Monday, April 21, 2014

The Rapture - Part 22 - Copyright 2014 by Dr. Andy Woods

My previous articles commenced a series on the rapture of the church. We began with the question, "What is the Rapture?" This question can best be answered by noting ten truths about the rapture from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:50-58. We then moved to a second main question, namely, when will the rapture take place relative to the coming seven-year Tribulation period? We offered the contention that believers can develop certainty that they will be raptured before the Tribulation period occurs for at least seven reasons. Now that we have dealt with these two questions, we began to explore some of the weaknesses associated with the other competing views that seek to answer the question, "when will the rapture take place relative to the coming Tribulation period?" At least five differing perspectives exist. We noted at the onset that it is important to understand that all of the non-pre-tribulation positions have a difficult time handling the seven arguments favoring pre-tribulationalism previously discussed in this series. In the last two articles we noted the problems associated with mid-tribulationalism. In this article, we will begin to scrutinize post-tribulationalism.

Post-Tribulation   Rapture

Post-tribulation rapture theory contends that the rapture will take place at the end of the coming Tribulation period. This view typically sees no distinction between the rapture and the Second Advent and thus seeks to harmonize all references to Christ's return as taking place at the end of the future Tribulation period. Those adhering to the post-tribulation rapture typically rely on at least one of the following four arguments to support their position.
1. According to 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and 1 Corinthians 15:52, the rapture will take place at the sounding of the last trumpet which, according to Matthew 24:30-31, will take place upon Christ's return at the end of the Tribulation period. First Thessalonians 4:16 associates the rapture with the trumpet of God. Similarly, 1 Corinthians 15:52 teaches that the rapture will take place at the sounding of the last trumpet. The post-tribulation rapture proponent believes that this trumpet is described in Matthew 24:30-31 and will be sounded upon Christ's bodily return at the end of the Tribulation period. Matthew 24:30-31 says, "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. 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."
Those who hold to a post-tribulation rapture interpretation of this passage point to the numerous similarities between the coming of Christ in Matthew 24:30-31 and other rapture passages given by Paul, such as in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:50-58. Examples of such similarities include Christ's coming in a cloud (Matt. 24:30), the sounding of a trumpet, and the world-wide gathering of believers (Matt. 24:31).1 On account of these similarities, many are confident that the rapture is in view in Matthew 24:30-31.
However, the last trumpet mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and 1 Corinthians 15:52 is not the same trumpet mentioned in Matthew 24:30-31. In fact, the trumpet of 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and 1 Corinthians 15:52 is described much differently than the trumpet of Matthew 24:30-31. While it is possible to draw superficial points of similarity between Paul's depiction of the rapture (1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:50-58) and the events of Matthew 24:30-31, it is a logical fallacy to assume that similarity is the same as equality. For example, two cars can look the same. Both have seat belts, four wheels, a steering wheel, etc.. However, it is fallacious to assume that these two different cars are one and the same automobile merely on account of some similarities. Whatever simplistic points of similarity that may exist between Paul's depiction of the rapture and Matthew 24:30-31 are outweighed by vast differences between these sections of Scripture.
For example, while the trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15:52 will be sounded while Christ is in the process of returning to the earth from heaven (1 Thess. 4:13-18), the trumpet of Matthew 24:30-31 will be sounded after Christ has already returned to the earth. The trumpet of Matthew 24:30-31 mentions Christ returning with His angels. The trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15:52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 mentions only the trumpet call of an archangel. Upon the sounding of the trumpet in Matthew 24:30-31, the angels will gather the elect. The trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15:52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 does not mention the angels gathering the elect.
Ice also observes, "In 1 Thessalonians 4 believers are gathered in the air and taken to heaven, while in Matthew 24 they are gathered after Christ’s arrival to earth."2 Sproule similarly queries:
Where does Paul mention the darkening of the sun (Matt. 24:29), the moon not giving its light (Matt. 24:29), the stars falling from the sky (Matt. 24:29), the powers of the heavens being shaken (Matt. 24:29), all the tribes of the earth mourning (Matt. 24:30), all the world seeing the coming of the Son of Man (Matt. 24:30), or God sending forth angels (Matt.24:31)?3
