Someone forged a letter from Paul to convince the Thessa-lonians “the day of Christ” was at hand. That phrase is used of the Judgment Seat of Christ (Phil.2:14-16), but that can’t be what “troubled” the Thessalonians, for that’s a day of rejoicing (IICor.1:14). Since words and phrases have differ-ent meanings in different contexts, here it is the day of the Lord (Isa.13:6), the Tribulation, “the Lord’s day” (Rev.1: 10). It is called by both names, just as the Judgment Seat of Christ is called by both names (IICor.1:14; Phil.2:16).
“At hand” means something about to happen (Gen. 27:41), sometimes “immediately” (Mark 14:42,43). The Thessalon-ians were troubled because they thought the Tribulation was coming upon them immediately, so Paul begged them not to believe it! And when Paul begs us to do something, it is for our own good. He begs us to present our bodies as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1) because we won’t be happy till we do. Birds are created to fly and are not happy caged, and you are a new creature (IICor.5:17) that was created to do good works (Eph.2:10) and won’t be happy till you do. Paul also begged us to follow him (ICor. 4:16) because we won’t be happy following James 5:14,15 when our prayers don’t heal the sick. And he begs us not to think we’ll be here for the Tribulation or we’ll lose hope.
Even though the Tribulation was only found in Jewish Scriptures, the Thessalonians knew how bad it would be, for they hung around the synagogue even before they were saved (Acts 17:1-4). So they knew “perfectly” how bad it will be (IThes.5:1,2), knowing verses like Deuteronomy 28:65-67; Luke 21:26,etc. No wonder they were troubled!
Words and phrases have different meanings. The “coming” of the Lord (IIThes.2:1) can refer to the Rapture, as it does there, or to the Second Coming (Mt.24:27-29). Matthew 24 can’t be the rapture, for it speaks of the gathering of the “eagles” (v.28) for Armageddon (Rev.19:17-19). The “gathering” of Matthew 24:31 can’t be the “gathering” of our text for there the Lord sends angels to gather the elect in Israel, while “the Lord Himself” comes for us (ITh.4:16).
Paul didn’t always speak to them as “brethren” (2:1). He spoke as a father to a son (ITh.2:11,12) in regard to walking worthy of the Lord, for he’d led them to Christ and that’s what all spiritual fathers want for their sons. But when suffering persecution you want a brother like Paul who himself was suffering persecution but wasn’t moved by them (Acts 20:22-24). He wasn’t moved because God told him he’d suffer trouble (Acts 9:16). You listen when a brother like that tells you that you’ll suffer trouble too, and you follow his example not to be moved by it (IThes3:3,4).
And you listen when he tells you that you’re not heading for the “wrath” of the Tribulation (IThes.5:9). Notice that’s talking about obtaining the future “salvation” of the Rapture (Rom.13:11), salvation from the wrath of the Tribulation. You need to settle the truth of the pre-trib rapture now before things get bad in this country, just as you need to settle the truth that God loves you before you have any personal troubles. If you think God only loves you enough to keep you healthy if you are good (Deut.7:12-15), you’ll think He doesn’t love you if you get sick. And if you settle the doctrine of the pre-trib rapture in your mind before troubles start, you won’t doubt it later.
In those days there was a “spirit” (2:2) causing them to doubt the pre-trib rapture, so they had to “try” or test the spirits (IJo.4:1) of the prophets (ICor.14:32). False proph-ets had Satan’s spirit causing men to doubt. The spirits of prophets were to be tested to see if their words matched the Word (Deut.13:1-3).We are to test their words by the Word of God through Paul that the Rapture will come before the Tribulation (ITh.4:15—5:2). The “word” (2:1) of men who weren’t prophets was also causing them to doubt, such as the “word” that the rapture was past (IITim.2:17,18), a dispen-sational error (cf.2:15). You have to know where you stand in the program of God. Daniel knew where he stood from Jeremiah (Daniel 9:1,2), the Lord knew from Isaiah (Lu. 4:14-24), Peter knew from Joel (Acts 2:16), but you can only know where you stand in relation to the Tribulation from Paul. Since they also forged letters from Paul, the apostle signed every epistle with his own unique signature (IIThes.3:17).