The Coming and the Day of the Lord

2 Thessalonians  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 7
2 Thessalonians
The apostle, in the first epistle to the Thessalonians, had cleared up some difficulties respecting those saints who had fallen asleep. He had made known to the church at Thessalonica, by the word of the Lord, how the saints are to come with Him by being gathered to Him in the air at His coming. Those who had fallen asleep, instead of losing any privilege, would have a momentary priority; not these who are alive and remain till that moment. Their difficulty had been that the saints meanwhile fallen asleep would not be present to meet the Lord, when he came.
On the contrary he here shows them that the sleeping saints would have the precedence of the living, not that the living would anticipate them. This is the meaning of the word “prevent” in chap. iv. 15. “The dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (vers. 16, 17).
The Lord's coming again was their constant daily hope. They were waiting for Him from heaven ever since their conversion, as is clearly seen in chapter 1.
This was not the same thing as His appearing and day. He was coming for His own, to take them to the Father's house, as He had promised in John 14. When He appears, it is to judge the world; which is the “day of the Lord,” so often spoken of in the O.T. scriptures and alluded to in 1 Thess. 5:22For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. (1 Thessalonians 5:2). “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.” So in verse 4, “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.” The day would come upon those in darkness, and asleep—i.e., upon the world of unbelievers. Saints were children of light and day, not of darkness.
The day of the Lord would begin when He was revealed, or appeared to all. First, His own would hear His voice, and go up to meet Him in the air, at His coming for them; as He had said “I will come again and receive you to myself.”
The world has no part in this; of its portion he speaks in 2 Thess. 1:7-107And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, 8In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: 9Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; 10When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. (2 Thessalonians 1:7‑10). “When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, with His mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power; when He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believed (because our testimony among you was believed) at that day.” How can children of God confound so very different a thing with His coming to fetch His own to heaven, who shall be forever with Him? The two actions are for objects and aims contrasted in character. No wonder that they do not take place at the same time, For when “He is revealed in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and them that obey not the gospel,” His own will be with Him in glory, and will appear together with Him at that day. He comes then not to change them, and receive them to Himself, but to be “glorified in His saints, and admired in all them that believed... “in that day.” Then the Lord is rendering tribulation to those who had troubled His saints, while the saints will be at rest with Him in glory; and so will they then be seen, and Himself be glorified and marveled at in them (ver. 10). The world, thus seeing them in the same glory with Christ, will know by this manifested proof, that the Father loved them, as He loved Christ (John 17:2323I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (John 17:23)).
Some false teachers were troubling them, by the assertion that “the day” was then present, and that they had spirit, or word, or letter as if from the apostle, giving them a warrant for this teaching. The apostle assures the saints to the contrary, adjuring them by their hope of being gathered up by the Lord at His coming. Further, he lays down that the day will not come, till the last great development of the Antichrist. The Lord would come for them, and bring them with Him in that day. The gathering of His own was the first thing to be done. So he beseeches them “by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto Him, not to be shaken in mind or troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of the Lord is now present (R. V.).” (2 Thess. 2:1, 21Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, 2That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. (2 Thessalonians 2:1‑2).) Our authorized version does not give the apostle's true exposure; which is not future at all, as “at hand” signifies, but that it had then actually set in. This could not be whilst the saints were here, for the day of the Lord would be judgment upon the wicked, His enemies; and that by His personal appearing. No, He would come first to take them away to Himself on high before “the day.” This he had clearly taught them in his First Epistle; and now he begs of them to rest assured that they were to be gathered to the Lord in the air, and to be forever with Him, before the day come upon the wicked. That hope was a motive to save them from the false apprehension of misleaders. When He is revealed to deal with the wicked, the heavenly saints would he glorified with Him and would follow Him out of heaven for His appearing and day (Rev. 19) So other scriptures clearly show also. Here the lines are defined enough. First, the Lord was coming to receive them to Himself; and this was their blessed and habitual hope. Secondly, He would judge the world in His day. “For God hath appointed a day in the which He will judge the world (the habitable earth) in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead.” This was the apostle's message to the men of Athens (Acts 17:3131Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. (Acts 17:31)).
