Part Five This series explores the various avenues which have to be gone down in order to get the doctrine of the Rapture of the Church right. I am deliberately avoiding the more conventional comparative approach. This may annoy some and intrigue others. I hope the former group is smaller than the latter!
The Day of the Lord, Cosmic Upheavals, and the Return of Christ
The concept of the Day of the Lord describes different yet related things. If I pick it up where I left off last time, with 2 Peter 3:10, the Day of the Lord is matched specifically with the dissolution of the present created order.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.
My understanding of this verse is that it takes a telescopic view of the whole intervention of the Divine presence to throw off the reign of sinful men and replace it with the rule of the Son of Man. This overthrow and reign (specifically with a rod of iron – Rev. 2:27; 12:5; 19:15), terminates when earth and heaven flee away (Rev. 20:11), and then the reign is continued under perfectly harmonious conditions where “there is no more curse” (Rev. 22:3). If the kingdom-age – the “regeneration” which Jesus speaks of in Matt. 19:28. Cf. Lk. 22:29-30 – intervenes between the end of “this age” and the New Heavens and Earth, then Peter’s designation of the Day of the Lord does not refer only to the Second Coming, and certainly not to an outpouring of wrath just prior to the Second Coming. In 2 Peter it more definitely refers to the Advent, rule, and final destruction of the planet at the very end of the millennial kingdom-age. What this means (if I may recap what I have pointed out before) is that while “the Day of the Lord” may speak of whole or part of the Tribulation in some contexts, it does not settle the dispute about where we put the rapture (I will address whether one should equate the “Day of the Lord” with the Tribulation below). This lack of finality is because the phrase “Day of the Lord” is somewhat flexible, and its association with the taking out of the church is placed within and partakes of that flexibility. Saying this does not mean that the doctrine of the rapture becomes nebulous. It is a real future event for Christ’s Church. But it does mean that the timing of the rapture is arrived at only through deductions from inductively concluded premises. Let me illustrate. Pretribulationists are prone to identify “the Blessed Hope” spoken of by Paul in Titus 2:13 as the taking out of the Church, and I think they are right to do so. But I don’t think they are right automatically. That is, they are not entitled on exegetical grounds to simply deduce that “the Blessed Hope” equals the rapture because the rapture is pretribulational. I do not think the exegetical case for any rapture position is decisive, and am trying to show why. Thus, exegesis of the several rapture texts will substantiate that there is a rapture, and that the Body of Christ is its subject, but only valid inferences will determine the timing of the rapture. Here’s a longer illustration. Going back to the Olivet Discourse we read:
For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. But immediately after the tribulation of those days the Sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. – Matthew 24:27-31
The cosmic phenomena which Jesus mentions occur “immediately after the tribulation of those days”, and are connected to the Second Coming in verses 27 and 30. The “gathering”, which some (not this writer) believe to be the rapture of 1 Thessalonians 4, happens around that time. No doubt the saints are moved to safety right before Armageddon; whether by rapture to glory (which is somewhat speculative), or in another way it is not necessary to decide right now. Furthermore, this “gathering” looks similar to the one in Matthew 13:47-50, or that in Revelation 14:14-20; both of which seem to happen at (or in close proximity to) the Second Advent, not at any distance prior to it. With this set of passages the locus is at the very end of the Seventieth Week. One might wish to insert a longer period of time between the upheavals and the Advent (say, six months up to three and a half years), but these verses are not encouraging in that regard. Another group of “Day of the Lord” scriptures support this interpretation of equating the very end of the Tribulation with the Second Advent as Day of the Lord: Joel 2:31 speaks of the signs mentioned in Matthew 24:29f., and puts them “before the great and terrible day of the LORD”. If the Day of the Lord is the Return of Jesus in this text then perhaps there is an interval of some extent between the two events? But Joel 3:14-16 indicates that this “before” is “in the Valley of Decision” where “the day of the LORD is near”. That passage reads,
Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. The sun and moon grow dark And the stars lose their brightness. The LORD roars from Zion And utters His voice from Jerusalem, And the heavens and the earth tremble. But the LORD is a refuge for His people And a stronghold to the sons of Israel. – Joel 3:14-16
