Wednesday, January 19, 2022

How is the Great Tribulation shortened?

When I first encountered the prewrath rapture view, what immediately struck me was its claim that the "Great Tribulation" (at least for the church) would last less than 3.5 years. This was one reason why I wasn't compelled to buy into this system. The phrase "after the tribulation has been cut short" is pivotal. Other PW tenets hinge on this interpretation of Matt 24:22. 

Neither Rosenthal nor Van Kampen defended this view of the "shortening." Ex pretribbers took it on board. But is this interpretation of Matt 24:22 valid? Proponents affirm it must be so because everything else ties in - "comparing Scripture with Scripture."  

At some point I came across Charles Cooper's "The Meaning and Significance of Koloboo in Matthew 24:22" in a 1997 Parousia Magazine article. I cannot currently find it online (new link below). Cooper threw out a number of strange suggestions in defense, perhaps the oddest being that God can change His mind. In another article he wrote,

The Word of God teaches that Satan/Antichrist’s persecution will be cut short in Matthew 24:22. How? By removing the object of the evil one’s persecution – the Church – to heaven and putting the remnant of Israel in protective custody. 

Yet as I've noted elsewhere, if the rapture is located at Matt 24:31, it occurs after the tribulation. As I understand it, the "remnant of Israel" is already in "protective custody" before the GT is "shortened."  

BTW, I recommend Mike Vlach's book "The Old in the New." He correctly notes where Israel is the focus of the Olivet Discourse (see the back section). It's odd to take OT verses addressing Israel (Daniel's people etc) and apply them to a future predominantly gentile church. 

Another PW position is that Dan 7:25 refers to the nation Israel, and not the church (which is correct). It then states that "Israel and not the church will be persecuted for 42 months." So, in this case, the GT is cut short only for the church. It appears to me that PW inconsistently flexes to accommodate a shorter trib church view against Israel's tribulation. The further one digs into this system the more convoluted it becomes because it must force its assumptions onto certain texts.

Is Israel persecuted while in "protective custody"? Or, is part of Israel in custody while another part isn't (around the world)? Why cut the tribulation short for the church and not Israel? Don't some posttrib folk assert that God can work with both the church and Israel simultaneously? Why, then, is the church taken away while Israel remains. Of course we'll be directed to God's "Day-of-the-Lord" wrath. 

But remember that the GT must be shortened in order to spare all life

What do we do with the Rev 20:4 martyrs? Is the passage a recap providing the missing resurrection element to Rev 7's Great Multitude? Or do the Rev 20:4 martyrs comprise those who come to faith during the 42 month Antichrist Great Tribulation, who aren't in "protective custody"?

Speaking of resurrection: One of the "proofs" that Matt 24:31 is the rapture (cutting short the GT) is allegedly found in Dan 12:2. The argument is that Jesus, in the Olivet Discourse, cites Daniel. Apparently one can find the missing Olivet resurrection there. One problem is that the same chapter (Dan 12:7) speaks of time, times and half a time which PW elsewhere states to be 42 months. We're not even considering issues relating to Dan 12:1, 13. 

Compare Dan 12:1 and Matt 24:21. See also Hos 5:15 and Matt 23:39. Renald Showers and others have shown that Israel is "elect." It also seems that, in a real sense, Christ's coming is contingent on Israel's change of heart. The nation will be elect at Christ's coming when all will see Him. Does Dan 12 and Matt 24 address the future church or Israel? The prewrath view tries very hard to make it the Church. But this raises more problems. See below.

The defenses for a shorter GT are contradictory, deductive and convoluted. I agree with this simple comment at Precept Austin,

"Cut short" does not mean the Great Tribulation will be less than 3.5 years, but only that it will be abruptly terminated by the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

In other words, unless Christ stops the process it would continue until no life is spared (which is what the text plainly states). Apart from this, there are three main problems with the shortened GT interpretation of Matt 24:22. I discussed them HERE (citing Larry Pettegrew). 

Further reading:

Tony Garland's Jacob's Trouble and the Great Tribulation.


This is likely going to be a growing document. Prewrath's (new?) position on the length of the Great tribulation for Israel (as opposed to the church) may be seen HERE...

...Snow demonstrates exegetically that the reference of saints [elect?] in Daniel 7:25 refers to God’s holy nation of Israel and not the church. Consequently, it is Israel and not the church who will be persecuted for 42 months. The church’s suffering will be cut short sometime during the second half at an unknown hour and day.
Let's think about that statement for a moment. Note that PW insists on keeping "Antichrist's Great Tribulation" distinct to God's "Day of the Lord" wrath. You see this insistence in their literature and charts. It erroneously asserts that God's wrath cannot occur during the so-called Satan's wrath period. Yet there you have a model where God's wrath runs coterminous with Satan's wrath! But let me ask again: why take the church out and leave Israel if the GT continues for it? The fact that Israel survives the GT and the Day of the Lord, nullifies the reason PWs use for the church's removal (i.e., that some believers must remain alive to be raptured). If you argue that Israel survives because it is somehow protected, then why can't the same be done for the church? 

