Trying to Get the Rapture Right (10)

Part Nine

This installment may be thought of as a digression, but I think it belongs to the overall argument.

Imagine a world where the removal of the saints from Planet Earth happened but no one had the foggiest idea of when that might be.  If the NT alluded to such a thing there would still be some hope that we just may be the ones to get called up.  The doctrine of the rapture would still be a “sure thing”, it just wouldn’t be very concrete in our minds. Well, as a matter of fact, as a starting place for considering the rapture this isn’t that bad; there are far worse ones.  A “worse” one would be the dogmatic insistence that the catching away of the Church as pretribulational is a dead-cert.  Another would be the blithe notion that the rapture occurs when Jesus returns to earth and any theories to the contrary are speculative fancies.

What we want when faced with studying the rapture is a method which casts its procedural net over all the relevant scriptures and tries to incorporate its results within the boundaries of more readily identifiable doctrines.  Taking fundamental and necessary (C1 & C2) biblical truths as a baseline, the various snippets of prophetic teaching which intersect what can be known about the rapture must be weighed and set within the most comfortable theological context: a context from which many objections can be answered, and the number of those that can’t are at least reduced.  This comes down to ones best choice among competing explanations (a C3).

In these posts I have put quite a bit of weight on Daniel’s Seventy Weeks prophecy in Daniel 9.  A full exegesis of that passage (9:24-27) is beyond the scope of this series, and what persuades me may not persuade others.  One reason for this is the amount of work I have put into studying the biblical covenants and how they connect with the Return of Christ and His kingdom.  This is an important theme of Daniel 2, 7, 9 and 12, and it connects with many other elements in the Prophets.  (Chapters 2, 7 and 12 all concern events just before or at the final culminative kingdom of Christ (on earth!), so it is more than likely that chapter 9 does too).

Before bringing this series to an end with two summary posts I ask the reader’s forbearance once more as I again make an argument from this future time period. I have also tried to show that there exists a correspondence between the 70th week, especially from its halfway (3 1/2 year) point, and what is known as the Great Tribulation.  An obvious point of contact is the “time, times and half a time” formula found in both Daniel and Revelation.  In Matthew 24:8 our Lord speaks about “the beginning of sorrows”; an expression even prewrathers like Marvin Rosenthal believe refers to the first part of the Seventieth Week, even if he does not associate it with the “Tribulation” as such (nor the “wrath of God” for that matter), which he thinks comes after.  So it is pretty much agreed upon by all except those who try to squeeze it into the first century that the 70th week lies ahead of us.  However, a major difference surfaces between the pretrib position and mid, post and prewrath views concerning what I would see as an incongruity with God dealing with Israel and the Church in the 70th week.  As I have said before, in my reading of Scripture this period is determined on Israel (with whom God is not explicitly dealing right now), not the Church.  Moreover, it centers on Jerusalem and the temple.

The “Temple” and “Abomination” in the Seventieth Week

Daniel 9:26 stipulates that Messiah will be “cut off” after 69 of the 70 weeks.  The next verse says that “He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering”.  Some hold that this refers to the finality of the cross-work of Christ, which effectively made the sacrificial system redundant.  But this “positive spin” on the text has some problems.  For one thing the context (v.26) refers to “the people of the prince who shall come” destroying the city (Jerusalem), and the sanctuary (the Temple), which is hard to think of positively.  These two connected entities – Jerusalem and the temple – are featured heavily in the chapter (9:12, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20, 24, 25, 26, 27).  In the book Kingdom through Covenant, Peter Gentry tries to vindicate the “positive” interpretation, although he admits to difficulties.  I have the bad manners to quote myself in my review of that work:

To put it in a nutshell, the authors believe that the six items listed in Daniel 9:24 were all fulfilled in Christ at the first advent (541, 553-554 – though they admit “anoint the most holy person” is abnormal, typology again steps in to help).  “Messiah the Prince” or “Leader” of 9:25 is equated with “the prince [or leader] who shall come” of verse 26 even though it appears that he comes after “Messiah is cut off.”  From chapter 7:8, 23-25 the antichrist arises from the fourth kingdom (the Roman empire), seemingly just prior to the second coming (7:13-14 with 7:21-22).  This prepares the reader for “the people of the prince who is to come” who “shall destroy the city and the sanctuary” (9:26).  Two questions loom before us if we follow Gentry’s and Wellum’s interpretation.  The first concerns the fact that the “he” of verse 26b causes the sacrifice and offering to cease “in the middle of the [seventieth] week.”  If this refers to Jesus then it also refers to His crucifixion.  That would leave three and a half years of the seventieth week left to fulfill.  This is generally where those who don’t like a second coming context will jump thirty-five or so years into the future and see fulfillment in Titus’s armies in A.D. 70.  Gentry admits the “people” who destroy city and sanctuary do “appear to be enemy armies” (560), so he has to read two peoples into the context: the Jews who “destroyed” the city metaphorically circa A.D. 30, and the Romans who adopted a more literal method in A.D. 70! 

