|Pretribulation Rapture: Rebuttal|
Pretribulation Rapture: Rebuttal
Proponents of a pretribulation rapture sincerely believe that the Church will be removed from the earth prior to the tribulation and they believe that this doctrine is scripturally sound. This doctrine, however, is an error. True Christian believer – those who confess that Jesus is the Christ, that He is the son of God, that he suffered and died for their sins – those true believers will inhabit the earth during the great tribulation and suffer persecution, turmoil, and martyrdom under the Antichrist. The rapture of the Church does not occur until the breaking of the sixth seal of the scroll with seven seals.
How can so many learned scholars be wrong? Humans have difficulty in throwing off the things of their youth including those things acquired in error. We strive to protect our beliefs, to prove those beliefs true. Within Christianity, we cling to the lessons taught by our teachers and our preachers. When we read the Bible, we accept those supportive of our beliefs and discard those that do not. There is nothing inherently evil in this act – it is a normative human process, it protects our sense of wellbeing.
Teachers are necessary to help young minds and young spirits comprehend the Word of God. But at some point, the students should outgrow their teachers; they should seek to stand on their own two feet. They should be able to read with an adult understanding, and they should be able to hear the quiet whispering of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, far too many prefer not to extend the effort, the energy, and the time necessary nurture their adult minds, their adult spirits; they prefer to hang onto the lessons of their youth. They may adjust and refine… but the lessons remain essentially the same.
I am not sure when the pretribulation rapture doctrine was first developed. Some say that it was among the earliest church teachings, other attribute it to a Baptist minister named Morgan Edwards in 1788, and others to John Darby in the 1830. The source doesn’t really make a difference. What makes a difference is the soundness of its precepts. This section examines those precepts and their shortcomings.
No effort was made to prove pretribulational arguments wrong; the responses simple provide an alternative view. The purpose is not to convert; that is the job of the Holy Spirit. The purpose is to share. You, the reader, are encouraged to email thoughts, questions, concerns, and refutations. Those comments will be appreciated.
Proponents of a pretribulation rapture generally define the Great Tribulation as a seven year period beginning with the breaking of the first seal of the scroll with seven seals and ending with the physical return of Jesus Christ with His armies at the battle of Armageddon. This, in my opinion, is misleading… the Great Tribulation DOES NOT encompass the entire seven years of Daniel’s 70th Week.
The Great Tribulation is that period described in the Olivet Discourse from the coming of the many false messiahs until the gathering of Christ’s elect from the four winds. In the book of Revelation, the Great Tribulation begins with the breaking the first seal of the scroll with seven seals and ends immediately prior to the breaking of the seventh seal. The Church will be present on the earth during this period. The Church will be raptured from the earth upon the breaking of the sixth seal.
The first four seals of the scroll with seven seals DO NOT involve God’s wrath although they do represent judgment on the wicked inhabitants of the earth. The Wrath of God DOES NOT begin until the breaking of the seventh seal.
Daniel’s 70th Week DOES NOT directly correlate with the Great Tribulation, but rather it spans a portion of the Great Tribulation and the entire Wrath of God. Daniel’s 70th Week begins when the Antichrist makes a covenant with many nations including Israel and ends with the physical return of Jesus Christ with His armies for the battle of Armageddon. The breaking of the first seal occurs before the Antichrist makes this covenant – he must gain prominence, esteem, and power prior to rising to a position with the authority necessary to execute this covenant. Prophetic scriptures do not provide clues concerning how much time transpires from the breaking of the first seal until the signing of the covenant.
While reading this section, DO NOT confuse pretribulation rapture terminology with the terms within this study – they are not interchangeable. There is a clear distinction between the Great Tribulation, the Wrath of God, and Daniel’s 70th Week.
During the transition from this age to the next, the Lord Jesus Christ will return twice: first in the clouds to gather His elect and then a few years later with His heavenly host, then He will establish His earthly Millennial Kingdom. This is a scripturally sound fact that is beyond debate:
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
Until that time, those of us who call Jesus Christ Lord should eagerly await His return in the clouds. This is a scripturally sound fact that is beyond debate:
Titus 2:13: while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. (NIV)
Philippians 3:20: But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. (NIV)
Throughout the New Testament, scripture indicates that we should always be prepared because we do not know the day or hour of Christ’s return. This is a scripturally sound fact that is beyond debate:
Acts 1:6-7: So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. (NIV)
Matthew 24:36: No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (NIV)
1 John 2:28: And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming. (NIV)
There will be two resurrections: one for those who believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and one for those who will face judgment. The resurrection of the believer will come prior to Christ’s establishment of His Millennial Kingdom and the general resurrection at the end of the Millennium prior to the White Throne Judgment.
The Olivet Discourse
Just as the four Gospels provide the foundation for the New Testament Church, the Olivet Discourse within Matthew, Mark, and Luke provide the foundation for New Testament prophecy. Just as the Acts and the epistles expound and refine the gospel accounts, Acts, the epistles, and the book of Revelation expound and refine the Olivet Discourse. Contrary to many proponents of the pretribulation view, the Olivet Discourse does not limit its scope to Israel at the exclusion of the Church. The Olivet Discourse is a beautiful example of God’s living, breathing testament, and it addresses three specific events:
All too frequently, we forget that God is omniscient, omnipotent, and the creator of all things. All too frequently we limit God’s ability to the confines of our physical world. All too often we limit God’s mind to the confines of man’s simple mind. Such things are errors; such errors lead to confusion and misunderstanding. We should not place such limits on the Olivet Discourse or the messages it communicates.
The Olivet Discourse was delivered to the Disciples of Jesus Christ – Messianic Jews. By this time in Christ’s earthly ministry, they had begun to understand that Jesus was the Son of God and the Messiah. They had also begun to understanding that the true mission of the Messiah was different than that defined by Jewish tradition. By the time of the Olivet Discourse, Christ’s earthly ministry was drawing to a end; He had made His triumphant entry into Jerusalem and would soon suffer the passion. The assertion, made by some pretribulationists, that the Olivet Discourse was directed purely at the Jews is mistaken. If we adopt this position, then virtually the entire Gospel is directed purely at the Jews, not the new Testament Church. Such a position is untenable.
During research, I encountered several articles that attempted to explain why the Olivet Discourse does not apply to the New Testament Church and why the gathering of the elect is not the Rapture. Few provided substantial, credible scripturally based arguments in support of their position. Such argumentation is not acceptable. A plain reading of the text indicates that the Christ’s Disciples, Messianic Jews, would expect to be among the gathering of the elect. Advocates of a differing view have the burden to prove otherwise.
