Dr. Renald Showers explains the Rapture, Day of the Lord, Tribulation, and much more!

Are you confused about the rapture, Day of the Lord, Second Coming of Christ, the Tribulation and Great Tribulation?

This from Dr. Renald Showers’ Series “35 most asked question concerning Bible Prophecy” is an excellent resource to save, study, and share.

This first clip of 49 answers the question: Does the Book of Revelation teach that the Rapture will take place before the Tribulation?

Refuting the Van Kampen Rosenthal Pre-Wrath Rapture Ruse

Refuting the Van Kampen Rosenthal Pre-Wrath Rapture Ruse

Robert Van Kampen became one of the wealthiest men in America after founding an investment firm in 1974. Van Kampen died, aged 60, in October 2000, awaiting a heart transplant. In the 1970s, Van Kampen developed what is known today as the “pre-wrath” rapture position. Van Kampen was also known to have possessed the largest collection of rare and antique Bibles in North America.

According to one who spent time with Van Kampen at his Chicago area home when he was developing his view, he first eliminated pretribulationism and then excluded posttribulationism. Thus, he had to come up with another view. That view is what he called the “pre-wrath” rapture theory. That title is a misnomer, since pretribulationism is 100% pre-wrath. If we follow consistency in labeling, Van Kampen’s view should be called the three-quarters rapture position, since he teaches that the church will be raptured somewhere in the middle of the last three and a half years of the seventieth week of Daniel.

I believe that if Van Kampen were not a wealthy individual then very few, if any, of us would have ever heard of his view. Van Kampen spent a number of years searching for an advocate of his newly developed viewpoint until he was finally able to persuade Marvin Rosenthal to adopt his new theory. I have a friend who was interviewed extensively by Van Kampen (in the 80s) for the pastorate of the church he attended in the Chicago area. My friend spent hours on the phone with Van Kampen, as he tried to convince him of his strange rapture view. In the end, my friend could not agree with Van Kampen, so he did not have the opportunity to become the pastor of that church. It was clear that Van Kampen was searching for someone to champion his rapture position. Van Kampen finally convinced Marvin Rosenthal of his view. Rosenthal wrote a book called The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church, which was published by Thomas Nelson in 1990. Van Kampen apparently subsidized the publishing of the book by buying thousands of copies and sending them to ministers all over North America. This is how the new position was spread. Later Van Kampen came out with his own book called The Sign (three editions, 1992, 1999, 2000) from Crossway Books. He then had published The Rapture Question Answered: Plain and Simple (1997) with Revell.

What Is The Three-Quarters Rapture Theory?

Van Kampen’s three-quarters rapture view is a blend of midtribulational and posttribulational rationale. Instead of seeing the 24 terms describing the seventieth week of Daniel as denoting various characteristics of a single period, Van Kampen chops them into compartmental segments that contain either the wrath of man and Satan or the wrath of God. Through redefinition, Van Kampen limits the wrath of God to the final year and three-quarters of the seven-year period and deduces that the rapture occurs right before that time period. Van Kampen distinguishes the rapture and the second coming with a gap of one and three-quarters years between them, even though he makes a big deal that they are a single event. Van Kampen has the church continuing through the first three-quarters of the tribulation until the three-quarters point rapture occurs. Thus, the three-quarters rapture theory. Note the chart of Van Kampen’s three-quarters rapture theory. Van Kampen’s theory requires several unique features concerning the church and the tribulation. First, he chops the seventieth week of Daniel into three parts: 1) the beginning of birth pangs (first three and a half years), 2) the great tribulation (first half of the second half of the seven years), 3) the day of the Lord (last half of the second half of the seven years, plus a thirty day period after the second coming). By arbitrarily compartmentalizing the seventieth week of Daniel in this way, Van Kampen prepares the way for his view by saying that the first two period (first three-quarters of the seven-year period) is the wrath of man and Satan but not God’s wrath. By speculating that God’s wrath only occurs during what he labels as “the day of the Lord” (the last quarter of the seventieth week of Daniel), therefore, he says the rapture occurs at that point and keeps the church out of the wrath of God, as promised in the New Testament Epistles.

