The Scoffers And The Thief
n our last issue of Currents, we looked at II Peter 3, where we found that the "scoffers" that are scheduled to arrive in what Peter refers to as "the last days" are the preterists - those that deny the literal scope of the various catastrophic episodes found in the Old Testament. The preterists equivocate the Old Testament record of those destructions with spiritual things by saying that when the text says things such as the stars fell, the Bible is actually referring to the collapse of governments, and other equally audacious distortions of the scriptures.
For example, Dr Kenneth Gentry writes "In Scripture, prophets often express national catastrophes in terms of cosmic destruction." (The Great Tribulation-Past Or Future, Gentry/Ice, pg 54). By grossly twisting Old Testament verses that describe melting mountains, raging floods, and fiery death from on high into metaphors, preterist Gentry concludes the various verses describing the cataclysmic return of Christ are equally symbolic. Gentry says that when Jesus describes His return "as lightning [that] cometh out of the East, and shineth even unto the West" He is not describing "a publicly visible, physical coming" (The Great Tribulation, Gentry, pg 54).
We concluded that the false prophets of preterism are essentially saying that "all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation" (II Peter 3:4). In that same chapter, the Apostle Peter testifies to the truth of ancient catastrophism "whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water perished," a statement which plainly militates against the Preterist Apostasy.
However, when Peter goes on to say that "the heavens and the earth which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment..." (II Peter 3:7), he also contradicts the doctrines of the Rapture Cult. The powerful Apostle writes,
"But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works therein shall be burned up" (II Peter 3:10).
With this key statement associating the thief in the night phrase with the epic event known as the day of the Lord, Peter plainly shows the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine to be false. The fact is, at the theoretical pre-tribulational rapture which is widely taught to be the appearance of the thief in the night, the "elements" do not "melt with fervent heat," and the earth is not "burned up." It should be apparent that if such devastation actually occurred at that time, there would be no world left for the Antichrist to rule. Indeed, the "tribulation" would be over before it even started.
In books, videos, a myriad of sermons, and even Christian films, the term thief in the night has been conclusively represented to be the supposed pre-tribulational rapture. Jesus Christ Himself categorically states that He comes as a thief (Revelation 16:15). Thus, because the Cult has authoritatively connected their alleged pre-trib rapture to the thief motif, and scripture has conclusively connected the term to the equally important phrase the day of the Lord, the Rapturists have `painted themselves into a corner.'
Furthermore, if you think this through, you will realize that the aforementioned passage in Peter is incredibly profound because it illustrates why the pre-tribulational majority is steadily losing ground to the preterists. To put it another way, in order to combat the lie of preterism, yet still defend their unscriptural pre-trib rapture, the Rapturists are forced into the ridiculous proposition that "the day of the Lord" begins with the so-called Rapture - making the "day" an event that is apparently 7 years long! In fact, some scholars even include the entire 1,000 year reign of Christ in the period known as the "day," and so some Rapturists add that to their supposed 7 year tribulation - and end up with a "day of the Lord" that lasts for 1,007 years.
All of these problems disappear as soon as the fictional pre-tribulational rapture is seen for the unscriptural fraud that it is. Every single passage in the entire Bible referring to the day of the Lord depicts the period as "cruel both with wrath and fierce anger (Isaiah 13:9). It is "a day of vengeance...when the sword shall devour" (Jeremiah 46:10). The prophet Joel opens up tremendous understanding when he tells us "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come" (Joel 2:31).
This is completely consistent with references to the THIEF. Oddly enough, although the Rapture Cult continues to maintain that the coming of "the thief" is to rescue them before the tribulation, virtually all of the verses in the New Testament showing the word "thief" or "thieves" indicates the idea of destruction in the context of an abrupt appearance - as opposed to a mission of evacuation.
Indeed, JESUS Himself said "the thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy" (John 10:10). JESUS even contrasted His own life-saving mission to that of the thief in the same verse when He said "I am come that they might have life...." (John 10:10). It might be useful to remember that thieves were crucified in those days because their crimes were considered so serious.
When the prophet Joel tells us the day of the Lord will follow the time when "the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood" (Joel 2:31), the reference should be familiar to anyone that has read the famous Olivet Discourse where Jesus Christ said that it was "immediately after the tribulation of those days that the sun be darkened and the moon shall not give her light...." (Matthew 24:9).
