1 Thessalonians 4–5 and 2 Thessalonians 2
No Secret Rapture
David Brandt Berg
When Jesus returns at the Second Coming, He is not going to be coming secretly, but the whole world is going to know it. He will come with a lot of noise, a lot of light. It will be like lightning shining from the east unto the west, like continuous lightning; the whole sky is going to be lit up. In 1 Thessalonians 4, it says that the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, and with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God shall sound.
I don’t see how you can have the whole skies light up, Jesus Himself descending from heaven with a shout and the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God, and not have the whole world know it! In fact, John in Revelation 1:7 tells us, “Behold, He cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him. And all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him.” That doesn’t sound like a secret rapture or a secret coming.
Every place in the Bible that you read about the coming of the Lord, there’s a lot of commotion going on, stars falling from the heavens, sun and moon darkened, and big noises, earthquakes, voice of the archangel, shout of the Lord, trump of God. Graves open and the saints rise from the dead. Not just spirits, but the new bodies of the resurrected. And we saints who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the air, right in front of the world.
Why should God want to make that a secret? Why should He want to hide that great final triumph of His Bride and His church as she rises in victory?—Finally out of the reach of her enemies in great triumph to join her Bridegroom. Jesus is not going to come secretly so that nobody knows if He came and went; that’s not what the Bible says! He’s going to come with a tremendous light show and fanfare of trumpets, the greatest spectacle the world has ever seen!
It’s going to be the greatest light show you ever saw, and that’s when you can finally say: “Stop the world, I want to get off!” We’re going to take off to be with Jesus in the air. Everybody’s going to see Him coming in the clouds: light, trumpet, voices, thunders, earthquakes, noises, dead rising from the graves, the live saints rising from the ground, floating up through the ceilings and the buildings and the cars and right up into the clouds to be with Jesus. That doesn’t sound like a secret rapture, and it’s not going to be.
But what about the scripture in chapter 5 of 1 Thessalonians, “But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night” (v. 1–2). People who believe in a secret rapture before the Tribulation will say, “See there! He’s going to come as a thief in the night. Nobody’s going to know when He came, nobody’s going to know when He left. It will all be very secretive and quiet.”
In the next verse Paul says, “For when they shall say, peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape” (v. 3). How can sudden destruction come on them and they don’t know it? How can sudden travail come on a woman who is having a baby; how can she be having labor pains and not know it?
That’s not what He means by “as a thief in the night.” He means that the Lord will come by surprise. It will be sudden, that’s for sure. It will be a surprise, like the sudden coming of a thief. What he was saying in the second verse here is simply that the Lord’s coming will be a surprise to the world. It will be a shock. But it doesn’t mean it’s not going to be observed. It doesn’t mean they’re not going to see it when it happens.
For he says, “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief” (v. 4). In other words, it shouldn’t take you by surprise. “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness” (v. 5). We’re not in the dark on this question. We know Jesus is coming, and we know how He’s going to come. We’ll even know when He is going to come.
In Matthew 24:29, Jesus says: “Immediately after the Tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven. And the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn.” What are they mourning about if they don’t even know what happened? What are they crying about if it was so secret that nobody knew what happened?—If suddenly a lot of Christians disappeared and they don’t even know what became of them?
It’s not going to happen that way; Jesus said so right here. Not only that, He didn’t say it was going to be before the Tribulation; He said after the Tribulation. The sun will be darkened and the moon will not give her light, stars fall from heaven, powers of the heavens are shaken, sign of the Son of man in heaven, all the tribes of the earth mourning. What could be more cataclysmic, dramatic, terrific, and more obvious than this kind of coming of the Lord? And it says specifically after the Tribulation.
“And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (v. 30). The whole world is going to see Jesus come. Everybody on earth! Everybody on every side of the earth is going to see it happen. All that secret rapture, pre-Tribulation rapture is unscriptural. It’s going to happen just as Jesus said and just as Paul said, “after the Tribulation,” in great power and great glory.
“And they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heaven to the other” (v. 31). He’s going to sweep around the world gathering together His elect from the four winds. He’s going to gather all the saved together.
Some Christians teach a partial rapture, of a special elect, the best of the saved people that are going to get raptured beforehand. The word “elect” comes from the same Greek root word, eklektos, that ecclesia comes from, which means “the called-out ones” or “the separated ones,” or the church, the saved, the Christians. So this word simply means the saved, His saved, His church, His Christians, His children. And if He starts collecting His children, He’s certainly going to collect them all and not leave some behind.
