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Understanding Rapture Views and Choices
There are many different views on the endtimes and especially when the Rapture will take place. The following paper is by drftwd867 from the PrewrathOnly Yahoo Group. The following section deals specifically with Rapture Viewpoints.
Now that we have learned the basic tools needed to build our study, it is time to consider the various layouts that are available. Just as a house may be one story or more, modern or colonial, mobile or custom built, so has Scripture been divided and put together in several ways to produce a number of rapture theories. Before we look at these, we must know what qualities make a good construction. Every house needs a good foundation to keep it sturdy; likewise, a doctrine must be built on the rock of Jesus, built of the strong stone of God’s Word, to withstand the strongest storm. The framework must hold the house up; so must a doctrine of this complexity have a strong core on which the details are built. The walls and roof add strength, protection and utility; the supportive points serve to make a stronger doctrine. And lastly, a house should be well laid out for convenient plumbing, electricity, and usage; a doctrine must be of some practical value.
Seven major designs of modern eschatology are recognized today. Within the premillennial group we find partial rapturism, pre-, mid-, and posttribulationism, and the theme of this book, prewrath. In addition to these are amillennialism and postmillennialism. This chapter looks at each of these and examines their major weak points. The last two are mere mobile homes with flimsy framework and thin walls, sitting on a foundation of sand. They rely on an allegorical, so-called spiritual, method of interpretation. The other five types at least claim to use a literal method. Regarding this difference, Walvoord explains that
The ultimate dissolution of the contention between millenarians and premillenarians cannot be achieved simply in the realm of hermeneutics or debate on how we should interpret the Scriptures. It rather depends on whether it’s possible under either scheme to erect a system of Biblical interpretation that does justice to the entire Scripture, and especially its prophetic portions. On this subject scholars to this day have disagreed, though it is usually admitted that the literal interpretation of prophecy leads inevitably to a premillennial system which affirms a future millennial reign of Christ on earth.[i]
While it’s true that the critical element in deciding which interpretive method to follow is whether it does justice to all of scripture, a simple fact provides a strong case against using an allegorical method: When non-eschatological prophecies are carefully examined in the light of their fulfillment as determined by history and archaeology, it is manifestly evident that all were fulfilled literally as written – although sometimes in surprising ways. More to the point, those prophecies that concerned Christ’s first coming, of which there are at least 64 major points, were all fulfilled literally while He was on earth. It is reasonable, logical, and consistent, therefore, to study and interpret those passages concerning His second coming and the end times with the same method. God is consistent, so His Word is certainly also consistent and in unity.
Someone might argue that the picturesque language in the book of Revelation makes a literal interpretation difficult, if not impossible. Then there are the parables of Jesus. And what about Daniel’s beast of iron and clay or the beast with seven heads and ten horns? While it’s true the Antichrist will not be a literal seven-headed dragon, such metaphors represent a literal person, condition, or event and reveal something of the nature and character of said literal substance. This does not mean that all prophetic passages have some hidden meaning. Metaphorical passages are usually quite obvious, and Scripture should otherwise be taken literally as it is written.
Actually, the allegorical method, if used consistently, can lead to dangerous doctrinal errors. With this method you can literally make the Bible say just about anything you want (pun intentional). Some liberal churches use it attempting to defend a pro-homosexual stance – claiming that God approves of monogamous homosexual relationships (although they must practically cut Romans 1 out of the Bible to do this). Others, including some cults, allegorize certain key doctrines such as the Deity of Christ, making man as much god as He is (little "g" intended). Sometimes the allegorical method leads to some very strange interpretations. For example, I have heard some positively state that Ezekiel describes a U.F.O in the first chapter of his book. This ridiculous claim is based on apparent similarities to descriptions of so-called U.F.O. sightings. Oh, these nuts have all sorts of pseudo-intellectual arguments to support their case that Ezekiel really saw a U.F.O., such as questioning why an omnipotent, Omnipresent God would appear riding above four living creatures when He could appear just as easily without them. (The answer to this, in case you were wondering, is that these creatures are associated with God’s throne (cf. Rev 5:6-8); in Ezekiel 1:26 we are informed that God appeared sitting on His throne.)
No, God is not some alien hamming it up – a fairly popular science fiction theme. Most U.F.O. sightings that have evidence to back them up (e.g. photos, marks in fields) have been proven hoaxes or shown to be weather balloons, planets meteorites, etc. Regarding those few that are not accounted for, we must remember that satan is the prince of the power of the air with the ability to perform lying wonders (2Thess 2:9). And as for those stories of alien abductions, without any physical evidence they are only entertaining stories by imaginative or deluded people looking for attention. By the way, Ezekiel’s final statement in Chapter one states that this was the best he could do in trying to describe the likeness of the appearance of Jehovah God in human terms. While not all churches, in fact probably only a relative few, which use the allegorical method, go to this extreme, the danger of spiritualizing away something important is still there.
Now that we’ve seen that the allegorical method is a foundation of shifting sand, let’s examine the core framework of amillennialism. Adherents of this theory believe Christ’s 1,000-year reign on earth will not be fulfilled in person. Rather, they believe that this is an indefinite time span in which Christ reigns in the hearts of men between His two advents. The Olivet Discourse (Matt 24-25) and the book of Revelation are viewed as having been fulfilled historically, or else they are spiritualized away. In the end, they hold, Jesus will return and receive His saints, and then judge the wicked. The roots of the amillennial position can be traced back to Origen (184-254 AD), who was influenced in his doctrine by Greek philosophy; but was popularized by Augustine (354-430 AD), who essentially founded the Roman Catholic Church, the primary proponent of this theory.
But Revelation 20, taken literally, clearly foretells that the saints will rule with Christ for 1,000 years while satan is bound in the bottomless pit so he can no longer deceive the nations (vv 1-3) for the millennial period. Today, the nations are definitely deceived and follow satan’s lead in many things, so obviously the amillennial position falls flat on this point.
Postmillennialism, on the other hand, teaches that man will bring about the millennial kingdom of God through the spreading of the Gospel throughout the world, and through "fostering civic righteousness and world peace. The conclusion is that Christ will truly be present when all this has been accomplished."[ii] A variation says that Christ will return at the end of this indeterminate period of blessing. They believe that through the efforts of man the existence of sin will be negligible. The primary Scriptural support claimed for this view is Luke 17:21, which states that the Kingdom of God is within the hearts of believers. Daniel Whitby (1638-1726), an English Unitarian minister, was the first to teach this view. At one time this view was very popular, when the Gospel spread rapidly through the world following the Reformation, but has been largely abandoned today by most conservative churches. There are still, however, several variations taught today in some circles, such as Reconstructionism, Dominion Theology, and Kingdom Now Theology.
Before we examine the Scriptural problems with postmillennialism, it should be noted that it is similar in many ways to one of the common beliefs in the New Age Movement (NAM). The NAM maintains that eventually mankind will bring about world peace and happiness through their "enlightened" spiritual beliefs, much like the church is supposed to bring the world to Christ. Some Christian scholars feel that the NAM will be a major part of the great religious harlot Babylon described in Revelation 17.
Postmillennialists believe that the Gospel will spread and the world will become a better place. But the Bible says that the very opposite will happen – that sin and lawlessness will abound. For that matter, we are told that the church, in general, will fall farther and farther from the true Gospel and holiness (Matt 24:4-14; 2Thess 2:3; 1Tim 4:1,2 2Tim 3:1-9,13; 2Pet 2:1-3,12-22). And we see this very thing happening today – churches denying or weakening the doctrine of Christ’s Deity, denying that salvation requires a working faith in Jesus, allowing openly ungodly people in the pulpit, etc. This view is clearly not built on the solid rock of the Bible.
