Greek ha eisin is a plural verb individualizing items which corresponds with Johns record of the messages to the seven churches in Rev. 1:20-3:22). Then lastly, "the things which will take place after this" (that is the things which are to take place after the churches are dealt with). It is intriguing to note that the Greek words for "after this" is meta tauta. These are the exact same words recorded in Rev. 4:1 immediately after the messages to the churches end and immediately before the Apostle John is called up to heaven.
"After this" the view continues on in heaven, where in Rev. 5:9-10 the Church is seen by John redeemed in heaven. Rev. 6 opens with the start of the Tribulation Period. Another wonderful example of the hope found in Gods sequencing can be found in Pauls two letters to the Thessalonians. In I Thess. 1:9-10, verse 9 speaks of things that had been (the Thessalonians had been idol worshippers). Verse 10 then records what was taking place at that time and what was to take place afterwards (that is the Thessalonians were waiting for the appearance of Jesus Christ first, then deliverance from the wrath which was "to come"). A simple 1,2,3 sequence.
In Chapters 4 & 5 of his first letter to the Thessalonians and again in Ch. 2 of his second letter the Apostle Paul made clear exposition of two distinct and different sequential activities of the Lord. In Ch. 4:13-18 of I Thess. Paul spoke of the Rapture when the Lord would raise up the dead in Christ and would gather all living believers to Him as He appears to them in the clouds of heaven. He tells Christians to "comfort one another with these words." In Ch. 2:1 of Pauls second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul again addresses this same event when he declares, "the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him."
Returning to Pauls first letter to the Thessalonians in 5:1-11, he chronologically reveals the next of the Lords activities when in verse 2 he writes of "the day of the Lord." The day of the Lord in the Scriptures starts at the beginning of the Tribulation period and continues into the period of Christs reign upon the earth as can be verified by biblical passages such as can be found in Rev. 5, 6:1, 11:15-17 & Joel 3:14-18.
This day of Christ is likewise chronologically spoken of after the Rapture in verse 2 of Ch. 2 of Pauls second letter to the Thessalonians. Paul then emphasizes to the Thessalonians in verses 2-8 of Ch. 5 in his first letter that this day will come "upon them" (that is the unbelieving world, not believers) suddenly "and they shall not escape," and that this day would not overtake the Christians. In verse 9 Paul reiterates how the believers will have been delivered from this day of wrath when he again recounts the Rapture. Paul once more emphasizes in verse 11 that believers are to "comfort each other" regarding this glorious deliverance from the wrath which is to come (Rev. 6:16-17).
Verse 2 of Ch. 2 of II Thessalonians is the verse which is the crux of this study. Here we find that the Thessalonians are not comforted, but instead were sorely troubled. They have received false teachings that the Tribulation Period had come. Of extra disconcertment, the origin of this false information was being portrayed as having come from Paul and others in leadership positions. Why the Thessalonians were troubled must be understood in order to correctly grasp that which is revealed to us in II Thess. Ch. 2.
One of the passages in the New Testament debated by adherents of the Post, Mid and Pre-Tribulation Rapture positions is II Thess. 2:1-8. The questions and opinions held to by the diverse points of view concerning II Thessalonians comes down basically to three subjects: the timing and the meaning of the events recorded by the Apostle Paul in verses 1 & 2 and who is the restrainer of the man of sin in verses 6 & 7.
Quoting verses 1 & 2 we read, "Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come." It is crucial for the correct understanding of this passage to grasp that Paul was assuring the Thessalonians in verse 2 that they were not entering into the day of the Lords judgment. Fraudulent messages and distressing circumstances surrounding the church at Thessalonica had made them fearful that they were entering into the time of Gods wrath. It is conclusive that Paul is speaking of the time of the Rapture in verse 1 as described in John 14:1-3 & I Thess. 4:15-18.
Verse 2 begins the debate. Pre-Tribulation supporters say that while verse 1 speaks of the Rapture (which we believe transpires before the Tribulation Period) verse 2 refers to the day of the Lord which is the time of His judging the earth until the close of the Tribulation and on into Christs earthly reign. Opponents say Paul is still speaking about the same event in verse 1 and verse 2
The dynamic question which gives clarity of thought concerning this passage of Scriptures concerns the clear reference to the Rapture in verse 1. This is, why would Paul bother to reassure the Thessalonians that they had not missed the Rapture? If Paul had previously taught them a Post or Mid Tribulation Rapture then they would not have any reason to "be shaken in mind" that they had missed it and had entered the Tribulation Period. They should have remained expectant of their blessed hope, but they were not.
Paul had been the Thessalonians teacher according to verse 5. If Paul wanted to correct an erroneous Pre-Tribulation outlook then the sequence of verses 1 & 2 should have been transposed in his letter to them. The day of the Lord would have been presented first by Paul, then secondly "our gathering together at the Rapture.
If it was something which they did not believe they might have missed, why is the Rapture presented as the primary and foremost concern in verse 1? If verse 2 is still speaking of the Rapture, as some suppose, then Paul would not have succeeded in relieving any of the Thessalonians distress, but instead would have in fact troubled them even greater by replacing their hope of the Rapture with the horrible fact that they or their children would one day face even greater and more terrifying tribulation then what they were then witnessing at that time. There would be no easing their troubled spirits by saying in effect, "you aint seen nothing yet."
