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Does “The Thief in the Night” Phrase Refer to the Rapture or the Second Coming?

Does “The Thief in the Night” Phrase Refer to the Rapture or the Second Coming?

The Second Coming is Like a Thief in the Night

As a boy I remember an evening when our church showed the movie “A Thief in the Night.” I remember the opening scene of the woman running to the bathroom looking for her husband, only to discover the electric razor running and abandoned in the sink – her husband obviously raptured all the while the radio explained the disappearance of perhaps millions of people around the world.

The basis of the movie was derived from 1 Thessalonians 5 where “the Day of the Lord comes as a thief in the night.” (1Thess 5:2 NKJV) The opening scene made a lasting impression on me and millions of more Americans that the rapture will come unexpectedly and without warning, just like a thief in the night!

It is commonly argued that “the thief in the night” must refer to the rapture and cannot refer to the second coming because that would be obvious as people would simply need to read their Bible; Dr. Dwight J. Pentecost, a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, writes in his book Things to Come

If the Day of the Lord did not begin until the second advent, since that event is preceded by signs, the Day of the Lord could not come as a “thief in the night,” unexpected, and unheralded, as it is said it will come in 1 Thessalonians  5:2. The only way this could break unexpectedly upon the world is to have it begin immediately after the rapture of the church.[1]

The supposed problem is resolved in the rest of the 1 Thessalonians 5 passage. Unfortunately, many people stop reading at verse two and do not continue to see to whom Jesus will come as a thief; He is coming ‘as a thief’ to those not expecting him, that is, to those in darkness! The language is clear that “they” – the ones in darkness, are the ones to whom sudden destruction will come and “you,” the brethren, are sons of light, not darkness. The day of the Lord will not be as a thief to the brethren meaning it could not refer to the rapture itself but rather to the day Jesus comes back.

For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them…and they shall not escape. (1Thess 5:3 NKJV) But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. (1Thess 5:3-4 NKJV) You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. (1Thess 5:5 NKJV)

Jesus’ own usage of the concept of him coming as a thief is in relation to the unprepared homeowner who does not know the time that the thief would come and let his house be broken into for “if the homeowner had known at what time the thief were coming, he would have watched and would not have let his house be broken into.” (Luke 12:39; see also Matt 24:43) The timing of a thief is a complete surprise to people who are in darkness, who are sleeping and not paying attention.

The people who are not paying attention are the non-believers which Jesus exemplifies in his exhortation to the church of Sardis, the dead church, whose names are ready to be blotted out of the book of life. (Rev 3:5) Because they were considered dead and were therefore not counted as sons of light, Jesus’ coming would be to them as a thief because they were not alert. He admonished them that they must repent for if they do not and were “not alert, I will come like a thief, and you won’t know the time when I will come to you. (Rev 3:3 ISV) Again, we see that his coming will be as a thief and it will be at a time that they do not expect and when he comes, sudden destruction will come upon them. (1Thes 5:3) We must consider that the phrase “thief in the night” appears not to apply to the event known as the rapture, but applies to the actual second coming of Jesus, that is, the day that he returns.

As further evidence of this, we turn to Rev 16:14 where Satan, the Antichrist, and the False Prophet open their mouths and something like frogs come out to go to deceive the whole world to bring them together for the battle of the great day of God at the place called Armageddon. The timing therefore is toward the end of the time of Jacob’s trouble (the second half of the seven year period filled with intense suffering never experienced before on earth). The nations are getting ready for their final attack against Jerusalem for the battle known as Armageddon (explained in chapter …) It is here in the text, sandwiched between verses 14 and 16, that Jesus strongly admonished the armies of the world by saying he was coming as a thief.

They are demonic spirits that perform signs. They go to the kings of the whole earth and gather them for the war of the great Day of God Almighty. “See, I am coming like a thief. How blessed is the person who remains alert and keeps his clothes on! He won’t have to go naked and let others see his shame.” The spirits gathered the kings to the place that is called Armageddon in Hebrew. (Rev 16:14-16 ISV)

It is no accident that Jesus’ admonition is placed there – He has graciously warned the rebels one last time of what will happen at his return and anyone who does not have a garment of Yeshuáh on at that point will be in a world of hurt and will suffer exposed to his glory forever because he will have to go naked and others see his shame.” (See Appendix: Garment of Yeshua) The fact that Jesus directs the exhortation to those gathering together for the day of battle demonstrates that the Day of the Lord coming as a thief in the night can only be a reference to the second coming of Jesus which is the very day that he returns to planet earth in a blaze of glory and flames of fire. The basic thesis of the movie “A Thief in the Night” has incorrectly applied the phrase to the rapture. The day coming like a thief is coming to those who are not anticipating the Lord’s return. Coming like a thief means it is sudden and is a big surprise!

