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