Paul Was Pre-Trib
This is not meant to be a complete commentary on 2
Thes. 2. Instead, I want to demonstrate that Paul had to have taught the
Thessalonians that the rapture of the Church would precede the End Times
judgments. Think of it as a supplement to your study of 1st and 2nd
By most accounts Paul stayed in Thessalonica for only about 3 weeks and
during that time he founded a Church and taught them the doctrines of
salvation and sanctification, the Trinity, the nature of man, the assurance
of pardon, and the Day of the Lord. He continued teaching them after he left
with his first letter, written from Corinth in 51 AD, in which he introduced
the doctrine of the rapture (1 Thes. 4:16-17). Shortly after that they
received another letter appearing to be from him, announcing that the Day of
the Lord had come. They reacted with fear and confusion and immediately
Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus and our being gathered to Him, we
ask you brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy
report or letter supposed to have come from us saying that the Day of the
Lord has already come. Don’t let any one deceive you in any way for that day
will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is
revealed, the man doomed to destruction. (2 Thes 2:1-3)
From Paul’s response it’s clear the previous letter had been a forgery, sent
by someone pretending to be him and designed to frighten them. It worked.
The Greek words for unsettle and alarm literally mean to agitate, incite,
and frighten. Something in the letter had contradicted their understanding
of his teaching and they were upset. Reading 2 Thes 2:1-3 we see that the
forgery must have disputed Paul’s teaching on events leading up to the Day
of the Lord. This is the only logical explanation for his 2nd letter to the
Notice that right from the beginning Paul separated the coming of the Lord
from our being gathered to Him. That’s because they’re two different events.
We can’t tell their relative timing from this, but we can tell they’re not
the same thing. One is when He comes back down to Earth, while from 1 Thes.
4:16-17 we know the other has us going up to meet Him in the air and
continuing to Heaven. The 2nd coming will be witnessed by everyone (Matt.
24:30), but the rapture is an instantaneous disappearance (1 Cor. 15:51-52)
that happens without warning.
Everything That Was Written In The Past Was Written To Teach Us
This quote from Romans 15:4 tell us that Paul wasn’t just writing to the
Thessalonian believers. He was also writing to us. Think about it. The Day
of the Lord is a term that always refers to the End Times and most often to
the Great Tribulation. If Paul had taught them to expect a post-tribulation
rapture would they have been agitated and frightened upon receiving the
forgery? No! It would more likely have made them think the 2nd coming was
only a few years away and many of them would live to see it.
The only justification for their fear and confusion would be if Paul had
taught them a pre-trib rapture. In that case a letter telling them the Day
of the Lord had come would mean they had missed the rapture, and that would
mean they weren’t saved. Now we can see how they would be agitated, angry
and afraid. Imagine how you would you feel in a situation like that.
From 2 Thes 2:1-3 we can begin to construct Paul’s teaching on the
chronology of events leading up to the Day of the Lord. Remember, there’s an
abundance of proof from his other letters showing that Paul taught the
doctrine of eternal security, aka once saved always saved. Some of the most
obvious references are Romans 8:38-39, Romans 10:9-10, 2 Cor 1:21-22, Ephes.
1:13-14, and Titus 3:4-7. In all of them Paul taught that true believers
cannot fall away from faith for any reason. He said the Lord guaranteed our
inheritance and sealed the Holy Spirit inside us as a deposit.
But Paul spoke of a rebellion (falling away) in 2 Thes 2:3 that would have
to precede the Day of the Lord. The Greek word translated rebellion is
apostasia, from which we get apostasy. It means people would abandon
something they once considered themselves to be part of and the context
implies that it’s the church. You can’t fall away from something unless you
first think of yourself as being part of it. But true believers can’t fall
away at all. Therefore this rebellion or apostasy has to manifest itself in
what’s left of the church after the rapture removes all the true believers.
Don’t be confused about this. We see believers-in-name-only leaving
traditional churches to join the Emerging Church all around us, but
rebellion is as much attitude as it is action and they don’t think they’re
rebelling against God. They see themselves as still being in the Church. In
fact they think they’re the best part of it. Far from being rebellious, they
call themselves followers of Christ, not just believers in him, and doers of
the word, not just hearers. They’re not sitting in Churches on Sunday
listening to the same tired old messages on sin and salvation and coming
forward to be born again. No. They’re out there in the world, thinking
they’re changing it for Jesus.
These advocates of the so-called social gospel don’t realize it’s not what
you do for the Lord that matters, it’s what you believe He’s done for you.
The only work the Lord requires of us is that we believe in the one He sent
(John 6:29). That means to believe God chose to send His Son to Earth to die
for our sins so we can choose to live with Him in Eternity (John 3:16). The
righteous work of a thousand lifetimes will not suffice in place of this
When these believers-in-name-only discover we’ve disappeared while they’ve
been left behind, that’s when they’ll rebel against God and join the other
side. By the time the anti-Christ makes his claim to deity, the whole world
will follow him (Rev. 13:8) and they’ll be right in the forefront.
The End Times According To Paul
After the rapture and the falling away of believers-in-name-only into His
world-wide counterfeit religion, the anti-Christ will be revealed for who he
really is by proclaiming himself to be God (2 Thes. 2:4). Remember, the
sequence Paul gave was first the apostasy, and then the man of lawlessness
will be revealed.
Paul confirmed this sequence in 2 Thes. 2:7-8, saying a restrainer is
currently holding things back. After the restrainer is taken out of the way
the anti-Christ will be revealed. This restrainer is the Holy Spirit, sealed
with in the Church. After the rapture, the Holy Spirit will be out of the
way, the rebellion will take place, and the anti-Christ will be revealed.
These things can’t happen until the church is gone.
Most likely, the anti-Christ will already be known as a great statesman and
leader, but by declaring himself to be God he’ll be laying claim to Planet
Earth. This claim will kick off the Great Tribulation (Matt. 24:15-21) and
will be accompanied by all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders
that will deceive those who have fallen away into thinking they have finally
found the truth. But in reality they will have rejected the truth and
embraced a lie. At the end of the Great Tribulation the Lord will return to
over throw the anti-Christ and destroy him by the splendor of His coming and
those who believe the lie will perish as well (2 Thes. 2:9-12).
In his letters to the Thessalonians Paul didn’t reveal the actual timing of
the Rapture except as it relates to other events. It may be one of the
things he was forbidden to speak about (2 Cor. 12:4). All we know is for
reasons of His own the Lord has never given us a specific date for the
rapture. But by carefully studying passages describing it and maintaining
the view that the Bible cannot contradict itself, the astute believer can
obey the commandment to “know the times and seasons” and construct with some
assurance the correct sequence of events. Paul criticized the Thessalonians
for not figuring this out back then (2 Thes 2:5) and would even more
strongly criticize the church today for the same reason. Selah. 11-05-11