The Rapture and the Wrath of God
The Day of the Lord
The Bible warns us to be ever watching for the return of Jesus. The signs of the times show us that it is imminent even at the door. As we watch world events we can see scripture unfolding before us. What will happen next we cannot predict with certainty, we do not know the day or the hour when Christ will return for His Church, but we can watch and make ourselves ready for His return.
In the first letter to the Thessalonians the Apostle Paul writes to them about the Parousia of the Lord and the gathering of the saints to meet Him in the air. What do we mean by “Parousia”? The word “Parousia”, when relating to the return of Christ, signifies the Lord’s arrival and presence with the saints which continues until His manifestation to the world. This will fulfil the words of the Lord to the disciples when He told them that He would return for them and receive them to Himself (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, John 14:1-3).
The gathering of the saints to meet the Lord in the air is often referred to as “the Rapture”.
In his first letter to the Thessalonians Paul explains about what is called, “the day of the Lord”, it begins with “sudden destruction” and is followed by wrath (see chapter 5:2-3).
Paul’s message to the Church was that the wrath of God was coming upon the disobedient (those who reject God and live for their own selfish desires) (Ephesians 5:5-6). However those who have trusted Jesus to save them will be saved from wrath through Him (Romans 5:9). 1Thessalonians 5:9 says, “God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ”. In 1 Thessalonians 1:10 Paul wrote to them that Jesus would come and deliver them from the wrath to come. Later he explained that Jesus would come back for them and they would meet Him in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17). So it was important that they recognise this and comfort one another by these words (see 1Thessalonians 4:18, & 1Thessalonians 5:1-11).
Paul had heard that someone was spreading rumours that the “day of the Lord” had now come, not only that but it seems that it was inferred that it was from Paul himself or someone associated with him. Therefore Paul wrote a second letter to them explaining why the day of the Lord could not be present at that time.
In this second letter to the Thessalonians Paul explains that the rumour which was being circulated that the day of the Lord had now come, did not originate from him or from anyone associated with him and that it is actually a false rumour.
What did “the day of the Lord” mean to those early Christians?
The “day of the Lord” is the time that the wrath of God will be present on the earth.
The Old Testament has a lot to say about the day of the Lord but nothing to say about the saints being gathered together to meet the Lord in the air. The return of the Lord and our gathering together unto Him was something new. We do have the type of Enoch and Elijah being taken up to heaven but there is no doctrine in the Old Testament saying we would all be changed and caught up to meet the Lord in the air. We do have possible hints of it in such places as Song of Solomon 2:8-14. In the New Testament, however, the Lord Jesus promised His disciples He was going to prepare a place for them and that He would come back for them and receive them to Himself (John 14:1-3). The other person who taught this doctrine was the Apostle Paul. Pauls teaching to the early church was that Jesus would save them from the wrath to come by returning for them (1 Thessalonians 1:10), this was the hope they were to have (1 Thessalonians 5:8-9) and this was the word they needed to comfort one another with (1Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Now if the rumour, that the day of the Lord had already begun was true and if it was from Paul then Paul would be now saying the opposite to his original teaching that we will be delivered from the wrath to come and instead is now saying that we go through the wrath of God and it has already started. Paul tells them it is a false rumour and it is not from himself or anyone with him, so don’t be shaken by it and don’t let anyone be deceived by it.
What does the Bible mean when it talks about “the day of the Lord”? As Paul well knew, the phrase “the day of the Lord” is used over thirty times in the Old Testament and it is describing the day when God pours His wrath on His enemies. It is not necessarily talking about a single day but rather a time period when the Lord deals with all the wicked who have rejected Him and rebelled against Him. Neither is the “Day of the Lord” talking about the return of Jesus to the earth when He defeats the antichrist although this does take place during the “Day of the Lord”. The day of the Lord is the day of His wrath upon the earth. Please note that Christians are not appointed to wrath but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:9).
Paul rejects the idea that the day of the Lord had already come and points out that two things must happen before the day of the Lord comes. First the apostasy must happen, and the second thing that must happen before the day of the Lord comes is that the man of sin will have been revealed.
What do we mean by “apostasy”?
