There are several specific “days” mentioned in
Scripture, and for the most part they have to do with prophetic themes.A particularly heavy emphasis upon the Day of
the Lord is found in both Testaments and as it will become evident, the correct
understanding of this “day” enters into the problem of the time of the rapture.
Days of Scripture
Genesis 1:3-2:3 gives the account of the six days
of creation, followed by a seventh day of rest.Scholarship has long been divided as to whether these were literal
successive days of twenty-four hours each, or vast epochs of time during which
God created all things.Those who accept
literal days stress the ability of God to create instantaneously as an act of
sovereign will (Psalm 8:3), while those who favor epochs of time point out that
nature herself reveals that considerable time has elapsed since the creation of
material things.In either event, the
term day may be used of a period longer than twenty-four
hours, for the entire act of creation is spoken of as one day:
These are the generations of the
heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God
made the earth and the heavens (Gen. 2:4).
One of the requirements of the law of God for Israel was that they should set aside the last day of the
week as a day of rest, when all labor and secular activity should cease.Every seventh year was a sabbatic period when
it was required that the land should rest and not be cultivated.The sabbath is a distinctive mark of Judaism,
and it is not by accident that it is mentioned in connection with those who
will be on earth during the Tribulation (Matt. 24:20).
C.The Lord’s Day
This is the designation used for the Christian day
of rest and worship, which is the first day of the week in commemoration of the
resurrection of our Lord.The Sabbath
day speaks of a finished creation; the Lord’s Day speaks of a finished redemption.The former is a day of legal obligation; the
latter is a day of voluntary worship and service.The designation “Lord’s day” is not found in
Scripture, unless it be in Revelation ,
but the first day of the week as the day of Christian worship is clearly substantiated
(Acts 20:7; I Cor. 16:2).
D.The Day of the Lord
This is one of the great themes of Old Testament
prophecy, as will shortly be demonstrated.It is likewise mentioned repeatedly in the New Testament, and was still
future when the Thessalonian epistles were written (I Thess. 5:1, 2; II Thess.
2:1-3).The Authorized Version of II
Thessalonians 2:2 contains a notable error: the correct rendering (margin) is
the Day of the Lord, rather than the Day of Christ.
E.The Day of Christ
The Day of the Lord in Scripture is always
associated with the wrath and the judgment of God, while the Day of Christ is
distinguished by the fact that it is universally spoken of as a time of
blessing.Nothing is predicted as having
to take place before the Day of Christ shall come, but the coming of the Day of
the Lord is marked by signs in the heavens and notable events upon the
earth.The Day of Christ concerns the
Church and is to be looked forward to with anticipation.
So that ye come
behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall
also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord
Jesus Christ (I Cor. 1:7, 8).
To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the
spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus (I Cor. 5:5).
As also ye have
acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even ye also are our’s in
the day of the Lord Jesus (II Cor. ).
Being confident of
this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work
in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6).
ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without
offense till the day of Christ (Phil. ).
Holding forth the
word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in
vain, neither laboured in vain (Phil. 2:16).
The Day of Christ
evidently is the termination of the Church’s pilgrim journey upon the
earth.It is the time of the coming of
our Lord Jesus Christ (I Cor. 1:7), the time when He will catch up His redeemed
people “to meet the Lord in the air” (I Thess. 4:17), the time of which He
spoke when He promised “to come again, and receive you unto myself; that where
I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3).It is the time when our salvation will be completed, when we shall be
with our blessed Lord, and “shall be like him; for we
shall see him as he is” (I John 3:2).The Day of Christ has to do with Church saints; it starts at the rapture
and probably includes the seven years spent with Christ in glory before the
return to earth at the revelation, embracing the judgment seat of Christ (II
Cor. 5:10) and the marriage of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7, 8).It is a day of glad anticipation and is in
contrast at almost every point with the Day of the Lord, which is a day of
wrath and darkness and judgment.Yet in
spite of the obvious difference between the two “days,” posttribulationalism
requires that they be made identical.Reese maintains that:
To most minds no
doubt will remain from a consideration of Paul’s use of “the Day,” “in that
Day,” “the Day of the Lord,” and “Messiah’s Day,” that all
are synonymous expressions for the day of the Parousia, which closes the
present Age, and ushers in the Age to Come; it is the day of resurrection, of
reward, of rest for the saints; but of judgment and condemnation for the impenitent.
