The Pre-Tribulation Rapture (Part 2)
Posttribulationists believe that the church will go through the Tribulation to purge her of impurities and will be raptured at the end of the seven-year tribulation when Christ returns to the earth at His Second Advent to meet Him halfway in the air only to return immediately to the earth to reign with Him during His Millennial Kingdom. In analyzing this system it will become obvious that its viewpoints are based on a set of denials of the Pretribulationist view instead of on a positive exposition of Scripture.
In order to place the church in the Tribulation which Jeremiah specifically called “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30: 7) they must deny dispensationalism and all dispensational distinctions. Consequently, they must deny all distinctions between Israel and the church as well as God’s distinctive programs for each one.
Bearing in mind that Scripture describes the Tribulation as a period of wrath, judgment, indignation, trial, trouble, and destruction, they must deny the divine purpose for that period which is to pour out judgment on the nations (Joel 3: 2). In order for them to make the Rapture and the Second Coming one and the same event, they must deny all die distinctions Scripture makes between the two separate events. Their teaching that a multitude of signs must be fulfilled before the Lord can return, compels them to deny the doctrine of imminence. The posttribulationists must apply major passages of Scripture that outline God’s program for Israel (Matthew 13; Matthew 24-25; Revelation 4-19) to the church in order to support their views. They claim that Daniel 9: 24-27 was fulfilled in the past and therefore denies the Pretribulationst view that its fulfillment lies in the future.
What are the Posttribulationist?s main tenets?
1) They reject Pretribulationism on the assumption that it is a new doctrine and therefore not apostolic.
Reese, one of the major proponents of Posttribulationsim says,:
About 1830 … a new school arose within the fold of Pre-millennialism that sought to overthrow what, since the Apostolic Age, have been considered by all pre-millennialists as established results, and to institute in their place a series of doctrines that had never been heard of before. The school I refer to is that of “The Brethren” or “Plymouth Brethren,” founded by J. N. Darby.”
Robert Cameron continues in a similar vein when he says:
Now, be it remembered, that prior to that date, no hint of any approach to such belief can be found in any Christian literature from Polycarp down. . . .
On the contrary, several documents written by the post-apostolic fathers prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they believed in the imminent return of Christ, and in a Pre-tribulation Rapture. Those of you who would like to go into more detail as to the contents of these documents may read this article. For the purpose of this article, it is sufficient to mention only the names of some of the apostolic fathers who wrote these documents. They are Clement of Rome (fl. Ca A.D. 90-100), Ignatius of Antioch (d. ca. A.D. 98/117), The Didache (Before the end of the first century A.D.), The Epistle of Barnabas (ca. A.D. 70/117-138), and The Shepherd of Hermas (in two parts, ca A.D. 96/140-150).
2) Posttribulaitonists argue against the imminent return of Christ and assert that all the relevant signs must be fulfilled before Christ can return.
Believers throughout the last 2000 years have constantly been urged to look for the coming of the Lord and not particularly for any signs (Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 9:29; Titus 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:6).
The signs of cosmic proportions (great signs in the sun, the moon and the stars) in Luke 21: 25-28 are not given to announce a Mid-Trib or a Post-Trib Rapture but to encourage the saints during the Great Tribulation to lift their heads in anticipation of their redemption at Christ’s Second Advent when He is going to establish his thousand years of peace on earth. Had the fulfillment of these signs been a requirement for His return at the Rapture, He could not have come as a “thief in the night.” He used the metaphor of a thief to illustrate that His return for His own will be unannounced and in secret. Indeed, the mass of humanity will not be looking for Christ when He returns at the Rapture. They will be saying “peace and safety” when “sudden destruction?” will come upon them (1 Thessalonians 5: 2-3).
Whereas the Rapture is a “thief in the night” event for His own, His Second Coming will be announced by many signs and every eye will see Him, and all the tribes of the earth shall gaze upon Him and beat their breasts and mourn and lament over Him when He returns in great glory (Revelation 1:7). His Second Coming pictures a completely different scenario from the events preceding the Rapture when the entire world will say “peace and safety.” In fact great turmoil will abound and fear will grip the hearts of men, great and small, “And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” (Revelation 6: 15-17).
3) They assert that Scripture promises tribulation for the church and not a sudden route of escape.
