Dave McPherson: Inventor of False Pre-Trib Rapture History

INVENTOR OF FALSE PRE-TRIB RAPTURE HISTORY

Dave MacPherson is an individual who loves to hate pretribulationism. In fact, he has thought up new ways to express his distain for pretribulationism by fabricating a false history of the pre-trib rapture. For the last thirty-plus years, MacPherson has dedicated his life to full time rapture hating in an attempt to participate in anything that he believes will obstruct its spread.

A GREAT CONSPIRACY THEORY?

MacPherson believes that the key elements of the doctrine of the pretribulational rapture originated with a young Scottish girl named Margaret Macdonald in Spring of 1830. This is the thesis put forth in a number of books and publications for over thirty years by MacPherson, a newsman turned rapture researcher. MacPherson’s major book The Rapture Plot (Millennium III Publishers, 1994), is only one of the latest in a series of revisions of his original discourse The Unbelievable Pre-Trib Origin(Heart of America Bible Society, 1973). His books include the following: The Three Rs: Rapture, Revisionism, Robbery(P.O.S.T., 1998), The Great Rapture Hoax (New Puritan Library, 1983), Rapture? (New Puritan Library, 1987), The Incredible Cover-Up (Omega Publications, 1975), The Late Great Pre-Trib Rapture (Heart of America Bible Society, 1974).

Dave MacPherson is convinced that the popular Pre-Trib Rapture teaching of today was really instigated by a teenager in Scotland who lived in the early 1800’s. (Hoax, p. 7.) If Christians had known all along, bemoans MacPherson concerning the historical beginnings of the pretrib rapture, the state of Christianity could have been vastly different today. (Hoax, p. 180). He does not think that this research has been mere historical oversight, but rather a well-orchestrated “cover-up” which has been carefully managed by clever pretrib leaders each step of the way, even alleging that Dallas Seminary was grooming and commissioning Hal Lindsey for the purpose of popularizing the pretrib rapture for the Jesus Movement in the early 70’s. (Incredible Cover-Up, pp, 131-32). Jim McKeever, in the forward of the book, compares this pretrib cover-up to the Watergate cover-up. Before we get into the background of the pretrib rapture lets run a background check on MacPherson.

MACPHERSON’S BACKGROUNDMacPherson has dedicated his life to the cause of disrupting belief in the pretrib rapture, since, according to his interpretation, it has been the cause for great disruption in his own life. Back in 1953 I had a jolting encounter with the Rapture, is the opening sentence in MacPherson’s Rapture Hoax (p. 3). This is a reference to his expulsion from a Christian College in California (BIOLA) for propagating views that conflicted with pretribulationism. He suggests that this experience was so devastating that it accounts for a setback in his Christian life. Because of his discouragement, MacPherson and a friend went out and got drunk in Mexico and passed out. MacPherson says this was a brush with death because of the many dangers that could befall someone in such a condition in Mexico. Later, he was involved in a wreck with a car while riding his motorcycle and almost lost his left arm. But these were not the beginning of his nor his familys troubles because of the pretrib rapture.

Robert L. Sumner has noted that MacPherson has a bad habit of attributing all kinds of personal tragedies to the pre-trib teaching: his mother’s death, his sister’s inability to have more children, his own failure to follow through on his calling as an evangelist, and other matters. (Looking For The Blessed Horrible Holocaust! A book review of The Late Great Pre-Trib Rapture in The Biblical Evangelist (May, 1975), p. 8.) Sumner cites another illustration of how paranoid he has become concerns his conclusion that his lovable dog, Wolf apparently became demon possessed just about the time MacPherson was about to write his first anti-pretribulation book, savagely biting his writing hand several times. (Hope? Or Hoax? The Biblical Evangelist (Feb., 1984), p. 7.)

Trials and tribulation due to the pretrib rapture seems to run in the MacPherson family. Dave’s father, Norman, had planted a church in Long Beach, California and was doing quite well until a group of new people in the church caused a commotion over the timing of the rapture. Norman MacPherson was forced out of this prospering church because he had shifted from the pretrib to the posttrib view of the rapture. Norman S. MacPherson had authored posttrib books, Tell It Like It Will Be (privately printed, 1970), and Triumph Through Tribulation (by the author, 1944). He then started another, less successful church in Long Beach. Dave MacPherson displays a habit of blaming many of the personal tragedies in his life on the pretrib rapture teaching.

In 1983 MacPherson declared, Fifteen years ago I knew nothing about Pre-Trib beginnings. (Hoax, p. 47) He began his quest by writing to his father and received back an answer which indicated a lack of consensus among scholars, so I decided to do some research on my own. (Hoax, p. 47) MacPherson’s investigation gathered steam when he found a rare book in 1971 by Robert Norton, The Restoration of Apostles and Prophets; In the Catholic Apostolic Church (1861). The important part in Norton’s book, claimed MacPherson, is a personal revelation that Margaret Macdonald had in the spring of 1830. (Hoax, p. 47) MacPherson uses this finding to project the notion that the source of the pretrib rapture is of demonic origin through a 15-year-old Scottish lassie.

For MacPherson, his calling in life is a crusade to develop and sharpen his theory and to propagate it around the world. Operating as would any covert agent in hostile, enemy territory, MacPherson has made many trips onto the enemy turf of pretrib colleges and seminaries in order to dispense his material. His campaigns have led him to travel around the country with his message of the hidden story of the genesis of the pretrib rapture, which he believes if people knew, the doctrine would virtually become extinct. This mission has taken him to such places as Dallas Seminary, the great stronghold of the pretribs, where he speaks of distributing literature informing naive pretribers concerning their heritage. (I have retrieved two of his clandestine flyers from library books at the seminary.) As another typical example, he once blitzed a bus of students from Jerry Falwell’s college. John Walvoord has noted:

MacPherson made these charges against pretribulationism and then afterward went to great lengths to find historic verification. . . . Readers will be impressed that as a newsman MacPherson builds a strong case for his position, but will be less impressed when they begin to analyze what he has actually proved. (John F. Walvoord,The Blessed Hope and the Tribulation (Zondervan, 1979), pp. 42-43.)

MacPherson’s Claims

Irvingite Robert Norton included a handwritten account of Margaret Macdonald’s prophecy, which is said by MacPherson to be the fountainhead for J. N. Darby’s development into the pretrib rapture doctrine. MacPherson does not say that Macdonald’s utterance included a clear statement of the pretrib rapture, but that she separated the Rapture from the Second Coming before anyone else did. . (Hoax, p. 121) According to MacPherson, Darby pilfered this two-stage teaching from Macdonald, according to MacPherson, and then developed it systematically, skillfully passing it off as the fruit of his personal Bible study.

