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Q206 : Upon Whom Does Jesus Come as a Thief?

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Q206 : Upon Whom Does Jesus Come as a Thief?

A question I have pertains to Revelation 16:15.

Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.1

Are there still Christians on earth at this point of the Tribulation Period? Or is this verse not meant for this specific time, and simply not in a chronological order with the seven vials/bowls of God's wrath?


Endnotes:

1.NKJV, Revelation 16:15


Sources:

NKJVUnless indicated otherwise, all Scripture references are from the New King James Version, copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A206 : by Tony Garland

To answer the first part of your question, we know that there will be Christians on the earth during the entire tribulation period. There are:

  1. Believers who are martyred during the tribulation (Rev. 6:9-11; Rev. 7:9-17).
  2. Believers who are sealed for protection (Rev. 7:3-8).
  3. Believers who are kept from the Antichrist in a specially-prepared place (Rev. 12:13-16).
  4. Believers who survive until the second coming (Mat. 25:31-40).
All these Christians came to faith after the Rapture of the Church and thus were not taken up prior to the tribulation.

To answer the second part of your question, it seems most likely that Revelation 16:15 is a parenthetical insertion given to warn readers prior to the tribulation of their need to watch so that the day of the Lord will not come upon them as a thief. My position on this is that the coming as a thief does not refer to the Rapture where all true believers are taken up. Rather, it refers to the way in which the day of the Lord (a time of judgment and outpouring of God's wrath) will overtake an unbelieving world, including those who profess to believe or are participants in church, but who have never truly been born again. This is considered a “coming” of Jesus, not for believers but upon an unbelieving world in judgment initiating the tribulation period (1Th. 5:2-4; 1Pe. 3:10; Rev. 3:3). So, in a sense, the bible relates numerous “coming” events associated with Jesus.

  1. His “first coming,” born as a virgin to die on the cross (Isa. 7:14; 9:6; Luke 1:30-31).
  2. His coming in identity with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost to form the body of Christ: “I will come to you” (John 14:16-20; Acts 2; Col. 1:27).
  3. His coming to take up the Church at the Rapture (1Cor. 15:51-52; 1Th. 4:13-17; Heb. 9:28).
  4. His coming as a thief upon an unsuspecting world ushering in the events of God's wrath associated with the Day of the Lord or “day of Christ” (Mat. 24:42-44; 1Th. 5:2-5; 2Th. 2:2; 2Pe. 3:10; Rev. 3:3; 16:15).
  5. His “second coming” in final judgment when He takes up His Davidic throne on earth (Ps. 2:6-9; Isa. 9:7; 63:1-6; Luke 1:32; Mat. 25:31; Rev. 3:21; 19:11-21) bringing the tribulation period to a close.
The day of the Lord comes as a thief in the night, but this is for the unbelieving world, the unregenerate. During the day of the Lord, toward the end of the great tribulation, Christ will return in wrath (1Th 5:2,4; 2Pe 3:10). Jesus Christ will not come for His bride from heaven as a thief in the night especially in wrath (1Th 1:10). . . . [The Thessalonians] were not waiting for a thief in the night (2Th 3:18, 2Pe 3:10). They were waiting for the One Who loved them most and Whom they loved and would be with forever (1 Th 4:17).1

In my commentary on Revelation 16:15a I take the position that the warning is most likely intended for readers of Revelation prior to the events described therein—in order that professing believers all through the age of the church would examine themselves to see if they are truly in the faith (2Cor. 13:5) so as to make their election sure (2Pe. 1:10) and be among those who are taken up at the Rapture prior to His coming as a thief. I believe this same motive is behind the series of warning parables which Jesus gives in Matthew 25. I discuss those parables in more detail in an online study on Matthew 24 and 25b.


Endnotes:

1.Ref-1216, p. 108


Sources:

Ref-1216David Olander, The Greatness of the Rapture (Ft. Worth, TX: Tyndale Seminary Press, 2009). ISBN:978-0-9814791-6-3c.


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