Feinberg further notes:
Notice what happens when you examine both passages carefully. In Matthew the Son of Man comes on the clouds, while in 1 Thessalonians 4 the ascending believers are in them. In Matthew the angels gather the elect; in 1 Thessalonians the Lord Himself (note the emphasis) gathers the believers. Thessalonians only speaks of the voice of the archangel. In the Olivet Discourse nothing is said about a resurrection, while in the latter text it is the central point. In the two passages the differences in what will take place prior to the appearance of Christ is striking. Moreover, the order of ascent is absent from Matthew in spite of the fact that it is the central part of the epistle.4
In order to equate Matthew 24:30-31 with the Pauline rapture passages, a reconciliation of all of these differences is needed rather than merely highlighting a handful of similarities.
Also, Showers explains how the imagery of Matthew 24:30-31 has more in common with what the Old Testament predicts concerning Israel's eschatological regathering rather than the church's rapture.
First, because of Israel’s persistent rebellion against God, He declared that He would scatter the Jews “into all the winds” (Ezek. 5:10, 12) or “toward all winds” (Ezek. 17:21). In Zechariah 2:6 God stated that He did scatter them abroad “as four winds of the heavens.” . . . God did scatter the Jews all over the world. Next, God also declared that in the future Israel would be gathered from the east, west, north, and south, “from the ends of the earth” (Isa. 43:5-7). We should note that in the context of this promise, God called Israel His “chosen” (vv. 10, 20). . . Just as Jesus indicated that the gathering of His elect from the four directions of the world will take place in conjunction with “a great trumpet” (literal translation of the Greek text of Mt. 24:21), so Isaiah 27:13 teaches that the scattered children of Israel will be gathered to their homeland in conjunction with the blowing of “a great trumpet” (literal translation of the Hebrew). . . Gerhard Friedrich wrote that in that future eschatological day “a great horn shall be blown (Is. 27:13)” and the exiled will be brought back by that signal. Again he asserted that in conjunction with the blowing of the great trumpet of Isaiah 27:13, “There follows the gathering of Israel and the return of the dispersed to Zion.” It is significant to note that Isaiah 27:13, which foretells this future regathering of Israel, is the only specific reference in the Old Testament to a “great” trumpet. Although Isaiah 11:11-12 does not refer to a great trumpet, it is parallel to Isaiah 27:13 because it refers to the same regathering of Israel. In its context, this passage indicates that when the Messiah (a root of Jesse, vv. 1, 10) comes to rule and transform the world as an “ensign” (a banner), He will gather together the scattered remnant of His people Israel “from the four corners of the earth.”5
In fact, contextually, the regathering spoken of in Matthew 24:30-31 harks back to Matthew 23:37. There Christ expressed a desire to gather an unwilling first-century Israel. He clearly identifies His audience as Israel in verse 37 with the twofold repetition of the word "Jerusalem." However, although first-century Israel was unwilling to be gathered by her Messiah, a future generation of repentant Jews will be regathered by Christ upon His return at the conclusion of the Tribulation. Matthew uses the same verb "gather" (episynagō) in both Matthew 23:37 and Matthew 24:31 in order to draw this connection.
When Paul mentioned the last trumpet in 1 Corinthians 15:52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16, he had in mind the rapture occurring with the last trumpet of the Church Age. He was not referring to the final trumpet of the Tribulation period described in Matthew 24:30-31. This is the trumpet Christ will sound upon His bodily return to the earth as He gathers the Jewish survivors of the Tribulation period. All of this leads to the obvious conclusion that Paul's description of the rapture (1Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:50-58) and Matthew 24:30-31 are speaking of two different trumpets.
In sum, having previously answered the question, "what is the rapture?", we noted at least seven reasons that affirm the pre-tribulational rapture view. We then began interacting with the other positions on the timing of the rapture. Post-tribulationism errs in superficially connecting Paul's depiction of the rapture (1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:50-58) with the events of Matthew 24:30-31.
(To Be Continued...)

1 Robert H. Gundry, The Church and the Tribulation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973), 135.
2 Thomas Ice, “Matthew 24:31: Rapture or Second Coming?,” online: www.pre-trib.org, accessed 19 March 2014, 2. I am indebted to Ice's article for making me aware of the sources cited in this article.
3 John A. Sproule, “An Exegetical Defense of Pretribulationalism” (Th.D. diss., Grace Theological Seminary, 1981), 53.
4 Paul D. Feinberg, "Response: Paul D. Feinberg," in The Rapture: Pre-, Mid-, or Posttribulational, ed. Richard R. Reiter(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), 225.
5 Renald Showers, Maranatha Our Lord, Come!: A Definitive Study of the Rapture of the Church (Bellmawr, NJ: Friends of Isrel, 1995), 182-83.