All the nations of the world will be in utter shock and dumbfounded by Jesus coming because they arrogantly and boastfully gather themselves together against Jerusalem in order to lay it waste. The following verses demonstrate how all of the nations will be coming against Jerusalem in order to (successfully) destroy it and hence when Jesus comes back, they will be sorely surprised.

  • I will make Jerusalem a heavy weight; so everyone who burdens themselves with it will be crushed, even though all of the nations of the earth gather themselves against it. (Zech 12:3 ISV)
  • Let the nations be awakened and come to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; because I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations. Put in the sickle, because the harvest is ripe. Come and go down, because the winepress is full. The wine vats are overflowing, because their evil is great! (Joel 3:12-13 ISV)
  • Now many nations have gathered against you, saying, ‘Let her be defiled,’ and ‘Let’s look down on Zion.’ (Mic 4:11 ISV)

They fully anticipate that they will be victorious in their battle efforts just as Pharaoh imagined he would be when he mustered his army against Israel by the Red Sea. Imagine the incredible surprise he felt as the walls of water came crashing over him. So too will the nations of the earth be utterly shocked when the heavens roll back and there stands Jesus. Habakkuk records that at Jesus’ return, “He stood up and shook the land; with his stare he startled the nations.” (Hab 3:6 ISV) The nations are startled because they were not expecting him, which only serves to prove that His second coming is like a thief in the night.

The book of Zephaniah also records how the day of God’s wrath will bring a sudden end to the nations which will come as a terrible surprise.

in the Day of the Lord’s wrath; but the entire land will be consumed by the fire of his jealousy, for he will bring the inhabitants of the land to a sudden end…the Day of the Lord’s wrath [which] surprises you (Zeph 1:18; 2:2 ISV)

The Thief in the Night in 2 Peter

The element of the surprise is confirmed in 2 Peter, perhaps the most significant passage concerning the day of the Lord. Because the heavens pass away in the passage, Dr Pentecost and others argue that the Day of the Lord must include the millennium because they understand the heavens to pass away afterward. However, our study of 2Peter 3:10 will prove that the heavens pass away the day that Jesus returns.

First of all, we need to consider the context of the chapter: Peter is discussing the return of Jesus and answering the mockery of the skeptics who ridicule “What happened to the Messiah’s promise to return? Ever since our ancestors died, everything continues as it did from the beginning of creation.” (2Pet 3:4 ISV) Peter then reminds his readers that the mockers have “deliberately ignore the fact that long ago the heavens existed and the earth was formed by God’s word out of water and with water, by which the world at that time was deluged with water and destroyed.” (2Pet 3:5-6 ISV) The judgment of God is absolutely certain, Peter concludes because just as the world was destroyed by water, a future judgment will destroy it by fire. “Now by that same word, the present heavens and earth have been reserved for fire and are being kept for the day when ungodly people will be judged and destroyed.” (2Pet 3:7 ISV) Concerning Jesus’ apparent tardiness, Peter says that in the Lord’s economy a day is like a thousand years and vice versa. His delay is due to his patience and desire that all should come to repentance. However, just like the unsuspecting people in Noah’s day who, according to Jesus “were unaware of what was happening until the flood came and swept all of them away – that’s how it will be when the Son of Man comes.” (Matt 24:39 ISV)

Peter obviously took his cues from Jesus and so he tells his readers that just as people were caught off guard on the very day the flood waters came and swept them away, so too the very day Jesus returns, will be as surprise, it will come like a thief.

