Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Imminent Pre-wrath Rapture of the Church

I found this online book some time ago and am slowly going through it. While I disagree with many of the author's conclusions and I'm always right ;-), he does make some good points in certain areas.

Read it HERE.

The author also has also written a book called "What the Bible Says About the Future" which can be read online HERE, and has a new book pending called "The Olivet Discourse".

This resource page is helpful. In some instances, I think Mr Smith should have been more thorough e.g. the day of the Lord v the wrath of God in light of OT passages etc. In fact there is strong evidence that the dotL includes the 6th seal and the grammar of Rev 6:17 is OFTEN in the past. There are very good reasons for believing God's wrath is contained within the seals and the 5th seal martyrs are not an obstacle to this view - as has been discussed before. Unfortunately, he only gives this a cursory treatment.

He implies that many (most?) pretribbers take the apostasy of 2 Thess 2 to be the rapture. Although Dr Ice is one of these, most pre-trib scholars do not believe this to be true. Even if it were so, the apostasy/rapture view is not helpful to pretribulationism.

But, while I have some issues, Mr Smith does provide a lot of good food for thought.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Pre-trib easy believism?

Recently, on a website, someone made a remark to the effect that he doesn’t believe a pretribulationist who affirms that we will be raptured out of here in “bed’s of ease” (sic) would be as prepared as a (------) who expects tribulation and therefore prepares his “body, mind and soul”. He also stated that believing otherwise minimized Jesus’ warnings to be ready.

Exactly what does it mean to be ready? I previously posted a link to an article by Fred DeRuvo as I think he adequately addresses that point, along with other misconceptions. You can find it HERE.

What really piqued my interest was the idea that someone could train their body in preparation for the tribulation as I’d never come across that deal before. Maybe I can incorporate some of this training in my own workouts. Unfortunately, the author didn’t elaborate on that point and I do think he’s kidding himself. Would this mean the elderly and infirm will be less prepared than the physically active? Ironically, this same website has argued that pretribulationists also exaggerate the gravity of the seal judgments. A potential problem?

Not too long ago I was fairly certain the Church would still be here when the Lord put His foot in Jerusalem again. Was I better prepared then, than I am now, because I now think that that may not be the case? I actually think I’m better prepared now simply because my faith in God has grown.

It’s nonsensical to believe in the pre-trib rapture just for a desire to escape or that most pretribbers do so for that reason. We are told to expect tribulation in this world. But it isn’t wrong to want to escape The Tribulation. Does anyone seriously look forward to it? A pretribber who expects any moment death or tribulation and also considers the chance of any moment rapture should be preparing for that possibility daily. In such a case the prewrather and posttribber has no advantage.

Websites such as the one I referred to earlier expend a large amount of resources in attacking pretribulationism and various pretribulationists on the premise that it leaves unsuspecting believers unprepared for the great tribulation. Yet these sites hardly ever confront Preterists, Postmillennialists, Amillennialists or the Emergent types. Sadly, this tells me that the problem really is a personal bias against pretribulationism.

The rapture issue should be purely an academic one. Those who judge and question, wholesale, the pretribulationists’ real motives for believing such, probably have character issues of their own that they need to deal with.

If the PreTrib Rapture Creates Spiritually Immature Christians, then What Does the Possibility of Your Last Day on Earth Do?

The PreTrib Rapture, and Being (Allegedly) Unprepared

I am Amazed at the Division Eschatology Creates!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Revelation 3:10

I often hear that a face value reading of Matt 24:31 is the rapture. The cosmic signs in Joel are then associated with Rev 6 and this constitutes the “plain and simple” framework of the argument. Of course the OT regathering promises usually don’t get considered within that “simplicity”. I mention this again because I think a simple reading of Rev 3:10 is highly suggestive of a pretribulational rapture. The rapture is implied because it is the most probable means of keeping people out of a period of time.

Here is how a few translators saw fit to render the verse:

Rev 3:10 Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. NASB

Rev 3:10 Because you have kept my admonition to endure steadfastly, I will also keep you from the hour of testing that is about to come on the whole world to test those who live on the earth. NET

Rev 3:10 Because you kept the Word of My patience, I also will keep you OUT of the hour of trial which is going to come on all the habitable world in order to try those dwelling on the earth. LITV (Literal Translation)

If you don’t maintain a pre-trib position, the plain and simple approach needs to be discarded in this case and you have to examine the verse for loopholes. A common approach is to look at the term tereo ek and argue that the promise in Rev 3:10 is to keep the church safe WTHIN the period of time, NOT to take it out of that time. John 17:15 - where the same tereo ek expression is used - is then appealed to.

John 17:15 I
do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them (tereo ek) from the evil one.

It’s then pointed out that the Lord isn’t praying for His disciples to be removed from the world but to be kept safe from the evil one within the world. Therefore, the same applies to Rev 3:10 and God isn’t promising a removal of the church from the period of testing. There are problems with this argument.

First, the fact that the Lord actually says that He isn’t asking His Father to remove His disciples from the world is significant – especially in light of John 14:2-3. The Lord’s request is redundant in the case of a post-trib yo-yo rapture. What’s the point of asking for something to not occur if it isn’t going to in the first place?

Second, in John 17:15b the ek reference is to the “evil (one)” and NOT the world. There is a distinction. God does not keep them safe within “evil” or the evil one (Satan) and He does not remove them from within (that has already been done) but keeps them out (tereo ek) of the evil.

Third, if protection is understood to be within, then how effective is it when considering the martyrdom of believers and the fact that they are conquered by the beast (Rev 13:7)? Are we then to conclude that the martyrs weren’t Philadelphians?

Recognizing the problem of martyrdom, some then claim that the promise of protection within relates to salvation and not physical safety. However, this doesn’t make sense considering that the same people hold that hupomonē (enduring, patience) is linked to enduring the Tribulation. It’s like saying; because you’ve remained faithful in the GT I’ll keep you faithful in the GT.

Finally, if John wanted to convey the idea of protection within a time, he would have used other words:

threw en = To keep in. This would be a promise of preservation in the Tribulation.

threw dia = to keep through. This would be a promise to keep us through the Tribulation.

airew ek = to take out, or swzw ek = to save out. This could mean that believers would go into the Tribulation and then be taken out of the Tribulation.

airew apo = to take from. This would mean that believers would go into the Tribulation and then be taken out of the Tribulation.

What is meant by hupomonē ? Is it necessary to conclude that Rev 3:10a is a stipulation to stand fast in The Tribulation to receive the promise of Rev 3:10b? We only need to do a word search to see how it is used in other NT passages. Renald Showers has done this in “Maranatha – Our Lord, come” p 209 and concludes that this means the patient expectation of Jesus Christ’s coming. See Rev 1:9 and F Hauck’s “Theological Dictionary of the New testament” Vol IV p 586, among others quoted by Dr Showers. In other words, as attested to by a word search, one doesn’t need to experience tribulation in Daniel’s 70th week to exhibit perseverance (hupomonē ). This should be the Christian status at all times. (Luke 21:19, Rom 5:3-4, James 1:4 etc)

But even allowing all of my conclusions, some will still argue against Rev 3:10 being pretribulational. The strategy would be to assert that the promise may well be to remove the Church from the time of testing, but the time of testing is the day of the Lord’s wrath which occurs AFTER the Abomination of Desolation.

Looking at Rev 3:10 again:

Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.

Note that the terms “day of the Lord” or God’s wrath/orge are absent from the verse. Where these concepts appear in Revelation is well defended by pretribulationists but this isn’t the point I want to make.