This text places the cosmic disturbances at the time of the great battle (Armageddon). The “day of the LORD” is said to be “near”, which indicates that in this passage it backs up to the Second Coming proper. The celestial troubles happen at Armageddon and not before. What I’m saying is, if the “day of the LORD” in Joel 3:14f, is the same as the “great and terrible day of the LORD” in Joel 2:31, then the adverbs “before” and “near” refer to things immediately prior to the Lord’s Second Coming and not to a longer protracted period of wrath extending over months or years. The “wrath” here (though not everywhere) would be the Second Coming! This is how it is in Revelation 19:15, (which matches Revelation 14:14-20, see above), and Isaiah 63:1-6, which is a Second Advent passage. This would mean that the “immediately after the tribulation” reference in Matthew 24:29 comes promptly before or even at Armageddon. As well, if one takes the opening of the sixth seal in Revelation 6:12-17 as referring to the Second Coming (and its match in Isa. 2:10-21 points to that conclusion), the report may easily be taken as speaking of the events directly in front of and including the Advent, just as the passages above have indicated. The example shows that these texts argue for “the Day of the Lord” and the cosmic signs occurring together in and around the great battle in “the Valley of Decision” and its ending at the Second Coming. This rather elongated example shows that while there may be some fodder for post-tribulationism, there is little in this for the other positions to bite into as far as the rapture is concerned. Pretribbers are not threatened with the connections I’ve made, even if many of them like to interpret the gathering up of Matthew 24:31 in a different way than I have, and some will object to putting the sixth seal at the end of the Seventieth Week. Though Prewrathers have wrought valiantly on these passages to prise a wider time-period for the rapture right before the “wrath” of God, which is poured out for at least several months after the Lord’s return, I do not think they are successful at proving their point. As I have tried to demonstrate, the heavenly chaos happens at Armageddon, and that battle is soon settled by the Second Coming of the King of kings. Pretribulationism and Posttribulationism can handle this, but Posttribulationists, and to a lesser extent Prewrathers, confuse Israel and the Church, the latter having both groups going through the Tribulation concurrently. We’ve already seen this in Part Four but there is more to say.
The Dragon and the Woman: Who Does Satan (and the Beast) Have in Their Sights?
The timing of the rapture is impacted by its subjects. Does it concern the Church only, or the Church and Israel? We must keep trying to sort out the related data. Genesis 37:9-11 says,
Now he had still another dream, and related it to his brothers, and said, “Lo, I have had still another dream; and behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me. He related it to his father and to his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have had? Shall I and your mother and your brothers actually come to bow ourselves down before you to the ground? His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind.
Jacob’s interpretation of the dream shows that he thought the “Sun” was (in all likelihood) himself, the “moon” was Joseph’s mother Rachel, and the “stars” his brothers. In chapter 42:6-9 his brothers (the stars) did indeed bow down to him, and Joseph “remembered the dreams” (42:9). The Apostle John employs the symbolism within this dream in Revelation 12.
Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth. – Rev. 12:1-2
The twelfth star would be Joseph (cf. Rev. 7:5-8). Hence the “woman” is Israel who is pictured as bringing forth Messiah (Rev. 12:5. Cf. Jn. 4:22). It isn’t Mary since that would not make any sense of the emblems worn by the woman. Besides, Mary did not flee from the Devil into the wilderness for “1,260 days” (12:6), or “a time, times, and half a time” (12:14). The woman is not the Church, since patently the Church did not produce Christ. No, the woman is Israel. But when was Israel chased by Satan for “a time, times, and half a time”? Well, this time index is used in Daniel to depict the persecution of “the saints of the most High” (Dan. 7:21-25); a persecution halted by the appearance Christ and the kingdom (Dan. 7:22). The phrase is used again in Daniel 12 in the context of “the time of the end” (Dan. 12:9) when, “there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. (Dan. 12:1). So the events concerning the woman fleeing into the wilderness are at the end of the age. What does all this have to do with the rapture? Answer, if the woman is Israel, not the Church, then the Dragon’s ire is upon Israel and is not directed at the Church. In Revelation 12:12 Satan is defeated by Michael and thrown down to earth. Some say this has already occurred, but the context requires it to be future (see above). Now granting this future defeat and the mention of three and a half years (time, times and half a time), it is proper to place this angry reaction of the Devil to the mid point of the Tribulation. This means that the wrath of the dragon is meted out from the middle of the Seventieth Week, not from the start of it. But we have already seen (in Part Five) that “Antichrist steps on to the scene at the beginning of the seventieth week and makes a covenant with Israel, Daniel’s people.” Those who see the Church within the Seventieth Week, let alone any or all of the second half of the Week, are faced with the focus being shifted off the Church and definitely back on Israel; the same thing Paul is alluding to in Romans 11:24-25. The “fullness of the Gentiles” is the completion of the mainly Gentile Church. If the Church is “full”, and the attention of both God and the Antichrist is back on Israel (remember Dan. 9:24-27), logically it’s time for the Church to go – pretribulationally! More next time
15 thoughts on “Trying to Get the Rapture Right (Pt.6)”
Thanks very much Paul. I know you won’t want to be distracted with discussing the chronology in Revelation. But are you prepared to make a quick comment?
