I primarily use the NASB, but occasionally I find it deficient; I will insert other translations if they can clarify the context. Those translations will be duly noted.
Chapter one was an appropriate greeting, but chapter two stands alone and begins to immediately address fears that have come as the result of some false teaching.
This theme was not a new to Paul as he had written to the Christ-followers in Thessalonica on a previous occasion.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 NASB 13) But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14) For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15) For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16) For the Lord, Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17) Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.
Considering the years between these two letters, the new members that had been added to the church body, and the addition of some false teachings, the fear has had a chance to creep in. I see the effects of false teachings frequently in the church bodies I have had dealings with, as people espouse things they know so little about; all the while continuing to cloud the issue.
So let’s dissect the passages and see if we can understand all that Paul is trying to say.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 NASB 1) Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 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.
“with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him,”
Coming – is the Greek word parousia; a being near, that is, advent (often, return; specifically of Christ to punish Jerusalem, or finally the wicked.) Strong’s concordance.
In the explanation above I see two distinctly different things.
One being Jehovah’s return in the clouds to catch His church away. This catching away is called the harpazo, but it is also known as the advent or return.
The second possible understanding is this idea of the punishment of Jerusalem or the wicked. This concept pertains to the wrath of God being poured out. One of the keys to understanding the difference between Jesus return for His church and His coming as the conquering Messiah hangs on this phrase – “ the day of the Lord.” Using the NASB concordance, the expression shows up in 22 verses. 18 of those references are found in the Old Testament. Since the Tenach is designed for a Jewish audience then the language and references are expressly Jewish; that means that the phrase – the day of the Lord, is almost exclusively about the return of the Messiah.
Of the four verses left and found in the New Testament, three of them are exclusively about the catching away of the church. This catching away is that time when Jesus comes back in the clouds for His church, and they will be caught up to meet Him in the air. 2Peter 3:10 leans more toward the time of the end, as it tells us that, “the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.” While all of these things are a part of the seven-year period the implications are that this will happen almost all at once when Jesus returns to the earth for the final time. You see, this is one of those areas that are not that black and white.
So, let’s see if the context of the passage answers the question about when this event will happen.
While I understand that Paul was addressing the body of believers in Thessalonica (a primarily Jewish audience,) these words also apply to us. I do not hear this complaint or question anymore, but I am aware that many do believe that Christ has already returned. If that is the case, what are we doing and why are we wasting our time?
But Christ has not already returned. How do I know that? Well there are markers, or some might think of them as guideposts along the way, and Paul spells them out.
2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 NASB 3) Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 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.
“The apostasy comes first.”
Since apostasy means a falling away, I ask you, has that happened? Absolutely, and at an exponential rate.
“and the man of lawlessness is revealed,”
I want to show you some alternate readings.
This second selection is from the Complete Jewish Bible, and it translates this passage entirely different from anyone else. Why is this significant? Because even the Muslims have prophecies, and one of them describes such a man;
2 Thessalonians 2:3 Darby Let not any one deceive you in any manner, because it will not be unless the apostasy have first come, and the man of sin have been revealed, the son of perdition;
2 Thessalonians 2:3 CJB Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way. For the Day will not come until after the Apostasy has come and the man who separates himself from Torah has been revealed, the one destined for doom.
A man who is a descendant of Aaron –
The priests were to come from the lineage of Aaron. Since we know that the temple will be rebuilt, then practically every preparation would have to be made at this point, for a high priest to be installed. He then would be the one to enter the Holy of Holies and sprinkle the blood of the lamb.
The Muslim prophecies tell us that this Jew will reject the Torah, pay homage to the Mahdi, and follow him.
Do you grasp the depth of this action? Many who have esteemed this Jew enough to appoint him as the high priest over the new temple will be deceived, turn from the true God, and follow his actions as they too will bow to the Mahdi in worship. This Mahdi appears to be the Islamic religious leader that will soon be saying peace, peace. Most of this takes place 1260 days into the time of wrath upon the earth.
I am always concerned that people will see my words as unbelievable.
If, you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then, you are under a mandate to study to show not only, yourself, to be approved by God, but to judge the words being said to you, as to whether they are true or not. You are not doing this type of study to bash people, although I sometimes think that many should shut their mouths, but you are studying these things so that you can know what is right.
Let me show you an example: I believe in the pre-tribulation rapture, regardless of the poor choice of words we traditionally use. Although there is a voluminous amount of those in opposition to this understanding, I did my homework and became even more thoroughly convinced that Jesus is coming back for His church that is waiting for Him, and, He is going to do so before God’s wrath is poured out upon the earth.
Specific reasons why I believe in a pre-wrath rapture.
Matthew 3:7 NASB But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
The obvious thing I see here is that Jesus just acknowledged that it is purposeful to flee from the wrath, and, that there is wrath coming.
