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.