These passages were compiled by our brother, Alan E. Kurschner, Ph.D., Eschatos Ministries. I have the pleasure and liberty to comment on them briefly.
In our previous post, we began to examine a few particulars of passage #1 of the Scriptures that speak of tribulation before Rapture. We shall now look at passage #2 which deals with the biblical motif of persecution/tribulation of the saints in the hand of the nonbelievers and God’s retaliation/retribution and relief to the saints.
2 Thessalonians 1:6
“For it is right for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to you who are being afflicted to give rest together with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels.”
This is the NET(New English Translation). The KJV(King James Version) translation of this verse says: “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,”(2 Thessalonians 1:6-7).
There are key words in this passage of the Scripture which we shall look at. The first is “repay”(Greek: antapodounai) in the NET. The KJV renders it “recompense.” This is not a word that is commonly in use in today’s English except among lovers of KJV. It simply means “pay back” or “repay” as in the NET. For one to pay back, repay or recompense another, the other must have done something for or to him whether good or bad, and he owes him. That is fair enough. The other key words we shall examine are affliction and the cognate verb afflict. The Greek root word is “thlipsis.” It is usually rendered affliction, persecution, tribulation, distress, trouble. As we can see, the KJV renders it “tribulation.” The noun form rendered tribulation or affliction here is “thlibousin.” The cognate verb rendered afflict or trouble is “thliphin.” The afflicted or troubled is “tois thlibunois.” Another related Greek word is “thlibo” which is usually translated persecution. They are used interchangeably. Sometimes, they occur in tandem in the same sentence(Roms.8:35; 2 Tim.3:11; 2 Thess.1:4). Obviously they have a common root.
Our brother, Apostle Paul is telling the brethren in Thessalonica that it is righteous for God to pay back those who trouble, afflict or distress them with tribulation, trouble or affliction. In other words, there is Satan’s tribulation perpetrated by ungodly men on the saints of the Most High, and there is God’s own tribulation executed by the angels of God in flaming fire taking vengeance on the sons of disobedience, the unrighteousness wicked who kill the sons of God. God’s own tribulation on the unrighteous wicked is a “retaliation,” a “recompensation” a “retribution,” or “payback” for atrocities and evils perpetrated on the sons of God. In other words, God’s retaliation on the unrighteous wicked comes after Satan’s persecution of the saints in the person of the antiChrist and his acolytes. God cannot begin to punish the unrighteous wicked until they have carried out their persecution of the saints of God to the fullest. They must kill the saints in a rage that reaches unto the heaven. Their cup of iniquity must be full. God cannot begin to punish the wicked on intent only; they must actually carry out the act before God can retaliate. There will be no pre-emptive strike here. This is so in order that no one may be confused about the justice and fairness of God.
Another key word we shall examine is the Greek word “anesin,” from the root “anesis” which KJV and NET render “REST.” Some other translations like the NASV render it “RELIEF.” “Anesin” therefore means relief or rest from trouble, persecution, tribulation, affliction or distress. This relief that God will give the Thessalonians, is it any relief from any trouble or a specific relief from a specific trouble or tribulation? The context will tell us. This relief will be given, not just only to the Thessalonians but to “US,” that is, all believers who have faced persecution, tribulation, distress at any time in the course of the history of the Church. So, it is the ultimate relief. If our brother Apostle Paul had not included the clause “with us,” one could argue that the rest was limited only to the Thessalonians and must have been granted them in time past in their lifetime inasmuch as that local assembly of believers is extinct today.
Another very important fact is that our brother Apostle Paul specified the locus(time and timing) in the eschatological timeline in which the RELIEF or REST will be granted all believers, especially those living at that time of persecution by the antiChrist. And it will be given to “US”(all believers), when Christ is revealed(apokalupto) from Heaven with His Mighty angels in flaming fire taken vengeance on those who know not God nor obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus the Christ. This is not a secret, silent or sudden event inasmuch as it is preceded by the persecution of the saints and darkening of the Sun, Moon, and Stars. In other words, this vengeance is final, consummative and eschatological. It must occur after the final trouble believers will be troubled with. So, the relief or rest is coming to all believers after the final trouble, tribulation, persecution, or distress with which the believers shall be bedeviled. Therefore, it cannot be Christ’s coming at Armageddon in which He is accompanied by both the angels of God and resurrected and glorified saints inasmuch as the saints have not finally be evacuated to Heaven prior to this time at any point in the eschatological timeline. What is this final trouble after which all believers(US) will be given relief? Is it not what our Lord Jesus in His Olivet Prophecy described as the “Great Tribulation”(Matt.24:22), which will be different from all other troubles, persecutions, tribulations, distresses, afflictions, before and after it(Matt.24:21)? There was and will be none other like it in the annals of world history.
