1 Thessalonians 5:9

The Misunderstanding!


By Dr. Ken Matto


For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, (1 Thessalonians 5:9)


Another false teaching which has emanated from the dispensational camp is the belief that 1 Thessalonians 5:9 is speaking about being raptured before the mythical seven year tribulation begins so Christians will not have to endure the wrath of God which is going to come upon the whole world.  This belief is nothing more than an addition to the escapist theology of the pre-trib rapture.  The problem is that once again the dispensationalists are picking and choosing what they want to believe to the neglect of context and what the verse is really teaching.  If we are to understand this verse, we must view it in its context and not taken out of context to endorse a theological system which does not exist in Scripture.


8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. 9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. (1 Thessalonians 5:8-10)


Verse 8 – Here the true believer is told to be as vigilant as a sentry on duty.  First the Christian is of the day which means they are of the light.  Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. (1 Thessalonians 5:5)  Just as a soldier puts on the breastplate which protected all his vital organs our breastplate is to be faith and love.  The helmet protected the head from any deadly blows but here the helmet would refer to the mind where all the aspirations and thoughts of man originate.  If we are children of light, then we have the mind of Christ and the mind of Christ implants the hope of salvation and causes the believer to order their lives within that mindset.  Now a question arises, if we are not going to be here when this so-called tribulation period occurs, then why would God tell us to be spiritually on guard?  If you notice, the hope of salvation is mentioned in this verse.  What is the purpose of salvation?  Is it to save us from this world or to save us from eternal damnation?


Verse 9 – When dispensationalists use this verse to cajole their hearers or readers that the wrath of God is here on earth, as usual, they never take into consideration history and present circumstances of the believer.  If the true believer is not appointed to wrath, then what about the ten Roman persecutions where thousands of true believers were killed?  What about the Roman Catholic Inquisition which killed millions of true Christians?  What about Communist or Islamic countries that have outlawed Christianity and have killed thousands of Christians?  If Christians are not destined for earthly wrath, then history itself has proven that belief wrong since millions of Christians have been killed.  Within verse 9, we see two opposites, they are wrath and salvation.  Now we know from history and reports today of Christians who have died by wicked people.  If the wrath is an earthly wrath in this verse then the salvation is an earthly one which then must refer to being saved from ruthless situations on this earth.  Since history has proven that belief wrong, then the salvation in view is everlasting salvation in Heaven through the Lord Jesus Christ and the wrath of God is referring to everlasting damnation.  Believers on earth are subject to the same diseases, famines, hate crimes, disasters whether they be natural or man-made, etc.  Our salvation takes effect the moment we are saved and when we physically die, then we are transferred right to Heaven as our souls go to glory and our bodies go into the ground to await the resurrection on the last day.


Verse 10 – The teaching from verse 9 continues with a colon which means the continuation of the subject follows.  It states that Christ died for us.  The word “us” is referring to the body of believers which he redeemed by his own blood.  As we know from history, did the sacrifice of Christ prevent wrath from coming against the believer? 


18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. 19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. 20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. (John 15:18-20)


According to John 15:18-20, we can expect to be hated by the world, that is, all the unbelievers who come against the body of believers with wrath which is the wrath of Satan.  Then we are given assurance that whether we sleep or are awake, we live with the Lord Jesus Christ.  So Paul is telling the believers that even if they are martyred for the sake of Christ, as so many of them were, it will not affect their salvation just as being martyred today does not affect our salvation.  Whether on earth or in Heaven we are in the presence of the Lord.


And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:10)


In 1 Thessalonians 1:10, the last phrase of this verse speaks to us about the fact that we were delivered from the wrath to come. The wrath which Christ delivered us from is eternal damnation in Hell where one is under the wrath of God for their sins. The true believer has had all their sins paid for and removed by Christ and therefore there is nothing which can cause a believer to be under God’s wrath. Christ took God’s wrath upon Himself at Calvary for the sins of all the Elect. The fact that the Thessalonians knew about the wrath of God and the return of Christ meant that Paul had preached to them the full counsel of God.


So we see plainly that 1 Thessalonians 5:9 must be taken in context and when we look at that verse in context, it speaks about the salvation being everlasting salvation and that is in contrast to the eternal wrath of God which is eternal damnation in hell which the believer has been delivered from by the sacrifice of Christ for the body of believers.  1 Thessalonians 5:9 cannot be used as a verse connected to the escapist teaching of a pre-trib rapture simply because it does not exist in Scripture and neither does a seven year tribulation period.  These things exist only in the thoughts of biased authors and theologians who have forced false teachings upon Scriptures to make it fit their false narrative.  Let me say this before I end this study.  The Bible, in many places, speaks about the wrath of God falling upon people and places on earth.


And my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless. (Exodus 22:24)


And while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD smote the people with a very great plague. (Numbers 11:33)


In Exodus and Leviticus, God had promised that if Israel did not obey him, then his wrath would fall upon them.  However, the word “wrath” like other words in the Bible are understood according to its context and usage, 1 Thessalonians 5:9 uses it in the context of salvation of the believer versus everlasting damnation of the unbeliever.  Do not believe anything that comes out of prophecy books or theology books or even your pastor unless you first check it out according to the Scriptures.


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