Cooper P. Abrams in his article, “Are Church Age Saints in the Olivet Discourse?” presents a clear and well reasoned argument supporting his beliefs that the Olivet Discourse does not address the present Church Age and does not describe the rapture of the Church.1 Unlike many, Mr. Abrams does not contradict himself by asserting that portions of Matthew 24-25 apply to the Church while others do not. He asserts that none of Matthew 24-25 has application for the New Testament Church. His gentleness and reasoned arguments should be admired. While I agree with many of his premises, I disagree with his general conclusions.
Every detail of Matthew 24-25 is related to the Jews and the nation of Israel. There is nothing in these two chapters which relates to the present church age or believers of this dispensation. It is therefore a serious mistaken to interpret the Olivet Discourse as referring to end of the church age and there is not found here any support for a Pre-wrath, Mid or Post Tribulational rapture or Amillennialism. If understood properly these passages support the doctrine of a Pre-Tribulational rapture of believers in this present Church age and of the Pre-Millennial return of the Lord Jesus Christ.2
KINGDOM OF GOD V. THE MILLENNIAL KINGDOM:
The nature, location, and proximity of the Kingdom of God are frequently misunderstood by premillennialists. Many believe that Jesus Christ came to earth to establish this kingdom but was unable to do so because the Jews rejected Him as the Messiah. Many think of the Kingdom of God and the Millennial Kingdom as synonyms. Neither is accurate. The Kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom, it exists throughout creation, and it is readily accessible to those who seek God’s will. The Millennial Kingdom is a physical, earthly kingdom that will be established on earth after Christ’s Second Coming fulfilling many of the Old Testament promises concerning Israel. The Gospel that Jesus Christ preached during His earthly ministry was the gospel of His spiritual kingdom, not the Millennial Kingdom. (See the “Kingdom of God” section of this study.)
As illustrated in the Gospels, the learned scholars failed to recognize the distinction between the Kingdom of God and the Millennial Kingdom; they failed to distinguish between the spiritual and the material. Perhaps we have a similar problem today? When we fail to distinguish between the Kingdom of God and the Millennial Kingdom, the messages become intermingled and produce a somewhat distorted and confusing picture.
THE MOSAIC AGE V. THE CHURCH AGE:
Mr. Abrams makes an interesting point when he asserts that the Old Testament has not yet reached completion:
So far only 483 years of the prophecy has transpired which leaves the final seven years (Daniel's 70th Week) still future. The Old Testament dispensation is not completed, but will be finished with the coming of the Messiah at the end of the week.3
However, this premise does not justify the assertion that the Church will not be present during the events described within the Olivet Discourse. Some pretribulationists assert that the spiritual Church and spiritual Israel cannot coexist on earth at the same time. Jack Kelly, in his article “Defending The Pre-Trib Rapture (Again),” implies that God can only deal with either the Church or Israel at a time, not both:
One is that the Lord seems to keep Israel and the Church separate, never dealing with both at the same time (Acts 15: 13-18) If the primary purpose of Daniel’s 70th week is to finish fulfilling the six promises to Israel in Daniel 9:24, then the Church has to disappear.4
If we strictly adhere to these limits, then the vast bulk of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John’s gospels must be removed from the New Testament and placed in the Old Testament – their messages would also be limited strictly to the Jews, not the Church. While the New Testament Church did not formally come into being until Pentecost, the Gospels serve as a bridge between Israel and the Church just as Christ’s earthly ministry served as a transition between the Jew and the Christian. In a like manner, the end time tribulation will serve as a bridge and transition between the current age and the next. There will be a brief overlap.
If we insist that dispensations cannot overlap, then we must also alter our view of Daniel’s 70th week. Many premillennialist scholars assert that Daniel’s 70th week is split into two segments of three and one-half years. If Christ’s earthly message was directed strictly at the Jews, then His earthly ministry of three and one-half years fulfilled the first segment of Daniel’s 70th week. This first segment ended upon Christ’s rejection as the Messiah. The second segment would begin the sealing of the 144,000 from each tribe with the seal of the living God (Revelation 7:1-8). Thus, there would be no barrier to keeping the church on earth for until breaking of the sixth seals – spiritual Israel would not exist until the breaking of the sixth seal.
The prophecies found within the Olivet Discourse and the book of Revelation are not strictly limited to Israel but describe a transitional period between the current age and the next. During this transition, the Church will be removed and spiritual Israel will be established. We should remember that there is a distinction between the Great Tribulation, the Wrath of God, and Daniel’s 70th Week. While the three intermingle, they are not synonymous.
THE DISCIPLE’S VIEWPOINT OF THE DISCOURSE:
Mr. Abrams carefully examines the context of the Olivet Discourse including who was being addressed, the subject, and the historical-cultural situation at that time. From this, he concludes:
The disciples perceived that Jesus was referring to events at the end of their present age and the coming of the promised Kingdom. The age the disciples referred to is the end of the Old Testament dispensation which would end in God restoring the nation of Israel and their Messiah ruling from Jerusalem.5
Certainly, Christ’s disciples did not have a clear view of the Church Age until after Pentecost. This is readily evident by Peter’s actions during Jesus’ arrest:
John 18:10: Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant's name was Malchus.) (NIV)
Even at this late date in Christ’s earthly ministry, the disciples could not grasp that Jesus would die on the cross. Perhaps they believed Jesus would suddenly assume the role as conquering Messiah and usher in the new kingdom. Modern Jewish literature indicates that this is still the primary test of messianic authenticity – the Mashiach must rebuild the temple and usher in the promised, earthly Jewish kingdom. Thus, it is hard to quibble with Mr. Abrams’ analysis regarding the context and the disciples’ perceptions.
However, his general conclusion is invalid:
The disciples did not know anything about the coming Church Age. [True premise]
If the disciples did not fully understand the message when it was delivered, they did when they transcribed them… the Gospels were not written during Christ’s earthly ministry but after Pentecost. The Gospels weren’t transcribed by Jews; they were transcribed by Christians. However, even these facts are immaterial because the Gospels are the inspired Word of God… they are not natural words, but supernatural.
Once again, we must not limit God’s Word to human understanding. Once again, if we limit the Gospels to the Jewish viewpoint, then the bulk of the Gospels should be moved to the Old Testament. Once again, this is an untenable position.
