First Thessalonians 019 – Comfort One Another (part 4)1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 • Dr. Andy Woods • March 26, 2023 • First Thessalonians
First Thessalonians 019 – Comfort One Another (part 4)
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 • Dr. Andy Woods • March 26, 2023
Father, we’re grateful for today, the last Sunday in March, and grateful to be coming up next week on Palm Sunday and the week after that Resurrection Sunday, the highest and holiest day really on the Christian calendar. Grateful that Your Son, as we commemorate this time of the year, went through so much agony on our behalf, but we’re grateful for the fact that He also rose from the dead, and He is alive forevermore at the Father’s right hand to meet our needs. So we do ask, Lord, that this service would be orchestrated by Him. We would not be like the Laodicean church that was having Christianity without Christ, as Christ was outside the door of the church seeking admittance into His own church. We do ask that we would be in fellowship with You, and so in preparation for that, Lord, to be in greater fellowship with You so that we can receive unhindered today from Your Word, we’re going to just take a few moments of silence for personal confession if need be.
We are grateful, Lord, for the promise of 1 John 1:9, which does not restore our position, but it can be used to restore broken fellowship between us and You. And we know, Lord, when fellowship is broken, we cannot enjoy You the way that You have designed our relationship. And so with that in mind, Lord, we just ask for the illuminating ministry of the Spirit of God, whereby we can ascertain, discern the deeper things of God. We ask for that ministry in the Sunday School lesson and in the main service that follows, and also with all of the different classes that are meeting in the building, even as I speak, we’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said amen.
Well, let’s take our bibles, if we could and open them to the book of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
Paul the Apostle, in Chapters 1 through 3 of the book called 1 Thessalonians, that we are working our way through, has in those chapters essentially defended himself against a lot of unfair charges. And so now that those charges against him have been refuted, he’s now in a position to correct the Thessalonians, which he begins to do in 1 Thessalonians 4:1. That’s why he says, “finally,” in 1 Thessalonians 4:1 moving into that second section of the book, Chapters 4 and 5, where he is now correcting the Thessalonian believers, responding to their questions and issues that he knew about them. So he’s dealt with immorality. He’s dealt with the subject of laziness.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11
And then once you hit 1 Thessalonians 4:13 all the way through 5:11, you get this tremendous treatment on eschatology.
Eschat, future, ology, the study of, the study of the future. What does the Bible have to say about the future? This is one of the greatest eschatological sections that we have, perhaps, in all of the Word of God.
So this is what Paul says to the Thessalonians and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. He says, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
One of the things that’s very interesting about the book of 1 Thessalonians, probably just the second letter Paul wrote, very early in Paul’s ministry, is every chapter ends with a reference to the return of Christ. And so here we are at the end of Chapter 4, and you have the same reality taking place. It’s just in this case you probably have the most in-depth treatment of the rapture that you find anywhere in the Bible.
The rapture is that event which will end the age of the church. Once the rapture happens, the church’s earthly mission or ministry will be over, and God, subsequent to the rapture, will turn His attention back to the nation of Israel and fulfill their promises that have up to this point in time remained unfulfilled.
So one of the reasons he gets into the subject of the rapture here is he had actually, when he was with them in Thessalonica, had taught them about the rapture. This is not the first time he’s mentioned it. He says concerning eschatology in 2 Thessalonians 2:5, “Do you not remember that while I was with you, I was telling you about these things?” So it’s not like, “Oh hey, surprise, there’s going to be a rapture. Have a nice day.” They already knew about the doctrine. We’re just sort of getting into the conversation a little later.
But the issue is when Paul had left Thessalonica, some of their brethren in Thessalonica had gone to be with the Lord. And so what the Thessalonians did not understand is okay Paul, you told us about the rapture, but what about our deceased brethren that have died since you’ve left Thessalonica? What’s going to happen to them? I mean, are they going to participate in the rapture or are they going to get resurrected at the end of the tribulation period or at the beginning of the millennial kingdom? How does this relate to them?
And this is why Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:13, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, [which is a euphemism for Christian death] so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.”
And this is where he explains that the rapture, when it occurs, is going to begin with the dead in Christ, who are now in the presence of the Lord. And when the rapture occurs, they will be placed in resurrected bodies first. And then we who are alive and remain on the earth, in other words, Paul says, if the rapture occurs in our lifetime, we will be placed in resurrected bodies instantaneously, and we will be caught up, Group B, the earth Christians, so to speak, will be caught up as Group A that’s in the presence of the Lord is descending and the two groups will meet in the air.