I noted your comment that you put the 6th seal at the end of the 70th week and see its opening as referring to the second coming.
I had the impression that the trumpet judgments proceed out of the 7th seal judgment (8:1-2) and the 7 bowl judgments proceed out of the 7th trumpet judgment (15:1 seems to suggest the bowls are at the very end), rather than that the trumpet and bowl judgments recap and restate the seal judgments. In other words the order of events in Revelation is presented in the 7 seals with the 7th seal including all the trumpets and the 7 bowls included in the 7th trumpet.
So I thought they were consecutive with the first seal taking place earlier in the tribulation and the last bowl at the end with the bowls in quick succession. But it seems you are suggesting that the judgements are concurrent ie. the 7th seal describes the end of the tribulation but so does the 7th trumpet and 7th bowl. Am I interpreting you correctly?
Actually Justin I see a more telescopic character to the Seals, Trumpets and Bowls. The Seals I think run the whole 7 years; the Trumpets run from about Year 2 or 3 to the end, and the Bowls from around Year 6 to the end. I know many men good and true make them one after another, but I cannot see this myself. I may be wrong of course.
Great, thanks very much for explaining that Paul.
You state that the opening of the sixth seal in Revelation 6:12-17 seems to refer to the Second Coming because of its match to Isa. 2:10-21 and thus to events directly in front of and including the Advent. It does seem then that those thinking the 6th seal is somewhere short of the end would have to deal with that match.
Dr. Henebury, if you ever had a moment, could you give your thoughts on Revelation 12:17? This has always been a problematic verse for me because it seems that the dragon, not being able to kill the woman, goes on a rampage against “the rest” of her offspring, and those offspring would seem to be believers… are we going with “tribulation saints” here as well?
In Rev. 12:1-13 the focus on the woman is concerned with her relation to the “man-child”. The pursuance of her into the wilderness is not given much detail, but verse 17 supplies the information that it is not just the “man-child” who was hated; all her seed is hated by the dragon. I take “the rest of her seed” to be those Jews who are alive during the 31/2 year Great Tribulation.
Does that help any?
Yes, thank you.
This question isn’t directly related to this post, but I really want to know what you think about the idea of the rapture being a “secret rapture”? It seems to me that 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 can’t possibly be “secret” in any way with the cry of command, voice of an archangel, and sound of the trumpet of God. What is your take on this? Is a “secret rapture” necessary for a pre-trib position? It seems to me that non pre-tribers love to mock pre-tribers in this area!
Also, what commentaries would you recommend for 1 and 2 Thessalonians?
I’m not sure where the idea of a “secret” rapture came from, although the populist Dispensational authors have been guilty of using it. I think it inadvisable verging on the foolish to talk of a secret rapture. As I have tried to show in this series, the Second Coming and the final dissolution of the present heavens and earth are described in “thief” terminology, but no one calls these events “secret.”
As for commentaries; let me write a post on this soon. 🙂
Could you also give your recommended commentaries on Daniel and Revelation?
Ha! Okay. On Daniel you should get Stephen Miller (NAC) and Gleason Archer (Expositors Bible, ed. Gaebelein). Leon Wood is also well worth getting.
