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.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Rapture - Part 20 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. 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. Let us now enumerate and briefly respond to each of the three arguments used to justify the mid-tribulation rapture position.

1. 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. While conceding that the church is exempted from God's wrath, the mid-tribulation rapture view assumes that God's wrath will not begin until the second half of the Tribulation period. This assumption exists in the minds of some on the grounds that the Antichrist will rule the world in peace and prosperity for the first half of the Tribulation period, and the rest of the apocalyptic judgments will not come upon the world until the second half of the Tribulation period.

However, God's wrath will take place during the first half as well as the second half of the Tribulation period. During the first half of the Tribulation period, the Antichrist will be unveiled. Consequently, his coming will be just as much a judgment upon the world as will be the remaining judgments, many of which will take place during the second half of the Tribulation period. The revelation of the Antichrist will be a spiritual judgment sent by God for the purpose of deceiving many of those who have rejected the gospel. Second Thessalonians 2:9-12 says, "that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders,  and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness." This text makes it clear that the Antichrist will be sent as divine spiritual judgment to deceive many who have rejected Christ. While many will be saved during this awful time period (Rev. 7:9-17), many others who reject the gospel will be blinded by God Himself to its truth during the Tribulation period. They will be judicially blinded with the revelation of the Antichrist, who is the rider on the white horse (Rev. 6:1-2). Although not identically akin to the type of physical judgment which will take place during the subsequent aspects of the Tribulation period, this spiritual form of judgment will actually be far worse because it will eternally damn souls. Jesus Himself said in Matthew 10:28, "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."

Just as the opening of seals 2 through 7 will bring horrific judgments upon the world, the opening of the first seal, which will reveal the Antichrist, will also bring forth horrible divine judgment upon the world. The only difference between seals 2 through 7 and the first seal will be the nature of the judgment. Physical judgment will come upon the world with the opening of seals 2 through 7 and spiritual judgment will come upon the world with the opening of the first seal. Thus, God's wrath as manifested through spiritual judgment will actually be manifested at the very beginning of the Tribulation period. This notion of continuity of wrath coming forth through all seven seal judgments, including the first seal, is strengthened when it is understood that all of the seal judgments are connected to Christ in heaven opening the seven sealed scroll (Rev. 5:1-7). Consistency seems to dictate that if the physical judgment contained in seals 2 through 7 are manifestations of divine wrath, then the spiritual judgment contained in the first seal judgment must also be a manifestation of divine wrath.

Moreover, with the opening of the sixth seal, Revelation 6:16-17 says, “and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come; and who is able to stand?’” Interestingly, this verse looks backward upon all of the prior six seal judgments and categorizes them as divine wrath. These seal judgments are manifested early on in the Tribulation period and most likely take place in the first half. Thomas explains:

The verb ─ôlethen ("has come") is aorist indicative, referring to a previous arrival of wrath, not something that is about to take place. Men see the arrival of this day at least as early as the cosmic upheavals that characterize the sixth seal (6:12-14), but upon reflection they probably recognize that it was already in effect with the death of one-fourth of the population (6:7-8), the worldwide famine (6:5-6), and the global warfare (6:3-4). The rapid sequence of all of these events could not escape notice, but the light of their true explanation does not dawn upon human consciousness until the severe phenomena of the sixth seal arrive.1

Thus, contrary to the belief of mid-tribulationalism, the wrath of God is a phenomenon that appears at the earliest part of the Tribulation period.

Even if the premise is granted, as mid-tribulationalism maintains, that the wrath of God encompasses only a portion of the Tribulation period, the Church-Age believer still cannot experience any of this Tribulation time period. Christ in Revelation 3:10 makes the following promise to the church at Philadelphia: “Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth." Notice that in Revelation 3:10, Christ promises the believer not just an exemption from divine wrath, but rather a removal from the very hour of testing itself. Rhodes explains the significance of this promise as a refutation to non-pretribulational perspectives:

This means the church will go through the time of judgment prophesied in the book of Revelation, but believers will be kept from Satan's wrath during the tribulation (Revelation 3:10). Pretribulationalists (such as myself) respond, however, that Revelation 3:10 indicates that believers will be saved out of or separated from (Greek: ek) the actual time period of the tribulation.2

Regarding the promise of Revelation 3:10, Geisler similarly observes, "In context, the statement about being saved 'out of' (Gk: ek) the time of trial does mean saved from it (not through it). One cannot be saved from an entire hour by being in any part of it."3

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 the first of 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.

(To Be Continued...)


Monday, March 10, 2014

HERE COMES TROUBLE – THE TIME OF TRIBULATION (Part 4) by Dr. Paul Benware



Some perhaps remember the old E. F. Hutton commercial on TV where it was said “when E.F. Hutton speaks, people listen.”  The visual aspect of that commercial was that a crowd of talking people all of a sudden became silent and leaned in to hear the latest financial advice from E. F. Hutton.  It communicated its message very well, letting the viewer know that this authoritative source for financial information should be listened to very carefully.



            Well, a greater than E. F. Hutton has spoken.  With authority and clarity the Lord Jesus Christ proclaimed that the coming period of tribulation is the worst period of time that this planet will ever experience. The focus of His statement was on the second half of that 7 year period of time.  Jesus referred to this 3 ½ year period as “the tribulation, the great one.” (Matt. 24:21)  And He observed in the next verse (24:22) that no human being would have survived it if God had allotted a longer period of time for the tribulation.



