Tag Archives: Theology

Why Were the Thessalonians Shaken?

The second chapter of Paul’s second epistle to the Thessalonians is a mighty tour-de-force polemic for the pre-tribulational nature of the rapture of the Church.  It has long been recognized that the Restrainer of 2 Thessalonians 2:7 is the Holy Spirit, and that His removal before the Antichrist is revealed (i.e., before the Tribulation begins) necessitates the rapture of the Church due to the Spirit’s indwelling of the Body of Christ as a temple in the present dispensation (1Cor6:19).  It has more recently been recognized that the “falling away” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 (KJV; Greek, apostasia) that also must occur before the Antichrist is revealed is in context better understood to be a departure (i.e., the rapture of the Church).  However, even without these clear and powerful witnesses, a pre-tribulational rapture of the Church is a necessary inference from Paul’s opening to the chapter in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2.

FIGURE 1. Timing of the Rapture in the Pre-Trib, Mid-Trib,
Pre-Wrath, and Post-Trib Views.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:1, Paul introduces the subject of the chapter as “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him”.  The subject is a single event, since the first substantive clause is articulated and the second is not, being connected by an epexegetical kai in the Greek text (i.e., the Granville Sharp rule).  Paul’s subject is that particular “coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” which involves “our gathering together unto him” (cf. Jn14:1-3; 1Thess4:13-18). Thus, the subject of the chapter is the rapture of the Church.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:2, it is revealed that the Thessalonians had become “shaken in mind” and “troubled”, apparently as a result of a “letter as from us” (i.e., a letter alleging to be from the Apostle Paul, which was in fact a forgery). Their alarm was caused by the fact that the letter asserted that “the day of the Lord” had begun. The remainder of the chapter presents an iron-clad polemic for why that could not possibly be the case. However, one must ask why this news so disturbed the Thessalonians; why were the Thessalonians shaken?

In 2 Thessalonians 2:5 Paul reminds the Thessalonians that he had previously instructed them concerning this subject. Indeed, Paul’s first epistle to the Thessalonians discusses the rapture in every chapter (cf. 1Thess1:9-10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:13-17; 5:1-11). Presumably Paul had taught them when the rapture would occur relative to the coming 7-year Tribulation (i.e., the day of the Lord; 2Thess2:2). If he had taught them that the rapture of the Church would occur mid-trib, pre-wrath, or post-trib (i.e., any view that sees the rapture of the Church as occurring at some point during the Tribulation; see FIGURE 1), there is no reason for the Thessalonians to be “shaken” or “troubled”. There would be no inconsistency between those rapture views and the counterfeit message alleging that the Tribulation had begun. Rather than causing them to be “shaken”, such news would be cause for excitement and anticipation, since it would mean that their rapture was necessarily drawing near. However, if Paul had taught the Thessalonians that the rapture of the Church would occur before the Tribulation begins (i.e., pre-trib), then it is easily understandable why news that it had begun would be so troubling; if true, it would mean either: 1) that Apostle Paul’s previous teaching was untrue, or 2) the rapture of the Church had already occurred, and they had been left behind.

Only a belief in a pre-trib rapture as taught to the Thessalonians by the Apostle Paul explains why they were so “shaken” and “troubled” by the counterfeit message that the day of the Lord (i.e., the Tribulation) had begun. No other rapture view would have troubled the believers at Thessalonica. Properly understood, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 is a powerful witness to the fact that the Apostle Paul taught that the rapture of the Church would be pre-trib!


Jude: Contending for the Faith Amidst Apostasy

“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 3)

A brief one chapter epistle written by the half-brother of Jesus, the theme of Jude is contending for the historic faith delivered by the apostles in the midst of a present and growing apostasy (Jude 3-4). Jude describes the false teachers and doctrines that, beginning in the 1st century, would “wax worse and worse” (2 Timothy 3:13) throughout the Church Age. The messages of Jude and 2 Peter are very similar. As the message of 2 Peter is given in the future tense, whereas that of Jude appears in the present tense (Cp., Jude 3; 2 Peter 2:1), it is apparent that Jude was written after 2 Peter and quotes from it. The shocking message of Jude is that the apostasy prophesied by Peter had begun! As our culture increasingly rejects the Biblical worldview and rushes to embrace paganism, the message of Jude could not be more relevant for the days in which we live.

A Bible study class on The Epistle of Jude will begin in March 2021. The notes and audio for the study will be updated weekly. You can find them under the Biblical Studies menu; check periodically to follow the study as it progresses. God bless!


Dispensationalism’s Necessity of a Pre-Tribulational Rapture

A proper dispensational understanding of the Bible (2 Timothy 2:15) absolutely necessitates a pre-tribulational Rapture of the Church.

