Friday, August 18, 2006
1 Thessalonians 5:9 and the Rapture
Some Pretribulationists have argued that since the church is saved from the wrath of God, and given that the Great Tribulation is the wrath of God, the church is apparently delivered from this Great Tribulation. Pretribulationists rely heavily upon this argument for their pretribulation rapture theory. On face value, their reasoning seems logical. One of the “proof-text” used in their paralogism is 1 Thessalonians 5:9. This verse says, “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:9).”
Commenting on this verse, Dr Jeffrey Khoo writes:
“The Christian has been spared from the wrath of God to come (cf. Rev 6:17, 11:18, 15:1,16). It is not the Christian’s duty nor destination to face God’s wrath since he has already been saved by the perfect redemptive work of Christ (Rom 5:9). It is important to know that the terms “wrath” and “salvation” here are opposites. The verse is clearly not talking about a both-and, but either-or situation. If you are under wrath, you are not saved, and if you are saved, you are not under wrath (John 3:36). This certainly argues against the posttribulational rapture view.” (Khoo, 1 Thessalonians, 37.)
1 Thessalonians 5:9 contrasts the concept of “wrath” and “salvation.” It is true that God has not appointed Christians to His wrath, but this does not exempt the Christian from the wrath of men, the wrath of the Antichrist, and the wrath of the Devil. Furthermore, the “wrath” mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 5:9 is clearly eternal wrath, that is, eternal perdition. This is supported by the understanding that 1 Thessalonians 5:9b describes “salvation” from God’s judgment, and not simply salvation from the Great Tribulation. 1 Thessalonians 5:9 contrasts eternal wrath with eternal salvation. Surely Dr Khoo must understand this, for he writes: “It is not the Christian’s duty nor destination to face God’s wrath since he has already been saved by the perfect redemptive work of Christ (Rom 5:9).” This salvation “by the perfect redemptive work of Christ” is eternal salvation, and comprises of election, regeneration, justification, sanctification and glorification. Obviously, 1 Thessalonians 5:9 is not describing the salvation of Christians from the Great Tribulation. To impose the concept of a pretribulation rapture into the meaning of 1 Thessalonians 5:9 is eisegesis. Dr Jeffrey Khoo has yet to explain why 1 Thessalonians 5:9 “argues against the posttribulational rapture view.”
If, indeed, the exegete insists that 1 Thessalonians 5:9 describes the deliverance of Christians from the Great Tribulation, he cannot escape the entrapment of even more nagging exegetical problems. According to 1 Thessalonians 5:9b, the reason for the Christian’s deliverance is his salvation in Jesus Christ. It cannot be overemphasized that the tribulation saints are likewise saved by the redemption of Christ. If the Church must be exempted from the wrath of God in the Great Tribulation according to 1 Thessalonians 5:9a, how can we justify the pretribulationist’s belief that tribulation saints are left behind to suffer the wrath of God during the Great Tribulation? Is it not true that tribulation saints are also redeemed by Christ’s atoning death?
Must the Church be raptured in order for her to be protected from the Great Tribulation? The fact is: presence does not necessitate participation. The Church can be on earth throughout the Great Tribulation and yet be divinely protected from God’s wrath. Israel was in Egypt when God sent the ten plagues. God did not rapture Israel prior to sending His wrath against the Egyptians. Israel was divinely protected from God’s wrath during the entire period. But the pretribulationists would have us believe that the pretribulation rapture of the Church is a certainty. The reason, which has been repeated ad nauseam, is that God has not appointed the Christians to wrath.
I believe 1 Thessalonians 5:9 is one of the most misunderstood verses of the Bible, and it is probably due to popular, dispensational eisegesis. The phrase - “For God hath not appointed us to wrath” - has almost become a mantra. Then let the pretribulationist answer why the tribulation saints are left on earth for the “wrath” of God.
Another pertinent question for the Bible Presbyterians would be, “Are not the tribulation saints also part of the Church?”