Both amillennialism and postmillennialism use the risky and malleable allegorical method of interpretation. Furthermore, key points in both contradict clear Biblical teaching. It is best we look elsewhere for safe ground on which to build our position.
The various premillennial systems of eschatology insist that Christ will rule the world in person in the future for 1,000 years following His second coming (Rev 20:6). It was not until the third century that this began to change, when "the formidable Alexandrians, Dionysius, Clement, and Origen declared war on premillennialism. The doctrine was attacked with ad hominem argument, accused of being Judaistic, and chided for using a literal hermeneutic…"[iii] The majority of end time theories are based on the premillennial advent of Christ, as the early church also believed.
Papias (c.A.D. 155): There will be a millennium after the resurrection from the dead, when the personal reign of Christ will be established on this earth. (Fragment IV) Justin Martyr (A.D. 110-165): I and others, who are right-minded Christians on all points, are assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead, and a thousand years in Jerusalem, which will then be built, adorned, and enlarged. (Dialogue with Trypho, LXXX) Tertullian (A.D. 150-225): We do confess that a kingdom is promised to us upon the earth, although before heaven, only in another state of existence; inasmuch as it will be after the resurrection for a thousand years in the divinely-built city of Jerusalem. (Against Marcion, Book III, Ch xxv)
All five of the premillennial views claim to follow a literal hermeneutic, thus having a foundation built on the solid rock of God’s Word. However, as we will see, adherents are sometimes inconsistent in the application of this method, leaving cracks and gaps in their foundation.
The partial rapture theory can be traced back to 1883[iv], and has only been held by a relatively small minority of believers.[v]But Because this view has many serious flaws – missing studs and having a bad case of termites, if you will – a thorough discussion is necessary.
To briefly summarize the partial rapture position, adherents believe that not all Christians will be caught up in a pretribulational rapture. In their opinion, only those who are watching and waiting will qualify to go at this point, while the remainder must suffer through the seventieth week. These privileged believers are described as having achieved some degree of spiritual maturity, which supposedly makes them worthy to escape the Great Tribulation and the wrath of God. Adherents point to Luke 21:36 to "prove" their point:
Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass and to stand before the Son of Man.
They also use Philippians 3:20; Titus 2:13; 2Timothy 4:8; and Hebrews 9:28. We will examine each of these later in this chapter.
The fatal flaw of partial rapturism is that, carried through it necessarily (although perhaps not intentionally) denies and rejects several key doctrines of the Christian faith, and ends up bordering on heresy.
The first problem is that partial rapturism does not take into account the full power and value of the shed blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This blood not only cleanses the believer from all his past sins, but it also washes away confessed present and future sin. Three compelling evidences, all based on Scripture, convince me of this. First, all of the sins of every Christian who has ever lived are future from the perspective of the cross. Even further, Jesus has existed from eternity and is the perfect sacrificial Lamb slain from the very foundation of the world (Rev 13:8; 1John 1:7-9; Rom 5:9), making the sins of everyone who has ever lived, from Adam and Eve until now, future. Second, the blood of Jesus is the blood of God Himself (Acts 20:28); the blood of the omnipotent God is infinitely powerful and effective toward those who have true faith. And finally, would an all-knowing, far-seeing God of love really save someone only to let her become lost again? If God were to apply the blood of Jesus while all the time knowing that person would lose her salvation, then He would be guilty of making Christ’s Blood a common thing – just as those to whom the truth is revealed but toss it away as nothing (Heb 10:29). Anyway, the Bible says God is anxious to save the lost, so such a view would be difficult to reconcile with God’s merciful, loving nature to those who are His. The blood of Jesus cleanses the believer from all sin, without qualification (1John 1:7-9; 2Pet 3:9).
Necessarily digressing a moment to balance this doctrine, it must be recognized that this does not mean we are no longer accountable for sins committed subsequent to our salvation. Frankly, we will be dealt with for sins from which we do not turn away and confess to God (1John 1:9). Also, we are subject to discipline by God (Heb 12:3-11). We are still even subject to the natural consequences of sin: if you commit a crime and are caught, you very well may still go to prison or suffer other human judgment even though you are truly repentant. Sin will even affect your spiritual life, affecting your prayers and closeness to God. Furthermore, we will stand before the judgment seat of Christ, where we will receive according to the things done in the body, whether good or bad (2Cor 5:10); good works, spiritual silver, gold, and jewels, will survive while the wood, hay, and stubble of unrepented sin and works not of faith will be destroyed as if by fire. This will result in loss – not of salvation, but of rewards (1Cor 3:10-15); our Christian lives will determine our rewards and authority during the millennial reign of Christ and beyond (Rev 2:26-27).
To return to our topic, the partial rapturist, in claiming that only those who have obtained a certain degree of spiritual maturity will be raptured, is in effect insisting that a person’s own righteous works will give him standing before God. He forgets that Isaiah proclaimed all our own righteous works as filthy rags, like a leper’s disease-ridden clothes and the cloth used by a woman during her monthly flow of blood (Is 64:6; Lev 15:19-23; 13:15,16), when compared to the absolute, infinite holiness of God. The only way anybody could earn anything from God is to match that holiness – a patent impossibility. Even our good works are all too often tainted by the filth of impure motives and selfishness. In Old Testament times, if anyone even accidentally touched a "filthy rag" he was considered unclean and was required to undergo ritualistic cleansing ceremonies to symbolize his purification before he could approach God in prayer and worship. [Note that these laws, while illustrating spiritual principles, were also instituted for good hygiene to prevent disease.] Likewise today, the blood of Jesus must cleanse a person before approaching God for anything else. In short, our righteousness cannot make us "worthy…to stand before the Son of Man."
While we’re on the subject, one reason Isaiah 64:6 declares that even our righteous works are like filthy rags is because we so often tend to do good deeds for ulterior motives; we are easily and quickly filled with pride and self-satisfaction when we do right, becoming our real motive. While these feelings, in themselves, are not wrong – of course we don’t expect to feel indifferent – all too often they become our real reason for doing good. Rather than practicing righteousness simply because God commanded it and it is the right thing to do, we do it for our own exaltation; we may do it so people well point at us in praise – or may even point to God, all the while secretly hoping people see how "spiritual" and "humble" we are. In contrast, the Bible says we owe everything, including the ability and obligation to do hood works, to God, and He should receive the ultimate glory in all that is hood about us (2Cor 10:17,18; Gal 6:12-15; 1Pet 4:11; Rom 12:1). Jesus taught that our attitude should be simple obedience to God our master (Luke 17:1-10).
The second reason our righteous works don’t fully meet God’s standards is that our sins (and we ALL have them) taint our good deeds. One day we may greatly bless and encourage a struggling soul, and then reject some other hurting person the next (James 3:10-12). Our wrongdoing taints the purity of our righteousness.
So, as you can see, our own righteous works cannot make us worthy and acceptable to stand before Jesus. It is God who makes the Christian acceptable. Notice I said," God…makes." God’s acceptance can never fail once given, for we are accepted only through the righteousness, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – not as a result of our own deeds (Eph 1:6; 2:8-9; Rom 8:1). We Christians have been justified in Christ Jesus and are counted among the righteous by God because His righteousness has been imparted to us. The person who has truly put their faith and trust in Jesus as his Lord and Savior can never be less than accepted by God (Rom 4:22; 8:1,10; 1John 1:9).