There are no hidden clauses in Rev 3:10. God doesn’t say, “I didn’t actually promise to exempt you from Satan’s or man’s wrath even though I’ve released it.” Only man’s presuppositions limit God’s promise. What we do see are the words peirasmos and peirazō for testing and test. That testing is located in the seal judgments. See Romans 13:3-5 and compare with Rev 6:8. A face value reading of the seal judgments shows that the world is being tested and in tribulation well before the 6th seal.

Also, consider the Two Witnesses of Rev 11:6. They tormented (basanizō) the whole world during their ministry. There is a strong relationship between the words testing, test and tormented:

pi-ras-mos From G3985; a putting to proof (by experiment [of good], experience [of evil], solicitation, discipline or provocation); by implication adversity: - temptation, X try.

pi-rad'-zo From G3984; to test (objectively), that is, endeavor, scrutinize, entice, discipline: - assay, examine, go about, prove, tempt (-er), try.

basanizō From G931; to torture: - pain, toil, torment, toss, vex.

So, considering all the above arguments, I believe a plain (minus presuppositions) reading of Rev 3:10 demonstrates that, because Christians have remained faithful (daily endurance), they will be removed from the period (the seven years) of testing which will come upon those who dwell on the earth.

Further reading:

The Grammar of Revelation 3:10



The Rapture in Revelation 3:10


Monday, November 16, 2009


From the Pre-Trib Research Centre:

And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he may
be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work;
only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the
way. —2 Thessalonians 2:6-7

One of the most compelling, yet often misunderstood, arguments for
pretribulationism relates to the Holy Spirit’s role to the church and the tribulation
period. Most holding to the pre-trib position believe that 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7 refers to
the restraining ministry of the Holy Spirit through the agency of the Church. Thus,
when the church is raptured before the tribulation, that ministry of the Holy Spirit will
be removed as well. If this interpretation is correct, then it is a strong argument for
Read More

Note: This is the main reason why non-pretribulationists argue so vigorously for indentifying Michael as the Restrainer.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Always Ready and Watching?

Great post by Fred DeRuvo...at least in my opinion!

In the parable of the servants found in Luke 12:35-48, we see a scenario in which some of the head servants got lazy, began to beat the other servants, and essentially stopped watching for the Master’s return. The fact that they stopped watching, which in effect means they stopped expecting the Lord of the household to return at any moment, gave way to laziness and ill treatment of the others.

A great deal has been read into this parable, including the fact that the Master of the house is said to have gone to a wedding celebration. The truth of the parable can be found within the pattern of the slaves. Note that some of the slaves stopped to think about the situation, then said, ”My master is delayed in returning.” It was because of this thinking that these slaves began ”to beat the other slaves, both men and women, and to eat, drink, and get drunk.“ What is the point here? The point is that it was the slaves who actually began to doubt the return of the master of the house, which caused problems. We see this today with Preterists, and others, who teach that the Lord returned spiritually in A.D. 70, when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. If you pick up reading material written by some of these individuals, you are met with some of the most antagonistic, sarcastic ridicule of those who believe in a literal return of Christ, that ever exists in written form. Some of these individuals know no bounds of good taste, and certainly do not understand how to approach a subject charitably...Continue Reading

Further into his post, Fred makes these observations:

Please note that the parable also indicates that nothing is to occur prior to the master’s return. He will simply appear. One moment he won’t be there and the next, he is there. There is nothing in the parable which would give notification of his impending return. He simply returns and when he does, he sees that some of his servants have been and are mistreating the others. He quickly puts a stop to that and metes out punishment...

We do not know when the Rapture will occur. Therefore, every day should be lived as if it is happening today. We should be about the Father’s business with the understanding that before this day closes, we could be ushered into His presence. Does that scenario bother you? You feel as if you are not being true to the integrity of Scripture? Okay, that’s fine. Then instead of the Rapture, substitute the phrase “your/my death.” Do you have any logical arguments at all that would prohibit you from believing that before this day ends, your life could end? .....

Understanding that our death is always imminent should create within us a respect for the time that we do have, so that we make the most of that time, appreciating life, and letting go of the things that do not matter. We should also understand that the time we have been given is extremely valuable, and we will be held accountable for it. Did you witness to anyone today? Did you spend time in prayer today? Did you get to know the Lord through His Word a bit more today? Did you see more of Christ developed in you today?

I should also point out that Fred's post has a bit of an edge to it. I like it.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Is John 14:3 the Rapture?

John 14:1-4 "Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going."

Posttribulationists need to strenuously argue that, in the above verses, Jesus is not telling His disciples that He will be coming back for them and taking them to Heaven. In their view, the rapture occurs after the three-and-a-half year Great Tribulation. The Lord comes only ONCE (single phase Second Advent) and stays on the earth with the Church. So, how can John 14 be reconciled from a post-trib viewpoint?

On his website, Tim Warner makes the following observations:

“…The second additional "contrast" cited by Ice has to do with John 14:1-3, where he interprets "my Father's house" as heaven, something not supported by Jesus' earlier usage of the term, "My Father's house" (cf. John 2:16:17), or with the common expression in the Old Testament, "the house of the Lord" (cf. Isa. 2:2-4, Joel 3:18, Zech. 14:21).”

The Father’s house isn’t in Heaven? (Matt 5:16; Matt 7:21) I love the way Allen Beechick responds:

When Jesus comes, where will He take us? John 14:2–3 says:

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.

He will take us to heaven, pre-tribs answer. But post-tribs respond that the verse doesn't actually say so. It merely says we will be with Him, wherever that is, which happens to be on earth.

For the benefit of my post-trib friends, let me re-phrase the verse to make it more clear:

In my Father's house (in heaven) are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go (to heaven) to prepare a place for you (in heaven). And if I go (to heaven) and prepare a place for you (in heaven), I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that ye may be with me (on earth).

Makes sense?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

More Wrath of God

There’s still much debate about the wrath of God and the first six seals of Revelation. And there’s still that mortal tug of war between those who use Dana and Mantey, and Robertson’s Greek grammar rules at Rev 6:17 to argue for a pre 6th seal wrath and those who use the same rules to argue for a post 6th seal wrath.

One of the most telling articles I’ve read was from a non–pretribber who, after making his grammatical defence, ended up stating that some wrongly believe that it is a past tense because it can be found in a past action. He further added that, though it is commonly in past action, it can also be an action in the present, future or even timeless. Ultimately, we are told that context determines when the action occurs. The context for a post 6th seal wrath was not given in that particular article.

My interest in eschatology means that I sometimes pick up on the new theories and arguments that occasionally arise. I’ve noticed that some non–pretibbers have been looking at the feasibility of some of the seals occurring towards the middle of the week. A reasonable question to ask is - if the argument that the wrath of God occurs after the 6th seal is so overwhelmingly compelling and bullet proof, why bother trying to place the seals closer to midweek at all?

Another growing trend is to argue that Rev 6:8 doesn’t actually mean that a quarter of the world’s population dies, but only that Death and Hades have authority and power over a fourth of the earth to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and wild beasts. That’s an interesting theory. If you are told that you are among twenty people that Death and Hades have power over as opposed to eighty others who aren’t affected – where would you rather be? Would you feel better if it was a hundred people; a thousand; a million? And if Death and Hades have been given power over that segment, and do not exert it fully, then what was the point of granting them that authority?

The debate can go back and forth but I’m more interested in the motivation for arguing all the above in the first place. There seems to be a need for some non-pretribulationists to shift the seals towards the middle of the week and to minimise the severity of the seal judgments. Why is this?

