A review of Charles Ryrie “Why I am a Pretribulation Rapturist” from Isael My Glory. Part 2: Does 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 teach the Pretribulation Rapture?

After discussing “Who are Raptured?” Ryrie asks the question over which there is the most debate, “When is the Rapture?” Whether intentional or not, Ryrie seems to mock the posttribulation “timeline” of saints being raptured to meet Christ in the air only to continue with Christ back to earth. Ryrie’s apparent criticism of is unfortunate since the word “meet” in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 is used in only used in Matthew 25:1-10 and Acts 28:14-16 in exactly the sort of way that Ryrie seems to poke fun at: a group of people come leave their location to meet someone then escort that person to his intended destination.

Far more important to the discussion is Ryrie’s treatment of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4. Ryrie’s treatment of this passage has two flaws. First, Ryrie never defines what he believes the “Day of the Lord” is. From his discussion, it appears that Ryrie associates the day entire seven year tribulation period with the Day of the Lord. Whether or not this is true, Ryrie never demonstrates from the text that the rapture must precede the Day of the Lord. Why not? Because the text states the opposite position of Ryrie: which points to the greatest problem with Ryrie’s treatment of this passage.

To make 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 teach the pretribulation rapture, Ryrie completely ignores a portion of the text that contradicts his position. Below is presented the text as given by Ryrie and then as given in the ESV.

 

Ryrie

ESV

We ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by [a] spirit or by [a] word or by [a] letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.

 

Ryrie omits the first several phrases of Paul’s thought. As Ryrie presents the text, there is really nothing about the rapture at all in the passage. As Paul presents the test the rapture is plainly mentioned: “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him.” So why does Ryrie exclude Paul’s mention of the rapture when Ryrie is attempting to determine the time of the Rapture? This seems counter-productive.

Perhaps Ryrie omits the first phrases of this passage because they completely undermine the pretribulation rapture position. If the Day of the Lord refers to the seven-year tribulation, and if the Thessalonians believed the rapture occurred before the tribulation, Paul’s entire discussion is superfluous. The Thessalonians would have known the Day of the Lord had not come yet because they had not been raptured!

As the text stands, however, Paul disagrees with Ryrie in a few details. First, Paul includes the coming of Christ and our gathering together to him in the Day of the Lord. As unique and horrendous as the events of the tribulation will be, Paul marks the Day of the Lord off as something even greater. This aspect of the Day of the Lord including the coming of the Lord to earth and the simultaneous gathering of the elect is will attributed in the Old Testament (Coming- Joel 3:16; Hab. 3:16; Zech. 14:4; Mal. 3:2; Gathering- Isa. 11:11-12, 16; 27:13; Mic. 4:6-7; Zeph. 3:18, 19, 20). Secondly, Paul says that this Day which includes the coming of Christ and our gathering together to him occurs after the revelation of Antichrist not before. Ryrie is right, the Day of the Lord occurs after the Antichrist’s revelation. But by leaving out Paul’s mention of Christ’s coming and our gathering to him, Ryrie ignores the most pertinent information for the discussion. As one commentator notes, “The present verse [2 Thess. 2:1] brings to grief the popular notion that the rapture of the church will somehow take place before the tribulation.”[1]

For as systematic as it presents to be, the pretribulation rapture is built upon an atomistic treatment of Scripture. It is no coincidence that one of C.I. Scofield’s works is “Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth.” Dispensationalism and the pretrib rapture position certainly excel in dividing the Scripture. But as Ryrie’s mishandling of just four verses demonstrates, the pretribulation rapture cannot stand up to a more holistic reading of Scripture.


[1] Gene L. Green, The Letters to the Thessalonians (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2002), 301.

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