Rather we should approach the Olivet Discourse as we would other biblical prophecy – with an understanding that the prophet (the transcriber) does not necessarily understand the application of the prophecies at the time they are given. Daniel clearly did not fully comprehend the meaning of all of his prophecies:
Daniel 8:27: …I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding. (NIV)
Daniel 12:4: But you, Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge. (NIV)
Daniel 12:8-9: I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, “My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?” He replied, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end. (NIV)
The Bible is neither a narrative nor a book of history. Although transcribed by human hands, the Bible is the inspired Word of God. Should we suppose that the Apostle John fully comprehended the visions he saw within the Apocalypse? I think not… The Bible is a living, breathing document. We need not limit its message to the mind of the human writer. Most importantly, the Olivet Discourse was not delivered by the disciples, but by Christ. Christ certainly understood the impact of His words:
Mark 4:13: Then Jesus said to them, "Don't you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable?” (NIV)
THE RAPTURE IS INSTANTANEOUS – NO ANGELS REQUIRED:
Here in Matthew 24:31, Christ sends angels to gather the saints to be present at His arrival. In 1 Thess. 4:16-17, states that Christ Himself will descend with a shout and the dead in Christ shall arise first and those a live will be change and "caught up" (raptured) to meet the Lord in the air. 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, states that those caught up will be changed in the "twinkling of an eye." The "gathering" of the saints by angels clearly is a different event than the instantaneous "catching up" of Christians of this age in the rapture.6
I have seen this argument in a number of articles so it is not unique to Mr. Abrams.
First, although this argument correctly portrays the “twinkling of an eye” in the first instance, its application is misleading within the conclusion. The instantaneous can only be applied to the change – to the putting on the imperishable, not to the entire process of the “catching up.” The passage does not indicate how long the rapture process will take; it only indicates that the change from perishable to imperishable will be instantaneous.
1 Corinthians 15:51-52: we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye (NIV)
1 Corinthians 15:51-52: will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye (NASB)
Second, the argument asserts that the Rapture involves meeting the Lord in the air while only a “sign” of the Lord is seen in the clouds. Unfortunately, this interpretation ignores the interpretation of the “sign” found with the other Gospel accounts:
Luke 21:27: At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. (NIV)
Mark 13:26: At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.(NIV)
Perhaps Matthew uses the term “sign” as an allusion to Matthew 16:4, “wicked and adulterous generation seeks a sign.” The Lord appearing in the clouds most certainly fulfills the desires of that generation.
Additionally, the Greek term for sign used here is sémeion. According to HELPSWord-Studies, the term is “used dozens of times in the NT for what authenticates the Lord and His eternal purpose, especially by doing what mere man cannot replicate of take credit for.”7 Considering the inclusion of numerous false messiahs, prophets, great signs, and great wonders within the discourse, a sign of authentication of the true Christ would seem appropriate.
Third, it is absolutely true that within the Olivet Discourse angels gathering the elect while such is not mentioned in the rapture scriptures within the epistles. Certainly, imperishable bodies would have no need for physical assistance, but perhaps, just perhaps, the angels are needed to guide the resurrected to a single meeting point, just like herding dogs herd a flock of sheep.
Certainly, two different perspectives are provided: one from the Lord Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry and one from an Apostle after Pentecost. Just because two different perspectives are given does not indicate that they are two different events. In fact, Mr. Abrams deployed two separate passages to describe the Rapture; he needed both to paint a more complete portrait. The same could be said concerning the differences between the Olivet account and those found within the epistles.
Additionally, I personally believe two different events are occurring simultaneously. The first is the rapture of the redeemed Christians who are heading towards heaven. The second is the gathering of remnant Israel who are sealed with the seal of the Living God. Both occur at the breaking of the sixth seal with the Church being seen in heaven immediately afterwards. Mortal Jews would certainly need a little help getting to Jerusalem.
THE ANGEL TRUMPET CALLS:
There is no correlation between 1 Thess. 4:16, and Matthew 24:31. In 1 Thess. 4:16, there is the voice of "one" angel, identified as the archangel. In Matthew 24:31, Christ sends forth, a plurality of angels, meaning more than one.8
I have also seen this argument in a few different articles. As mentioned previously, the absence of one or more details within one passage does not indicate that two passages aren’t addressing the same event. The case hold true here. The question is, “Does one passage contradict the other?” There is no such conflict in these passages. It is true that there is the voice of only “one” angel but that does not mean that only one angel is present; the other angels are simply not calling out commands or their words are not recorded. Matthew provides more detail about the number of angels, and Thessalonians provides specifics about the sound. There is no conflict.
Matthew 24:31: And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call…
1 Thessalonians 4:16: …with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God… (NIV)
REPOPULATION OF THE MILLENNIUM:
This [Matthew 24:40-41: two men in the field and one taken] cannot be the Rapture, because you would have all the saints removed from the earth, thus no one to populate the Millennial Kingdom in their natural un-glorified bodies. Further, at the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom there would only be the lost left on earth.9
The Church is the body and the bride of Christ; once it is removed from the earth, there will be no more being “saved,” at least not in the traditional sense. Once that door is closed, it is closed. The current age closes at the Rapture of the Church; those that are “left behind” will adhere to Millennial Kingdom principles, not to the Church Age principles.
Claims that only “saved” humans will survive the Second Coming of Christ project the current age onto the next. I have found no evidence that suggests that humans will be “saved” or “born again” during the outpouring of God’s wrath. Certainly, millions if not billions will survive the second half of Daniel’s 70th Week, those who conspired with Satan will share his fate, and the others will inhabit and repopulate the earth.
Within numerous Christian articles, I have read about the sealed 144,000 from each tribe of Israel becoming Christian evangelists, the two witnesses in Jerusalem preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, or the ones “left behind” finding Jesus and converting to Christianity. However, I have found no scriptural evidence demonstrating that these claims are true. Simply believing in Jesus Christ during this time period is insufficient… all mortals will see and believe. They will see Christ coming in the clouds and they will understand that they have rejected the Gospel:
Revelation 6:15-17: Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (NIV)
The Church was a mystery to the previous age; many aspects of the next age are mysterious to us. We should not project the current age upon the next. We must examine the scriptures and base our beliefs on the message they speak. Theories concerning the inhabitants of the Millennial Kingdom are simply that, theories and should not alter the plain meaning of scripture.
In summary, the Olivet Discourse serves as a foundation for New Testament prophecy. It addresses the events that occurred in Jerusalem during the 1st Century, it addresses the events that will involve the Church at the end of the current age, and it addresses the events that will involve Israel during the transition to the Millennial Age. God’s Word does not provide an answer to all of our questions, and we should be careful not to generate doctrine to fill in the gaps.
Imminence is the belief that Jesus Christ can return at anytime to Rapture the Church; imminence indicates that there are no prerequisites for this return – no conditions must be fulfilled.