Macdonald’s so-called revelation that MacPherson cites to make his case revolves around two key phrases. Margaret dramatically separated the sign of the Son of man from the coming of the Son of man, (Hoax, p. 125) declares MacPherson based upon the phrase now look out for the sign of the Son of man. (Hoax, p. 128) MacPherson argues that she equated the sign with the Rapturea Rapture that would occur before the revealing of Antichrist. (Hoax, p. 129) He bases this on her statement, I saw it was just the Lord himself descending from Heaven with a shout, just the glorified man, even Jesus. (Hoax, p. 126)

MacPherson’s Errors

MacPherson makes at least three major errors in his attempt to argue that Margaret Macdonald originated the basis for the pretrib rapture. First, it is highly doubtful that the Macdonald “prophecy” contains the two-stage coming of Christ, as MacPherson advocates. Therefore, it would be impossible for this source to be the basis for a new idea if it did not contain those elements. MacPherson has misinterpreted Macdonald’s words by equating her use of “sign” with a rapture. Rather, she is saying that only those who are spiritual will see the secret sign of the Son of Man which will precede the single, posttrib second coming of Christ. In other words only those who have the light of the Holy Spirit within them will know when the second coming will take place because this spiritual enlightenment will enable them to have the spiritual perception to see the secret sign (not secret rapture). These are her own words:

. . . all must, as Stephen was, be filled with the Holy Ghost, that they might look up, and see the brightness of the Father’s glory. I saw the error to be, that men think that it will be something seen by the natural eye; but tis spiritual discernment that is needed, the eye of God in his people. . . . Only those who have the light of God within them will see the sign of his appearance. No need to follow them who say, see here, or see there, for his day shall be as the lightning to those in whom the living Christ is. Tis Christ in us that will lift us up–he is the light–tis only those that are alive in him that will be caught up to meet him in the air. I saw that we must be in the Spirit, that we might see spiritual things. John was in the Spirit, when he saw a throne set in Heaven. . . . it is not knowledge about God that it contains, but it is an entering into God . . . I felt that those who were filled with the Spirit could see spiritual things, and feel walking in the midst of them, those who had not the Spirit could see nothing. . . (Hoax, pp. 126-27)

Macdonald is clearly concerned with spiritual insights for the following reasons: 1) Stephen saw into heaven; he was not raptured or taken to heaven. 2) She clearly says that the sign will be seen only by the spiritually enlightened and that it would not be a natural or physical sign, but one perceived by spiritual discernment. 3) She is talking about the sign of his appearance, not an actual appearance. 4) Once a person has been so enlightened, they will have no need for direction from others, they will be guided directly by the living Christ. 5) The whole emphasis is upon seeing: John was in the Spirit, when he saw, those who were filled with the Spirit could see. Posttrib advocate D. H. Kromminga observes that Macdonald’s prophecies made it plain that the return of the Lord depended upon the proper spiritual preparation of His Church. (D. H. Kromminga, The Millennium in the Church: Studies in the History of Christian Chiliasm, (Eerdmans, 1945), p. 250.)

Anti-pretrib rapture advocate, John Bray, agrees that she was only teaching a single coming and not a two-staged event. The only thing new in her revelation itself seems to be that of just Spirit-filled Christian being caught up at the second coming of Christ following heavy trials and tribulation by the Antichrist, notes Bray. (John L. Bray, The Origin of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Teaching (John L. Bray Ministry, n.d.), pp. 21-22) In other words Macdonald appears to be teaching a posttrib, partial rapture. Bray further explains:

It seems to me that Margaret MacDonald was saying that Christians WILL face the temptation of the false Christ (antichrist) and be in “an awfully dangerous situation”, and that only the Spirit IN US will enable us to be kept from being deceived; and that as the Spirit works, so will the antichrist; but the pouring out of the Spirit will “fit us to enter into the marriage supper of the Lamb”, and those filled with the Spirit would be taken while the others would be left. . . . Margaret MacDonald did teach a partial rapture, of course, but this did not necessarily mean that the teaching included a tribulation period FOLLOWING THAT for the other Christians. . . . It would not be right to take for granted that Margaret MacDonald believed in a tribulation period following the appearing of Christ unless she had definitely said so. Rather, it would be more logical to think that her view would have been the same as prevalent among the futurists at that time, that is, tribulation then the second coming. (Bray, Origin, pp. 20-21).

Another point MacPherson makes to support his opinion is that Margaret Macdonald was the first person to teach a coming of Christ that would precede the days of Antichrist. (Cover-Up, pp. 155-56.) This would mean, according to MacPherson, that Macdonald had to be teaching a two-stage coming. However, it is highly questionable, as noted above, that Macdonald was referring to the rapture as MacPherson insists. Also Macdonald was still a historicist; she believed the Church was already in the tribulation and had been for hundreds of years. Therefore, the Antichrist was to be soon revealed, but before the second coming. She said believers needed the spiritual sight, so that they would not be deceived. Otherwise, why would believers, including herself, need to be filled with the Spirit in order to escape the deception which will accompany the fiery trial which is to try us associated with the Antichrist’s arrival? Further, she certainly includes herself as one who needs this special ministry of the Holy Spirit as can be seen from this passage from her “revelation.”

. . . now shall the awful sight of a false Christ be seen on this earth, and nothing but the living Christ in us can detect this awful attempt of the enemy to deceive . . . The Spirit must and will be purged out on the church, that she may be purified and filled with God . . . There will be outward trial too, but ’tis principally temptation. It is brought on by the outpouring of the Spirit, and will just increase in proportion as the Spirit is poured out. The trial of the Church is from the Antichrist. It is by being filled with the Spirit that we shall be kept. I frequently said, Oh be filled with the Spirit–have the light of God in you, that you may detect satan–be full of eyes within–be clay in the hands of the potter–submit to be filled, filled with God. . . . This is what we are at present made to pray much for, that speedily we may all be made ready to meet our Lord in the air–and it will be. Jesus wants his bride. His desire is toward us. (Hoax, pp. 127-28)

Ryrie also notes a further misunderstanding of Macdonald’s “prophecy”: She saw the church (us) being purged by Antichrist. MacPherson reads this as meaning the church will be raptured before Antichrist, ignoring the “us” (pp. 154-55). In reality, she saw the church enduring Antichrist’s persecution of the Tribulation days. (Charles Ryrie, What You Should Know About the Rapture (Moody, 1981), p. 71.)

Further, there is no historical evidence that Macdonald, Edward Irving, or the Irvingites ever held to pretribulationism. So how could non-pretribulationists be the source of pretribulationism? Recently, one of the most extensive critical analysis ever produced on Irvingite doctrine declared that they were still historicist, while Darby and the Brethren had become futurist. Columba G. Flegg notes that the Brethren teaching on the rapture and the present invisible and spiritual nature of the church,

were in sharp contrast to Catholic Apostolic teaching, . . . There were thus very significant differences between the two eschatologies, and attempts to see any direct influence of one upon the other seem unlikely to succeedthey had a number of commonroots, but are much more notable for their points of disagreement. Several writers [referring specifically to MacPherson] have attempted to trace Darbys secret rapture theory to a prophetic statement associated with Irving, but their arguments do not stand up to serious criticism. (Columba Graham Flegg, Gathered Under Apostles A Study of the Catholic Apostolic Church(Clarendon Press, 1992), p. 436.)

Second, in spite of MacPherson’s great amount of research and writing he has yet to produce any hard evidence that Darby was influenced by Macdonald’s utterance, regardless of what they meant. MacPherson only assumes the connection. If MacPherson’s suppositional approach were applied to the study of history, then we can make all kinds of connections between people and events. It would mean that you could prove that since Hubert Humphrey had a slick lawyer’s mind, was in Washington D.C. during the early 70’s, and was well-informed, he must have known about the Watergate break-in before it became public. Walvoord observes that,

Readers of MacPherson’s Incredible Cover-Up will undoubtedly be impressed by the many long quotations, most of which are only window dressing for what he is trying to prove. When it gets down to the point of proving that either MacDonald or Irving was pretribulationist, the evidence gets very muddy. The quotations MacPherson cites do not support his conclusion. (Walvoord, The Blessed Hope and the Tribulation, p. 44.)