He’s not going to leave anyone behind that loves Jesus. No matter if you’ve been faithful or unfaithful, if you love Jesus. No matter if you have even sometimes been wicked, if you love Jesus and are saved and have Jesus in your heart, even though sometimes you’ve been disobedient, He’s going to take you up to be with all the rest of us. All those that are saved, dead or alive, are going to rise to meet the Lord in the air in the clouds as He comes.
First Thessalonians 4:16 says: “The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air.”
Are you going to be happy to see Jesus when He comes? Are you going to be ready? Or caught by surprise, doing something that wasn’t of the Lord, even though you’re saved and a Christian? I want to be ready to meet Him when He comes! Ready to praise the Lord and welcome Him with joy and be happy that He carries me up into His clean skies and heavenly places.
“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him” (2 Thessalonians 2:1). Notice that when Jesus comes, we’re going to be gathered together to Him. He certainly cannot possibly be talking about anything else but the coming of the Lord—the rapture. “That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us.”
Paul’s saying here, “Don’t let anybody deceive you! Don’t let any man or spirit or a forged letter kid you that the day of Christ is at hand. Don’t let anybody kid you that Jesus is coming right now.” Paul is saying there are some other things that have to happen before He comes, and he goes on to say what they are:
“Let no man deceive you by any means, for that day shall not come except there come a falling away first” (v. 3). “A falling away first” means a loss of faith, a cooling off of the churches and the believers—a worldliness having entered into the church and among Christians and a falling away of church attendance and belief and faith and serving God.
There’s a great falling away taking place throughout the world because of unbelief, loss of faith in God, loss of faith in His creation, loss of faith in the Bible. When did you ever see such an age of skeptics and agnostics and unbelievers and downright atheists? But the worst and most pitiful of all is the falling away of Christians themselves, believers themselves! I’ve witnessed it throughout my life, a growing falling away of Christians, falling out of fellowship with the Lord and His people; falling away from His work; falling away from the support of His work. He said there’ll come this falling away first, and then in the third verse:
“And that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the Temple of God, showing that he is God.” Paul said, “Let no man deceive you by any means, for that day shall not come except there come this falling away first and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God.”
He exalts himself above all gods and tells the world to worship him and his image. John tells you the same thing in Revelation 13, that he sets up his idol in the holy place and commands everybody to worship him, and everybody who refuses to worship him as God to be killed. So that he as God sits in this rebuilt temple of the Jews in Jerusalem, their most holy place in the whole world, and he’s going to sit down upon his throne in the temple of God, saying that he is God.
Paul goes on to say, verse 5, “Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.” In other words, the Lord’s just holding things back until the Antichrist will be revealed in his time.
Verse 7: “For the mystery of iniquity”—that’s what the Antichrist and his kingdom are, a mystery of iniquity— “doth already work: only He who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.” The original meaning of this old English word “let” was “prevent,” or hold back. He who now prevents the Antichrist and the Devil from taking over the world will keep on preventing it, or withholding this flood of iniquity that’s going to take over the world when the Antichrist and the Devil reign as king and as god—until he’s taken out of the way.
God, so far, has been holding back the floodtide of evil and the flood of iniquity, the flood of satanic forces. But one of these days the restraining power of God is going to be removed like a dam. It’s going to be taken away, and a whole lot of iniquity is going to flood the world under the reign of the Devil himself, in the person of the Antichrist.
“And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming. Even him whose coming is after the working of Satan” (v. 8–9). The Antichrist is going to come first, with the workings of Satan.
“With all power and signs and lying wonders. And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (v. 9–12).
That’s what the Bible says. That’s the truth in the words of Jesus, the words of Paul, the words of John, the words of God’s Holy Spirit written in His holy book.
For when Jesus comes, the earth will shake and hearts will quake, you’d better be ready.
When Jesus comes, His face we’ll see eternally, be ready.
Has your soul been filled with the fire of His Holy Ghost?
Are you saved and ready to meet the Lord of hosts?
When Jesus comes, His face we’ll see eternally, be ready!
I do hope you’ll be ready by asking Him into your heart right now, as that little song says:
Into my heart, into my heart,
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus!
Come in today, come in to stay.
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.
If you meant that, He has come in, and He’s going to make you a new person, a new creature in Christ Jesus, “old things passed away, all things become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17), and you’re going to want to tell everybody about Him: your family, your friends, your neighbors, the whole world. You’ll want to go into all the world and preach the gospel (Mark 16:15). If you’ve taken Him into your heart, you’re going to want to please Him. You’ll want to love everybody, and tell everybody and shout hallelujah till Jesus comes!
Copyright © 1981 by The Family International.