Perhaps you are uncertain of your spiritual condition. If you would like to receive God’s glorious gift of salvation, I would like to invite you to join God’s family right now. All you must do is recognize and agree with God that you have sinned and are worthy of God’s wrath, believe that His Son, Jesus Christ, came to earth as a man, died on the cross for your sins, and rose again on the third day, and ask Jesus to forgive you and give you eternal life. After this, you must also publicly acknowledge your decision to follow Christ (Rom 10:9-10). That is all! The results of truly turning to Jesus will include a change in your lifestyle, living as He desires. The benefits of a growing peace and joy as you grow in obedience, and more. These things may manifest quickly or gradually, and you may stumble occasionally, but they will happen.
Returning to our study, a third, closely related flaw with partial rapturism is that it forces salvation to be the result of works rather than faith; interpreting Luke 21:36 using their method, only those who achieve worthiness will "stand before the Son of Man." This goes completely against what the Apostle Paul repeatedly and consistently taught the churches, stressing in several books that believers are saved "by grace [unmerited favor] through faith… it is a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast"(Eph 2:8-9). The saints will have no works to boast in as the reason for their salvation when they stand in the Lord’s presence.
Partial rapture adherents confuse the rapture with rewards, their view making the "escape" a reward for watching and waiting. Nowhere does the Bible call the rapture and simultaneous resurrection a reward. On the contrary, it is a promise and guarantee to those who have received the free gift of salvation, and is the completion of that salvation (John 14:2,3; Rom 8:23).
There is still more. Hebrews 10:19 states that all believers are given the privilege to "have boldness to enter the holiest by the blood of Jesus." I imagine many partialists who wholeheartedly believe their view find it a little difficult at times to approach God boldly in prayer. After all, how can a person be bold before God’s throne of Grace if God might make her suffer through His outpouring of wrath on earth for failure to achieve or maintain some degree of spiritual maturity? Furthermore, How could she know with certainty that she had attained to this mysterious degree? Remember that near the end of his life even the Apostle Paul still did not feel as though he had attained complete spiritual maturity – and that truly feeling such humility was itself a sign of a mature faith, for their will always be room for growth (Ph’p 3:12-16). If attaining were required, the saints would naturally be a little timid and fearful that they would miss out due to a lack of or lapse in their faithfulness. Further, as the Bible does not say, "at this stage of your new life you should be here," there are no grounds for the confidence to approach God boldly. Philippians 4:6 says we should be anxious about nothing: we could not obey this injunction if we had to worry about achieving worthiness to "escape" and stand before Jesus. But God’s Word does provide the wonderful promise that even if our own faithfulness is nothing to brag about, God will still be faithful to His promises (1Cor 1:8,9; 2Tim 2:13; Heb 10:33.
These are all indirect evidence against partial rapturism, showing how this position damages or destroys other clear, important doctrines. But God also provided direct evidence refuting this theory.
…we shall ALL be changed… the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.(1Cor 15:52 emph mine) …For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep [have died] in Jesus….The dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them….Comfort one another with these words. (1Thess 4:14,16-18)
These two key rapture texts encourage all who believe. The first promises that all will be raptured/resurrected when the trumpet sounds, while the second explains that the criterion for this promise is faith in Jesus. Neither of these important passages requires or even suggests the need for watchfulness or a degree of spiritual maturity to be included in this number. It would be difficult to find comfort in Christ’s coming if some true believers were in danger of being left behind.
As we have seen, partial rapturism fights against clear and definite Scriptural truths. But to be thorough and completely fair, we must address the issue of their key passages.
(Luke 21:36) "Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things and to stand before the Son of Man." Jesus is here advising us to make sure we are truly saved, for an active, living faith is the only thing that can make us worthy to stand before Jesus (cf. James 2). The rapture is also in this verse, as we will see in a later chapter – but not a partial rapture.
(Matt 24:40-42) "Two men will be standing in the field: one will be taken, and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore…" The problem here is that this passage, out of its context, does not clearly state who is taken and who is left behind, so the partial rapture interpretation is highly subjective; we cannot tell for absolute certain from this portion alone which of these were saved, let alone their degree of spiritual maturity. Basically, there are two ways these verses are usually interpreted, each centered on a different time frame for the context. The first, held by most pretribulationists (but not all), is that the one is taken for judgment while the other remains to enter the millennial kingdom. The second view, held by prewrath adherents and others, is that the one is taken in the rapture while the other is unsaved and remains on earth to face God’s wrath. We will see in Chapter five that the context better supports the latter view.
(Heb 9:28) "…to those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear again, apart from sin, for salvation." First, ALL believers should be eagerly awaiting the return of their Savior Jesus Christ, for it is and integral part of His Gospel; this world is a wicked and sinful place full of suffering and pain, which should cause God’s children to long for and lust after the coming of Jesus to set things aright. Second, this verse does not contrast with those believers who do not eagerly await the second coming. And finally, the point the author is trying to make is that Jesus has already come once for the sake of deliverance from sin: when He returns, it will be to deliver us from this body of death and complete our salvation before God’s wrath falls upon those who rejected Him. Again, the rapture is in mind here, a complete resurrection and catching up of the saints.
(Ph’p 3:11) "…if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection of the dead." When quoted by itself this verse can be deceiving, seeming to emphasize the need for works; but taken in context, the true meaning become clear. In verse 8 Paul declares that he counts all of his own works as loss when compared to knowing Christ. His real revelation her, then is that he attained to the resurrection by faith, and that he has laid aside attempting to earn it through his own good works. This is the only "means" to "attain to the resurrection." This partial rapturist error illustrates the need to consider the context of every verse before offering an interpretation.
All other Scriptures raised up by partial rapturists can likewise be easily answered. This view has serious flaws affecting critical doctrines of Christianity and should be tossed in the trashcan.
Midtribulationism, which many adherents prefer to call the mid-week theory, is also held by only a small portion of the church. While a trace of this view can be seen in the 19th century, it did not become prominent until 1941, when "Norman B. Harrison published The End: Rethinking the Revelation[vi], in which he said the rapture would occur in the middle of the seventieth week, prior to God’s outpouring of wrath. He noted that the Apostle John called the first half of the seventieth week as "sweet," because of the presence of the Church, while the second half was called "bitter," when the Church is absent (Rev 10:9-10). He thus identified the second half as both the great tribulation and God’s wrath."[vii]
This theory places the rapture at about the same time as the revealing of the Antichrist. Some adherents, like Harrison, believe that the seven seal and seven bowl judgments are not a part of God’s wrath and will be fulfilled during the first half of the seventieth week. They believe that Christians are promised deliverance only from the bowl judgments (1Thess 1:10; 5:9; et al), and identify the "last trump" at the rapture (1Cor 15:52) with the seventh trumpet. Others, such as Gleason L. Archer, would rather place the rapture with the sixth or seventh seal and put the trumpets in the second half of the week with the bowls. Mr. Archer suggests as key evidence favoring midtrib the frequent emphasis on the midpoint of the seven years in Daniel, the Gospels, 2 Thessalonians, and Revelation[viii].
Several Scriptures create difficulties for this position (also weakening pretrib at the same time). In Revelation 14:9-13 the third angel warns mankind not to receive the mark of the beast, nor to worship him. In this context John adds the following:
Here is the patience of the saints. Here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven saying, " blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on…"(emph mine)
Revelation 13:7,10 describes the same timeframe:
And it was granted to [the beast] to make war with the saints and to overcome them…. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.
These parallel passages take place immediately following the Abomination of Desolation in the middle of the Week, after the Antichrist presents himself as God, demanding that the world worship him. (Matt 24:15; 2Thess 2:3,4; Rev 13) If the Rapture has just taken place, then who are these saints who have been keeping the faith of Jesus and must now persevere through severe persecution? Identifying them with the 144,000 sons of Israel (Rev 7:1-8) is very difficult, as nothing firmly ties them together, and several things separate them. First, this passage never even hints that any of the 144,000 is killed, whereas the saints in our two passages explicitly include martyrs. Second, the working of the passages suggests that these saints have been saved for some time (more on this point shortly). Third, in Revelation 12 a portion of the Jews who were against the treaty with the beast escape from Israel when the beast violates that treaty, and are kept safe by God; a case can be made that the 144,000 are in this group, which, if true, means the best cannot war against them and overcome them.