A further attempt to refute the claim that God’s wrath occurs pre 6th seal is to argue that believers (eg 5th seal martyrs) aren’t destined for God’s wrath therefore it cannot occur before the rapture which occurs later in the week. One problem with that view is that whatever rapture timing you hold to, there has to be some people who are saved after the rapture to populate the Millennium. Those who are saved after the rapture also become believers who will experience God’s wrath. So, the dynamics are exactly the same as with the pre-trib scenario.

Here are some articles from a pretribulational perspective:


What Do the First Four Seals Reveal About God’s Wrath?

How Will God Express His Wrath Upon the Earth?


I’ve previously pointed out the parallels between the four judgments of Sword, Famine, Wild Beasts and Plagues in Ezekiel 14:21 and Rev 6:8. But someone will protest that God has used plagues, men etc in the past and believers would have been subjected to these events - therefore God’s wrath needs to be expressed supernaturally in the 70th week to be viable for the Church’s exemption.

God has poured His wrath/orge out before and has used several means for doing so (Rom 13:4 etc). Historically, God’s wrath has most often been used to chastise Israel and surrounding Gentile nations. In all those cases it was regional and limited. However, in Daniel’s 70th week, it will be global and Ezekiel 14 matches Rev 6 because it is prophetic of that period. The 70th week is unique because it will incorporate all of the four judgments for the first time AND globally.

But to be honest, this argument really baffles me. Aren’t the events at the 6th seal supernatural? So, hasn’t God’s wrath arrived at least by then? What is the primary objection against this being so other than a predisposition for believing God’s wrath occurs later within one's concept of the day of the Lord? Are not the Two Witnesses supernaturally pouring God’s wrath on the whole world and does this not begin mid-week at the latest? (More likely the beginning of the week)

Whatever instrument God uses, it is still His wrath. He can, and will, use men against men as in the 2nd seal and use “Satan’s wrath” against the world. The claim that the Church isn’t exempt from the expression of God’s wrath unless it is specifically delivered supernaturally needs to be supported by Scripture. Second, I would argue that man’s wrath and Satan’s wrath, as extensions of God’s wrath, are delivered supernaturally because Christ enables the events by opening the seals.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Does Pretribulationism Lead to Idleness?

I first read this article about four years ago without fully understanding the nuances behind the question. In those days I was more interested in the pre-mil vs preterist debates:

Does Pretribulationism Lead to Idleness?
A Consideration of 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12
Steve Lewis
Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example. For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. (2 Thessalonians 3:6-12, NASB)
Read the article HERE

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Case for Historic Premillennialism: An Alternative to "Left Behind" Eschatology’

I’ve just read a review of a book that I haven’t read yet because I currently have too many on the go. The review caught my eye because I’d heard some favorable comments about ‘A Case for Historic Premillennialism: An Alternative to "Left Behind" Eschatology’ by Craig L. Blomberg and Sung Wook Chung Eds. No surprise that these comments haven't come from the pre-trib camp.

The reviewer, Erik Swanson, begins by making the following observations:

Current eschatology recognizes three views on the millennium: premillennialism, postmillennialism, and amillennialism. Premillennialism itself comes in two flavors: dispensational premillennialism (hereafter DP) and its less popular cousin, historic premillennialism (hereafter HP). HP has never dominated popular belief or academic strongholds, but the contributors to A Case for Historic Premillennialism seek to change that. This collection of articles, edited by Craig Blomberg and Sung Wook Chung, was written mostly by the faculty of Denver Theological Seminary, with two outside contributors. Since every branch of eschatology has “received sustained attention and developed new permutations,” these authors felt it was “past time for a new look at classic premillennialism” (xvi). Amillennialism has continued to develop. DP has continued to develop. But since the death of George Ladd in 1982, HP has not. Hence the occasion for this book—to progress the system of HP and steal some attention away from DP for itself.

How does this work fare in its goals? How do these contributors progress HP? What kind of case do they present for HP and how strong is it? How well do they critique the other millennial views, especially DP? These questions will be answered in the following critique. I will begin by surveying the more subtle purpose behind this book, followed by examining the contributors’ critique of DP. Then I will explore their case for HP followed by an overall evaluation of how well they achieved their intended purposes…

Here are some take out comments:

A Case for Historic Premillennialism’s real agenda is to attack “left behind” eschatology. These authors are clearly venting their frustration with the popularity of “left behind” eschatology, which is presumably DP. They relate how they go to speak to Presbyterian or Reformed churches only to find that their members know nothing of their historic eschatology beliefs. The people only know of Lindsey, LaHaye, and Jenkins: “Today, at least at a grassroots level, one can find…many believers whose eschatology is largely or entirely determined by Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye, Jerry Jenkins, and other writers of similar bent” (xiv). They claim that DP is the popular, majority belief of evangelicals who are biblically illiterate. (ouch) DP is represented as the view of the masses and popular culture which infiltrated society after 9/11 when Americans were willing to hear what the Bible said about end times….

The review is worth reading just on the basis of how well (or not) the writers defend posttribulationism and deal with pretribulationism, which seems to be the underlying agenda. Do they actually make a case for HP? Swanson concludes with this:

The goal of this book was to present a case for HP. Rather, the title should be changed to “A Case of Posttribulationalism.” The sub-title should then read, “An Alternative to ‘Left Behind’ Eschatology…Though Nothing to Do with Dispensational Premillennialism.” Chapter after chapter, I found myself waiting for the case for HP. It never came. Rather the authors’ biases, presuppositions, and frustrations were the only clear part of this book. I wish it weren’t the case, but this book entirely fails at its objective and is of little value to the church in understanding eschatology today.

For what it's worth, read it HERE.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Olivet Discourse - Part Three

Mat 24:36 "But of that DAY and HOUR no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.

A pre-trib challenge…

“But of that day and hour no one knows..." Matt 24:36. What day and hour? Shouldn't "that day and hour" have an antecedent somewhere? I know, I know, you are saying that the "day and hour no one knows" is referring to the rapture. Right? Well, there's one small problem with that. Pretribbers deny that the rapture is ever mentioned in this passage... in fact, some go so far as to say that this was written for the Jews and not for the Church. (Besides, how many Jewish people do you know who study the New Testament?”

First we should note that the above statement is only partially accurate. Some pretribbers do believe the rapture is alluded to in the OD. Also, somewhere in cyberspace, there’s a short video aimed at pretribbers that asks a couple of questions and then presumes the same response. It springs a trap on the unsuspecting pretribber by stating:

That’s right, you just admitted that Matt 24 makes reference to the rapture – and thus, Matt 24 applies to the Church!

Let’s think about that for a moment. The above responses respectively imply that, because the concept of the rapture may presumably be found within the Olivet Discourse, it then somehow follows by default that the elect is the Church; the rapture and second coming are a single event and the gathering is the rapture. That's a lot of assumptions to make based on a two minute video.

In reality, every tenet must be examined on its own merits. Those who claim that the gathering is the rapture and the elect are the Church should engage the arguments for each point rather than indulging in assertions (see my previous OD post).

Before I go to v 36 I want to make the following points: the author of the quote above asked how many Jewish people would study the New Testament. This question infers that everything written in the NT must be for the Church. Apparently that includes Matt 24:20. I wonder how many Christians living in the vicinity at the time would worry about that one.

The OT contains prophecies that were ignored by Israel, yet they were put there for a purpose. As with the OT, Israel (and whoever is in the Tribulation) will be expected to read the NT - and many will. Is it really reasonable to assume data would be left out of the NT just because it related to Israel, and is everything in the NT exclusively related to the Church? How about the 144,000 of Revelation?