He went further to tell us in the Olivet Discourse that the rest or relief will come in the form of evacuation of the saints by His holy angels dispatched from His Shekhinah(in the Heavens) from the scene of trouble which is the Earth. This event will occur in the “Inter-tribulational Period” according to Dr. Charles Cooper or in the “Inter-wrath Period:” for it occurs in the interlude between the wrath of Satan(Rev.12:12) and the wrath of God(Rev.6:17), or between the Great Tribulation by the antiChrist and God’s retaliation or tribulation to those who trouble or afflict us. The only way any living believer can escape the Great Tribulation is to die before the Great Tribulation begins at the midpoint of the 70th week of Daniel. “All living believers must pass through the intelligence of the antiChrist in order to be eligible for evacuation from the Earth in the Rapture”(Johnson Sampson Oyedeji). All believers alive at the time of the Great Tribulation will go through the Great Tribulation. There will be no Rapture before the 70th week of Daniel commences nor will it occur in the first half of the 70th week of Daniel.
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”(Matthew 24:29-31 KJV).
This evacuation will come after the persecution by the antiChrist[(Great)Tribulation] is terminated by cosmic and celestial disturbances, the darkening of the Sun, Moon, and Stars, the sign of the End Of The Ages which sends warning signal to the antiChrist and his minions that God is about to punish them for their evils, that is, the killing of Christ’s servants, the saints during the Great Tribulation(Rev.13:7). This is the breaking of the sixth seal(Rev.6:12-14), which will send the wicked earth-dwellers scurrying for nonexistent cover under the rocks and the mountains of the Earth(Rev.6:15-17). They will know instinctively that God is about to pay them back for their evils, and there will be no where to hide from His wrath. Who shall be able to stand? It is not stated any where in the whole of the Scriptures that any segment of the saints, no matter how holy their lives, shall be suddenly, secretly, and silently evacuated or whisked away from the Earth before the final or Great Tribulation and the cosmic disturbances that terminate it.
But our pretribulationist teachers, pastors, GOs and Bishops have confounded the hearts of the simple with fabulous tales of relief or rest to the super-righteous saints before the final tribulation or Great Tribulation while the rest of us less holy or unholy and feeble believers who could not make the “first roundup” will go through the Great Tribulation and earn or pay for our salvation with our blood which the Bible does not in so many words either implicitly or explicitly teach. Salvation is always by grace through faith. It is never by works in order that no man will boast, because God has concluded all men under Sin. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”(Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV). If any man should boast, let him boast in the Lord(1 Cor.1:31). Are we Islamic shahids that earn paradise with 72 virgins apiece via martyrdom and more so if they take out some infidels with them in the style of a sampsonic suicide?
The relief of the saints through evacuation by His angels into Heaven(episunagoge: upward gathering)[Matt.24:31] is now lateral or sideways gathering of the surviving unbelievers who did not take the mark of allegiance to the Beast into the Millennium. And the appearance of His coming(parousia) is now his second coming at Armageddon which occurs several years after the cosmic and celestial disturbances and the evacuation of the saints from the scene of the Great Tribulation(Rev.19: 11-21)[see graphics]. What a theological gimmickry?
This retaliation or recompensation or payback of God to those who trouble us, the saints, is it not the WRATH OF GOD IN THE DAY OF THE LORD from which it is explicitly stated in the Scripture that the believers are exempt?(1 Thess.1:10, 5:9). The wrath of God is it not for the CHILDREN OF DISOBEDIENCE(Eph.5:6; Col.3:6)? After the Rapture is the wrath of God. No one will be saved after the Rapture by martyrdom or paying with his or her blood. Period. The only way left open for that person to obtain salvation after the Rapture if he is Jew is to go through the first six trumpet judgments in order to be purged, purified, and cleansed, and if a Gentile to go through all the trumpet and the bowl judgments, and to appear and be justified in Jerusalem at the Sheep And Goat Judgment of the Gentile Survivors of the wrath of God in the Day Of The Lord which occurs during the 45-day Restoration Period Of The Kingdom(Matt.25:31-46).