Throughout MacPherson’s writings, he keeps dumping information about issues, developments, and beliefs from Great Briton during the early 1800’s apparently thinking that he is adding proof for his thesis, that the popular Pre-Trib Rapture teaching of today was really instigated by a teenager in Scotland who lived in the early 1800’s. (Hoax, p. 7.) Much of the information is helpful and interesting, but does not prove his thesis. If his research were represented as a river, it would be a mile wide (amount of information) but only an inch deep (actual proof). Even if Darby developed the pretrib rapture after Macdonald’s utterance, specific proof would be needed to make a link between Macdonald and Darby. Instead MacPherson only offers speculative guesses about how Darby used his training for the law profession to manipulate Christians by hiding the supposed true origins of the pretrib rapture. Perhaps MacPherson is using his investigative, journalism training and experience to publicly smear Darby. This leads to my final point.

Third, Brethren writer, Roy A. Huebner claims and documents his belief that J. N. Darby first began to believe in the pre-trib rapture and develop his dispensational thinking while convalescing from a riding accident during December 1826 and January 1827. (R. A. Huebner, Precious Truths Revived and Defended Through J. N. Darby, Vol. 1 [Present Truth Publishers, 1991].) If this is true, and there is every reason to believe that it is, then all of the origin-of-the-rapture-conspiracy-theories fall to the ground in a heap of speculative rubble. Darby would have at least a three-year jump on any who would have supposedly influenced his thought, making it impossible for all the influence theories to have any credibility.

Huebner provides clarification and evidence that Darby was not influenced by Margaret Macdonald, Lacunza, Edward Irving, or any of the Irvingites. These are all said by the detractors of Darby and the pre-trib rapture to be bridges that led to Darbys thought. Instead, Huebner demonstrates that Darbys understanding of the pre-trib rapture was the product of the development of his personal interactive thought with the text of Scripture as he, his friends, and dispensationalists have long contended.

Darbys pre-trib and dispensational thoughts, says Huebner, were developed from the following factors: 1) he saw from Isaiah 32 that there was a different dispensation coming . . . that Israel and the Church were distinct (Precious Truths, p. 17). 2) During his convalescence JND learned that he ought daily to expect his Lords return. (Precious Truths, p. 19). 3) In 1827 JND understood the fall of the church. . . the ruin of the Church (Precious Truths, p. 18). 4) Darby also was beginning to see a gap of time between the rapture and the second coming by 1827 (Precious Truths, p. 23). 5) Darby, himself, said in 1857 that he first started understanding things relating to the pre-trib Rapture thirty years ago. With that fixed point of reference, Jan. 31, 1827, declares Huebner, we can see that Darby had already understood those truths upon which the pre-tribulation rapture hinges (Precious Truths, p. 24).

German author Max S. Weremchuk has produced a major new biography on Darby entitled John Nelson Darby: A Biography(Loizeaux Brothers, 1992). He agrees with Huebners conclusions concerning the matter. Having read MacPhersons book . . . says Weremchuk, I find it impossible to make a just comparison between what Miss MacDonald prophesied and what Darby taught. It appears that the wish was the father of the idea (Weremchuk, Darby, p. 242).

When reading Darbys earliest published essay on biblical prophecy (1829), it is clear that while it still has elements of historicism, it also reflects the fact that for Darby, the rapture was to be the churchs focus and hope. Even in this earliest of essays, Darby expounds upon the rapture as the churchs hope.

PRE-DARBY RAPTURESIn addition to the above points, there have been at least three pre-Darby rapture discoveries in the last decade. Evidence of pretribulationism surfaces during the early medieval period in a sermon some attribute to Ephraem the Syrian entitled Sermon on The Last Times, The Antichrist, and The End of the World. The sermon was written some time between the fourth and sixth century. The rapture statement reads as follows:

Why therefore do we not reject every care of earthly actions and prepare ourselves for the meeting of the Lord Christ, so that he may draw us from the confusion, which overwhelms all the world? . . . For all the saints and elect of God are gathered, prior to the tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins.

This statement evidences a clear belief that all Christians will escape the tribulation through a gathering to the Lord. How else can this be understood other than as pretribulational? The later second coming of Christ to the earth with the saints is mentioned at the end of the sermon.

Francis Gumerlock, an anti-pretribulationist, claims that someone named Brother Dolcino taught a form of the pre-trib rapture in 1304. The reason that Gumerlock believes that Brother Dolcino and the Apostolic Brethren taught pretribulationism is found the following statement:

Again, [Dolcino believed and preached and taught] that within those three years Dolcino himself and his followers will preach the coming of the Antichrist. And that the Antichrist was coming into this world within the bounds of the said three and a half years; and after he had come, then he [Dolcino] and his followers would be transferred into Paradise, in which are Enoch and Elijah. And in this way they will bepreserved unharmed from the persecution of Antichrist. And that then Enoch and Elijah themselves would descend on the earth for the purpose of preaching [against] Antichrist. Then they would be killed by him or by his servants, and thus Antichrist would reign for a long time. But when the Antichrist is dead, Dolcino himself, who then would be the holy pope, and his perserved followers, will descend on the earth, and will preach the right faith of Christ to all, and will convert those who will be living then to the true faith of Jesus Christ. (Gumerlocks translation of the Latin text in Francis Gumerlock, A Rapture Citation in the Fourteenth Century, Bibliotheca Sacra(July-Sept. 2002), pp. 354-55.)

Gumerlock clearly believes that this is a pretrib rapture statement as he concludes:

Two things are fairly certain from The History of Brother Dolcino. First, Dolcino and the Apostolic Brethren believed that the purpose of the rapture was related to the escape of the saints from the end-time tribulation and persecution of the Antichrist. Second, Dolcino and the Apostolic Brethren believed that there would be a significant gap of time between the rapture of the saints to paradise and their subsequent descent to earth. Because of this The History of Brother Dolcino stands as yet another literary witness for the existence of pretribulationism before the nineteenth century. As such, it challenges evangelicals to reevaluate their thinking about the history of the pretribulational rapture, especially those views that place the origin of the teaching or its initial recovery within the last two hundred years. For this fourteenth-century text demonstrates that there were some in the Middle Ages who held a theology of the rapture that includes basic elements in pretribulationalism. (A Rapture Citation, p. 362)

Frank Marotta believes that Thomas Collier in 1674 makes reference to a pretribulational rapture, but rejects the view, (Frank Marotta, Morgan Edwards: An Eighteenth Century Pretribulationist (Present Truth Publishers, 1995), pp. 10-12.) thus showing his awareness that such a view was being taught. One could not have objected to something that did not exist.