The Van Kampen innovation differs from the pretribulational view at key points. Pretribulationists agree with Van Kampen that the church will escape the time of God’s wrath. However, pretribulationism equates the time of God’s wrath and the Day of the Lord with the entire seven years of the 70th week of Daniel. Thus, I believe that Scripture supports the pretrib notion that the church will be raptured before the entire 70th week of Daniel.

Some Reasons Why Van Kampen’s Theory Is Wrong

The Van Kampen view of the rapture is not only built upon faulty interpretation of the Bible, but also upon flawed data and logic. In 1990 Marvin Rosenthal released the first published expression of the Van Kampen rapture view in all of history. I immediately purchased and read the book. While I detected many problems with the book, one item stuck out around page 100. Rosenthal made the following statement: “The Greek word thlipsis, translated tribulation or affliction in many English Bibles, occurs twenty times in the New Testament” (Rosenthal, Pre-Wrath, p. 103). Having done a word study of thlipsis just the week before in my normal study for teaching the Bible in my pastoral duties, it was fresh on my mind and I knew that my computer concordance showed that it actually occurs 45 times in 43 New Testament verses. Why had he not even considered over half of the New Testament references?

The point that Rosenthal was attempting to make when he committed such a glaring factual error was that the word “tribulation” is never used to refer to the first half of Daniel’s 70th week (Rosenthal, Pre-Wrath, pp. 103-08). I don’t believe that to be the case since Matthew 24:9 is an instance where “tribulation” (KJV = “afflicted”) refers to the first half of Daniel’s 70th week. Dr. John McLean explains:

Rosenthal has not only overstated his case but has stated as true fact that which is clearly false. A cursory reading of a Greek concordance reveals that the word “tribulation” (thlipsis) is used in prophetic contexts to refer to both the first and second halves of the seventieth week of Daniel. Matthew 24:9, which chronologically relates to the first half of the seventieth week as evidenced by its preceding the midpoint of the abomination of desolation (Matt. 24:15-21) states: “Then they will deliver you to tribulation (thlipsis), and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name” (NASB). Clearly the biblical text describes the first half of the seventieth week as a time of tribulation.               The second half of the seventieth week is also described as a time of tribulation. Second Thessalonians 1:6 uses the Greek word thlipsin while referring to the second coming of Christ which occurs during the second half of the seventieth week of Daniel: “For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction (thlipsin) those who afflicted you” (NASB). Therefore, it is proper and even biblical to refer to, and even describe, the seventieth week of Daniel as “The Tribulation,” or “A Time of Tribulation.” (John McLean, “Chronology and Sequential Structure of John’s Revelation” in Thomas Ice & Timothy Demy, eds., When The Trumpet Sounds (Harvest House Publishers, 1995), p. 341.)

Interestingly, Rosenthal restricts thlipsin “tribulation” to simply trials to be experienced (Rosenthal, Pre-Wrath, p. 237), while at the same time locating such tribulation in the first half of Daniel’s 70th week (Rosenthal, Pre-Wrath, p. 152). Like Dr. McLean and pretribulationists, Rosenthal equates Matthew 24:9 with the fifth seal judgment as stated in Revelation 6:9-11. This is exactly the understanding of pretribulationism. Yet if Rosenthal admits the obvious logical conclusion”that the tribulation in Matthew 24:9 is the tribulation”then it would provide another item that contradicts his new view and would support the only true pre-wrath position that actually does harmonize all Scriptural data”pretribulationism. Instead, Rosenthal would rather foster an internal contradiction within his system that he apparently expects his followers to overlook.

God’s WRATH

As noted earlier, Van Kampen defines only the final quarter of Daniel’s seventieth week, as the Day of the Lord, which according to him is the only time of God’s wrath. He sees the first three quarters as the wrath of man and Satan. But does the Bible make such distinctions? I do not believe it does.

