The Study of Last Things

Bringing Truths from Different Books of the Bible into Focus, Perspective, and Understanding

"For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ" 1 Thessalonians 5:9

The Exemption of the Church
from the Day of the LORD

The Day of the LORD and Believers in the Church Age

Part 2: A Discussion of 1 Thessalonians 5:1-10, The Thessalonian Christians and Their Exemption from the Day of the Lord

With reference to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, what would happen to Jesus and these believers next after the Rapture? In his letter, Paul had concluded his revelation about the Rapture with a gigantic group hug up in the clouds – the Lord Jesus was there, and He was surrounded by His deliriously happy Church, both those who had been resurrected and those who had been caught up with them to meet the Lord in the air and be with Him forever! What would happen next after that scene of embrace? The text does not explicitly answer that question. The most logical answer is that Jesus takes the Church, His Bride, to His “Father’s house” in heaven, just as He promised He would (John 14:1-3). And there He prepares His bride for the Marriage of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7-9), which will not take place for another seven years, at least. Paul does not here address that issue. But following His discussion of the Rapture (1 Thess. 4:13-18), he does immediately explain in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 the very next event on God’s prophetic timetable, the Day of the Lord. In our present discussion, this would be the first sequence of the eschatological Day of the LORD – the Tribulation period. (He could not possibly have been referring to Jesus’ Second Coming to judge the world. He will reference that event using radically different language in his second letter – 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10. And of course, he could not possibly have been discussing God’s destruction of the universe by fire – he does not come remotely close to using any of the language found in 2 Peter 3:10-12.) What Paul makes exceedingly clear is that Church Age believers do not need to be concerned about enduring the Day of the Lord. They will have been raptured, removed from the earth. Notice what Paul wrote about concerning the next event on the calendar, the Day of the Lord.

(1) Paul had already instructed the new Thessalonian believers about “the times and epochs,” so there was really no need for him to write further (1 Thess. 5:1). Nevertheless, he did so anyway, perhaps because he had heard from Timothy’s report (1 Thess. 3:2, 6) that some confusion existed in their minds.

(2) They already knew, and he reminded them, that the Day of the Lord would come unexpectedly – like a thief in the night (1 Thess. 5:2).

(3) The people across the world will have been lulled into thinking that all is peace and tranquility. This false sense of security will, no doubt, be brought about in part by the advent of a suave, sophisticated, charismatic world ruler whom the world will worship (Rev. 13:5, 8), and who will probably be given the Nobel Peace Prize for having apparently solved the Arab-Israeli conflict (Dan.9:26-27). But elsewhere, Paul calls this sinister figure “the man of lawlessness” (2 Thess. 2:3, 8). But while the world is thinking peace, sudden destruction will come upon them – disaster from which they could not escape (1 Thess. 5:3).

(4) But the Thessalonians did not have to worry about being overtaken by that day of terrible judgment. As believers they were no longer in darkness – for they were all sons of light and sons of day (1 Thess. 5:4-5, 8; cf. Col. 1:12-13). In other words, God would be sending the Tribulation – the Day of the Lord – to judge the unbelievers (people of darkness) left alive on the earth after the Rapture of the Church (1 Thess. 4:13-18). As sons of light and sons of day, the Thessalonians were (and all Church-Age believers are) exempted from the Day of the Lord!

(5) Since they were sons of light and sons of day, the Thessalonians were to live as sons of light. They were not to fall asleep, but to be alert and sober (1 Thess. 5:6-8a). That exhortation still applies to us today.

(6) They had put on the breastplate of faith and love. They had also put on as a helmet the hope of salvation (1 Thess. 5:8b). They had the hope of salvation, not the grim prospect of enduring and somehow trying to survive the Day of the Lord!

(7) God has not destined believers for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Master, Jesus Christ. In the context, salvation includes deliverance from the wrath of the Day of the Lord – the Tribulation period (Rev. 6:16-17; 11:18; 14:10, 19; 15:1, 7; 16:19; 19:15).

(8) Jesus died for us, so that, whether we are alive or dead, we will live together with Him (1 Thess. 5:10).

(9) Paul closed this section by exhorting these Thessalonian believers to encourage one another and build each other up, just as they had been doing (1 Thess. 5:11). Just as Paul had urged the Thessalonians to comfort one another because they would one day see their dead fellow Christians and be reunited with them and be with the Lord forever, he now urges these same Thessalonians to encourage and build each other up because, as sons of light and sons of day, they need not fear the coming Day of the Lord, in this context, the Tribulation period. It would be scant comfort indeed, if they knew they had to endure the time of wrath.

In summary, the sequence of Paul’s explanation of the Rapture (1 Thess. 4:13-18), followed by his discussion of the Day of the Lord (1 Thess. 5:1-11) indicates that Paul was a Pretribulation Rapturist. He believed and taught clearly that the Church would be raptured before the onset of that terrible time of judgment on the earth – the Tribulation. The people of the Church are sons of light and sons of the day. The Tribulation was meant to punish the sons of darkness for their evil. The Church would be exempted from that day. I do not see how Paul could possibly have made it any clearer.

(Scripture quotation taken from the NASB.)

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First published October 20, 2011

Updated November 16, 2018