Perhaps the clearest reference to a pretrib rapture before Darby comes from Baptist Morgan Edwards (founder of Brown University) in 1742-44 who saw a distinct rapture three and a half years before the start of the millennium. During his student days at Bristol Baptist Seminary in England (1742-44), Morgan Edwards wrote an essay for eschatology class on his views of Bible prophecy. This essay was later published in Philadelphia (1788) under the following title: Two Academical Exercises on Subjects Bearing the following Titles; Millennium, Last-Novelties. The term in the title “Last-Novelties” refers to what we would call today the eternal state; “novelties” refers to the new conditions of the future new heavens and new earth, not that he had a novel view of the Bible. Upon reading the 56-page work, it is evident that Edwards published it with only minor changes from his student days. Thus, it represents a view that he had developed by the early 1740s. Thus, we can date Edwards pretribulationism as originating in the early 1740s. The pretribulationism of Morgan Edwards can be see in the following statement from his book:

II. The distance between the first and second resurrection will be somewhat more than a thousand years.

I say, somewhat more, because the dead saints will be raised, and the living changed at Christ’s “appearing in the air” (I Thes. iv. 17); and this will be about three years and a half before the millennium, as we shall see hereafter: but will he and they abide in the air all that time? No: they will ascend to paradise, or to some one of those many “mansions in the father’s house” (John xiv. 2), and so disappear during the foresaid period of time. The design of this retreat and disappearing will be to judge the risen and changed saints; for “now the time is come that judgment must begin,” and that will be “at the house of God” (I Pet. iv. 17) . . . (p. 7; emphasis added; the spelling of all Edwards quotes have been modernized)

What has Edwards said? Note the following:

He believes that at least 1,003.5 years will transpire between resurrections.

He associates the first resurrection with the rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, occurring at least 3.5 years before the start of the millennium (i.e., at least 3.5 years before the second coming of Christ at the start of the millennium).

He associates the meeting of believers with Christ in the air and returning to the Father’s house with John 14:2, as do modern pretribulationists.

He sees believers disappearing during the time of the tribulation, which he goes on to describe in the rest of the section from which the rapture statement is taken.

He, like modern pretribulationists, links the time in heaven, during the tribulation, with the “bema judgment of believers.

It is clear that Edwards believed in a two-staged return of Christ at least 85 years before Darby. Edwards pre-Darby statement is something that MacPherson cannot answer. I am not claiming that Darby was influenced by Morgan Edwards.

Conclusion

F.F. Bruce’s conclusion as to where Darby got the doctrine of the pretrib rapture appears to be correct. It was in the air in the 1820s and 1830s among eager students of unfulfilled prophecy, . . . direct dependence by Darby on Margaret Macdonald is unlikely. (F. F. Bruce, Review of The Unbelievable Pre-Trib Origin inThe Evangelical Quarterly, (Jan-Mar, 1975), p. 58.) Dave MacPherson has failed to demonstrate that Macdonald’s prophecy contains latent rapture ideas, nor has he linked Darby to her influence with clear, historical evidence. This is why the doctrine of the pretribulational rapture did not begin with Margaret Macdonald. Perhaps Darby’s training at Dublin accounts for many of his views, especially his views of the nature of the church.

Walvoord concludes, any careful student of Darby soon discovers that he did not get his eschatological views from men, but rather from his doctrine of the church as the body of Christ, a concept no one claims was revealed supernaturally to Irving or Macdonald. Darby’s views undoubtedly were gradually formed, but they were theologically and biblically based rather than derived from Irving’s pre-Pentecostal group. (Walvoord, The Blessed Hope and the Tribulation, p. 47.)

Source: http://www.raptureready.com/who/Dave_MacPherson.html

The Age to Come – Preterism Refuted

The Age to Come – Preterism Refuted

Dr. Thomas Ice

An important issue that divides most preterists from futurists is the meaning of the biblical phrase “the age to come.” Also, one’s understanding of a related term “the present age,” is significant to a right understanding of the biblical view of prophecy. I believe that this present age refers to the current church age that began almost 2,000 years ago on the day of Pentecost when the church was founded. It will end with the rapture of the church. The age to come is a reference to the millennial kingdom that will commence with the second coming of Christ and last for one thousand years.

Preterist Misunderstanding

It will not surprise regular readers to learn that preterists usually believe that the phrase “current age” referred to the approximately 40-year period between the earthly ministry of Christ and the destruction of the Jerusalem in a.d. 70. Preterism teaches that most, if not all, of the Book of Revelation and the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24-25; Mark 13; Luke 21) were fulfilled in conjunction with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in a.d. 70. They also believe that “the age to come” refers to the current age in which we now live, which began after a.d. 70. Gary DeMar says the following:

The “end of the age” refers to the end of the Old Covenant redemption system with its attendant sacrifices and rituals. . . . The “end of the age” refers to the termination of the exclusive Jewish entitlement to the covenant promises and the inclusion of the Gentiles into the blessings of the covenant and the privileges of the gospel and kingdom (Matt. 21:41, 43; 22:10). “End of the age” is a covenantal phrase. With the temple destroyed, there would be no way and no need to carry out the rigorous demands of the sacrificial system, a system that was predestined to pass away with the incarnation, death, resurrection, ascension, and enthronement of Jesus.[1]

Wow! DeMar produced a lot of speculative thought out of those four little words, “end of the age.”

Preterists tend to believe that the phrase “present age” or “this age” refers to the approximately 40-year period between the earthly ministry of Christ and the destruction of the Jerusalem in a.d. 70. Thus, as DeMar indicated, that means that after a.d. 70 we are in what the Bible refers to as “the age to come.” Full preterist (i.e., no future second coming) Don Preston says, “If we understand Jesus’ ‘this age’ to be the Mosaic Age in which he was living and the ‘age to come” as the Christian Age, there is no difficulty.”[2] However, is that how the Bible really uses that phrase and related phrases? I do not think so!

Jewish Perspective of Bible Prophecy

The Jewish perspective of Bible prophecy viewed history as consisting of two ages. The first was this present age, the age in which Israel was waiting for the coming of the Messiah. The second was the age to come, the age in which all promises and covenants would be fulfilled and Israel would enter into her promised blessings as a result of Messiah’s coming. The present age would be terminated by the appearance of Messiah, and the coming age would be introduced by His advent. The present age, then, was to end in judgment, and the coming age must be preceded by this devastation.[3]

The disciples, who were questioning Jesus on the Mount of Olives, linked Christ’s words of judgment about the destruction of the present Temple with the invasion of Jerusalem that was predicted by Zechariah. The disciples believed that it would precede the advent of the Messiah.

In Zechariah 14:4 the prophet describes the advent of Messiah to institute His kingdom as follows:

And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south.

This coming was to be preceded by an invasion and capture of Jerusalem (Zech. 12:1-3; 14:1-3). However, Jerusalem would be delivered by the coming of Messiah from the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:4-5) and then the glory of the kingdom would be realized (Zech. 14:14-15). This is when the “age to come” would arrive.

Christ’s Perspective of Bible Prophecy

Jesus uses the same vocabulary, in the same way when He says, in Matthew 12:32 “And whoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age, or in the age to come.” Christ clearly distinguishes between the present age and the age to come. Meyer says of “this age,” that it “is the period previous to the coming of the Messiah . . . as Jesus understood it: the time before the second coming.”[4] He says of “the age to come,” that it is “the period that succeeds the coming of the Messiah . . . as Jesus understood it: the time that follows the second coming.”[5] Jesus says, in Matthew 13:49 “So it will be at the end of the age; the angels shall come forth, and take out the wicked from among the righteous,” as He continues to speak within the contemporary Jewish framework.

The disciples concluded that the judgment Christ had predicted was the one that would terminate this present age. After this judgment Messiah would come to introduce the age to come. Thus they asked their questions that precipitates the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24:3 “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” Later, after His resurrection but before His ascension, Jesus gave His disciples the Great Commission and said in Matthew 28:20 “lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” continuing to speak within the framework of “this age” and “the age to come.”

