A Response to Teaching on the “Wrath” in 1 Thessalonians 5:9

I decided to interrupt my teaching on signs to post part of an interesting dialog that started on a Facebook group page that specializes in the Pre-Wrath rapture teaching. To set it up, the question was: whether the “wrath” and “salvation” mentioned in 1 Thess. 5:9 were particularly the wrath of the day of the Lord, or whether this just pointed to the ultimate wrath that is eternal that awaits all unbelievers, and that the salvation was the spiritual, eternal salvation? Ron was arguing for the spiritual and eternal applications of the passage with some very good arguments that included very appropriate passages that clearly dealt with the spiritual applications.

Here is the argument I wrote in response. I will put a link to the whole thread at the bottom of the post. I will do just a little cleanup to make it more readable. The context of the study here is 1 Thessalonians 4:13 to 5:11. It all started with a discussion of the importance of seeing 1Thess. 5:9 as meaning that the “wrath” spoken about here is specifically the wrath of the day of the Lord (I abbreviate TDOTL or DOTL). The argument was that it is speaking of the general wrath that is the eternal destiny of all unbelievers, and not the specific DOTL wrath.

Paul Kalbach: Ron, thank you for this whole Bible study, and I agree with just about everything you say here. This is really good and from the spiritual point of view, covers the subject exceedingly well. What you say about being in the light or the darkness is very true, and I fully subscribe to that understanding.

The issue I see here is that you are making every lesson the spiritual lesson, where I see it as having a different emphasis here in the 1st Thess. 4-5 passages. I see it this way: if Paul were merely dealing with the same subject of being in the light and abiding in Him, etc, then that would be somewhat redundant with the other passages you mentioned. Instead, he is zeroing in on the specific issues related to the last generation living at the time of the Lord’s return. He is on the subject of the rapture, resurrection, and day of the Lord. Clearly the other teaching you mention has a relationship to these topics. So what you say in B, C, and D is exactly true but is in the context of the DOTL.

Paul is addressing those concerns, and by doing that, teaching us 2000 years later that this will be the condition at the end of the age. The helmet of salvation here not only gives us the understanding that we are protected in terms of eternal judgment, but also at the DOTL physical judgement time. Being in the light is not only being a Christian, but it is understanding what is happening in the end times so that we can look up because our redemption (rescue) is about to happen (Luke 21:28). The only difference is what the subject discussion is about and what it means to that generation (times and epochs). The danger is, I think, that if we only take the spiritual teaching lesson out of this passage we miss some of what Paul is teaching about the end times.

For example, the evangelical church (especially pre-tribulation rapture view) has been taught for many years that the Lord’s coming will be “like a thief in the night”. They say we can not know anything about the timing of His return. Paul is teaching something very different here. He is teaching that those in the light (saved people) will not be surprised, but should be ready for His coming which is tied to TDOTL. If they know the signs taught to us in the Olivet Discourse, they can anticipate things happening that lead right up to TDOTL. In this Thess. 5 passage he makes it very clear that it is only those in darkness (unbelievers) that will not be expecting His return very soon.

The Lord taught the very same lesson in the Olivet Discourse when He used the days of Noah analogy (Matt 24:37-39). He said “and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be”. They were like those at the end of the age that are in darkness, and don’t understand that they are about to go into judgment. The implication was also that Noah did know because he was finished with the ark as God had instructed him. He was “in the light”, he was not surprised. He didn’t expect to sit around for years waiting for a “thief in the night” rescue.

The danger of just taking the spiritual application is that we might miss the main difference in what is being taught in these Thessalonian passages. The difference in what we are saying is in emphasis and application of Paul’s teaching, not in any difference on the teaching of eternal salvation.

To put this in another way, to argue some of these passages do not have the specific teaching for the generation that is living at that time, is to water down the fact that the Scriptures go to great lengths to give us this specific teaching about the end of the age. That goes along with those that call themselves “pan-tribulationists”. As they describe it, “However it pans out, they are okay with it”. That is a cavalier attitude that does not fully value “all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). They would disregard something like 25% of the Scriptures that deal with prophecy.

My application to you is to be like a Berean believer, and “Search the Scriptures to see if these things are so”. There are many teachers and they can’t all be right when they differ, but they could all be wrong.

Here is the link to the discussion: https://www.facebook.com/groups/prewrathraptureview/permalink/1447379895329277/

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