So you’re going to see your deceased loved ones again at the point of the rapture. So the rapture is not just a resurrection, it’s a reunion between the two events. So either way you cut it, every church-age believer will participate in the rapture. If you happen to die before the rapture occurs, you’re in that group coming down. If you’re alive and remain on the earth when the rapture occurs, you’re in that group being caught up.
So either you’re being caught up or you’re coming down, but either way you’re going to participate in the rapture, which is a tremendous eschatological event which will conclude the age of the church. The church age started with a miracle. The day of Pentecost, we’re standing in on Wednesday nights, where Peter preached, and three thousand souls were converted. That’s a miracle in addition to the tongues or the languages that were being spoken. It was miraculous. So just as the church age started with a miracle, the church age is going to conclude or end with a miracle as well, which is the rapture of the church.
And the reason Paul has to explain this to them, how the rapture affects the dead in Christ, is they had no Bible yet. They couldn’t just go home and study the word of God, because there was no word of God to study other than Hebrew Bible. And perhaps a few very early letters like Galatians and James and Matthew. And they had no ability to, I mean it’s hard to put a jigsaw puzzle together when you don’t have all the pieces. That’s the frustration of doing a jigsaw puzzle and one piece or two or three pieces are missing. You know, as you put your Mosaic together, there’s some blanks.
They had no ability to put doctrine together because they didn’t have all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. So to get the answer to the question, they had to get the information directly from the man that God was using to write these 13 New Testament epistles, the Apostle Paul.
So that’s why he says, “Comfort one another with these words,” and that’s why he brings up the subject of the rapture. It’s really a pastoral concern that he’s addressing what happens to our deceased loved ones in Christ.
So because the rapture is such an important doctrine, we decided to stop for just a few Sundays and fill out some more information about it. And we have a list of five, four of which we’ve covered.
1. Not The First Mention Of The Rapture
Number one, this is not the first mention of the rapture in the Bible. Jesus actually mentioned it in the Upper Room when he said in John 14:3, “… I will come again and receive you to Myself, ….” And we saw what Christ is teaching there in John 14:1-4 lines up identically and perfectly with 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
In other words, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 is just amplifying something that Christ already talked about. That’s why Paul says, “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord,” (1 Thess 4:15). What word of the Lord? The word of the Lord that Jesus spoke of in the Upper Room.
2. The Word Rapture Comes From The Latin
The second point we made is that the word rapture comes from the Latin. It says in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, “Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up ….” The Greek is harpazo, which is to be seized up with almost violent force.
And so when harpazo, where we get the word harpoon from by the way, you spear a sea animal and yank it to yourself, is translated into Latin, which is what Jerome did in the Latin Vulgate around the 4th century, maybe a little earlier, when he got to this word harpazo, he translated it with a Latin word that looks a lot like our English word, rapture. So when the Latin is translated into English, that’s where you get the word rapture. It goes from the Greek to the Latin to the English.
And that’s important to understand because a lot of people try to discredit the rapture by saying the word is not found in the Bible. Well, the concept is there, but the word comes from the Greek to the Latin to the English.
3. The Rapture is distinct from the Second Advent
Number three, we saw that the rapture is distinct from the second advent. We can divide the coming of Christ into two phases. First, He returns to rescue the church from the tribulation period itself. And then at least seven years later, or more years, He returns with his church to rescue Israel from the Antichrist and set up His kingdom, which will last a thousand years. And it’s virtually impossible to take those two sets of scripture and harmonize them together. They’re talking about two different events. So we divide the coming of Christ into two phases.
- The Rapture Is Only For The Church-Age Believer
And then the fourth point we made, I think we did this last week, is the rapture is only for the church-age believer. And you see that in the expression “in Christ.” When Paul uses the words “in Christ,” he is always referring to the church every single time that expression is used. So the rapture should not be confused with the resurrection of the Old Testament saints and the tribulation martyrs at the beginning of the millennial kingdom, because the rapture is something for the church-age only.
So if you are somebody who has trusted in Christ during the church-age, you will automatically participate in the rapture. That’s when you receive your resurrected body. If you’re passed on, when the rapture occurs, you’re in that group descending. If you’re alive on the earth when the rapture happens, you’re in that group ascending. But either way, everyone will participate in the rapture.