It appears that this may be a shift in thinking that God can change His mind regarding the length of the GT overall (Charles Cooper's article). The problem for PW is that the GT is always said, in various ways, to last three-and-a-half years. But the system relies on Matt 24:22 as a statement for a shortening of the GT for the church. It must impose its assumptions onto the Olivet Discourse because it reads the church there instead of Israel. Therefore it needs to see two different time lengths for the Great Tribulation in Daniel 7 & 12.

So, after the tribulation (Matt 24:29-31) the tribulation continues for Israel, but not for the church. How astonishing!

Addendum 2

Dr. Alan Kurschner wrote a response to critics re the "Cutting Short of the Antichrist's Great Tribulation" HERE. Those interested can read it and decide for themselves how well he's answered objections. I plan to comment when I get time... 

The convoluted defense mentions Renald Showers. On page 25 Kurschner has an issue with Showers' position on PW and God changing His mind re the length of the GT. He writes that ("while some interpreters may believe this") God changing His mind isn't the view prewrath affirms. Citing Dan 9:24-27, he goes on to assert (a deduction) that there are two distinct events [tribulation lengths?] serving two different purposes, one for Israel and one for the church (see above). Again, one of those tribulations must then occur alongside God's DotL wrath.

In fact, Charles Cooper (Prewrath Resource Institute) once suggested that God can change His mind, and even used the example of Hezekiah's life span (see HERE). Moreover, Cooper talked about fewer hours in the days in context to the GT; something which Kurschner refutes! Note that they are two leading prewrath proponents who participated in the Seven Pretrib Problems Documentary. More to come..

Addendum 3

I agree with Alan Kurschner (AK) when he declares that the cutting short of the tribulation is foundational to prewrath. PW interprets eschatological texts through a PW grid. Due to the length of the essay, I'll only make a few observations. 

AK asserts that Matt 24 is aimed at believers because PW needs v 31 to be the rapture within a cut-short Great Tribulation (v 22). Therefore, AK rejects Showers' citation of Dan 7:25 and Rev 12, 13. These verses speak of saints and holy ones (Israel) and a period lasting 1,260 days, forty-two months and time, times and half a time. 

No mention of Hos 5:15 and Matt 23:37-39. Israel will not see the Christ until it calls Him blessed. If everyone sees Christ's coming (Matt 24:30) and the tribes mourn (Zech 12:10), then "elect" likely refers to Israel in Matt 24. See above.

He (ironically) sees "saints" as partly meaning Israel (and the church) in Rev 13 because he needs two lengths for the Great Tribulation; a shortened version for the church (deduced), and the stated three-and-a-half year period for Israel.  

If Dan 12 supplies a missing resurrection to the Matt 24:31 rapture (see above), what about Dan 12:1, 7 and Matt 24:21-22? Both speak of a uniquely severe period. Daniel is given the length of the tribulation for his people as lasting times, time and half a time. If a remnant of the Jews is protected, but Israel undergoes its worst tribulation (Dan 12:1-2; Jer 30:7), how does it survive a combination of the continuing GT and the Day of the Lord? 

Well, AK says the Antichrist doesn't have absolute authority. For example, assuming the Two Witnesses appear in the 2nd half of the Week, he says they're an example how the AC has limited authority, yet can still muster armies. But, again, if God protects certain people post-rapture and limits the AC, why is it necessary to cut the GT short for the church?  

We agree that God restricts Satan and the Antichrist. They alone cannot be the reason for Matt 24:22. In fact, the Lawless One is a function of God's wrath and judgment (2 Thess 2:8-12). The best explanation for terminating those days isn't to cut short "Antichrist's Great Tribulation" for the church—so some believers will remain alive at the rapture. It is a compound of factors, including God's (worse-than-the GT) wrath which, if left unchecked, those days would result in no one being spared alive. 

PW has the ability to cite a number of texts purporting to support its view; and at first this may seem impressive to those who haven't studied the system. Under closer inspection, it does so deductively and assuming a debatable interpretation of Matt 24:22 as its starting point. It picks and chooses texts relating to Israel, and applies them to the church to prop up PW; but never those which explicitly state the length of the tribulation. 

Finally, the essay constantly asserts that Matt 24:31 is the rapture which cuts the tribulation short (for the church). Read it carefully: v 31 occurs AFTER the tribulation. The gathering does not cut the GT short.

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