Speaking of which, another question goes something like this: “You say the Church isn’t in the Trib, yet Jesus said Revelation was for the Church.”

Here’s what the beginning of Revelation actually says:

Rev 1:1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants (doulos), the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John,

Who else are called doulos in Revelation and are they part of the Church? (Rev 7:3) Note that, just as in chapter seven where the great multitude are never called the Church when their identity becomes an issue, isn’t it interesting how inclusive Rev 1:1 is also? One should never build doctrine on this fact but it intrigues me why Revelation is so silent regarding the Church during the judgments. The defense that some of the epistles don’t mention the Church either doesn’t really cut it because Revelation DOES so numerous times – just not in the right places for non-pretribbers.

Getting back on track, what is the antecedent to v 36? First of all let’s examine the alternative and let’s look at some other Scripture. Previous to v 36 the Lord discussed the birth pangs; the tribulation; the cosmic signs; the gathering of the elect etc. So non-pretribbers assume that the day He is speaking of has to be the day of the Lord and the rapture. Yet when we read on we find the following:

Mat 24:37 "For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.

Mat 24:38-39 "For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.”

Mat 24:40-43 "Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left. Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into.”

Mat 24:44 "For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.

Now let’s compare some more Scripture:

1Th 5:2-3 For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, "Peace and safety!" then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.

Rev 6:3-4 When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, "Come." And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him.

Rev 6:7-8 When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, "Come." I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.

Pre-trib critics see the antecedent to be the actual final, physical, visible, Second Coming of the Lord. Whether post-trib or pre-wrath, this is preceded by cosmic signs that are associated with Matt 24, Rev 6 and Joel. The Joel 3 cosmic signs demand that multitudes are gathering for war prior to the rapture/DotL In a previous post I mentioned that one proponent of another view believed the AC was involved in a war with the saints on such a massive scale that it was critical that God rapture the Church thus shortening the GT so that “flesh would be saved”.

The obvious question is how do we reconcile all these “business as usual and peace and safety” messages in light of the contradictions? How can armies be gathering prior to the DotL/rapture (and the seal judgments) yet comply with the full meaning of Matt 24:38 and 1Thess 5:2-3?

Here’s the best response I’ve come across so far – “They only think they have peace and safety”.

One attempt to circumvent this problem is to argue that at the time of the Abomination of Desolation there is a short period of peace, thus satisfying 1 Thess 5. However, this doesn’t get around Joel 3. If the AC is involved in a crucial war and if armies are gathering for battle, on what Scriptural basis can you justify that the participants believe they have peace? This view also presupposes that Rev 6:4 is temporary. Finally, a temporary gap of peace beginning at the AoD contradicts the mission of the Two Witnesses (Rev 11:3-11).

Some may contend that the unregenerate are so deluded, they can gather for war and still proclaim peace and safety. In my opinion this is a strained assertion that lacks Scriptural backing.

Believers are explicitly told in Matt 24:42 that they cannot know the day the Lord is coming. If the rapture is post-trib we can sure get pretty close. But can prewrathers claim their system is any different? Does a short, unknown period of time (less then three and a half years) really fit the Lord’s contextual meaning when he addresses believers? I guess if one wants to be technical a believer wouldn’t know the exact day even if they were “watching” for the AoD. The point is that we can still get pretty close. If one wants to be consistently technical then the “peace and safety” issue on its own refutes the argument that v 36 alludes to the second coming.

Was the Lord really talking about a literal 24 hour day or did He use an idiom? Allen Beechick weighs in:

What Does "Hour" Mean?

Beechick is an example of a pretribber that sees a rapture and double imminence reference in Matt 24. While there are areas where I disagree with his conclusions, he capably defends pre-trib and points out various problems with the other systems. His work can be read HERE and his views on the Olivet Discourse HERE.

By the way, Rev 16:15 does nothing to support the post-trib view. The verse is a break in the story admonishing the reader of the consequences of not “watching”. It is not there to imply some sort of imminence at that late point in Daniel’s 70th week. That wouldn’t make any sense.

In light of the arguments above, Matt 24:36 cannot refer to Christ’s second coming in Power and Glory despite the best intentions of that little video. So what is the solution? Here is what Dr Robert L Thomas says regarding Matt 24:31:

The signs given in Matt 24:4-28 are within Daniel’s seventieth week and indicate the nearness of Jesus’ return to earth as described in Matt 24:29-31 These signals of nearness differ from the parables of Luke 12:35-48, which contained no signs of nearness. If signs must occur before His coming, His coming is not imminent. Neither are there signs given in Luke 17:26-37, where Jesus with several similar comparisons predicts the imminent coming of the Kingdom of God. But in Matt 24:36 Jesus turns the page to speak of the absence of any sign that might signal the beginning of Daniel’s seventieth week. His words were, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven nor the Son, but the Father only.” His use of “day and hour” encompass a broader span than just a 24-hour day or a 60-minute hour. As is true throughout Matthew (cf. Matt 7:22; 10:19; 24:42, 44, 50; 25:13; 26:45), the two time-designations cover a broad period of time. Jesus is saying that no one has the faintest idea about when—in the broadest sense of the term “when”—the Son of Man will return. Here He indicates the complete unexpectedness of what will overtake the world at the time of His second advent. He changes the subject from the signs that indicate the nearness of His coming to establish the kingdom in 24:32-35 to speak of events which will have no signals to indicate that the advent is “at the door.” In other words, 24:36 speaks of a different arrival from the arrival signalled by “all these things,” twice referred to in connection with the parable of the fig tree in 24:32-34 After 24:36 Jesus looks at the events of Daniel’s seventieth week as a whole and how the beginning of that week will catch everyone by surprise, with no indication that it is “at the door.” ...IMMINENCE IN THE NT, ESPECIALLY PAUL’S THESSALONIAN EPISTLES

Dr Fruchtenbaum makes another observation. Matt 24:36 begins with the word But, which in Greek is peri de (1 Cor 7:1; 8:1; 12:1 etc). This construction points to the introduction of a new subject. See "Footsteps" page 641. Up until that point the Lord has been talking about the second coming but peri de introduces something new. Dr Fruchtenbaum and a few others believe the rapture is alluded to after this. I believe the change of subject also supports the idea that the beginning of Daniel's 70th week (the BROAD day of the Lord) is in view as argued by Dr Thomas. Whether or not the rapture is to be found after v 36 is another matter and the subject of much debate.

To be continued…

Further reading:


Dr Ron Bigalke Jr touches upon Grundy's post-trib view of imminence:

Gundry’s first premise was to redefine the doctrine of imminence. He wrote:

"We should first of all note a lack of identity between belief in imminence on the one hand and pretribulationism on the other. By common consent imminence means that so far as we know no predicted event will necessarily precede the coming of Christ. The concept incorporates three essential elements: suddenness, unexpectedness or incalculability, and a possibility of occurrence at any moment. But these elements would require only that Christ might come before the tribulation, not that He must. Imminence would only raise the possibility of pretribulationism on a sliding scale with mid- and posttribulationism."

The problem with Gundry’s definition of imminence is the two words “necessarily” and “possibility.” According to Gundry, imminence means that Christ will return “at any moment” after the tribulation. In Matthew 24:36, Jesus declared, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” Gundry had to reinterpret this verse to mean, “The element of certainty is there, but it is slight.” Believers will know the approximate time, not the exact time of Christ’s return. “The shortening of the tribulation thus enables us to resolve general predictability and specific unpredictability without rending the exhortations to watch from their posttribulational context and without minimizing the function of signaling events by resorting to the historical [preterist] view with its vagaries.” Gundry’s definition of imminence means only believers in the tribulation will be watchful until prophetic events begin. Even when such events occur, believers “shall not know exactly”; rather the attitude is to “know approximately.”Imminence is redefined to “expectancy.” Midnight Call Magazine See Page 19.