5. Pre-Tribulationalism Is The Correct Understanding Of The Rapture
And what we’re going to spend our time on here is number five. It’s why we believe that pre-tribulationalism is the correct understanding of the rapture. The rapture discussion or rapture debate can get very confusing because there’s four, really five views on it.
The view that we hold to is at the very top there. The rapture will occur before the tribulation period begins.
In competition with our view is the mid-tribulational view that the rapture will happen midway through the tribulation, 42 months into it.
Post-tribulationalism says the church is going to go through the whole tribulation period and if you’re not martyred, perhaps you can be raptured at the end. Comfort one another with these words.
Pre-wrath rapturism is something that I like to call or has been called three quarters rapturism. And these are folks that really don’t think the wrath of God starts until the very end. And since the church is promised an exemption from divine wrath and the wrath of God doesn’t start until the final 25 percent or so of the tribulation period, we will be here for three quarters of the tribulation period.
And there’s another view that’s being taught today. I’m seeing it everywhere. It’s the idea that when Jesus comes in the rapture, the only people that are going are the people that are watching and waiting for Him and living holy. And everybody who teaches that assumes they’re watching and waiting. They’re obviously in the good group, right? And so the sanctified saints, the super saints, whatever you want to call them, are taken in the rapture. Everybody else has to go into the tribulation period to get straightened out. And as you get straightened out in the tribulation, then you’re sort of raptured at different phases. So it’s a view that’s so interesting it’s hard to even put it on a graph. I don’t even know how you’d put that on a graph.
But those are the major views. We hold to, it’s in our doctrinal statement, we hold to the top view, pre-tribulationalism. And so why would we think pre-tribulationalism? I mean when I first started to teach eschatology in this little Baptist church I was in at the time, one of these very old ladies in the front of the church, she was a very diligent Bible student. She was there for every Sunday school class. She told me, she goes, “Well you better figure out a way to get us out of here.” Because I was trying to explain these views, you know, and she goes, “Well you figure out a way to get us out of here first.” You figure out a way to get the top view to work.
You know, and so that’s how a lot of people think about this. It’s like, it’s whatever view you hold, it depends on whatever preference you happen to have. If you’re an American and you’re not used to a lot of persecution, then obviously this is an idea that would percolate in America. But when you go to China and Iran and you see the underground church, they would never hold to a view like this. And so a lot of people look at it as it’s just sort of something that you hold to based on your preferences.
I am not of that persuasion at all. I’ve been looking into this issue for a while and I’m more convinced ever than I’ve been in my whole life that Biblically pre-tribulationalism is the correct understanding. And it’s not the type of thing that one single argument seals the deal. There’s actually seven arguments. If you’re interested in the seven arguments, you could listen to or watch Lessons 5 through 11 in our rapture series.
There’s seven arguments that when you take them together cumulatively, you can actually develop assurance and certainty that before God’s wrath hits planet Earth, in the tribulation period, the church will be removed. Now obviously today we’re not going to go through all seven. I just want to talk about three arguments. And the reason we’re bringing these up is these are in our Thessalonians study.
Rapture Is Imminent / Doctrine of Imminency
So why is pre-tribulationalism, why do we believe it’s the correct view? Well the first reason relates to the doctrine of imminency. And if you look at 1 Thessalonians 4:15, Paul says, “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we [see that?] who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.” Paul says it’s completely possible that this event could happen in my lifetime, Paul says. And in fact, I think Paul actually expected that.
And when Paul says “we,” he doesn’t lay out a whole bunch of signs that have to happen first before the rapture can occur. In the resurrection chapter, he deals with the rapture, in 1 Corinthians 15:50-58, not a bad thing to think about this time of the year, and in verse 51, he says, “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed,”
In other words, he thought this was going to happen in his lifetime. And when he talked about it, he didn’t say, “Okay, first there’s going to be the temple rebuilt. Secondly, the World Economic Forum is going to get control of the whole world. Thirdly, Bill Gates is going to do his thing. People say, “Well, is Bill Gates mentioned in the Bible?” He actually is, because Jesus says, “The gates of hell will not prevail against the church.” So we can call Bill Gates. I just like to substitute Bill Gates. I just like to say, “Bill Gates of hell.”
Alex Newman at a conference I was at was doing that. Every time he said Bill Gates, he would just say, “Gates of hell.” Bill Gates of hell says, so that’s a nice way to kind of keep him in mind.
So you’ll notice that Paul, when he articulates the rapture, he never says there’s going to be a bunch of signs first. He says “we.” In other words, it’s not coming shortly, it’s coming next. It’s the next event on the prophetic horizon, which is what the doctrine of imminency is.