But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief. On that day [en he ἐν ἡ] the heavens will disappear with a roaring sound, the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be exposed. (2Pet 3:10 ISV)

Peter is not telling his readers anything new; he is simply reiterating either what is in the Hebrew Scriptures (his Bible back then) or, in this case, what Jesus directly said: “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming. (Matt 25:13 NKJV)

Jesus ties then known day and hour specifically to when “Heaven and earth will pass away…” (Matt 24:35 NKJV) It is the day that the heavens and earth pass away will be completely unannounced and unheralded. The event will be a big surprise to everyone – even to the angels. “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” (Matt 24:36 NKJV)

The day in question is not referring to a pre-tribulation event (such as the rapture) but specifically to the day that Jesus returns which aligns perfectly Peter’s reference to the heavens and earth passing away on the Day of the Lord.  Peter then follows up his exposition of the Day of the Lord with a similar exhortation to watch or look because that is the day when (in which) the heavens will be set ablaze and the elements of the earth dissolved.

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, think of the kind of holy and godly people you ought to be as you look forward to and hasten the coming of the day of God, when the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved and the elements will melt with fire. (2Pet 3:11, 12 ISV)

He closes his exhortation with the hope that we have that once Messiah comes he will set up a new era including a new heavens and new earth. “But in keeping with his promise, we are looking forward to new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.” (2Pet 3:13 ISV) His reference to righteousness dwelling in the new age appears to be a reference to Isaiah 11 where Messiah Jesus will rule over a new creation in which even the animals are at perfect harmony with mankind.

But with righteousness he will judge the needy, and decide with equity for earth’s poor. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and the wicked will be killed with the breath of his lips. Righteousness will be the sash around his loins, and faithfulness the belt around his waist. The wolf will live with the lamb; the leopard will lie down with the young goat. The calf and the lion will graze together, and a little child will lead them. At that time, as to the root of Jesse, who will be standing as a banner for the peoples, the nations will rally to him, and his resting place is glorious. (Isa 11:4-6, 10 ISV)

Peter was looking forward to the new heavens and earth, specifically mentioned in Isaiah 65:17, as well as the general abundance of righteousness described in Isaiah 11 and other passages.  There will be an obvious need for new heavens because the (current) heavens and earth will pass away at Jesus coming, which Jesus, Peter, Isaiah (Isa 34:4) and others have said. The next question however, is what exactly does it mean that the heavens will pass away?

The Heavens Pass Away

According to Peter, the surprising and unexpected day Jesus comes back (“the Day of the Lord will come like a thief”) is when the heavens will pass away (“on that day [en he ἐν ἡ] the heavens will disappear with a roaring sound,”). It is also the day that the creation will begin to melt like wax and all of man’s works will be destroyed by fire (“the elements will be destroyed by fire”), and the earth and everything done on it will be exposed. (2Pet 3:10 ISV)

This verse clearly shows the unexpectedness of the day in which end-of-the-world events will take place! The heavens will pass away, the elements (stoixia στοιχεῖα), the base materials of the world,[2] will dissolve, and the works of men will be exposed to God.

where we discover that in (or on) the Day of the Lord, which comes like a thief, the heavens will pass away and the earth will be destroyed by fire.  We must not miss that it is on that very day (not a seven year period and not one thousand years) on that very day that the heavens will disappear.

But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief. On that day [en he ἐν ἡ] the heavens will disappear with a roaring sound, the elements will be destroyed by fire… (2Pet 3:10 ISV)

The evidence is overwhelming that the Day of the Lord is the day that Jesus comes back and is not referring to a pre-tribulational event, regardless of what we believe about the timing of the rapture itself. Another look at 2 Peter 3 will help us to understand the events of that day better.


[1] Dr. Dwight J. Pentecost, Things to Come, pp. 230.

[2] BDAG στοιχεῖον “basic components of something, elements of substances underlying the natural world, the basic elements fr. which everything in the world is made and of which it is composed”

About Douglas


  1. Julia Crystal Adkins Lane

    Excellent teaching Doug God bless and protect you and yours

  2. theif in the night is a jewish idium that the priests knew very well the High priest would check on the priests to see if they fell asleep at the night watch and the tamid fire on the alter was in danger of going out and if so the High priest would take some of the coals off the fire and would set the lower part of the garment on the priest that slept on fire waking the priest up not to mention being naked and ashamed. Do you see the similarity in REV and that we are priests. Are we ever watching !!!!!!