Note also that Dr Bigalke adresses other premises of Grundy's posttribulationism.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


In between Olivet Discourse instalments, I thought I’d post a few links on the subject of Pseudo-Ephraem. I often come across a website or blog that cites several early Church fathers or the Didache to point out that pretribulationism wasn’t taught by the early Church. I always thought that the battle-field for these topics was Scripture and not the aggregate of people’s beliefs. But perhaps where Scripture fails to prove one’s point one does one’s best elsewhere.

If recency really is a mitigating factor, some of the cherished beliefs of most other popular systems can also be considered questionable.

The long and the short of it is that pretribbers actually found a document by a so-called Pseudo-Ephraem that seemed to hold to a pre Great Tribulation (pre latter half of the week) rapture. He wasn’t pre-trib in the sense that pretribbers are today - he was more mid-trib. But the significant thing was that this man purportedly believed that the Church did not experience the Antichrist.

The document can be read HERE and HERE

Of particular interest is the following statement:

"Woe to those who desire to see the day of the Lord!" For all the saints and elect of God are gathered, prior to the tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins….”

Sounds pretty straight forward, doesn’t it? Well, I think so. Here’s one ancient guy out of many who agrees in principle with pre-trib. Thomas Ice wrote an article on this:

The Rapture in Pseudo-Ephraem

At first Robert Gunrdy (on a proviso) accepted Pseudo-Ephraem could be a genuine example of an early pre-trib (GT) view. But then he proceeded to interpose his objections. Whatever the source of his grievances, Thomas Ice answers him:


I note that there were at least two links at non pre-trib websites that claimed to refute that Pseudo-Ephraem actually believed a pre-trib rapture, but both have gone into oblivion now. There may be others around that I'm not aware of. I suggest people just read the thing and decide for themselves what PE actually wrote. Personally I’m somewhat surprised at what lengths some will go to debunk PE after reading the plain sense of his writing.

What about early Church eschatology? What is its history and how systematic and refined was the eschatology of the early Church fathers anyway? Here’s an article by James F. Stitzinger that addresses some of these issues:


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Olivet Discourse – Part Two

Mat 24:29 "But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Mat 24:30 "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory.

Mat 24:31 "And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.

Rev 6:12-14 I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.

Joe 3:14-15 Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. The sun and moon grow dark And the stars lose their brightness.

Many compare the verses above and immediately connect them all together. Some will bring into account Matt 24:22 and Mark 13:20 to suggest that the great tribulation has been cut short – unlike the post-trib, mid-trib and pre-trib view. So the rapture occurs soon after the 6th seal (before the wrath of the 7th) because the gathering of v31 is the rapture. That view also holds that the great multitude of chapter 7 is the newly raptured Church. On the surface, it almost seems to fit...

This particular view is dependant on the order of the seals to be chronological and sequential. If the order of the seals is concurrent; it would mean that the 6th seal occurs late in the 70th week. Personally I still don’t have any firm conviction on this either way but I’m seeing more people considering a somewhat concurrent opening of the seals.

However, if the great tribulation isn’t actually cut short in the way the view demands, the system fails. This was discussed previously where I gave a few reasons why I think it’s untenable. I’ve come across several versions of just how God theoretically cuts short the GT and, IMO, each one has flaws. One prominent advocate has claimed God changed His mind – despite Scripture in Revelation (and elsewhere) contradicting this and despite the theological implications. A further argument has it that the persecution is curtailed so that Israel and more people can be saved. If it is curtailed then it isn’t cut short (amputated) and Rev 20:4 assures us that martyrdoms occur after the rapture. Claiming the GT is cut short only for the elect doesn’t gel literally with the stated reasons in Matt 24:22 and Mark 13:20. The days are cut short for the elect; else no flesh would be saved. If the Church is raptured and resurrected; that explanation simply doesn’t make sense.

One interesting angle by another prominent apologist of this view has it that the GT is cut short because the AC is involved in a war/battle (not just persecution) with the saints and that if the war were allowed to continue, all flesh would be destroyed. So the elect are removed before this can happen.

Rev 13:7 It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him.

I think the distinction between “warring” and “persecuting” is strained. Notice that the AC overcomes the saints so there’s no need for God to rapture the Church to save the planet. The reason given for the shortening is for the sake of the elect, not to save the planet. I struggle to understand how the Church could find itself in such a military conflict with the AC (and such a position of power) that the whole world is endangered. This idea seems to contradict Rev 13:4. Why would God allow the conflict only to rapture the Church at such a critical moment? Assuming the author used Rev 13:7 as a source for this possible battle – would a comparison of the saints in that verse with the saints in Dan 7:25 compromise the idea that the GT will be shortened? Are they the same saints? Are there different saints in Daniel’s 70th week? Ironically, at another time, the same author stated that perhaps the GT was never three and a half years in the first place. But if that were the case then there would be no need to cut short something that is already a designated length.

Joel tells us that armies are gathered in the valley of decision at around the time of his cosmic signs. Yet during Rev 6:15, we find virtually everyone hiding in caves. The first we read about armies/multitudes gathering anywhere is at the 6th bowl (Rev 16:12-16. While I'm aware that there are attempts to explain this, it's important to understand that such attempts are conjecture.

Another issue is Matt 24:30. Where in Revelation is the Lord’s first coming in power and great glory noted? It can only be found in Rev 19:11. Given Matt 24:29-31 describes the rapture following the tribulation; I find it problematic that Revelation is totally silent where its occurrence is argued to be patently obvious. Also, if the Lord comes somewhere between the 6th and 7th seals, some time after midweek, why does it take Him so long to conquer the earth? There are other issues here that relate to the movements of the Lord in relationship to the Church and the world, and whether this constitutes a single or multi-phase Second Advent (Parousia).

Some note the slight difference between the cosmic signs of Matt 24 and those of Rev 6 and conclude that they aren’t the same (Fruchtenbaum, LaHaye, Goodgame etc). The Lord tells us that the sun is darkened and the moon does not give its light, whereas in Rev 6 the moon is red like blood. History has recorded many blood red moons. Of course, as far as I know, none of them yet have occurred during massive earthquakes. But it is also true that there are other earthquakes and cosmic signs in Revelation (Rev16:9-10, 18 etc). Note the uniqueness of the earthquake in Rev 16:18.

If the moon appears red, it is giving off light. If it isn't giving off light, it can't be red. Is making this distinction being pedantic? Perhaps. But, to be consistent in our methodology, I also note that when it comes to other concepts, many get fussy and scramble for Greek grammar texts to prove their points. The Parousia; the differences between airo and paralambano; aorist verbs in Rev 6:17 and the usage of tereo ek in Rev 3:10 are good examples of such “fine tuning” when people feel so inclined. Maybe the Lord was only using a figure of speech as He did in Matt 24:22 and Mark 13:20.

Of course, proponents of this view also need to assign a technical meaning to the Lord’s description of the tribulation (Matt 24:21). In other words, “the great tribulation” is exclusively related to Satan’s persecution of the elect and does not include God’s judgments. Scripture indicates otherwise (Matt 24:21, Jer 30:5-7, Dan 12:1 and Joel 2:1-2). If the GT involves God’s judgments then tribulation does not cease until long after the 6th seal.