Wrath in Zephaniah

Zephaniah 1:14-18 heaps together a cluster of terms that characterize the future Day of the Lord. Verse 14 labels this time as “the great day of the Lord” and “the day of the Lord.” Then verse 15-18 describe this time with the following descriptions: “that day is a day of wrath,” “a day of trouble and distress,” “a day of wasteness and desolation,” “a day of darkness and gloominess,” “a day of clouds and thick darkness,” “a day of the trumpet and alarm,” “I will bring distress upon men,” and “the day of the Lord’s wrath.” The context supports the notion that all these descriptives apply to the Day of the Lord. Such biblical usage does not allow an interpreter to chop the Day of the Lord into compartmental segments as Van Kampen insists. The text plainly says that the Day of the Lord is a time of both tribulation and God’s wrath. All of the many descriptives in this passage provide a characterization of the Day of the Lord that applies to the entire seven-year period. The Zephaniah passage clearly contradicts the basis upon which Van Kampen attempts to build his recently developed theory. Zephaniah is not alone in providing an obstacle to the Van Kampen speculation.

Wrath in Revelation

Revelation 6:1-17 records the six seal judgments, which are the first reported judgments of the tribulation. Revelation 6 and the seal judgments also contradict the Van Kampen formulation since the Bible describes all six judgments as “. . . the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come . . .” (Rev. 6:16c-17a). Even though Van Kampen cannot recognize God’s wrath, the unbelievers at the beginning of the seven-year tribulation will be able to. Revelation 5 reveals that only the Lamb (Christ) was qualified to open the seals that would begin the first judgments of the tribulation. As we connect the dots of Revelation 5 and 6, there is no basis for saying that the events of the seal judgments are somehow disconnected from Scripture”s characterization as God’s wrath. The following observations about the seal judgments support such a connection:

“The Lamb is the Individual Who breaks, and thus initiates, all six of the seals (Revelation 6:1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 12) clearly indicating that He (God) is the source of the events or wrath. These are explicit references to the wrath of God, not the wrath of man or Satan as taught by Van Kampen.

“One quarter of the earth”s population is killed (Rev. 6:8).

“The fifth seal reveals that multitudes of Christian martyrs are slain as a result of seal activity, which has to be considered the wrath of the Lamb. God allows this to occur when the Lamb breaks the seal in this part of the seal judgments.

“At the end of the six seal judgments an assessment is given as follows: “Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” (Rev. 6:16-17). “Him that sitteth on the throne” is God the Father as indicated in chapter 4, thus it is clearly God’s wrath. It is also the Lamb’s wrath (Christ). The passage clearly says “the great day of his wrath is come,” meaning that all six of the seal judgments are classified as God’s wrath.

Van Kampen attempts to say that the events of the seal judgments are not really “God’s” wrath, but the wrath of man. Rosenthal declares, “The word wrath occurs eight times in the book of Revelation. All eight occurrences follow the opening of the sixth seal. The word wrath is never used in connection with the first five seals” (Rosenthal, Pre-Wrath, p. 176). Rosenthal neglects to tell his readers that Revelation 6:16-17 is a summary statement of all the previous seal judgments. In spite of the Van Kampen claim to follow the plain interpretation of the text (Van Kampen, Rapture Question, p. 23-24.), I believe that Revelation 6:16″17 relates to all six seal judgments for the following reasons:

“Revelation 6:15-17 is an overall report of the human response to God’s judgment as administered through all six seal judgments. A similar evaluation is recorded after the trumpet judgments in Revelation 9:20-21. In both cases, humanity does not repent so God continues prosecution of the war. This argues in favor of associating this report with the preceding seal judgments.

“The controlling verb in verse 17, “is come” (lthen), “is aorist indicative, referring to a previous arrival of the wrath, not something that is about to take place” (Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7: An Exegetical Commentary (Moody, 1992), p. 457). Rosenthal’s attempt to say that this verb is a future aorist (Rosenthal, Pre-Wrath, pp. 166-67), cannot be supported by the context. Such contextual support is necessary to adopt his unusual use of the aorist indicative. Further, if a future look were intended by the verb then John most likely would have used the future tense. Such stress and strain in biblical interpretation demonstrates the forced notion that Van Kampen’s new invention is not the product of sound biblical exegesis.

“Revelation 5 narrates a heavenly scene of Christ pictured as a slain, but victorious Lamb. The Lamb is pictured as worthy to open the seals on a scroll, which result in judgment”the judgment described in the succeeding chapter as the seal judgments. In chapter 6, each one of the seal judgments commences as a result of the Lamb’s breaking of each seal (Revelation 6:1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 12). Since all six seal judgments begin the same way, with the breaking of the seal by the Lamb, one should not be at all surprised that Revelation 6:16-17 summarizes all six judgments as “the wrath of the Lamb,” and “the great day of his wrath.” This cannot be the wrath of man or Satan.