What Exactly Is Imminency?
Let’s talk just for a minute about imminency. What exactly is imminency? Imminency is the idea that the rapture is the next event on the prophetic horizon. There is no prophetic sign that has to materialize before the rapture can occur.
Wayne Brindle in a BibSac article says:
“Four criteria may be suggested, any one of which indicates imminence:
- The passage speaks of Christ’s return as at any moment.
- The passage speaks of Christ’s return as ‘near,’ without stating any signs that must precede His coming.
- The passage speaks of Christ’s return as something that gives believers hope and encouragement, without indicating that these believers will suffer tribulation.
- The passage speaks of Christ’s return as giving hope without relating it to God’s judgment of unbelievers.”
And the truth of the matter is that there are tons of passages in the Bible just like this. A few of my favorites would be James 5:8-9. It says, “You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.”
Jesus is standing right at the door any moment the rapture can happen. Never does that passage articulate signs or events that have to happen first.
1 Corinthians 1:7, “so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly [Bill Gates and the World Economic Forum, no] the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ,” See that? It’s signless.
Philippians 3:20 says, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait [the Antichrist doesn’t say that] for a Savior Jesus Christ.” We’ve already seen 1 Thessalonians 1:10 earlier in our verse-by-verse study of Thessalonians. It says, “and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.”
So there the coming rescue operation of the church is never conditioned upon three, four, five or six things that have to happen first. It’s the next event on the prophetic horizon.
When Jesus introduced the doctrine of the rapture for the very first time, He said this in John 14:3, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” He didn’t say, I’m coming only after the first half of the tribulation, or all of the tribulation, or three quarters of the tribulation. He never gives any such sign. He says He’s coming. So that puts us in a mindset where we are in constant eagerness and expectation for the return of the Lord.
We are to be looking for Jesus Christ and not the Antichrist!
The truth of the matter, folks, is we are not looking for the Antichrist. We are looking for Jesus. And every view that puts the rapture into the tribulation period essentially is telling the Christian public the next event is the Antichrist. And everybody today then is looking for the Antichrist rather than Jesus Christ because you just put the Antichrist coming before Jesus can come. Imminency will not allow you to do that.
I mean we should study the Antichrist, the doctrine of the Antichrist, we should be aware of the Antichrist, but folks I’m not looking for the Antichrist. I don’t expect to eyeball it with the Antichrist in any way shape or form. I’m looking for Jesus because of this doctrine of imminency. I’m not looking for a peace treaty between the Antichrist and Israel. I’m not looking for the Antichrist to desecrate the Jewish temple. I’m not looking for the seal judgments and the trumpet judgments and the bowl judgments. I am looking for Jesus Christ who will precede all of these events.
Look at the title of this book by Bob Gundry who is a non-pre-tribulationalist. The title of the book is “First the Antichrist.” Comfort one another with these words, right? I mean there’s a gentleman there that does not hold to the doctrine of imminency. He is not expecting Jesus to come back at any minute. He is expecting to see the Antichrist first.
Now with all of that being said, we do believe in prophetic stage setting. A chess board has to be set up in a particular way before a chess match can start. And when the board is being set up, you know that a match is about to begin. So we clearly see the world being set up for the tribulation period.
We do see Israel back in her land. We do see movements within Israel to rebuild her third temple. We do see people like Bill Gates and the World Economic Forum plotting for world domination and control. And when we see those things, we say to ourselves, “You know what? The world is being set up for the tribulation period.”
And since the rapture of the church precedes the tribulation period, and the world is being set up for the tribulation period, the rapture must be coming even faster. That’s how to understand world events. Not because you’re going to be plummeted into the day of the Lord. But it’s a sign that it’s coming quick, and the rapture precedes it. The rapture is coming even faster.
So the signs of Christmas, Christmas trees, Santa Claus, tell you that Thanksgiving is near, right? Because Thanksgiving occurs earlier on the calendar than Christmas. This is the right framework to understand the world that we’re living in.
Motivator (Holiness, Evangelism)
And once we start to think this way, it becomes a tremendous motivator for holiness and evangelism. That’s what the imminent return of Jesus does. It forces the Christian to get their priorities in order.
That’s what prophecy does. 2 Peter 3:11, “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?” We change the priorities in our lives when we understand that any second Jesus can return.