Nor can these saints be saved following a midtrib rapture. In addition to the fact that the wording of the passages suggests they have been keeping the faith for some time, two passages, 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 and Revelation 13:8, make a strong case against any significant numbers turning to Jesus after the manifestation of the beast. The only exception to this is Israel, and the case will be presented later that the 144,000 are not saved until well into the great tribulation – and the rest of surviving Israel until the end of the seventieth week.
As stated earlier, the phrasing of these passages seems to show that thee saints that endure and that die under the reign of the beast have been saved for some time prior to the Abomination of Desolation. As they have been keeping the faith of Jesus, it is technically possible that they are the true Church of the current age. Turning to Revelation 3:10, we find that the faithful church of Philadelphia is promised some kind of protection during the "hour of trial," the great tribulation, for keeping the Lord’s command to persevere. The obedience to the command for patience here provides a clear, simple tie to the need for patience by the saints within the great tribulation. (This brief statement will be thoroughly discussed in a future chapter.)
Additionally, the harvest in Revelation 14:14-16 seemingly describes the rapture from a heavenly viewpoint (cf. Matt 13:24-30), as most mid- and posttribs agree. The problem arises in the context, the angelic warning about the mark of the beast and the comment on the patience and martyrdom of the saints (Rev 14:9-13), which would place the rapture sometime after the start of the Antichrist’s reign. Some commentators, particularly among pretribs, have suggested that this is a harvest of wrath just as the reaping of the grapes in the next three verses, which would seem to solve the problem, it true. A careful reading and some applied logic, however, show that these are two different harvests. In the first event Jesus has a sickle to reap the harvest; in the second, and angel has another sickle. In the one, there is no mention of wrath; the other is specifically the harvest of the grapes of wrath. Furthermore, I doubt that Jesus would need to be told twice to reap the same harvest, so logically these are two separate harvests, one performed by Jesus, and the other apparently by an angel. Since the Bible reveals only two different harvests in the last days, this must be the rapture harvest followed by that for wrath. As this study continues we will see that this is true.
At the beginning of this section I mentioned that some mid and posttribs believe that the seventh trumpet judgment is the last trumpet of the rapture (1Cor 15:52), and will occur at midtrib. Most of the arguments against this view will be discussed in Chapter 10, but a couple of points should be brought forth here. First, the beast has been promised a full forty-two months to rule from Jerusalem (Dan 12:7, et al). On the other hand, Revelation 11:15-19 explicitly states that at the seventh trumpet Jesus takes up His full authority and begins ruling the earth. It does not fit. I seriously question the validity of a position that allows the best not only to be in power, but to prosperously and successfully rule the earth at the same time that Jesus, the Mighty God, begins restoring the earth to Himself. This idea will be built upon in a later chapter.
Many pre- and midtribs believe the seventh trumpet will sound at the midpoint of the seventieth week, but the above paradox suggest is must be later, as many other conservative scholars agree. Examining the context of the entire book of Revelation after chapter five supports this idea. The key to unlocking this question is Revelation 10:11, which states that John will prophesy again about many people. This means that the vision is about to backtrack in time. (Note that some commentators teach this to mean that John will be one of the two witnesses whose ministry is next described in, but John is told he will prophesy ABOUT many people, not TO them.) When you examine all of Revelation after chapter five, it is clear. Up to this point (10:11) very little has been said concerning the key players in this drama, excepting the great multitude in a context that is especially significant for them (Rev 7). On the other hand, following this statement John’s prophecy begins describing the important people and groups of the end time. First, he presents the two witnesses at a significant point – the end of their 3-½ year ministry. He then sees the seventh trumpet judgment, concluding the current run through the timeline.
John begins prophesying again in chapter 12 as the Lord takes him back to show him the details. The first five verses of this chapter briefly describes the establishment of Israel, the various prior best empires backed by satan in trying to destroy Israel, the birth of Jesus and His death by the machinations of the devil, and Christ’s victory and ascension into heaven. Verse six than jumps ahead in time as a portion of Israel flees into the wilderness to escape the Antichrist. Verses 7-12 describe a great battle in heaven, just prior to the Abomination of Desolation, the Dragon, who is satan, cast out of heaven with his angels (demons); he immediately comes against Israel (the woman) and the saints of Jesus (v.11) in his great wrath. The rest of chapter 12 gives an overview of his wrath during the great tribulation. A portion of Israel will successfully flee into the wilderness. Afterward, the Beast will come against "the rest of her offspring" who have the testimony of Jesus – that is the Church.
Revelation 13 shows how the beast and his false prophet will operate when they come into power, and again mentions the saints of Jesus. Chapter 14 discusses the 144,000 – who are probably those who fled to the wilderness – the three proclaiming angels, the fall of the religious Babylon to the Beast, the start of the mark of the Beast, the patience of the saints of Jesus, and the Son of Man (Jesus) at the two harvests. (I am convinced that the reaping of the second harvest, the grapes of wrath, refers to the trumpet judgments, as it immediately follows the rapture harvest, and precedes the bowl judgments in which the harvested wine of wrath is poured out. This is completely in line with the position presented in this book.) And this brings us back to the seventh trumpet and, according to the prewrath understanding, the close of the seventieth week proper (the 1260 days of Dan 12:11-12).
Following the section of the bowl judgments in chapters 15 and 16, a variety of important groups and individual are discussed in greater detail, such as the Political Babylon, the Bride of Christ, the victorious saints from the Great Tribulation, Jesus coming as King of kings and Lord of lords, and others. Thus we see that people do play an important part of the prophecies following Revelation 10:11, just as the angel foretold.
Not only are the trumpets contained in the last half of the seventieth week, but so are the last three seals. As will be fully developed later, the fifth seal concerns martyrs to come, of which there will be many during the Great Tribulation (Rev 6:9-11; Matt 24:15-22). The sixth seal describes certain unmistakable heavenly signs and their effect on mankind (Rev 6:12-17), which also appear in Matthew 24:29-31 when the tribulation is amputated for the elect’s sake (v.22). Of course, the seventh seal must follow the sixth seal. As the trumpets sound after the seals, a point defended in the next section on posttrib, they cannot be blown until well into the second 3 ½ years, making a seventh trumpet midtrib rapture impossible.
One final problem with midtrib is openly admitted be adherent Mr. Archer:
…It is confessedly difficult to pick out any certain point in the Olivet Discourse [Matt 24] as indicating the disappearance of the church during the middle of the final seven years. Perhaps it is to be found after verse 14…[ix]
In conclusion, midtribulationism is not without difficult problems. We should seek elsewhere for an answer.
Posttribulationism, as a systematically developed position, appeared at about the same time as pretrib, in the early 1800’s. There are several variations of posttrib. Luther and other reformers are sometimes quoted by pretribs to show a belief in an imminent rapture. But these men were actually historical posttribs; they believed that most of Revelation and the Olivet Discourse were fulfilled in the past, leaving no major prophecies to precede Christ’s second coming. Yes, some reformers believed Christ could come at any moment, but they were still posttribulationists. This form of the posttrib theory is not widely held today, so it will not receive any further separate discussion. Bear in mind, though, that many of the problems with the other variations of posttrib also create problems for the historical posttribulationist.
