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Thief in the Night

Note: This week’s article was written some time ago. Never, however, has its subject been more time-appropriate than at this moment. With issues and events moving at accelerating swiftness, and in ever-greater proliferation, we must be constantly aware of the glorious fact that we could at any moment meet Him face-to-face.


No scriptural proof-text in God’s Word more clearly points to the first of the two phases of Jesus Christ’s Second Coming than the following:

For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. (1 Thessalonians 5:2)

We who hold to the pre-Trib Rapture viewpoint are often accused of being deceivers. We’re condemned by our detractors as leading astray Christians who are alive now—if they live to see it—who will be required to endure the Tribulation, thus to wash their robes clean in preparation for inheriting God’s Kingdom.

We are castigated for foisting upon innocent, gullible believers a “secret Rapture” that will somehow lead these Christians to take the mark of the Beast (Revelation 13:16–18).

I’m not precisely sure of their “reasoning,” but I think they claim this because they are convinced that the ones who fall for the Rapture viewpoint won’t be able to recognize Antichrist when he comes to power. We who teach the pre-Trib Rapture, so the accusation goes, would have falsely led these people to think the Church would not be here when Antichrist is on the world scene.

Almost all who are antagonistic toward the pre-Trib Rapture doctrine teach that the “elect” will have to endure part or all of the seven-year Tribulation era.

Those who hold to a post-Tribulation Rapture or a no-Rapture position believe that Christ will come back at the end of the Tribulation, at Armageddon.

They believe that is His only return in the Second Coming. Other views regarding the Second Coming have Christ returning when the earth is perfected and made ready—but we won’t go there in this essay.

Let’s look at only the pre-Trib and post-Trib Rapture positions to explore what is meant by the “thief in the night” references in 1 Thessalonians 5:2 and 2 Peter 3:10. These two viewpoints offer the greatest contrast to examine in consideration of the Second Advent of Jesus Christ within the overall belief that Rapture will, according to Bible prophecy, happen before His foot actually touches the earth.

The pre-Trib view says that Christ’s Second Coming is in two phases, separated by at least seven years. The post-Trib view says that the Rapture and Christ’s return to the Mount of Olives will occur almost simultaneously–certainly with no more than a matter of days separating the two events. The post-Trib position says there is no “secret” Rapture. Christ’s coming again will be fully seen in the heavens by all, including Christians who will be watching for Him to break through the darkness of that hour.

We agree that the Rapture of the Church (all born-again believers in Jesus Christ for salvation since the Church Age began at Pentecost) will be anything but “secret.” The world will instantly go into cataclysmic chaos at the moment that stunning event takes place. The imagination is hard-pressed to fathom the ramifications of what will happen when millions suddenly vanish. Every child below the age of accountability will be gone in that mind-boggling instant. I am convinced that all babies (including those in the womb) will be instantly in the presence of Christ in the clouds of glory. Every corpse of every dead Christian will be raised to join with his or her soul to meet Christ in the air in that atomos of time.

The Rapture will be mystifying, and to some it will be an inexplicable phenomenon, but it will not be a secret. It will happen before the eyes of a stupefied planet of left-behind earth-dwellers. This declaration that Jesus will call His Church to be with Him seems audacious to many. But, it didn’t seem so to the Apostle Paul. He was quite confident—even adamant—in his prophecy concerning the “mystery” he had been given by the Holy Spirit to instruct all believers through the Age of Grace (Church Age).

Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51–52)

He explains what will take place next, in that stupendous fraction of a second:

For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For 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: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:15–17)

Jesus Himself told of this “mystery” Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 15:51. The Lord explains what happens after believers—both the bodies of the dead and those who are living—are caught up in the air to be with Him:

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:1–3)

So, the Rapture will take place. Believers and the bodies of those who died during the Church Age will be “caught up” in one single moment of time. “ALL,” not “some,” will go instantly to be with Jesus, who will then take them into Heaven, where He has been preparing their dwelling places since He ascended from the Mount of Olives.

Again, the pre-Trib position on this joyous event is that it is imminent (could happen at any moment), and will happen before the Tribulation period begins.

The post-Trib position says that it happens at the end of the most terrible time in human history, just as Jesus Christ is returning from Heaven at Armageddon.

The pre-Trib view holds that it will occur at an unknown time. It will be a stunning, sudden, and unannounced-to-the-world-at-large break-in upon business as usual on planet earth. The post-Trib proclaims that it will occur following all of the horrors of the judgments outlined in Revelation.

The pre-Trib view says the world at large (left-behind earth-dwellers) won’t see it coming. The Rapture will cause all left on earth to wonder what has happened. The post-Trib view says that all eyes will behold Christ’s coming again to a hellish planet, and the living and dead saints will then be gathered to Christ.

The defining thing to consider in thinking on the two diametrically different views of the Rapture and Second Coming is wrapped up in the term “thief in the night.” The Apostle Peter again uses this mysterious term first used by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:2:

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 that are therein shall be burned up. (2 Peter 3:10)

Peter is saying here that the day of the Lord–that time when God and His Christ, His Son, takes over this fallen planet—will begin like a thief in the night.

It will be a sudden, catastrophic break-in upon a world doing business as usual. (Read Luke 17:26–29 to understand how things will be going along as usual when Christ comes back.)

This description hardly fits the post-Trib view, or any other view that says Christ will Rapture His Church during a time of unprecedented trouble (Jeremiah 30:7; Matthew 24:21). This indicates that it will be a total surprise, because a thief in the night doesn’t announce his coming with great fanfare.