1 John 3:2-3 says, “… everyone who has this hope fixed on Him … ” the rapture, “… everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” I mean, the more you think about this event, the more this Holy Spirit has an opportunity in our lives to allow our present conduct to catch up with our position. We’re already holy positionally. The problem with us is sometimes we don’t act our age, right? We don’t act like who we really are.
And so the more you think about the coming of Christ and the any moment return of Christ, the more the Holy Spirit will use that to allow our practice to catch up to our position.
This is what Dr. Pentecost is saying in his book, “Prophecy Today.” “A short time ago, I took occasion to go through the New Testament to mark each reference to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and to observe the use made of that teaching about His coming. I was struck a new with the fact that almost without exception, when the coming of Christ is mentioned in the New Testament, it is followed by an exhortation to godliness and holy living.”
In my involvement with the pre-tribulational study group, started by Tim LaHaye around 1993, I started going in 2001, Tim LaHaye now with the Lord, in the meetings that I was in with him, would always say the same thing every single year at the opening. He says the reason we’re trying to defend this doctrine and teach it is because of the effect that it will have on the Christian’s daily life and evangelism.
So before we get caught up in the weeds, let’s keep sight of the big picture here. The imminency of the return of Jesus has a natural, pragmatic, purifying effect on the child of God, which then becomes the explanation as to why Satan is trying to demolish this doctrine. In fact, the number of people out there trying to damage it proves to me it’s true, because Satan hates it.
And nobody tries to damage a three-dollar bill, right? Nobody’s out discrediting a three-dollar bill because a three-dollar bill is counterfeit. It’s false. Everybody knows it’s false. Why waste your time discrediting something that’s false? You try to attack and destroy something that is true. Because the rapture is true. This is a biblically based doctrine. And it has a logical, natural, purifying effect on the child of God.
Feast of Trumpets
This doctrine of imminency, by the way, becomes the explanation as why the rapture does not have to take place on the feast of trumpets. Because this is what many people are saying. They’re trying to go into the Jewish calendar system, Leviticus 23, that lays out the various feasts and they pick a feast like trumpets, Rosh Hashanah, and they’re trying to say the rapture has to happen on the feast of trumpets, as if poor God can’t have more than one trumpet. So they jam everything into the feast of trumpets.
Well, if it has to happen on the feast of trumpets, what you’re saying is it can’t happen the rest of the year, right? And if it can’t happen the rest of the year, you’ve just denied the doctrine of imminency. Could the rapture, I like the way Olivier Melnick put it, could the rapture happen on the feast of trumpets? I guess it could, but it doesn’t have to.
Because God has intentionally designed it [the rapture] to be dateless and signless. He wants the Christian to live every day of their life as if this is your last day. Because the judge is right at the door.
By the way, when you put the rapture, which is a church-age truth, into the Levitical feast system, you have another problem. You just put the church under the Mosaic law, which was given at Mount Sinai. And Psalm 147:19-20 says that the law was only given to Israel. The church, Ephesians 2:15, is a new man. And so when you say that God has to end the church age according to Israel’s cycle of feasts, you’re not understanding that Israel and the church are separate.
Israel had feasts and a calendar system. The church has no such thing. And so people, when they argue the rapture has to happen on the Feast of Trumpets, I’m wondering if they understand a more fundamental issue, the Israel-church distinction. God has separate programs for Israel and the church.
The rapture is the end of the church age. It’s got nothing to do with Israel. So you’re mixing two things that don’t go together. And beyond that, if you say the rapture has to happen on the Feast of Trumpets, you just put the church under the law because the Levitical system comes from the Mosaic law. And Romans 6:14 says you are not under law, but under grace.
And the moment you put the church under one millimeter of the law, and the law is a take it or leave it proposition, then the church is under the what? The whole law. James 2:10 says “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”
So you can’t just say well you know we like this part of the law over here, feast of trumpets, let’s put the church under that. Well you do that, and you put the church under the whole Mosaic law because the Mosaic law as a whole is a take it or leave it proposition.
So the problem with putting the rapture at the feast of trumpets is:
- It denies imminency;
- It puts the church, a new man, under Israel’s system; and
- It puts the church under all of the Mosaic law when the book of Romans 6:14is very clear that we are not under the Mosaic law but under grace.
So which of these views teaches imminency? Which of these views says Jesus can come back today?
Can the mid-tribulationalist say Jesus is coming back today? They cannot say that. There’s got to be 42 months of hell on earth first before Jesus comes back in the rapture.