On Revelation I recommend Robert Thomas (2 vols) and my pal Tony Garland (2 vols). For Dr. Garland’s work see: http://www.spiritandtruth.org/teaching/Book_of_Revelation/commentary/htm/index.html
Further to these I like J. B. Smith a lot.
I must agree regarding Tony’s commentary. I’ve only read a handul of commentaries on Revelation but I do have his commentary which I printed off and had spiral bound. I think it is superb – very well structured and comprehensive. There may of course be commentaries which make a better job of a specific passage but speaking of Tony’s commentary as a whole I frankly can’t see that it can be bettered. I’m looking forward to his Daniel commentary!
Greetings, brother Paul:
The biggest problems this prewrath student of the Bible sees (thus far) with your pretrib arguments include:
The de facto equation of all these terms: the (so-called) Tribulation, Daniel’s 70th (D70thW) week, the Day of the Lord, and its associated wrath of God. The Bible does not use these terms interchangeably. Certainly, words like ‘wrath’, ‘tribulation’, and even ‘Day of the Lord’ (DOL) have some non-technical, historic usages in scripture (like the term: assembly). But those usages don’t cloud their clear, technical sense when used in eschatological passages. These terms have a rich doctrinal heritage throughout both testaments. They are not free-range ideas, or Rorschach images.
Until these terms’ eschatological nuances (esp. the DOL) are identified the way scripture distinguishes them, the pretrib rapture case can at best rise to C3/C4 speculative status as an unsolvable problem. That may be what you’re driving at with this whole series i.e. nobody can solve it so lets all stop talking about it? [Many of us are enjoying your series because we’d rather not hear rapture doctrine torturously mined from typology, Noah’s ark, Lot, some OT feast pattern, or whether Christ would ‘beat His wife before the wedding’.. sigh.]
Day of the Lord:
Premil scholars disagree over when the eschatological Day of the Lord ENDS. Many puzzle over whether the DOL concludes at the start, OR at the finish of the millennium, 2 Pe 3. Let’s set the end-point aside for now. The 800 lb. gorilla in the room involves the STARTING point of the DOL. It’s _beginning_.
Major premise: Paul writes in 2 Thess 2:3-4 that the apostasy and revealing of the man of lawlessness must occur *before the DOL.
Minor premise: Paul links the ‘gathering together’ (rapture) with the onset of this DOL. 2 Thess 2:1-2. The rapture-rescue IS the beginning of the DOL storm.
Conclusion: The apostasy and revealing of the man of lawlessness occur before the rapture and DOL.
[*Paul’s readers are to rest assured they are NOT experiencing the DOL’s wrath precisely because The Apostasy + Antichrist haven’t happened yet. If the rapture were truly pretrib, Paul wouldn’t have pointed to signs that hadn’t arisen. Pretrib Paul would have said, ‘stop connecting your trouble-dots with ‘signs’.. there ain’t no steenking signs for the Church.. you haven’t been raptured yet, so get back to work.’]
A face-value reading of 2 Thess 1 and 2 (on the heels of 1 Thess 5) is likewise devastating to imminence or the ‘any-moment’ rapture of the mystery church. Especially when we consider other predicted events that precede the DOL’s arrival e.g. the coming of Elijah (Mal 3), major celestial disturbances and darkness (Joel 2), the Antichrist’s Great Tribulation against the saints (Mt 24:21 cpr vs 29). Again: the rapture happens at the very start of the DOL (same day! 2 Thess 1:6-10) rescuing the church from the judgments contained in the trumpets and bowls i.e. God’s wrath upon the wicked. 1 Thess 1:10; 5:9 promise rescue from God’s wrath, period.