Reese prefers to call the Day of Christ “Messiah’s
Day,” which helps his argument that “it is the day when Messiah comes forth in
glory to set up His Kingdom in the Future Age.”But such an inference completely ignores the
fact that Christ is Messiah of Israel, not the Church, and blurs over any
distinctive meaning the Day of Christ may have for the Church in her relationship
to her coming Lord.While these two days
under consideration do roughly parallel and finds its fulfillment in heaven,
while the other applies to Israel and the nations in the Tribulation and finds its
fulfillment upon the earth.Any premise
which makes these two days synonymous, both applicable to the Church upon
earth, must completely ignore the characteristics of each as displayed in Scripture.It hardly needs to be said that conclusions
based upon faulty premises are likewise in error and must be rejected.
44, 54 speak of the dead in Christ being raised “at the last day,” and
evidently is a reference to the final day of the Church on earth before the
rapture.Other Scriptures speak of the
“last days” for the Church, and give the general characteristics of the end
time (II Tim. 3:1-5; I Tim. 4:1-5; II Pet. 3:3).Still other Scriptures refer to the “last
days” for Israel, which carry over into the Tribulation and on into
the millennial kingdom (Isa. 2:2-5).II
Corinthians 6:2 speaks of the day
of salvation, identical with this present
age of grace, and II Peter 3:12 speaks of the day of God, which is evidently a designation of the eternal state after the
creation of the new heavens and the new earth.Although some of these days herein summarized do not directly concern
the present discussion, it is well to remember the words of Peter:“Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for
such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot,
and blameless” (II Pet. ).
Used For a Period of Time
As already implied, the word day
is used in Scripture in a number of different ways.It is used to speak of a period of
twenty-four hours.This may well be the
import of the repeated phrase of Genesis 1:“And the evening and the morning were the first [second, etc.]
day.”It is employed likewise to
designate that part of the twenty-four period which is light, in contrast to
the time of darkness, which is night (Psalm 22:2).Day and night are also used with a symbolic meaning to designate
the saved and the unsaved, the “children of light” and the “children of darkness”
(I Thess. 5:5-8).
However, the term day is
clearly used in another sense, to designate a period of time, whether long or
short, in which certain events are to take place.Paul writes in II Corinthians 6:2:“Behold, now is the accepted time; behold,
now is the day of salvation.”This day was in progress when Paul wrote, and at the present hour
nineteen hundred years later it is still in progress.It corresponds to this entire age of grace,
yet God calls this long period of time a “day” (cf. II Pet. 3:8).
has been indicated that the Day of Christ speaks of the period the Church
spends in heaven with Christ between rapture and revelation, and that the Day
of God designates the entire eternal state.The Scriptures of the following section will prove that the Day of the
Lord is not one single event, nor hour day, but likewise a definite period of
time, and that upon the earth.The Day
of the Lord, seen as a period, upsets completely the posttribulational view at
this point, although Reese finds it more advantageous to launch his attack upon
Darby’s interpretation and dismisses the more normal pretribulational position
with sarcasm but without investigation.
Messrs. Hoff and Vine in Touching the
Coming have discovered that the expressions “Day of Christ,” “Day of Jesus
Christ,” and “Day of the Lord Jesus” are a period of time beginning with
the Rapture and ending with the Glorious Advent ....And the proof of this
latest dispensational novelty?None but the requirements of their own fantastic programme; they make
what they would prove, the presupposition of their exegesis....One must sorrowfully remark that the defense
of these false theories throws up sophistry that can give points and a beating
to the Rabbis in Israel.
Reese dismisses unconsidered the very answer to his whole argument, as set
forth in the chapter, “Messiah’s Day.”He does say that there are scores of texts against this position, but mentions
only one, namely I Corinthians 1:7.It
is most difficult to see how this verse damages in any way the claim that the
Day of Christ and the Day of the Lord are periods of time:“So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting
for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”Reese evidently was counting, at this point, on the tendency among
readers not to look up references which are given without the text, and hoping
that his allusion to “scores of others”
would carry the day.