What is the Church? The Church is being formed during the present Dispensation of Grace and is comprised of all who believe, whether Jew or Gentile, who are subsequently baptized into the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). Furthermore, the Church is not (the nation of) Israel, or any other nation, but a unique body comprised of believers from all nations. However, if the Church is present on earth during the Tribulation period (i.e., the 70th Week of Daniel; Daniel 9:27), all who believe during the Tribulation must become members of the “Church”. If this is to be the case, there can be no “saved” nation of Israel or Gentile nations present on earth at the end of the Tribulation to enter the Millennial Kingdom.

Utter confusion results if the Church is present on earth during the Tribulation. But thanks be to God, who has promised to remove the completed Church, the Body of Christ, at the Rapture (e.g., 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; Revelation 3:10). During the Tribulation, the Church will be wed to Christ in heaven (Revelation 19:7-8), and those on earth who believe and endure to the end make up the “saved” nations who enter the Millennial Kingdom at the second coming of Christ.


The Answer to Preterism

“Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” (Matthew 24:34)

Based on this verse, Preterists conclude that the 70th Week of Daniel must have occurred within the lifetime of those hearing this prophecy spoken by Jesus; thus, it took place in the 1st century and is a past event from our present point of view. Matthew 10:23 and 16:28 present similar challenges that are resolved within Preterism by placing the fulfillment of prophecy in the 1st century AD.

However, the tension created by Matthew 24:34 is not resolved by conceding that its prophecy was fulfilled in the past. Such a solution creates more problems than it solves, since it is self evident that the 2nd Coming of Christ (as described in the Bible) did not occur in the 1st century. Rather, the tension is revolved by the two-fold recognition of:  1) the contingent nature of the Kingdom, and 2) the mystery nature of the Church (Age).

A study of this issue, titled Answer to Preterism, has been added under Biblical Studies.


A Biblical Analogy for Faith

Calvinism, as part of its Doctrine of Total Depravity, has adopted a corpse/cadaver as a metaphor for the natural man.  Since a corpse is unable to believe, they argue the natural man is unable to believe apart from a preceding, supernatural, and sovereign work of regeneration by God.  But is the analogy of a corpse/cadaver for the natural man accurate?  Actually, the Bible uses a very different analogy.

A study of the proper analogy for sinful man and his ability to believe, titled Look and Live: A Biblical Analogy for Faith, has been added under Biblical Studies.


Prophecy versus Mystery

Much misunderstanding among students of the Bible results from a failure make proper distinctions. Indeed, scripture commands the student to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2Tim2:15). C. I. Scofield, in his classic booklet Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth, highlighted ten important distinctions; the very first chapter addresses proper distinctions between the Jew, the Gentile, and the Church of God. An article (with accompanying Chart) titled Distinctions between Prophecy and Mystery has been added under Biblical Studies which explores a related, but absolutely vital, distinction between prophecy and the mystery, which is the key to seeing the proper distinctions between: 1) the nation of Israel, her Messiah, and His coming Kingdom, versus 2) the Church (which is the Body of Christ), its Head, and the present dispensation.


Elect/Election in the Bible

The term “elect” simply means chosen, and “election” means to be chosen. In the Bible, these terms are used of:  1) Messiah/Christ, 2) the holy angels, and 3) the nation of Israel. The Lord Jesus Christ is perfect and without sin, so His election by God cannot have anything to do with personal salvation.  The holy angels are unfallen, such that they do not require salvation (and the fallen angels are not eligible for salvation).  However, by far the most common use of elect/election relates to the nation of Israel. The nation of Israel has always been comprised of both believing and unbelieving Jews (cf. Rom3:3; 9:6), so the election of Israel cannot pertain to the salvation of individual Jewish persons.

Biblical “election” is God’s choice of a person or persons for a particular purpose in His divine plan.  Christ was chosen by God to be the redeemer of believing humanity (Jn3:16).  The angels were chosen by God to be His governing and ministering spirits within the creation (Heb1:14).  And the nation of Israel was chosen by God for a myriad of reasons, but primarily to be His principal channel of revelation to fallen humanity, through which God brought forth both the Person of Messiah (Rom9:3-5) and the Holy Scriptures (Rom3:1-2).  These purposes have nothing to do with the personal salvation of the objects of God’s election.

Reformed theology’s notion that “election” is God’s choice of who He will save and who he will not, made before His work of creation and having nothing to do with faith on the part of its objects, finds no support in the Bible.

A full length article on this subject titled Biblical Election has been added under Biblical Studies.  God bless!