The three other main variations of are "classic" posttrib, McKeever’s 42-month end time scenario, and Gundry’s version. Classic posttribs and McKeever believe that the church will be raptured when Christ comes for the Battle of Armageddon, following all of the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments of Revelation. Gundry suggests an important change in that he places the rapture at the seventh trumpet prior to the bowls of wrath, recognizing that the Bible promises believers to be exempt from wrath.
Another dividing point among posttribs is dispensationalism, some believing in the future restoration of the nation Israel, and others not. McKeever is one of those who do not believe. In this view eschatological prophecies concerning Israel are claimed to really be for the Church.[x] One of McKeever’s key passages is Romans 2:26-29:
Therefore, if an uncircumcised man [non-Israelite] keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is that circumcision outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and the circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit… Other passages include Isaiah 56:6-9 and Ezekiel 47:21-23.
The quoted passage states that true Jews have their hearts set to serve the one true God; the rite of physical circumcision does not determine it. God commanded this rite for a sign of separation of the Hebrew [Israelite] race from the Gentiles, demonstrating their faith in God and in the Abrahamic covenant, which made them God’s chosen nation. Circumcision of the heart, on the other hand never knew racial boundaries, and anyone of any ethnic group may freely worship Jehovah. Paul does not have in mind Israel’s part in God’s eternal plan, as if they had lost it permanently. On the contrary, Paul states that even now salvation is for "the Jew first, and also the Gentile"(Rom 1:16; 2:9,10). Israel is still special to God and is a part of His plan.
McKeever also quotes Romans 11:13-24 as strong evidence that physical Israel is permanently cast out. This passage speaks of branches broken off the cultivated olive tree so that wild olive branches could be grafted in. The olive tree represents the spiritual "Israel" – all of the saved – while its original branches are the Hebrew people. The wild olive branches represent those Gentiles who put their faith in Christ Jesus during the Church age. The root and fatness, which feed the tree and are its lifeblood, picture the Lord Himself. It is true that Israel, as a nation, has been cut off for the Church age, although individual Jews can still be saved. But McKeever took this passage out of its context, for the verses immediately preceding and following his snippet clearly teach that this condition is only temporary.
(Rom 11:12, 25-29) Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness… I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that this hardening in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so ALL ISRAEL will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins." Concerning the Gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the Father. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
The context and phrasing clearly prove that Israel’s hardening is only a temporary condition. The reason they are cast off for a time is so that God might show His love and mercy for all men, and that Israel might become jealous and repent (Rom 11:13, 30-32). Notice that God will "turn away ungodliness from Jacob." This refers back to Genesis 32:28 when Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, was renamed Israel. While it may be argued that Christians are one body with the Old Testament Jews by the spiritual birth – Jew being a religious reference – we are never called Israel or Jacob. The use of the name of Jacob serves to establish and confirm that Israel is in mind.
To be thorough, we must examine this from another angle. Non-dispensational posttribs apply their beliefs to make the "144,000 of all the tribes of the children of Israel"(Rev 7:1-8) into the church. To support this claim, they point to the new Jerusalem, which is the Bride of Christ – a city described as a cube of 12,000 furlongs for each of its 12 sides, totaling 144,000 furlongs. As the Church is the Bride of Christ, and these numbers match, they add one to one and get that the Church = Israel.
Warren B. Wiersbe, a pretrib, notes another reason for this interpretation of the 144,000 of Israel:
This is not to say that our literal interpretation of this passage is not without its problems. Why is Levi included [in the twelve tribes] when it had no inheritance with the other tribes (Numbers 18:20-24; Joshua 13:4)? Why is Joseph named, but not his son Ephraim, who is usually connected with his brother Manasseh? Finally, why is the tribe of Dan omitted here and yet included in Ezekiel’s list for the apportionment of the land (Ezekiel 48:1)? Many suggestions have been made, but we do not know the answers. Even if we interpreted this passage in a spiritual sense (i.e., Israel is the church), we could be no more certain….[xi]
I am convinced that McGee’s answer to this apparent problem is sufficiently supported by Scripture to accept with confidence:
…Both of these tribes [Dan and Ephraim] were guilty of leading the nation into idolatry. In history, you will find that Dan was the first tribe that fell into idolatry (Judges 18:30). The tribe of Dan later became the headquarters for calf worship whereby "Jeroboam made Israel to sin" (1Kings 12:28-30). The tribe of Dan is in the millennium [Ez 48], but they are not sealed [here]…. Ephraim was also guilty of idolatry. In Hosea 4:17 we read, "Ephraim is joined to idols: Let him alone." That has reference to the entire northern Kingdom of Israel, but remember that Ephraim was the leader there. Also, Ephraim was the tribe which led in the division of the kingdom (1Kings 11:26). In the list of the 144,000 who will be sealed, Joseph takes the place of Ephraim, and to take the place of Dan is Levi.[xii]
As a result of their leadership into sin, neither Ephraim nor Dan is named in the sealing of the 144,000 to protect them during God’s wrath. But by God’s great grace, both will be restored and enter the millennium (Ez 48:1; Jer 31:15-22; Zech 10:7).
There is also internal evidence that the 144,000 are Israel and not the Church: They are specifically called "the tribes of the children of Israel." The Church is never called anything like this in Scripture, so there are no grounds on which to identify these groups as one in the same. Furthermore, according to the text the 144,000 are sealed to protect them from the trumpet judgments. Due to this event’s placement between the sixth and seventh seals in the text, it is logically a part of the sixth seal (this point developed in a later chapter). Yet most posttribulationists, including non-dispensationalist McKeever place the sixth seal after the trumpets and bowls of wrath. This sealing, which supposedly protects the Church from God’s wrath, then would follow that wrath, negating its entire purpose. Besides which, the church is promised salvation/deliverance away from wrath, not protection through it.
But there is still the question of why the dimensions of the New Jerusalem coincide with the numbers of the sealed. Well, the number 12 frequently symbolizes completeness of God’s people in Scripture (e.g. 12 tribes, 12 apostles). Revelation 21:12,14 informs us that the gates of the city bear the names of the twelve tribes, while he foundations carry the names of the apostles. Thus the Bride of Christ includes both the Old and the New Testament saints, not just the church. Furthermore, we do not see this city until after the millennial reign of Christ, when the earth is created anew (Rev 21). The 144,000 children of the tribes of Israel, on the other hand, represent only one group, Israel, and only during the last part of the seventieth week.
Another proof that Israel is not permanently cut out of God’s plan is the fact that they have survived as a distinct people and culture for nearly 1900 years without a homeland, Starting in 70AD until God returned them to their country at the end of World War II. This feat is unique among all of the nations that have ever been conquered and divided. Obviously, Israel is still a part of God’s plan.
It you wish to do further Scriptural research, there are literally dozens of prophetic passages guaranteeing the ultimate restoration of Israel in the end time. The following are some examples: Isaiah 4:2; 14:1-2; 19:18-25; 60:1ff; 63:7-19; Jeremiah 23:6; chapters 30-33; Ezekiel 16:60-63; 17:22-24; chapters 36,37; Hosea 1:10-2:1(cf. Matt 21:43); 2:14-3:5; Amos 9:11ff; Obadiah 17-21; Micah 4; Zephaniah 3:8ff; Zechariah 8:1ff; 12:7-14; and others.
Most posttribs, along with those who hold the other major positions, believe that the final end time period is seven years. McKeever holds to a different length of 3 ½ years, preceded by a generation (perhaps 40 years) during which the first four seals of Revelation are opened (cf. Matt 24:34). He believes that Daniel 9:26-27 fulfilled the seventieth week in Christ’s time ("after the sixty-nine weeks Messiah shall be cut off"), and that the covenant in this passage was the covenant of Christ. But our Lord’s covenant was not limited to seven years as the one in Daniel is, so this interpretation is hard to reconcile. But McKeever also states that the 3-½ year end time view is not critical to his posttrib rapture position.
