Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pretrib - stripping the Gospel of the cross?

While I was doing some research the other day, I came across an article written by Dalton Lifsey (DL) who also wrote the book "The Controversy of Zion and the Time of Jacob's Trouble." He begins by praising people like Joel Rosenberg and a number of other pretribulationists for their pro-Israel stance. But then he turns it around and chides them for their “escapist” eschatology.

He notes:

“...I am grateful for their boldness to trumpet the seriousness and severity of the coming crisis. But it grieves me that their message of preparation is grounded in an anticipation of an imminent escape from the earth as “Jacob” is expected to walk through the valley of the shadow of death without a prophetic companion.”

And this:

“I hope you can sense the gravity of this. We should find it deeply troubling that men like John Hagee and Chuck Missler are speaking of a future Holocaust for the Jewish people (in no uncertain terms) and yet denying the Church’s sacrificial identification with them in the midst of it (also in no uncertain terms).”

This is a sanctimonious effort to elevate posttrib to a higher moral position. Being an ex-postie, I find it contrived. DL should just stick to scriptural arguments. He throws out some commonly used ones later in his article.

I happen to know that many of DL’s posttrib friends believe the Antichrist’s reign won’t be global. One of these - when asked about preparation for the tribulation - stated that he would likely be far away from the epicenter for most of the seven years. Yet he agrees with DL’s grievance. One might ask how these brave souls could be “walking through the valley of the shadow of death” with Israel if they’re comfortably on the other side of the world.

In response to one objection another contributor states:

“The Bridegroom doesn’t “beat up His Bride” before the wedding. He saves her from an enemy who wants to kill her and prevent the wedding from happening altogether. He doesn’t drag the bride through the mud of tribulation. He drags her out of it.”

He appears to forget that it is God who initiates the tribulation via the seals. And according to posties it is Michael the archangel who “stands aside” to make way for the Antichrist.

And aren’t Israel (the divorced/future wife of Jehovah) and the church (the virgin bride of Messiah) one unit according to their view? Yet in that system the church is raptured after the tribulation (Why?), which is noted by Jesus to be the worst period in history, and leaves Israel behind to face God's wrath. A worse period? I find this logic both tortured and inconsistent.

DL claims that he’d formerly:

“...embraced a Dispensational view of things until I heard a Chinese pastor say in broken English that we Americans have “Stripped the Gospel of the cross” through out escapist eschatology that doesn’t prepare people to endure... This doctrine, more than any other, will be the cause of many becoming disillusioned, offended, and bitter in the generation of the Lord’s return. No doubt the “great falling away” of 2 Thess. 2:2-3 will be caused in part by this Western false teaching.”

I wish I had a dollar for every time I hard something like that. Nevertheless, I believe dispensationalism is bigger than the rapture timing issue. I cannot help but wonder if there were other factors that caused DL to abandon it.

It’s true that some have an “escapist” mentality. Here in the West, it is easy to become complacent. We must pray for and help our brothers and sisters living in countries where there is persecution. And, in fact, there are many individual and corporate missionary outreaches where pretribulationists are directly involved.

No good pretrib student denies that severe tribulation and martyrdom will be part of the church’s experience. One only has to look at history. It could conceivably get a lot worse prior to any rapture. But it basically gets down to an academic understanding over when God’s wrath occurs.

Pretribulationism has nothing to do with stripping the Gospel of the cross. Expecting an imminent coming of the Lord should put people in daily abiding in Him.

Critics like DL should re-examine their broad-brush judgments of pretribulationalists.

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