The Apostle’s Perspective of Bible Prophecy

The Apostle Paul continues use of the same language when he says in Ephesians 1:21 that New Testament believers have been given a position in Christ “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come.” Paul tells us in Galatians 1:4 that Christ “gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.” Paul also tells Christians in Titus 2:12 that God’s grace instructs “us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.”

Paul’s continues to use the phrases “this age” and “the age to come” in the way that Christ used it. Even though Jesus had come, Paul still views the current church age as the time leading up to the coming of the Messiah, thus, we are still in “the present age.” This means that the “age to come” has not yet arrived and will come at the second coming, a time which is still in our own day a future event.

Even after a post-resurrection, 40-day period of instruction by Christ to the disciples “of the things concerning the kingdom of God” they ask Jesus in Acts 1:6 “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus did not rebuke or correct the nature of their question as illegitimate, instead He said, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority.” This clearly implies that there will be a future kingdom, as they thought, . . . but not yet. The kingdom is a reference to the age to come. Our Lord tells His disciples to go preach the gospel throughout the world.

In Acts 3, Peter is preaching the gospel to Israel and says in 3:17 that his Jewish brethren and their rulers “acted in ignorance.” The he says the following:

But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ should suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.

In a similar vein, we see in Acts 15 that James says to the Jerusalem Council:

And after they had stopped speaking, James answered, saying, “Brethren, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name. And with this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written, “after these things I will return, and I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen, and I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, in order that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name.”

James did not believe that “the age to come” or the kingdom had arrived, or he would not have made the above statement. It is clear that the New Testament writers of the Epistles continue to use the phrase “this age” to refer to the time before the arrival of the Messiah, who will at that time bring with Him the kingdom, which is also still future to our own day.

Implications

Since the second coming of Christ has been postponed until after the current church age and tribulation, the current church age is presented by the writers of the New Testament Epistles as the last period of history until this present age is terminated, which will give rise to “the age to come.” Three New Testament passages (Rom. 16:25-27; Eph. 3:1-13; Col. 2:4-3:3) teach that the church age is a temporary mystery in the overall plan of God. Thus, the church age is a continuation of “this present age” from the time of Christ. Yet because of further New Testament revelation about the church age, we know that when it ends at the rapture, there will not be anymore stretching out of the time frame what will lead to “the age to come”-the time of Messiah’s kingdom.

There is an urgency concerning the entire church age in which we now live. For example, Paul, speaking of the entire church age, calls it “the present distress” (1 Cor. 7:26). Because Christ could return at any moment at the rapture, church age believers are always to be ready and always waiting for His return. Notice the following list of New Testament passages that teach this doctrine: 1 Corinthians 1:7; 16:22; Philippians 3:20; 4:5; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 9:28; James 5:7-9; 1 Peter 1:13; Jude 21; Revelation 3:11; 22:7, 12, 17, 20.

Preterists see the end of the age occurring by a.d. 70. Since the New Testament Epistles were written to instruct Believers in how to live until this present evil age comes to an end, it follows that all the doctrine and instruction applies only during the 40-year period that ended in a.d. 70. Logically, which they rarely realize, it means that they are wrong to apply the teaching and instruction of the Epistles to their lives, since they believe that they are living in “the age to come.” This explains why some preterists believe that they are in the New Heavens and New Earth, yet they have no specific revelation, which tells them how to please God. NO! We are not living in the eternal state. We are still awaiting the any-moment return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Maranatha!

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Endnotes

[1] Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness: Obsession of the Modern Church (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 1999), pp. 69-70.

[2] Don Preston, Into All The World: Then Come The End (Ardmore, OK: no publisher, 1996), p. 31.

[3] J. Dwight Pentecost, Thy Kingdom Come: Tracing God’s Kingdom Program and Covenant Promises Throughout History (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1990), p. 248.

[4] H. A. W. Meyer, “The Gospel of Matthew,” 2 vols, in Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1878), vol. 1, p. 342.

[5] Meyer, “Matthew,” vol. 1, p. 342.

Another look at the Rapture in 2 Thess 2

The Rapture in 2 Thessalonians 2:1–10

Myron J. Houghton, Ph.D.

The Context

In verses one and two, Paul states: “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.” (All Bible quotations are from the King James Version.)

Several things may be said about these verses. (1) Paul is writing to the Thessalonian believers about the rapture. “The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” is further described in verse one as “our gathering together unto him.” (2) He writes to them because they were in danger of being troubled, and this disturbance was being caused by three things: “by spirit” (a false prophet—cf. 1 John 4:1), “by word” (a false preacher—cf. 1 Cor. 1:18) and “by letter, as [if] from us” (a false letter with Paul’s forged signature). (3) The false teaching which these three sources presented and which disturbed the Thessalonians was that “the day of Christ” had come. (Some Greek texts read “day of the Lord” rather than “day of Christ,” but in either case, this “day” refers to the time when Christ will directly intervene in human affairs by bringing destruction upon the world.) (4) Furthermore, the verb that is translated “is at hand” is in the perfect tense and thus signifies completed past action with present results. Thus, the false teaching was that the day of Christ the Lord had arrived and was now present. (5) This “day” refers not to the rapture (obviously the Thessalonians would know that the rapture had not yet taken place), but to the Tribulation, Second Coming, and the Millennium (Zechariah 14:1–4, 9, cf. J. Dwight Pentecost, Things To Come, 229–231). Thus, the issue which disturbed the Thessalonians was that they were being told that they were now in the end-time Tribulation. We know from 2 Thessalonians 1:4 that these believers were already suffering persecution, so this conclusion was not farfetched.

Paul’s purpose, then, in 2 Thessalonians 2:3–10 is to show these believers that they were not in the Tribulation. In v. 3, he states that two things must occur before the Tribulation can begin— (1) the “falling away,” and (2) the revelation of the man of sin. For those aware of Daniel’s prophecy (9:26) that “the prince that shall come” will confirm a covenant with many for seven years and then break it “in the midst of the week,” the lawless man of sin is made known when he confirms the covenant, not when he breaks it. II Thessalonians 2:4 indicates the identity of this man rather than the time of his revelation by relating him to Daniel’s prophecy.

The Removal of the Restrainer is the Rapture

There have been various views concerning the identity of the restrainer. Dr. Pentecost lists five of them as follows: (1) the restrainer was the Roman Empire, (2) the restrainer was human government and law, (3) the restrainer is Satan, (4) the restrainer is the church, and (5) the restrainer is the Holy Spirit (Pentecost, Things To Come, 259–62). Several comments should be made about these views. First, the restrainer could not be the Roman empire because such a view limits the restrainer to the past, while Paul indicates that the one being restrained (the man of sin) will live in the future, during the day of the Lord. Second, human government will continue to exist even when the man of sin is revealed; therefore human government cannot be the restrainer, since the man of sin is revealed AFTER the restrainer is removed (2 Thessalonians 2:7, 8). Third, Satan cannot be the restrainer because a house divided against itself will fall. Fourth, the church alone cannot be the restrainer because the one being restrained has “all power and signs and lying wonders” (2 Thessalonians 2:9). Nevertheless, in verse six, some thing is doing the restraining, while in verse seven, the restrainer is a person, so the church could be involved in the restraining process. Fifth, the Holy Spirit is the restrainer because only a member of the Godhead is able to restrain this man of sin who is empowered by Satan.

