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Thief in the Night

But you do know this: had the owner of the house known when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not allowed his house to be broken into. ~ Matthew 24:43, CJB

because you yourselves well know that the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:2, CJB

However, the Day of the Lord will come “like a thief.” On that Day the heavens will disappear with a roar, the elements will melt and disintegrate, and the earth and everything in it will be burned up. ~ 2 Peter 3:10, CJB

So remember what you received and heard, and obey it, and turn from your sin! For if you don’t wake up, I will come like a thief; and you don’t know at what moment I will come upon you. ~ Revelation 3:3, CJB

Look! I am coming like a thief! How blessed are those who stay alert and keep their clothes clean, so that they won’t be walking naked and be publicly put to shame! ~ Revelation 16:15, CJB

 

There is a common understanding that believers have about the Rapture, when Christ Jesus as the doting Bridegroom comes for His Bride, and about the Day of the Lord, when Christ Jesus as the angry King of kings also comes to destroy all of Israel’s enemies. The most common understanding is that the Rapture and the Day of the Lord both will happen at a time when EVERYONE is not expecting them to happen, just like a thief in the night who would come when no one expects him.

Some believers also see the Rapture as an event that could happen at any moment, because the Rapture supposedly sneaks up on EVERYONE, just like a thief in the night. Likewise, some believers also interpret the Day of the Lord as an event that could happen at any moment, because it too supposedly sneaks up on EVERYONE, just like a thief in the night.

Well, guess what? The Bible neither suggests/states that the Rapture will be unexpected for EVERYONE nor does the Bible suggest/state that the Day of the Lord will be unexpected for EVERYONE. On the contrary, Christ Jesus clearly implies that the Rapture ONLY will come as a thief in the night to the unprepared and unwatchful believers. Likewise, the apostle Paul clearly states that the Day of the Lord ONLY will come as a thief in the night to those individuals who are in “darkness”—to those very surprised ungodly and immoral unbelievers!

Concerning the time of the Rapture, Christ Jesus provides the following prophecy:

But when that day and hour will come, no one knows — not the angels in heaven, not the Son, only the Father. For the Son of Man’s coming will be just as it was in the days of Noach. Back then, before the Flood, people went on eating and drinking, taking wives and becoming wives, right up till the day Noach entered the ark; and they didn’t know what was happening until the Flood came and swept them all away. It will be just like that when the Son of Man comes. Then there will be two men in a field — one will be taken and the other left behind. There will be two women grinding flour at the mill — one will be taken and the other left behind. So stay alert, because you don’t know on what day your Lord will come. But you do know this: had the owner of the house known when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not allowed his house to be broken into.Therefore you too must always be ready, for the Son of Man will come when you are not expecting him. ~ Matthew 24:36-44, CJB

It is important to note here that when Christ Jesus says that “…the Son of Man’s coming will be just as it was in the days of Noach” (Matthew 24:37, CJB), He is not talking about His bodily return or Second Coming, when His feet split the Mount of Olives (see Zechariah 14:3-4, ESV). For sure, there is nowhere in Genesis that God speaks of His Son being physically on the Earth neither before, nor during, or after the time of the Flood, yet many people believe that Christ Jesus is speaking about His bodily return or Second Coming in the above Matthew 24:37 verse.

There is no mention anywhere in Genesis of Christ Jesus appearing in physical form to Adam, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, or Noah. Nevertheless, there still are obvious similarities between Enoch, who was snatched off of this Earth way before God’s Flood Judgment came, and Christ Jesus’ Bride, who will be snatched off of this Earth way before God’s Fire Judgment begins.

Be that as it may; what also is very telling in the above quoted Book of Matthew verses is that Christ Jesus is describing the Rapture, especially when He speaks of one man in the field being taken, while the other man is left behind; and when He speaks of one woman grinding flour at the mill being taken, while the other woman is left behind. More important, after creating these “taken” and left behind images, the Lord says to His disciples:

So stay alert, because you don’t know on what day your Lord will come. But you do know this: had the owner of the house known when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not allowed his house to be broken into. ~ Matthew 24:42-43, CJB

Christ Jesus is making it clear in these above verses that as long as His followers stayed prepared and watchful they would be ready for the Rapture, even though they won’t know for certain on which day the Rapture will happen. For this reason, He compares His alert and prepared followers to a homeowner who knows ahead of time when a thief was going to break into his home. Since the homeowner knows the day the thief plans to burglarize his home, it would be foolish of the homeowner to let the thief break in unexpected. That’s why the Lord says “…he would have stayed awake and not allowed his house to be broken into” (Matthew 24:43b, CJB). Now, since a thief usually likes to break into homes at night, because this is the time of day that most people are not awake and/or not watching over their possessions and family members, the coming like a thief in the night analogy should be easily understood.