Other points of disagreement (come on, you know you love it):
The notion that D70thW is somehow Jewish Only, and that means the Church must be outta the pool First. Your points from Dan 9 are accurate, re: God’s overall purpose for the 490 yrs i.e. Israel’s ultimate restoration. But the Gentiles are another prophetically distinguishable group 490 year countdown. They’re the humans who run the Earth in lieu of God’s theocratic nation, Israel. Highlighting God’s ultimate purpose for Israel (Dan 9:24-27) in no way demands that other prophetic groups (e.g. the Gentiles) or even another legit household of faith (i.e. the Church) be physically absent from the Earth for the entire 490 years. This non-sequitur is like saying, ‘the Church can’t exist on earth during the Gentile domination depicted in Dan 2’ (the metal statue dream). The Church has existed during much of the iron legs and feet time span, despite the fact that ‘the Church didn’t exist in Daniel’s day’ and ‘the Church wasn’t revealed’ (Col 1; Eph 3) until long after Pentecost. This approach tries to throw out evidence for the Church’s presence on Earth during D70thW.. a priori. Exegetical evidence to the contrary (Paul, John) must be thrown out before the jury’s seated. All because of some inflated hermeneutical firewall, separating Israel and the Church. Israel is distinct from the Church(!) but that’s a theological conclusion, not an exegetical tool.
Don’t Cross the Streams: ‘It Would Be Bad’:
There’s an unstated theological a priori that insists ‘God can’t deal with both Israel and the Church, on earth, during D70thW’. Aside from the problem of handicapping an omnipotent God, and numerous verses in Revelation that assure us He does deal with Israel and the Church in parallel (e.g. Rev 6:9-11; 7:1ff …esp vs.14).. there’s the matter of precedent. Namely: Christ’s 1st Coming. Hello, book of Acts. God accomplished His purposes with Israel (both wayward and remnant), right alongside and parallel with His nascent mystery body Church. He continued to ‘deal’ with Israel up through the destruction of Herod’s Temple (70 A.D.), though their dispersion, and His use of the Church to make Israel jealous etc. God didn’t need to remove Israel from the Earth in order to ‘deal’ with the Church, side by side. Conversely it is a non-sequitur to insist He remove the Church before D70thW, as though that would somehow be ‘crossing the streams’, or lead us into Replacement Temptation. Genetic Israel and its subset (remnant or elect Israel) are dealt with severely after the Abomination of Desolation. Remnant Israel is sealed as seed-stock, and receive divine protection. At least 2/3rds of genetic, apostate Israel is destroyed in D70thW Zech 12-14; what’s left enters physically into the Kingdom, along with “sheep” nations Mt 25. The Church is present for more than half of D70thW, as is apostate Israel which lives under a false peace deal from Antichrist, while offering the blood of bulls & goats as they continue to reject their Messiah.
The Trouble With Tribulation:
Scripture doesn’t shoehorn an elastic ‘Tribulation’ theme into 1 and 2 Thess. The revealing of the man of lawlessness is mentioned as a signpost, but his Great Tribulation is not an overt motif in these 2 letters. The overt motif is the DOL program. Christians are promised exemption from the Day of the Lord’s wrath (God’s wrath against the wicked): NOT Satan’s Great Tribulation wrath against the Church. 1 Thess 1:10; 5:9 have nothing to do with the ‘Great Tribulation’ per se; that must be smuggled into the text. Christians are no more promised escape from the wrath of Satan’s beast-and-false-prophet duo, than they were from the wrath of Nero. Suggesting that the wrath of Satan (Rev 12) is the same in origin, source, purpose and target as the wrath of God (the DOL; 1 Thess 5; 2 Thess 2) is like saying Truman’s wrath was the same as Stalin’s. The raptured saints of Rev 7:9,14 join their (previously disembodied) predecessors in heaven i.e. those mentioned in Rev 6:9-11. These saints all came out of the The Tribulation The Great (literal). In Rev 6:9f, they cry out for God to avenge their martyred deaths. God didn’t kill His faithful martyrs, and they’re not calling for vengeance against Him! God tells them to be patient because His wrath hadn’t commenced yet(!). They were all killed by Antichrist’s wrath, which occurs prior to ..and brings on God’s DOL wrath. Pretrib has these two campaigns hopelessly conflated and commingled. It’s the wrath of Antichrist that is “cut short” by the rapture and DOL, which are back-to-back events. The wrath of Antichrist is his Great Tribulation i.e. holocaust against the Church and Israel. Were his Great Tribulation not shortened, no flesh would survive the holocaust. Daniel’s 70th week is not shortened; the Great Tribulation campaign is shortened (amputated, short-circuited from its genocidal goal.) The later days of D70thW contain God’s DOL wrath (i.e. the Trumpet and Bowl judgments). A good, exegetical book: Antichrist Before the Day of the Lord, by A. Kurschner.
