Burning Questions answered
by Rev Colin Le Noury.
Q7. Does 2 Thessalonians 2v3 nullify the idea of Christ's imminent return?
This particular chapter of Paul's second epistle to the Thessalonians has been the subject of much controversy among those who delve into prophetic truths. More than most it is a that requires skilful rightly dividing of the word of truth, for failure to do so can lead to much confusion and error.
The difficulties of the passage are compounded further by the fact that various translations differ in the rendering of verse two. As Mrs E.Potter, our questioner, rightly points out, the A.V. and NKJV translate it 'Day of Christ' whereas most other versions translate 'Day of the Lord'. This is because the A.V. is based on the Textus Receptus (Received Text) of Erasmus and Beza whereas most other translations use the Nestle Greek translation.
I don't propose to go into the arguments of textual criticism or of Bible versions, although I would recommend Gail Riplinger's excellent book "Which Bible is God's Word?', published by Hearthstone Books, to any interested reader. The difference in the translations does, however, result in a fundamental difference of understanding and complicates to some extent our understanding of what Paul is saying. Although I do not believe it nullifies the principle of imminency.
To clearly interpret the passage it is vitally important to understand three things:
a) That the 'Day of Christ' and 'Day of the Lord' are not the same.
b) That the word 'Day' is not restricted to the events of a 24 hour period.
c) That the 'Day of Christ' and the 'Rapture of the Church', although intrinsically linked, are not entirely the same.
On point a) above, let me explain that the 'Day of Christ' is exclusively a New Testament phrase linked directly to the church age. It is used to describe the relevance of Christ's return to christian believers.
The phrase 'Day of the Lord' spans both Old & New Testaments but is strongly rooted in the Old. It relates Christ's return to God's plan for the nations of the world, and to the Jewish people in particular.
Moreover, the two phrases enshrine totally different characteristics. As the following scriptures show, the 'Day of Christ' is always expressed as a time of hope and eager anticipation for believers.
'Being confident of this very thing, that He that hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ' (Phil. 1:6)
'Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the Day of Christ'....(Phil. 2:16)
'...waiting for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ' (Cor 1v7,8)
By contrast, 'the Day of the Lord' is heralded as one of dread and fear of the impending judgement of God. Consider the following scriptures:
'Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as destruction from the Almighty shall it come'(Joel I v 15)
Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! To what end is it for you? The day of the Lord is darkness and not light ..even very dark and no brightness in it' (Amos 5 v 18,20)
'For you yourselves know prefectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they say "peace and safety" then sudden destruction cometh upon them' (1 Thes. 5 v2-3)
With regard to point b. above, we must remember that 'A day is as a 1000 years with the Lord, and a 1000 years as one day'. The use of the word 'Day' in scripture often refers to much longer periods of time than the 24 hours with which we associate it.
For example, Paul in 2 Cor. 6 v 2 says, 'Behold now is the accepted time, today is the day of salvation'. That day was in the first century, nearly 2000 years later the day of salvation is still with us. We speak about living in a day of grace - that day spans the whole period of the church age.
In the same way, both the 'Day of Christ' and the 'Day of the Lord' will cover extended periods of time.
On point c. above, it must be recognised that the 'Day of Christ' incorporates a series of major events which include the Bema seat judgement, the marriage of the Lamb and His return to Olivet, all of which will be initiated by the Rapture of the Church.
In short, the 'Day of Christ' will span the whole period from the Rapture of the Church to the Revelation of Christ. Its events will be centralised in the heavenly sphere whilst on earth the day of antichrist - the tribulation period - will obtain.
With these points clearly understood it becomes much easier to unravel what Paul is saying in 2 Thessalonians 2. It is, of course, never right to take one verse in isolation. Every verse must be looked at in its context and this particularly applies to 2 Thes. 2 v 3. Indeed v.7 is undoubtedly the key to our understanding of verse 3, for there Paul says that before the Antichrist or Man of sin can be revealed the restrainer has to be taken away. In a previous question I have gone to lengths to show why I believe that restrainer to be the Holy Spirit working through the church.
Hence what Paul is saying in 2 Thes. 2 is that if the events surrounding the 'Day of Christ' are to be unfolded in the heavenlies, then the events surrounding the day of antichrist must take place simultaneously on earth. But before either of these things can happen the Rapture of the Church must happen.
One further important note is that the word translated 'falling away' in v.3 is APOSTASIA coming from the the Greek verb APHISTEMI literally meaning 'to depart'. This has generally been assumed to mean a departure from the faith although this may not have been Paul's thinking. Taken along with verse 7, it could be a reference to the departure of the church. Thus far I have tried to answer the question from the premise that the translation 'Day of Christ' is correct. But even if one accepts the translation 'Day of the Lord' as being authentic the argument for imminency remains the same.
The imminent Rapture of the Church referred to in v7 is the trigger which will set off a train of prophetic events which will include both the 'Day of Christ' with all its hopes and the 'Day of the Lord' with its many judgements.
Colin Le Noury