Total and sudden. Remember those two key words.
For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. (1 Thessalonians 5:3)
For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. (Malachi 4:1)
For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in His day. (Luke 17:24)
In contrast to these verses, the tribulation brings gradual (not sudden) destruction and partial (not total) destruction.
In light of these verses, perhaps we pre-tribulationists should re-examine our view of the day of the Lord. Perhaps the day of the Lord does not include the tribulation. Older pre-tribulationists believed the day of the Lord came after the tribulation. Maybe they were right.
We have thought the day of the Lord included the tribulation because several Old Testament day-of-the-Lord passages refer to the events in Revelation 6:1217, which we have assumed to be tribulation events. However, comparing Revelation 6:1213 with Matthew 24:29 shows that these are after-the-tribulation events. This clear cross reference shows that the chronology of the seals, trumpets, and vials in Revelation is not linear, but repeating or overlapping.
We also have thought the day of the Lord included the tribulation because we have assumed that the "wrath" of 1 Thessalonians 5:8 refers to the wrath of the tribulation. But as we have seen from the verses above, verse three of that chapter declares that this wrath brings sudden and total destruction, which better points to after the tribulation.
We also have thought the day of the Lord included the tribulation because 2 Thessalonians 2 talks about the man of sin who appears during the tribulation. However, a close reading of the passage shows that the revealing of the man of sin (at the abomination of desolation) must occur before the day of the Lord, because it is he who draws a following after him and they follow him into the destruction of the day of the Lord. The destruction at the end of chapter two, that's the day of the Lord. Notice the timing words: "not come until" ... "first" ... "and then" ...
Upon closer examination, every one of these passages points to after the tribulation.
If not the day of the Lord, then what is the tribulation? Revelation 3:10 says it is a time of testing. In contrast, the day of the Lord is the resulting judgment based upon that testing.
In the hour of tribulation, man makes his choice regarding God. In the day of the Lord, God makes His decision regarding man.
In the hour of tribulation, antichrist is exalted. In the day of the Lord, the Lord alone shall be exalted.
In the hour of tribulation, some survive. In the day of the Lord, who shall be able to stand?
In the hour of tribulation, wrath and mercy are mixed. In the day of the Lord, wrath is poured out without mixture.
In the hour of tribulation, destruction comes gradually. In the day of the Lord, sudden destruction comes upon them, and they shall not escape.
If we really believe that the tribulation is a time of testing, according to Revelation 3:10, then it is not yet a time when God's righteousness is fully revealed. We, like the praying souls under the altar, long for that final day.
The tribulation brings evil, but the day of the Lord brings righteousness. From comparing 2 Peter 3:10 with Revelation 21:1, we see that the day of the Lord includes the millennium.
Those who pass the test of the tribulation enter the millennium, those who fail the test don't.
If the pre-trib view is the right point of view, and if we are ever to convince the other side of the truth, then we must get rid of this glaring error regarding the day of the Lord. The tribulation is not the day of the Lord.
As it stands now, the other side can poke holes in our position all day long. We cannot convince them with error. We can only convince them with truth.
As it stands now, those of the post-trib view can accuse us of having a weak view of the day of the Lord. Weak because we lump the tribulation in with the day of the Lord, and the tribulation brings only gradual destruction (not sudden), and weak because it is mixed judgment (not judgment without mixture).
But if we stand on the truth, we can turn the tables. Accepting the day of the Lord for what it is, in its full strength, undiluted, then we can ask the post-tribs, "Why do you weaken it?"
"How?" they ask, "we had the true view of the day of the Lord all alonghow do we possibly weaken it?"
"By letting some escape," we answer. "You leave some standing at the end of the tribulation who enter the millennium. So not only do you weaken the judgment (by letting some escape) but you also weaken the righteousness that follows the judgment (by allowing unsaved people into the millenium)."
If the day of the Lord brings total destruction, then it also brings total righteousness.
This is the strongest view of the day of the Lord.
The pre-wrath variation on the day of the Lord also falls short of sudden destruction. This view proposes an overlapping time of a year or more for the day of antichrist and the day of Christ. Sure, it is not a 7-year overlap, but it is still an overlap. According to this view, the total destruction does not come on the same day that the day of the Lord comes (contrary to the teaching of Luke 17, by the way).
One pre-wrath view claims that antichrist is "rendered useless" midway in his career. But how? Is his power to blaspheme restricted? Revelation 16:911 suggests no. Is his power to behead believers rendered useless? Revelation 20:4 shouts no.
The two passages above merely confirm the two powers already granted in Revelation 13:57. Power for how long? "And power was given unto him to continue forty and two months." What does it mean in Greek? Power was given unto him to continue forty-two months. What will it mean in actuality? Power to continue forty-two months. So antichrist continues at full power, not half power, until the very day he is cast into the lake of fire.
Isaiah 11:4, the parallel passage to 2 Thessalonians 2:8, confirms it, saying, "And He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked." That day is the day of the Lord.
No fuzzy overlap for me. It's a clean-cut breakthe day of antichrist ends when the day of Christ begins. It happens on the same day. This is the strongest view of the day of the Lord.
So if you've chosen the day of the Lord as a starting point in order to determine the timing of the rapture, then you've chosen well. Now just follow it through. Make sure you have the strongest view of the day of the Lord at the center, and then work outward.