Tribulation = G3986 – peirasmos πειρασμός
1) an experiment, attempt, trial, proving
a) trial, proving: the trial made of you by my bodily condition, since condition served as to test the love of the Galatians toward Paul (Gal. 4:14)
b) the trial of man’s fidelity, integrity, virtue, constancy
1) an enticement to sin, temptation, whether arising from the desires or from the outward circumstances
2) an internal temptation to sin
a) of the temptation by which the devil sought to divert Jesus the Messiah from his divine errand
3) of the condition of things, or a mental state, by which we are enticed to sin, or to a lapse from the faith and holiness
WHAT ARE THE ISSUES?
The notion that one who has heard the Gospel and rejects it before the Rapture will
thus be unable to be saved in the Tribulation is argued from 2nd Thessalonians
2:10—12, which reads as follows: . . . and with all the deception of wickedness for those who
perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. And for this reason
God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false, in order
that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.”
Proponents of this view contend that God, through the Antichrist, will actively delude
those who do not believe. While this is true, nothing in the passage suggests that the
delusion is the result of an individual’s unbelief due to his rejection of the Gospel before
the Rapture. There are a number of reasons why I do not think that 2nd Thessalonians
supports this view.
1) J. Dwight Pentecost – from “Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology”, 1958.
“With the identification of the Holy Spirit as the restrainer of II Thess 2:7 comes the persistent allegation by the opponents of this view that says the Holy Spirit must cease to operate in the world during the tribulation because He is no longer indwelling the body of Christ as His temple. Nothing could be further from the truth. It must be noted that the Holy Spirit did not undertake an indwelling ministry to every believer in the Old Testament, yet the Lord addressing one under that old economy indicates clearly that salvation was by the operation of the Holy Spirit (John 3:5-6). Apart from this indwelling ministry Old Testament saints were said to be saved by the Holy Spirit, even though He did not indwell the believer as a temple. So, in the tribulation period, the Holy Spirit, who is omnipresent, will do the work of regeneration as He did when God was previously dealing with Israel, but WITHOUT AN INDWELLING MINISTRY. The present-day indwelling is related to empowerment, to union of believer with believer because of their relation to the Temple of God, but the indwelling is entirely distinct and separated from the work of the Spirit in regeneration. Thus, it should be clearly seen that even though THE SPIRIT IS NOT INDWELLING IN THE TRIBULATION, He may still be operative in regeneration.”
2) John F. Walvoord – from “The Rapture Question,” 1979.
“It should also be evident that if the Spirit of God characteristically indwells the church as well as the individual saint in this age, the removal of the Spirit would involve a dispensational change and the removal of the church as well. While the Spirit will work in the tribulation period, HE WILL FOLLOW THE PATTERN OF THE PERIOD BEFORE PENTECOST RATHER THAN THIS PRESENT AGE OF GRACE. The Spirit of God will return to heaven after accomplishing His earthly work, much as the Lord Jesus Christ returned to heaven after completing His earthly work. In both cases, the work of the Second Person and the Third Person continues, but IN A DIFFERENT SETTING AND IN A DIFFERENT WAY.”
3) John Walvoord – from “The Blessed Hope and the Tribulation” – p128
“But neither Gundry nor anyone else can prove that THE BAPTIZING WORK OF THE SPIRIT THAT FORMS THE CHURCH IS EVER SEEN IN THE TRIBULATION. That the Spirit works in the tribulation all agree. THAT THE SPIRIT INDWELLS ALL BELIEVERS IS NOWHERE TAUGHT.
4) Hal Lindsey – from “The Rapture”, Bantam Books, p 138)
The Holy Spirit will revert back to do the “work as He did in the Old Testament.”
“The Holy Spirit will not be gone from the world, BUT HIS UNIQUE MINISTRIES IN, THROUGH AND FOR THE BELIEVER WILL BE REMOVED WITH THE CHURCH.”
