Day of the Lord · Last Trumpet · Last Day · The Restrainer · The Legitimacy of Parallels (Similar or Identical?)
Day of the Lord
The "day of the Lord" has traditionally been taken by pre-tribulationists to refer to the entire Tribulation period, the second coming, and the millennial kingdom. Although not all hold to this in its entirety, most do see it as a reference to a period of time and not a specific day. It is my understanding, however, that this is simply a reference to the return of the Lord, the day that he comes back. Just the phrase day of the Lord is difficult for me to see as relating to the Tribulation period, which is described as a time of lawlessness (Matt. 24:12), when the "man of lawlessness" is ruling the world (2 Thess. 2:3-4) and destroying Godís people (Dan. 7:21; Rev. 13:7). If anything, this would be the day of Satan. But a closer look at the references to the day of the Lord will show not only that it does not need to include the Tribulation or the Millennium but that it is best taken to refer simply to the second coming.
When we look in the Old Testament, the day of the Lord is characterized by destruction (Isa. 13:6; Joel 1:15); fury and anger (Isa. 13:9); doom (Eze. 30:3); clouds and darkness (Eze 30:3; Amos 5:20); people trembling (Joel 2:1); retribution (Obad. 1:15); and it is said to be great and awesome (Joel 2:11; Mal. 4:5).1 These references could easily refer to the return of Christ when he comes "in flaming fire taking vengeance" (2 Thess. 1:7-8 KJV), and when people are crying out, "Hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?" (Rev. 6:16,17). Joel actually seemed to equate the day of the Lord with the battle of Armageddon (Joel 3:9-16). Also, Jesus said that the sun would turn into darkness right before he returned. This idea of darkness is routinely connected with the return of the Lord and the day of the Lord.2
In the New Testament the day of the Lord is mentioned seven times, with both a positive and a negative tone. The first is Peter quoting Joel 2:31 in Acts 2:20. The next three are in the Corinthian epistles and are given as an expectation of believers. Paul says that the Corinthians were "awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 1:7-8).3 He delivered one brother to Satan "so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord" (1 Cor. 5:5, NET)4 and also said that "we are your reason to be proud as you also are ours, in the day of our Lord Jesus" (2 Cor. 1:14). In all of these cases this seems to be a day they were expecting.
The next two references to the day of the Lord are in the Thessalonian epistles. The first is 1 Thessalonians 5:2, in which Paul told the believers that "you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night" (1 Thess. 5:2). Two verses later he says, "But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief" (v. 4, emphasis added). Why would he say that the day would not overtake them like a thief if it was not going to overtake them at all? In the rest of the chapter he goes on to talk about how they are of the day and of the light, not of the darkness as others. His point is that the day would not take them unexpectedly, because they knew what to look for. It seems very clear that they were expecting to see this day. As was already pointed out in chapter 2, the day of the Lord in 2 Thessalonians 2:2 and in 2 Peter 3:10 as well seems to be something they were expecting.5
Furthermore, the New Testament also refers to the day of Christ as a hope for believers. Some have tried to make this a different event from the day of the Lord, but as we saw, 1 Corinthians 1:8 makes reference to the "day of our Lord Jesus Christ," while 2 Corinthians 1:14 refers to the "day of the Lord Jesus." These seem to tie both of them together. The title Lord is used almost exclusively of Christ in the New Testament. The classic statement of faith is "Jesus Christ is Lord" (Rom. 10:9; 1 Cor. 12:3; Phil. 2:11). If Lord and Christ are the same person I find no problem with day of the Lord and day of Christ being the same event, especially when we see that it is variously referred to as day of Jesus Christ, his day, day of God, great day, day of wrath, the day, that day, day of redemption, and day of visitation.
Finally, Joel states that the great cosmic signs will take place "before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes" (Joel 2:31), and Jesus says that they will occur "immediately after the tribulation" (Mat. 24:29). Therefore, the day of the Lord must be after the Tribulation. The second to last verse in the Old Testament says that Elijah the prophet will come before the day of the Lord (Mal. 4:5), and even most pre-tribulationists see Elijah as one of the two witnesses during the Tribulation (Rev. 11). Also, as mentioned earlier, Paul says that the day of the Lord will not come before the antichrist is revealed (2 Thess. 2:1-3).
Paul told the Corinthians that we would be changed "at the last trumpet" (1 Cor. 15:52). Just his use of the word last requires: 1). a series of trumpets; 2). this one to be the last of that series; and 3). that no other trumpets follow. This one word makes an "any moment" rapture impossible. In order for there to be a last, there must be a first. Even if they are only a moment apart, the first trumpet must be blown before the rapture can take place.
Furthermore, it is quite interesting that John also tells us about a series of trumpets, the last of which describes the end, the resurrection, the time to reward the saints, the time that Christ receives the kingdom of the world, and the completion of the mystery of God (Revelation 10:7; 11:15-19).6 It also follows right on the heels of at least two dead saints being raised and raptured (Rev. 11:11-12). It seems that both Paul and John were describing the same thing unless there is reason to believe otherwise. Even if they were not, Paulís "last trumpet" would not really be the last if there were seven more to follow during the Tribulation.