First Six Seals Are Preparatory Conditions: NOT the Wrath of God
I disagree with the notion that the 7 Seals are “judgments” in the same sense that the 7 Trumpets & 7 Bowls are “judgments”. Modern prewrath scholarship has retired this early dispensational error (cf. books by Charles Cooper, Alan Hultberg, Robert Van de Camp, Alan Kurshner, Marv Rosenthal, H.L. Nigro etc). The seals represent conditions that must be met before the content of the scroll (God’s purifying wrath) is poured out upon wicked “Earth-dwellers”. I’ve found no archeological evidence for any 1st century “biblos” (books, scrolls) ever being sealed with internal, wax-like seals that must be broken, every few feet, _as the book is unrolled_. You know: like wads of chewing gum stuck inside the layers of a paper towel roll. There is abundant archeological evidence for the seals to be affixed externally, along the outer edge of the scroll. This is so the scroll can’t be opened and read until all the wax seals are broken. Notice that John “saw” the book sealed up with seven seals Rev 5:1 How could John “see” all seven seals, if 6 of them were embedded deep inside the layers of the scroll? The point is: the 7 seals, with their corresponding settings on earth, are not the DOL or God’s wrath. The seals prevent the opening of the scroll; they are preparatory. The 7th (last) seal opens the scroll, initiates the wrath of God starting with the Trumpets, and culminating in the Bowls (Rev 11:18; 15:1). Those who confuse the book’s Seals with the wrath of God run into insurmountable exegetical problems. The seals are not the DOL, or the Great Tribulation, or God’s wrath, any more than the 7 lampstands are Rev 1:20. The earthly conditions that arise during the breaking of the seals include things like famine, war, sickness, death, and the rise of Antichrist. Some identify these preliminary conditions with the horrific wrath of God, but scripture identifies the back-to-back rapture and onset of God’s wrath as occurring AFTER the opening of the 6th Seal (cf Rev 6:17).
If we throw everything that looks and smells like ‘wrath’ together, we have Black Pot Theology. We might as well say all the plagues, sores, and suffering Job experienced were the Wrath of God. No wonder he was depressed, eh? Yes: God is sovereign. That no more makes Him the author of all wrath, than it makes him the author of sin and evil ‘just because it happens on His watch’. The Bible does not confuse the wrath of Satan’s Antichrist, with the wrath of God. I stand by the prewrath view of the rapture, with its corresponding doctrine: expectancy i.e. the 2nd coming could happen in any generation of the Church, from man’s point of view.
Paul: thank you for allowing the post. In my best J. Vernon McGee voice, “Now may the Lord rich-ly bless you, mah buh-loved.”
On a lighter note, let’s all remember: the DOL is NOT to be confused with the eschatological LOL.
All typos intentional
“ ‘Imminence’? You must have gotten that out of the Bible ….because you certainly didn’t find it in the Bible.”
Q. Are the Tribulation with the Second Advent equated with the “Day of the Lord” in scripture?
Q. Does Joel 3:14-16 demonstrate the above to be the case?
[Hello Paul: By Second Advent I suspect you mean Christ’s physical, final return to the Earth at Armageddon i.e. NOT the rapture. By ‘Tribulation’ I think you mean the end of Daniel’s 70th week. Please correct me if I’ve misunderstood you. In other words, you appear to suggest that the onset of the Day of the Lord is at the very end of Daniel’s 70th week. My comments below proceed from this understanding of your argument. I will try to define my terms so that we can discuss these things as brothers in Christ and not talk past each other. -GA]
A response to Q #2 above, which will involve Q #1 to a degree.
Adverbs, Adverbs in the Valley of Context:
“I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth,
blood, fire and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned
into darkness and the moon into blood *BEFORE* the great and
awesome day of the Lord comes.”
Joel 2:30,31 NASB emph added
“Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet *BEFORE* the
coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.”