NO ONE KNOWS THE DAY OR HOUR:
Proponents of a pretribulation rapture frequently point to multiple scriptures within the Olivet Discourse to support an assertion that since no man knows the day or hour, Christ can return at any moment:
Matthew 24:42: Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. (NIV)
Matthew 24:50: The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. (NIV)
Matthew 25:13: Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. (NIV)
Response: Ironically, most proponents of a pretribulation rapture also assert that the gathering of the elect in Matthew 24:31 is not the Church but either souls brought to Christ during the tribulation or saved Jews. They also assert that the Rapture occurs before the tribulation described within the Olivet Discourse. Logic dictates that if the first section of the discourse does not apply to the Church then the later sections also do not apply to the Church. It seems wrong “pick and choose” scriptures that support one position and reject those that oppose it.
However, Acts 1:7 makes it clear that God had no intention to inform the Apostles as to the times or dates of Christ’s return; consequentially, the scriptures do not provide clues about the times or dates. Two-thousand years later, mankind does not know the day or the hour. Searching scripture for clues is fool hearted.
However, not knowing the day or hour does NOT mean that Christ will return at any moment. The Apostle Paul does outline two events that must occur BEFORE Christ’s return:
2 Thessalonians 2:1-3: with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed… (NASB)
Paul assures the Thessalonians that that the Lord will not return and gather His saints until two events occur first: (a) an apostasy and (b) the Antichrist revealed. We have difficulty determining the meaning of “apostasy” because Paul does not provide a description. However, Paul does provide a detailed description of the “man of lawlessness,” the Antichrist.
I have read articles were scholars have attempted to “explain away” this passage, but these explanations frequently skew the meaning of the passage so that it is virtually unrecognizable. For example, some assert that the “day of the Lord” in this passage is the Old Testament “Day of the Lord” when God pours His wrath upon the inhabitants of the earth. However, that simply is not the case. Paul clearly defines the “day of the Lord” with the phrase “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him” – the Rapture.
Others assert that this describes events occurring in 70 AD when the armies of Titus destroyed the second Temple. If we accept this claim, then we should accept a full preterist view and consider all prophecies fulfilled. Accepting a preterist few for some passages and rejecting that view for other passages is arbitrary and should be rejected.
Is there a second and third witness to this passage? Yes, absolutely. Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14 make a direct reference to Daniel’s Abomination of Desolation that parallels 2 Thessalonians 2:4 where the Antichrist takes his seat in the Jewish Temple. Yes, many pretribulationists reject these verses application to the Church, but all three passages refer to Christ returning and gathering His saints.
*NOTE: 2 Thessalonians 2:4 indicates that a third Jewish Temple will be built in the latter days.
Although we do not know the day and hour of Christ’s return, we do know that an apostasy must occur and that the Antichrist must be revealed BEFORE He returns. We know for certain that the Antichrist has not yet been revealed – there is no Jewish Temple.
DAYS OF NOAH:
Proponents of a pretribulation rapture frequently point to the Flood allusion within the Olivet Discourse to illustrate that the Rapture will come suddenly and as a complete surprise:
Matthew 24:36-39: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. (NIV)
Response: I find this a curious argument as it seems to contradict the theory of imminence. First, verse 36 outlines the topic, “No one knows about the day or hour.” This preface is written in the present tense “knows” indicating that at that time, the time when the words were spoken, no one knew the day or hour of Christ’s return. Verse 37 is written in the future tense “will be” indicating that in the future the “knowing” part is comparable to the days of Noah.
Although there is no discernible conjunction joining these two verses, some scholars read the two verse as if it says:
This is an error. We must not add or detract from scripture. The allusion, therefore, compares the “knowing” at the time of the second coming to the time of Noah, not to the “knowing” when Jesus Christ spoke the words.
Now, when God instructed Noah to build the ark, God informed Noah what was going to occur (Genesis 6:13-21), and it took Noah and his family some 98 years to build the ark10 and seven days to load the ark (Genesis 7:4). Certainly, Noah might not have known the “day or the hour” during the 98 years he was building the Ark, but he and his family certainly knew “about what would happen.” They certainly knew the time was very, very close when they started to load the animals. The rain did NOT come suddenly or as a surprise to Noah and his family.
Who were the people who knew nothing about what would happen? They were the people who were “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage.” They were the people who were destroyed by the flood, these were the people who were caught unaware.
It was the unbelievers, the wicked, who were caught off guard, not the righteous, the blameless, and the ones who walk with God (Genesis 6:9). Instead of supporting the belief that all will be surprised by the Rapture, this passage seems to indicate that the true believer will know about what is about to happen.
If we use the Great Flood as a precursor to the Rapture, then we are to understand that God will give the righteous clear warning before He returns for His Church. True, we may not know the day or hour, but the generation of the Rapture will know what is upon them.
DAYS OF LOT:
Proponents of a pretribulation rapture frequently point to the days of Lot to illustrate that the Rapture will come suddenly and as a complete surprise:
Luke 17:29-30: It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.
Response: This allusion shares many of the same characteristic as the allusion to Noah and the Flood. It also implies that the servants of God will have notice before their sudden departure. The two angels did not come into town and immediately snatch Lot and his family away but rather they came and spent the night. Even when the angels revealed that they had come to destroy the city, they permitted Lot to go out and attempt to persuade his sons-in-law. It wasn’t until morning that Lot departed with his wife and two daughters. Certainly, the departure carries a sense of urgency, “Hurry!” (Genesis 19:15) but Lot was warned hours before the time was near.
Certainly, the other inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah were caught off guard and unaware. Certainly, their destruction struck a suddenly and unexpectedly. But that was not the case of the righteous.
THIEF IN THE NIGHT:
Proponents of a pretribulation rapture frequently point to multiple scriptures that compare Christ’s return to that of a thief in the night. Since a thief can strike at anytime unexpectedly, then Christians should also understand that Christ can also return at anytime unexpectedly.
1 Thessalonians 5:2-3: for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. (NIV)
Matthew 24:43-44: But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (NIV)
Response: I would agree that a Christian should always be prepared to meet the Lord, not so much because He can return at any moment, but because we never know when we might die and go home unexpectedly. However, there is a provision within these passages. 1 Thessalonians 5:4 claims that we are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. Matthew 24:43-44 has a similar proviso, “he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.” The other analogies along this line – the wise and faithful servant, the ten virgins, and the ten talents – teach a similar lesson. If we study the Word of God, we may not know the day or hour, but His return will not surprise us for we will have noticed the signs of imminence:
Matthew 24:32-33: Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. (NIV)
Certainly, Christ’s return for His Church will be a surprise for those who are distracted by the pleasures of this world, those who are not diligent in their Christian duties, and those who become overwhelmed by the cares of this world. However, if we know the Word of God and we keep our eyes clear, we can readily detect the signs that Christ and the Apostle Paul forewarned us about; Christ’s return will not sneak up on us like a thief in the night.
