Editor’s Note: Dr. Ron J. Bigalke is the author of the brand new book, When? The Biblical Timing for Prophetic Fulfillment, from Dispensational Publishing House. The book is now available for presale, and it has the potential to become a go-to resource for years to come in the realm of eschatology—for students in the classroom and pastors in the study, as well as committed Christians who simply desire to know more about how the future will unfold. Although the focus of the book is not on the Reformation, Bigalke shares some interesting insights regarding the intersection of the Reformation and the issues of interpretation and Biblical prophecy, and that is the subject of this timely three-part blog series, which is compiled from excerpts from the book. I present this work to you with the highest commendation, then, and trust that it will be a blessing to many.
(Read Part 1)
The majority of 2 Thessalonians 2 is prophetically significant; therefore, much concentration will be devoted to explaining the teaching of this chapter. Certain verses are fundamental for doctrinal issues relating to the rapture and the coming of Christ, and therefore deserve special attention to understand the Biblical revelation with regard to those doctrines. The emphasis of the second chapter is evident in verses 1-2, which read,
Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.
When the text reads, “the day of the Lord has come,” in the Greek, the teaching was that the day of the Lord is at hand. The verb is in the perfect tense in the Greek, which would signify past action with present results. In other words, the false teaching was that the day of the Lord was being accomplished, it was occurring to these first-century believers; it had past action with present results. The teaching was that the Thessalonian believers were actually in the tribulation period, the day of the Lord. According to the perspective of this author, it does not seem possible to explain their concern unless Paul had taught them a pretribulational rapture, a rapture to occur prior to the day of the Lord, prior to the tribulation. Why else would they be concerned? If they were to go through any aspect of the tribulation period, then why be concerned, why be troubled? The troubling aspect only makes sense with a pretribulational rapture. Paul had taught them that they would be taken prior to the beginning of that period, but there was false teaching that they were actually in the day of the Lord.
The fact that they were experiencing intense persecution led them to assume they were, indeed, in that period. The same phenomenon occurred during the Protestant Reformation; many of the Reformers believed they were in the tribulation. They believed the pope was Antichrist because of the persecution that they were enduring. Apparently, the Thessalonian church believed something similar as a consequence of the influence of false teachers saying that they were actually in that period. Of course, again, that only makes sense with a pretribulational rapture.
Understanding that rapture issues are only related to premillennialism is beneficial. Often when the doctrine of the rapture is mentioned, individuals want to discuss premillennial or amillennial issues. However, the doctrine of the rapture of the church is only a premillennial issue. In other words, only those who believe in premillennialism read the eschatological passages and say, When will the coming occur? Will it be prior to the day of the Lord, in the middle, three-fourths of the way, at the end? The doctrine of the rapture is only a premillennial issue.
When one reads the book of Revelation, it is fairly evident (according to ch. 19) that Christ is coming to this Earth. What is the very next event stated subsequent to His coming? Chapter 20 emphasizes the millennial reign—six times it uses the Greek word for thousand, so it should be interpreted literally. Six times it uses the Greek word for thousand (chiliades), which informs the reader that the duration is a literal 1,000 years, in comparing that to all the Old Testament prophesies. Understanding fundamentally that premillennialism is true, then, one can confidently discuss issues with regard to the rapture. The foundational teaching is premillennialism, and from that understanding, one is able to Biblically and intelligently address issues with regard to the rapture and the second coming.
(Read Part 3)
Dr. Ron J. Bigalke serves as the Georgia state minister for Capitol Commission. He also pastors a church plant through Biblical Ministries Worldwide and has taught for Bible colleges and seminaries—serving as a research associate with the University of Pretoria (missions and ethics project). He is a frequent contributor and editor for various publications through Eternal Ministries, Inc., writes for Midnight Call magazine and is general editor of the Journal of Dispensational Theology. It is with great enthusiasm that we include him as an author for Dispensational Publishing House.
Copyright © 2017 by Dr. Ron J. Bigalke. Used by permission of the author.
Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®,
Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995
by The Lockman Foundation
Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)