Tuesday, April 14, 2009

II Thessalonians 2

Please note: The link to Larry Wolfe's website no longer works. I'll keep tabs on it in case the website comes back on line.

Any study of 2 Thes 2 can be said to be ambitious. This isn’t a study - my goal is to simply demonstrate that the pretrib position is well-defended in respect to these verses and is a response to statements that 2 Thes 2 debunks the pre-trib rapture. As an example, Rev Larry Wolfe goes as far as to assert (contrary to the evidence) that pretribbers ignore the issue:

"Pre-Tribulation Theory has no clear Biblical basis of support, but in distinct contrast it does have problem passages which are ignored instead of explained, such as II Thess 2:1-8."

Before I go any further, I should challenge readers to examine Paul Feinberg’s study (HERE) so that they can grasp some of the arguments behind the pre-trib and post-trib positions. The only drawback with his essay is that it is in-depth and one has to engage several issues. There are some observations that should be considered when reading 2 Thes 2. First of all, we should note that these verses are a response to a concern of the Thessalonians and that it relates to the gathering/rapture and the day of the Lord. Second, these verses should be understood in light of Paul’s previous letter, as Feinberg shows. Ironically, the latter portion of Feinberg’s excellent study is used in a pre-wrath PowerPoint presentation that utilizes Feinberg’s argument against the claim by some that the apostasia is the rapture. But, sadly, the full thrust of his article is ignored.

2Th 2:1-2 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.

One reason people get off track is the assumption that the gathering spoken of by Paul and the day of the Lord are one and the same event. If you hold to that presupposition then you will probably take the view that the Thessalonians were concerned that the DotL/rapture event had begun (due to some rumor or perhaps persecution) and they had been left behind. Given this, wherever you believe the day of the Lord begins will determine your rapture timing. However, if Paul is speaking of two separate events – the rapture/gathering followed later by the DotL - then we see a slightly different perspective in the later verses. Are they the same event? There is no Scriptural or linguistic reason to support this. It is true, however, that some contend that -while they are distinct - both events happen simultaneously. This ARTICLE might help to illustrate the differences in opinion.

Mal Couch’s essay (HERE) amplifies and elaborates on the following observations:

2Th 2:1 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him (The rapture)

2Th 2:2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. (The day of the Lord – NOT the rapture)

2Th 2:3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it (the DotL) will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,

1) Note here what Paul is not saying. He is not stating that the man of lawlessness is revealed at the Abomination of Desolation. The man of sin may be revealed when he confirms the covenant with many (Dan 9:27) or before then. On p 566 of “Footsteps of the Messiah” Arnold Fruchtenbaum says this, “There is to be a revelation of the identity of the Antichrist that precedes the Tribulation, and it is for believers living at that time. The rapture may or may not have occurred by then….Whoever the believers may be at the time, they will receive a revelation as to the identity of the Antichrist and it will happen some time before the Tribulation.”

2) Also, he is not saying that the rapture cannot come until then – he is talking about the day of the Lord. Pretribulationists are not unanimous regarding when the day of the Lord begins. Some believe it begins at the opening of the first seal, some at mid-week and some at the end of the week (posttribulational). Yet none of these differing views of the DotL disprove the pretrib rapture in light of 2 Thessalonians.

2Th 2:4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.

V4 is additional information about the Antichrist but, once again, Paul is not saying that this is the occasion of his revelation. The following pretrib viewpoints on 2 Thess 2 vary somewhat in some details and nuances and yet they are all viable arguments defending the pre-trib position.

McAvoy on 2Thes2

McAvoy makes the argument that certain events (the apostasia and the revealing of the man of sin etc) that are generally considered to precede the day of the Lord, may actually characterize and/or initiate it.

Carfrey on 2Thess2

Hockman on 2Thes2

Constable on 2Thes2

Guzik on 2Thes2

Correction Concerning the Day of the Lord—Part 1(2 Thes. 2:1-5)

Robert L Thomas

Some will no doubt object that a plain reading of Scripture (in this case 2 Thes) will support their own position. I disagree.

1) The apostle Peter:

2Pe 3:15-16 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.

2) A simple reading of the verses, minus presuppositions, also supports the pretrib view, as has been demonstrated.

3) If Scripture was always that simple we wouldn’t have arguments between Dispensationalists and Covenentalists or about the doctrine of OSAS etc.

4) 2 Thess has been strongly debated by many holding different perspectives ie pre-trib, mid-trib, pre-wrath, post-trib and no-rapture.

Ultimately, my point is that despite some ill-informed assertions, pretribulationism has no problems with the Thessalonian Epistles and - contrary to the allegation that it ignores the issue – in fact it engages debate effectively. It would also be fair to say that a case can be made for a variety of views within the context of 2 Thess 2.