Day of the Lord, and the Great Tribulation
has been a great deal of confusion over the location of the Day of the
Lord.Some writers have placed it at the
time of the rapture, others at the time of the revelation, and still others, as
a bridge which spans the two.Posttribulational writers make the Day of the Lord synonymous with the
Day of Christ, both of which are equal to the parousia and fall on the
same day as the joint rapture and revelation, although they have
yet to explain why God calls the same thing by so many different names.They hardly seem to recognize that the Holy
Spirit, the divine Author of the Scriptures, never uses terms
indiscriminately.They dismiss with a
wave of the hand any possibility that such terms, although related, are none
the less distinguishable the one from the other.Reese laments that “those of us who still
assert that the Day of Christ and the Day of the Lord are the
same, are looked upon as benighted people.”However, it is warmly contended that those
who do not teach that these expressions are interchangeable are
misleading and false teachers, and that any distinction between the two “is
another one of the many meaningless and confusing hair-splittings which
characterize the dispensational school.”
has already been demonstrated that the Day of Christ is a time of great
expectation for the Church, and is associated with rapture and reward.Even a cursory examination and comparison of
the following Scriptures should be sufficient to convince any open minded
reader that the Day of the Lord, in both Testaments, does not concern the
Church but is the time of God’s wrath and judgment upon the world.It is not a twenty-four hour day, or one
single event, but a period of time which starts after the rapture of the Church
and incorporates the entirety of the Tribulation period.The remarkable parallelism of the following
verses concerning the Day of the Lord and the coming Tribulation hardly calls
for comment.Italics are added to
emphasize leading points of comparison.
word of the Lord come again unto me, saying, Son of man,
prophesy and say, Thus saith the Lord God; Howl ye, Woe worth the
day!For the day is near, even the day
of the Lord is near, a cloudy day; it shall be the time of the heathen”
“Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is
at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come” (Joel ).
this is the day of the Lord God of hosts, a day of vengeance ...”(Jer. 46:10; Isa.
near, ye nations, to hear; and hearken, ye people ... For the indignation of
the Lord is upon all nations, and his fury upon all their armies;
he hath utterly destroyed them, he hath delivered them to the slaughter
....For it is the day of the Lord’s
vengeance ...” (Isa. 34:1, 2, 8; 66:15, 16).
And he gathered them together into a placed
called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon (Rev. 16:16).
The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath
of God, which is poured out without mixture in the cup of his
indignation; ...And the angel
thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and
cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God (Rev. 14:10, 19).
And I saw the beast, and the kings of the
earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him
that sat on the horse, and against his army.And the beast was taken ... and the remnant were
slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out
of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh (Rev. 19:19-21).
the heathen be awakened, and come up to the valley
of Jehoshaphat:For there will I sit to judge all the
heathen round about.Put in the
sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is
full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great.Multitudes, multitudes in
the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of
decision” (Joel -14).
And another angel came out of the temple,
crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle,
and reap: for the time is come for three to reap; for the harvest of the
earth is ripe.And he that sat on
the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped....The great winepress of the wrath of
God ... was trodden without the city ... (Rev. 14:14-20).
“For the day of the Lord is near upon all the heathen
...” (Obad. ).
the day of the Lord cometh ....For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle....Then shall the Lord go
forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of
battle” (Zech. 14:1-3).
behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud,
yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh
shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them
neither root nor branch” (Mal. 4:1).
And he saith unto me, The waters which thou
sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and
nations, and tongues (Rev. 17:15).
Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death,
and mourning, and famine,; and she shall be
utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her
And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that
with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod
of iron: and he threadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty
God (Rev. 19:15).
And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon
the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire.And men were scorched with great heat,
and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they
repented not to give him glory (Rev. 16:8, 9).[These judgments do not turn men back to the Lord, as the
tribulationalists claim, for they “blasphemed” and “repented not.”]
the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty,
and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low....And they shall go into the holes of the
rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the
glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth” (Isa. , 19).
And the kings of the earth, and the great
men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty
men and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens
and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks,
Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and
from the wrath of the Lamb (Rev. 6:15, 16).
the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger,
to lay the land desolate; and he shall destroy the sinners
thereof out of it” (Isa. 13:9).
great day of the Lord is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice
of the day of the Lord: the might men shall cry there bitterly.That day is a day of wrath, a day
of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of
darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick
darkness....And I will bring distress
upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned
against the Lord” (Zeph. ,
For the great day of his wrath is come;
and who shall be able to stand? (Rev. 6:17; 14:10, 19).
