Sunday, February 20, 2011

Matthew 24 & 6th seal Cosmic Signs

Most of us have read Matt 24:29 and Rev 6:12 and noted similarities. Upon close inspection there is a difference. In Matthew the moon doesn’t give its light whereas in Revelation the moon is blood red. If the moon doesn’t give its light then it cannot be red. Can these verses describe the same event?

That these events are one and the same is vital to both the pre-wrath and post-trib views.

One advice is that we shouldn’t apply a woodenly literal interpretation in this instance. For example, there are three gospel accounts of the calming of the wind and three slight variations of Jesus’ words where He rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith. However, in those accounts Jesus essentially expressed the same question about the disciples’ faith. It’s possible that He may have even uttered all the phrases for emphasis and the gospel writers each recorded one aspect.

But, whatever the case, Matt 24:29 is exactly corroborated by Mark 13:24. In both gospel accounts the moon doesn’t give its light. Why is there a difference in the 6th seal if the primary source of the three accounts is the same person? Had Jesus intended to convey darkness at Mark 13 and Matt 24, He would have expressed it precisely the way He did. Therefore, it’s natural to allow that He meant exactly what He said. It’s not a case of being too literal but recognizing what has been stated without presupposing an alternate meaning.

The suggestion that we not take the differences too literally is also inconsistent. When dealing with concepts like wrath, tribulation, parousia, the day of the Lord etc, people will typically invoke the exact Greek technical terms in Scripture to argue their points.

What about context?

If you’re post-trib you expect a correlation between the 6th seal and Matt 24:29, 31 to coincide with the end of the great tribulation, the rapture and the beginning of God’s wrath. You then argue for a parallel or concurrent execution of the seals etc that ties everything together.

If you’re pre-wrath you have very similar expectations. The main differences being that you take a chronological view of the events and you appeal to Matt 24:22 for an end to the GT and the rapture before the end of the week. You’re also likely to present the great multitude’s identity (Rev 7) being the raptured Church as contextual evidence that Matt 24:29-31 is tied in with the 6th seal. This identification of the great multitude needs to stand on its own merit, yet people often resort to Matt 24:22, 29, 31 as contextual confirmation that it is, and vice versa. In adopting this methodology, evidence for these points is restricted because they are co-dependant for context.

I believe it’s a mistake to insist in a division between the wrath of God and the Great Tribulation. As I’ve shown elsewhere, the arguments for God’s wrath being poured throughout the seals are more compelling than the objections. We read “After the tribulation…” and immediately conclude that the wrath of God must then follow because it's assumed that tribulation and God’s wrath cannot coexist. God’s wrath is evident throughout the week and tribulation is one result of God’s wrath (Rom 2:5-9).

The language in Matt 24:21-22 is too strong for a worse period to follow. If that period continues, no flesh would be saved. Logically, then, if a worse period follows then no flesh can be saved. So how can the day of the Lord come after the tribulation? It is the same period progressively worsening to such a point that God must intervene or no flesh will be saved.

The rapture cannot be what ends this period because the reasons given for the period’s termination do not match a Church context if it is to be raptured. Christ isn’t saying that the tribulation will be cut short in order that some people remain alive so they can be raptured. It only makes sense if the intent is to keep the “elect” alive for the Millennium to be populated.

2 Thess 2:8 indicates that the “lawless one” is slain at Christ’s appearing. Some people want the term to mean “hand cuffed” (it doesn’t) because they believe this occurs before the end of the week. But he cannot be handcuffed when he’s been given authority for 42 months (which is the length of the GT); is still able to behead saints (Rev 20:4) and muster the nations at the 6th bowl. Therefore 2 Thess 2:8 correlates to Rev 19.

There are different moon signs in Joel 2:10, 31. Joel 3:15 matches 2:10 in describing darkness and 2:31 has a red moon. Is this really just two ways of saying the same thing or is there something more complex here to consider?

Isaiah 2 suggests that some aspect of the day of the Lord is already present when people are scrambling to find shelter in caves. This matches the 6th seal. Darrel Cline draws upon Matt 24, Revelation, Joel and elements of Isaiah 34 to suggest that the 6th seal is an “inclusio”. Here’s what he says:

“…Matthew 24 is a presentation of the final event of the Day of the Lord when Jesus descends to summon the nation to her land according to the promise of Deuteronomy 30:4. In this day, the moon does not give her light. But, the "Day of the Lord" is an extended period of time, not just one day. So, in Revelation 6, the sixth seal, being like the rest of the seals in giving an overview of the period, gives both the prelude event to which Joel refers as "before the Day" at which time the moon appears as deep red, as well as the final event which includes the rolling up of the heavens as a scroll so that the inhabitants of the earth can visibly see the anger of the One on the throne in Heaven as well as that of the Lamb as He descends to the earth. The sixth seal is an inclusio that takes in the beginning as well as the ending. Its function as a seal is to characterize the scroll's contents as a revelation of the entire period of Daniel's seventieth week, just like the other seals do in their own way. The conclusion is that the seventieth week is the period of the warfare of the wrath of the Day of the Lord as well as the period of Satan's final conflict with God before the establishment of His kingdom on the earth (the first two seals) and the overall results of this massive conflict over this earth are famine and death to a fourth of the population of the earth (this does not include the deaths that are the result of specific judgments that are distinct from the general impact of war, famine, death, and wild beasts). These results are seals 3 and 4. Then seal 5 gives the justification from the earth side of the issue where the hatefulness is so severe against the truth that those who promote it are martyred over all of human history. Then seal 6 gives the justification from the heavenly side of the issue, which has its roots in the wrath of the Father and the Son. The seventh seal is opened to allow the remaining part of the front of the scroll to be read as well as the entire back side.”