Malachi 4:5 NASB emph added
The adverbial construction in Joel 2:31 appears contextually temporal, not locative or dealing with proximity. Celestial disturbances are promised ‘before’ the DOL. Elijah’s arrival is promised ‘before’ (same Hebrew adverb) the DOL, Malachi 4:5. These constructions make the best face-value sense seen as a sequence, over time. They depict a temporal force not because the adverb demands it (i.e. word fallacy), but because of their contexts. To illustrate: John’s baptism ministry was sequenced to precede Christ’s 1st coming, so will Elijah’s precede His 2nd coming. The celestial disturbanceS are sequenced to precede the singular, celestial sign of Christ’s glorious coming (parousia) Matt 24:29-31.
“Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision!
For the day of the LORD is *NEAR* in the valley of decision.
The sun and moon grow dark and the stars lose their brightness.”
Joel 3:14,15 NASB emph added
A different Hebrew adverb (translated ‘near’) is used in Joel 3:14f. That alone does not determine its meaning. The sense can be temporal (when), or spatial (where). Joel 3:14 states the DOL is ‘near’ or _in proximity to_ the “valley of decision”. Apparently a huge multitude will draw the Lord’s fire because they have gathered menacingly i.e. after beating their plows into weapons, Joel 3:10. Similarly, U.S. forces drew near to Fallujah, but not because the Iraq war hadn’t begun. The battle at Fallujah didn’t happen until enemy provocation called for it (or so the story goes).
Many scholars identify this ‘valley of decision’ as the Kidron near Jerusalem, or perhaps Hinnom, or even a future valley created by the Lord’s physical splitting of the Mt. of Olives (Zech 14). Some throw all these together into a Black Pot and call it the Battle of Armageddon.
So does Joel 3:14 fire the starter’s pistol, signaling the launch of the DOL? The text does say that day draws ‘near’, accompanied by celestial disturbances. But like any huge storm (e.g. Katrina), I’m sure many “..in that Day” will see surges of punishing wrath & physical disturbances. But like Texans encountering Katrina, not necessarily all at the same moment or location. The OT prophets describe the 2nd coming program as a series of wars or military campaigns, culminating at Megiddo, to the north of Jerusalem. There’s the Gog/Magog battle, future Edom (Isaiah 63), the Euphrates region (Rev 16), the destruction of religious and commercial Babylon (Rev 17 and 18), to name a few military campaigns. The middle east appears to be the stage for a large military theater, like Europe in WW2. Joel 3 appears to simply depict the arrival of God’s wrath in tactical response to the warlike rally in the Valley of Decision (aka Valley of Jehoshaphat). There’s nothing to require the start of the DOL at this one pitched battle. It appears that Christ and His angels have been busy at the wine-press, pouring out Whack-a-Mole wrath elsewhere.
Other Problems With DOL = End of D70thW:
Paul makes clear that the DOL’s onset takes the unbelieving world by surprise, like a thief in the night (1 Thess 5:2). This echoes the Lord’s warnings in the Olivet discourse. But the “multitudes, multitudes” gathered in Joel 3 are clearly on alert, with time to rally their forces and produce an array of weapons. Who they are about to attack isn’t stated, but they don’t appear to be community organizers, there to announce “peace and safety.” So the DOL’s wrath comes near to them almost as though they’re expecting it. “Bring it!” Like they’re there to attack the Lord’s armies (cpr Rev 16; Rev 19). Point: the Valley of Decision combatants don’t appear to be blind-sided by the DOL, any more than ‘the Beast and all the kings of the earth’ who assemble to make war against Christ Rev 19:19.
Returning to the apostle’s corrective letter, 2 Thess. If the DOL starts with Armageddon, it makes even less sense that the Thessalonians would have been duped into thinking they were IN IT. Fooled that they were experiencing Armageddon, Trumpet and Bowl Judgments, plus Christ’s “every eye shall see Him” return, splitting the Mt. of Olives (Zech 14)? This is difficult.