Moving on to verse 3, we must point out that the words "that day will not come" are not in the original Greek, but are added in to help understand the passage flow. Quoting verses 3 we read, "Let no one deceive you by any means; [for that Day will not come] unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition." This verse was given to relieve the anxiety of the Thessalonians by assuring them that they had not entered into the Tribulation Period of verse 2 and therefore had not missed the promised Rapture spoken of in verse 1. Paul did not intend to convey to them that the worst was yet to come upon them.
Continuing on in verse 3 the reader must always keep in mind that Pauls clear objective has been to reassure the Thessalonians that: 1) they had not missed the Rapture and 2) they had not entered the Tribulation. Paul expounds on these two main points in verse 3 by sharing two major events which will distinguish the true start of the Tribulation.
First, there is to be a great apostasy (or departure) from the truth of Jesus Christ by a non-committed segment found predominantly within the ranks of Christianity. Rev. 3:1-5, 3:14-16, Jude 4,12-13, II Pet. 2:15-22 & Matt. 7:21-23 are some of the passages which speak of this faithless company. This false church will unite in global power after Christ removes the True Church and will bring to blossom the Harlot of Rev. 17.
Secondly, is the reference in verse 3 that the Day of the Lord could not come until the man of sin (that is the Anti-Christ) is revealed. Jumping ahead to verses 6 & 7 for a moment, it is vital to recognize and keep in mind for later that these verses speak of a "restrainer" which must be taken out of the way before the Anti-Christ can ever be revealed. The Anti-Christ will be revealed at the very start of the Tribulation Period when Christ opens the first seal of the last days judgments according to Rev. 6:1-2. Therefore, by the Word of God, the Church must be removed before the start of the Tribulation in order to harmonize with the sequence established by seeing the Church in heaven in Rev. 5:9-10 prior to the opening of the first seal of the Tribulation in Rev. 6.
Chapter 1:4-6 of II Thess. makes it abundantly clear that the Thessalonians were suffering terrible persecutions and tribulation. We must ask ourselves again what kind of consolation is Paul supposed to be giving? According to Post and Mid Tribulation interpretations, Paul is telling them not to hope for the Lords coming for any deliverance. Instead, he is telling them that the suffering they were enduring was nothing compared to what was coming when the son of perdition would be revealed. The fact remains that the Thessalonian believers were not troubled because they believed the Lord was coming for them and their resurrected loved ones. They were troubled because they thought it had not happened as expected and that instead they had entered into the Tribulation Period.
Lastly, we come to verses 6, 7 & 8 of II Thess. Ch. 2. Verse 6 is a fascinating and revealing cryptic message for our time. The Thessalonians understood what and whom Paul was speaking of as the "restrainer" of the Anti-Christ in verse 7, but we are left to apply ourselves to deductive reasoning. Paul writes, "And you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 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."
Theories as to the identity of this restraining "what" and "who" include: world government, the Archangel Michael, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Church. The language of the text conclusively supports that the identity of this mysterious entity described both in neutered impersonal and also personal terms, is in fact the Holy Spirit indwelt Church. Only the Spirit-filled Church fits this unique description of both an impersonal principle or power capable of manifesting itself under a personal form as a male individual in its unique identification as "the Body of Christ." (Rom. 12:4-5, I Cor. 10:17 & 12:27). Ephesians 1:13-14 gives irrefutable proof that even if the Holy Spirit were to ever be removed as the Restrainer, the Church would still have to be removed also. All other choices presented other than the Holy Spirit within the Church fail to fulfill the personal/impersonal description of the Restrainer. Jesus, Michael and the Holy Spirit are not "whats" and world government is not a "He."
Again, Pauls reassurance that the Church must be removed before the Anti-Christ can make his appearance, as described in Rev. 6:1-2 & Dan. 9:27 is solidified and harmonizes with Pauls original intention. Clear and sound exposition demands one to recognize that Paul was consistent in his purpose and sequence to alleviate what was troubling the Church when he wrote to them in Ch. 2 of II Thessalonians. He first assured them in verses 1 & 2 that they had not misunderstood the promise of the Rapture and refutes the false idea that they were entering the Tribulation Period. In verse 3 he reassures them that the Tribulation Period will not take place until after the great apostasy within and without the Church comes to fruition and the Anti-Christ is revealed. In verses 6-8, Paul sums up his offer of comfort by again emphasizing that an entity is holding back the Anti-Christ from making his appearance (an entity which they are aware of) and that entity must be taken out of the way first before the great day of the Lord can start.
We believe that we are living at the threshold of the Rapture and the start of the Tribulation Period and that an example of love between those who hold to different views as to the Raptures timing, at this point, would demonstrate a sober wisdom in the Lord. We are confident that the sequential teaching we have shared verifies the Pre-Tribulation Rapture is the teaching of Scripture and will be proven correct in the very near future.
Are you ready to meet the Lord in the Rapture or if He should call you home this day? Believe in the atoning blood sacrifice of the Living Lord Jesus Christ this moment for the forgiveness of your sins and thou shalt be saved.