In reference to “the day,” the apostle next states that there were events which should take place before it; yet such events were not said to be before His coming to receive His saints. On the contrary His coming in ver. 1 stands in a distinct connection and design from His day in ver. 2, &c. The apostacy must first come, and prepare the way for “the man of sin” — “the lawless one “; whom the Lord Jesus would consume with the spirit of His mouth, and (not by His coming but) the appearing or manifestation of His coming.” Compare ver. 1, with ver. 8, and consider the marked difference of phrase. The mystery of iniquity was already working, when Paul wrote to them; and this would go on under restraint; and when the one restraining was out of the way, the “lawless one” would be revealed. First, the “mystery of lawlessness “was then at work; after that the apostacy would come; then the man of sin, or lawless one, would crown the evil, who is destroyed by the Lord, not by the coming of the Lord merely, but by the manifestation of His coming. This of course is His day, which then and there begins; it will be present then truly. Clearly therefore there is nothing in all this to hinder the Lord coming for His saints at any time. The necessary hindrance is before He appears in judgment. The mystery of lawlessness1 was then begun in the apostle's day; and, for anything there was to hinder, the Lord might have come and taken away His saints and the apostle amongst them. So he says, “We who are alive.” Lawlessness was then secretly at work among the baptized and there would follow even an apostacy2; after which the man of sin should come.
There was One who hindered the manifestation of that wicked one. “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be (taken) out of the way, and then shall that3 wicked (or lawless) one be revealed.” (2 Thess. 2)
He who still hinders the lawless one did not hinder the mystery of lawlessness; for this was working in the apostle's day, and would continue to work until the lawless one was revealed. It is of great moment to notice this. The apostacy too must come before the day; but it is not said here or elsewhere that the apostacy had then come, as he affirms of the mystery of lawlessness.
To see this helps much to clear our thoughts and let us view these events in their proper order. “He who now letteth” [or restraineth] is, I believe, the Holy Spirit. He was then and is still gathering out the saints who compose the church, from Jew and Gentile, for her heavenly place as the bride of Christ. When that heavenly body is complete, the Lord will come into the air, and call us away to the Father's house. Thus would the restraint be “out of the way” (“taken” is not really said), and the man of sin be revealed. There is and will continue to be “One that restraineth” the manifestation of the lawless one. How long is not said; but we may gather somewhat from general principles of scripture. There is a sequence of events spoken of, viz., the mystery of lawlessness, the apostasy, and the revelation of the lawless one. The first of these events existed, and there was One who restrained until he was taken out of the way. The restrainer, being the Holy Spirit, gathers out from the world the church for heavenly glory. When the church is completed and called up to meet her Lord in the air, the restrainer would cease to act in that way,4 and there would be no hindrance to the revelation of the man of sin.
The taking away of the church and the Holy Spirit's personal presence in it would be at the same moment. This makes all clear that the church would be taken away before the day of the Lord. As the hope was to be constant, God took care to give no date for the taking away of the church. Nor are events said necessarily to take place, before the church is called away. The expectation of the Lord was to be immediate and abiding. Hence nothing was revealed to make that hope unreal or distant. Even the apostle writing under inspiration did not know during life, that it would not be until just at the close. How blessed the position for the believer! What a daily hope, precisely the same as in those early days!
The day of the Lord is not for those that believe, but for unbelievers, for the world, who receive not the truth in the love of it, that they may be saved. Solemn, awful, day it will be for such as mock. May they be warned, before it comes upon them like a thief in the night, when escape is impossible
My object in this paper is to distinguish between the coming of the Lord to gather His own to Himself, and the day of the Lord when He will appear to judge the living wicked; and this mainly by what the apostle writes to his beloved Thessalonians in his Second Epistle.
Other scriptures, which speak of the day of the Lord, may be looked at, if the Lord will, at another time. But may He keep us looking for Himself day by day. G. R.