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“The Premillennial ? Pretribulation Rapture (2 Thessalonians 2)”
by Art Sadlier   
January 2nd, 2017

The primary purpose of this chapter is to correct the false impression in the minds of the Thessalonians with regard to the second coming of Christ. They had received false teaching that this event, the second Coming of Christ, was near at hand and about to take place. Along with that error was the accompanying notion that the rapture had taken place and that they were already in the tribulation period. You can appreciate how disturbing that idea would be for them.

In setting the minds and hearts of the Thessalonians at ease on this matter the apostle gives to us one of the most important prophecies in the New Testament. He lays out the pre-tribulation, pre-millennial rapture of the church in clear teaching.

The scripture teaches that there are no events which must of necessity take place prior to the rapture of the church. The rapture is an imminent event (an any-moment possibility) and we are commanded to be watching for His coming for us at any moment. Jesus exhorted His followers to watch for the rapture which would take place suddenly and without warning. “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 24:44). The rapture is a sign-less event in contrast to the second coming which will be preceded by more signs than any other event in all of history. Our Lord lists many of those signs in Matthew 24.

In our text Paul lists a number of events that must occur prior to the second coming of Christ to the earth in glory.

Verse 1, “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him.” Paul is saying I want to exhort you concerning the rapture of the church. This is definitely referring to the rapture, as indicated by the phrase, “our gathering together unto Him.”

These believers had been taught by Paul that the rapture would involve their being caught up by Christ and taken to heaven with Him. “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

We see in contrast to the rapture the second coming in Revelation 19:11,14, “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war”…. “And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.” To identify these people see verse 8, “And to her (the church in this context) was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.” This is an identifying mark of the church, not Israel. “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment….” (Revelation 3:5).

In the First of these two scriptures we see the church being caught up to heaven to be with Christ. That is the rapture which was spoken of by Christ in John 14:2-3. “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”  

In the Second of these two scriptures we see Christ coming out of heaven with His saints at His Second Coming in glory and power to reign as mentioned in Luke 1:32-33. “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”

Verse 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.” Here we discover the concern of Paul for these Thessalonians. They were shaken in mind and deeply troubled about something. False teachers had misrepresented the truth and had claimed that they were speaking on behalf of Paul. Some had actually visited Thessalonica and had supposedly quoted the words of Paul. They stated that the rapture had already taken place, and that the second coming was about to take place.  The implication was that they had obviously been left behind. Some false teachers had actually forged letters signing Paul’s name, letters in which they also claimed the rapture of the church had taken place. Notice what these false teachers were claiming, “That the day of Christ is at hand.” Here again we see the lie that the rapture had taken place and the second coming of Christ was “at hand” or near.

The Day of Christ is the Second Coming. It is the day when our Lord will return to the earth to receive the glory and honour due to Him. He will come in great power and great glory and every knee shall bow to Him. Philippians 2:10-11, “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” That will be a long awaited day, the day when the one that hung on the cross and was spit upon in shame and disgrace will be glorified. For 2000 years Christ rejecters have cursed His name, in that hour when He returns to the earth they will bow and confess His lordship before being cast into hell.  At that time His glory will be revealed to the world for the first time and it will shine for all of eternity. We know that the Day of Christ is the second coming because the theme of chapter one is the second coming. “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ….When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.” (2 Thessalonians 1:7, 8, 10).

Paul anticipated that day in Philippians 2:16, “Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.” We, who are His, will greatly rejoice in that day when Christ comes to the earth in His second coming.

The key to understanding chapter 2 is to realize that both the rapture and the second coming are in view.

You can imagine the consternation of those Thessalonians in view of the fact that Paul had taught them that the rapture would precede the tribulation period and the second coming of Christ would take place at the close of the tribulation period. They would be troubled because they had missed the rapture and were not counted worthy to be caught up or they were perhaps not genuinely saved. They were indeed going through great persecution which would also cause them to wonder if they were in the tribulation period and had missed the rapture.

Verse 3, “Let no man deceive you by any means…”  Paul immediately tells them not to be deceived by these false teachers. He says, “By any means,” whether by forged letters or by misquotes, do not believe these false teachers.

The devil desires to confuse and deceive God’s people about the events of the last days. The truth of the Lord’s end time program has a powerful effect upon the people of God and the devil always has his false teachers in this area. A right understanding of the events of the last days is very important.

Now Paul begins to teach about the second coming of Christ in power and great glory. He begins by stating that the second coming is not imminent. There are some things that must happen prior to the second coming. He says, “For that day shall not come, except…” I repeat, some things must happen before the second coming can take place. He then lists two things that must precede the second coming. Again, I remind you that the second coming is not an imminent event. It can’t happen until these things first occur. Paul says, “That day shall not come, except.”

