1 Thessalonians 1:10
“…and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus, who delivers us from the WRATH to come.”
Paul speaks here of the faithful ones waiting for the return of their Lord from Heaven and how He will deliver them from the wrath to come. But, contextually, what is WRATH? Is there a grammatical distinction between the terms wrath and judgment?
Pre-tribulation rapture believing Christians use this passage as a point of debate to that view of a secret, mysterious rapture occurring 7 years before the final wrath of God. Pre-tribulation believers speak of Jesus coming like a “thief in the night” and that no man knows the day nor hour of when that will be, not even Jesus Himself, (despite the fact that Revelation 1:1 states otherwise.) But in context, when referring to the “thief in the night” statement, Paul clearly states that Christ will come as a “thief in the night” only to those who are in darkness: Unbelievers. He then says to the faithful saints that they are NOT in darkness so that that day should NOT overtake them as a thief. The problem is that, when proof texting the word, “WRATH” in Paul’s letters, the Thessalonians, to whom Paul was speaking, couldn’t have just flipped over in their Bibles to the Book of Revelation and drawn the conclusion that the Great Tribulation of Revelation was what Paul was referring to when he wrote of “wrath” in his letters. I mean, they were written decades before John ever wrote the Book of Revelation and they didn’t even have Bibles. But what the Thessalonians did know, being that they were the ones hearing Paul and receiving his letters, was in what context Paul was speaking of wrath in this, and other verses.
But the Pre-Trib argument pushes this point, to which is stated: “The final tribulation is God’s wrath and therefore the church won’t go through the tribulation.” This view, again, is derived from 1 Thessalonians 1:10 and 5:9 where Paul said God would deliver “us” (the church of that hour) from the “wrath to come.” But that view is completely unfounded in right context of these passages of scripture, as we’ll see.
In Paul’s writings, such as in Romans 1:18, God poured out his wrath there in the present upon the deeds of Rome. But Paul nearly always uses the term, wrath, for later, in the destruction of the wicked at the second coming of Christ, after the final tribulation. What we are saved from is not tribulation, but God’s wrath and destruction. Noah and his family were saved from destruction (wrath.) Lot and his girls were saved from destruction (wrath.) But when God delivered judgment upon Pharaoh’s Egypt, (which is alluded to in Revelation thru the plague imagery), where were the people of God? Were they removed from Egypt before the plagues? No. They were present in the midst of it and blessed before their enemies. So wrath refers to God’s destruction of His enemies while protecting His people from it. Can you say, “blood on the doorposts?” In the context of Paul’s uses of this verse elsewhere, wrath doesn’t refer to the Great Tribulation, but more to something like utter destruction, or hell fire. But if we skip to Revelation for context to see how it uses the word wrath, every single time that this same Greek word that Paul uses for “wrath” in his writing, (greek word “orge”), it always refers to the final judgment at Christ’s return, after the tribulation. It is never used to refer to tribulation. When Revelation uses another term translated as wrath, the Greek word, “thymos”, it often does refer to the tribulation. But even the greek word thymos refers to the final wrath in the book of Revelation, about 50% of the time. So this argument for the church escaping the tribulation is extremely unfounded in proper scriptural context.
2 Thessalonians 2:6-7 speaks of a “restrainer of lawlessness” being removed or “taken out of the way.” Many in the pretrib belief have taught that this refers to the Church, or to the Holy Spirit that is within the church, being taken out of the earth before the tribulation. I was taught that, along with all the other points growing up. But the common-sense argument against this is the question of, “How can people be converted during the Great Tribulation without the Holy Spirit?” This view is erroneous and irresponsibly rendered. There are a number of other possibilities of what this restrainer, who is taken out, can be. A restraining angel? A reference to Michael based on Daniel chapter 12? A better form or agent of government being removed, allowing unrestrained lawlessness? Others believe that it just refers to God’s restraining hand in the matter. But the one thing that it cannot mean, in proper context, is the Church or Holy Spirit. Jesus declared that He would never leave or forsake and He prayed, not that the Father would take us out of the earth, but keep us throughout our trial within the earth. God ordained man for earth, not heaven.
But…just a few verses earlier in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, Paul says, “concerning Jesus’s coming”, which is also mentioned in verse 8, which ironically involves the destruction of the wicked, but here, “concerning Jesus’s coming and our gathering together to him”, which in the Greek, these are linked together grammatically pointing to the idea that these two events are one and the same: 1) His coming and 2) our gathering together with Him.
Paul was saying that “that day“, the day of the Lord, which is a day of wrath, the day of His appearing, the day of His Supper, etc.. as seen both in the Old and New Testaments, and is the same day that He appears and the faithful are gathered together unto Him. And before that day comes, Paul says, the great apostasy must first occur and the man of lawlessness must first be revealed. So the symbolic man of lawlessness, the world system, must arise and be revealed before the church is gathered together with Jesus. This is extremely clear in the context. I had always heard that “the church will be taken out of the way before the Antichrist is known because he isn’t revealed until halfway through the tribulation and the church is already gone.” That is not in the Bible, anywhere! He (Antichrist) is not a literal person anyway. He is a metaphor for the spirit in men that rejects Jesus.
