‘That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.’ — 2 Thessalonians 2:2
The Thessalonians were worried. They had been ‘shaken in mind’ and ‘troubled’. Someone was teaching that the ‘day of Christ is at hand”. The day of Christ in other places speaks of a joyful day, which begins at the rapture when Christians are united with Christ and rewarded for their labours. (More info here.)
Not only does the ‘day of Christ’ start with the rapture but ‘the day of the Lord’ also begins immediately or shortly after the rapture of the church. The concern of the Thessalonians was that they were now in the day of the Lord which includes a time of terrible Divine judgment on the earth as well as the millennial reign of Christ and the destruction of the heaven and the earth after the thousand-year reign of Christ on this earth.
But Paul reassured them that, despite facing intense persecutions and tribulations, they are not in the tribulation. The day of the Lord has not started and the day of Christ is not at hand yet. He taught them that three things had to happen before that day would come:
- A falling away first (v.3) – This is an ‘apostasy’ which is often interpreted to mean a falling away from the faith. It can also generally mean a removal or departing. When considered in light of Paul’s teaching to the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 4 about the rapture, it seems very possible that this is talking about the rapture. Regardless of whether it is a spiritual apostasy or a removal of the church from the earth, this is a very significant event that will happen before the day of the Lord comes and the tribulation begins.
- The man of sin revealed (v.3) – The man of sin is described in other places as ‘the beast’ and the ‘anti-Christ’. In Daniel 9:26-27, we are told that he will make a covenant with Israel for seven years (‘one week’). In the middle of that period, he will set himself up as God to be worshipped. He will also demonstrate great supernatural power to deceive (1 Thess 2:9-10). This information about the revelation of the antichrist should have calmed their hearts because the antichrist will be revealed before the Day of Christ is at hand and the Day of the Lord with all its judgment has begun.
- The restrainer removed (v.6-8) – The third reason they were not in the tribulation and the Day of the Lord was because the restrainer (‘he who now letteth’ = let is an old way to restrain) was not yet removed. There are different opinions about the restrainer, but likely this is talking about the presence of the Holy Spirit. Only He has the power to restrain the evil programme of Satan and the spirit of lawlessness that is already working (v.7). If the church is raptured out before the day of the Lord begins as 1 Thess 4:13-5:11 indicate, then the presence of Spirit-filled believers will be gone from the earth. This will certainly diminish restraints on the Antichrist’s programme of rebellion against God in the world.
So, several significant things will happen before the Day of the Lord begins. These things will be clear and obvious. This is in keeping with Jesus teaching in the Olivet Discourse about the signs which build up and point to the return of Christ to the earth to put down all rebellion at the end of the tribulation.
These things also contrast sharply with the teaching of the return of Christ for the church. Many passages teach that the return of Christ for the church could happen at any moment, that it is a source of great comfort, and that it will deliver them from the wrath to come. So, this implies that the rapture is the first phase of the second coming and the rapture must take place before all the events and judgments of the day of the Lord begin.
If you are saved, you are a member of the body of Christ. You are His bride. He loves you and has not appointed you to wrath (1 Thess 5:9). He is coming from heaven to receive you unto Himself (1 Thess 4:16, John 14:-13). His return is something to be excited about because He is coming to deliver you from the wrath to come (1 Thess 1:10). What a blessing to know that you are chosen to salvation (deliverance) from the coming judgment of God on this world (2 Thess 2:11-17).
For those who are not saved, then they will not be raptured out of this world and they will face a time of awful destruction. Even when people say, ‘peace and safety’ there will be none for them (1 Thess 5:3).
Get ready for the Lord’s return by believing on Christ. When you do, you will be appointed to deliverance and salvation before the terrible judgments of the Day of the Lord begin. And don’t let any letter, word, or spirit shake you or cause you to worry about being in the terrible Day of the Lord!