Along with the 35 year gap between the first and second halves of the Week (a cleavage which looks exegetically sorry in itself), this proposal suffers from too many difficulties demanding further explanation. Meanwhile, Daniel 12:11 speaks about the Abomination of Desolation being set up at the same time “the daily sacrifice is taken away” after which it will continue 1,290 days.  This linkage of the abomination with the daily sacrifice ties in Daniel 12, with its reference to “the time of the end” (12:9), with chapter 9:26-27.  In like manner the reference in Daniel 11:31 brings the abomination and the sacrifice together, and that in a context where the “king” is exalting himself against “the God of gods” (11:36. cf. 7:24-25).  Jesus, speaking about “the end”, said,

Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation’, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place.. – Matthew 24:15

To “see” this thing described by Daniel it has to be tangible (I remind you that Daniel says it is “set up”). Quite naturally, the “man of sin” who sits in the temple (naos) in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, and the “Beast” who, with help from “the second beast” rears up an image of himself in Revelation 13, are associated with Daniel’s abomination.  Even though Revelation 13 doesn’t say the image is erected in a temple, Revelation 11:1-2 indicates that a temple is standing.  So it looks very much like a temple will be standing in the future which will be desolated by an individual and his image.  If this is right then it follows that the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70 does not fit much of the data.  But the main point is that this reinforces an interpretation of Daniel 9:24 which places the six predictive utterances about the prophet’s “people” and “holy city” at the time of the end (thus reinforcing the view that the 70th week is yet future).  Daniel 9:24 reads:

Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city, To finish the transgression, – not done till the second coming (Rom. 11:12, 24-27) To make an end of sins, – specifically Israel’s sins, which Daniel is confessing (Dan. 9:15-20) To make reconciliation for iniquity, – Israel’s reconciliation is effective (Zech. 12:10; 13:1)  To bring in everlasting righteousness, – to replace the Israel’s sin (Rom. 11:12; Isa. 11:1-5)  To seal up vision and prophecy, – because Christ’s presence will preclude it (Zech. 13:3-4) And to anoint the Most Holy. not Jesus’ baptism but the Holy  Place (see NASB) 

I perhaps need to write about this separately, but all attempts to force this text into having been fulfilled at the cross look worse off than making the assertion about causing the sacrifices to cease because Christ died on the cross (of course, the sacrifices did not cease literally, Paul even offering one in Acts 21:26). For one thing, attempts to find fulfillments of each prediction often arrive at disparate conclusions.  And where they all agree; on identifying “the most holy” with Jesus Christ (which is a real stretch), they have to invert the sequence of predictions and ignore the plain reality that the term “the most holy” refers to the Holy Place and not the Holy Person (It is probably the new temple cf. Ezek. 37:25-28). This way of reading 9:24 also diminishes the explanatory introduction of the verse: viz. “your people” (Israel); “your holy city” (Jerusalem) and makes it subsidiary to the supposed meaning. Why do I belabor the point?  Because once more the emphasis of the 70th week is not on the Church but upon the nation of Israel.  When allied to Romans 11:11-29 this cannot be swept aside like God didn’t say it.  The fact that people from many other nations get saved during this period is not in question.  The question is to do with the separating of the children of Israel from the nations in the end time passages in the Prophets, Matthew, Romans, and Revelation.  This runs contrary to Paul’s doctrine of a unified Body in e.g., Ephesians 2 and 3 and Galatians 3:28. The first summation will be next…

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4 comments

  1. Dr. Henebury,

    Thank you for this helpful series.

    I have a question for you: What Study Bible(s) would you recommend and why?

    Thanks.

    Jay

    1. Jay,

      This is a big subject. Personally I would go for the Nelson Study Bible (NKJV) because its notes are usually helpful (and dispensational) without being overly “Calvinistic” or Arminian. I really like the maps and background info in the ESV Study Bible, but it suffers from supercessionism in places. Ryrie is good. MacArthur too, but they aren’t as nuanced as I like.

      Tony Garland has written his thoughts about this here: http://www.spiritandtruth.org/questions/124.htm?x=x

      God bless,

      Paul H

  2. Dr

    Your “A worse” one would be the dogmatic insistence that the catching away of the Church as pretribulational is a dead-cert.  Another would be the blithe notion that the rapture occurs when Jesus returns to earth and any theories to the contrary are speculative fancies.”

    Would you go so far as to say that these two theories lead to the rupture of the Church?

    1. No, I wouldn’t go that far. Certainly doctrinaire insistence upon C3 doctrines is the cause of disagreements – and of denominations usually. But I don’t see these things as ruptures just so long as they are advanced in some humility. Actually, I view C4’s and C5’s, which are grounded in human reasoning and inference, as the main causes of ruptures.

      God bless,

      Paul H.

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