  3. I agree, this is a great article Doug and I also agree with everything you’ve said. I’ve always seen it this way and you explained everything in such a great way. btw, I’m nearing the end of The Millennium Chronicles and it just keeps getting better and better. I believe that you actually are a genius to be able to write the books you’ve written, and especially this one, and you definitely have God’s Spirit on you, guiding you, so you can teach us all these things. When I’m finished with TMC I’ll write a great review but it would be nearly impossible to describe this book enough to even give it justice. IT’S AMAZING!!!!

  4. Great Article Doug. You are right, the coming of the Lord (“The day of the Lord”) and the rapture are two separate events, this is also my belief. Also The “Day of the Lord” does not depend on when the rapture will happen and it is a single day. Some teach that the rapture and the “Day of the Lord” are one and the same thing but in my opinion this is not supported by the Bible.



  5. This is how you interpret the Revelation:

    001:009 I John, your brother and partner with you in oppression,

    Kingdom, and perseverance in Christ Jesus, was on the isle

    that is called Patmos because of God’s Word and the testimony

    of Jesus Christ.

    ‘John was the preseverance in The Messiah Jesus, was on the isle Patmos because of God’s word and the testimony of Jesus Christ.’

    (If Christ Jesus is Jesus Christ, he would write the same name. But it’s two different people. And you did not see that nor try to reveal that but looking at other things.)

    001:010 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, like a trumpet 001:011 saying, ” What you see, write in a book and send to the seven assemblies:
    to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”

    001:012 I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. Having turned,I saw seven golden lampstands.

    ‘John see seven golden light beams that’s projected from above’

    001:013 And among the lampstands was one like a son of man, clothed with a robe reaching down to his feet, and with a golden sash around his chest.

    ‘John see a hologram projection’

    001:014 His head and his hair were white as white wool, like snow.

    His eyes were like a flame of fire.

    ‘Now John see something else. He see a white hair (dome) and red eye (window)’

    001:015 His feet were like burnished brass, as if it had been refined

    in a furnace. His voice was like the voice of many waters.

    ‘John see the spaceship has brass feet and the engine sounds like running water.’

    001:016 He had seven stars in his right hand. Out of his mouth proceeded

    a sharp two-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining

    at its brightest.

    ‘On the right side of the spaceship their 7 other spaceships and their a staircase sticking out like a two edge sword and on the doorway is shining bright like the sun.’

    My spirit said:

    Jesus Christ reveals the secret and you set to believe that it’s the devil.

    And if you believe that ‘someone will take the devil DNA and inject into him’ which is someone that comes to deceive the world by revealing all the secrets.

    Then just know you’re false in that belief.

    How dare you use the scripture and take it into a devil meaning.

    You don’t know anything about this world or what Satan or the devil all about.

    Since you study the bible and know of hell.

    Then I shall give you your punishment for not turning to God and want to take the teaching of Jesus to be false.

    God said the light which preceding from the sun illuminate the whole world and the light in the moon and that which is also in fire are all born from Me. I am the Heat of the Sun, I release and hold back the Rains. I enter this world and animate all creatures with My vitality and by My cool moonbeam, I nourish the plants.

    Jesus said You have heard that it was said, you shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.

    So I know the father that sent Jesus of Nazareth and for you to say Jesus Christ the devil for revealing the secrets. That’s false.

    I see your comments on youtube of how much you believe in the video and it’s the reality of the truth.

    For your punishment:

    He also who in this life speaks a lie or bears false witness in exchanging goods, with giving gifts in charity or with other matters, will after his death head first free fall be thrown from the top of a hundred high mountain in the hell of Avîcimat having no water.

    The amount of lies you done in life is the amount of drops you get, then you meet your second death and born with down syndrome and mute.

    AFTER YOU DIED: at the moment of his death, he will feel great pain because he has no control of his mind and sense. At that moment, he will see the arrival of the servant of death with their terrible eyes full of wrath and because he had fear in his heart, he passes on the urine and stool. They are like soldiers working under the kings order, tied him in ropes and drag him for a very long distance then a dog will come and bite him and he will remember all the sins he committed, and he will also be starved, thirst and being scorched by the heat and forest fire, sandy road with hot wind and when he’s unable to move, he will be whip until he fall unconscious. Then he will wake up on the road of misery that will lead to the ruler of death. He then will see his whole life flashes before his eyes then he get the punishment he deserves. He will see all sort of horrible things happening to his own body in front of him. From getting eating by bugs, animals, body parts tearing from limb to limb.