Same problem with the post-tribulationalist, same problem with the three quarters rapturists.
The pre-tribulation position is the only position that says the rapture can happen today. And that’s a good way to figure out doctrinally where people are. You just ask them a very simple question, can Jesus come back today? And if they start to hem and haw, you immediately know you’re dealing with someone that does not believe in imminency, they do not believe in pre-tribulationalism.
Rapture Is A Comfort
The second of three points we want to make is that the rapture is a comfort. It’s a comfort.
How did Paul end his discussion of the rapture, 1 Thessalonians 4:18, Therefore be scared out of your mind? No. “Therefore comfort one another with these words.” When the rapture is taught, it’s always taught as a comfort.
As I said earlier, Jesus mentioned the doctrine of the rapture for the first time in John 14:3, but before Verse 3 comes Verse 1. Amen. Where He says, “Do not let your heart be troubled; …”
I mean, are you troubled by the state of the world? I guess we should be concerned to some extent at the state of the world, but we’re not to be engulfed in fear over the state of the world because Jesus says, “I’m coming to get you. So therefore do not be troubled. Do not let your heart be troubled.”
Titus 2:13, written to a man named Titus who was trying to be a pastor on an island called Crete, which is right in the middle of the ocean. It’s this little tiny island. And he was trying to pastor these house churches on this island, and Paul, when he writes to Titus, says, you know, “Cretans are lazy gluttons.” I mean, how would you like to pastor that group? I mean, you’re out in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the ocean, Mediterranean. You’re dealing with a bunch of people that are lazy gluttons. I mean, you would need some kind of hope, wouldn’t you?
Paul unleashes this truth to Titus trying to encourage him, looking for the Republicans to gain control of the White House again. No. I mean, that’s not our hope. I wouldn’t be sad if they regained it, but if they don’t, that’s not where my hope is. “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,” (Titus 2:13).
The rapture is a comfort.
Which of these views comforts you? Do you receive any comfort from mid-tribulationalism or post-tribulationalism or pre-wrath rapturism? All of these scenarios that say you’re going to go through half of the tribulation and if your head is not cut off first, you’re going to be raptured out. Post-tribulationalism is even worse. Three-quarters rapturism. There’s absolutely no comfort in any of these views.
That’s why the mental emotional state of people that are non-pretribulational, it’s almost like they’re borderline hysterical, and they’re upset all the time and they’re always reacting against pre-tribulationalists and they’re just angry and it’s obvious they’re angry reading their posts and watching their material.
I guess if I believed what they believed I would sort of be like that too because there’s no hope in their system. And a lot of these ministries they sell survival gear. Now I’m not against prepping and things like that, but prepping has nothing to do with my eschatology. And what a lot of them want you to believe is you’re going into the tribulation period, you’re going to have to fight the Antichrist, all this sort of stuff.
Oh by the way, here’s some survival gear that you need. So it’s almost like they’re capitalizing on a doctrinally poorly taught church to make money, in all honesty. And that really becomes one of the reasons why so many of them resist pre-tribulationalism.
But the doctrine of pre-tribulationalism is supposed to comfort the saint. That’s the point of it.
Donald Gray Barnhouse preached this in the form of a song.
“Jesus may come today, Glad day! Glad day!
And I would see my friend;
Dangers and troubles would end If Jesus should come today.
Glad day! Glad day! Is it the crowning day?
I’ll live for today, nor anxious be, Jesus, my Lord, I soon shall see;
Glad day! Glad day! Is it the crowning day?”
Can you sing that? I mean not audibly of course, but can you agree with that? I completely agree with it. And so my mindset in life is optimistic. Regardless of what happens to America or inflation or whatever, my attitude in life is optimistic because I am a pre-tribulationalist.
Now Barnhouse said, “How would a post-tribulationalist sing this?”
“By way of parody, Dr. Barnhouse also pointed out that if the midtrib or posttrib advocates sang this song, it would instead have to say:
“Jesus can’t come today, Sad day! Sad day!
And I won’t see my friend;
Dangers and troubles won’t end
Because Jesus can’t come today. Sad day! Sad day!
Today is not the crowning day?
I won’t live for today, and anxious I’ll be,
The Beast and the False Prophet I soon shall see, Sad day! Sad day!
Today is not the crowning day?”
If you’re hearing rapture teaching or end times teaching and the whole emphasis of the presentation is fear, fear, fear, fear, fear. You’re dealing with a presentation that’s out of balance with what the Word of God has to offer because the rapture is a comfort.
