“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, 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. 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; 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.” – 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4
2 Thessalonians 2 has long been a problem text for pretribulational dispensationalists who make the Day of Christ the so-called rapture of the church.
The passage clearly says that the Day of Christ will not come until after the Antichrist is revealed and performs blasphemies that occur within Daniel’s 70th week in Jerusalem.
The gathering of the church to the Lord is imminent, the Day of Christ is not. Making the Day of Christ the rapture leads to one of two mistakes.
Mistake #1: Changing the Words
In order to maintain their position that the Day of Christ is the rapture some brethren audaciously change the words to fit their doctrine, to their shame.
Resorting to “better sources” and linguistic gymnastics they change “day of Christ” to “day of the Lord”, creating a new set of problems, or turn “falling” on its head so that the church falls upward toward the air. What nonsense!
Changing words in the Bible to align with a doctrinal position undermines Biblical inerrancy and preservation, and is a very weak defense for any doctrine.
Even if we agree with the end doctrine, the end does not justify the means. Altering the Bible is a heinous practice that needs to stop.
Mistake #2: Putting the Church in Prophecy
For those unstable in rightly dividing prophecy from mystery it is a small thing to put the church in the middle of Daniel’s 70th week. They suggest that Paul is preparing the church to enter greater tribulation.
But this is exactly opposite of what Paul teaches about the nature and purpose of the mystery church, and it contradicts Paul’s stated purpose of calming the fears in Thessalonica created by wrong doctrine (2 Thess 2:2).
If the Day of Christ is the rapture then why are they troubled? If the Day of Christ is the Day of the Lord, then why is Paul explaining these prophetic happenings to the mystery church?
What consolation and hope is there in describing the greater wickedness to come to people already troubled in the present time?
No, there must be an interpretation that maintains the integrity of God’s words, and aligns with Paul’s clear teaching of the separation of the mystery church from prophetic Israel.
The Day of Christ is not the Day of the Lord nor the so-called rapture.
Defining the Different Days
The Day of the Lord is the day in which the Lord pours out judgment and justice. It comes at the end of Daniel’s 70th week and is prophesied.
The Day of the Lord is a defined in Zeph 1:14-15:
“The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness,”
It is a day of wrath.
The Day of Christ is a uniquely Pauline phrase. Here are the verses where we find this day mentioned: Phil 1:6; Phil 1:10; Phil 1:16; 2 Tim 1:18; 2 Tim 4:8; 1 Cor 1:8.
It is a “day of rejoicing”, a day of rewards, and a day of reigning with Christ in our heavenly places. The Day of Christ would not be our gathering together unto him, but something after this gathering, and after God establishes his throne in both heaven and earth to reign (the church in heaven; Israel on the earth).
The present time while the church operates in a present evil world is not the Day of Christ where we rule with Christ sitting in heavenly places. Neither is it now the kingdom on earth promised to Israel, nor the prophesied tribulation that precedes it.
The Trouble Among the Thessalonians and Corinthians
In the first century there were was wrong teaching that the kingdom was then present, and that our lives on earth is our reign with Christ. Some even said there was no resurrection from the dead.
If this were true then those facing persecution for Christ and the gospel would be most miserable (1 Cor 15:19). Why would they sacrifice and endure hardness if this was supposed to be the time of reward? (1 Cor 15:32)
The Thessalonians were being troubled by the false doctrines that the kingdom had already come, and that there would be no resurrection. These twin false doctrines were taught by Sadducee Jews in the first century, and were common troubles of the early churches (see 1 Corinthians 15, and Paul’s defense of the resurrection).
Even today there are those who teach we are living in the kingdom now, or will go through prophesied tribulation invoking trouble in the church by denying the resurrection of the church to meet the Lord in the air.
This is why the Thessalonians were troubled and shaken in mind. If their present distress was all there was to hope for, and the time of rewards and blessing is now, then why wouldn’t they stop serving and start eating, drinking, and being merry? (1 Cor 15:32)
If the then time of the Thessalonians (during this dispensation) was the time of our reigning with Christ (Day of Christ) then what a miserable thing Christianity would be to those who were being persecuted in Thessalonica (2 Thess 1:4-6).
Paul’s Comfort in Resurrection
Paul comforts the Thessalonians that the persecution they were facing was not descriptive of the kingdom on earth, nor the Day of Christ (our reigning with Christ in resurrected glory). Before either of these would occur there must come a time that is worse than it then was followed by the antiChrist, wars, and the return of the Lord to judge.
He reminds them of specific events in future prophecy, because they could testify that those events were not occurring and would be evidence that they had not missed the resurrection of the church nor the glory (2 Tim 2:18).
Paul encourages them with two hopeful resurrection events:
1) The coming of the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ in judgment against their persecutors (2 Thess 1:7-9, 2 Thess 2:1).
2) The gathering together of the church in resurrection in deliverance from the wrath to come (1 Thess 1:10, 1 Thess 4:16-18, 2 Thess 2:1).
What they were experiencing was not the fullness of times, the reign of Christ, or the kingdom come. They were experiencing the mystery of iniquity which was already working.
“For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.” – 2 Thess 2:7
They were living in this present evil world, and they needed to reckon the greater glory (Rom 8:18).
In every chapter of his Thessalonian epistle Paul mentions the resurrection so that they would not be troubled about their present distress and think their life of trouble was the only hope they would ever have.
This present time is not the kingdom, nor is it the time of prophesied wrath.
The Day of Christ is not the Day of the Lord, and it is not the rapture.