While all three Persons of the Godhead are omnipresent, the Father is resident in heaven, and the Son is resident at the Father’s right hand. It is the Holy Spirit, the third Person in the Godhead, who came on the Day of Pentecost. Notice carefully the promise of the Lord Jesus Christ to those who believe in Him: “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37–38). The inspired interpretation of this promise is given in the very next verse: “But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive; for the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” On the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came to create the Body of Christ by placing believers into that Body (1 Corinthians 12:13a), and He came to indwell the physical bodies of every member of that Body (1 Corinthians 12:13b).

2 Thessalonians 2:7 tells us the Restrainer will restrain “until he be taken out of the way.” Some have said this expression cannot refer to a spatial removal but only to a stepping aside (cf. The MacArthur Study Bible note at 2 Thessalonians 2:7). However, A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament (2nd ed., revised and augmented by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker from Walter Bauer’s 5th ed., 1979) lists this very verse as an example of this word’s use “to denote change of location” (page 159, bottom right-hand column). The third edition of this work, published in 2000, gives 2 Thessalonians 2:7 as an example of the sixth use of the word: “to make a change of location in space” (bottom of page 198 and top of 199). The removal of the Restrainer, then, refers to the departure of the Holy Spirit in the rapture of the Church.

The “Falling Away” is the Rapture

Two possible solutions have been presented as to the identity of the “falling away.” The first solution is the one traditionally given and is still the most popular view today. It understands the “falling away” as a great apostasy or departure from the faith. Almost any standard commentary will defend this position. For a detailed defense of this view see The Thessalonian Epistles by D. Edmond Hiebert. Basically the argument is that the Greek word translated “falling away” means a religious apostasy. The second solution which is possible understands the “falling away” as a reference to the rapture of the church. This view is defended by E. Schuyler English in his book, Re-Thinking the Rapture.

There are four reasons which, when taken together, seem to indicate that Paul was referring to the rapture when he mentioned this term.

Reason # 1: The word which is translated “falling away” can refer to a physical departure. Note that this argument does not say that the word always or even normally has this meaning. “Departure, disappearance” is the second meaning given for this Greek word in A Greek-English Lexicon, by Liddell & Scott, I, 218. Part of the problem here is that this word is used only twice in the New Testament——here and also in Acts 21:21, where Paul is told that some accuse him of teaching a departure from Moses. In this latter passage, this word is used in the sense of a religious apostasy. In the LXX (the Greek translation of the Old Testament), this word or an older form is found in Joshua 22:22, 1 Kings 21:13, 2 Chronicles 29:19, 33:19, Isaiah 30:1, and Jeremiah 2:19. In these cases, the word also has the idea of religious departure. However, either the context or a descriptive phrase is used to indicate that a religious apostasy is meant. Therefore it might be argued that the word itself was more general.

In the New Testament, the verb form of this word is used fifteen times (Luke 2:27, 4:13, 8:13, 22:29; Acts 5:37,38, 12:10, 15:38, 19:9, 22:29; 2 Corinthians 12:8; 1 Timothy 4:1, 6:5; 2 Timothy 2:19; and Hebrews 3:12). Of the fifteen references, only three have reference to a religious departure, and these three are qualified by context (Luke 8:13) or by a descriptive phrase (1 Timothy 4:1—”from the faith” and Hebrews 3:12—”from the living God”). It is clear from some of the remaining references that a physical departure is meant (the angel who delivered Peter from prison departed from him—Acts 12:10, and Paul prayed that a thorn in the flesh might depart from him—2 Corinthians 12:8.) This word is translated departynge by William Tyndale (c. 1526), by Cranmer (1539), and by the Geneva Bible (1557). Beza (1565) translated it departing.

Reason # 2: The use of the definite article (“the”) lends support to the view that the falling away is the rapture. The basic function of the article “is to point out an object or to draw attention to it. Its use with a word makes the word stand out distinctly,” (Dana and Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, 137). Paul is not speaking of A falling away but THE falling away. In all probability, Paul is referring to some subject he has previously discussed with the Thessalonians. Robertson agrees with this use of the article in this verse. He states: “And the use of the definite article (the) seems to mean that Paul had spoken to the Thessalonians about it.” (Word Pictures in the New Testament, IV, 49). Now, if this is the use of the article in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, one would expect to find a place, either in 1 or 2 Thessalonians, where Paul previously referred to a departure from the faith. This writer knows of no such reference. However, there is previous reference to the rapture of the church in 1 Thessalonians 4:13–17 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1.

Reason # 3: Paul’s style of writing in this chapter also lends support to the idea that the “falling away” is the rapture. In verse 3, Paul states that two events must occur before the day of the Lord can come, namely (1) the “falling away,” and (2) the revealing of the man of sin. Paul’s reference to this second event seems to be more fully described in verses 8–9. If, indeed, this is Paul’s style, then verses 6 and 7, which describe the removal of the Holy Spirit and the church, would be a more detailed explanation of the first event in verse 3 (the “falling away”).

Reason # 4: Paul’s purpose in writing lends support to the view that the “falling away” is the rapture. Remember the setting. The Thessalonian believers were being persecuted for their faith, and they thought they were in the Tribulation. Paul writes to tell them that they can’t possibly be in the Tribulation because two things have to occur before the Tribulation can begin: the “falling away” and the revelation of the man of sin. If religious apostasy is a means by which Paul expects the Thessalonians to know whether or not they are in the Tribulation, then he has failed to prove his point because there has always been religious apostasy, even in the time of the apostle Paul, and the Thessalonians were not in a position to distinguish any present apostasy from “THE apostasy.” However, if Paul was referring to the rapture of the church, then the Thessalonians could know with certainty that they could not yet be in the Tribulation.

Conclusion

If both the removal of the Restrainer and the “falling away” refer to the rapture of the Church, then II Thessalonians 2:1–10 offers two proofs for the rapture occurring before the Tribulation.

Anti PreTrib Rapture Arguments Refuted- (not exhaustive)

Todd Strandberg

Defending The Pre-trib Rapture

After reading countless messages and articles that attack the pre-trib rapture, I’ve noticed a certain number of arguments that are repeatedly sent to me.

Instead of trying to answer every individual e-mail I receive, I thought it would be a good idea to create a web page that addresses the most commonly mentioned points of debate. This way, I can avoid repeating myself so many times; thereby, maintain my sanity.

Nowhere in the Bible, can you find the word “rapture”

It amazes me that some folks write to me, questioning the validity of the rapture, simply because the word “rapture” doesn’t appear in the Bible.

With 1 Thes 4:16-18 giving us such a clear description of the rapture, you would have to conclude that some people are just playing games with the Word of God. I could change the name of my site to “Catching Up Ready” to satisfy these folks, but I hardly think that would improve things.

Their logic fails because there are a huge number of words that don’t appear in the Bible, including the word “Bible.” Because God’s Word was originally written in Hebrew and Greek, one could truthfully say that no English words are in the Bible. Let’s take a look at 1 Thes 4:16-18 in the original Greek:


4:16 oti autos o kurios en keleusmati en fwnh arcaggelou kai en salpiggi qeou katabhsetai ap ouranou kai oi nekroi en cristw anasthsontai prwton 4:17 epeita hmeis oi zwntes oi perileipomenoi ama sun autois arpaghsomeqa en nefelais eis apanthsin tou kuriou eis aera kai outws pantote sun kuriw esomeqa 4:18 wste parakaleite allhlous en tois logois toutois


I don’t see the dead in Christ rising, Jesus descending from heaven, and us meeting Him in the air. So the cynics are right: the word “rapture” is nowhere to be found. All I see is gobbledygook.