The obvious question then is, if the day of the Lord is connected to the coming of the thief in the night, and the "day" occurs "after" the tribulation, how can the "thief" come before the tribulation?
Incredibly, the Apostle Paul writes almost word what Peter wrote: "For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night" (I Thessalonians 5:2). In this wonderful passage, Paul is actually describing the return of the Lord - and it is decidedly not pre-tribulational. In fact, in the immediately preceding verses, Paul was describing how,
"...the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and 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...." (I Thessalonians 4:16,17).
We've just seen that Christ's return as the thief in the night only occurs after the tribulation, but now this passage tells us that when it occurs, "the trump of God" will sound. In the passage in I Corinthians 15 that corresponds to these verses in Thessalonians, we learn the additional detail that it is "at the last trump...[that] the dead shall be raised incorruptible" (I Corinthians 15:52). In Revelation, we find that "last trumpet," and it is at the end of the tribulation - precisely where we would expect to find it (Revelation 10:7).
Incredibly, just as Peter and Paul both said the day of the Lord comes as a thief in the night, we find a reference from the Lord Himself, at the end of the tribulation, where He again likens His imminent coming to that of a thief. In Revelation 16, in the verse immediately preceding the battle of Armageddon at which time we know that Christ returns, He states in the future tense "Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame" (Revelation 16:15).
This reference to the thief is connected to an earlier passage in Revelation where Christ warns the church at Sardis that "I have not found thy works perfect before God" (Revelation 3:2). This church is representative of the last day's Rapture Cult. Christ tells the church that "thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead" (Revelation 3:1). This references the many Christian sounding names of modern churches -- the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, Calvary Chapel, The First Baptist Church, etc. But the Lord tells them that actually they are "dead."
He urgently tells them the "things which remain" are now "ready to die" -- thus the Rapture Cult stands on the edge of the abyss of the great tribulation. They are told to repent, and the Lord solemnly threatens that if "thou shalt not watch [and repent] I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee" (Revelation 3:3). The promise is very clear, and it proves the Rapture Cult is in grave error.
The New Testament writer Paul told the remnant church that the "brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief" (I Thessalomians 5:4). Thus, the very passage describing the post-tribulational coming of "the thief in the night" (I Thessalonians 5:2), also tells us that the true believer will not be "overtaken" by that coming -- indicating they will know when Christ is going to return.
Conversely, the errant church of Sardis (the Rapture Cult) is told that if they don't "repent" and "watch," the Lord will come on them as a thief and "thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee" (Revelation 3:3). Furthermore, the Sardis reference clearly connects to the post-tribulational promise in Revelation 16.
In the Sardis reference, in addition to urging them to WATCH, Christ says "Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments...." (Revelation 3:4). It is just as Armageddon is about to begin when Christ states "Behold, I come as a thief." He also says "Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments...." (Revelation 16:15).
The truth is plainly stated in II Peter 3. At the time the scoffers (read preterists) arrive, the Apostle Peter reassures the remnant that "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise...But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night" (II Peter 3:9, 10). Peter further shows how the true believers are not looking for an invisible and secret coming of Christ, they are "watching" as Christ instructed the church -- and walking "in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat" (II Peter 3:12).
Because time is so very short, I would be remiss if I did not articulate this pointed conclusion and lay everything on the line. The following statements will be almost impossible for most to receive -- but I must utter them as THE WORD OF THE LORD. The uncomfortable truth is this: Those that do not respond to the revealed truth of prophecy and continue in the false doctrines of the Rapture Cult and the Preterist Apostasy are "of the night" and "of darkness" (I Thessalonians 5:5). The believers that repent of their wickedness "shall know the truth" (John 8:32) of the timing of the Lord's return.
I'll say it another way. If you are abiding in preterism, you are enveloped in a profound spiritual darkness that places you in the soul destroying peril of following "another gospel." If you are abiding in pre-tribulationism, you are in a deadly delusion and walking in such a spiritually wicked false doctrine that your path is directly heading towards the lake of fire. If you are truly watching and abiding in the truth of the person of Jesus Christ, that "day shall not overtake you as a thief" because "ye are all the children of light and the children of the day" (I Thessalonians 5:4, 5).
-- James Lloyd