Monday, April 14, 2014

SOME INTERPRETIVE TIPS FOR UNDERSTANDING REVELATION by Dr. Paul Benware



          When asked what book of the Bible they would like to study, the average church youth group will almost always include the Book of Revelation at or near the top of the list.  And yet, in spite of such enthusiasm for Revelation, it remains to most people, a confusing and mysterious book.  Take any five pastors and teachers as they teach on Revelation and you will likely end up having at least six different interpretations.
 

          The purpose of these discussions on interpreting the Book of Revelation is to give some tips that hopefully will help in our understanding of this important book.  Some tips will be familiar, but it our desire that all of them will prove valuable in keeping us from wandering away into interpretive minefields where more harm than good occurs.


          We should remember that God gave the Revelation so that we could have some understanding about the future and have our lives enriched by it.  It is designed by God to be an “unveiling” not a concealing of truth about the future.  


Four Basic Approaches to the Book of Revelation


          We need to begin our study with a reminder of the basic approaches that are taken to the Book of Revelation.  One of the real points of confusion for the average church-goer is how pastors and teachers can differ so greatly from one another in their explanations of Revelation.  So, we must review four basic approaches to the Book of Revelation.  Each approach is very different and takes the interpreter to an entirely different place.  This alone will explain some of the differences that we hear when Revelation is taught.


(1)  THE APPROACH OF IDEALISM.   “Idealism” does not believe that Revelation indicates the time of events.  In other words, Revelation simply gives principles or lessons that are valid in any age. (Such as, God is sovereign, or that good will win out over evil).  The Book is not intended to look at the past or to peer into the future.  The symbols of Revelation have no direct application to anything specific.  (So, for example, the beast of Revelation 13 is not a person from the past, present or future, but is simply representative of something, such as social injustice).  So Revelation is to be interpreted non-literally; thus employing the allegorical approach.  Now it is abundantly clear that when allegorization (spiritualization) is employed in the interpretation, at that point the interpreter becomes the final authority.  In fact, the interpreter no longer has any solid guidelines and can come up with most anything, which often happens.


(2)  THE APPROACH OF HISTORICISM.   “Historicism” was the dominant view of the Reformers and continued to be the approach of choice to Revelation until the end of the 19th century.  In this view, Revelation is a symbolic presentation of the entire course of church history. It holds that we have been in the tribulation since the 1st Coming of Jesus Christ and this will continue until His 2nd Coming.  Therefore, the symbols in Revelation are identified with historical persons (such as, the Pope is the Beast) and the judgments represent particular events.  (For example, one commentator says that the 6th Seal Judgment represents the invasion of the Goths and the Huns around 365 AD).  But one wonders, why would it represent the Goth and Huns and not, for example, the war in Viet Nam?  Among Historicists there is simply no agreement on the exact identification of persons or events because the whole system is subjective.  In fact, the identification of persons and events is constantly changing. The events, persons and symbols are interpreted allegorically and thus, again, the interpreter becomes the final authority.  This approach badly obscures our understanding of Revelation, removing any real possibility of the believer being “blessed” by this book. (Rev. 1:3).  This approach has lost its prominence because many have come to realize that it is so subjective that it provides little help in understanding Revelation.


(3)  THE APPROACH OF PRETERISM.   The term “preterism” is based on the Latin preter  which means “past”.  This view believes that most, if not all of Revelation, has already been fulfilled. (There are differing views within Preterism).  This “past” fulfillment is connected with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.  This view has been popularized by R. C. Sproul in his book “The Last Days According to Jesus.”  This position is arrived at by Preterism’s regular mixing of literal and allegorical interpretation which is seen as a legitimate way to handle prophetic scripture. They operate with the “pre-understanding” of post-millennial thought; that is, the world will be Christianized coming under the Law of God.  Because the world is going to get better and better, the judgment passages of Revelation must be seen as past events and not something in the future.  Also, they justify their non-literal interpretation by appealing to Revelation as being of the “apolcalyptic genre.”  This allows them to take the language of Revelation and make it mean whatever they think is best, instead of letting language communicate normally.  (The reader might find helpful the chapter on Preterism, in my book, “Understanding End Times Prophecy” which is published by Moody Publishing).