For the record, the word “rapture” comes from the Latin word “rapturo,” which in turn was a translation of the Greek verb “caught up” found in 1 Thes 4:17. You can call it the pre-trib rapture, the pre-trib rapturo, or the pre-trib caught up–it’s all the same thing.

Nowhere in the Bible does it directly say that the Church will be raptured before the tribulation.

Pre-trib opponents should have thought this one through because any pre-tribulationist has the same right to say, “Nowhere in the Bible does it directly say the Church will go through the tribulation.”

Jesus did say, “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 24:44). The only time frame I can think of when we believers would not be expecting Jesus to return would have to be before the tribulation.

The Margaret MacDonald Origin

One of the most widely circulated attacks against the pre-trib rapture is the notion that a girl named Margaret MacDonald started this theological view back in 1830. The claim is typically made that MacDonald received a demonic vision, passed it on to John Darby, who in turn popularized it. Disproving this assertion proves rather easy. Pre-trib scholars have discovered a host of rapture writings that predate Margaret MacDonald.

Epharaem the Syrian said, in 373 AD, “For all the saints and Elect of God are gathered, prior to the tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins.”

One post-trib author offered a reward to anyone who could find a quote that predated MacDonald. He had to quickly cough up the money when someone identified a scholar who wrote about the pre-trib rapture several years before MacDonald. As of late, dozens of examples have been found, and the literary surface has hardly been scratched.

With the revealing of all these pre-MacDonald writings, you would think that this argument has been debunked. Unfortunately, this is not the case. We seem to be involved in a tug-of-war with the truth. Apparently, due to their lack of research, pre-trib opponents continue to pump out publications that cite MacDonald as the originator of the pre-trib rapture.

The Last Trumpet Argument

Because Paul, in 1 Cor. 15:52 and 1 Thes 4:16, said believers would be raptured at the sounding of a trump, many folks have tried to make it appear that the rapture trumps are the same trumpets found in Revelation 11:15-18, Joel 2:1, and Mat 24:31–which all occur during the tribulation.

When you have trumpets commonly used throughout the Bible, I think it’s foolish to just assume any two of the 62 trumps or trumpets are prophetically related. To be able to make the claim that the tribulation trumpet soundings are the same as the rapture trumps, you would need a direct statement saying this is the case.

In the movies Ben-Hur and The Wizard of Oz, I recall hearing the sounding of trumpets. Are both these trumpets somehow prophetically related?

If your friend John said he went to his favorite restaurant last night, and another friend Larry said he also went to his favorite restaurant last night, is it logical for you to assume they both went to the same restaurant? Obviously not, because even though John and Larry went to their favorite restaurants, they may have had two different eating establishments in mind. The same logic should apply with the word trumpet.

With such a blind devotion to this one similarity, I have to wonder if these last-tumpeters are able to distinguish the difference between Tylenol and Exlax. They’re both over-the-counter drugs, they come in pill form, and they can also be found in a medicine cabinet. Of course, one will make your headache disappear and the other will make your toilet paper disappear.

Pre-wrath proponents say that the Seventh Trumpet blown in Rev 11:15-18 is the same last trump Paul spoke of in 1 Cor 15:52. However, they fail to take into account the fact that John wrote Revelation 40 years after Paul wrote his first epistle to the Corinthians. How could Paul refer to something that was not yet revealed?

Post-tribbers use a trumpet sounding in Joel 2:1 as evidence for a post-trib rapture on the Day of the Lord. I have three problems with Joel 2:1:

1. Joel clearly says that the purpose for blowing the trumpet is to “sound an alarm.”

2. According to 1 Cor 15:52, the rapture is something that occurs in the twinkling of an eye. Joel 2:1 says the Day of the Lord is nigh at hand. In order for Joel’s trumpet to be the same one in 1 Cor. there would have to be a time delay between the sounding of the trumpet and the rapture of the Church.

3. The fact that there is another trumpet being sounded in Joel 2:15 further clouds the possibility that these trumpets could have anything to do with the rapture.

When Paul was writing to the Corinthians, he specifically said “the” last trump. During the Feast of Trumpets, the Jews blow short trumpet blasts. They end the feast with a long blast from what is called the last trump, which is blown the longest. Judaism has traditionally connected this last trump with the resurrection of the dead. Paul also made the connection. For many Christians, the association between the rapture and the Feast of Trumpets is so strong, they look for the rapture to someday occur on this feast.

The Day of the Lord Argument

A number people have attempted to refute the pre-trib rapture by trying to associate the “Day of the Lord” with a catching-up of believers at the end of the tribulation. They base their rapture views solely on the idea that the “Day of the Lord” and the rapture are either synonymous or somehow linked together.

The Achilles heel of their argument has to be the notion that the “Day of the Lord” and various other “days” of an end-time context refers to a 24 hour period that occurs at or near the end of the tribulation. Probably the most commonly cited verse is 1 Thessalonians 5:2 where Paul tells us the “Day of the Lord” will come “as a thief in the night.”

I’ve read countless articles that describe the “Day of the Lord” as Christ’s advent at Armageddon. These articles go on to say that, because Paul also tells us the Lord will come “as a thief,” we have a direct link to the same description that is applied to noted rapture verses.

It’s rather obvious that those trying to rely on the “Day of the Lord” never bothered to validate the meaning of this particular day. I’ve checked a number of commentaries on the “Day of the Lord” and many of them define this as being an all-encompassing period that begins with the Great Tribulation. Let’s examine some verses that clearly indicate that the term “day” is used to represent a broader time period.

II Peter 3:10-13
The “Day of the Lord” Peter spoke of in second Peter, cannot be a one day event because it mentions the destruction of the earth by fire and its renovation. Rev 21:11 tells us the earth will not be renewed until after Christ’s 1000 year reign.

Joel 2:11-20
The “Day of the Lord” Joel describes, includes the defeat of the northern army. Ezk. 38 and 39 is parallel passage. Most scholars would time the destruction of the Gog army as occurring before in the first half of the tribulation.

John 12:48
In the book of John, Jesus uses the term “last day” to indicate when the lost would be judged. Rev 20 makes it clear that the unsaved will not be judged until after the millennium–yet another 1000 year gap.

Hebrews 10:25
One of the best indications that most of the various “day” references are citing a general time period can be found in Hebrews 10:25: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

Surely, Paul would not be warning us to watch for a day that would be coming at the end of the tribulation. That type of logic would be like warning children, as they cross the road, to watch out for tail lights.

The First Resurrection

I’ve heard some folks say, “There cannot be a pre-trib rapture because to have one would require a second resurrection at Christ’s return to earth.” This conclusion is drawn from Revelation 20:

“But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years” (Rev 20:5-6).

One pre-trib writer, explaining this passage, said, “The first did not mean first in time, but rather first in kind.” The first resurrection was for God’s people the second will be for the unsaved.

A quick way to shoot down the notion that the first resurrection is tied to a specific date, as opposed to a more general time frame, is to take note of the tribulation rapture of the two witnesses and the 144,000 Jewish evangelists. At the mid-point of the tribulation, the two witnesses are killed by the Antichrist, resurrected by God, and then caught up into heaven (Rev 11:3-12).

Revelation chapter 7 describes the sealing of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists just before the Beast issues his mark. Sometime during the latter half of the tribulation, Revelation chapter 14 indicates they will be “redeemed from the earth,” standing before the throne of God.