And I saw another sign in heaven, great and
marvelous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up
the wrath of God (Rev. 15:1).
unto you that desire the day of the Lord!To what end is it for you?The
day of the Lord is darkness, and not light ... even very dark, and
no brightness in it? (Amos 5:18, 20).
the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger,
to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of
it.For the stars of heaven and
the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall
be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light
to shine.And I will punish the
world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the
arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible”
ye the trumpet in Zion,
and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the
land tremble: for the day of the Lord cometh ...A day of darkness and of gloominess,
a day of clouds and of thick darkness” (Joel 2:1, 2).
I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire,
and pillars of smoke.The sun shall
be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great
and the terrible day of the Lord come” (Joel , 31).
And the fourth angel sounded, and the third
part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and
the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened,
and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise
And I behold when he had opened the sixth
seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black
as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars
of heaven fell unto the earth ... (Rev. 6:12, 13).
I will make Jerusalem a
cup of trembling unto all the people round about....I will make Jerusalem a
burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be
cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be
gathered together against it....And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy
all the nations that come against Jerusalem” (Zech. 12:2, 3, 9).
And their dead bodies shall lie in the street
of the great city ... where also our Lord was crucified ...And the same hour there was a great
earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were
slain of men seven thousand (Rev. 11:8, 13).
day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick
darkness ... there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after
it, even to the years of many generations (Joel 2:2).
For then shall be great tribulation, such
as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever
shall be.And except those days
should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake
those days shall be shortened (Matt. 24:21, 22).
sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their
shining.The Lord also shall roar out of
and utter his voice from Jerusalem;
and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the Lord will be the hope of
his people, and the strength of the children of Israel
my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about three; hide
thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be
overpast.For, behold, the Lord cometh
out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity”
(Isa. 26:20, 21).
it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall
be delivered: for in mount Zion
and in Jerusalem
shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the
Lord shall call” (Joel ).
Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea,
nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their
foreheads.And I heard the number of
them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four
thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel (Rev. 7:3, 4).
And the woman [Israel] fled into the
wilderness, where she hat a place prepared of God, that they should feed
her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days ... into the wilderness,
into her place ... from the face of the serpent ... And the dragon was wroth
with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which
keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christs (Rev.
his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before
Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst
thereof toward the east and toward the west ... and the Lord my God shall
come, and all the saints with thee....And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall
there be one Lord,
and his name one” (Zech. 14:4, 5, 9).
And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white
horse: and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness
he doth judge and make war....And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white
horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite
the nations: and he threadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of
Almighty God.And he hath on his vesture
and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS (Rev.
this issue of the Day of the Lord, it would seem that certain conclusions are
inevitable – let the reader check the Scriptures for himself.
(1)The message of the Day of the Lord is predominantly
one of woe, wrath, and darkness.It contrasts
at every point with what is said of the Day of Christ, no matter how diligently
posttribulationalists attempt to identify the two.
(2)The events of the Day of theLord occur over a period of time,
and cannot be synonymous, as Reese asserts, with “Messiah’s Day” and with “the
day of the Parousia, which closes the present Age, and ushers in the Age to
(3)As a period, the Day of the Lord includes the
Tribulation, and in most of these texts, is synonymous with the Tribulation.II Peter 3:8, 10, however, gives a good
indication that the Day of the Lord extends even beyond and includes the entire
millennial kingdom, up to the creation of a new heaven and a new earth:
But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one
thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years
as one day....But the day of the Lord
will come as a thief in the night; in the which the
heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with
fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
(4)The Day of the Lord does not mention and has
no application whatsoever to the Church saints.It concerns Israel
and the nations of earth, but not the redeemed of the Lord which now comprise
the body of Christ.The only way in
which the Church is involved at all with the Day of the Lord is that when
Christ comes back to earth to consummate the judgment of the wicked, the saints
appears as part of the “armies which are in heaven.”They come to earth with Christ, and the fact
that they have been in heaven and must come from heaven shows
that this event sustains the pretribulational position.Certainly, it is not in accord with any
theory which maintains that the Church has not yet been taken to heaven.