For sure, in the “stay alert” verses, Christ Jesus is saying that the minute someone isn’t expecting the Rapture to happen that is when it will take place. This Divine Truth is why His genuinely faithful and obedient Bride will be those individuals who, because they are expecting the Lord to come and rapture them at any moment, will get prepared and stay prepared, as well as be watchful and stay watchful. On the other hand, those individuals who are not watching the signs of the times and who are not spiritually prepared won’t be expecting the Lord. As a result, they will be left behind, because it is to them that the Bridegroom will come as a thief in the night and leave them behind, primarily because they had no oil in their vessels. The five foolish virgins come to mind here.

Consider too what Christ Jesus says to the Messianic Community in Sardis. Apostle John writes:

…I know what you are doing — you have a reputation for being alive, but in fact you are dead! Wake up, and strengthen what remains, before it dies too! For I have found what you are doing incomplete in the sight of my God. So remember what you received and heard, and obey it, and turn from your sin! For if you don’t wake up, I will come like a thief; and you don’t know at what moment I will come upon you. Nevertheless, you do have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes; and they will walk with me, clothed in white, because they are worthy. ~ Revelation 3:1b-4, CJB

In the above verses, Christ Jesus is telling His believers in the Messianic Community in Sardis that, if they don’t wake up, keep watch, remember (stick firmly to) and obey what they have received and heard, as well as repent, then to them He will come like a thief in the night. The implication here is that when Christ Jesus comes for His Bride, the members in the Messianic Community in Sardis who are producing “dead works” will miss the Rapture. In other words, these “dead-works” members will experience the Tribulation, as left behinders. The five foolish virgins come to mind here, too.

The point here is that the Rapture will not come as a thief in the night to prepared and watchful believers. The only people that the Rapture will sneak up on who will be those individuals who are not expecting the Rapture to happen before the Tribulation Period begins. These humans will be those people who spiritually are unprepared and unwatchful—not looking for Christ Jesus to be coming in the air on the clouds and/or not paying attention to the signs of end times that are happening in front of their eyes.

If they are unprepared on the day of the Rapture, it will be too late for them to get ready, which is the main reason why the five foolish virgins are left behind. The same reason also must be true for the man in the field and the woman grinding flour at the mill who are left behind (are not “taken”; are not received close or near to the Lord). Once again, the main reason why these left-behinders are not ready and are not watching for the Lord is because they did not work out their own salvation so that they would be prepared to wear their white linen robes of righteousness in Heaven (see Revelation 19:7-8, ESV). As a result, they will NOT walk with Him, clothed in white, because they will be unworthy (cf. Revelation 3:4).

Now, concerning the Day of the Lord coming like a thief in the night, the prophet Zephaniah describes the Day of the Lord the following ways: 

That Day is a Day of fury,

a Day of trouble and distress,

a Day of waste and desolation,

a Day of darkness and gloom,

a Day of clouds and thick fog, ~ Zephaniah 1:15, CJB

In the above verse, the Day of the Lord is referred to as that Day and a Day. However, depending on the English translations of other passages, the Day of the Lord also is called the Day, the Day of God, the Day of the Lord, the Day of the Lord Jesus, and the Day of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the New Testament, when the apostle Paul speaks about the Day of the Lord, at times he not only says that the Day of the Lord is NOT happening at any moment (is not imminent) but also he says that, on the Day of the Lord for some people, Christ Jesus is coming for them like a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2, ESV; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4, ESV). In other words, the Day of the Lord will be a time of great calamity for many people—primarily a time when the godless will be destroyed.