Confusion over Confusion: 2 Thes 2:1-6

Because Paul, in 2 Thessalonians, said the Antichrist would be revealed before the Day of the Christ, post and pre-wrath adherents frequently try to cite this passage as one that refutes the pre-trib rapture.

To quell the Thessalonian’s misunderstanding that they had somehow entered the tribulation, Paul told them the Antichrist must first be revealed. By telling them they had no reason to panic, Paul is clearly disputing the idea that the Thessalonians could someday find themselves facing the tribulation hour.

I’m constantly being irked by Post-trib and pre-wrath folks’ consistent, or better yet deliberate, failure to accept the simple fact that the pre-trib doctrine calls for a rapture and a second coming. Because they only glean the prophetic word for one event–the second coming–they’re unable to recognize pre-trib rapture passages.

Of course, when you fuse the two advents together, you end up with verses that appear to contradict each other: 1 Thessalonians 5:9, “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,” and Revelation 13:7, “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.”

Reverse Logic Stuck In Reverse

Many people are against the pre-trib rapture simply because they see it as being the dominant view on the timing of Christ’s return for the Church. The anti-pretribulationists often think they are the last remaining true believers. I’m simply dumbfounded over why some people choose rebellion against the majority view as their guide for finding truth.

The measurement of popularity alone is a terrible way to determine something’s validity. It is particularly strange when people solely rely on the contrarian view to judge truth from fiction. I utilize contrarian views all the time to help determine what is truthful; however, it would be a terrible mistake on my part if I made Contrarianism the core foundation of any of my beliefs.

If you’re using reverse logic, you need to support your conclusions. The vast majority of the population would agree that apples grow on apple trees and cherries grow on cheery trees. The pure novelty of the opposite being true does not in any way help make it so. Unless you see farmers gluing apples onto cherry trees or picking cherries from apple trees, you have no basis to think that these two fruits do not grow on anything but the trees that share the same name.

Some people are clearly more in love with the idea of a conspiracy than they are the truth. Every time an airplane crashes to the earth there’s someone who will proclaim it was caused by anything from an act of terrorism to a bizarre government plot. It’s just not exciting enough to say it was a mechanical problem that led to the crash.

The idea that the pre-trib rapture is the dominant view is not correct in the first place. Most evangelicals would say they look for a pre-trib rapture, but if you include all Christians, pretribulationists would rank third behind post-trib and preterist adherents.

Persecute Me Please

You would think the desire to go through the tribulation would be as popular as the desire to jump into a pit filled with vipers and broken glass. As illogical as it may seem, there appears to be a large number of Christians that fully expect to get roughed up before Christ returns.

Many Christians argue strongly for the right to suffer persecution at the hands of the Antichrist and the one world government. These tribulation saint wannabees constantly harp, “Because Jesus and His disciples suffered persecution, we should expect no better.” It’s been my experience that people with the weakest faith are generally the ones that talk the boldest. When the slightest difficulty comes their way, they cry to high heaven.

I hate to be the bearer of good news, but the word of God clearly states that believers will escape the tribulation bloodbath. “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thes 5:9). “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” (Rev 3:10).

In one regard, people who think the Church will go through the tribulation are somewhat correct. I believe there will be a huge number of “carnal Christians” that will find themselves left behind. By having the rapture before the tribulation, all those who find themselves facing the wrath of God will be without an excuse.

No Secret Rapture

“There is no secret rapture” is the beginning declaration of a large percentage of messages that attack the rapture. Rarely is this statement backed by supporting scriptural evidence. A few people will cite Rev 1:17, “every eye shall see him,” as proof that the rapture will not be a secret event. Of course, I would immediately note that “every eye shall see him” is the second coming.

I have a hard time understanding how these folks could think pretribulationists preach a secret rapture. We seem to be doing our very best to popularize the rapture before it takes place. I doubt that, afterwards, with all the car wrecks, plane crashes, and missing persons reports, the rapture will remain a secret occurrence.

The only people I know who are attempting to keep the pre-trib rapture a secret are its critics. Pre-wrath and post-trib folks have the national media and the liberal churches as their allies in their ongoing effort to silence all knowledge of the “blessed hope.”

No Imminency

Because an imminent or any moment rapture is one of the major teachings of pre-tribulationists, opponents of this view attempt to dismantle the imminency of the rapture.

Although Jesus said, “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Mat 24:42), advocates for knowing the “day” will claim this only applies to the unsaved. I hear arguments like, “Surely a loving father would tell his own children when he’s coming for them.”

To try to get around “no man know the hour,” a popular scripture often cited is: “But yea brethren, are not in darkness that that day should overtake you as a thief” (1 Thes 5:4).

Despite all their monkeying with scripture, pre-trib detractors just cannot escape Jesus’ restriction against knowing the timing of the rapture. In fact, our Lord was so restrictive about the rapture, He said its occurrence would come as a total surprise. “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 24:44).

Now as far as the second coming goes, the Bible couldn’t be plainer. It clearly states that Jesus will return 1260 days from the moment the Antichrist sits in the Temple of God and declares himself to be God. Because there exists both a known and an unknown date, many scholars have logically concluded that there must be two different events occurring–the rapture and the second coming.

The Restrainer

In 2 Thessalonians the Apostle Paul speaks of a “he” that will restrain the advent of the Antichrist. The restrainer’s removal is required before the Antichrist can be revealed.

2 Thessalonians 2:6-8, “And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.”

A debate has erupted over the identity of the Restrainer because if this “he” is the Holy Ghost, the only real explanation for his removal would be the rapture of the Church, which is indwelled by him. The strongest argument offered against the Holy Spirit being the Restrainer is the belief that if God’s Spirit was ever removed from the earth, no one could then be saved. The removal of the Holy Ghost does not have to be an all or nothing proposition. I believe his being “taken out of the way” will only be a degree of removal.

Before the Church Age, people were able to find salvation, which obviously meant the Holy Spirit was at work on earth. When the outpouring of the Holy Ghost occurred at Pentecost, we didn’t have a second Holy Spirit come to earth. His removal at the rapture will only be a reversal or ending of the Pentecostal outpouring.

Replacementism

Because Revelation places a strong emphasis on Israel during the tribulation, and not on the church, most post-tribulationists have adopted a replacement theology view in order to maintain the focus on them.

Replacementism is the view that Israel, having failed God, has been replaced by the Church. The Church is now seen as spiritual Israel and spiritual Jerusalem. This teaching claims that all the promises and blessings, in fact Israel’s entire inheritance, now belongs to the Church. However, all is not lost for Israel; it gets to keep all the curses.

Dispensational theology, taught by nearly all pre-tribulationists, teaches that God has separate strategies for dealing with the Church and the Jews. When you consider the change in focus, during the tribulation, from the Church to Israel, the pre-trib rapture provides a good explanation for this transfer of attention.

To say that Israel is no longer God’s chosen people is really playing with fire because the Antichrist will likely be saying the same thing when he tries to destroy the Jews during the tribulation. I look for people that hold to replacementism to be in the cheering section when the Beast goes on his Jew-killing campaign. “The Lord will not reject his people; he will never forsake his inheritance” (Psalm 94:14).

“This is what the Lord says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar – the Lord Almighty is his name: ‘Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,’ declares the Lord, ‘will the descendants of Israel ever cease to be a nation before me'” (Jeremiah 31:35-36).

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