Luke 21:23 NASB … for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people;
Here we can see that the intended target is the land and these people. Now the statement, “to this people” is relatively generic and needs some clarity. Luke 21:24 NASB tells us that “they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations;”
It is easy enough to see that a part of this fulfillment comes upon Israel and it’s people, the Jews. However, pay attention, and you can see one other group, the Gentiles. The Gentiles and the nations are the same. If you are not a Jew, and you are a follower of Christ, then you have been engrafted into the vine and no longer fall under the category of being a Gentile in God’s eyes.
Those with a veil over their eyes will not get this concept. Since we are “in Christ” then we are part of the church and not subject to this wrath.
Romans 1:18 NASB For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
What is evident to me is the terminology, the wrath of God. Pay attention to the words being used and upon whom they are directed. Romans 1:18 can be taken as a somewhat broad spectrum statement.
An example of this broad spectrum idea – I know a man who came to church for a time and did all the appropriate things. He came down front, cried his eyes out, made sorrowful and repentant statements. Why he even got baptized in a swimming pool as a symbol of this new and changed life he wanted to live. That didn’t last long. Does he belong to God and is therefore not going to be subject to this wrath because he is part of the church. I do not know, because any fruit he produces is rotten and stinks before it falls off the tree. This pattern has been going on for years.
Ephesians 2:3 NASB Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
The Apostle Paul taught that we were formerly children of wrath, and no longer subject to the “wrath of God.”
1 Thessalonians 1:10 NASB 10) and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.
1 Thessalonians 1:10 is one of the most specific examples that Paul gave us. Since we are in Christ, Jesus has rescued us from the wrath that is to come.
1 Thessalonians 5:9 NASB 9) For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Many think that we deserve punishment. Well, that might have been true, but as followers of Christ, we are of those who have agreed to and accepted His salvation. You see, you need to have a firm grasp on what Jesus did. I am continually trying to remind people that all sins were forgiven – past, present, and future. Then what are people being punished for? Look at what Colossians 3:5-6 tells us,
Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6) For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, NASB
Simply put, you either follow Jesus, or you follow the god of this world, Satan. He will go to an eternal punishment, as will all those who choose to follow him. This punishment, as many want to believe, is not the end-all statement, as God is a merciful God beyond everything else; ask Jonah. And that is why we have the sheep and goats of Matthew 25. Take the time to study that.
Revelation 6:14-17 NASB 14) The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. 15) Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; 16) and they *said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; 17) for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
There are three things I want you to see here. Verse 15 gives us a description of some of the people affected by what is happening: kings of the earth; great men; commanders; the rich and strong, and every slave and free man. No one upon the earth is left unscathed by what is coming.
In verse 16 we see them crying out to be hid from the presence of “Him who sits on the throne, AND from the wrath of the Lamb. This lamb is Jesus Christ. Since I used an example from the Revelation, let me point something out to you. This entire book is a Revelation of Jesus Christ. Even the rich, in this scenario, understood that God played a hand in this, and at the same time, they are acknowledging Jesus. It’s all about Jesus.
And the last thing, although I have already intimated it, is that this wrath is coming from God/Jesus.
Since we are going to be like Bereans, a people who had enough sense to verify that what Paul was teaching was right, what then do we use as a basis for what is true? Keep in mind, that the Bereans did not have Bibles, they had some scrolls. Those scrolls were so valued that only a limited number of priests could handle them, and so the Torah and Tanakh were read aloud. This idea of scrolls changes the whole idea of Bible study. The Bereans had no New Testament, it was being spoken in their ears by Paul and lived out right in front of them. I, on the other hand, have over thirty translations of the Bible on my computer, and over forty commentaries that I can glean from. I have no excuses.
The answer to the question is The Word of God. Now, since we know that there are errors across translations, is it wise to merely open the NIV for example, read it, and then say, “this is how that is supposed to be understood!” NO, because, as I said, there are errors. (Do not for a moment think that these errors are on God’s part, as God’s wisdom has been substantiated by His ability to get His message across plainly to those who choose to pursue this wisdom.)
So, what am I saying to you? Be open but alert; trust the Holy Spirit to guide you; judge everything against the word of God, and, remove yourself, if you can, from false teachers. They will corrupt you with the simplest of things, such as David conquering Goliath when David was only four foot tall. That is not even close to the terminology used in the descriptions of David. King Saul, who knew David well for David was his ARMOR bearer, called him a youth. But what does that mean? Are these things critical to the story? NO, but if you are willing to build false images about the nature and character of David, what else will a false teacher do with God and His word.
I can tell you what some will do, for I have experienced this first hand. These false teachers send everyone that comes to the Great White throne judgment to hell. There is nothing about that scenario that definitively points to that happening; these same teachers refuse to see that Matthew 25 and the story of the sheep and the goats, is just another picture of the Great White Throne. In other words, they will twist the gospel so tightly that in time, you will not be able to understand what is true.