(4)  THE APPROACH OF FUTURISM.   Futurism approaches the book of Revelation as prophecy that has yet to be fulfilled.  Revelation 4-22 is seen as eschatological chapters that will be fulfilled in Daniel’s 70th week (the Tribulation), at the 2nd Coming of Jesus and in the future, forever kingdom of God.  The more literal an interpretation of Revelation, the more strongly will that person be a futurist. Futurism will be the approach taken in this series of studies on interpreting the Book of Revelation.


Six Important Guidelines in Interpreting the Book of Revelation


     We will end this first study with the first of the six interpretive guidelines that we wish to share in these studies.  It is the most basic of our interpretive rules because it applies to all of scripture and not just to the Book of Revelation.


(1) Interpret Revelation literally.  Those with a high view of the Scriptures, as being the very inspired Word of God, will always interpret the language of scripture literally.  This simply means that we approach the Scriptures normally, letting language function in its usual way.  We employ this interpretive approach when we talk with one another on a daily basis.  We give words meaning according to their usual, customary usage.  Since we assume that God is trying to communicate truth to us, He based His revelatory communication on the normal rules of human communication.  Literal interpretation recognizes that there are figures of speech.  So, for example, if I were to tell you that we should not eat outside on the patio because there are a million mosquitoes out there, you realize that I am saying there are an awful lot of mosquitoes out there; so that eating dinner out there would be quite unpleasant.  We both know that I did not count them. The figure of speech of a “million mosquitoes” is rightly understood and is taken “normally.”  We will deal with the matter of symbols and figures of speech in more detail in our upcoming study. But this first rule of interpretation simply is that we let language function as language, recognizing the historical context and the normal rules of grammar.


     In the next study we will look at the importance of the Book of Genesis in our understanding of Revelation and the use of figurative language. In the third study we will deal with three other interpretive tips in our interpretation of Revelation.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Thought For The Day: He Is Not Here; He Has Risen (Luke 24:6) by Dr. Robert Lightner

    Women came to the tomb where Jesus was buried and they found the stone rolled away from the entrance and the body of Jesus was not there. He was not there. He had risen from the dead! The term Easter has a pagan background. It was the word used to describe the festival named for the Saxon Goddess Eostre, of Ostara, a European form of Astarte.
 

    We might ask, What do all the hunts for colored hidden eggs and cute little rabbits have to do with the resurrection of Christ? The answer is, They have absolutely nothing to do with it.
 

    Our Lord Jesus Christ paid the total price for the sins of all mankind. And His resurrection from the grave on the third day after His crucifixion is proof that God accepted that substitution, that payment for our sins. The gospel message includes Christ’s full payment for our sins and it also includes His resurrection from the grave. The apostle Paul put it plainly in Romans 4:25: Christ was “delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.” He said the same thing to the Corinthian believers: “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:4).
 

    As some have suggested, let’s change the name Easter Sunday to Resurrection Sunday in our homes and our churches.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Answering Your Questions

What does it mean when the Bible says, "Unless those days were shortened no flesh would survive?" ... does it mean that the 7 year tribulation is shortened somehow? Very curious about this. Thanks!


Answer: There are a couple of interpretations that have been offered for Matthew 24:22. First, let me restate the verse:



But pray that your flight may not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath; for then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall. And unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days shall be cut short. (Matthew 24:20-22 NASB).



Interpretation 1 - Short, meaning “shorter than 24 hour day.”

One interpretation is that the days will be shortened to less than a 24 hour day.  



The great Baptist Jewish scholar John Gill wrote of this verse:



 “The shortening of those days is not to be understood literally, as if the natural days, in which this tribulation was, were to be shorter than usual. The Jews indeed often speak of the shortening of days in this sense, as miraculously done by God: so they say (Targum Jonathan ben Uzziel, & Targum Hieros. in Gem xxviii. 10), that "five miracles were wrought for our father Jacob, when he went from Beersheba to go to Haran. The first miracle was that, ‘the hours of the day were shortened for him’, and the sun set before its time, because his word desired to speak with him.''