The break-in is swift, stealthy—totally unexpected.

Peter foretells in these passages that the “day of the Lord” will then run its course, until the remaking of the heavens and the earth. The Rapture will begin this “day of the Lord,” which will then run at least 1,007 years.

This is the first phase of Christ’s Second Coming. The Rapture occurs like a “thief in the night.” The Second Advent, when Jesus’ foot touches down on the Mount of Olives, is the second phase of His Second Coming.

There are those who say with vehemence that it is blasphemous to equate Christ’s coming again as being like the break-in of a thief in the night. How dare we liken the Lord to a “thief”!

Really? Here’s what Jesus, the Creator of all things, said about this matter:

But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.

Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. (Matthew 24:43–44)

Looks like a pretty good case for the Lord’s sudden intervention into the nefarious affairs of this increasingly wicked world, doesn’t it? That thief-in-the-night moment could happen, literally, at any moment. Certainly, signals of the Tribulation are beginning to come to pass.

And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. (Luke 21:28).


  1. Harvey says:

    As I have said before , I have good reason to question, nay, deny the imminence of the Rapture. It is almost 2000 years since the Apostle Paul revealed the doctrine of the Rapture. It is true and will happen, exactly as and when the Lord first determined that it would and will be. Those who are now with The Lord, without seeing it, will not of course be disappointed since they are with Him now , and will understand, with hindsight, why it could not have happened before now. I have every reason to believe what God has shown me must yet take place before the Rapture (the Revival/outpouring of the Holy Spirit and to interpret the prophecy of Joel as still needing to happen fully first , as it has not happened to all flesh yet. It excites me, as it suggests unimaginable blessings to come yet. I do not understand the objection of some who consider it to be ‘getting in the way’ as it will be a blessing to those who already believe, as well as those who will come to believe and therefore participate in the Rapture. I suspect that it is fear, although we are told not to fear, of events overtaking us before we can be taken. Trust god, He knows.
    There is some confusion of mind when reading the word ‘death’ which causes misunderstanding when reading scripture . Members of a non-Christian cult use it to persuade people to their way of believing, That is, ‘Eccles (9 :5) ‘For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing ‘ We who ‘die’ in Christ, when we are born again, do not die again but have already passed to life .Those who die without Him, truly know nothing until they are resurrected again, after the millenium, to the final judgment.

  2. William E Walls says:

    Hi Terry, I agree with your pre-trib view. I know that Chuck Missler also was convinced that we have a pre-trib rapture. (Revelation 3:10) But I don’t think people will be “wondering” the way you implied. Satan is real and his first lie is that he doesn’t exist! He was called the “father of lies” by Jesus. He is evil but not stupid. He knows the Bible better than most believers and knows that the rapture is real and will happen before the tribulation. So he has been working for well over 50 years going back to Roswell and before to have an explanation for what just happened to those left behind. His “great deception”, his masterpiece lie that Thessalonians refers to (“the lie”, not “a lie”), I believe will be that the people who weren’t evolved enough to be ready for “the Age of Aquarius” (…he conquers thru peace!!??) have been taken to the Mother ship or the Mother planet to continue evolving! When Dr. Mark Eastman and Chuck Missler wrote their book “Alien Encounters” they noted that in almost every case of an “alien abduction” story that the victims had been dabbling in the occult! What does the occult have to do with aliens???!! But it makes perfect sense if the fake “aliens” are really demons and fallen angels masquerading as aliens! The alien story also serves a double purpose because it explains away all the problems with the “theory” of evolution since the Earth was supposedly seeded millions of years ago like the movie “2001 Space Odysee” Kindest regards, God bless, Yours because His! Bill Walls

  3. ianpomeroy says:

    Absolutely on the ball. It is also true as the Tribulation looms so much closer, and we are seeing the prophesied signs for the Tribulation developing. This cannot happen without the devil doing a very large amount of preparation for it. Those who talk of the Rapture are even more excoriated than ever.

    The evil one has those who are his working day and night to have their wicked plans in place. We see this, if we have ears to hear and eyes to see, in the preparations for the one world order with the numerous falsehoods right now. We are facing now a crisis of provision and numerous wars and rumours of wars and even Russia and Ukraine in battle.

    As the participants in the Ukraine are part of the Great Reset I view this with suspicion. Yet I make myself refocus and realise that all of this identifies that the time is very near and perhaps right at the door for Jesus Christ of Nazareth to soon and very soon call out to His people ”Come up here” Therefore we who love Him prepare for His soon return for us and warn as many as we can that we shall soo disappear whilst also preaching the Gospel whilst there there is time to do so.

  4. Ed Wood says:

    Terry, you and others who believe the in the Pre-Trib Rapture have done an excellent job over the years presenting the evidence which supports it. Trouble is, some people just have a “Don’t confuse me with the facts!” attitude.

    We see the same pattern of so many people buying into two years of fictions from the CDC, Fauci, WHO, etc. when there is solid evidence that virtually nothing any these sources is telling us is true. As a result, people are still living in fear, wearing useless masks, and getting jabbed with experimental gene therapy shots. (I wonder it they would keep going back to the same mechanic who couldn’t fix the same problem their cars had after two years?)

    Nevertheless, by persisting in getting out the facts about the Rapture, some people will indeed have ears to hear and minds to think – and you are doing them a wonderful service.

    I know you’ll keep on “occupying” until Jesus returns!

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