The most obvious problem with all of the posttrib variations is that they place the Church on earth during God’s wrath, while the Bible says the Church is not appointed to wrath, but to deliverance away from it (1Thess 1:10; 5:9; Eph 5:6). Even Gundry, who believes this is only deliverance from the climax of God’s wrath in the bowl judgments, falls short; in Revelation 6:17 we find that God’s wrath arrives with the sixth seal, preceding the trumpets. During this study we will see that this point is consistently taught throughout Scripture. Nothing suggests it is less than all God’s wrath from which we are delivered.
Posttribs deny an interval between the rapture and Christ’s coming for Armageddon. But there are at least one, and probably two events that must occur between. First is the judgment of believers. Jesus taught that there would be a private judgment of the saints (Luke 19:15), as did the Apostle Paul (1Cor 3:10-15; 2Cor 5:9-11). The purpose is to judge our works so that appropriate awards may be handed out. As the reward will be handed out as part of the seventh trumpet when Jesus officially takes up His power and begins His millennial reign (Rev 11:18; 19:14,19; 20:f4), obviously the rapture must take place before this.
The second thing is the wedding feast. In Revelation 19:10 it seems that the wedding supper of the Lamb takes place before Jesus returns on His white horse for Armageddon (v.11). Some interpret this that the feast will actually take place on earth after the great Battle, but in Jewish customs the Bridegroom would bring his bride from her home to his for the wedding feast (see more below). As the church is the Bride of Christ (2Cor 11:2), the earth is her home, and heaven is the Lord’s home, it is likely that the feast will be in heaven. It is clear the rapture must precede Armageddon sufficiently to allow these to take place. The prewrath position solves both problems.
It is understood by pre- and midtribs, as well as prewrath adherents, that the saints will ascend into heaven after the rapture/resurrection. Posttribs, on the other hand, claim that we will immediately reverse direction and descend to mount Zion after meeting the Lord in the air. Gundry explains it this way (cf. 1Thess 4:16):
Other things being equal, the word descend (Gr. katabaino) indicates a complete, uninterrupted descent, like that of the Spirit at Christ’s baptism (Matt 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32,33), and that of Christ at His first advent (John 3:13; 6:33,38,41,42,50,51,58). Where a reversal from downward to upward motion comes into view, a specific statement to the effect appears as in Acts 10:11,16 ("a certain object coming down… and immediately the object was taken up into the sky"). In the absence of a statement indicating a halt or sudden reversal of direction, we naturally infer a complete descent to the earth, such as will take place only at the posttribulational advent.[xiii]
I like how Walvoord worded his rebuttal:
…Gundry is attempting to solve this problem by definition of a word, a definition quite arbitrary and slanted in the direction of his conclusion…. Gundry here again appeals to the argument from silence, which he so often disavows for the pretribulational view…. Gundry argues from silence that there should be mention of a change in direction if such took place, but he discounts the silence of the passage on any indication of its continued direction to the earth.[xiv]
Adding to this, no other Greek word is translated descend in the New Testament. In other words, katabaino cannot be contrasted with a word that includes the idea of a reversal of direction or an incomplete descent. Gundry’s argument that this word necessarily "indicates a complete, uninterrupted descent" unless specifically stated otherwise is broken by this simple observation. Furthermore, his supporting verses in Acts 10 to lend strength for his view, for when the purpose of the descent was completed, the object returned to heaven. Likewise, when Jesus descends He will gather His saints and begin His wrath – and completing this purpose, return to heaven. John 14:2,3 provides a support for this, stating that Christ will come get us and take us to His Father’s house, which is heaven. While we, rightly dividing the Word on this topic, have an explicit confirmation of the rapture to heaven, posttribs must continue to argue from silence.
McKeever offers a similar argument, using a different word, in The Rapture Book[xv]:
In 1Thessalonians 4:16-17…we saw that the Christian will meet the Lord in the air. The Greek word for meet in this passage is apantesis. This word…[only occurs two] other places in the New Testament…. [In Acts 28:14,15] we see that the brethren came out to meet Paul. However, the principal actor in the drama, which was Paul in this case, kept going and the people doing the meeting did the reversing of direction, as one would expect. The only other place this word is used in the Scriptures is in the parable of the bridegroom and ten virgins (Matt 25:1-13). The ten virgins went out to meet the bridegroom. The bridegroom, who was the principal actor in this drama, kept coming, and those doing the meeting reversed course. If this same usage holds true in 1Thessalonians, then when we meet Christ in the air, He will not reverse course, we will.
An interestingly put argument, but again erroneous. First of all as in the previous case, McKeever’s case is built on silence, for in his two "proof" texts any movement following the meeting is explicit, while 1Thessalonians says nothing of the further movement of the principals – only that we will be with the Lord forever.
Second, Acts 28 does not suitably demonstrate what McKeever wishes. In this case Paul was headed to Rome under guard to be imprisoned. The brethren went out to meet him at one of his stopping places on the way to encourage him on his journey. As Paul continued his course for Rome the brethren naturally reversed direction to return home, for they were neither going to prison nor to Rome. They did not travel with Paul, whereas the saints will go wherever Jesus goes after that grand meeting in the air.
The parable of the ten virgins does not support McKeever, either (Matt 25:1-13). His case relies on unsupportable assumptions: Where was the bridegroom’s starting point? Was he heading toward the house of the wedding feast from some other place (McKeever’s assumption)? Maybe he came from that house, went out to collect the virgins, and then returned again to the same place. This passage, taken out of its historical setting, doesn’t state which, and the latter would prove that the rapture is to heaven. The some two questions affect the virgins – did they come from the house of the feast (McKeever), or go with the groom to another place?
This is one of those passages where knowing the historical setting and cultural context can help us find the meaning. Jesus’ parables were given from a first century Jewish perspective, and this is one situation where their customs differ sufficiently from the modern day to obscure part of the meaning. According to H.L Ellison:
At a Jewish wedding the bridegroom, surrounded by his friends, went, generally after sunset, to the home of the bride to fetch her. The bride, dressed in her best, was carried in a litter to the bridegroom’s house, a procession being formed by her and the bridegroom’s friends…. When the bridegroom’s home was reached, the wedding supper was eaten.[xvi] [cf. Psalm 45:14,15]
The central idea of the parable of the ten virgins is readiness to meet the Lord. Because Jesus is called the bridegroom and the Church His bride in other passages (e.g. 2Cor 11:2; Matt 9:15; John 3:28-29) and the topic is the end times, this is clearly the rapture. Midtribs, posttribs, prewraths, and even the occasional pretrib adherents believe that this and the following context concern the rapture (Matt 25:14-30). Both prewrath and posttrib adherents add 24:29-51 to the context. These are definitely connected and should be regarded as a whole, as no change in thought is seen.
But the details of Jesus’ parables also hold meaning, as we learned in Chapter One, and this one is no different. Jewish customs indicate that the virgins represent the bride of Christ, the church. As we follow this story, in retrospective it appears to give a brief history of the Church age – particularly with the teaching of the second coming. The virgins’ going out to meet the bridegroom (Matt 25:1) represents the founding of the Church. Since they must wait for the bridegroom (v. 5) of whom they know not the hour of his coming (Matt 24:36-51), the rapture is yet future from this point. During the long wait the virgins fell asleep – probably referring to the period of nearly 1500 years during which the second coming was mostly ignored or spiritualized away. It follows that the midnight cry warning of the Bridegroom’s coming, awakening the sleepers, is the restoration of this truth to prominence in the early 1800’s, as the Church again begins expecting the Lord. I am not precisely whom the two groups of five virgins represent – other than that the wise virgins are ultimately saved and the foolish ones are not (vv. 9,10). (I am aware of several possibilities, but hold no definite view.) Finally, the bridegroom arrives after an additional short wait, coming from His home with His friends (read, "angels"; cf. Matt 24:31 and 2Thess 1:7). He gathers the five wise virgins and returns to His home for the wedding celebration, as per custom (v. 10). In short, when the Church meets her bridegroom, it is He who will reverse direction.