More important, at least as far as this blog entry is concerned, it should be apparent that the apostle in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 is speaking about two different events. Indeed, in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 the apostle speaks about the coming of their Lord, meaning His Second Coming, which Scriptures prove happens on the Day of the Lord, AND he speaks about them being gathered together, meaning when they meet the Lord in the air, which Scriptures prove is the Rapture. If these events were the same, he either would have said the coming of their Lord when they are gathered together, or he would have said the coming of their Lord OR them being gathered together. He did not say either one, because the Rapture and the Day of the Lord are not the same.

Concerning the Day of the Lord, it is clear that the apostle Paul agrees with the prophet Zephaniah’s description of that Day. However, the apostle is teaching the Thessalonians that the Day of the Lord is a time that ONLY means calamity for unbelievers, and this truth is why he assures the Thessalonians that the persecution they presently are experiencing doesn’t mean they missed the Rapture and, thus, are in the Tribulation. The apostle Paul tells them that “…God has not intended that we [believers in Christ Jesus] should experience his fury, but that we should gain deliverance through our Lord Yeshua the Messiah” (1 Thessalonians 5:9, CJB; the inserted bracketed words are this blogger’s emphasis). In other words, Paul emphatically is declaring that the Day of the Lord is not for the Bride of Christ, and he definitely is declaring to the Thessalonians that before the Day of the Lord could happen there would be the Great Apostasy and the revealed Antichrist.

Without a doubt, the reason why the apostle is saying to the Thessalonians that the Day of the Lord will not happen before the Great Apostasy and the revealed Antichrist happen is because he is making an important point, which is they would be long gone (raptured) before any of these events take place. The reason they will be raptured before these known Tribulation events happen is because God did not plan for His sons and daughters to suffer any of His prophesied wrath. Therefore, apostle Paul, especially in the Book of Thessalonians, obviously speaks about the Rapture and the Day of the Lord as two separate events that happen at different times.

Be that as it may. When it comes to understanding the Rapture of the Bride of Christ, unfortunately, only pre-Trib believers then and now see this event as being imminent—happening at any moment. Indeed, there can be no doubt that, because Christ Jesus knows that the Rapture should be understood as an imminent event, this is why He says to His disciples, “…you too must always be ready, for the Son of Man will come when you are not expecting him” (Matthew 24:44, CJB).

The point here is that for the Rapture to happen at a time when people won’t be expecting it to happen, these people would have to be unprepared and not watching for Him. Put differently, if the Rapture’s imminence isn’t what caused the disciples and first-century believers to get ready for it, then there would not have been any reason for the Lord to tell His first-century disciples, and by extension all believers, to stay prepared for it, as well as to be and to stay alert.

Clearly the Day of the Lord is not the day of the Rapture, because the apostle Paul does not instruct the Thessalonians to get prepared for the Day of the Lord, and he does not urge them to stay prepared for this event. He also does not urge them to stay alert; that is, he does not tell them to watch for the Day of the Lord. Now, while the apostle Paul no doubt knew that the Old Testament Scriptures suggest a near and far fulfillment of the Day of the Lord, he definitely is teaching the Thessalonians that the Day of the Lord happens at a specific point in the end times. For this last reason, the Rapture and the day of the Lord obviously cannot be the same event.

Concerning the identifiable future time of the Day of the Lord, once again, the apostle Paul says: “…For the Day will not come until after the Apostasy has come and the man who separates himself from Torah has been revealed, the one destined for doom” (2 Thessalonians 2:3, CJB). As God would have it, the apostle Paul’s specific time for the Day of the Lord is confirmed in the writings of the apostle John.

According to apostle John, the Antichrist (the man who separates himself from the Torah) won’t be revealed until he proclaims to be God, which happens at the midpoint (3½ years) of the Tribulation Period’s seven years (at the midpoint of Daniel’s 70th week). So then, what should be evident here is that the apostles are saying that the people who are aware of what the Scriptures say about the end times easily can count from the midpoint of the Tribulation Period the number of days that are left, until Christ Jesus’ bodily return or His Second Coming. Put differently, if people can count how many days are left before the Day of the Lord happens, then that would mean that the Day of the Lord not only wouldn’t be imminent but also wouldn’t be “unknown.” People would know the exact day when the Tribulation is scheduled to end, and thus would know when Christ Jesus’ bodily return would happen.

