What is the date of the rapture?  Does the rapture occur before the Great Tribulation? or does it occur after the Great Tribulation has begun?  In our terribly distressing days no question could be more urgent or vital.



No Panic



Now the Holy Spirit has seized on panic in the Thessalonian Church to reveal an answer to the question - so far as there is an answer.  “Now we beseech you, brethren, to the end that ye be not shaken from your mind” - panic-stricken - “nor yet be troubled, as that the Day of the Lord is now present” (2 Thess. 2: 1), as that the Day of the Lord is already casting its awful shadows across the world.  Paul is not condemning: panic as panic, for not to fear in the Great Tribulation would be foolish and impossible.  “Woe unto you,” God says through Amos (5: 18), “that desire the day of the Lord! wherefore would ye have the day of the Lord?  It is darkness and not light And Paul says that the panic is caused “by spirit” - a demon speaking in the assemblies – “or by word” - probably a fixing of dates proving us to be in the Tribulation - “or by epistle as from us” - a forged apostolic letter.






Now we get fresh light.  It is not fear of the Day of the Lord which Paul condemns, but fear that that Day is on us before certain events have occurred.  Paul’s opening words had told them.  “We beseech you, brethren, by the parousia of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him, that ye be not shaken The descent of Christ into the heavenlies, and the rapture of saints to meet Him there, are the simultaneous events which, if they have not occurred, are to quell alarm; for the Day of the Lord cannot arrive until these events have happened.  Midnight is the exact moment when two days meet; and “at midnight the cry went forth, Behold the Bridegroom! come ye forth to meet him” (Matt. 24: 6): so the descent of Christ, and the ascent of the saints, ends the Day of Grace and opens the Day of Judgment.  The date of the rapture is midnight, whenever the midnight may be.



But so long as the rapture does not occur, the appearance of Antichrist is impossible.  “Let no man beguile you in any wise; for it [the Day of the Lord] will not be except the falling away”- the Apostasy – “come first, and the man of sin be revealed, that sitteth in the temple of God setting himself forth as God Words of our Lord shed light on the fact that saintly saints are a block to evil which makes it impossible for Antichrist to appear before the rapture.  “Ye are the salt of the earth,” the supreme check to corruption on the earth: earth’s final (Matt. 10: 13) corruption is impossible until the Church has gone.  So Paul assumes that they now understand.  “And now ye know” - after what I have said - “that which restraineth” - now you understand the block which prevents the public arrival of the Antichrist, and the terrible day of terror. Manifestly from what Paul has just said, ‘that which restraineth’ is the body of saints removed on high: “we beseech you, brethren, by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not shaken The Flood never came until Enoch had gone; and no lightning wiped out Sodom until Lot had gone.  God said to Lot:- “I cannot do anything until thou be come” out (Gen. 12: 22).



The Restrainer



But Paul reveals more than a ‘restraint’: he also reveals a ‘restrainer’.  “For the mystery of lawlessness” - the underground, secret anarchy of two thousand years - “doth already work: only” - the reason of its remaining a mystery, a suppressed volcano – “there is ONE THAT RESTRAINETH now, until he be taken out of the way”, until he removes himself, until he is gone.  Only one Person has blocked, or could block, the lawlessness of two thousand years - the Holy Spirit.  And the picture is perfect.  As the Holy Spirit descended to earth to inaugurate the Day of Grace, and to inhabit the spiritual Temple of God, the Church; so when judgment and the day of terror arrive, and technically there is no more a Church on earth, Pentecost is reversed, and the two great blocks to lawlessness - saintship and He who creates it - are gone.



Not Quickly Shaken



So therefore this dating of the rapture reveals the balanced, profoundly wise attitude God enjoins upon us.  It is not the easy, irresponsible conclusion of either of today’s prophetical schools of thought.  Nothing could have been simpler, clearer, or more final than for Paul to say one of two things, either of which would have made his whole argument unnecessary:- either (1) all the Church is removed before the Tribulation, and therefore fear is absurd; or else (2) all the Church must pass through the Tribulation, and therefore fear must somehow be conquered.  Not only does he say neither of these, but the word ‘Church’ is carefully excluded from the whole passage.  And more than that.  One word is a flash of lightning:- “Be not QUICKLY” - hastily, too soon, prematurely – “shaken from your mind There is danger; but if we “serve a living and true God, and wait for His Son from heaven” - by no means true of all believers, the majority of whom deny the Second Advent altogether – “HE DELIVERETH US FROM THE WRATH TO COME” (1 Thess. 1: 10).



Watch and Pray



Finally, so far from discouraging a fear of the Tribulation, Paul reveals its peculiarly deadly nature.  Exactly as our Lord’s presence always paralyzed the demon world, and wherever the Gospel has triumphed witchcraft and sorcery have always faded out, so the departure of the Holy Spirit from the earth, and all saintly souls with Him, is the signal of an outbreak of Satanic miracle utterly unparalleled.  “And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whose coming is according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and wonders [wrought on behalf of] falsehood So our Saviour also fastens on miracles of a most startling power as the central peril of the Day of the Lord.  “For then shall be great tribulation such as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, nor ever shall be: for there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; SO AS TO LEAD ASTRAY, IF POSSIBLE, EVEN THE ELECT” (Matt. 24: 21).



All this gives tremendous momentum to one command of our Lord.  “Watch ye and pray always that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand” - be set, by rapture - “before the Son of man