Douglas moo offers still another angle:
Five times in John’s Gospel Jesus proclaims that he will raise those who believe in Him on "the last day" (6:39, 40, 44, 45; 11:54). And since the Rapture occurs at the same time as the resurrection of believers, the Rapture, too, must be a part of that Day.[xvii]
Moo, in context, presents the case that the rapture will take place within the Day of the Lord. He feels that the best, most logical place for this "last day" is at Armageddon.
In reply, may I suggest that the "last day" spoken of by Jesus is the end of the Church age – which would make it the rapture regardless of when it takes place, whether pretrib, midtrib, Posttrib, or prewrath. The context does not require it to be the "last day" of the Day of the Lord.
Moo raises another point recommending posttrib rapture[xviii]. He claims that a rapture-to-heaven scenario would require that the saints inhabit their heavenly mansions for only a very short period, only to vacate them during the millennium while they rule the earth with Christ.
Answering this we must first remember that the judgment and rewarding of believers, as well as the wedding supper, must precede Armageddon but follow the rapture. They have the greater onus to solve this Scriptural problem than we their supposedly logical problem.
Second, their logic is based on the assumption that believers will soon have to move back out of their heavenly mansions while they rule the earth during the millennium. In such a case, the "brief stay" could be considered a temporary residence while the Bema Seat judgment and wedding supper take place; BUT who says we won’t continue to reside in heavenly homes during the millennium? Our new bodies will have spiritual properties, such as the ability to move from one place to another instantly, so no difficulties of transportation between a heavenly residence and an earthly workplace would exist: It would certainly be easier and more convenient than the rush hour traffic fight today. Furthermore, I doubt that God will place so much work on the saints that they will need to work 24/7 just to keep up. While God firmly believes in the work ethic, He also heartily approves taking a day off each week for rest – so much so, that He made it His fourth commandment (Exodus 20). And let’s not forget the frequent "holidays," several a year, lasting as long as a week at a time, times of relaxation, feasting, and worship (i.e. Passover, feast of trumpets, etc.). Also with many millions, perhaps even billions, of resurrected saints available to work during the millennium, the problem might be finding enough work to keep everyone busy for 1,000 years rather than otherwise, for Jesus will not head up a wasteful bureaucracy.
No, there is not one reason we cannot be raptured to heaven and continue to reside there during the millennium. I know that I look forward to spending time relaxing in my heavenly mansion, basking in the warmth of God’s love.
Also, it the supposed "brief stay" position of other theories seems awkward, the yo-yo rapture of posttribulationism is even more so. In his response to Moo, Gleason Archer explains[xix]:
…We maintain that this yo-yo procedure of popping up and down presents a very great difficulty. At one moment the faithful followers of Christ are lifted up out of the revolting scene of the sin-cursed, evil-dominated world in order to meet with the Lord Jesus… in the clouds of heaven. But, this means that He will descend mounted upon His white horse, followed by the hosts of heaven. If so, He would hardly be apt to check His course for any length of time as He makes His way… to the battlefield of Armageddon. If anything, these upward-bobbing saints will only impede the momentum of His earthward charge as He rushes down to crush… the Beast and all his minions. The most that can be said of such a "Rapture" is that it is a rather secondary sideshow of minimal importance.
In conclusion of this point, neither the rapture to heaven nor the rapture to earth can be proven form this single passage in 1Thessalonians 4. However, the evidence from other passages, along with the application of a little logic, requires a rapture to heaven. Posttrib is severely weakened by this point.
Like prewrath adherents, many posttribs recognize a sixth-seal rapture in Matthew. Unlike prewrath, however, they place this event at the end of the seventieth week, at the Battle of Armageddon. They accomplish this feat by overlapping the seal, trumpet and bowl judgments. McKeever presents these first two charts as the most likely scenarios in his opinion[xx]:
Posttribs base their overlap schemes on the similarities found in the sixth seal and the seventh of each series. All four mention an earthquake (Rev 6:14; 8:5; 11:19; 16:18, 20, 21), while the sevens also describe thundering, lightning, and hail. Therefore, they conclude, these are all tied together at Armageddon. As for the rest of their overlap schedules, these are based on imagination rather than on any clear Scriptural marks. It should be noted that pretribs likewise cannot agree on a basic order of these judgments.
While having basically the right idea, the posttrib method of overlap is in error. Because they place the rapture at Armageddon, they must put the sixth seal, which will immediately precede the rapture (see chapters 5 and 8), at this time. But if we remove this limitation and allow Scripture to schedule these series of judgments aside from preconceived doctrine, then we can find out the truth. And if God’s Word provides sufficient information to discover the order of these, then any related topic or event, such as the rapture, must take this into account or fill in additional details that modify that order without contradiction.
Looking at Scripture, we find the seventh seal states in no uncertain terms that the angels receive the trumpets at this time (Rev 8:1-6), which means that they cannot sound until all of the seals are opened. Additionally, during the sixth seal the 144,000 firstfruits of Israel are sealed to protect them from the trumpets of wrath – they are sealed before the angels can harm the earth (Rev 7:1-4) – so the trumpets must follow the sixth seal, confirming the point.
The first bowl judgment can be tightly linked to the seventh trumpet, too. As the trumpet sounds, God’s heavenly temple is opened and the ark of His covenant is seen (Rev 11:19). Turning to the prelude to the bowl judgments (Rev 15:5-8), when the temple housing the tabernacle of testimony, that is, the ark with the ten commandments and the covenant (Exodus 25:22), is opened, the angels with the bowls containing the final plagues of God’s wrath come out of the temple. The temple then fills with smoke so that none may enter until God’s wrath is complete. This evidence tells us that the seals, trumpets, and bowls will be fulfilled sequentially, leaving a problem for those who would overlap the judgments similarly to the charts above.
But there is an overlap, one that is different from what posttribs envision, as the following chart illustrates. This view accounts for the similarity in the sevens but also accounts for the Scriptural order:
SEALS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 →→→→→→→→→→→I
TRUMPETS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 →→→→→I
BOWLS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
To explain, the trumpeting angels receive their instruments as a part of the seventh seal, therefore making them a part of that seal. At the seventh trumpet, when Christ begins His earthly reign, the angels are given bowls of unrestrained wrath to pour out as a part of His cleansing the earth of the ungodly, which will end with the Battle of Armageddon and the sheep and goat judgment (Matt 25). This makes the bowls a part of the seventh trumpet judgment, which in turn places them under the seventh seal. In support, you will notice that there is no direct special judgment associated with the seventh seal or seventh trumpet – only forewarning of wrath to come. This is because the following trumpets and bowls are the judgments of the preceding seventh. As for the earthquakes, thundering, lightning, and hail of the sevenths, these are the same event happening all at one time, waiting to be fulfilled until the seventh bowl brings completion to the seventh seal and seventh trumpet judgments.
The earthquake described in the sixth seal is a separate one which moves islands and mountains to ensure that no-one misses the heavenly signs of truth announcing God’s wrath (Rev 6:12,14; Luke 21:25,26). This is only a mere forerunner to the truly awesome and terrible earthquake of Armageddon, which sinks islands and flattens mountains (Rev 15:18,20); the first says, "I’m coming," and the second says, "I’m here." One other prophetically important earthquake will destroy one-tenth of Jerusalem shortly prior to the sounding of the seventh trumpet (Rev 11:13).