That is why, where the Rapture is concerned, believers must keep in mind that Christ Jesus says a couple of times that no one, except for Father God, would know the exact day or hour (see Matthew 24:36, ESV; Mark 13:32, ESV). It should be obvious that Christ Jesus isn’t speaking about the Day of the Lord or Judgment Day in these verses, but rather He is speaking about the Rapture of His Bride. The fact that Christ Jesus never explicitly says when the Rapture would take place no doubt is why He strongly suggests that His disciples must stay prepared and alert, expecting the Rapture to happen at any moment, just like the homeowner who expects the thief to be breaking into his home at any moment is prepared for the thief, and looking for him (cf. Matthew 24:36-44, ESV).

Now, if the Day of the Lord is the same as the Rapture, then the apostle Paul should have been urging the Thessalonians to stay prepared and alert, expecting the Day of the Lord to happen at any minute. Instead, he specifically tells the Thessalonians, and by extension all believers, that the Day (the Day of the Lord) won’t happened until after the Antichrist is revealed. Once again, it should be obvious that for the apostle Paul the Rapture and the day of the Lord are two separate events.

One of the ways the apostle shows the distinct difference between the Rapture and the Day of the Lord or the Day is when he says “…you, brothers, are not in the dark, so that the Day should take you by surprise like a thief” (1 Thessalonians 5:4, CJB). The apostle is saying here that ONLY those individuals who are in “darkness” instead of in the Light—only those ungodly and immoral individuals who never knew the Lord and/or are unaware of what the Scriptures say about the end of the Tribulation—will be those people who would not be expecting the Day of the Lord. As a result, the Day of the Lord will take these living in “darkness” people by surprise, just like a thief in the night usually would take people by surprise. Once again, the apostle is making it clear here that it is NOT true that EVERYBODY in the Tribulation will not be expecting the Day of the Lord on a specific day—it is not true that the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night for EVERYONE.

The bottom line is that the Day of the Lord is not only going to be a Day of Judgment (a day of wrath; a day of vengeance), but also the Day of the Lord is going to be a Day of Deliverance—the time when God will save a remnant of Israel and thereby fulfill His promise that Israel would be saved (cf. Romans 11:26a, ESV). In other words, while the Day of the Lord is more of a time of judgment, the salvation dimension is still present. Indeed, the Day of the Lord also brings salvation to Israel, as a whole nation. However, this salvation comes after God’s enemies utterly are destroyed.

Once again, the severe wrathful part of the Day of the Lord happens at the end of the Tribulation Period, when Christ Jesus returns to Earth with His wondrous power to punish evil. After that, He then begins fulfilling all of God’s other end-times promises, minus the Rapture of the Bride of Christ, because this event already happened before the Tribulation Period (seven years) began! For this last reason, the apostle Paul urges the Thessalonians, and by extension all believers, to be encouraged, because they will not go through the Tribulation Period. This Divine Truth is why they will not be on the Earth when the Day of the Lord finally comes. The apostle writes:

Now, brothers, we want you to know the truth about those who have died; otherwise, you might become sad the way other people do who have nothing to hope for. For since we believe that Yeshua died and rose again, we also believe that in the same way God, through Yeshua, will take with him those who have died. When we say this, we base it on the Lord’s own word: we who remain alive when the Lord comes will certainly not take precedence over those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a rousing cry, with a call from one of the ruling angels, and with God’s shofar; those who died united with the Messiah will be the first to rise; then we who are left still alive will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and thus we will always be with the Lord. So encourage each other with these words. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, CJB

The Rapture surely is the hope believers in Christ Jesus must cling to, and they should use this HOPE to encourage one another.

Lastly, it should be clear by now that the common understanding of the Rapture and the Day of the Lord being the same event is instead a misunderstanding. Likewise, it should be clear by now that the common understanding of the Rapture and the Day of the Lord coming like a thief in the night for EVERYONE also is a misunderstanding. Christ Jesus makes it clear that the Rapture only will come like a thief in the night to those believers who are unprepared and who are unwatchful, and the apostle Paul makes it clear that the Day of the Lord only will come like a thief in the night to those people who live in “darkness.”

A word to the wise should be sufficient. Amen

For additional information about being prepared and alert, and about working out one’s own salvation, please read the following blog entries: Working God’s Perfect Will Out of Us; Being Changed from the Inside Out; and Separating Christ’s Saints from the Ain’ts.