(5)Posttribulationalists are quick to attempt the
identification of the rapture and the Day of the Lord on the basis of I Thessalonians
5:2:“For yourselves know perfectly that
the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.”Fraser puts the assumption this way:
But here, too, is a clear identification of
“the coming of the Lord” for His saints in I Thessalonians -18 with “the day of the Lord,” when He comes with
His saints in judgment as indicated in Chapter 5:2.The first part of the fifth chapter is
definitely a continuation of the discussion of the same scene as promised in
the last verses of the fourth chapter.Only a new aspect of this blessed event is dealt with.
must be conceded that there are no chapter divisions in the original
manuscripts, but there all agreement stops.It is most difficult to imagine how a Bible teacher could call the Day
of the Lord, whose judgments have been described in the verses considered
above, “a new aspect of this blessed event,” referring to the rapture
experience.Reese, who reaches similar
conclusions with Fraser, has involved himself in the same difficulty:
Beginning to exhort them touching the Coming
of the Lord, he proceeds to speak of the Day of the Lord.Is not this a remarkable circumstance?It is a convincing proof that the two things
were synchronous in Paul’s mind, and not separated by a period of years as the
we must concede that a partial truth has been spoken.Those who made the Day of the Lord a
twenty-four hour day and identified it only with the return of Christ in judgment, were manifestly in error.But as usual, Reese attacks extremes, rather
than the more normal pretribulational interpretation.It is here maintained that the rapture
precedes and falls in no part of the Day of the Lord.The two follow in close sequence, which would
explain the order of events set forth in I Thessalonians 4 and 5, but when that dread day breaks, the Church of Jesus Christ will be
with her Lord.
setting forth the posttribulational position, lumps together a number of major
events and places them on the day of Christ’s return to the earth.The revelation thus becomes the same as the
Day of the Lord; the resurrection of Old Testament saints is in the Day of the
the first resurrection, that of the Christian dead, and the rapture, likewise,
are in the Day of the Lord.Evidently the Bema seat judgment of Christ,
the judgments upon the nations, and the marriage of
the Lamb all fall within the same day.No doubt a busy twenty-four hours!Such a view has many objectional features.The lumping together of prophetic events may
at first seem to lead to simplification, but the end result is confusion.Among other things, such a view makes the
rapture of the Church utterly unimportant, a mere incident in the midst of
greater, fast-moving events.
It is a sentimental delusion that a secret
Rapture, or a pretribulation Rapture, is the hope of the Church.Scripture, on the contrary, asserts in the
clearest manner that the Glorious Appearing of Christ is the definite hope of
Christians (Tit. )
and with terrible inconvenience for theorists, locates it at the Day of the
Lord.[No proof is offered for this
statement.He is evidently building upon
his interpretation of I Thessalonians 5:2.Note the following.] ...The
Rapture is a mere incident of the Appearing, spoken of in order to show
the relation of the sleeping to the living saints at the one Advent in glory,
and especially that the saints who survive till the Advent will have not advantage
at all over the dead in Christ.It is a
stupid obsession to make the Rapture the touchstone of everything.
when the Day of the Lord is given its rightful and Scriptural place as a period
starting after the rapture, the first years of which correspond to the
Tribulation, all the end time events drop into their proper place and the pretribulation
position is confirmed rather than injured.The Day of the Lord may well be spoken of in close conjunction with the
rapture, for it is next in sequence after that event, but it is gross
assumption to identify the two.The
judgments of the revelation of Christ are rightfully connected with the Day of
the Lord, for they fall within that period.When properly related all the Scriptures harmonize.It is only when interpretation is strained by
false premises that conflicts arise and theological delusions appear.
Thessalonians 4 and 5
is recognized by most Bible students that I Thessalonians 4:13-18 is the
primary passage of the Word of God on the subject of the rapture of the
Church.It is likewise apparent that I
Thessalonians 5:1-11 is one of the central passages
from which an attempt is made to prove a posttribulational rapture.Paul begins this section by saying: “I would
not have you to be ignorant, brethren.”These are all good reasons for examining the entire passage closely.