            As we conclude our four part study of the time of trouble, there are several specific matters that need to be discussed.



Five Key Elements in the Second Half of the Tribulation Period



(1)    THE NATION OF ISRAEL.  The Lord Jesus was quite clear that the second half of Daniel’s 70th week would be a terrible time for Israel.  When they see the “abomination of desolation” set up in the Holy Place in the temple at the midpoint of the tribulation, they are encouraged to quickly flee the land. The Antichrist, with whom they are in a covenant relationship, will break that covenant and cease being the protector of Israel, and will become their great persecutor.  As Israelites increasingly come to faith in Jesus, their persecution increases tremendously.  According to Revelation 12, Satan is forcibly removed from heaven and he knows then that his time is short.  This results in Satan going for with “great wrath” on the earth, particularly targeting Israel.  By the time of Jesus’ Second Coming, Israel nationally will come to faith.  In fact, Israel’s regeneration is the one prerequisite for His return to earth (Matt. 23:39). So it will be the best of times and worst of times for Israel.



(2)    THE ACTIVITY OF THE ANTICHRIST.  The career of the Antichrist (the Beast) has very distinct parts to it.  Before the tribulation ever begins, he is the ruler of a nation and in that role he signs the treaty with Israel. In the first half of tribulation, he is the dictator of an eleven nation confederacy. At the midpoint of the tribulation, he is killed and returns to life.  It is at that point that the world worships him and during the final 42 months of the tribulation (Rev. 13), he becomes ruler of the entire world.  In this capacity he, along with his chief assistant the “false prophet”, will attempt to control the world militarily as well as economically (the famous “mark of the beast---666”).  The Scriptures consistently testify to the fact that these individuals will be working the most amazing miracles.  The outpouring of supernatural manifestations are very messiah-like, causing great deception among mankind (See 2 Thess. 2:9-10; Matt. 24:24; Rev. 13:2, 13-15). His passionate hatred for God and the people of God causes him to wage war against the saints.  In this effort he is very successful.  But he and his devoted followers will be the target of God’s final series of judgment, the “bowl judgments.”  His aggressive rebellion against the Lord God will be brought to a sudden, dramatic end at Armageddon when he (along with the False Prophet) are cast alive into the Lake of Fire (the “second death”).



(3)    THE JUDGMENTS OF GOD.  Jesus likened the judgments of God to “birth pains.”  Like birth pains, they increase in both number and intensity as the tribulation period proceeds along.  This means that the number of judgments are more numerous and of greater intensity during the second half of the tribulation.  Most likely, the “trumpet judgments” (Rev. 8-9) and the “bowl judgments” (Rev. 16) occur during the final 3 ½ years.  And it is amazing to note (in Rev. 16) that men realize that these terrible judgments are coming from God, yet they still blaspheme Him and refuse to repent.  This certainly shows the human heart for what it is when not touched by the Spirit of God.



(4)    THE WITNESSES OF GOD.  In the middle of the nightmarish events of these seven years, God will cause the gospel to go throughout the entire world (Matt. 24:14) with the result that multiplied millions will come to faith in Jesus (see Rev. 7).  As noted in our earlier study, God will raise up 144,000 as witnesses who will no doubt play a significant role in bringing the gospel to the whole world.  But also, God will raise up the famous “two witnesses” (Rev. 11).  While many Bible students place the ministry of these two men during the first half, it seems best to place them in the second half. (The information about the “two witnesses” is part of the scroll that John ate and the other pieces of information on the scroll deal with the second half of the tribulation).  The “two witnesses” will have a ministry that focuses on the city of Jerusalem which at this time is in terrible moral and spiritual shape.  Their ministry, however, will have worldwide impact as is seen by the intense hatred of the entire world towards them.  They will have the ability to work miracles and they will be a thorn in the side of the Antichrist as he attempts to bring all to worship himself.  The “two witnesses” are preserved by God until the very end of the tribulation.  At that time they will be killed, but then will rise bodily after some three days, much to the horror of those who live on the earth.  God will always have His witness on this earth, even in the most difficult of times.



(5)    THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST TO THE EARTH.  The second half of the tribulation will come to a sudden end with the coming of Jesus.  Immediately before His return, there will be a sign in the heavens which alerts all on the earth that the time has now arrived for His return.  There is not a doubt in the minds of the unbelievers that it is all over for them. They will mourn when they see the sign.  And then Jesus comes back in power and great glory.  He comes back to take the planet back from the Evil One and to establish the future, forever kingdom of God.  The Antichrist and False Prophet are cast into the Lake of Fire and Satan and his forces are placed into the abyss, the prison for demons (cf. Luke 8:31; Rev. 20:1-3, 7).  At His coming, the curse is removed and the world returns back to a paradise-like condition as the long awaited messianic age begins. 



The Bible is clear on how things are going to end.  They will end wonderfully well for the children of God, but not well for those who have aligned themselves against the Lord and against His Christ.  We have God’s word on the matter and on that we can rely.  Such truth is given to us to give us perspective on the world that we live in and to help us personally prioritize life better and make better decisions.  These prophetic truths are not designed to satisfy our curiosities, but to assist us in living more authentic lives now for our Lord Jesus Christ.