Finally, given that Paul was addressing their fears, I find it odd that having corrected them, he not once warned the Thessalonians about actually going through the Great Tribulation. Assuming that the day of the Lord isn’t part of the GT, one would think that since Paul saw this sort of wavering in the face of impending Tribulation, he would have said something stronger. At the end of it all, what he ended up saying was this:

2Th 2:15 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.

Perhaps the answer is that Paul was simply telling them that they hadn’t missed the pre-trib rapture and they were not in the Tribulation (or the day of the Lord).

Further reading:

Differences between 1 Thessalonians 4 and Matthew 24

“Meeting the Dignitary” or “ Retrieving the Bride”?

An update

While I don’t think 2 Thes 2 poses any difficulty for pretribulationists, there are other verses that can be problematic as well – 2 Thes 1 is one example. But it should also be noted that ALL the rapture views have problematic Scriptures. Anyone who doesn’t think so just hasn’t been exposed to all the arguments and debates. This is one reason why I try not to be dogmatic.

2Th 1:6-10. These verses are used by posttribulationists and amillennialists to prove that their view is correct and that pre-trib is wrong. If God is giving relief to the “church” at the moment that He is revealed with His mighty angels in judgment then what about the secret rapture?

Dr Mike Stallard has a paper (HERE) setting out the issues and providing some pre-trib solutions to the debate. Scroll down and click on the “Post-Trib and Amillennial Uses of 2 Thessalonians 1” article and it will open up to a WORD document.

Perhaps the problem/solution is one of man’s expectation of timing as compared to God’s.

2Th 1:10 “…when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day

Is that day, the day of the Lord? Will His revealing be a progressive event preceded by the rapture “relief” and inaugurated by the sovereign act of opening that first seal? What may appear to be a single event may actually transpire over a course of time.

Luk 4:17-21 And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, "THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD." And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

These verses relate back to Isa 61:2 - To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn,

Notice that the Lord stopped in the middle of that sentence and closed the book. The rest of that prophecy was for a later time, yet I’d wager most scholars reading those verses would have argued strongly that the events were all within a single time frame. Perhaps the same principle applies to the above Thessalonian verses.

For an excellent premillennial and pretribulational exposition of Thessalonians, I highly recommend reading Dr Richard Mayhue's "1 & 2 Thessalonians".


Anonymous said...


Congratulations! You are now fulfilling the Bible which says "Come now, and let us repeat together."
Be sure to repeat what Walvoord, Lindsey, LaHaye, Ice etc. repeat what their own teachers repeat what their own teachers repeat etc. etc. etc.!
Repeat that Christ's return is imminent because we're told to "watch" (Matt. 24, 25) for it. So is the "day of God" (II Pet. 3:12) - which you admit is at least 1000 years ahead - also imminent because we're told to be "looking for" it?
Also repeat the pretrib myths about the "Jewish wedding stages" and "Jewish feasts" (where's your "church/Israel dichotomy" now?) even though Christ and Paul knew nothing about a "pretrib stage" and neither did any official theological creed or organized church before 1830!
You should read "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty" on the "Powered by Christ Ministries" site to find out why you shouldn't repeat everything your pretrib teachers repeat.
Do I have to repeat this?

(above spotted on web - Hal)

mac said...

Just in case you do come back to read, may I make some observations?

1)Nothing in your commentary remotely relates to my article on 2 Thess.

2)You are spreading gossip about other Christians. 2Co 12:20, Pro 20:19

3)Pretribulationists do not repeat each other. Contrary to your inference, there are many different viewpoints and debates over a variety of topics amongst pretrib scholars.

4)I’ll see your Matt 24, 25 & 11 Pet 3:12 and I’ll raise you 11 Thess 5:2-3 and Rev 6:3-4. Follow me?

5)My saviour was born a Jew and if His John 14:2-3 comments parallels a contemporary Jewish wedding practise, then I have no problem with that. Perhaps you can demonstrate how this contradicts Dispensationalism.

6)Go and read Dr Ice’s rebuttal to Gundry regarding Pseudo Ephraim. The antiquity of a belief is not proof-text of its truth. In fact, the idea precedes 1830. For your information, it was Dispensationalists such as Larkin and Scofield that pre-empted Israel’s rebirth based on their studies of Scripture. Some forms of posttribulationism are relatively recent, as are the mid-trib and pre-wrath positions and Preterism. Look at the teaching of the seventy weeks of Daniel and the Reformation.

Finally, I wish I had a dollar for how many times I’ve seen this!

Do I have to repeat this?

Let’s be honest here. You do repeat this. What you do is copy and paste this all over the internet in as many blogs discussing the rapture as you can.

Alesia said...

Good response, honey.