A.I Thessalonians 4:13-18
paragraph has much to contribute toward the right understanding of God’s future
program for His Church.Paul would not
have us ignorant (Greek: agnostic) and of doubtful persuasion about so
vital an issue.It is evident that the
Thessalonian Christians previously had some instruction concerning the coming
of the Lord, but during the interval since the apostle had left Thessalonians,
one or more of the converts had died.Also, the Thessalonians had received a letter, purporting to be from
Paul, which implied that the Day of the Lord was already upon them.The Thessalonian letters were written to
counteract these two fears:first, that the dead saints have no part in the coming of
Christ for His own, and second, that the living saints were already in the Day
of the Lord and would have to make their way through its judgments.
writes in this section concerning “them which are asleep” (or, “them that fall
asleep from time to time”).Now, sleep
is the softened word used in Scripture for the death of a believer, as when
Jesus said:“Our friend Lazarus
sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep” (John ).The sleep of death will have its conclusion
at the resurrection.The word cemetery
comes from the Greek dormitory, or “sleeping place.”It is said that the following words were
found inscribed upon one of the tombs at Thessalonica:
our life on earth is past, We enter into eternal sleep.
Christians, however, look
past the sleep of death to physical resurrection and glorious reunion, and
therefore are not “as others which have no hope.”
Thus Theocritus, a Greek poet of the 3rd
century b.c., writes:“Hopes are among the living, the dead are
without hope”; and Moschus, his contemporary, speaking of the plants that
perish in the garden:“Alas, Alas! ...
these live and spring again in another year; but we
... when we die, deaf to all sound in the hollow earth, sleep a long, long,
endless sleep that knows no waking.”The
Roman poets of the last century b.c.
speak in similar strain; thus Catullus:“Suns may set and rise again, but we, when once our brief light goes
down, must sleep an endless night”; and Lucretius:“No one wakes and arises who has once been
overtaken by the chilling end of life.”These sorrowed with a double sorrow: first for the loss they themselves
sustained, then for the loss suffered by the departed.Such was the gloom which Greek and Roman
philosophy had failed to pierce, and which the gospel came to dispel.
who fall into the sleep of death have no hope, but in contrast,
believers in Christ share the blessed hope of His return, at which time
the Christian dead shall be raised.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose
again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God
bring with him.For this we say unto you
by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of
the Lord shall not prevent them [precede them] which are asleep (I Thess. , 15).
victory of the Christian over death rests securely upon the two cardinal
pillars of the Christian faith:Christ died
for our sins and rose again (I Cor. 15:3, 4).The doctrine of the rapture of the Church is
similarly undergirded, for it is “by the word of the Lord.”The latter part of verse 14 refers either to
the coming of Christ at the revelation, when He returns “with all His saints”
(I Thess. ),
or to the rapture when the souls of the Christian dead are united with their
resurrection bodies (II Cor. 5:1-4).In
either event, those who sleep shall be raised, and the living will not precede, or go on before.All of this was evidently given to Paul by
direct revelation, the word of the Lord, its “mystery” character (I Cor.
indicating that it was never a topic of Old Testament revelation.Christ had taught the simple fact that He
would come again for His own (John 14:3), but until the time of Paul’s writing
there had been no pointed revelation as to the relationship of the living and
the dead at the coming of Christ.The
phraseology seems to suggest that a special revelation was granted to meet the
perplexity that had arisen at Thessalonica:The living shall in no wise attain an advantage over the dead!
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven
with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and
the dead in Christ shall rise first:Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them
in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the
Lord.Wherefore comfort one another with
these words (I Thess. -18).
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all
sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an
eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be
raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed (I Cor. , 52).
Christ will not send an
angel for us; it is to be the Lord Himself¸ the same One who died and
rose again.(These words, in the Greek,
are in the emphatic position:emphasizing that it will be a personal return.None other will do to meet the Bride than the
Bridegroom Himself, who has redeemed her.)
sounds herald His coming, the first of which is a shout.Posttribulationalists make this the
triumphant cry of Christ, the military command of one who gathers his armies
about him, and apply it to Christ’s glorious appearing on earth following the
Tribulation.It is true that the word is
a command, military or other, but it does not say that Christ utters the
shout.The only other Biblical usage is
in the Septuagint version of Proverbs30:27, where it refers to the signal
used by locusts.Thayer’s Lexicon
gives the meaning from classical Greek as the cry of charioteers to their
horses, of hunters to their hounds, or of a captain to the rowers of his vessel.It may mean the cry of a captain to his
soldiers, but Reese reads far too much into the text when he makes it
descriptive of the “triumphant arrival of our Lord as King, assembling His
hosts for the conflict with the powers of this world and the rescue of the
Elect.This is the Day of the Lord.”