3 ½ YEARS, 42 MONTHS, & 1,260 DAYS:
Within the books of Revelation and Daniel, God reveals specific time periods between events: three and one-half years, forty-two months, and 1,260 days. According to some proponents of a pretribulation rapture these specifics would permit Christians, if they are present during the tribulation, to calculate the day and hour of Christ’s return. This, they claim, violates the “no one knows the day or hour” clause.
Response: Proponents of this argument, unfortunately, suffer from tunnel vision – they are so focused on the exact words that they fail to see the context. Asserting no one will know the day or hour until the exact moment of Christ’s return, in my view, is unreasonable… it would mean that even Jesus Christ the Son would not know until the moment the Father gave Him the nod:
Matthew 24:36: No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (NIV)
As we have seen in the stories of Noah and Lot, there is lead up time between the moment God decides to initiate an action and the moment that action materially takes place. It took Noah some hundred years to build the ark and seven days to load it; then the rains came. The angels came to Lot at night and Lot did not leave until morning; then Sodom was destroyed.
In a like manner, God the Father will hand the scroll with the seven seals to Jesus Christ the Son… at this moment those who dwell in heaven will know that the time has come and how the events will unfold. On earth, the breaking of the first seal will set events in motion. The signing of the covenant will reveal the man of lawlessness and the setting up of the abomination that causes desolation will be the fig tree putting forth its leaves; then Christians will know that Christ is near, even at the door.
Even with these signs, will Christians be able to estimate the exact day and hour? I don’t believe so. The Olivet Discourse instructs that those in Judea must flee when they see the armies surrounding Jerusalem and when they see the abomination of desolation. It does not indicate that Christ will return for the elect within seconds of those occurrences. It may be minutes, days, weeks, possibly a month until He comes. We will not know exactly, but we are told that those days will be cut short.
See “The Seals ≠ Day of the Lord” and “The Four Sore Judgments” within the Seven Seals section.
WRATH, GOD HATH NOT APPOINTED TO US:
In 1 Thessalonians 5:9, Paul assures us that God has not appointed His people to wrath. This wrath is plainly God's anger that will be poured out during the tribulation. Pre-trib believers interpret this as meaning that Christians will be removed from the earth. Post-trib believers tell a different story. They describe this as meaning that God will protect Christians during the tribulation and pour this wrath out on the unbelievers only. This idea runs against the statement made in Revelation 13:7, in which the Antichrist is given power to make war with the saints and to overcome them.11
Certainly, true Christians will never face the Wrath of God; this is the absolute, unalterable truth:
1 Thessalonians 5:9: For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. (NIV)
However, there is a clear distinction between God’s wrath and tribulation. Christians are instructed to expect and endure tribulation:
2 Corinthians 6:4-5: Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger. (NIV)
A plain reading of the Olivet Discourse reveals great tribulation: false messiahs, false prophets, deception, war, rumors of war, strife between nations, famines, earthquakes, pestilence, persecution, hatred, imprisonment, torture, wickedness, and betrayal. But God’s people from multiple generations have long endured such things; it should not be unexpected for the last generation of Christians to suffer such things…. such tribulation, however, does not necessarily constitute the Wrath of God.
Perhaps some Christians find it untenable that the coming Antichrist will have the authority to make war on and conquer the true believer?
Daniel 7:25: He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws. The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time. (NIV)
Revelation 13:7: He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them… (NIV)
Yet, we know from history, that many, many Christians met their death because of their belief in Jesus Christ. The martyrdom of Stephen is described in Acts 7:54-60 and James in Acts 12:1-2. The apostles Peter was allegedly crucified upside down and Paul was allegedly beheaded during the reign of Nero. Early Christians faced persecution and martyrdom at the hands of both Jews and Romans. Even today, missionaries in non-Christian nations face persecution and death. Martyrdom and persecution should be considered a normal and expected Christian experience:
Luke 6:22: Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. (NIV)
Matthew 10:28: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (NIV)
The events within the Olivet Discourse and the first six seals do not constitute God’s wrath and provide no impediments for the Church’s presence during this time.
EPISTLES CONTAIN NO WARNINGS OF IMPENDING TRIBULATION:
God’s instructions to the church through the epistles contain a variety of warnings, but never do they warn believers to prepare for entering and enduring the tribulation of Daniel’s seventieth week.
They warn vigorously about coming error and false prophets (see Acts 20:29-30; 2 Pet 2:1; 1 John 4:1-3; Jude 4). They warn against ungodly living (see Eph 4:25–5:7; 1 Thess 4:3-8; Heb 12:1). They even admonish believers to endure in the midst of present tribulation (see 1 Thess 2:13-14; 2 Thess 1:4; all of 1 Peter). However, there is absolute silence on preparing the church for any kind of tribulation like that found in Revelation 6–18.
It is incongruous, then, that the Scriptures would be silent about such a traumatic change for the church. If any time of the rapture other than pretribulational were true, one would expect the epistles to teach the fact of the church in the tribulation, the purpose of the church in the tribulation, and the conduct of the church in the tribulation. However, there is no teaching whatsoever. Only a pretribulational rapture satisfactorily explains such obvious silence.12
We can assume that the early Christians were taught the Gospels, at least in some form. If so, then certainly the Olivet Discourse would be within those lessons. Since early Christians experienced persecution as a matter of course, they could readily identify with the suffering associated with the rule of the Antichrist. In fact the entire Bible, oral tradition for those in the early Church, taught lessons in persecution and endurance:
Hebrews 11:35-38: …Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. (NIV)
In the commission to the twelve, Jesus described persecution similar to that expected during the tribulation. Such persecution would seem to be the routine for those who walk in Christ, not the exception. The New Testament is not silent on such matters:
Matthew 10:17-22: Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. (NIV)
PURIFICATION OF THE CHURCH:
The Church was purified at the cross at which time all the punishment due us was born by the Lord Himself. From that time forward the Church is considered by God to be as righteous as He is (2 Cor 5:17 & 21) The idea that the Church needs to undergo some discipline to become worthy to dwell with God is not scriptural and denies the Lord’s completed work on the cross.13
If this claim was true, we would then expect Christians to live without pain, suffering, persecution, and death. Certainly, the New Testament the does not convey that we should expect such an idyllic life. While I do not assert that the purpose of tribulation is purification, it seems evident that if the Church was born in persecution and suffering then it will exit under similar conditions. Jesus Christ certainly paid the price for our sin; however, if we accept Jesus Christ as Lord, we also accept a share in His suffering:
1 Peter 4: 12-16: Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. (NIV)
2 Timothy 3:12: In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (NIV)
PURPOSE OF TRIBULATION:
The stated purpose of the Great Tribulation is twofold, to purify Israel and completely destroy the unbelieving nations. (Jeremiah 30:1-11) The Church isn’t destined for either of these outcomes. Take for instance the fact that Enoch, who bears a great similarity to the Church, disappeared before the Great Flood, that the angels couldn’t destroy Sodom and Gomorrah until Lot and his family were clear, and that Daniel was missing from the story of the fiery furnace, a model of the Great Tribulation.14
Once again, there is a difference between the Great Tribulation (the first six seals) and the Wrath of God (the seventh seal seven, the seven trumpets and the seven bowls of wrath). While the examples provided within the argument serve as examples of deliverance, there are also solid examples of being placed into the fire under the protection of God:
Daniel 3:24-25: Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, O king.” He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” (NIV)
Daniel 6:20-22: When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”
Daniel answered, “O king, live forever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king.” (NIV)
CHURCH IS NOT MENTIONED IN REVELATION 6–18:
The common NT term for “church” (¦6680F\", ekkl‘ sia) is used nineteen times in Revelation 1–3, a section that deals with the historical church of the first century toward the end of the apostle John’s life (ca. A.D. 95). However, “church” is then used only once more in the twenty-two chapter book and that at the very end (22:16) when John returns to addressing the first-century church. Most interesting is the fact that nowhere during the period of Daniel’s seventieth week is the term for “church” used for believers on earth (cf. Rev. 4–19).15
I have always found this to be a curious argument. This argument rightly points out that the first chapters address seven separate churches that existed during the 1st Century in Asia Minor. Since those specific congregations do not exist today, I would not expect them to be mentioned within the inner chapters of Revelation. Thus, I do not comprehend the gist of the argument. However, I will address the implied implications.
