I’ve mentioned before that I do believe that most Christians will live to see the Antichrist and that the rapture will not happen until Jesus comes to destroy him. This passage is one reason why I think so.
One argument that people come up with for the rapture coming before Antichrist appears is that if that’s true, and there are certain other signs that must happen before Christ comes, then Jesus couldn’t come any day and that there is no reason to be ready for his return until those signs are fulfilled.
For that, I have two answers.
One, as I’ve mentioned before, while it’s true that I believe certain things must happen before Christ comes for his church, that is not true when it comes to Christ coming for you. In other words, tomorrow is not promised you, and Jesus may call you home this very night. And if that happens, will you be ready, or will you be like the man in Jesus’ parable (Luke 12:13-21) who was not prepared to meet God when God suddenly summoned him to judgment?
Second, this argument goes square against what Paul says here. Paul himself says, “No, Christ hasn’t come yet. There are certain things that must happen first.” And if what Paul said held true then, what really has changed? Nothing. Jesus still hasn’t returned. We still don’t know when he will return. And I believe that if people argued (like the Jehovah’s Witnesses do) that Jesus has already come back, Paul would tell us the same thing that he told the Thessalonians. “Jesus hasn’t come back. Certain things must happen first.”
Admittedly, this is disconcerting, particularly to those who believe that we will avoid the Antichrist altogether.
But there is hope. First, Paul told us in I Thessalonians that we won’t suffer the wrath of God that the rest of the world will in the tribulation (I Thessalonians 5:9). Peter also tells us that God knows how to preserve the righteous, while punishing the unrighteous. (II Peter 2:9)
More, Paul told the Thessalonians,
From the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2:13-14)
In short, though you may go through trials, still God has chosen you to be saved…and he will save you. He called you and you will share in Christ’s glory someday.
And so he concludes,
So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. (15-17)
No matter what we go through then, even if it’s the great tribulation, Paul admonishes us to hold on to the truth that we have received. And more, hold on to Jesus. For it is he who will give us encouragement, hope, and strength to do what is right even in the darkest of times.
As I’ve said before, I hope I’m wrong. I hope Jesus does take us to heaven before Antichrist comes. But if I’m right and we do see him, hold on to Jesus. He will see you through.