2 Thessalonians 1:5-10….
Suffering makes you worthy (gold tried in the fire) of the Kingdom for which you are suffering. (1:5)….. God will punish your persecutors (1:6) ….. and give you rest from your suffering (1:7)….When?.….
…When Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire to judge the wicked and they will be destroyed but he will be glorified in you.”
Often there is an imminence argument used by inference amongst the pretrib view… and it is…. “Since Jesus can come at any moment, He must come before rather than at the end of tribulation.” This assumes that the length of the tribulation is known and that there are clear and identifiable markers for its beginning, which contradicts the contextual reading of all the scriptures that talks about the imminence of His return. All the texts that talk about imminence do not speak of Jesus coming before the tribulation, but of Him coming after this. The “thief in the night”, in Matthew 24, in context, speaks of Jesus coming after the tribulation. 1 Thessalonians 5, “the day the Lord comes as a thief” is the day of the Lord in 2nd Thessalonians that follows the tribulation. 2 Peter 3, ..”but the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heaven shall pass away with a great noise in the elements shall melt with fervent heat.” This denotes destruction or wrath.
In Revelation 16, “the day the Lord comes as a thief” is announced in relation to Armageddon.
If you look at Revelation’s structure, Jesus’ return is fully described, rather than merely announced, only in chapter 19. The first resurrection is in chapter 20. People argue that you don’t have the Believers called the Church during the tribulation. But you don’t have them called that in heaven either! And also, why is this FIRST RESURRECTION occurring in chapter 20 and including those who died DURING THE TRIBULATION? How many trumpets can come after the last trumpet in 1 Corinthians 15? How many enemies come after the last enemy is subdued, after the resurrection of the righteous in that same chapter? How are you going to have antichrist spirit arising after the last enemy, death, has been subdued with the resurrection of the Dead?
“Jesus’s coming” (parousia) is conjoined with us “meeting” Him in the air in 1 Thessalonians 4. Parousia, is the greek term, and is usually used of royal officials, especially conjoined to a word like “meeting.” And “meeting” was used in that context so as that it wasn’t the royal official who changed direction, but rather that the people would go out to meet the royal official and escort him on his way “to the city.” They would enter with him.
“His appearance” (epiphaneia) i.e. “every eye will see Him.” That is our hope, not some mysterious, secret disappearance that sneaks up on us.
Paul applies Jesus’ end time teachings in Matthew 24 to the context of his teachings in 1 and 2 Thessalonians. When Paul refers to the last trumpet in 1 Corinthians 15, he is referring to the same trumpet that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24, which signifies the end of tribulation and the return of Christ, and the gathering together of the saints unto Him. Romans 8 declares that we will come into the Kingdom with Him as joint heirs. The pretrib view states that the believers are raptured up to “meet Jesus in the clouds at the last trumpet and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” But where in all of scripture does that point to, or ever suggest going back to heaven as part of the equation? Nowhere. But in proper context, it denotes believers being transformed, and caught up to the clouds at His appearing, and gathered unto Him, as every eye who ever lived beholds Him, and bows before Him, and then the faithful are to descend upon the earth as joint heirs of the promise with Him and set up the eternal Kingdom on the Earth, as is depicted in Revelation 11:15 at the sounding of the 7th and final trumpet. At this trumpet, Jesus comes down to recieve the earth as His physical Kingdom. He destroys His enemies, rids the earth of fallen humanity forever, binds the Sa’tan to eternal judgment, holds His marriage supper of the Lamb, of which He promised that He would neither eat bread, nor drink wine again until He obtained His kingdom, at the final supper before His crucifixion. The earth, is at this point, once again Eden. There are no more mortals present upon His earth. Jesus is King!
Up until 1820 there were different views on the millennium. But until 1820 no one had proposed, as far as can be determined by any clear evidence, that the church would be taken out before the tribulation. It has been said that early church fathers (referring to 2nd, 3rd, and 4th century ones, [not the Apostles or anyone directly tied to them]) wrote of this view, but that is due to pulling statements from their writings, out of the whole to support this concept. When I discovered this it gave me great courage to go back and review the scripture in context, against what others have taught on this matter without the presupposed viewpoint that has infiltrated the western church in the last nearly 200 years. And I approached them afresh and asked myself, “Had I not been taught either way, would I, thru fresh eyes determine that all of the scripture in context points to one single event or some elusive moment breaking away from the whole? When I saw it without denominational filters and bias, it was clear and all of a sudden, non-confusing. Not only did it no longer separate Jesus’ coming into two different confusing parts, but I also realized I didn’t just want my ears tickled, and to believe whatever someone says, but rather that I wanted the truth without mixture, no matter how tough the truth was. When I asked for that, He immediately obliged.