The word “Apostasy” is from the koine Greek language and means “falling away”, or, “departure from”. Because Paul doesn’t explain what this departure is from there are two views both with equal possibilities. The first view is that it is the actual departure of the saints from the earth to meet the Lord in the air, commonly called the rapture, and the other view is that it is the end time departure from the faith when some shall give head to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons (1 Timothy 4:1).
Who is the “man of sin”?
The man of sin is the man dominated by sin who seats himself in the temple of God as if he is God. He is also called the son of perdition. This is interesting because Judas was also called “the son of perdition” (John 17:12). Satan entered Judas to make sure he betrayed Jesus. “Perdition” can also be translated “destruction”. In Revelation 9:11 an angel arises from the bottomless pit whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, meaning destruction and in the Greek tongue Apollyon, meaning “destroyer”. I wonder, does this angel from the bottomless pit enter the man of sin in order to cause destruction? Is this why he is called the son of perdition (destruction)? Is this when the "sudden destruction" that we read of in 1 Thessalonians 5:3 happens? This is an interesting thought, and if right would help tie up some of the problems with interpretation later on.
In Revelation 13:1-8 we are told of the beast from the sea who is obviously the antichrist, is this beast the man of sin who is now possessed by the angel who rises from the bottomless pit?
It is important that we understand that the day of the Lord is associated with God’s wrath and in this connection it is the great day of His wrath which happens during the last few years before His thousand year reign on the earth.
When Jesus returns to defeat the armies of the world He has a name written on His robe and thigh, “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”. He treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God (see Revelation 19:15-16). This is the culmination of this period of His wrath. Previous to this we had the seven trumpets signalling seven terrible events that will happen, followed by the seven bowls of God’s wrath poured out on the earth (Revelation 16:1)
Lord stands for “Master”, “Owner”, now, as the Master and Owner, Jesus returns to destroy all those who rejected Him and who persecuted those He sent to them (see Matthew 21:33-41, 22:1-7).
The day of the Lord is the period where God’s wrath comes upon the whole earth and includes the return of the Lord to destroy the antichrist and false prophet.
Zephaniah 1:14-15 says, “The great day of the LORD is near; it is near and hastens quickly. The noise of the day of the LORD is bitter; there the mighty men shall cry out. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of devastation and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness.”
The Bible also talks about another “day”, a glorious day, a wonderful day, a day of rejoicing when the saints are caught up to meet the Lord in the air. This day is the “day of Jesus Christ” and includes the Parousia of the Lord and the “Bema seat” (judgment seat) of Christ. As we know, Jesus means “Saviour”, “Deliverer” therefore the “day of Jesus Christ” is the day of deliverance when He delivers them from the wrath to come. It is also called the day of redemption when our bodies are redeemed at the rapture of the saints (see Ephesians 4:30 and Romans 8:23). Philippians 1:6 says, “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until ‘the day of Jesus Christ’.” In other words God will be working in our lives right up to the day of Jesus Christ when we are caught up to meet Him in the air. “For our citizenship is in heaven from which we also eagerly await for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it might be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” (Philippians 3:20-21).
1 Thessalonians 1:10 tells us that we “wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”
Also in 1 Thessalonians 5: 8-9 it tells us to “Be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The hope of salvation is looking to something future, some deliverance that is yet to happen to us which we hope for, not in a sense of insecurity, but rather with a knowledge that we don’t know when, but we know with a certainty it will happen. So what is this deliverance we hope for? It tells us there in verse 9, this deliverance is from the wrath to come.
I am basing the following sequence of events on the assumption that Ezekiel 38 will happen before the “Day of the Lord”. Ezekiel 38 tells us that, Russia, Turkey, Iran, Sudan, Libya and others will join together and attack Israel but be destroyed on the mountains of Israel by God sending, rain, hailstones, fire and brimstone upon them. This possibly could happen at the opening of the sixth seal (see Revelation chapter 6).
We cannot be certain of the timing of this event (Ezekiel 38) we can only watch for its unfolding. Some believe it will be during the time of God’s wrath just before Jesus returns to the earth, others believe that it will be after the millennium period.
World events seem to indicate that this is about to happen so we will presume it will happen in the next year or so, before the great tribulation.