    That’s Satan, and which Satan are you referring to?

    You’re working with the godless/ ignorant qualities for you think ‘the devils work’

    And it’s not God? So you using Passage from the book proves you know that it’s the devil? And that’s the Anti Christ?

    Jesus said: For the Father judges no one, but he has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who doesn’t honor the Son doesn’t honor the Father who sent him. For as the Father has life in himself, even so he gave to the Son also to have life in himself. He also gave him authority to execute judgment, because he is a son of man.

    I gave you your judgment and you’re not free from your sins.

    Until you read: http://bunthorntim.blogspot.com/2012/09/part-1.html

    Since I reveal the truth about everything here to the nation through this: http://bunthorntim.blogspot.com/2014/01/behind-truth.html

    And all nation have read, will they think your believe in the video is true or that this website is the truth?

    So helping people gain power: http://bunthorntim.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-secrets-to-meditation.html

    Means that the devil is setting up an army?

    Then I am setting up an army to go after you and your godless people ways.

    I will change the world with the truth and your truth is not a truth but a believe.

    A believe that has no truth.

    After you died, meet the ruler of death and serve your punishment.

    You shall born again with a body of judgment in the next thousand years and you shall lose everything that you have here.

    Your family, your friends, your lover, your pet, all your precious things you own.

    You shall start with a clean slate where no one knows you and you shall be mute with down syndrome and no one shall like you, be around you nor want to talk to you.

    Jesus warn you about the Resurrection of Judgment and that their be one who seek and judge and God just lead Me to you.

    You will not get away from the son takes the throne.

    I don’t need to remember or know your face. But you will remember what been stated and you will not be free until you read the story and pass it around and make that video be deleted from the face of the earth. For you have that video misleading people and causing them to died in their sins.

    I will not allow that. And this site, I will reveal to the world of what your stupidity have brought upon others.

    It would have been better if you did not try to reveal anything because that’s Jesus Christ duty, not yours. And for you to think you’re Jesus Christ to reveal ‘the truth’ of what ‘The Bible’ and the ‘Devil’ is in your own believe, which is an idea originated from darkness with no knowledge of anything.

    Now you will live with shame in your life. No one knows but you will. And God knows, for God is the entire ‘Main Frame’.

    And if you have not read the ‘Enoch’ book and the Revelation that the ‘Women’ Clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet is a ‘Ephah Basket’ and the ‘Women’ is a ‘Cartridge’ inserted into the ‘Ephah Basket’ in Malachi.

    Then you have not see the real world, this is a computer virtual world.

    If you believe ‘D.N.A’. Or not then here a truth.

    DNA has 120 letters of four type As, Cs, Gs, Ts that withing those four type of letters are random numbers and letters.

    Those random numbers and letters in the D.N.A are the source code.

    Just as their C++, JAVAscript, html, html5 and such to create programs, software.

    Those codes in the D.N.A generated this world that create body and it has the setting for the body to take effect.

    The codes has generated/created:




    ‘Senses’ to enjoy pleasure and feel pain

    Repeated death and birth (Reincarnation)

    Re-act your previous ways of living

    Sperm, drugs, water, lighting, sounds

    Everything material works upon the body.

    But the spirit is not material, the spirit is not coded.

    But you are a soul, that went into the code of ‘Sperm’. Your body a special kind of hologram projection because of this virtual computer world.

    And if you read ‘behind the truth’ you see more.

    And if you read the Meditation, you learn that ‘Atom’ is God.

    A super soul that carries negative and positive energy that create Matter

    So Atom that create Matter is ‘The Father’.

    So what truth do you have?

    You can delete this post but your site will be up AND MANY WILL KNOW HOW STUPID YOU ARE.

    And since you know this world is a virtual world that’s been coded, all your actions and this site been look by the father and the other aliens Angels on the other side.

    You are not getting away even after death, you can run, hide, not do anything and just wait until death comes.

    You will not be save until you do what is told.

    Read or turn away and died in your sins. And you do not want more than one punishment.


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