is sufficient, rather to understand this “shout” simply as a signal cry, heard
only by the Church, and accompanied by the voice of the archangel
(possibly Michael: Jude 1:9) and the trump of God.This may indeed be descriptive of only one
great signal from heaven, as it has been paraphrased:“a shout in the archangel’s voice, even with
the voice of the trump of God.”It is a signal to the Church, both dead and
living, and if it is heard by the world at all, it will not be understood and
will engender no response.This is a catching
up, not a coming down:it is
the Day of Christ, not the Day of the Lord.
are several parts to the glad anticipation of verses 16 and 17.There is resurrection:“the dead in Christ shall rise first.”This is evidently not a general resurrection
of the saints from both Testaments.Israel,
though redeemed, is never said to be “in Christ,” nor is her eschatology
identical with that of the Christian.Such distinctions are glossed over by those who identify rapture with
revelation, for their view requires that Israel
and the Church be raised at the same time.There is rapture:those
that are alive and remain are caught up.There is glad reunion:for
both groups come together in the clouds (not “clouds of saints,” as a
comparison with Acts 1:9 will demonstrate).
The great family of believers whose bodies are
sleeping will rise “first.”The apostle
is showing how unfounded is the despairing grief of those in Thessalonica, for
instead of being at a disadvantage, the sleeping believers will be the first to
experience the power of resurrection life.
reunion, there will be recognition of loved ones who have died and gone
before, but even more important will be the rejoicing of meeting the
Lord in the air.So will be fulfilled
the prayer of Christ recorded in John :“Father, I will that they also, whom thou
hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou
hast given me.”Paul then adds the words
so freighted with meaning and happy anticipation:“and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”This last phrase suggests the prospect of rewards,
and later, of reigning with Him.The text does not read:“we which
live through the tribulation shall be caught up,” but “we which
are alive and remain.”Therefore, Paul
is able to conclude this wonderful revelation of coming rapture, not with
“scare one another,” but with “comfort one another with these words.”The whole passage is one of encouragement,
whereas it would never encourage persecuted saints to tell them that worse
things were in store.The pretribulation
rapture is woven into the very warp and woof of this cardinal Scripture.
B.I Thessalonians 5:1-11
is a passage that posttribulationists use in their attempt to prove that Paul
links the Day of the Lord “with the hope and final salvation of the Church.”It is not difficult to show that their exegesis
is in error at this point.
immediate context of this chapter comprises a clear reference to the rapture of
the Church.It is a message of comfort
and contains absolutely no hint that Tribulation must first be endured, during
which time many who are “alive and remain” will be forced to endure a martyr’s
death.I Thessalonians 4:11, 12, with
the command “study to be quiet and to do your own business” would hardly be
suitable for persons enduring a raging persecution.In fact, the whole context implies that the
Thessalonian saints had been expecting imminent rapture, rather than wrath, for
it took a special revelation to comfort them concerning those who had by death,
as they assumed, missed the rapture experience.
the language of I Thessalonians 5:1, 2 carries the definite implication that
the subject of the rapture was a recent revelation, not found in the Old
Testament and only now being clarified as to its details.“But of the times and seasons, brethren, ye
have no need that I write unto you.For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh
as a thief in the night.”The believers
knew about the Day of the Lord because, as it has been demonstrated, the Old
Testament Scriptures which were in their possession were full of this
teaching.Joel, for example, had written
extensively about the Day of the Lord.Christ also had discoursed on the subject (Matt. 24:27-31), and Paul
himself had evidently given some teaching along the same line (II Thess.
not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?”The Day of the Lord was familiar to those at
Thessalonica:“no need that I write” for
ye “know perfectly” these things.How
different as touching the rapture:“I
would not have you to be ignorant, brethren!”Rather than being identical, the two subjects are worlds apart, and this
in the very passage by which posttribulationalists would prove their identity.
the careful use Paul makes of his pronouns throughout this section renders
conclusive evidence that the Church is a distinct group from those who enter
the Day of the Lord.“Ye, brethren,
are not in darkness ... ye are all the children of the light, and the
children of the day: we are not of the night ... let us not
sleep, as do others, but let us watch and be sober.”“Let us, who are of the day, be sober ... for God hath not appointed us to
wrath, but to obtain salvation [deliverance] by our Lord Jesus
Christ.Who died for us, that ...
we should live together with him.Wherefore comfort yourselves together ...”
from the same passage:“Then sudden
destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child [cf.