Prewrathers and posttribbers agree that Matt 24:31 is the rapture and they see a direct correlation between the cosmic signs of Joel, Rev 6 and Matt 24:29. The differences are that posttribbers deny that the GT is cut short; that the great multitude is the raptured Church and that the seals are chronological. As far as the seals are concerned, most pretribbers believe them to be chronological and sequential (some don’t) but the most important distinction for pre-trib is that Matt 24:31 is NOT the rapture.

If the GT is three and a half years and v 31 is the rapture then that means that it occurs at the end of the 70th week. However, this then raises issues relating to who populates the Millennium. In fact the closer the rapture occurs to the end of the week the more problematic this is for pre-wrath as well because they allow for this to occur as few as five months before the end of the week (Caution -I may stand to be corrected on this). Rev 13:8 is emphatic that there are only two classes of people during the tribulation – saved and unsaved. Contrary to this, some argue that there may be three classes of people; the saved, Israel and those who haven’t taken the mark of the Beast - but aren’t quite saved - and who therefore escape the rapture to populate the Millennium. It’s difficult for me to understand how anyone would willingly risk the consequences of refusing to take the mark and yet not be saved. This idea is contra-biblical conjecture and actually relies a good deal on the AC's kingdom being limited.

Douglas Moo once admitted, “...that a posttribulational scheme cannot explain how nonglorified individuals enter the Millennium...I find this argument the most difficult to handle — not only because the argument presents a difficulty for the posttribulational view, but also because the relevant evidence is both sparse and complex.” Douglas J. Moo, “Response,” in The Rapture: Pre-, Mid-, or Post-Tribulational p 161.

The pre-millennial Sheep and Goats Judgment (Matt 25:31-46) is a further obstacle. Robert Gundry tried to sidestep the dilemma by arguing that the judgment may occur post-millennial, in which case you have a situation where the only people left in their carnal bodies to populate the Millennium are saved Israel and unsaved gentiles. Another point to ponder is the rapture and Israel’s repentance. Why isn’t the rapture so timed so that Israel is included, given that the Church is caught up and immediately returns with the Lord to the earth? There are different programs for the Church, the nations and Israel.

What about Matt 24:31? Is it really the rapture?

One website makes the following statements:

Compare Matt 24:31 "And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect..." and 1 Cor 15:52 "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the dead in Christ shall rise..." Should we make these two separate incidences also? The elect being gathered could be Israel... oops, the parallel passage in Mark 13:27 says they are gathered from earth and heaven. If this isn't the rapture, what is it?

Another criticism was made on a recently defunct website (Bible Truth Zone) – “How does the pretribulationism (sic) attempt to justify omitting the Church from the Olivet Discourse? The most common approach by pretribulationists to resolve the glaring problem which the Olivet Discourse poses to their view is to "dispensationalize" (sic) them away…”

Elsewhere, the author notes – “Pretribulationists want to make this gathering of the elect refer to the regathering of Israel back to the land of Israel at the end of the seventieth week. Such a position faces insurmountable problems.”

No examples of these alleged problems are offered. Pretribulationists do argue that Matt 24:31 is the final regathering of Israel. Furthermore, they have good reasons for doing so. I don’t see any problems, let alone “insurmountable” ones - quite the contrary.

Mark 13:27 is no problem either. The word for heaven is ouranos and can mean air, heaven or sky: Deut 30:3-4 KJV- If any of thine be driven out unto the outermost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee…(see also Deut 30:5-6).

Was the Church a focus there? Ouranos can mean heaven and still not be problematic. For example, Dr Fruchtenbaum sees this as the OT saints being gathered from heaven (post-rapture, posttribulational, end-of-the-week, second coming). Others see it as all the saints arriving with the Lord at the end of the week. Personally I see it as just an idiom – from one end of the sky to another.

Scholars such as Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Thomas Ice, R L Thomas, Renald Showers etc have shown that Matt 24:31 is directly related to OT promises of a regathering that awaits fulfilment. Dr Showers has pointed out that as per 2000 AD only one third of the total Jewish population lives in Israel. Dr Fruchtenbaum “Footsteps of the Messiah” identifies two gatherings of Israel – first in unbelief and then in belief:

In unbelief in preparation of wrath for the purpose of refinement – Eze 20:33-38 and compare Isa 1:22, 25, 48:10; Jer 6:27-30, 9:7; Zech 13:9; Mal 3:2-3 and Zeph 2:1-2.

Then in belief and blessing – Isa 11:6-12, Isa 11:12, 27:12-13 (note the trumpet), Jer 16:14-15, 23:3-4, 7-8, 31:7-10; Eze 11:14-18, 36:24; Amos 9:14-15; Zep 3:18-20; Zech 10:8-12.

Isa 11:12 And He will lift up a standard for the nations And assemble the banished ones of Israel, And will gather the dispersed of Judah From the four corners of the earth.

Isa 27:12-13 In that day the LORD will start His threshing from the flowing stream of the Euphrates to the brook of Egypt, and you will be gathered up one by one, O sons of Israel. It will come about also in that day that a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were perishing in the land of Assyria and who were scattered in the land of Egypt will come and worship the LORD in the holy mountain at Jerusalem.

T. Francis Glasson wrote: In the OT and also in later Jewish writings two things are associated with the gathering of the dispersed: the trumpet and the ensign (or standard). The following prayer still appears in the Jewish Daily Prayer Book: Sound the great trumpet for our freedom: lift up the ensign to gather our exiles and gather us from the four corners of the earth. Blessed art thou, O Lord, who gatherest the banished ones of thy people Israel. (Quoted from Authorized Daily Prayer Book of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Empire. S Singer p 48) See Renald Showers' "Maranatha - Our Lord, Come” p 183.

In considering v 31 we should remember that the three questions asked by the disciples were exclusively related to their Jewish expectations based on OT promises. Acts 1:6 supports this conclusion. They didn’t ask about the rapture of the Church because their concern was on the restoration of Israel’s earthly kingdom. That desire hasn’t dissipated over the centuries. Matthew 24 was delivered during the Mosaic dispensation with a Jewish focus:

1) The preaching of the kingdom Gospel (v 14) (Bound to cause arguments!)

2) The destruction of Jerusalem and the second Temple

3) The abomination of desolation that takes place in a future Jewish Temple

4) The warning about fleeing on a Sabbath day (v 20) and the urgency of the inhabitants of Judea to escape to the mountains

In light of the above considerations, I suggest that the onus is on non-pretribulationists to interact with the OT (gathering) promises and somehow explain the sudden shift away from Jewish context and expectation, to a Church rapture.

Chuck Missler offers the observation that travelling on a Sabbath would be problematic nowadays because facilities shut down at that time. Maybe. Realistically, how many people (let alone Christians) will rely on public transport to head for the mountains after the AoD? If anything, the roads on a Sabbath would be clear of cars, which would be the preferred medium of transport. That being the case, fleeing would be expedited. The Lord’s words were a warning to future local Jewish, Sabbath keeping individuals – not the Church.

Another area of debate is the word elect in Matt 24:31. Some will argue vigorously that the elect in Matthew is the Church:

“That Israel is called God's elect in the Old Testament is without question (Isa. 45:4). However, not once in the New Testament is Israel so identified. Clearly, if we are to believe that the six usages in the Olivet Discourse that the word elect is to be understood as referring to Israel rather than its normal usage for the Church, clear and compelling evidence must be cited. The reality is that no such clear and compelling evidence has been brought forth. If the elect in the Olivet Discourse refers to the Church, as the weight if evidence clearly indicates. Pretribulation rapturism is fatally flawed. It is that fact which lies behind the attempt to make the "elect" in the Olivet discourse refer to the chosen among Israel.”