And at this point it’s just a simple question of all of those views that we had up earlier, which comforts you? Are you comforted by mid-trib, post-trib, pre-wrath? There’s no comfort in that at all. There’s comfort only and imminency only in pre-tribulationalism.
Church Is Promised An Exemption From Divine Wrath
The third of three reasons why we think that the church will not be on the earth when the rapture will not be on the earth when the tribulation happens, rather, is the church is promised an exemption from divine wrath.
Remember 1 Thessalonians 1:10. “and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus who rescues us from the wrath to come.”
1 Thessalonians 5:9, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,”
Romans 5:9, “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.”
You know Romans 8:1, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus.”
What did Jesus say to the little church at Philadelphia? He says, “Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, [Hour of testing, that’s interesting. You mean there’s an hour of testing coming upon the earth? Yes, there is] that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” (Rev 3:10)
See the wrath that’s coming is a test for the unbelievers, not the child of God who has been promised an exemption from divine wrath. Over and over again in the New Testament he says you’re not a candidate for God’s wrath. You’re not a candidate for God’s wrath. You’re not a candidate for God’s wrath.
Oh, by the way, what’s the tribulation period? That’s an expression of divine wrath. Well, if the tribulation period is an expression of divine wrath and we are not candidates for God’s wrath, then how can we be in any of the tribulation period?
See, this is your birthright as a child of God to understand, and it does grieve my heart to some extent to see Christians just being thrown to and fro by every wind of doctrine because they’re not standing solidly, both feet planted on the ground of sound doctrine.
You understand sound doctrine, you will be spared from so much emotional turmoil that is gripping the world right now. And one of your promises, of many, is you are not a candidate for God’s wrath. I mean that’s what Jesus came into the world 2,000 years ago to give us, right? Through His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. And since the tribulation period is God’s wrath, it’s when God’s wrath is poured out on the earth, you can’t be involved in any of the tribulation period.
Revelation 6:16-17, now this is the pagans figuring out what’s happening in the tribulation as the seal judgments are being opened. “and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath [orgē] of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath [orgē] has come, and who is able to stand?””
Now when you understand this sentence exegetically and grammatically it’s backing up and describing everything else that’s happening in the chapter which is the manifestation of the seal judgments.
Robert Thomas in his wonderful Revelation commentary says, “Mankind in his rebellion correctly analyzes the cosmic and terrestrial disturbances as a part of the great end-time day of wrath from the one sitting on the throne and from the Lamb. The verb ēlethen (“has come”) is aorist indicative, referring to a previous arrival of wrath, not something that is about to take place. Men see the arrival of this day at least as early as the cosmic upheavals that characterize the sixth seal (6:12-14), but upon reflection they probably recognize that it was already in effect with the death of one-fourth of the population (6:7-8), the worldwide famine (6:5-6), and the global warfare (6:3-4). The rapid sequence of all of these events could not escape notice, but the light of their true explanation does not dawn upon human consciousness until the severe phenomena of the sixth seal arrive.“
Translation, “the pagans, the unsaved, are saying the wrath of God has started.” And it probably started at the beginning of Chapter 6. So how could you be in this, Chapter 6, when you’re told you’re not a candidate for God’s wrath?
This is what the first several seal judgments looks like. The advent of the Antichrist, war, famine, death, where 25% of the world’s population dies. Everybody is very upset about the, you know, the pandemic. And really when you look at the numbers of people that supposedly died from the pandemic, the number is like a 0.00 something of 1%. I mean it’s a very low number. What we’re dealing with here is a quarter of the world’s population just like that eliminated.
Now if that’s not the wrath of God I don’t know what is. That’s the severity of this time period that you are promised an exemption from. By the way it’s not the Antichrist causing these things ultimately or Satan it’s Jesus because He’s opening a seventh sealed scroll which is bringing these judgments to the earth.
Jesus is judging planet Earth through His wrath which you over and over again are promised an exemption from. So how could you be in Revelation 6 or any part of the tribulation for that matter?
The kind of the exegetical gymnastics that are being done today particularly by the three-quarters crowd, I call them the medium well-done group, they’re trying to make this argument that well you know the what’s happening in Revelation 6 is really just tribulations. It’s not wrath. It’s not divine wrath. It’s tribulations.