Isa. 13:8; Jer. 30:6]; and they shall not escape.”“They that sleep sleep in the night;
and they that be drunken are drunken in the
night.”The children of light watch,
but the children of darkness are drunken and sleep.If language means anything, Paul is here
distinguishing carefully between those who are ready for the rapture, and those
who have not put on the helmet of salvation at all, and so must enter the
tribulation of the Day of the Lord.
it is a common teaching of Scripture that unbelievers have “no hope, and [are]
without God in the world” (Eph. ),
but believers are to look with expectation for the “blessed hope” of Christ’s
coming.It is significant that in this I
Thessalonians passage, believers are spoken of as having “the hope of deliverance,”
and are assured that they are “not appointed to wrath.”These are idle words if, in this context,
deliverance from Tribulation is not included along with assurance of present
I Thessalonians is not the strongest passage for establishing a
pretribulational rapture, enough has been said to show that it is in harmony
with that position, and not without some evidence for its support.Posttribulationalism, however, empties the
passage of its obviously intended meaning in a vain attempt to establish the
idea that the rapture falls on the Day of the Lord.Everything points to the contrary, and the
only connection between the two is that they happen to occur in close sequence.
might be well to close this discussion of the Day of the Lord with a summary of
the two principle viewpoints involved.The posttribulational line of reasoning seems to be as follows:The Day of the Lord refers specifically to
the very day when Christ returns to the earth to rule and reign.Since it is admitted by all that I
Thessalonians 4 is the cardinal passage on the rapture of the saints, and since
Paul turns immediately in chapter five to a contemplation of the Day of the
Lord, rapture and revelation must fall upon the same day and comprise one
single event.Therefore, according to
this line of reasoning, the rapture must follow the Tribulation.
burden of this chapter has been to analyze these issues and to consider the
important Scriptures which have been used to sustain the posttribulational
contention.From this study, the following
conclusions fairly may be drawn:
(1)Although the Bible speaks of a number of different
days, the term day is not in every case limited to a twenty-four hour
(2)The Day of Christ commences with the rapture
and evidently refers to the entire period the Church will be with her Lord
prior to her return with Him to set up the millennial kingdom.It is a day of great blessing and is awaited
with anticipation, which places it in marked contrast with the Day of the Lord.
(3)The Day of the Lord is likewise a period of
time, but it commences after the rapture and comprehends the entire Tribulation
period on earth, as the detailed comparison of Old and New Testament Scriptures
at this point have abundantly demonstrated.This “day” involves Israel
and the godless nations, wrath and judgment from Almighty God, but nothing by
way of application to the Church of Jesus Christ.
(4)The cardinal Scripture involved, namely I
Thessalonians 4, 5, lends no support to posttribulationalism.The rapture of chapter four is a new
mystery-revelation and must not be confused with a time of judgment clearly
predicted in the Old Testament.The
resurrection spoken of applies only to those who are “in Christ,” and the whole
passage is one of encouragement and comfort rather than warning and alarm.As for chapter five, it has been demonstrated
from the personal pronouns used that the Church saints are held in contrast
with those who enter the Day of the Lord.Here again the rapture is spoken of as a new revelation, and here also
is recorded the promise that the believers are appointed unto deliverance
rather than wrath.The rapture is found
in the same general context with the Day of the Lord, only because of its
proximity to it.But proximity is not
identity, particularly when all of the evidence indicates the contrary.
(5)The pretribulational view places the rapture
of the Church saints in the position of prominence which the New Testament emphasis
upon that doctrine requires.On the
other hand, posttribulationalism is guilty of lumping together a large number
of end-time events, in which the rapture becomes an utterly unimportant and
almost meaningless detail.
rather than destroying the pretribulational view, the study of the Day of the
Lord and its related subjects adds yet another confirmation to the position
that the Church will be spared this time of God’s wrath.
Alexander Reese, The Approaching Advent of Christ, p. 179.Italics added.
Posttribulationalism thus joins forces with amillennial theology, both in its
attack against dispensationalism and in its identification of the Day of Christ
with the Day of the Lord.See Oswald T.
Allis, Prophecy and the Church, pp., 188-90 for the similarities of the
amillennial view at this point.