THE LORD’S COMING AND OUR RAPTURE
Let us now consider 2:1-12 verse by verse. In verse 1 Paul says, “Now we ask you, brothers, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him.” As in verse 8, the Greek word for coming here is parousia. Two matters are covered in this verse: the Lord’s parousia (presence) and our gathering together (rapture) to Him.
The Lord’s parousia will last for a period of time. It will begin with His coming from the heavens to the air (Rev. 10:1) at the time of the great tribulation, which will occur in the last three and a half years of this age, the second half of the last week of Daniel 9:27 (Matt. 24:21; Rev. 11:2), and it will end with its appearing, “the appearing of His parousia” (2 Thes. 2:8; Matt. 24:30). During the Lord’s parousia, the majority of believers will be raptured to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thes. 4:17). “The day of the Lord” in 2 Thessalonians 2:2 refers, according to the context, to the period of time of the Lord’s parousia (coming), in which the rapture of the majority of the believers will take place. Verse 3 tells us definitely that before this period of time Antichrist will be revealed to play the greatest role in the great tribulation (v. 4; Rev. 13:1-8, 12-15). This reveals clearly and definitely that the Lord’s coming (parousia) and the rapture of the majority of believers cannot take place before the great tribulation.
NOT SHAKEN OR ALARMED
Verse 2 says, “That you be not quickly shaken in mind nor alarmed, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by a letter as by us, as that the day of the Lord is present.” According to Darby, “in mind” (lit. from the mind) denotes “a steady and soberly judging mind.” Paul did not want the believers at Thessalonica to be shaken in mind or alarmed with respect to the Lord’s coming and our rapture. The phrase “by spirit” refers to the pretending of a speaking spirit that claims to have the authority of divine revelation. Someone may claim that he has the spirit to speak concerning the Lord’s coming. Paul warns the believers not to hastily listen to such a one. He also warns them not to be shaken “by word, nor by a letter as by us.” This may indicate that someone pretended to write a letter using the name of the Apostle Paul. Here Paul seems to be saying, “Brothers, if anyone by spirit, by word, or by a letter as from us, says that the day of the Lord is present, you should not listen to him. Do not be shaken, and do not be alarmed.”
THE APOSTASY AND THE MAN OF LAWLESSNESS
Verse 3 says, “Let no one deceive you in any way; because it will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.” The Greek word translated “deceived” may also be rendered “beguiled,” not only making a false impression, but actually leading astray.
In verse 3 the pronoun “it” refers to the day of the Lord’s coming. This day will not come unless the apostasy comes first. This apostasy will be a falling away from the straight way of God’s economy as revealed in the Scriptures. There is a strong prophecy in the Bible that before the Lord’s coming back there will be a great apostasy among His people, a falling away from the path of God’s economy. Even today there is a tendency among some Christians to leave the straight way of the New Testament.
Verse 3 also indicates that the day of the Lord will not come before the man of lawlessness is revealed. This man of lawlessness is the Antichrist, as prophesied in Daniel 7:20-21, 24-26; 8:9-12, 23-25; 9:27; 11:36-37; Revelation 13:1-8, 12-18; 19:19-20. He will be the man of lawlessness, casting down the truth to the ground, changing laws, destroying and corrupting many to an extraordinary degree, blaspheming God, and deceiving men. Hence, the Lord will utterly destroy him, and he will become the son of destruction.
Verse 3 indicates strongly that the Lord’s coming back will not precede the tribulation. Before the Lord’s coming there will first be the apostasy and also the revealing of the man of lawlessness. This means that prior to the Lord’s coming one matter—the apostasy—and one person—Antichrist—must appear first.
Paul told the Thessalonians that since the apostasy and the revealing of the man of lawlessness must come before the day of the Lord’s coming, they should not be shaken by anything or anyone that would claim that the day of the Lord has already come. The apostasy must take place, and the Antichrist must be revealed. Antichrist will be fully revealed during the great tribulation. This indicates that the Lord’s coming back will be after the tribulation, not before it. Second Thessalonians 2:3 is a verse used by those who follow the school of post-tribulation to say that the coming of Christ will be after the tribulation.
Among the Brethren, the leading teacher of the school of pretribulation was J. N. Darby. Darby was an excellent teacher of the Word, and we have learned much from him. However, we do not follow him in his teaching concerning pretribulation. The school of post-tribulation is more accurate. Concerning the Lord’s coming, there is too much guesswork in Darby’s teaching. For instance, he says that in Revelation 4 John was raptured and that this rapture was a type of the rapture of the church before the tribulation. According to Darby’s concept, the tribulation begins in Revelation 4. Darby claims that in Revelation 4 John was a representative of the church and that his rapture indicates the rapture of the church before the tribulation. In this matter Darby infers, or guesses, too much.
Benjamin Newton disagreed with Darby’s interpretation. He pointed to the second chapter of 2 Thessalonians, where Paul says clearly that the Lord’s coming will not take place unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness, that is, Antichrist, is revealed. As we have pointed out, this means that the Lord’s coming back will be after the tribulation.
Neither those who hold to the pretribulation school nor those who follow the post-tribulation school have seen the full truth concerning the Lord’s parousia. Those who see one aspect of the parousia teach the pretribulation coming, but those who see another aspect teach the post-tribulation coming. We consider the parousia as a whole and therefore do not stand with either the pretribulation or the post-tribulation school.
(Life-Study of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Chapter 26, by Witness Lee)