Most Christians are aware that in 1 Thessalonians Paul tells us that immediately before the Day of the Lord (the Wrath of God), the inhabitants of the world will believe they have entered a time of security. It’s when they say “peace and safety” that sudden destruction comes upon them. This is a confusing passage to a lot of Christians, and has led to a lot of misunderstandings about what Paul was saying.
Let’s start by looking at the passage in question:
Therefore encourage one another with these words. Now concerning the times (Gk: CHRONON, meaning chronology) and the seasons (Gk: KAIRON, meaning appointed times), brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. (1 Thess. 4: 18 – 5: 4 NASB)
As with all passages, we need to look at it in context. Immediately before this passage, Paul had given the Thessalonians the clearest description of the rapture in scripture (1 Thess. 4:13-17). We also see this passage is to be an encouragement to that church. The reason it is encouragement is the final verse of the this passage which clearly says that the Day of the Lord will not surprise Christians like a thief in the night. Christians will know the approximate timing of the Day of Lord.
Why is the earlier passage on the Rapture linked to this passage about the Day of the Lord (God’s Wrath)? Because they happen on the same day! We know from Jesus’s explanation in Luke 17:29 that immediately after the Rapture, God will rain down fire and brimstone (the First Trumpet judgment). So when Paul says the Day of the Lord won’t surprise us, he is also saying the Rapture won’t surprise Christians and the Wrath of God that follows it (on the same day) won’t surprise them. It won’t surprise us because the passage says we will know the chronology (CHRONON) of the end times and how the Feasts of the Lord (KAIRON or appointed times) will be fulfilled.
Christians won’t be surprised, but unbelievers will. Jesus gives us two prophetic examples of the unrighteous being surprised by his coming as well:
And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. (Luke 17:26-30)
In this passage we see the unrighteous performing all sorts of everyday tasks: eating, drinking, marrying, buying and selling, building and planting. Building, planting and marrying are activities one does with a long term future in mind. They are obviously taken by compete surprise by the destruction that comes upon them.
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Returning to our topic, let’s see what various camps in the Christian prophetic community have to say about this concept:
Three Views Based on Rapture Timing
- Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theorists believe the world will be saying “Peace and Safety” right before the Rapture which they believe occurs before the 70th Week of Daniel begins. They assume people are saying “peace and safety” based on some kind of Peace Treaty. They consider the entire 70th week to be the Day of the Lord.
We have proved numerous times on this blog that there is no Pre-Trib. Rapture. But this is not the only reason this theory is flawed. The 70th Week of Daniel does not commence with sudden destruction. Jesus compares this day to the start of the flood and to fire and brimstone. Rather, the 70th Week begins with a Peace Treaty that isn’t broken until the midpoint.
- Post-Tribulation Rapture Theorists have a problem with this verse in 1 Thess. 5. Events during the 70th Week of Daniel increase in intensity as the week progresses. Certainly at the very end of the “Week” before the physical return of Christ, the Trumpet Judgments occur and then the Bowls are poured out. Also prior to the return of Christ, Satan assembles the nations to fight him. The last days of the 70th Week are not a time of “peace and safety.” For this reason many Post-Trib. theorists say it is the Jews saying “peace and safety” before Jerusalem is invaded at the midpoint of the “Week.” This however, requires the entire last 3 1/2 years to be the Day of the Lord.
There are serious problems with this theory as well. First of all we know from Ezek. 4 that the invasion of Israel is preceded by a 430 day siege. This is not sudden destruction. Jesus tells us in Luke 21:25 that when the armies surround Jerusalem, his people are to flee. If the people have time to flee and see vast armies, that isn’t sudden destruction either.
Second, we know from Isaiah 34:8, 61:2, and 63:4 that the Day of the Lord is approximately one year long. This can’t be reconciled with a 3 1/2 year Day of the Lord.
Third, the destruction of the Day of the Lord is God’s destruction not man’s (Isa. 13:6, Joel 1:15). It is not a simple invasion.
- Only a Pre-Wrath view can solve this puzzle. I believe there is one point during the 3 1/2 year “Times of the Gentiles” when a calm before the storm is reached. IMO, it is this exact time that Jesus and Paul refer to.
Chronology (CHRONON) of the end times
If we look at the proper chronology of the end times and when the Day of the Lord takes place, we can better understand why the unsaved will say “peace and safety.” As we have seen in numerous other blog posts:
- We believe the Day of the Lord will happen at the end of the 6th year of the 70th Week of Daniel on Yom Teruah, one year and ten days before the physical, earthly return of Jesus at the Second Coming.
- Some time (probably several months) prior to the Rapture, the Celestial Earthly Disturbance Event will occur which will end the Great Tribulation.
- We also suspect the ministry of the two witnesses (Rev. 11) will have been ongoing during this same period.
