Let me assure the readers of this blog that we—none of us on this earth—are in the tribulation. Yes, some of you are now enduring terrible suffering, but still it is not the tribulation spoken of in Revelation. That terrible tribulation is a wrath from God on the unbelievers–though many new believers will be martyred. As our text shows, the biblical tribulation will not come until the rapture has happened and until the man of lawlessness (the antichrist) is revealed, and the world sinks to apostasy—a total rejection of God.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-3
Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him, 2 that you may not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction. NASB
In these verses we see that the topic of discussion has something to do with “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him.” This phrase is no doubt referring to the rapture of the church, taught by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:17.
Now we are not told why they were “quickly shaken” about the fact that someone had told them that the day of the Lord had come; however, we can conclude that since Paul begins in verse one with the phrase, “with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ…” that they thought they had missed the rapture! For they were well aware from Paul’s teaching that the rapture preceded the day of the Lord (which is the day of His judgment after the tribulation).
Here are two supposed reasons why they thought they had missed the rapture:
- Because of the great persecution they were facing. They probably thought they were already in the tribulation.
- Because of a letter they had received, supposedly from Paul, saying that the day of the Lord had come. This letter was false and from a false prophet, because the letter was obviously not from Paul; for Paul had already instructed them that since they were believers they would be raptured (1 Thess. 4:15-18). He also told them that the day of the Lord (which would come after the rapture) would not come until the apostasy comes—which would be led by the one called the “man of lawlessness” (v. 3).