Tribulation or Translation? (1)

The saints at Thessalonica had been duped into believing that the tribulations experienced by them were synonymous with the tribulation which would occur at the start of day of the Lord. Had the Rapture passed them by?

The day of the Lord, first mentioned in Isaiah 2:11,12, is an Old Testament concept relating to God’s dealings on earth, subsequent to believers of the Church era being raptured. The day of the Lord begins with the Tribulation, encompasses the 1000-year-long reign of Christ, and ends with the judgment of the Great White Throne.

Unfortunately, the translators of the KJV used the “day of Christ” rather than the “day of the Lord.” The “day of Christ,” “of Jesus Christ,” and “the Lord Jesus Christ” all refer to believers of this church era and the events that will affect them subsequent to the Rapture, such as the judgment seat of Christ and the marriage of the Lamb. These events are not in view in 2 Thessalonians 2; instead Paul exposes the error concerning the day of the Lord (vv1-5). He explains events at the start and finish of the day of the Lord (vv6-12), and encourages the Christians with the truths of election and glory (vv13-17).

The Day of the Lord and the Christians’ Error (2Thes 2:1-5)

The Advent – Christ’s Parousia (v1)

The Appeal – “Now we beseech you, brethren.” Paul implores the saints, that in light of the Rapture, they should not be taken in by false representations.

The Advent – “by the coming (parousia) of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The word parousia is not limited to the precise moment of someone’s arrival but embraces the period of their presence. It is used three times in this chapter. Here in verse 1, it speaks of the return of Christ to the air and His Presence with His saints in contrast to the present period when He is absent.

In contrast, in verse eight, it is related, not to His return to the air, but to His return to this earth. “The brightness of His coming” is rightly translated as the epiphany of His parousia or the brightness of His presence.

The man of sin, John’s antichrist, has his parousia (2:9). He is Satan’s man, and mimics the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Assembling – “and (by) our gathering together unto him.”

The AV gives the impression that two distinct events are being described. It is one event described in two different ways. The advent and the assembling both describe the Rapture. The same thought occurs in Hebrews 10:25, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together…as ye see the day approaching.” The gatherings of the saints in local assembly capacity are a foreshadowing of this final, great gathering of believers in the air, around the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Assurance – A Problem (v2)

The Perplexity – “that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled.” This false teaching, ostensibly with Paul’s credentials, was creating anxiety and agitation.

The Process – “neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us.”

Before the complete revelation of divine truth in Scripture, New Testament prophets conveyed truth to the assembly by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Some claimed to have received such revelations, but the source was not the Holy Spirit. Others conveyed truth orally, and some laid claim to having seen a letter from the apostle. Whichever means was used to unsettle the Thessalonians, it had the desired effect. It is likely that this sparked Paul’s remark: “The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write” (3:17). In order to be genuine, the letter must have Paul’s personal signature.

The Period – “as that the day of Christ is at hand.” The AVneeds amending to: “as that the day of the Lord is now present.” The Thessalonians were not stressed by a day that was “at hand,” i.e., soon to come, but by the belief that they were currently living in the day of the Lord with its attendant judgments and tribulations. How had they missed out on the Rapture?

The Apostacy – A Precursor (v3a) and The Apocalypse – A Person (v3b)

“Let no man deceive you,” or “beguile you.” The use of the word alerts us to Satan’s effort to derail the saints at Thessalonica, albeit using human agency.

“By any means” refers to the three methods set out in verse two.

The day of the Lord will not and cannot begin until the “falling away,” the “departure” or “apostasy.” Apostasy is a word used when a person has claimed to receive the truth but has then gone back on it all. Apostates are never genuine converts. Christendom will experience a move away from their basic tenets to a further secularization of society. When the world-wide apostasy is evident, the way will be clear for the commencement of the day of the Lord and its introductory feature, the Tribulation. The epitome of this period is the apocalypse of the man of sin. His revelation is a further attempt to imitate the Lord Jesus Christ and His apocalypse (or return to earth). We are not talking about a principle of lawlessness but a man who embodies lawlessness, he is lawlessness personified. Lawlessness does not imply no laws, but the setting aside of God’s laws which are seen to be too restrictive of the kind of freedoms in which man desires to indulge.

The title “man of lawlessness” reveals the character of this man. The “son of perdition” reveals his doom. Adam was the first man; Christ was the second man; is the man of sin our third man?

The translators should have been consistent in their use of “lawlessness.” We have the “man of lawlessness” (v3), “the mystery of lawlessness” (v7), and “the lawless one” (v8).

The use of the title “son of perdition” for the man of sin here, and of Judas in John 17:12, has led some to associate the two and to suggest that a resurrected Judas will be the man of sin! To build such a conclusion on a mere similarity of expression is dangerous.

– To be continued