Read the full account HERE. But note that he’s critiquing Robert Van Kampen’s “The Rapture Question Answered Plain and Simple” and he pulls no punches.

Alan D Cole provides further thoughts HERE.

I think Cline and Cole make some interesting and challenging arguments. I don’t have the answers. However, I’m convinced that we do a great injustice to the differences between Matt 24:29, Mark 13:24 and Rev 6:12 if we simply assume they’re the same event.

Friday, February 11, 2011

No Fourth Seal Wrath?

For thus says the Lord GOD: How much more when I send upon Jerusalem my four disastrous acts of judgment, sword, famine, wild beasts, and pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast! (Eze 14:21 ESV)

And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider's name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth. (Rev 6:8 ESV)

I’ve often argued that the wrath of God occurs before the opening of the 7th seal by pointing out the similarity of the language between Rev 6:8 and Ezekiel 14:21. Going over some of my study records I noticed this comment by Dr Charles Cooper in response to a critique by Dr Arnold Fruchtenbaum:

“Fruchtenbaum fails to notice that these words are spoken against Jerusalem and not one fourth of the world as indicated in the fourth seal of Revelation 6:7. Rosenthal does not say that God has not used these judgments in the past as Fruchtenbaum indirectly intimates. The issue is whether Scripture indicates that God will use these judgments in the future against one fourth of the world. There is no prophecy in the Old Testament that God is going to use these judgments against the world during the "great tribulation." Not one!”

Dr Cooper is well within his rights to defend his system even though there are articles on his website that dish criticism out.

However, he seems to miss the obvious point. The issue isn’t who Ez 14 is addressed to in the OT but what the judgments were composed of and the fact that they were called judgments.

That they were called judgments in the OT and the same effects are released by the Lamb - who is the only one with the authority to open the seal - is compelling evidence that this is God’s wrath. Those who disagree must provide viable evidence to the contrary.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tribulation? Elect? No problems!

Lately I’ve been immersing myself in studying the Atonement. Of particular interest to me is the doctrine of Limited Atonement which is the L in the Calvinistic acronym T.U.L.I.P. In a nutshell, Limited Atonement holds that Christ died to redeem ONLY the ELECT.

If you’re a Reformed 5 pointer, a more “efficient” rendering of John 3:16 might conceivably read as follows:

"For God so loved the ELECT, which He predestined to salvation, that he gave his only Son, that whoever (of the ELECT, though they have no choice) believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 ESV (with some additions)

The elect were sovereignly chosen by God for salvation in eternity past. They were predestined. In fact they really had no choice in it due to Irresistible Grace. Once you are chosen you are saved and the best part is that you won’t lose that salvation because of what’s called Perseverance.

If you’re not one of the ELECT/CHOSEN, well…see, there’s this thing about Total Depravity. Sorry about that.

I realize I’m being somewhat flippant here. This is a serious issue.

But the subject got me to thinking – how does this affect pre-Millennial eschatology? Specifically, being prepared for the Great Tribulation and the possibility of taking the mark of the Beast if you’re a miscalculating pretribber?

Remember that you’re one of the ELECT! Your salvation has been sovereignly determined in eternity past. You were regenerated even before you could have faith. There was nothing you could do to gain salvation – and nothing to lose it.


The odd thing is that pretribulationism is sometimes frowned upon by the Reformed, pre-mil, 5 pointers who fret over the pretribulationist’s capacity to endure the Great Tribulation with their souls intact. Here’s a typical example:

“…who will be more prepared for this test? the person who is taught that this test will be applied to the Church and thus must have faith to endure; or, the person who is taught that the Church will be swept away in bed's of ease before the Antichrist uses the mark as a test of loyalty?”

So pretribulationists are being cautioned to "test their election", that they are not deceived and left wanting during the tribulation. Isn’t this contradictory…or am I missing something?

What endurance and what test?

Remember T.U.L.I.P.?

How can unsaved individuals - who weren’t Predestined - prepare for the “test of loyalty” if there’s nothing they can do to contribute to their salvation? On the other side of the coin, if you’re one of the ELECT then there’s nothing you can do to lose that salvation.

If you’re a consistent proponent of T.U.L.I.P., then, logically, it’s all been predetermined.


Man says:

" ...the conversion of a sinner being not owing to a man's self determination, but to God's determination, and eternal election, which is absolute, and depending on the sovereign Will of God, and not on the free will of man; as is evident from what has been said : and it being very evident from the Scriptures, that the eternal election of saints to the faith and holiness, is also an election of them to eternal salvation; hence their appointment to salvation must also be absolute, and not depending on their contingent, self-determining Will." Jonathan Edwards

God says:

1 John 2:2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

And John 3:16 (without man's redefinition):

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.