Why You Should Use the King James Version

Today, though still widely read and loved by many, the King James Version is being increasingly forsaken by the Christian public at large in favor of one of the modern versions (e.g., NIV, ESV, NASB). Christians are encouraged to do so by both publishers and scholars. The two most oft repeated reasons to abandon the King James Version are: 1) the archaic language used in the KJV makes it difficult for modern readers to understand, and 2) new archeological discoveries of biblical manuscripts, purported to be older than the manuscripts available to the KJV translators, differ from the Hebrew/Greek manuscripts used as the textual basis in the King James Version; thus, the KJV is derived from an inferior Hebrew/Greek textual basis. However, both of these assertions, when “weighed in the balances”, are “found [to be] wanting” (Cp., Dan5:27).

Bible-believing Christians, especially those without facility in the Hebrew/Greek scriptures, should not abandon the King James Version of the Bible for one of the hundreds of modern versions. Rather, they should continue to use the KJV as Bible-believers have for the past four centuries, for the following reasons. First, the precision of the English grammar used in the KJV accurately communicates grammatical subtleties inherent in the Hebrew/Greek, most of which are lost in the modern versions (including the New King James Version). Second, the philosophy of translation used by the KJV translators (i.e., formal equivalence, or word-for-word translation) honors the nature of scripture and stops short of introducing (potentially) biased interpretation into the translation. Third, the English used in the King James Version gives rise to essential doctrines that are absent from many modern versions. Fourth, the Hebrew/Greek textual basis undergirding the King James Version is superior to that used by the modern versions, being based on the textual tradition that has been providentially preserved by God throughout all generations.

A full-length article on this topic titled Why Use the KJV? has been added under Textual Studies.

 


Light vs. the Sun in Genesis 1

The creation of light on Day 1, before creation of the sun (on the 4th day), has profound theological significance.  All ancient, pagan peoples worshiped the Sun as the source of light.  In Genesis 1 God reveals that light preceded the sun, and its source was the very Word of God (Genesis 1:3).  The Apostle John makes clear in his gospel that Jesus Christ, the Word [of God] (John 1:1), was the Divine Agent of creation (John 1:3) and “the true Light” (John 1:9).  The Lord Jesus Christ is worthy of worship (Revelation 4:11), and all men past or present who “exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served [any aspect of] the creation more than the Creator” are fools and idolaters (cf. Romans 1:22-25).  In Genesis 1, the literal, historical order of Divine creation is a rebuke to all pagan perversions of theological truth.


Not Apostasy, But Rapture!

Paul’s second epistle to the Thessalonians was written as a response to a query that church had sent to the Apostle. The Thessalonians were troubled by a letter they had received, purportedly from Paul (but actually a forgery), alleging that they had entered into “the day of the LORD” (2Thess2:2). They were troubled by this since Paul had previously taught them that the rapture of the Church would happen before the outpouring of God’s wrath during the Tribulation period (1Thess4:13-5:9); if this allegation were true, and the day of the LORD had indeed begun, that meant the believers in Thessalonica had been left behind! It should be noted that the believers in Thessalonica were undergoing intense (albeit local) persecution (1Thess3:2-4), so that it was no doubt tempting for them to believe that the Tribulation had begun.

Paul’s reply was to immediately remind them of what he had previously taught them (2Thess2:5); namely, that the Antichrist cannot even be “revealed”, which begins the Tribulation (Dan9:27), until after an event he calls “the falling away” (2Thess2:3). The Greek noun translated “falling away” is apostasia, transliterated as ‘apostasy’ in some English versions. The correct translation of apostasia is ‘departure’; exactly what kind of departure is in view depends upon context, and can just as likely mean a physical departure as it does a departure from the faith (i.e., apostasy). It is interesting that all English translations before the KJV rendered apostasia in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 as “departure”, whereas the KJV and most subsequent translations render it “falling away” or something which similarly implies the ‘departure’ is religious in nature. There is nothing in the context of 2 Thessalonians 2, however, that demands (or even suggests) that the departure to which Paul refers be non-physical.

Furthermore, in the Greek text there is the definite article in conjunction with apostasia, so that the best translation is not “a falling away”, but “the departure”. The use of the definite article means that Paul is referring to a specific event that he expects is already known to the Thessalonians. Since Paul’s first epistle to them included the most detailed revelation of the rapture of the Church in the N.T., and in fact mentions the rapture in every chapter (1Thess1:9-10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:13-17; 5:1-11), while not one reference to a religious apostasy or departure from the faith occurs, context demands that the specific departure to which Paul refers is the rapture. The context of 2 Thessalonians 2 also supports this, since the rapture, referred to as “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him”, introduces the chapter (2Thess2:1). Thus, the evidence is overwhelming that the departure Paul holds out as necessarily taking place before “the day of the LORD” and the revealing of the Antichrist is the rapture of the Church. Thus, 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is the most explicit teaching of the Pre-Trib rapture in the Bible.


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