They also say (R. Sol. Jarchi in Isa. xxxviii. 8.),
 "that the day in which Ahaz died, was shortened ten hours, that they might not mourn for him; and which afterwards rose up, and in the day that Hezekiah was healed, ten hours were added to it.''



But the meaning here is, that the siege of Jerusalem, and the calamities attending it, should be sooner ended: not than God had determined, but than the sin of the Jews deserved, and the justice of God might have required in strict severity, and might be reasonably expected, considering the aggravated circumstances of their iniquities. A like manner of speech is used by the Karaite Jews (Chilluk M. S. apud Trigland. de sect. Karaeorum, c. 9. p. 147), who say, "if we walk in our law, why is our captivity prolonged, and there is not found balm for our wounds? and why are not "the days" of the golden and silver kingdom "lessened", for the righteousness of the righteous, which were in their days?''    

This view seems to suggest that God could not have meant He would shorten the Great Tribulation period. Though that does not necessarily have to be the conclusion of the word “shorten.” 



Interpretation 2 - Short, meaning “short in duration.”

The second interpretation says that the Lord will stop it by shortening (hastening) His coming.



Dr. Wilkins writes in support of this view, “A proverbial way of indicating that God is in control even of these days of horror. If the wickedness of humanity and the wrath of God were allowed to run unchecked, there would be no end to the horror and no one would survive. This is a promise that the time of tribulation will not last indefinitely, because God is in control.” (Michael Wilkins in Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary)



Another proponent of this view is Dr. Walvoord as he writes, “This does not mean that the period will be less than three-and-a-half years, but that it will be definitely terminated suddenly by the second coming of Christ.” (John Walvoord, Matthew)



Dr. Glasscock gives a good summary as he writes, “The issue is not necessarily that the number was reduced from a previous number but was limited, shortened, from a greater possible number that would annihilate the human race. (Ed Glasscock, Moody Gospel Commentary: Matthew)



I agree with Dr. Glasscock.  My interpretation from the Greek is this:



“And if not those days be shortened (Aorist Passive) no flesh at all would be saved; but those days will be shortened (Future Passive) for the elect.”   



The first phrase is an aorist passive verb expressing a 'statement of fact,' while the second phrase uses a future passive (will be shortened) expressing a future reality.  



The word in the Greek for “short” is only used here (and the equivalent verse in Mark 13:20) in the New Testament. The word is “koloboo” meaning, “to mutilate,” from the verb “to prune,” and denotes “to cut off,” or “amputate,” (cf., 2 Sam 4:12 in the Greek OT) hence our translation “to shorten.”   



I believe the verse is not referring to a shortening of the 24 hour day or less days in the tribulation period, but rather, that God will intervene before Israel’s enemies kill all the Jews. The remnant of Israel will come through the Tribulation as promised.



Thanks for asking,

Dr. John Pappas

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Rapture - Part 21 © 2014 Andy Woods

