Q: If the Anti-Christ is to be revealed first, before the church is raptured, wouldn’t that favor the post-tribulation position?
A: My answer is No. In fact, the verse in question is 2 Thessalonians 2:3 and it actually builds a higher pile of evidence for the pre-tribulation position.
The context is that the Thessalonians were being told that they had missed the rapture and “the day of the Lord” had come and the persecution they were facing was the evidence that “the day of the Lord” had come. Paul responds to correct them of this thinking in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12.
Here are some thoughts on this…
• Paul instructed the Thessalonians to not be deceived by those who are saying the tribulation is already here.
• The post-tribers were the ones deceiving and making it a contentious issue and while I was once in that camp, I’m afraid to admit that in my personal and pastoral experience it is still the post-tribers who feel the need to confront and degrade pre-tribers over this doctrine (as if salvation depends on it).
• Paul was telling the Thessalonians that the tribulation is not here because the Anti-Christ has not even been revealed yet. In the bigger picture of prophecy, we know that the tribulation period has the purpose of God wrath and the saving of Israel, of which the Anti-Christ and False Prophet have a unifying work in global deception. (Here is a good overview by another ministry titled Why I Believe in Pre-Tribulation Rapture.)
• Now there is a third assumed issue that is part of the larger context and that is that the Thessalonians should not confuse “persecution” with “tribulation” (a topic I dealt with in my blog post “Satan’s Persecution or God’s Wrath?”).
•The use of the term “the day of the Lord” is an important one because it appears in Scripture when connected to God’s judgement, in both the Old Testament and New Testament. In the New Testament we also see the use of “day of vengeance” and “day of wrath” and “day of visitation” but interestingly the context is always divine judgement. This is why many Bible teachers see this term as referring to the second coming of Christ to the earth after the tribulation and at the commencement of the millennium. When we see the term “the day of the Lord” it is like what we say about our world when we say “it’s the end of time” meaning the events and circumstances are here to crescendo to the precise moment of ending.
•Finally, this is kind of lengthy but if you want to sort out things deeper, I’ll share this commentary from John MacArthur on 2 Thessalonians 2:3–4 on “The Rebellion”…
“The day of the Lord cannot occur until a deliberate abandonment of a formerly professed position, allegiance, or commitment occurs (the term was used to refer to military, political, or religious rebellion). Some have suggested, on questionable linguistic evidence, that this refers to “departure” in the sense of the rapture. Context, however, points to a religious defection, which is further described in v. 4. The language indicates a specific event, not general apostasy, which exists now and always will. Rather, Paul has in mind the apostasy. This is an event that is clearly and specifically identifiable and unique, the consummate act of rebellion, an event of final magnitude. The key to identifying the event is to identify the main person, which Paul does, calling him the “man of lawlessness.” Some texts have “man of sin,” but there is no real difference in meaning since sin equals lawlessness (1 John 3:4). This is the one who is called “the prince who is to come” (Dan. 9:26) and “a little horn” (Dan. 7:8), whom John calls “the beast” (Rev. 13:2–10; 18) and most know as the Antichrist. The context and language clearly identify a real person in future times who actually does the things prophesied of him in Scripture. He is also called “the son of destruction” or perdition, a term used of Judas Iscariot (John 17:12). This “apostasy” is the abomination of desolation that takes place at the midpoint of the tribulation, spoken of in Dan. 9:27; 11:31 and Matt. 24:15 (see notes there). This man is not Satan, although Satan is the force behind him (2Thess. 2:9) and he has motives like the desires of the devil (cf. Isa. 14:13–14). Paul is referring to the very act of ultimate apostasy that reveals the final Antichrist and sets the course for the events that usher in the day of the Lord. Apparently, he will be seen as supportive of religion so that God and Christ will not appear as his enemies until the apostasy. He exalts himself and opposes God by moving into the temple, the place for worship of God, declaring himself to be God and demanding the worship of the world. In this act of satanic self-deification, he commits the great apostasy in defiance of God. For the first three and a half years of the tribulation, he maintains relations with Israel, but halts those (cf.Dan. 9:27); and for the last three and a half years, there is great tribulation under his reign (cf. Dan. 7:25; 11:36–39; Matt. 24:15–21; Rev. 13:1–8) culminating with the day of the Lord.” John MacArthur
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