The above information provides ample biblical proof that all six seal judgments are the wrath of God (Lamb). The Van Kampen view teaches, as do pretribulationists, that the first seal judgment (the rise of antichrist) begins in the first part of the seventieth week of Daniel, right after the seven-year period commences. Since all six seal judgments are designated in Scripture as God’s wrath it means that the entire seventieth week of Daniel is called the wrath of God in Revelation 6. Therefore, this passage does not support the Van Kampen interpretation. Since the church is promised deliverance from the wrath of God (Rom. 5:9, 1 Thess. 1:10, 5:9, and Rev. 3:10), it is clear in light of Revelation 6 that the church will be raptured before the seventieth week of Daniel.

THE DAY OF THE LORD

Another key point has been noted by Robert Thomas about the language of the text in Revelation 6:17 that argues against the Van Kampen theory is the following:

It is difficult to capture the Greek wording in English without a periphrasis such as “the day, that great day.” “The great day” is a title borrowed from the OT (Joel 2:11, 31; Zeph. 1:14; Mal. 4:5). . . . The primary passages from which John draws his images in the description of the sixth seal prove the reference of this phrase to be to the day of the Lord (Joel 2:11, 30-31; cf. Isa. 2:10-11, 19-21; 13:9-34;13; 34:4, 8; Ezek. 32:7-8; Hos. 10:8)” (Thomas, Revelation, p. 458).

This passage links all the seal judgments to God’s wrath, in contrast to Van Kampen, and even associates it with the day of the Lord. Such biblical facts contradict the recent Rapture view of Van Kampen. This would also support the pretrib understanding that the day of the Lord includes the entire seventieth week of Daniel and thus a time of God’s wrath from which the church is promised deliverance. A biblically accurate summary of the day of the Lord is provided by Dr. Charles Ryrie, who says the following:

In the Bible, the Day of the Lord always involves the broad concept of God’s special intervention in human history. The concept includes three facets: 1) a historical facet about God’s intervention in Israel’s affairs (Joel 1:15; Zephaniah l:14-18) and in the affairs of heathen nations (Isaiah 13:6; Jeremiah 46:10; Ezekiel 30:3); 2) an illustrative facet, in which a historical incident of God’s intervention also illustrates a future intervention (Isaiah 13:6-13; Joel 2:1-11); 3) an eschatological facet about God’s intervention in human history in the future (Isaiah 2:12-19; 4:1; 19:23 25; Jeremiah 30:7-9). Only this third, the eschatological facet, pertains to our discussion of the rapture’s timing (Charles C. Ryrie, Come Quickly, Lord Jesus (Harvest House, 1996), p. 106).

Rosenthal invests much in his belief that the day of the Lord is limited to the final quarter of the seventieth week of Daniel. “If expositors get the starting point of the Day of the Lord right,” insists Rosenthal, “the timing of the Rapture becomes clear” (Rosenthal, Pre-Wrath, p. 117). This is true! But Rosenthal is not able to answer two major points relating to the day of the Lord and the timing of the rapture as put forth by Dr. Ryrie.

First, how can the rapture precede Armageddon and yet be a single event with the second coming, which puts a stop to Armageddon? Armageddon is not a single, confined battle; it is a war (Revelation 16:14). For the church to miss Armageddon, the rapture cannot be a single, continuous event with the second coming. . . . Second, if the Day of the Lord commences with the judgments at the end of the Tribulation, then how can it begin with a time of peace and safety (1 Thessalonians 5:2,3)? Even a superficial knowledge of the Tribulation does not give the impression that there will be any time of peace and safety, except perhaps at the very beginning; certainly not at the end (Ryrie, Come Quickly, pp. 106-07).

In order to make their view work in the abstract, Van Kampen must redefine the nature and scope of terms like the day of the Lord. However, their work does not fit when all of Scripture is considered. Further, their wrong understanding of the key biblical terminology sets the stage for their erroneous conclusion that the rapture will occur three-quarters of the way through the seventieth week of Daniel, instead of before.