My previous articles commenced a series on the rapture of the church. We began with the question, "What is the Rapture?" This question can best be answered by noting ten truths about the rapture from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:50-58. In previous articles from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, we saw that the rapture is an important doctrine and not something that can be marginalized or explained away as a secondary doctrine. We also noted that the rapture is an event that is distinct from the Second Advent of Christ. We further observed that the rapture will involve the catching up of every believer to meet the Lord in the air, and that the rapture will involve a reunion between living and deceased Church-Age believers. We then began to examine several more points from 1 Corinthians 15:50-58. We noted that the rapture will be a resurrection, will exempt an entire generation of believers from death, will be an instantaneous event, is a mystery, is an imminent event, and is also a traditional doctrine now being recovered.
We then moved to a second main question, namely, when will the rapture take place relative to the coming seven-year Tribulation period? We offered the contention that believers can develop certainty that they will be raptured before the Tribulation period occurs for at least seven reasons. First, the Tribulation period’s purpose concerns Israel rather than the church. Second, there is no reference to the church as being on the earth in Revelation 4–19. Third, the church has been promised an exemption from divine wrath. The fourth reason is that the rapture is an imminent event and only the pretribulation view is in harmony with this doctrine. The fifth reason is that only pretribulationalism is in harmony with the New Testament's presentation of the rapture as a comforting event. The sixth reason that the rapture will take place before the Tribulation period begins is because the Antichrist cannot even come forward until the Holy Spirit's restraining ministry through the church is first removed. The seventh and final reason that the rapture will take place before the Tribulation period begins relates to the fact that the symbolic parallels of the days of Noah and Lot mandate that God's people must first be taken out of harm's way before the pouring out of divine judgment.
Now that we have dealt with these two questions, we will begin to explore some of the weaknesses associated with the other competing views that seek to answer the question, "when will the rapture take place relative to the coming Tribulation period?" Recall the various views on the timing of the rapture relative to the impending Tribulation period. At least five differing perspectives exist. First, pre-tribulation rapturism holds that the rapture will occur before the Tribulation period even begins. This is the position that has been defended in this series. Second, mid-tribulation rapture theory asserts that the rapture will take place in the middle of the coming Tribulation period. Third, post-tribulationalism contends that the rapture will take place at the end of the coming Tribulation period. This view typically sees no distinction between the rapture and the Second Advent and thus seeks to harmonize all references to Christ's return as taking place at the end of the future Tribulation period. Fourth, pre-wrath rapturism maintains that, because the wrath of God does not begin until the final twenty-five percent of the Tribulation period, the church will be present for the first three quarters of the Tribulation period only to be raptured to heaven just before the wrath of God is poured out during the Tribulation's final quarter. Fifth, partial rapturism maintains that only those believers who are truly living for Christ at the time of the rapture will actually participate in the rapture by being removed from the earth at that time, thereby leaving behind the carnal or backslidden believers to experience the events of the Tribulation period.
At the onset, it is important to understand that all of the non-pre-tribulation positions have a difficult time handling the seven arguments favoring pre-tribulationalism previously discussed in this series. In other words, mid and post-tribulationalism as well as pre-wrath rapturism fail to explain how the church could be a placed in a future time period where God is primarily dealing with Israel rather than the church, where the church is never mentioned or even alluded to, and when God's wrath is directly being poured out. They also do not acknowledge the New Testament teaching on imminence or that the rapture is the very next event to occur on the prophetic horizon rather than some other eschatological occurrence. Nor do they consider that the doctrine of the rapture is a comfort. They also fail to explain how the church could still be present after the Holy Spirit's restraining ministry is removed. They also do not harmonize well with the symbolic parallels concerning the days of Noah and Lot. Beyond these initial problems, the competing positions also contain several other weaknesses and inadequacies. Let's begin our discussion with mid-tribulationalism.