Two distinct usages of the term “Tribulation” are manifest in the Word of God. It is either used in a non-technical and non-eschatological sense in reference to any time of suffering, testing or persecution (Mark 4: 17; John 16: 33; Romans 5: 3; 12: 12; 2 Corinthians 1: 4; 2 Thessalonians 1: 4; Revelation 1: 9). God’s purposes in allowing His saints to go through tribulation in this particular sense of the word are to purify (test as if by fire) their faith and to assist them in their spiritual growth (1 Peter 1: 6-7).
The term is also used in a technical and eschatological sense in reference to the whole of the seven year tribulation period (Revelation 2: 22; Matthew 24: 29) or the last 3 ½ years of the seven-year period (Matthew 24: 21). If, as the Posttribulationists believe, there is only a single usage of the term, (the saints’ tribulation throughout the church age), they must deny that the prophesied seven-year period of tribulation has any distinct character of its own. In other words, the well-defined character Jesus Himself attributed to the Great Tribulation in Matthew 24: 21 becomes obsolete and completely insignificant. Why would He say, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” Surely His words “such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now; no, and never will be [again]” places the seven-year period of tribulation in a unique category of its own. What is this unique character? The seals, the trumpets, the vials or bowls and the judgment on the false religious system Babylon have one purpose in view – judgment, wrath, indignation, unbearable trial, trouble, and destruction. God never promised His saints that He would keep them safe whilst they are in the midst of persecutions, trials, and troubles with the intent of purifying and purging (weaning) them from the world during the tribulation period (1 Peter 4:12) However, he does promise to keep them from (“ek,” “out of” or “away from” which denotes a literal departure) His judgments that are coming upon all the world. (Revelation 3: 10).
4) They claim that the prophecy in Daniel 9: 24-27 has been fulfilled in its entirety in the past and that there is no gap between the 69th and 70th week of the prophecy.
Concerning the gap, I would like to refer you to 2 Peter 3: 9 which clearly alludes to the necessity of such a gap in God’s plan of redemption: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, (the promise of Second Coming and His Millennial Kingdom) as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” This is one of the Posttribulationists’ most serious errors and is the result of their denial of all the distinctions between the church and Israel as well as God’s separate plans for them.
Daniel 9: 24 unmistakably affirms that the prophecy is related to his people and the holy city Jerusalem which is the logical outgrowth of God’s covenants with Israel. The “he” spoken of in verse 27 has its antecedent in the previous verse where he is called “the prince who shall come” and he is clearly related to the people who destroyed Jerusalem and the sanctuary in 70 A.D., i.e. the Romans. The one confirming the covenant with Israel cannot be Christ for He was cut off (crucified) after the fulfillment of the 69th week (Verse 26). The fact that sacrifices and oblation continued after the death of Christ until the year 70 A.D. makes it impossible for Christ to have terminated these sacrifices. To uphold their claim that the prophecy in Daniel was fulfilled in the past, they must interpret it spiritually. Bearing in mind that the prophecies of the first 69 weeks were fulfilled literally, the final seven weeks must also be fulfilled literally.
All the proponents of the Pre-, Mid- and Postribulation Rapture agree that the 69 weeks in Daniel’s prophecy have already been fulfilled to the very letter. Therefore, there is no argument to be made against a literal fulfillment of the last week of the 70-week cycle. Pretribulationists, as opposed to the Postribulationist’s view that the 7th week immediately followed the 69th, believe that there is a gap between the two periods and consequently that a 7th week is a future event. Is there enough evidence from Scripture that such a chronologically defined sequence of events such as the 70 weeks in Daniel could be interrupted indefinitely? Is there a precedent for this to be found in the mystical chronology of Israel’s history?
According to 1 Kings 6:1 Solomon built the temple in the 480th year after Israel’s redemption from slavery in Egypt. Chronologers have rejected it as forgery and a blunder and even Scripture seems to dismiss it as an error. In his sermon at Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13: 18-21) Paul elaborated on the chronology of the history of his nation: 40 years in the wilderness; 450 years under the judges, and 40 years of the reign of Saul, making a total of 530 years. Add to this the 40 years of David’s reign and the first 3 years of Solomon’s then a total of 573 years is reached which leaves a gap of 93 years amiss in the chronology of these events. Can this apparent inconsistency be reconciled?
