Trying to Get the Rapture Right (Pt.7)

Part Six

So far I have tried to establish these important factors in determining the timing of the rapture of the Church.  I fully realize that each of these points could be studied in more depth, but for my purposes I think the coverage is satisfactory.  The factors are these:

1. The time of the rapture is exegetically indeterminable

2. Hence, if it is to be known it must be deduced

3. As such the timing of this event can only be arrived at by way of inference to the best explanation (i.e. the best rapture scenarios will be C3)

4. The 70th Week of Daniel is seven years long and commences with “the prince who is to come” making a covenant with Israel.  This period is divided in half by the breaking of the covenant.  The 70th Week has Israel in mind, not the Church.

5. The white horse rider who appears at the beginning of what I take to be the seven year period is the Antichrist.  In light of the Day of the Lord in 2 Thessalonians 2 not coming until “the apostasy” and the revealing of the man of lawlessness/sin (2:3), the rapture seems to take place at the start of the seventieth week (although 2 Thess. 2:4 could be interpreted in a mid-trib fashion).

6. The concept of the Day of the Lord and its attendant images (e.g. “birth pangs”) are not technical terms which can be restricted to one event.  However, the Battle of Armageddon is strongly connected with it.

7. In the Book of Revelation the Day of the Lord is associated with the Second Advent of Christ in wrath.

The Future Tribulation

I have asserted that the future Tribulation is seven years long mainly on the strength of equating it with the Seventieth Week.  I have also assumed that the first seal in Revelation 6 signals the start of the Seventieth Week.  Although it is evident that what is often called the “Great Tribulation” begins when the Antichrist “takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God,” (2 Thess. 2:4) – that is, the last three and a half years – yet the advent of the “Four Horsemen” of Revelation 6 shows that the whole Seventieth Week may be rightly called “the Tribulation” (cf. Matt.24:8).  It is a time distinct from now (after “the times of the Gentiles” – Rom. 11:25), when God turns again to deal with Israel.

There is scarcely any reason for a seven year final determination on Israel if only three and a half of those years are adverse. Certainly the troubles depicted in Revelation 6:3-8; troubles reminiscent of those visited upon Israel by the Lord in Jeremiah 14 (when God instructs the prophet not to pray for them – Jer. 14:11), constitute tribulation.

The Day of the Lord and the Tribulation 

2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 is a crucial text for the Prewrath position, and it surely should be admitted that one cannot cavalierly state that the “protos” in  “for that Day will not come unless there be a falling away first …” inevitably signals a pretrib rapture.  It does not.  I have been at pains in this series to show that the best educated guess at the timing of the rapture will be a deduction from various premises.  Hence, although I am a pretribulationist, my reasons for being one come about through the way I arrange the different pieces of biblical data into a coherent picture.

The big question for the prewrath advocate is whether the “Day of the Lord” in 2 Thessalonians and Revelation begins only after the coming of Christ at the “prewrath rapture.”  This seems to require a static meaning for the Day of the Lord.  But we have already shown that in many cases this is precisely what the Bible does not teach.  The idea of the Day of the Lord, while cohesive, is not static.  Dumbrell rightly says,

the concept of the Day of the Lord, as considered by the prophets, is not singular in meaning; the connotation can be determined only by examining each context in which the phrase appears. – William J. Dumbrell, The Search for Order: Biblical Eschatology in Focus, 109.

Much the same holds true for the New Testament writers.  So the thing to be determined is whether the usage of the phrase within an End Times context can be given this restricted nuance.

The Day of the Lord as the Day of His Anger: The Wrath of God

In the essay on “The Day of the Lord” already referred to, Paul House uses the Book of Lamentations to notice that, at least there, the concepts of Divine wrath and the Day of the Lord are combined.  The second chapter of Lamentations begins with “the day of His [God’s] anger” (Lam. 2:1).  What follows reveals the object of God’s wrath and its extent.  Lamentations 2:22 calls this time of calamity which Jeremiah is witnessing, “the day of the Lord’s anger”.  House believes Lamentations shows the Day of the Lord to be “nothing less than a report on the Day of the Lord from those who have experienced it in space and time.” – Central Themes in Biblical Theology, 203.