“…THE UNIQUE CHURCH ECONOMY MINISTRIES OF INDWELLING, BAPTIZING, SEALING, GIFTING AND FILLING OF EVERY BELIEVER WILL BE REMOVED WITH THE CHURCH. This is consistent with all that is revealed of the average Tribulation believer’s level of spiritual insight, knowledge and maturity.”
5) John Hagee – from “The Battle For Jerusalem”, p 228
“God will be faithful to His covenant people. The 144,000 Jews who are sealed as witnesses immediately after the Rapture will be granted divine protection so that they may be preserved during the time of Tribulation. God’s judgment and wrath will be evident, yes, but so will His mercy. Once the church has been removed, God will act to bring the nation of Israel to faith in Him. THE HOLY SPIRIT, WHILE NOT INDWELLING BELIEVERS AS HE DID IN THE CHURCH AGE,The Holy Spirit, while not indwelling believers as He did in the church age, will move to convict and enlighten. The Jews will see miraculous signs of God’s work…”
6) Dr. Thomas Ice – from “The Holy Spirit and the Tribulation”
One of the most compelling, yet often misunderstood, arguments for pretribulationism relates to the Holy Spirit’s role to the church and the tribulation period. Most holding to the pre-trib position believe that 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7 refers to the restraining ministry of the Holy Spirit through the agency of the Church. Thus, when the church is raptured before the tribulation, that ministry of the Holy Spirit will be removed as well. If this interpretation is correct, then it is a strong argument for pretribulationism.
Second Thessalonians 2:1-12 discusses a man of lawlessness being held back until a later time. Interpreting the restrainer of evil (2:6) as the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit at work through the body of Christ during the current Church Age, supports pretribulationism. Since the lawless one (the beast or Antichrist) cannot be revealed until the Restrainer (the Holy Spirit) is taken away (2:7-8), the tribulation, (called the day of the Lord in this passage), cannot occur until after the church is removed. Of all the rapture positions, only the pre-trib position can be harmonized when we understand that the Restrainer is referring to the Holy Spirit.
I believe the correct interpretation of this passage understands the restrainer to refer to the Holy Spirit as He functions during the present church age through the baptism of the Holy Spirit and indwelling of believers. These are ministries that are unique to the Church Age. Both the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit began on the Day of Pentecost as Acts 2 describes. Therefore, these ministries of the Holy Spirit were not active in this way before the birth of the Church.
The cryptic reference to the Holy Spirit’s present work in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7 explains the unusual grammar employed in the passage. In verse six “the restrainer” is in the neuter gender (to katchon) while in verse seven “the Restrainer” is masculine (o katechn). The significance of such grammar and how it relates to the Holy Spirit and the rapture is explained by Dr. Robert Thomas below.
Key to the above scenario is whether the Holy Spirit is the Restrainer. After surveying various interpretations of the passage he concludes:
To one familiar with the Lord Jesus Upper Room Discourse, as Paul undoubtedly was, fluctuation between neuter and masculine recalls how the Holy Spirit is spoken of. Either gender is appropriate, depending on whether the speaker (or writer) thinks of natural agreement (masc. because of the Spirit’s personality) or grammatical (neuter because of the noun pneuma; see John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13, 14) . . . This identification of the restrainer with deep roots in church history . . . is most appealing. THE SPECIAL PRESENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AS THE INDWELLER OF SAINTS WILL TERMINATE ABRUPTLY AT THE PAROUSIA AS IT BEGAN ABRUPTLY AT PENTECOST. Once the body of Christ has been caught away to heaven, THE SPIRIT’S MINISTRY WILL REVERT BACK TO WHAT HE DID FOR BELIEVERS DURING THE OT PERIOD. His function of restraining evil through the body of Christ (John 16:7-11; 1 John 4:4) will cease similarly to the way he terminated his striving in the days of Noah (Gen. 6:3). At that point the reins will be removed from lawlessness and the Satanically inspired rebellion will begin. It appears that to katechon (what is holding back) was well known at Thessalonica as a title for the Holy Spirit on whom the readers had come to depend in their personal attempts to combat lawlessness (1 Thess. 1:6; 4:8; 5:19; 2 Thess. 2:13).