Following the history of Israel in the Book of Judges it becomes clear that their national existence as Jehovah’s peculiar people was in temporal abeyance for several periods. This happened in times of their punishment for their idolatry when they were “sold into the hands of their enemies.” They became slaves of the King of Mesopotamia for 8 years, to the King of Maob for 18 years, to the King of Canaan for 20 years, to the Midianites for 7 years, and finally to the Philistines for 40 years. The sum of 8+18+20+7+40 = 93 which, when deducted from the 573, leaves a total of 480 years.
Can there be any doubt that the 480 years of the Book of Kings from the Exodus to the temple is a mystic era formed by eliminating every period during which the people were cast off or kept on hold by God? If God had temporarily cast off His people in the past only to reinstate them again, could He not presently be doing the same thing? Indeed, Paul who wrote his epistle to the Romans primarily to correct the developing anti-Semitism and seeds of “replacement theology” in the Church of Rome following the banishment of Jews from that city by Emperor Claudius (Acts 18: 2), asks “. . . has God totally rejected and disowned His people”? to which he himself answers, “Never!” (Romans 11: 1).
He continues to add a note of warning, “Do not boast over the branches and pride yourself at their expense. If you do boast and feel superior, remember it is not you that support the root, but the root [that supports] you.” . . . “And even those others [the fallen branches], Jews] if they do not persist in [clinging] to their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.” . . . “Lest you be self-opinionated – wise in your own conceits – I do not want you to miss the hidden truth and mystery (the mystery of the Jews being kept on hold during an intermediary period): a hardening (insensibility) has (temporarily) befallen a part of Israel [to last] until the full number of the Gentiles had come in, And so all Israel (the remaining remnant at His Second Coming) will be saved. As it is written, The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will banish ungodliness from Jacob.” (Romans 11: 18, 23, 25, 26; Isaiah 59: 20, 21).
These passages from Scripture declare unequivocally that God has not transferred His promises with regards to the Jews’ final inheritance of the land of Israel and Jerusalem to the church. God has not written off His people and is going to fulfill every promise he made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This will all come to pass during the 7th week of Daniel’s 70-week prophecy which still lies in the future.
Could the 7th week have been fulfilled in the past as the Posttribulationists prefer to believe? Did the 69 and last 7 weeks run in immediate succession without a gap in between? Such a scenario is highly unlikely. Daniel leaves no room for doubt when he says that exactly 69 weeks of years (483 years) expired between the going forth of the command to build Jerusalem until the coming of the Anointed One (Daniel 9: 25) (referring of course to the day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. (Matthew 21: 1-11) and a mere four days later He was cut off (crucified) but not for Himself.
From the day He was crucified in 32 AD, 38 years expired before the temple and the sanctuary was destroyed by Titus in 70 AD. Had the destruction occurred within the seven years immediately following the fulfillment of the 69 weeks one would have to concede that the 7th week did indeed follow the 69 weeks of years without any gap, but then all the other events Daniel mentions to be fulfilled within the gamut of the 7th week would have to be ignored completely. In verse 24 Daniel unequivocally says that 70 weeks of years or 490 years would expire before a final end will be made to his peoples’ transgressions, before the full measure of their sin will be sealed up, before they will finally be purged and complete reconciliation be made for their sins and before everlasting righteousness will be ushered in at the inauguration of Christ’s 1000 year reign of peace on earth. Have all these events been accomplished during the seven years immediately following the fulfillment of the 69 weeks? The short answer is a resounding, no! In fact, judgment fell upon Daniel’s people instead of reconciliation; animosity rather than love for the Messiah became more ferocious as the experience of His disciples clearly show.
Would Jesus have wept under His remorseful words, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” (Luke 13: 34, 25) if all the aforementioned blessings had been fulfilled in the seven years directly after the 69 weeks of years? As Sir Robert Anderson so eloquently says in his book “The Coming Prince,”
We may conclude, then, that when wicked hands set up the cross on Calvary, and God pronounced the dreaded “Lo-ammi” (Romans 9:25, 26; cf. Hosea 1:9, 10) upon His people, the course of the prophetic era ceased to run. Nor will it flow on again till the autonomy of Judah is restored; and, with obvious propriety, that is held to date from the moment their readmission into the family of nations is recognized by treaty. It will, therefore, be here assumed that the former portion of the prophetic era has run its course, but that the events of the last seven years have still to be accomplished.