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! (more…)