A final critical problem with the posttrib view is the possibility of determining to within a couple of days the timing of Christ’s coming at the rapture several years in advance. According to such a schedule, this would take place exactly 1260 days (or possibly 1290) after the Abomination of Desolation (Dan 12:11,12; Rev 12:6; 13:5), and seven years after the covenant between antichrist and Israel. In contrast, Jesus explicitly stated, "of that day and hour no-one knows…"(Matt 24:36), followed by repeated statements to watch and be ready. While we can know when it is very near (24:33), based on the signs of the times, the events described in Matthew 24, that day cannot be precisely determined. Other Scriptures support this (1Thessalonians 5:1-11).
We have seen that posttribulationism falls short of harmonizing all the pertinent Scriptures concerning the timing of Christ’s coming. We must look elsewhere.
The most popular and widespread theory concerning our Lord’s coming, pretribulationism states that the rapture could occur at any moment, unheralded by signs, and requiring no other prophecies be fulfilled first. This view also requires the rapture to take place prior to or at the start of the seventieth week. On some issues it is somewhat difficult to nail down exactly what they believe because there are wide differences in interpretation of some Scriptures. I will only briefly discuss this theory in this chapter, for I show its many problems during the main portion of this book. But for each of their arguments included in this summary I tell in which chapter it is discussed
The key to this theory, as understood by many pretribs, is the dispensational doctrine. They insist there can be no overlapping of the ages because God has a different plan for each. Supposedly, the seventieth week will focus solely on Israel and bring back the Mosaic covenant of the law as existed during the first 69 weeks – which would exclude the presence of the Church during this time, as we are under grace. In Things To Come[xxii], Pentecost repeatedly uses this doctrine as a battering ram against the midtrib and posttrib positions, and would probably try it against prewrath today. While it may slightly weaken posttrib (and totally destroy anti-dispensationalism as espoused by McKeever and others), it does no harm to prewrath or some forms of midtrib. This doctrine is discussed in chapter nine.
Second, pretribs often state unequivocally that a literal, face value hermeneutic supports only their theory. For example, Pentecost insists:
Thus we can see that our doctrine of the premillennial return of Christ to institute a literal kingdom is the outcome of the literal method of interpretation of the Old Testament promises and prophecies [this is a true statement]. It is only natural therefore, that the same basic method of interpretation must be employed in our interpretation of the rapture question…. It can easily be seen that the literal method of interpretation demands a pretribulational rapture of the church.[xxiii]
He is convinced that all other theories must either twist or allegorize some passages to make them fit, destroying any claim to a literal hermeneutic.
First of all, it is not so "easily seen" or else there would be no conflicting ideas except among those who hold a non-literal method. As I mentioned earlier, upon reading the Bible for myself, I saw no clear sign of the pretrib rapture I had been told about, but say many signs that the Church would enter the tribulation period.
Also most other premillennial adherents claim a literal hermeneutic with their rapture theories, too. The mere claim of reliance on this method is insufficient for more than incidental support for any given theory or doctrine; while it is important, the claim of its use does not prove its consistent use. Each theory or doctrine must be carefully examined, both its own claims and the opposing arguments, to determine which view is consistently literal and accounts best for all the pertinent data. And, of course, everything must be examined in the light of God’s Word, ensuring that nothing contradicts other clear doctrines – unlike the partial rapture theory. Even some pretribs have been known to allegorize an occasional passage or define a word arbitrarily, as we will see later. Those individuals who do this cannot rightly be said to rely on a consistently literal hermeneutic, regardless whether their ultimate conclusions on the position are correct.
Other important arguments raised by pretribs include the theory of imminency (Chapter 9), the belief that the Holy Spirit’s influence in the world through the Church must be removed prior to the seventieth week (Chapter 6), and the fact that the Church is not named in Revelation’s account of the seventieth week (Chapter 7). I will present my case against these and all other arguments I could find during this study, while presenting the prewrath position.
As a systematically developed theory, prewrath is the most recent of this group. But, when compared to nearly 2000 years of Church history, all are of recent origin. Even pretrib and posttrib can only be traced back to about the 1830’s. No position can lay claim to the antiquity of a systematically developed position as evidence for its verity. As we will see in Chapter Nine, however, the earliest Church fathers commonly believed and taught that Christians would enter the great tribulation, which lends some ancient weight to posttrib and prewrath.
Simply put, prewrath adherents understand that the Church will enter the great tribulation of the antichrist, only to be rescued form the midst of it at the sixth seal. This glorious event will take place immediately before God pours out His fiery wrath upon the whole world. Besides the universally recognized rapture passages (1Cor 15:52; 1Thess 4:13-17), we also insist that Matthew 24:29-31 (cf. Mark 13; Luke 21) and Revelation 6:12-7:17 describe a sixth seal rapture. While it is true that most other premillennial positions claim to be prewrath, their identifying names do not use this designation.
I will strive to consistently follow the literal hermeneutic described in Chapter One throughout this book. Scriptures will frequently be quoted or cited for your convenience, but feel free to look at them in their context in your own Bible. Be like the Bereans and search diligently to se if these things are true. I will try to avoid the undue sensationalism found so often in other eschatological books, but some points are so important that they cannot help but stand out. And like a well-built house, when all of the various parts are put together, we will find a perfectly and efficiently functional prewrath position.
Again, I urge you to approach this study with your heart and mind open to the Holy Spirit’s divine guidance, for only He can truly teach truth. If you hold one of the other positions, be willing to change your mind if the study shows you differently – stand up for God’s Word and Truth. Consider each point carefully and prayerfully, and I believe you will come to the understanding that prewrath harmonizes all of scripture on Christ’s coming and the rapture, leaving nothing out and having no awkward arguments. May God richly bless you. Amen.
[i] The Millennial Kingdom, John F. Walvoord: Dunham Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 1959, p. vi
[ii] This We Believe, Arnold T. Olson: Free Church Publications, Minneapolis MN, 1961,pp 316-317
[iii] Premillennialism in Revelation 20:4-6, Jack S. Deere: Bibliotheca Sacra Reader, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1983, p.52
[iv] Entrance Into The Kingdom, Robert Govett)
[v] The End Times, Herman A. Hoyt, Moody Press, Chicago, 1969, p. 78)
[vi] The Harrison Service, Minneapolis, MN
[vii] The Rapture: Pre-, Mid-, or Post-tribulational, Richard R. Reiter’s contribution: The Zondervan Corp., Grand Rapids, MI, 1984, p.31
[viii] See his contribution in The Rapture…
[ix] The Rapture: p124
[x] See The Coming Climax of History, James McKeever: Omega Publications, P.O. Box 4130, Medford, OR, 97501, pp 25-62
[xi] Be Victorious, Warren B. Wiersbe; Victor Books, Wheaton, IL 1985, p 70)
[xii] Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, vol. 5, p 953
[xiii] The Church and the Tribulation, p.103
[xiv] "Posttribulationism Today", John F. Walvoord; Bibliotheca Sacra, Dallas Theological Seminary, Oct-Dec 1976, p 304
[xv] Omega Publications, pp 96-97
[xvi] "Matthew", H.L. Ellison; The International Bible Commentary, ed. F.F. Bruce: Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1979, p1147
[xvii] The Rapture: p. 184
[xviii] The Rapture: p. 178-179
[xix] The Rapture: p.215
[xx] The Coming Climax of History, pp. 164-165
[xxi] The Rapture: p. 204
[xxii] J. Dwight Pentecost: Dunham Publishing Co., Findlay Ohio, 1958
[xxiii] Things To Come, p. 194, emph. Mine
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