After this event the Bible tells us that there will be seven years spent clearing the land of weapons and melting them down in the fire (Ezekiel 39:9-16). Now it implies that these seven years will be a time of relative peace and that the Jews are still in their land during this time. The next major conflict will be in the time of the great tribulation where there will be a vast amount of Jews killed and many of those who are left will have to flee from their land, if this happened before these seven years were completed then there would not have been seven years collecting weapons. We will take it that when the Bible says that seven years were spent gathering the weapons left scattered over the land, that these years will be completed.
The rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem will most likely commence during these seven years. The world is fearful of provoking the God of the Jews after what has happened to those nations that came against Israel.
The next thing is that the “man of sin” will arrive on the scene. At the beginning he will be just a person who is well liked and respected, he will be a man of peace who people will start to look up to as someone special, a good guy who they can trust. He will make a seven year covenant with Israel, however half way through he breaks the covenant and seats himself in the temple of God as if he is God. The Jews react to this and he starts his persecution against the Jews. The world looks up to him because he has stood against God and nothing has happened to him. This man, it seems, is doing the world a favour and dealing with the Jewish problem. This time of persecution, also known as the great tribulation, will end with “sudden destruction” (1 Thessalonians 5:3-11) and the coming upon the whole earth of the wrath of God. Is this “sudden destruction” to do with the angel of destruction that arises from the bottomless pit? Just a thought.
1 Thessalonians 5:2-3 says, “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labour pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.” They say, “Peace and safety” because they have finally got the man in the job to sort out the world’s problems.
C. F. Hogg and W. E. Vine say, “—it is evident that the words “peace and safety” cannot refer to the international conditions then obtaining, but are intended to describe the sense of security from Divine interposition that will possess the hearts of men up to the very moment at which God breaks the long silence and once again intervenes directly in human affairs, cp. Ps. 50:1-6” (The Epistle to the Thessalonians).
The “sudden destruction” follows the great tribulation, a time when Jews and Christians will be persecuted. Matthew 24:21-22 says, “For then their shall be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor even shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh should be saved: but for the elects sake those days will be shortened.”
Jeremiah 30:5-7 says, “For thus says the Lord: ‘We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. Ask now, and see, whether a man is ever in labour with child? So why do I see every man with his hands on his loins like a woman in labour, and all faces turned pale? Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.”
Jacob is the father of the Jewish nation whose name was later changed to Israel. The time of Jacob’s trouble is a time of great trouble and distress for Jacob’s offspring the Israelites.
After this time of great tribulation for the Jews comes the sudden destruction and wrath of God on the rest of the world.
Isaiah 13:6-11 says, “Wail for the day of the LORD is at hand! It will come as destruction from the Almighty. Therefore all hands will be limp, every man’s heart will melt, and they will be afraid. Pangs and sorrows will take hold of them; they will be in pain as a woman in childbirth; they will be amazed at one another; their faces will be like flames. Behold the day of the LORD comes, cruel with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He will destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be darkened in its going forth, and the moon will not cause its light to shine. I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud and lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.”
Judgment begins at the house of God. The ‘great tribulation’ not only affects the whole world but also affects the Jews and any Christians that may be around at this time. After this great tribulation the sun is darkened and the moon will not give her light. Then the fierceness of the wrath of God comes upon the world but not on the elect of God (Romans 5:9). 1 Peter 4:17 says, “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God.”
Matthew 24:29 says, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.”
Immediately after the tribulation the sun is darkened and the moon will not give its light and this is followed by God’s wrath upon the earth.
The Jews will be viciously attacked in their land at this time. (Zechariah 14:1-2). They flee to Edom (Jordan) where the Lord comes to their aid destroying their enemies and eventually revealing who He is to the Jews (Isaiah 34:1-8, Isaiah 63:1-8, Zechariah 12:9-11, Zechariah 13:6).
At the end of this period of the “Day of the Lord” the world’s armies gather at Armageddon (Revelation 16:16). The Lord returns with His angels and with His saints (see Zechariah 14:5) to defeat the armies of the Beast and cast him and the false prophet into the lake of fire (Revelation 19:11-21) and Satan is bound for a thousand years and cast into the bottomless pit (Revelation 20:1-2). The Lord judges the nations that are left (Matthew 25:32-46). The millennium starts.
Scripture quoted is from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
The article above is the possible development of events as I see them at the moment.
The reader is advised to keep an open mind and to “watch” as world events bring us nearer to the coming of the Lord.