Posttribulationism Today Part IX: The Rapture and the Day of the Lord in 1 Thessalonians 5 -- By: John F. Walvoord

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 134:533 (Jan 1977)
Article: Posttribulationism Today Part IX: The Rapture and the Day of the Lord in 1 Thessalonians 5
Author: John F. Walvoord


Posttribulationism Today
Part IX:
The Rapture and the Day of the
Lord in 1 Thessalonians 5

John F. Walvoord

[President and Professor of Systematic Theology, Dallas Theological Seminary, Editor, Bibliotheca Sacra.]

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This series, begun in Bibliotheca Sacra with the January-March, 1975 issue, is now published in book form under the title The Blessed Hope and the Tribulation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976). This article is adapted from chapter 9 in the book. The series will continue through the January-March 1978 issue.]

The relationship of 1 Thessalonians 5 to the rapture has been debated by both pretribulationists and posttribulationists with an amazing variety of opinions. The problem centers in the definition of “the day of the Lord” and its relationship to the rapture. Because there are differences of interpretation among both pretribulationists and posttribulationists, generalizations are inadvisable. The center of the problem is, first of all, the question of what “the day of the Lord” means. A second question is why the day of the Lord is introduced immediately after discussion of the rapture. A third question is the meaning of specific statements relating to the time of the rapture.

The Meaning Of The Day Of The Lord

References to the day of the Lord abound in the Old Testament and occur occasionally in the New. Virtually everyone agrees that the judgments related to the second coming are in some sense a part of the day of the Lord. Definitions of the word day vary from a specific event, such as a twenty-four-hour day, to an extended period of time stretching all the way from the rapture to the end of the thousand-year reign of Christ. Generally speaking, pretribulationists have identified the day of the Lord as the millennial kingdom,

including the judgments that introduce the kingdom. This view was popularized by the 1917 edition of the Scofield Reference Bible.1 In this interpretation, for all practical purposes, the day of the Lord begins at the end of or after the great tribulation.

Pretribulationists who see the day of the Lord beginning at the end of the tribulation have difficulty harmonizing this with the pretribulational rapture. Posttribulationists point out that 1 Thessalonians 5, referring to the day of the Lord, immediately follows chapter 4, which reveals the rapture. As chapter 5 is dealing with the beginning ...

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