The Pre-Tribulation Rapture: a dangerous delusion?
A recent 'editorial' in a regular newsletter from a Christian organisation brought the notion of a pre-tribulation removal of the saints back into the frame.
Quote from newsletter:
When appointed governments abandon their responsibilities to rule in righteousness, it leaves the door unguarded for Satan to enter! 2 Thessalonians 2:7 says, "He that letteth will let until He is taken out of the way."
In other words if the Holy Spirit who is there to influence rulers to bring order and good government is so grieved by the actions that they take that He steps aside and hands them over to Satan, be sure Big Trouble is coming!”
<<<< end quote <<<<
I have no problem with the principle outlined in the above quote. Indeed I wholeheartedly agree that when an individual or people-group deliberately and determinedly rebel against God then a point will be reached when He will hand them over for judgement. However the verses which speak of this I believe are contained in Romans 1:18-30 and not the 2 Thessalonians passage mentioned above as “He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way”.
(Note: The Darby Bible translates this expression as: “For the mystery of lawlessness already works; only [there is] he who restrains now until he be gone.”
The Scofield Bible notes state regarding the second ‘he’:- this Person can be none other than the Holy Spirit in the church, to be "taken out of the way". )
The reason I mention this is not to be pedantic, but to point out what I believe is a vital misunderstanding of that seventh verse in the second letter to the Thessalonians. (I was greatly helped many years ago by a cassette recording of a brother David Noakes speaking on the subject and after a bit of further research I have come to what I believe is a better understanding. If I am right – and I make no claim to inerrancy – then the Scofield-inspired view is turned on its head. )
The Scofield view
(See also article: Study Bibles; handle with care.)
The common view (especially held and used by those who believe in the removal of the church; referred to as the ‘Rapture’) is that the verse speaks about the Holy Spirit (note the use of the capitalised “He” in the translation above.) being “taken out of the way” as the believing saints are removed from the earth.
And of course in everyday discourse if we are referring to something which is impeding progress we might say: “Take it out of the way” - meaning to remove the offending object from one’s path.
So the Scofield view is that the Christian believers (inhabited by the Holy Spirit) will be removed from the earth's scene.
The Greek words
However, the word translated a “be taken” is the Greek word “genomai” [Strong’s No. 1096) which means “something happening” in the sense of ‘coming to pass’.
Regarding the word translated “out”, it is (in the Greek) “ek” which is transliterated “ex”. My Strong’s dictionary (No. 1537) tells me that it is “a primary preposition denoting point of origin”. In fact it is the Greek equivalent of the German word “aus”.
So, for example, if I asked a German person where they were from, they would reply: “Ich komme aus Deutschland”. Literally: “I come out of Germany.”
With reference to the word translated as “way”, in fact, as David pointed out, the Greek would better be translated “midst”. [mesos ; Strong’s No. 3319 - a prim. word; middle, in the midst :—among(3), among*(5), before*(3), between(1), between*(3), center(6), forward*(3), midday*(1), middle(6), midnight*(2), midst(19), two(1), way(2), within*(1)]. So we get “coming out from or appearing in the midst” or “revealed in the midst”;
Think (albeit using a positive analogy) of a great award ceremony where the recipient of the prize sits inconspicuously, perhaps even incognito, as one of the crowd - until their name, as the winner, is called. The person will then stand up, be recognised and move to the podium to accept the award i.e. the Thessalonian verse does not talk about the Holy Spirit being removed from the scene but rather the Antichrist being shorn of his anonymity – or should I say trumpeting his alternative/pseudo-Christ identity – and appearing on the world stage (2 Thess 2:8) ; masquerading as God (2 Thess 2:4).
The complete Bible passage states: (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; NKJV)
1 Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you,
2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.
3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition,
4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?
6 And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time.
7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. (Note again the importance of whether or not to capitalise 'He/he' with respect to a correct understanding .)
8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.
9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders,
10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie,
12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
To offer a paraphrase of the above, Paul would be saying (vs 5 – 12):
“Do you not remember that I told you this before? (How could you ever forget?) And you know that God restrains the Antichrist, so that in His time the Antichrist might be revealed. For the mystery (which has been revealed to those who are taught by the Bible) of lawlessness is already at work in the world; only God who now restrains the effect of this lawlessness will do so until the Antichrist figure appears on (the world’s) stage in the midst of it all.
And so then the latter will be revealed but will eventually be destroyed by the Lord on His coming (cf Rev. 19:20). (Note: Satan himself if not finally destroyed until the end of ages Rev. 20:10).
On the visible appearing of the Antichrist (being part of Satan’s endtime plans) he will use acts of power, signs, false wonders and deception to deceive those who do not have an abiding and unshakeable love of the Truth by which ( and supremely through the sacrifice of Christ) they will be saved. Indeed because of their lack of love for the Truth God will punish them by deliberately sending a delusion upon them so they might believe what is false and be judged in accordance with their reveling in infidelity and wrongdoing" (cf Matt 7:21-23).
Jesus said to his disciples that he was going to sent them out "as sheep amongst wolves" (Matt 10:16). In this he was preparing them for what was to come. Those who study the subject of persecution tell us that the best way to withstand trial when it comes is to prepare for it in advance: a notion that is not lost on the military who put their crack 'special forces' through hell on earth as part of their training. The be unprepared for the 'Big Trouble' leaves believers dangerously complacent and vulnerable. If the pre-trib rapture teaching is correct then we can all rejoice. However if it not then there are many who will be taken completely off guard.
David Pawson's book 'When Jesus Returns' offers a very fair critique of the various 'millennial' views. The choice is up to the individual believer. (See An 'exchange of views' on the pre-trib rapture.)
Footnote: See sidebar for links to 'Related Articles' on the subject.