In pointing to the overthrow of Jerusalem as an example of the Day of the Lord, House is not denying that another greater Day will come at the end of the age.  What he is saying is that the Day of the Lord is wrath in many cases.  Although the phrase “Day of the Lord” does not occur in Lamentations as it does, say, in Joel or Amos or Isaiah, House argues that the concept seems to pervade Lamentations.  If he is right then we should notice that saints are present in this instance of the Day of the Lord.

We have already seen that Christ’s Second Coming is in wrath (Rev. 19:16).  Very well, the Day of the Lord in the end of the age can and does mean Divine wrath.  But does it also mean the whole Seventieth Week, or the last half of it, or can it be confined within the limits of the bowls of wrath in Revelation 16?  Let me say first of all that as we have already made a solid case (or so I think) for connecting Divine wrath with the Return of Jesus in Revelation 19 (cf. 2 Thess. 1), I have to say that I find it very hard to conceive of the bowls of wrath as the sole meaning of “wrath” in the Book, or in other NT eschatological passages.

The truth is, the Day of the Lord is a name for particular times when God acts in judgment (sometimes in view of a saving purpose).  The judgment may come directly from God, as with the coming of Christ (cf. Isa. 63; Lk. 21:22; 2 Thess. 1:8); or it may come via a secondary agent, as in the first occurrence of the term in Amos 5, where the last verse links it with being taken into captivity.  The Day of the Lord may refer to the events surrounding the final battle and the return of Christ to earth, as it surely does in Zechariah 14:1-4.  It cannot be confined the way prewrath advocates wish it to be.

The Church in the Tribulation?

The Antichrist pursues “the saints of the most High” who are not the Church (Dan. 7:25; cf. Rev. 12:6-7). The “elect” of Matthew 24:22 are Israel, not the Church.  The Church is not settled in Judea (24:16), does not ordinarily have “housetops” (24:17), and does not keep the Sabbath (24:20).  Furthermore, if “the fullness of the Gentiles” in Romans 11:25 does not refer to the completion of the Church, what does it refer to?  Post-tribbers would claim that the onus of God’s saving ecclesial operations turns briefly to Jews, but that is insufficient to explain passages like Jeremiah 30:6; Daniel 12:1 and others we have mentioned.

If someone takes the mark they are doomed (Rev. 14:11; 19:20).  What would prevent a Christian under great duress from taking the mark?  Worldly Christians today have a hard time discerning a heretic from a true teacher.  Do we all suddenly develop mature spiritual discernment for the Tribulation?  Also, no distinction is made between born-again saints and unsaved sinners in Revelation 16:2 (upon whom the first bowl of wrath is poured out).  I just don’t see it.

 

More to come

Advertisements

12 comments

      1. Edit:

        Comment removed.
        GA. That’s enough of these humorless self-important jibes. I think I’ve put up with them enough. Any further comments from you will not be permitted here.

  1. I would like your thoughts on the following two items. 2 Thessalonians 2:3 refers to a great “apostasy” which must occur before the man of sin is revealed. Would you consider the unprecedented and increasing level of apostasy in Christendom to be the falling away to which Paul refers to in this passage? Also, Daniel 12:4 says that at the time of the end, “knowledge shall increase.” Today in the internet age, we now have access to Biblical and theological resources undreamed of in the past. Could this verse in Daniel be speaking of our time, in your opinion?

  2. I would like to get your opinion concerning the timing of the end of the tribulation period. In Matthew 24:29 and Mark 13:24 Jesus says that after the tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give it’s light and the stars will be falling from heaven. He then goes on to tell the parable of the fig tree. Do you think that this is the same incident as described in Revelation 6:12 where it says that “…..the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood: and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind.”

    If these are the same incident, then it seems that this is the end of the tribulation and the beginning of the wrath of the Lamb as described in Revelation 6:16, 17. A friend of mine believes that the church is described in Revelation 7:9 and that this would put the church in heaven before the wrath of God begins, but after the tribulation.