The author argues that because he can’t find any verse in the NT that refers to Israel as the elect then Israel cannot be the elect in Matt 24. That logic is "fatally flawed". The great multitude of Rev 7 is never called the Church yet his presuppositions are that it is. It’s inconsistent to attempt to blur distinctions between Israel and the Church in order to argue that the Church is present in the Tribulation and then argue that classifying Israel as the elect is invalid in the NT.

If it is correct that Israel is not the elect then how do we get around Rev 13:5, 7 in light of Dan 7:25? Are the saints in Dan 7:25, Israel or the Church? If ONLY Israel is the “saints that are given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time” then do they cease to be the elect in Revelation because they cannot be so in Matt 24? Or perhaps they cannot be the elect in Matt 24 but will be so in Revelation where they are conquered? Is there a difference between the terms saints and elect? Is there some sort of convenient dispensationalism occurring in Revelation and Daniel where the saints (Israel?) are conquered for three and a half years whereas the elect (Church) get raptured? The fact is that the term elect can refer to both Israel and the Church for different reasons and context determines who is being addressed. Matthew 24 is Jewish in context.

But is the assertion that Israel is never referred to as the elect in the NT valid? While it’s true that the word ekletos is not elsewhere used in the NT for Israel, the word eklogē is certainly used. The word is used for Jewish believers in Rom 11:5, 7 and Israel Rom 11:28.

eklogē; from G1586; a (divine) selection: - choice, choosing, chosen , those who were chosen.

Rom 11:28-29 ISV As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake, but as far as election is concerned, they are loved because of their ancestors. For God's gifts and calling never change.

1Ch 16:13 O seed of Israel His servant, Sons of Jacob, His chosen ones!

If Israel was the chosen nation in the OT then at what point in the NT did Israel become un-chosen? Is there some difference between being chosen to being the elect? The promises God made to them were unconditional and irrevocable. If they were the elect in the OT, they are still the elect in the NT. This is supported by Peter’s comments to the "Men of Israel" in Acts 3:12, 13-15, 25.

Act 3:25 "It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, 'AND IN YOUR SEED ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH SHALL BE BLESSED.'

See also Isaiah 6:10-13 and Isaiah 65:7-16.

Considering all this, it is consistent and contextually correct for pretribulationists to take the word elect in Matt 24:31 and understand it in light of all the OT prophecies dealing with the final regathering of Israel.

To be continued…

Further reading - in no particular order:

The Postponement of the Kingdom

The Sermon on The Mount

An Analysis of the Use of Cosmic-Sign Passages...



Consistent Pretribulationism and
Jewish Questions of the End

Posttribulationism and the Sheep/Goat-Judgment of Matthew 25
A Summary-Critique of Robert Gundry’s View


Differences between 1 Thessalonians 4 and Matthew 24

Who Are the Elect? by Helen Setterfield

A Comparison of the Synoptic Eschatological Discourses
and Revelation 6–20

Monday, August 17, 2009

Thoughts on the Olivet Discourse - Part One

Any premillennial discussion on the Olivet Discourse will inevitably touch upon whether the rapture of the Church is mentioned there by the Lord. The main verse in question is Matt 24:31. Pretribulationists do not see this as the rapture but teach that it is the final regathering of Israel as per Old Testament promises. Where pretribbers disagree amongst themselves is that some contend that the rapture is implied in other passages of the Lord’s discourse, whereas others deny that contention.

Some of the weaker arguments (which I’ve used) against a rapture in the Olivet Discourse (OD) is to say that the Matthew account is Judaeo-centric or that the rapture was still a mystery pre-Pauline Epistles. I think the former argument is weak because two other Gospels (Mark and Luke) also contribute to the OD. However, it’s important to understand that just because a Scripture appears in the NT, it does not automatically follow that it applies directly to the Church. The latter argument is also problematic because pretribbers - including prewrathers, non -premillennial posttribbers and midtribbers - point to John 14:2-3 (given after the OD) as rapture verses.

Joh 14:2-3 "In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.

Premillennial posttribulationists strongly deny that John 14:2-3 is focused on the rapture because they teach it occurs at the end of the 70th week and the Lord remains on the earth with His Church. They argue that the Father’s house can be an earthly edifice. They argue that the Temple in Jesus’ time was called the Father’s house, therefore the Father’s house does not necessarily mean heaven. Another way posttribbers get around these verses is to use the following line of reasoning:

“Jesus said He is in the Father and the Father is in Him. He also said the Father dwells in Him. As we've seen above, Jesus referred to the temple of His body. And temple used in John 2:19 can mean a dwelling place." Full Article

Personally, I found the article unconvincing. The context of the verses indicates that the mansions are in the Father’s house and the Father’s house is in heaven, which is where the Lord was going – simple. But if these Johannine verses do represent the rapture then we should acknowledge that, at some level, the concept of the rapture was present pre-Paul, even though the disciples likely did not understand it. I also agree with Chuck Missler’s view that, while the Lord’s audience was Jewish (Israel), it was also the future Church. Hence, certain elements of the Lord’s narrative might be addressed to both groups, including tribulation saints. In considering this, we should not automatically assume that Matt 24:31 is the rapture or deny the OD’s Jewish focus which is based on the disciples’ questions.

The portion below is essentially a brief summary of Dr Fruchtenbaum’s OD view. Unlike the majority of pretribbers, he believes the rapture is found within the OD (not Matt 24:31). I suspect he has somewhat influenced Peter Goodgame’s Red Moon Rapture theory (and others). While I’m not entirely committed to all of it, I think Dr Frucht’s teachings have a lot of merit and are worthy of consideration.

Generally speaking, it is agreed that the Lord was asked three questions and for three signs by His disciples, and this formed the basis of the discourse (Matt 24:3; Mark 13:3-4; Luke 21:7).

1) “Tell us, when will these things happen” These things refers to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.

2) “…and what will be the sign of Your coming,” Pretribbers, contend that this question does not concern the rapture but the visible second coming at the end of the week (Jewish focus). Pre-wrath teaches that this refers to both the second coming and the rapture but that it occurs before the end of the week (Church focus). Post-trib also teaches that this is the second coming and the rapture, but that this occurs at the end of the week (Church focus).

3) “…and of the end of the age?"

According to Dr Frucht, the Lord did not answer those questions in the same order they were asked. He answered the third question first, but before doing so, He provided characteristics of the Church age prior to the end of the age (Matt 24:4-6; Mark 13:6-7 and Luke 21:8-9). Matt 24:6 and Luke 21:9 inform us that the previous occurrences are not signs of the (coming) end of the age. Dr Frucht notes that from the time of Messiah up to the 1850s, many Jewish men and some gentiles have laid claim to be messiah (Rev Moon for example). And local wars have always been a feature of history. But these are not signs of the (coming) end of the age.

Having done that, the Lord provides positive signs that will indicate the approach of the end of the age (Matt 24:7-8; Mark 13:8; Luke 21:10-12). According to Dr Frucht, the term “nation shall rise against nation and kingdom and against kingdom” is a Hebrew idiom for a world war. He cites a Jewish source of that period – Zohar Chadash:

At that time wars shall be stirred up in the world. Nation shall be against nation and city against city; much distress shall be renewed against the enemies of the Israelites.