Mid-Tribulation   Rapture

Mid-tribulation rapture theory asserts that the rapture will take place in the middle of the coming Tribulation period. Those adhering to the mid-tribulation rapture typically rely on at least one of the following three arguments to support their position. In the last article, we began the process of enumerating and briefly responding to each of the three arguments used to justify the mid-tribulation rapture position. We responded to the mid-tribulation argument that although the church is exempted from God's wrath, the church will be on the earth during the first half of the tribulation period because God's wrath will not actually begin until the second half of the tribulation period. In the prior article, we observed that contrary to the belief of mid-tribulationalism, the wrath of God is a phenomenon that appears at the earliest part of the Tribulation period. In this article, we will scrutinize the second and third arguments used by the mid-tribulationalist.
2. In the Book of Revelation, the rapture is described in Revelation 11:12 and will take place half-way through the tribulation period. Revelation 11:12 says, "And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, 'Come up here.' Then they went up into heaven in the cloud, and their enemies watched them." The mid-tribulation rapturist believes that this verse is describing the rapture of the church. Because the event described in Revelation 11:12 will take place toward the middle of the Tribulation period, the mid-tribulation rapturist believes that the rapture will take place halfway through the tribulation period.
However, Revelation 11:12 is not a reference to the rapture of the church. In fact, this text has nothing to do with the removal of the church from the earth. When studied in context of the entire 11th chapter of Revelation, it is merely speaking of the two Jewish witnesses being removed from the earth near the middle of the Tribulation period after the completion of their ministry.
The reference to the "two witnesses" being killed and resurrected and taken to heaven (Rev. 11) does not fit midtribulationism because: (1) these are Jewish witnesses symbolized as "two olive trees" (v. 4; cf Zech. 4) able to perform miracles like two great Jewish prophets, Moses and Elijah (vv. 5-6); (2) their work centers around the Jewish "temple" in Jerusalem (vv. 1-2, 8); and most of all, (3) they are taken into heaven near the end of the Tribulation (v.3; cf. 12:6).1
Thus, only through a rejection of the time-tested and consistently applied literal method of interpretation and, instead, by wildly allegorizing the contents of Revelation 11 can it even be argued that the Tribulation activity of the two witnesses represents the church or the body of Christ and her rapture to heaven.
3. According to 1 Corinthians 15:52, the rapture will take place at the sounding of the last trumpet which, according to Revelation 11:15, will take place roughly half-way through the tribulation period. 1 Corinthians 15:52 teaches that the rapture will take place at the sounding of the last trumpet. The mid-tribulation rapture proponent believes that this trumpet is described in Revelation 11:15 and will be sounded halfway through the tribulation period. Because the trumpet of Revelation 11:15 is mentioned alongside events related to the temple, which will be desecrated midway through the Tribulation period, the mid-tribulation rapture position is largely built upon the notion that the rapture will take place at the sounding of the last trumpet (1 Corinthians 15:52) which the mid-tribulation rapturist believes will sound near the midpoint of the tribulation period. However, the last trumpet mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:52 is not the same trumpet mentioned in Revelation 11:15. The major problem with this view is that the trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15:52 is described much differently from the trumpet of Revelation 11:15. This leads to the obvious conclusion that 1 Corinthians 15:52 and Revelation 11:15 speak of two different trumpets.
For example, the trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15:52 is described only as a single trumpet. The trumpet of Revelation 11:15 is described as the last in a series of trumpets. The trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15:52 involves a resurrection. The trumpet of Revelation 11:15 mentions no similar resurrection. The trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15:52 is a trumpet of blessing. The trumpet of Revelation 11:15 is a trumpet of judgment. The trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15:52 will take place in the twinkling of an eye. The trumpet of Revelation 11:15 will take place over an extended period of time because it will initiate an entirely new series of judgments (Rev. 10:7). While the trumpet of Revelation 11:15 mentions lightning, thunder, an earthquake, and a hail storm in heaven (verse 19), the trumpet of 1 Corinthian 15:52 mentions no similar events. The trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15:52 is a trump of God while the trumpet of Revelation 11:15 is an angelic trump. Unlike the trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15:52, the trumpet of Revelation 11:15 announces the millennial kingdom.2
When Paul mentioned the last trumpet in 1 Corinthians 15:52, he had in mind the rapture occurring with the last trumpet of the Church Age. He was not referring to the last of the trumpet judgments described in Revelation 11:15. Paul's use of the word "last" in 1 Corinthians 15:52 refers to the last in a series rather than the last ever. Such a method of communication would be the equivalent of my wife telling me that she was first going to go the grocery store and last she was going to drop off the laundry. Here, she would be using "last" only relative to first going to the grocery store rather than saying this would be the last time ever she would pick up the laundry. Paul uses the word "last" in the same sense in 1 Corinthians 15:52.
Beyond this, the trumpet of Revelation 11:15 is not even the very last trumpet in God's eschatological program. The very last trumpet to be sounded in the Tribulation period is not found in Revelation 11:15, but rather is found in Matthew 24:30-31 and will be sounded in harmony with Christ's Second Advent at the conclusion of the Tribulation period. In other words, the Midtribulation scheme assumes that the last trumpet will be sounded at the Tribulation's midpoint. Yet, this assumption seems unfounded in light of Matthew 24:30-31.
In sum, having previously answered the question, "what is the rapture?", we noted at least seven reasons that affirm the pretribulational rapture view. We then began interacting with the other positions on the timing of the rapture. Starting with mid-tribulationism, we noted at least three deficiencies with this position. Mid-tribulationism errs in failing to consider that the wrath of God begins early on in the Tribulation period, that Revelation 11:12 is only describing the rapture of the two Tribulation witnesses rather than the church's rapture, and the last trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15:52 is different from the seventh trumpet of Revelation 11:15.
(To Be Continued...)

1 Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology, vol. 4 (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany, 2004), 650, n. 109.

2 J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology (Findlay, OH: Dunham, 1958; reprint, Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1964), 189-91.