Some pretrib advocates seek a solution by compressing the DOL, squeezing it into Christ’s physical return to Earth at the end of Daniel’s 70th (D70thW) week. Most pretrib scholars go the other way: i.e. they start the DOL with the rapture, and stretch it forward to include the whole millennium and the so-called ‘eternal state’. Speculation on my part, but the pretrib argument I’m reading in the ‘Trying to Get the Rapture Right’ series seems to want more time.. more parking space before the Day of the Lord, to squeeze in the apostasy/revealing of Antichrist/removal of the Restrainer complex, Elijah etc.? All that needs to be packed within D70thW, because the classic, pretrib rapture must happen before D70thW, and ‘imminently’ i.e. like a dog-whistle. Imminence means without any signs, prerequisite fulfilled prophecy, or detectable foreshadowing.
Yes: the DOL [aka the Day of Christ (DOC) and the Day of God (DOG)] all contain judgment and wrath language AND glorious depictions of bounty, longevity, peace, milk and honey. Same program; same campaign. The leading edge of the DOL is like the onset of WW2. As God’s wrath-storm, it first rescues the Church, then takes time to destroy the wicked and purify a remnant from Israel and the Gentiles. This purifying action leads to the restored Kingdom that Peter asks about in Acts 1:6f. The trailing edge of the DOL is the Marshall plan, to torture the analogy. Wrath and restoration are both components of the DOL’s purpose, happening in sequence, as cause and effect. Like the old Scofield error that drew a hard distinction between the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God, many scholars today create confusion over the seeming contradictions between wrath and restoration descriptions “in that Day”. They make charts assigning all the ‘happy, happy’ references to the Church. All the ‘ruh-roh’ wrath and judgment gets allocated to those Left Behind. The gospel (1 Cor 15:1-4) has night-and-day, opposite effects, but it is one message. The DOL is a two-sided coin: sequencing rescue, wrath, and restoration. Oh wait. That’s three sides. At least they all start ‘R’.
How and When the Day of the Lord Ends:
[Where one places the *end* of the Day of the Lord (DOL) is not crucial to this discussion of the rapture’s timing. It doesn’t really help one rapture view more than another. See comments below for a discussion of how & when the DOL ends.]
Dragging Rev 21 and 22 back into 2 Peter 3 to define the end-point of the DOL gets tricky. Scholars are divided over the legitimacy of that interpretation. Pretrib scholar Fruchtenbaum identifies Revelation’s Trumpet and Bowl judgments with the roar, intense heat and burning described in 2 Pe 3:10f. Isaiah 24:19 and 34:4 describe unprecedented cosmic catastrophe. The Earth is said to “reel like a top”, and Earth’s “sky is rolled up”. Contextually these events precede the 2nd coming and subsequent Kingdom establishment, in cause-and-effect fashion. The trumpet and (esp) the bowl judgments are horrific, global, and can account (at face value) for the vivid language used in 2 Peter 3. Why push the DOL’s end out further? Some may see the need to dilute the purpose of the DOL, making it into a giant, vague, elastic timeline.
Beyond 2 Peter 3:10: Speculative Hermeneutics:
Could the DOL campaign resurface at the end of the millennium e.g. in a Gog-Magog/release of Satan ‘redux’ sense? I can’t be dogmatic, but this minimalist sees the cosmic upheaval described in both the OT and book of Revelation as having sufficient magnitude to explain 2 Pe 3:10f. I’m not convinced that any scripture reveals the same strobe-light-in-the-dark, tantalizing facts penned by John near the end of his life in Rev 21 and 22. All previous written prophecies find clear, comprehensive fulfillment in the 1st thousand years of the Kingdom, aka the millennium.
Note: in my previous post I butchered the last name of seminal prewrath author, Robert Van Kampen. Mr. Van Kampen is considered by many to be the godfather of the modern prewrath understanding of the rapture. Some might say he’s the prewrath counterpart to pretrib’s godfather: John Walvoord. Both of these great men have gone on to be with the Lord; both of their works on the subject are highly recommended for those interested in this topic.
Dr. Henebury: thank you for allowing this post, and some dissenting dialogue. I respect you and your ministry.
I think I mean what I say, not what you think I seem to mean. This is the last time I shall allow a long comment by you. I am not at all impressed by these arguments. I have addressed some of their weaknesses (e.g. in Part 5), and shall again. I ask for less partisan assertion and more actual interaction with the substance of my articles.
Any possible chance you might do this series on DVD? BTW, just finished your series on Christ as the Center of Scripture, and it was well worth my time! God bless.