The absence of an item within specific passages does not indicate that the item is not present. We can only draw conclusions from what is stated within the passage; we cannot draw conclusions from what is not stated. In this case, we can look at the passages mentioned in the argument and see what is mentioned regarding the Christian congregation:
Revelation 6:9: When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. (NIV)
Many assert that these individuals were “left behind” from the Rapture, were converted to Christianity during the tribulation, and were put to death because of their new belief. However, such claims are of a human construction, not scriptural construction.
The title “Great Tribulation” has come to represent a specific time period, either the first half of Daniel’s 70th Week (3 ½ years) else the entire week (7 years). This title was probably derived from the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24:9, 21, 29 and Mark 13:19, 24) and the book of Revelation (7:14). This title is also of a human construction, not scriptural construction.
What then is the great tribulation? Within the context of the book of Revelation, the great tribulation spans the entire Church Age – from the tribulation experienced by early congregations to the tribulation that will be experienced by the last congregations:
Revelation 1:9: I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus… (NIV)
Revelation 20:4: I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (NIV)
Scholars assert that one of the primary purposes of the book of Revelation is to demonstrate that the seven churches were not isolated in their tribulation; but despite their difficulty, Christ would be the ultimate victory. It, therefore, should not seem strange for John to refer to the entire Church Age as the great tribulation:
Although the purpose may include "completing the prophetic theme presented earlier in the prophecies of the Old Testament" as Walvoord states, it seems better, in light of the early addresses in chapters 2-3 to the churches, to identify the purpose as being to comfort and encourage believers in the midst of suffering and persecution at the hands of evil ones by assuring them that Jesus Christ and thus they themselves would ultimately and finally triumph.16
The purpose of the Revelation was to reveal Christ as Lord to a suffering Church. Because they were being persecuted, the early Christians could be tempted to fear that the world was getting out of hand - that Jesus, who had claimed "all authority... in heaven and on earth" (Matt. 28:18), was not really in control at all. The apostles often warned against this man-centered error, reminding the people that God's sovereignty is over all of history (including our particular tribulations).17
We who live in America and other developed countries live lives of relative ease with freedom of religion and freedom from religious persecution. We, I believe, hold a false perception of what it means to be a disciple of Christ. That has not always been the case, and that will not be the case in the future… Within the United States, we are now experiencing a “war on Christianity,” and I expect this war grow in intensity over the next few decades.
The true meaning of being Christian discipleship involves tribulation, hatred, persecution, and martyrdom, such we are told throughout the New Testament:
1 Peter 4: 12-13: Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. (NIV)
(Revelation 4:1). A voice called for the apostle John to "Come up here," and immediately he was in heaven. This could be a prophetic reference to the rapture of the Church. The words "Come up here" are spoken to the two witnesses who are killed in the middle of the Tribulation, who are resurrected and ascend into heaven (Rev. 11:12). Therefore, the phrase "Come up here" could mean the Church is raptured in Rev. 4:1.18
The door in heaven is opened to let John into heaven. We believe John's call into heaven is prophetic of the Church being caught up at the rapture (see proof #6). In Revelation 19:11, heaven is opened again, this time to let the armies which are already in heaven out. This is the Church, which has been raptured at a previous time, following Jesus out of heaven at the second coming.19
I have also always found these arguments curious. As the author writes this “could be” a reference to the Rapture; however, there is no supporting scriptural evidence that it is the Rapture. Both Revelation 4:1 and 11:12 are “types” of the Rapture just as Antiochus IV Epiphanes was a “type” of the abomination of desolation and the conquest of Jerusalem in 70 AD was a “type” of “Jerusalem being surrounded by armies.” Biblical “types” permit us to envision complex concepts and events that are difficult to comprehend. Claiming that the call “Come up here” is the Rapture is purely speculative.
WHO HAS DOMINION – SATAN OR THE CHURCH? THE RESTRAINER?
Satan will be given dominion for 42 months on earth, the second half of Daniel's 70th week, and the Church will not be put under Satan's dominion. The Church, given power by the Almighty Father in heaven, in the name of the Lord Jesus Chist, by the power of the Holy Spirit, restrains Satan, as was shown in 2 Thess 2. We know that Satan has not had full dominion over the Church, even though there are many Christian brothers dying still today, for if Satan did have this power, the Word of God would have been extinguished from the face of the earth by now. History alone proves that the Church is more powerful than Satan in this age, but the scriptures speak for themselves.20
Before the Antichrist can be revealed, Paul said a certain "He" must be taken out of the way. According to 2 Thessalonians 2:7, the "He" that must be removed is widely thought to be the Holy Spirit. It has been promised that the Holy Spirit would never leave the Church, and without the working of the Holy Spirit remaining on earth, no one could be saved during the tribulation. The removal of the Church, which is indwelt by the Holy Ghost, would seem the best explanation for this dilemma. The working of the Holy Spirit could go on during the tribulation, but His influence would be diminished because of the missing Church.21
First, assertion that the Church is the restrainer in 2 Thessalonians 2 is purely speculative and not based on sound scriptural evidence. The “restrainer” is never defined in word or context. The belief that the Church must be removed prior to the revealing of the Antichrist is a human construction, not scriptural construction. The restrainer could be Michael the archangel, the Church, the Holy Spirit, governments, or simply the Hand of God. Additionally, the passage does not indicate that the “restrainer” must be removed from the earth:
The restrainer need only step to one side in order to fulfill passage requirements. Removal of the Church is neither required nor implied.