He also provides a quote from the Bereshit Rabbah:

If you see the kingdoms rising against each other in turn, then give heed and note the footsteps of the Messiah. (XLII:4)

On pages 95-96 of his book “Footsteps”, Dr Frucht details the exponential increase in both famines and earthquakes and makes a compelling case for his view. Between 1918 and 1919, a pestilence killed 23 million people. In 1920, the Great Chinese Famine occurred and in 1921, the Great Russian Famine. The list of earthquakes is too extensive to detail here but the trend has been upward. In Matt 24:8, the Lord tells us that these are also the beginning of birth pangs (travail). In summary, Dr Frucht concludes that the signs that the end of the age is close were fulfilled by WW1 and WW2; the increase in earthquakes and famines.

“But before all these things….” The Lord then goes on to discuss future experiences of the Apostles (Mark 13:9-13; Luke 21:12-19). Some argue that these verses refer to the Church during the tribulation and use them in an attempt to trip up pretribbers. However, Luke 21:20-24 makes it clear that these events are pre-destruction of Jerusalem and vv 20-24 are the signs.

On page 630 of “Footsteps” Dr Frucht gives account how in 66 AD a Jewish revolt broke out against the Romans. The Roman general, Cestus Gallus, came with his armies and surrounded Jerusalem. At that time the Jewish believers, remembering Christ’s prophecy, attempted to leave the city but couldn’t do so because of the armies. Gallus noticed that his supply lines were in jeopardy and that he didn’t have enough to maintain an extended siege. He lifted his siege in order to go back to Caesarea but was killed along the way by Jewish forces. So Jerusalem was, temporarily, no longer surrounded and every single Jewish believer was able to leave. They crossed the Jordan River and founded a new community in Pella, where they were joined by believers from Judea, Galilee and the Golan. In 68 AD Vespasian and his son, Titus, once more besieged Jerusalem. In 70 AD the city and the Temple were destroyed. According to Dr Frucht, 1,100,000 Jews were killed but not one Jewish believer died because they listened to the Lord’s warning.

Continuing on, Matt 24:9-26 and Mark 13:14-23 speak of the Tribulation (70th week). Matt 24:9-14 speaks of the events of the first half of the week. While these verses are similar to Mark 13:9-13 and Luke 21:12-19 - Dr Frucht points out that there are differences. Luke states that the events he was describing came before the signs of the end of the age (Nation against nation etc) whereas the Matthew passage begins with the word, Then. This implies that the events now being described by Christ come after the signs of the end of the age. I realize that there is plenty of possible argumentation here but – for what it’s worth – I’m impressed with Dr Frucht’s position.

Mat 24:13 "But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.

One area for controversy is Matt 24:13. Non pretibbers will be quick to point out that this verse talks about the Church during the trib. Dr Frucht informs us that this is speaking of Israel’s remnant. We should ask ourselves as Christians whether our salvation is contingent on how we perform during the great tribulation or is our salvation worked out by our faith through grace. What about those who haven't had to endure the tribulation - are they still saved?

I understand that there are some who believe that the Church needs to pass through the tribulation (seals) as some sort of refining process so that it can be presented as a spotless bride. I wonder whether the rapture, then, is dependant upon that last Christian becoming spotless. How is it orchestrated that every Christian becomes simultaneously refined by the trib in time for the rapture? Is there a predetermined critical mass? Once again, what about those who have died before the tribulation - have they missed out on some special refinement?

Matt 24:15-20 and Mark 13:14-23 are the events of the second half of the 70th week. Matt 24:29-30; Mark 13:24-26 and Luke 21:25-27 discuss the signs of the second coming of the Lord.

Matt 24:31 and Mark 13:27 outline the final regathering of Israel - not the rapture. More on this in a later instalment.

Another contentious verse is Luke 21:28.

Luke 21: 28 "But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

Dr Frucht points out that the operative word is BEGIN - when they begin to see these things. What things? The Lord isn’t just talking about the cosmic signs, as some claim; He is talking about the events of Luke 21:20-24 which was the sign of the destruction of Jerusalem. I think Dr Frucht is correct. Many claim that the Lord is referring to v 25 – but on what basis? Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD and, according to Dr Frucht, this fulfilled the judgment for the unpardonable sin. From that moment on, the rapture of the Church became imminent.

Again, quoting from Dr Frucht in “Footsteps” p 637:

He did not say we must wait until the end of the tribulation before looking up. What He did say was, “When you see these things begin to pass, then look up, for your redemption draws nigh.”

For a deeper study of the above, I highly recommend reading Dr Frucht’s “The Footsteps of the Messiah” - especially the OD section on pages 621 to 650.

To be continued...

Further reading:

Did Jesus Prophesy the Rapture?

A slightly different perspective:


Thursday, August 13, 2009

A quick note

Some time ago when I began to seriously study the concept of the rapture, I shifted from being a sceptical posttribber to believing that pretribulationism has the best answers. My modus operandi was to see what pre-trib’s two main opponents were saying about the system and then checking out how pretribulationists responded to those criticisms. One can easily go to several prominent non pre-trib websites and discover that they inevitably have a list of objections, polemics and alleged rebuttals for that system. I would then check what pre-trib scholars would say about opposing systems and how those systems in turn answered criticisms – if at all!

Personally, I’d never considered somehow escaping the “tribulation” - if it occurred in my time - by hiding my head in the sand in fear and believing in a false hope. But it does sober and excite me, as I study deeper, that the Lord could really come for us at any time. If this is truly the case then I had better be constantly prepared or risk being found wanting by my Lord. If I am really prepared to meet my Lord then I am also ready for persecution and possible martyrdom.

Am I 100% sure of a pretribulational rapture? - Certainly not. What I have found is that the two “other” main systems are flawed and that most of their objections to pretribulationism are answerable, despite the polemics I’ve found along the way. What I intend to do soon is to put together a series of supposed pre-trib rebuttals and problems that I’ve come across on those sites, and provide what I think are the answers.

I still intend to do an article on the Olivet Discourse and whether there is a rapture found within it. I began the article over a month ago and it grew into a short story about half way through, so I need to prune and rethink about how I’m going to present it. I’ll probably do that first.

Also, if you take a look at my links you’ll see that I’ve added dispensational resources. Dispensationalism is another system that has received a lot of bad press; however, I find it answers most of my questions more satisfactorily than other systems do. I see polemics fired at it by otherwise good Christians, yet there are a lot of misconceptions and downright misinformation assigned to it. Does it really teach more than One Way of Salvation? Did Scofield really teach a salvation by works during the OT in the unfortunate wording of the original version of his Bible note – or did his other notes clarify that salvation was always by Grace alone? Have Covenant Theologians made similar faux pas’ about how one acquired salvation in the OT? Is dispensationalism’s “newness” a legitimate criticism (like pre-trib)? How old is CT anyway and how many modifications have been made to it since its inception? What about “Progressive Dispensationalism”? Is it the logical progression from Classical Dispensationalism?

I’m still studying Charles Ryrie’s Dispensationalism. His book covers all these questions. I also highly recommend Dr Reluctant’s website where he is currently answering the 95 Theses against Dispensationalism, among other things. I’ll probably have something more to say on this topic some time down the track.


I'm adding this very well written article by Dr Ron Bigalke...

Dispensationalist critic George E. Ladd wrote the following words regarding dispensationalists: "It is doubtful if there has been any other circle of men who have done more by their influence in preaching, teaching and writing to promote a love for Bible study, a hunger for the deeper Christian life, a passion for evangelism and zeal for missions in the history of American Christianity.” Dispensationalism Today