Four times in John 6 Jesus said that he would raise up those who believe in him on the last day (vv. 39, 40, 44, 54, see also 11:24). First of all, those who believe in him would certainly include those who are saved during the Tribulation. Jesus also said that this resurrection would include "all that He [the Father] has given Me" (v. 39). If they are raised at the same time as all other Christians then it can only be after the Tribulation.
I fail to see how the last day could refer to a day at least seven years before the return of Christ, which is called the end of the age (Matt. 24:3). We know Joel prophesied about events in the last days which still await fulfillment in the Tribulation (Acts 2:17-21). It would seem to me that the last day could only be the last of these last days. Some would object and say that this refers to the last day of the church age, which they claim is before the Tribulation. The problem is that not only is the phrase church age not found in Scripture, but Jesus only speaks of two ages: this age and the age to come (Matt. 12:32; Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30). If there are only two ages mentioned in Scripture, and this age ends with the post-tribulational return of Christ (Matt. 24:3, 29-30), then the last day must also be after the Tribulation.
Paul said that someone (or something) is presently restraining the antichrist from being revealed (2 Thess. 2:6-8). Although many pre-tribulationists would now disagree, it has been claimed by some in the past that this restrainer is the church or the Holy Spirit (which those in the church possess). This would mean that we would be gone before the antichrist comes on the scene. The difficulty here is that Paul refers to this restrainer both in the neuter (v. 6) and in the masculine gender (v. 7). Whatever is in view, this cannot be the church, for the word ekklesia (church) is feminine. The pneuma (Spirit) is neuter, and, although many have tried to see references to it in the masculine, Wallace has demonstrated that these are better taken as simple agreement with the masculine "comforter" than personification of the Spirit.7 Besides, it is not possible for the Spirit to be removed from the earth during the Tribulation, since Joel prophesied that it would be during the Tribulation that God would pour out his Spirit on all mankind (Joel 2:28).
Furthermore, the Spirit is never seen fighting or restraining demonic forces in Scripture. This job is always done by angels. God never handles the devil or his demons directly but leaves this to his angels. He doesnít "get his hands dirty" with him so to speak. Even when the devil is cast into the abyss, this is done by an angel (Rev. 20:1-3). Almost every time Michael the archangel is mentioned in Scripture, he is fighting the devil and his demons.8
Furthermore, Daniel says that the "time of distress" begins right after Michael "gets up" (Dan. 12:1). The Greek in our passage for "taken out of the way" (ek mesou genetai) could also be translated "until he is out of the way" (RSV), "steps out of the way" (NLT), "until he be gone" (Darby) or "till he may be out of the way" (YLT). Basically, it is ambiguous whether he is taken away or leaves himself. Possibly, the masculine reference is to Michael personally, and the neuter is to the angelic army as a whole. The antichrist would not be revealed, then, until Michael and his forces get out of the way. However, I would not push this interpretation but provide it only as a possibility. I wish merely to show that this does not refer to the church or the Holy Spirit. Paul told the Thessalonians, "you know what restrains" (v. 6). I suppose that if it was necessary for us to know who this was, God would have told us as well.
The Legitimacy of Parallels (Similar or Identical?)
Another accusation pre-tribulationists make against post-tribulationists is that we take similar events and make them identical (such as the rapture and the second coming).9 My first response, as I mentioned in chapter 2, is that they connect passages as the same event based on much fewer parallels (such as 1 Cor. 15:52 and 1 Thess. 4:17). Obviously, no one description of the Lordís return is exhaustive of all that will taking place. We must put them together to get the whole picture. If we applied their line of thinking to the gospels we would conclude that such things as the various resurrection accounts or even the accounts of the Olivet Discourse are not the same.10 The only time we should conclude that two accounts can not be referring to the same event is when we see a definite contradiction. I think that all the parallels we have looked at combined are strong evidence for a post-tribulation rapture. The burden of proof rests upon them.
1. I am fully aware of the range of meaning for the Hebrew yom (day) which can simply mean "time." However, I am also aware that the usual meaning for yom as well as for the Greek hemera is simply a "day." <back>
2. Concerning this day of darkness, see also chapter 2, 2 Peter 3:8-15. <back>
3. In this passage as well as 2 Cor. 1:14 in which the English reads "the day of our Lord," the Greek literally reads "the day of the Lord of us." In both instances, then, the day of the Lord phrase is present. <back>
4. Some manuscripts read "day of the Lord Jesus," but "day of the Lord" is the reading favored by the USB4/NA27 Greek Text. <back>
5. See the discussions in chapter 2, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 and 2 Peter 3:8-15. <back>
6. See chapter 3, A Biblical Approach. <back>
7. Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 331-332. <back>
8. See Daniel 10:13, 21; Jude 1:9; Rev. 12:7. The only exception would be the verse we discuss in Daniel 12:1. <back>
9. Of course, we would say that they turn the same event into different events. <back>
10. Compare Matt. 28 with Mark 16, Luke 24 and John 20-21, also Matt. 24:1-25:46 with Mark 13:1-37 and Luke 21:5-36. <back>