CHAPTER 12 “Thief In The Night”
One familiar Bible verse used to dismiss the pursuit of
specific prophetic dating is I Thessalonians 5:2, "The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night." The prevailing interpretation of this Scripture has been,
"Since one does not know when a thief is coming, one also cannot know when the Rapture will occur."
The first time I remotely considered reviewing any of
these Scriptures was back in 1974. My spouse asked me the intriguing question; "Why do we Christians use I Thessalonians 5:2 to prove we can't date the Rapture, when verse 4, only two verses later says,
"But ye brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief'?" I couldn't answer.
I noted that another "thief" passage had a similar message. "Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and holdfast,
and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee." It
appeared that both of these "thief" Scriptures taught that Christians should not be surprised to see Jesus when He comes.
In 1975 we asked a noted prophetic author about the Thessalonians passage. "Why do preachers and Christian movies use the theme Thief in the Night
to teach a surprise Rapture, when I Thessalonians 5:4 says believers will not be surprised?"
He studied the section a moment and then replied, "I don't know."
Although this author actually quotes I Thessalonians 5:4 in a book he wrote, he prefaces its use with, "We don't know when the Rapture will occur ... but according to the signs, we are in the general time."
This encounter was significant because of this man's extensive studies of the end times. It was mystifying. Why have we all, including that
dedicated prophetic teacher' applied the passage this way? This question led me to investigate further.
Interestingly, I found most scholars believe the passage in I
Thessalonians 5 is not a direct reference to the Rapture. They reach this conclusion because of the specific term, "The Day of the Lord." They
feel the use of the phrase, The Day of the Lord, describes either (a) the whole seven-year period of judgment on the earth (along with the simultaneous seven-year preparation of the Bride in heaven); (b) the
period from the Rapture to the end of the Millennium; or (c) the climactic end of the seven-year Tribulation.
A thoughtful study of all fifteen occurrences of "thief" in the New Testament produces an interesting profile. It seems every use of this
word is in the negative. Even when the thief analogy does speak of Jesus, it typifies an unexpected appearance which brings about judgment to the
unobservant slacker.Examine three more examples of thief verses that relate to Jesus:
"And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what
hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through."
"The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to
destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."
"Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame."
Notice, none of these thief verses suggest that Jesus comes as a surprise to those who are prepared and expectant. To the contrary,
looking for Jesus Christ is referred to in Scripture as a "blessed hope" not as a negative experience. There seems to be no scriptural
justification to warrant the belief that Jesus will appear to obedient Christians as a thief. For your own verification, all New Testament thief
verses are listed in the endnotes. One truth, however, can be clearly seen here. The Thessalonians "thief in the night" passage does teach that this
appearance of Jesus will come as unexpectedly as a thief-to unbelievers.
Most importantly though, this particular passage does not teach that
Christians cannot know the timing of future events! Based on this discovery, I decided to reexamine the other Scriptures that are supposed to prohibit exact dating of end-time events.