And Jesus says we’re candidates for tribulation so we’re going to be here for most of Chapter 6 is really what they’re arguing. And they try to draw a distinction between the word wrath (orgē) and the word the thlipsis [θλῖψις], which means tribulations.
And so they say well the wrath really doesn’t start until later on in the tribulation but the beginning part of it is just tribulations. So we’re going to be here for the tribulations but not the wrath. That’s what they’re saying. That’s how they’re arguing that we’re going to be here for some if not most of the tribulation period.
And there’s a part of me that just wants to say, “What are you smoking exactly?” Do you not think that Jesus opening a seal that’s causing Antichrist, war, famine, 25 percent of the population’s death, and martyrdoms, and cosmic disturbances is not God’s wrath?
I mean if this isn’t God’s wrath I don’t know if I know what it is. This is clearly God’s wrath. And they never want you to study Romans 2:8-9 which takes wrath and tribulations and causes them to be synonyms in some context.
Romans 2:8-9 says, “but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath [orgḗ] and indignation [thumós]. There will be tribulation [thlípsis] and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek.”
That right there takes tribulations and wrath and says they can be the same. Are they always the same? No. But there are contexts where tribulations and wrath overlap, particularly if Jesus is causing the wrath.
So this argument that well the first three quarters is just tribulations and not wrath, that’s absolute nonsense because tribulations can be used as a synonym for divine wrath in some contexts Romans 2:8-9. The whole seven-year period is God’s wrath. And since the whole seven-year period is God’s wrath and you’re promised an exemption from divine wrath you can’t be present.
Do you believe that the tribulation period is a time of God’s wrath? I mean I do. Revelation 11:18, “The nations were enraged and Your wrath (orgē) came ….” Revelation 14:10, all of these are tribulation period verses I’m quoting here. “he also drank of the wine of the wrath of God, …”
The word wrath is very interesting in Greek. It’s the word orgē where you get obviously you know sexual terms like an orgy. It’s speaking of passion that has no limits on it. It’s what it’s talking about. And here it’s not being used in the sexual sense. It’s being used in the anger sense. When God’s wrath comes it is passion that cannot be limited. It is passion that cannot be curtailed. It is passion that cannot be controlled as God emotionally is bringing His anger to planet Earth.
And how could a Christian who’s promised an exemption from divine wrath be involved in any of this? It’s like a man who proposes to a woman and beats the daylights out of her before the wedding day. I mean that doesn’t make that scenario makes zero sense. But that’s what people are teaching today by denying pre-tribulationalism.
Revelation 15:1, “Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels who had seven plagues, which are the last because in them the wrath (orgē) of God is finished.”
Revelation 15:7, “Then one of the four living creatures gave the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God ….”
Revelation 16:1, “Then I heard a loud voice from the temple, saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.””
Revelation 16:19, “… Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath.”
Revelation 19:15, the coming of Christ not the rapture at the end of the tribulation, “From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.”
One of the things to understand is people hear a doctrine like pre-tribulationalism and they think you’re teaching that somehow the Christian life is easy. We do not believe that it’s easy because the New Testament tells you that we experience trials, man’s wrath, Satan’s wrath, and the world’s wrath.
Those are normal experiences for the child of God in the age of the church. But there is a category of wrath that you have no part of, which is divine wrath.
So prior to the manifestation of divine wrath, garden variety, ordinary tribulations overtake the child of God. But not divine wrath. Divine wrath is completely and totally different. It’s a separate category.
So with all of that being said, why are we pre-tribulational?
- The promises of imminency;
- The promises of comfort; and
- The promise given in 1 Thessalonians 5:1 that we are not candidates for divine wrath.
So I hope this study leaves you optimistic about your future.
Let’s pray. Father, we’re grateful for the book of 1 Thessalonians, grateful for how it relates to our lives. Help us to not be confused about some fundamental things in these last days so that we can live for You with the victory that You called us to. We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name and God’s people said amen.
 All quotations are from the New American Standard Bible 1996 Update unless otherwise noted. New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. 1995. La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
 “Biblical Evidence for the Imminence of the Rapture,” Bibliotheca Sacra 158, no. 630 (April-June 2001): 138-51.
 J. Dwight Pentecost, Prophecy For Today, Page 20
 Donald Grey Barnhouse, Cited in Mark Hitchcock, “An Overview of Pretribulational arguments,” online: www.pre-trib.org, accessed 27 August 2013, 29-30.
 Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1–7: An Exegetical Commentary, ed. Kenneth Barker (Chicago: Moody, 1992), 457-58.