    I would be interested in what you think concerning this.

    1. Mike,

      Firstly, the parable of the fig tree is simply an indicator of the clarity of the signs Jesus has been talking about in the Olivet Discourse. (People have read all sorts of nonsense into the fig tree, but there is no reason to identify it as Israel). Hence, although there is no direct allusion in Rev. 6:12 I do believe (and have stated earlier) that the 6th seal is the Second Coming.

      As to your friend’s position; he is referring to the PreWrath rapture view which I have critiqued here and there in these posts. The vast assembly in Rev. 7:9 COULD be the Church, but it more likely refers to Tribulation saints. Now, of course, it might be that they are one and the same, but it will not do to conclude such a thing from the Book of Revelation. It begs the question. Like so much else with the determination of the rapture, other supporting arguments must be brought forth and objections must be answered.

      I recommend slowly reading the articles for more on this. My method in these articles is not to go gung-ho for one view while only being negative about all the others. I have tried to be more tentative to show what kinds of considerations ought to be included in our understandings of this doctrine.

  3. Edited comment: you can delete the first one please.
    So far you concede that “The time of the rapture is exegetically indeterminable” and would like to see it achieve at least a C3 before you are done. You have also conceded to the post trib position all the passages that explicitly state a gathering at the second coming of Christ. Of course, they connect all the passages used to state that there is a rapture to the same event. Therefore, from their view, they have a C1 doctrine while the pretrib view is not really able to post a C status at all yet. Dr. Hudson’s “A Second Look At The Second Coming” makes the connection dead certain in my opinion. Now I believe there is still problems with their stated position because of the egregious error of destroying the 70 weeks of Daniel by chopping its head off and flinging it far far away into the future. As you have observed, it puts the mature church into the 70th week. Although they would argue cogently the point that there was a transition from Israel to the church in the beginning of Acts which would give precedence to one at the end of the church on earth. Despite your argument for a future 70th in order to fulfill the six goals, those arguing for a fulfilled 70th have the better exegesis in my opinion as I have shown in the long submission of that position I shared before. But if we were to say for arguments sake that both arguments were as good as the other, the context of Dan 9 demands a climax in the 70th week instead of the disappointing anticlimax offered by the futurist position. The 70 weeks are supposed to remedy the covenant issues between God and Israel, not completely unravel and fail. Furthermore, there is the absolutely flagrant violation of a historico-grammatical and literal interpretation of a numeric sequence. Without a future 70th week, I don’t think there is any possibility to sustain a pretrib position. And to be honest, the other things mustered to float the doctrine do not seem to have the substance to warrant any increase in C status even though you have been honest in your arguments so as to not add questionable supports. I think if the covenant context of Dan 9 is honored, 70 weeks is really 70 weeks and the prophecy glorifies God in its precision fulfillment. As far as the church being in the first 3.5 years of the 70, I would also appeal to a transition period in the beginning of Acts, as well as, a couple other salient facts. First, Israel is still the main focus in the beginning of Acts, Second, Gentiles added to the church are accidental until Paul is commissioned specifically to minister to them, Third, the church as a joint venture between Jew, Gentile, and Christ is not really revealed until Paul begins to minister to them, and his ministry needs vindication in Acts 15 at the council, and finally, the church that exists in those 3,5 years is virtually ALL Israelite remnant believers and there is no focus therefore whatsoever on the church. The distinction is maintained without any effort or intent to lump everything together in the one people of God! Israel fades out as the church becomes the focus after the 70th!

    1. Sorry Ross, I missed this.

      Well, I hear you but I can’t agree since I think Hudson’s treatment of Dan. 9:24-27 is unconvincing. It would take me more time than I presently have to give a full explanation of this, and I think the effort might not convince you anyway. As for having the 70th Week terminate with the outreach to Israel in early Acts (or with Stephen), I confess that I cannot see how such rich national promises were fulfilled in the rejection of Messiah by the nation.

      I may return to Daniel 9 in a future article. Thanks for helping me to think through it.

      P

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s