Which of the two readings of 2 Thessalonians 2:2 is correct?
The Authorized Version reads, “That ye be not soon shaken in mind,… as that the day of Christ is at hand.” Darby’s translation reads, “that ye be not soon shaken in mind, . . . as that the day of the Lord is present.”
For some Bible students, this involves a very emotional issue. To them, suggesting a change in the King James Version is equivalent to changing the Bible. We must insist, with them, that the Word of God never changes (Psalm 119:89). Nevertheless, the King James Version is a translation from handwritten documents, manuscripts, that are copies (more likely, copies of copies of copies…) of the original writings. Researchers have discovered more ancient copies, for instance a manuscript (C. Beatty’s) containing most of the New Testament and dated toward the end of the first century (thus, perhaps copied within 30 years of the original writings) was found in the 1930s. These older manuscripts have some differences from the manuscripts used by the KJV translators. It is worth emphasizing that “not one fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith rests on a disputed reading” (P. W. Comfort, “The Complete Guide to Bible Versions”).
Without attempting in this brief format to answer the objections raised by those who defend the AV readings, I accept the view of reliable scholarship that supports Mr. Darby’s translation.
Will part of the Church, according to the AV reading, be present during the tribulation?
We are not at liberty to decide which reading we prefer based on its support for our interpretation of the Scriptures. That decision must rest on manuscript evidence.
The “Day of Christ” (Philippians 1:10; 2:16) is linked with the end of our testimony on earth and the assessment of our service at the judgment Seat. Following 2 Thessalonians 2:2, Paul writes, “…that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed…” The earliest “that man of sin” could be revealed would be at the beginning of the 7 year period (Daniel 9:27), generally referred to as “The Tribulation.” This would appear to teach that the Rapture follows the beginning of the Tribulation, a teaching inconsistent with several other passages.
Does the context of this verse shed light on its meaning?
Darby’s reading, “the Day of the Lord is present,” helps open the meaning of the passage. Paul wrote this epistle to believers who were experiencing severe persecution (1:4,7). In these circumstances, a false teacher could readily victimize these young believers by sending a letter, supposedly from Paul, saying that this persecution was part of the terrible judgments of “that day,” the Doty of the Lord (Joel 1: 15, for example). The troubling part of this was that not that they were going through the tribulation but that this was contrary to Paul’s previous teaching written to them. No wonder they were quickly shaken in their minds and troubled! Here were young believers suffering persecution because they had embraced the gospel message Paul preached and now Paul had allegedly written to reverse his position on some of his teaching. Had they been totally misled? Would they receive another letter from Paul letting them know his gospel had changed, too?
A reference to the spurious teaching that the Day of the Lord was present seems to clarify both the language used in verse 2 and also the context of the epistle.
What is the teaching in Thessalonians regarding the Church and the tribulation?
Paul had taught them in his first epistle that “Peace and Safety” would be the slogan at the beginning of the Day of the Lord (5:2, 3). He has assured the Thessalonians of that previous to his writing, because he says, “yourselves know perfectly that…” (5:2). Evidently “peace and safety” accompany the signing of the 7 year treaty with the prince that shall come,” another title for “the man of sin.” Understanding this from Daniel 9:26, 27, the believers knew the Day of the Lord couldn’t begin without this revelation of the man of sin.
More than that, Paul taught them that the judgments of the Day of the Lord would come on those in darkness, not on them who were children of the light and of the day (5:4,5). The helmet that would guard their mind and preserve them from being like the children of night was their hope of salvation (verses 7, 8). They could rest in the assurance that God had not appointed them to that coming day of wrath, the Day of the Lord, but to salvation from it. The death of Christ gave them unconditional assurance that they would share that wonderful outcome of the resurrection; they would “live together with Him” (verses 9, 10). Paul had taught them that their Deliverer from the wrath during the Day of the Lord was God’s Son who was coming for them from heaven (1:10).
This teaching of Paul’s is consistent with the truth given to John that the Lord would keep His own out of the time of temptation coming on the “earth-dwellers” who have no heavenly hope (Revelation 3:10). The Church will not go through the Tribulation. No one in the Church will be on earth during that time.