Second, the statement “Satan will be given dominion for 42 months on earth, the second half of Daniel's 70th week” has no bearing on this argument. Unlike postribulationists, I believe the Rapture will take place after the breaking of the sixth seal sometime after the Antichrist sits in the third Temple. The breaking of the 7th seal ends the “tribulation” period and initiates the “wrath of God” period. The Church will be absent from this second period.
Third, the scriptures clearly states that the Antichrist will possess authority over the saints:
Revelation 13:7: He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them… (NIV)
Daniel 7:21: As I watched, this horn was waging war against the saints and defeating them… (NIV)
Daniel 7:25: …The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time. (NIV)
Now, pretribulationists claim that the church will be absent from this period because God would not permit them to be under such power; however, Revelation 12:17 clearly indicates that the Antichrist’s war is with Christians, those who “hold to the testimony of Jesus.” Claiming that these saints are Jews isn’t convincing.
Revelation 12:17: Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring--those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus. (NIV) [Emphasis added]
The author is correct that Satan does not have full dominion over the Church during the current age, and the same will hold true during the time of tribulation. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are excellent examples of how God can protect His children in the midst of great tribulation. The Four Sore Judgment, Ezekiel 14:12-19, illustrates that the Lord can keep His own safe even if there they are surrounded by utter destruction.
Matthew 10:28: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (NIV)
To equate martyrdom with abandonment is a miscalculation of the true meaning of standing with Christ. The early church suffered great tribulation, why should today’s church expect any different? Certainly, the time of tribulation will be a time of great distress, but Satan does not win the victory. That victory is won by the saints who endure till the end:
Revelation 7:14-17: And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
The Antichrist may be given authority over our bodies, but he has no authority the soul:
Luke 6:22: Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. (NIV)
Matthew 10:28: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (NIV)
JEWISH WEDDING: BRIDAL CHAMBER = HEAVEN:
John 14:2-3: “In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” Our "many mansions" are in heaven (Rev 21:2). Jesus went away to heaven in Acts 1. The words in Italics above are an expression, used by the groom in a Jewish Wedding. A groom would say those words to his bride and then leave to build an addition onto his father's house before returning for his bride. He returns for his bride in the middle of the night, as a thief, at an hour she might not think, with a loud cry, and a procession of trumpet blast and his friends saying "Behold! The Bridegroom Comes!" Entering our "bridal chamber/heavenly mansion" will be the start of the bridal week.22
This tale, found frequently on the Internet, matches perfectly the pretribulationists view of the final seven years. Unfortunately, I could not locate credible, authoritative evidence demonstrating the accuracy of all the tale’s elements. Eventually, I concluded that the tale takes portions of ancient tradition, adds embellishment, and emphasizes the portions that illustrate their particular belief. Generally, the tale can help us understand the complex related to Christ’s earthly ministry, His absence, and His return; however, it would be an error to use this tale as supporting evidence of a specific doctrine.
This tale and my construct conflict in regards to the “bridal week.” Some pretribulationists assert that the Rapture must occur before Daniel’s week (7 years) begins because the bride (the Church) and the groom (Jesus Christ) must have seven uninterrupted years together (the bridal week). While an interesting theory, the unfolding of the Daniel’s week does not conform to this tradition. In Revelation 5, we see Jesus Christ accepting the scroll with seven seals from God the Father; in Revelation 6-8, we see Jesus Christ opening those seals. Since the seventh seal brings the seven trumpets and the seventh trumpet brings the seven bowls of wrath, they also originate from Jesus Christ. We see Jesus Christ performing work and conducting business during those seven years. This work and business violate the tradition of the bridal week:
from “After the Wedding Ceremony”23
In Jewish tradition, bride and groom do not embark upon a honeymoon immediately after the wedding; they remain for a full week (three days if it is a second marriage for both) to celebrate. These Shiv'at Y'mei Mishteh, or Seven Days of Feasting, are said to have been ordained by Moses, and are a custom that is thought to go back to patriarchal times. These feasting days serve as a focal point for communal rejoicing and for the couple to begin their married life together while in the lap of the community.
During the Seven Days of Feasting, the bride and groom do not work, nor may they be involved in business transactions of any kind. They only eat, drink, and rejoice with each other. [Emphasis added]
Additionally, it is impossible to identify the placement of wedding ceremony within John’s chronology. Revelation 19 seems to imply that the ceremony takes place after the fall of Babylon. There is also the problem of identifying the wedding guests as Revelation 19:9 tends to indicate that they are not the hosts of heaven. Certainly, a diligent scholar can develop “fixes” to the difficulties, but “fixes” illustrate weaknesses within an argument.
Comparing Jewish wedding traditions to Christ’s relationship with the Church can help explain the relationship; however, its application to support that the Church is raptured out of the earth prior to Daniel’s 70th week is problematic.
PHILADELPHIA CHURCH: HOUR OF TESTING:
Revelation 3:10 says we will be kept out of the hour of testing which will come upon the whole earth (the Tribulation). Some have wrongly believed "keep" means to keep through, or protect through the Tribulation. Suppose you approach a high voltage area with a sign that says, "Keep Out." Does that mean you can enter and be protected? No, it means you are forbidden from entering the area. But this verse also says He will keep us from the hour of testing. It is not just the testing, but the time period. If a student is excused from a test, he still may have to sit in the class while others take the test. But if he is excused from the hour of testing, he can go home. The Church will be called home before the hour of testing.24
First, the Greek word translated as “keep” is téreó: I keep, guard, observe, watch over.25 HELPS Word Studies defines the term as: maintain (preserve); (figuratively) spiritually guard (watch), keep intact.26 Thus, the author’s claim that the church “will be called home” is unsubstantiated by the verse. There are multiple ways God could keep the church from the hour of testing: He could hide them (Zephaniah 2:3), He could seal them (Revelation 7:1-2), He could shelter them (Daniel 3:16-35), He could prevent the wicked from harming them (Daniel 6:22), or he could simply make them invisible. Rapturing the church out of the tribulation is just one of several options; there is no indication that this option is the preferred option. The Fore Sores Judgment (Ezekiel 14:12-19) illustrates how God’s righteous can safely walk through a country while destruction surrounds them. Since the Revelation’s first four seals tend to parallel those passages, the Church will probably experience a similar journey.