- And of course, warfare will be a constant feature of the reign of Antichrist. Changes in all of these factors can play into the feelings of peace and safety.
The reason the unrighteous say “peace and safety” at the beginning of the Day of the Lord is embedded in this timetable of events. Let me paint a scenario and support it with scripture:
- About 3/4 of the way through the sixth year of the 70th Week of Daniel, the Antichrist will have crushed the power of the Holy People, Jews and Christians. (See Dan. 8: 24 and Dan. 12:7.) Scattered bands of Christians and Jews will be in hiding, but the Antichrist will have almost completed his demonic attempt to wipe them out. The unrighteous will say “peace and safety” because Christians are no longer presenting them with a testimony that challenges their Muslim beliefs.
- The AC will also finally have conquered Egypt, the King of the South, his arch enemy during the 70th Week. (See. Dan. 11:40-42.) He will also have defeated most of the strong western nations with the help of demons. (See Dan. 11:39). They will say “peace and safety” because the Antichrist wars will have paused.
- Then at this point, about 3/4 of the way through the sixth year, the Celestial Earthly Disturbance occurs. Earth’s orbit is disrupted, volcanos darken the sky with their smoke and earthquakes, meteors and Tsunamis rock the planet. Nothing like this has happened during recorded history. The Antichrist and his minions hide in caves and forgo their plan to wipe out the Christians. Survival mode takes over. From their caves, the forces of the Antichrist state that the Wrath of God is here(Rev. 6:17). They are wrong however, the Day of the Lord is still about two months away.
- Finally, the earth starts to settle down. The earthquakes, volcanos and Tsunamis end. Massive destruction of cities has taken place, but there are still billions of unrighteous left alive. The Antichrist and his minions finally feel safe enough to leave their caves and begin the process of clearing rubble and restoring what is left of their empire. They will say “peace and safety” because they think that they have survived the worst and God’s Wrath isn’t coming.
- In the midst of these efforts, the two witnesses stand in Jerusalem and tell the world that this is the final sign before the return of Christ and that God’s Wrath is coming. These witnesses have been a thorn in the side of Antichrist for 3 1/2 years causing there to be no rain and probably causing other calamities. Finally with their mission complete, God removes the hedge of protection from around the witnesses. With the protection of God removed, the Antichrist kills the witnesses (who were probably blamed for the Celestial Earthly Disturbance) and the world rejoices, sends each other gifts, and says “peace and safety” now they are free from the witnesses. This is a key point. It is most unlikely that the world will say “peace and safety” until the witnesses are dead.
So it is at this point the inhabitants of the earth say “peace and safety” for this multitude of reasons. The Christians and Jews are in hiding and not reminding the unrighteous of their need of salvation. The Antichrist wars are temporarily over (probably due to the Celestial Earthly Disturbance). The two witnesses who tormented the unrighteous with their testimony and plagues are finally dead and the Celestial Earthly Disturbance is now a memory. They all say, “finally, peace and safety.” What they don’t know is the return of Christ (the Rapture) and his Wrath are only 3 1/2 days away.
Now this is my best estimate (only a guess) of what happens.
The Two Witnesses
In a recent blog post about the Resurrection, we discussed the career of the two Witnesses. I think their deaths are the primary basis for the Antichrist forces saying “peace and safety.” A world-wide gift giving holiday is called for upon their deaths. This is obviously an event of massive proportions.
Most prophecy teachers and commentaries place the 1260 day ministry of the two witnesses as either during the first half or the second half of Daniel’s 70th Week. They do this because we know that at least the second half of the “Week” is 1260 days long, so they assume the two mentions of 1260 days are the same period. There are massive scriptural problems with either of these two timings (we will explain that in a future article). What I’ve come to realize is that the most “likely” timing of the 1260 day ministry of the witnesses is from partway into the 3rd year of the “Week” until 3 1/2 days before the Resurrection/Rapture at the end of the sixth year of the “Week.” If this timing is correct, this places the death of the witnesses at exactly the right time for the inhabitants of the world to claim “peace and safety” (now that the witnesses aren’t tormenting them) immediately before the Day of the Lord (the outpouring of God’s Wrath.) It also places the death of the witnesses at exactly the right point for them to be resurrected with the rest of the dead saints at the end of the sixth year.
As further evidence of this timing, we notice in Rev. 11:13 that a earthquake immediately follows the death of the witnesses. We know that an earthquake follows the opening of the seventh seal, so this event also matches the timing.
Jesus’s and Paul’s statements that there will be “peace and safety” before sudden destruction is a puzzle. But when we solve the puzzle, it provides enormous confirmation of a Pre-Wrath timing of the Rapture at the end of sixth year of the 70th Week. IMO, there is only one “sweet spot” where “peace and safety” will precede sudden destruction.