The First thing - “Except there come a falling away first.” Paul teaches that in the days before the Lord appears in glory at His second coming there will be a great falling away, a great apostasy. At the rapture we know that all believers will be removed from the earth and those who remain will be unbelievers, at least at the beginning of the tribulation period. We read about them in verse 12, “That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. The whole tribulation period will be marked by a turning away from God, though many will also be saved and martyred. They are identified as the tribulation saints. The unbelief and rebellion against God that has marked the age of man will come to a climax. We are now seeing the beginning of this climax of rebellion gaining momentum in our world.

The climax of this apostasy, the falling away, will take place during the tribulation period when the apostate church, the harlot, worships Antichrist as Jesus Christ. The second coming cannot happen until the great apostasy takes place.

Now Paul tells us about the Second thing that will take place prior to the second coming of Christ. Before the second coming can take place, Antichrist must appear on the scene.

And that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition (hell)” This will be at the beginning of the tribulation period.  He will be revealed when he comes to sign the false peace treaty with Israel and the nations of the world. “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week (7 years)….” (Daniel 9:27).  The second coming will not take place until after Antichrist appears and signs the 7 year peace treaty.

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.” Here we have a description of this evil man and his evil actions and other things which must transpire before the Saviour comes to earth in glory. This is an insight into the tribulation period.

Who opposeth,” He is distinguished by his opposition to God and the truth of God. He will be opposed to God’s plan of salvation. He will present himself as God and demand that he be worshipped as God. Satan has always wanted to replace God as the sovereign of heaven and earth. He has desired to be worshipped as God and we see here that he also wants to be worshipped in the very place God has been worshipped, in the Temple at Jerusalem.

Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?” Here we have the evidence that Paul had taught the Thessalonians all about the things he is now refreshing them on. Paul was only with them for three Sabbath days and yet he felt it was important to teach about the pre-tribulation, pre-millennial rapture. Paul held the teaching of premillennialism to be vitally important.

And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.” Something is withholding the appearance of Antichrist. Paul here tells about another event that must occur before Antichrist can be revealed. An event that also must take place prior to the second coming. That event is revealed in verse 7, “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.”

He who now letteth (restraineth) will let (restrain).” The one restraining evil in the world in this present dispensation is the Holy Spirit. This restrainer of evil is also restraining the appearance of Antichrist. We see the restraining ministry of the Holy Spirit referred to in John 16:8, “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” It is through the lives of believers that the Holy Spirit works to reprove and restrain evil (at least from its ultimate expression). The believer is said to be salt and light in the world which refers to the life of the believer as he prevents corruption around him by his holy life and his spreading of the truth of God’s Word.

Until He be taken out of the way.” When the rapture takes place believers will be removed from the earth and restraining ministry of the Holy Spirit will be terminated.  Consequently, the way will be opened for the man of sin to be revealed with all of his evil character and evil agenda. For the first time the world will see what ultimate evil is like. The conclusion is that the rapture must take place before the man of sin can be revealed on the earth and the man of sin must be revealed prior to the second coming.

Verse 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.” Notice it is declared that this wicked one will be destroyed in the very same breath with the mention of the coming of Christ. This destruction will occur at the second coming of Christ. We have a clear presentation of the sequence of events involving the rapture and the second coming.

Verse 9, “Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,” We see here the power and energy behind this man of sin. Satan has always sought to use men and women to further his attacks on God. This use of the man of sin will be Satan’s ultimate use of men to attack God and further his own agenda. Warning! Satan wants to use you and I to dishonour God and advance his own cause.

And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” Paul speaks about the deception which is the portion of those that are going to perish in hell. Men are deceived, not because they are unfortunate but because they reject the love of the truth. Verse 11 tells us that when men refuse to receive the truth, God sends them a strong delusion, “That they should believe a lie.” When God opens your heart and gives you knowledge of the truth, you are at your eternal crossroad. To reject the truth God has revealed is to be in danger of having God send you a strong delusion to believe a lie.

Verse 12 is a frightening prospect, “That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” The choice is always between your own pleasure, your own way or God’s will and God’s way.

In summary Paul has listed events that must precede the Second Coming of Christ.

1 – There must be a great apostasy. Though we are seeing apostasy growing today the great apostasy has not yet occurred. It will climax when the harlot church worships Antichrist as Jesus Christ.

2 – The restraint on sin must be removed. This removal of all restraints on sin will follow the rapture of the church.

3 – The man of sin must be revealed. Antichrist will be revealed at the beginning of the tribulation period as a great, benevolent world leader. At the mid-tribulation point the wraps will come off and he will revealed for who he truly is, the man of sin. Then will come the glorious appearing of Christ in his second coming. That event is at least seven years away. But I remind you the rapture of the church is imminent.

 In the light of these facts, believers are exhorted to stand fast. “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions (teachings) which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” (Verse 15).

Jesus said of the last days, “And many false prophets shall rise, and deceive many” (Matthew 24:11).

STAND FAST on the clear teaching of God’s Word!

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