Bible Question:

Did the Thessalonians think they had missed the Rapture?

Bible Answer:

Did the Thessalonians think they had missed the Rapture? That is the question that is answered in this article. Many believe the answer is yes! But since some do not accept that answer, reasons are provided here that explain why the answer is yes.

Did the Thessalonians think they had missed the Rapture?

The Day of the Lord

First, what is the day of the Lord? The day of the Lord spans a long period of time. It begins with the tribulation (1 Thessalonians 5:2-4; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2),  and ends with the destruction of the universe (2 Peter 3:10-13). Also, the future day of the Lord includes the battle of Armageddon and the second coming of Christ (Matthew 24:29-30; Acts 2:20).

Day of the Lord Timeline

Did the Thessalonians Think They Had Missed the Rapture?

When 2 Thessalonians 2:2 says the Thessalonians were disturbed because they thought the Day of the Lord had come, we discover that they thought the tribulation had started. Here is 2 Thessalonians 2:2,

Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 (NASB)

Paul told them in verse 3 that the day of the Lord will not come until first two things happened. First, a worldwide apostasy must occur. That is, a worldwide rejection of God must occur before He comes. Second, the man of lawlessness, the antichrist, will appear. He is the one who establishes a peace treaty with Israel (Daniel 9:27). When that happens, everyone will know the antichrist has arrived.

This means the Thessalonians did not understand that the apostasy must come first, and then the tribulation would start. They thought the tribulation had already started and they were living in it. Therefore, they were shaken. Since the rapture occurs at the start of the tribulation, this reveals they were shaken because they believed they had missed the rapture, that it had already occurred.

Why Were the Thessalonians Shaken?

When Paul said the Thessalonians should not be shaken by “a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us,” it is clear someone was teaching the Thessalonians that the day of the Lord had already started and that they were living in the tribulation.

Does this reveal a false teacher denied the rapture or claimed the rapture would occur later some time during the tribulation? Unfortunately, we do not have enough information to answer the question.

But if we assume the Thessalonians believed the rapture would occur at the end of the tribulation, why should they be upset? They would have that already understood they would be going through the tribulation, be raptured, and immediately return with Christ at the second coming. So, it is highly unlikely they believed in a posttribulational rapture.

If they believed the rapture would occur at the middle of the tribulation, they should not have been shaken either for the rapture would have still been in the future.

A more likely reason the Thessalonians were disturbed or shaken is that they knew only believers would be removed when the rapture occurred and that the rapture would occur before the tribulation. So, if they believed the rapture had already occurred and they had been left behind, that would mean they were not believers and were going to hell. Now that would greatly shake up any believer!


Therefore, did the Thessalonians think they had missed the rapture? Yes. As a result, they thought that demonstrated they were unbelievers. So, the apostle Paul had to correct the bad theology and comfort them that they had not missed the rapture. That would give them comfort they were believers.

Suggested Links:

God’s Timeline For The Future
Day of the Lord
The Judgment of the Nations — Sheep and Goat judgment
How to Identify the Antichrist