John 17:15: My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. (NIV)
Second, it has become common practice to associate the churches in Revelation 2-3 with modern day churches and individuals. Some assert that the seven churches reflect the seven historical phases of the Church. While biblical “types” help explain complex concepts, we should be very cautious in using them to develop “doctrine.” The church in Philadelphia may serve as an example; however, it does not provide evidence of a pretribulation rapture:
Jesus explains that He will "keep them from the hour of testing, which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth." Although some interpret this to mean that Jesus was promising to keep the entire church out of the final tribulation by rapturing it in what was still the far-off future for the Christians of the first-century, it seems more consistent with the rest of Scripture to interpret Jesus' words in accord with how He previously used the verb keep when He asked the Father "to keep them (all Christians) from the evil one" (John 17:15). Jesus "keeps us from the evil one" (I John 5:18). We are "strengthen and protected" (II Thess. 3:3) by "the power of God" (I Peter 1:5), "rescued from temptation" (II Peter 2:9), for "God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able" (I Cor. 10:13).27
1Cooper P. Abrams III, “Are Church Age Saints in the Olivet Discourse?” Bible Truth, ND. < http://bible-truth.org/OlivetDiscourse.html> August 17, 2012.
2Cooper P. Abrams III, “Are Church Age Saints in the Olivet Discourse?” Bible Truth, ND. < http://bible-truth.org/OlivetDiscourse.html> August 17, 2012.
3Cooper P. Abrams III, “Are Church Age Saints in the Olivet Discourse?” Bible Truth, ND. < http://bible-truth.org/OlivetDiscourse.html> August 17, 2012.
4Jack Kelly, “Defending The Pre-Trib Rapture (Again),” Grace Thru Faith, August 19, 2006. <http://gracethrufaith.com/ikvot-hamashiach/defending-the-pre-trib-rapture-again/> August 17, 2012.
5Cooper P. Abrams III, “Are Church Age Saints in the Olivet Discourse?” Bible Truth, ND. < http://bible-truth.org/OlivetDiscourse.html> August 17, 2012.
6Cooper P. Abrams III, “Are Church Age Saints in the Olivet Discourse?” Bible Truth, ND. < http://bible-truth.org/OlivetDiscourse.html> August 17, 2012.
7“4592 sémeion,” Helps Ministries: HELPSWord-Studies, 2011. <http://concordances.org/greek/4592.htm> August 17, 2012.
8Cooper P. Abrams III, “Are Church Age Saints in the Olivet Discourse?” Bible Truth, ND. <http://bible-truth.org/OlivetDiscourse.html> August 17, 2012.
9Cooper P. Abrams III, “Are Church Age Saints in the Olivet Discourse?” Bible Truth, ND. <http://bible-truth.org/OlivetDiscourse.html> August 17, 2012.
10“How Long did it Take Noah to Build the Ark?” God’s Point of View, ND. <http://www.godspointofview.com/public/qanda/how_long_to_build_the_ark.htm> July 25, 2012.
11Todd Strandberg, “Scriptural Evidence for the Pretribulation Rapture,” Rapture Ready, ND. <http://www.raptureready.com/rr-pretribulation-rapture.html> August 17, 2012.
12Richard L. Mayhue, Christ's Prophetic Plans: A Futuristic Premillennial Primer, Richard Mayhue, John F. MacArthur, John F MacArthur. Editors. Moody Publishers, February 21, 2012. <http://books.google.com/books> August 17, 2012.
13Jack Kelley, “Defending The Pre-Trib Rapture (Again),” GraceThruFaith, August 19, 2006. <http://gracethrufaith.com/ikvot-hamashiach/defending-the-pre-trib-rapture-again/> August 17, 2012.
14Jack Kelley, “Defending The Pre-Trib Rapture (Again),” GraceThruFaith, August 19, 2006. <http://gracethrufaith.com/ikvot-hamashiach/defending-the-pre-trib-rapture-again/> August 17, 2012.
15Richard L. Mayhue, Christ's Prophetic Plans: A Futuristic Premillennial Primer, Richard Mayhue, John F. MacArthur, John F MacArthur. Editors. Moody Publishers, February 21, 2012. <http://books.google.com/books> August 17, 2012.
16David Malick, “An Argument of the Book of Revelation (part 1),” bible.org. ND. <http://bible.org/article/argument-book-revelation-part-1> August 17, 2012.
17David Chilton, The Days of Vengeance, quoted in “The Contemporary Focus of Revelation,” Tentmaker, ND. <http://www.tentmaker.org/articles/contemporary_revelation_chilton.html> August 17, 2012.
18Don Koenig, “Proofs for pretribulation rapture theology,” The Prophetic Years. <http://www.thepropheticyears.com/reasons/rapture.htm> August 17, 2012.
19Don Koenig, “Proofs for pretribulation rapture theology,” The Prophetic Years. <http://www.thepropheticyears.com/reasons/rapture.htm> August 17, 2012.
20Jason Hommel, “Pre-Tribulation Rapture Scriptures,” Jason Hommel's Bible Prophecy Study on the Pre Tribulation Rapture, ND. <http://www.bibleprophesy.org/rapture.htm> August 17, 2012.
21Todd Strandberg, “Scriptural Evidence for the Pretribulation Rapture,” Rapture Ready, ND. <http://www.raptureready.com/rr-pretribulation-rapture.html> August 17, 2012.
22Jason Hommel, “Pre-Tribulation Rapture Scriptures,” Jason Hommel's Bible Prophecy Study on the Pre Tribulation Rapture, ND. <http://www.bibleprophesy.org/rapture.htm> August 17, 2012.
23Dr. Michael Kaufman, “After the Wedding Ceremony,” My Jewish Learning, ND. <http://www.myjewishlearning.com/life/Life_Events/Weddings/Liturgy_Ritual_and_Custom/ After_the_Ceremony.shtml> August 18, 2012.
24Don Koenig, “Proofs for pretribulation rapture theology,” The Prophetic Years. <http://www.thepropheticyears.com/reasons/rapture.htm> August 17, 2012.
25“téreó,” 5083. Strong’s Concordance: Bible Concordances, ND. <http://concordances.org/greek/5083.htm> August 18, 2012.
26“5083 téreó,” HELPS Word Studies: Bible Concordances, 2011. <http://concordances.org/greek/5083.htm> August 18, 2012.
27James A. Fowler, “Religion and the Church at Philadelpha,” Christ in You Ministries, 1999. <http://www.christinyou.net/pages/revphil.html> August 18, 2012.
With all glory, honor, and praise to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit...
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