CONCLUSION

The brand new innovation of the three-quarters rapture view of Van Kampen is a recent demonstration of just how important it is to build one’s view of Bible prophecy upon an accurate biblical analysis of foundational items such as the nature and scope of the tribulation. As Van Kampen demonstrates in his writings, if one errs at this crucial point then it paves the way for faulty conclusions. It should be clear that Van Kampen must resort to strained characterizations of things like the day of the Lord, the tribulation, and the scope of God’s wrath in order to first avoid pretribulationism and second to support his new three-quarters rapture view. Bible believing Christians should continue to draw strength and hope from the fact that our Lord could rapture His church at any moment. We will not be left standing when our Lord moves history to the point of the commencement of the seventieth week of Daniel. This is our true Blessed Hope. Maranatha![NOTE: For anyone interested in reading an excellent, in-depth critique of Van Kampen and Rosenthal’s views from a pretribulational perspective, I highly recommend Renald E. Showers, The Pre-Wrath Rapture View: An Examination and Critique (Kregel, 2001).] [1]


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.

The Confusion of the Pre-Wrath Rapture View

PRE-WRATH CONFUSION

“FOR GOD IS NOT THE AUTHOR OF CONFUSION, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” — 1 Corinthians 14:33

The Pre-Wrath Rapture theory is set forth in the book, The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church by Marvin Rosenthal (Thomas Nelson, 1990). This view may be summarized as follows:

The Rapture of the Church is not an imminent event (p. 292). It cannot take place today. It is impossible for the Lord Jesus to come for His Church today. The Rapture cannot take place next week, next month or next year. Indeed the Rapture cannot take place for at least four or five years [at the very earliest]. The Rapture will occur immediately prior to the Day of the Lord and the Day of the Lord will begin with the opening of the seventh seal (pp. 18,60,176). The Rapture will occur on the very day the Day of the Lord begins (p. 117). It will occur at the very outset of the Day of the Lord (p. 210).

Daniel’s 70th week (a period of seven years) contains three distinct time periods (p. 233): (1) The first is the “beginning of sorrows” which is the first 3½ years (p. 147). (2) The second is the “Great Tribulation” which begins in the middle of the 70th week [at the beginning of the last 3½ years]. The Great Tribulation is also called “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (pp. 74, 206). The Great Tribulation is man’s wrath against man, not God’s wrath (p. 105). The Great Tribulation is “cut short” and made less than 3½ years (pp. 108,109,112). (3)The third time period of Daniel’s 70th week is the Day of the Lord which is the time of God’s wrath. The Day of the Lord begins with the opening of the 7th seal (p. 26).

According to this view, the Day of the Lord must be clearly distinguished from the Great Tribulation. These two time periods are distinct and separate and do not overlap (p. 147). They both occur during the last 3½ years, beginning with the Great Tribulation and followed immediately by the Day of the Lord. It is uncertain when the Great Tribulation ends and when the Day of the Lord begins because no man knows the day or the hour (Matt. 24:36). The Day of the Lord will commence sometime within the second half of the 70th week (p. 60). How long will the Day of the Lord last? It will end at the end of the 70th week. The uncertainty involves when it will begin. It will begin “long before the end of the 70th week” (p. 153). The Day of the Lord will begin “a considerable period of time before the 70th week ends” (p. 248). The Day of the Lord must be longer than five months because the 5th trumpet judgment alone is said to last five months (Rev. 9:1,5 and see p. 153) and the trumpet judgments take place during the Day of the Lord. The Day of the Lord will immediately follow the Rapture of the Church, which according to this theory is described in Matthew 24:31.

via The Confusion of the Pre-Wrath Rapture View.

Is the Pre-Trib Rapture a Satanic Deception?

Is the Pre-Trib Rapture a Satanic Deception?

by Thomas Ice

Recently, pre-wrath advocate Marvin Rosenthal wrote that the pre-trib rapture was of Satanic origin and unheard of before 1830. “To thwart the Lord’s warning to His children, in 1830,” proclaims Rosenthal, “Satan, the ‘father of lies,’ gave to a fifteen-year-old girl named Margaret McDonald a lengthy vision.”1 Rosenthal gives no documentation, he merely asserts that this is true. However, he is wrong. He is undoubtedly relying upon the questionable work of Dave MacPherson.

Another thing amazing about Rosenthal’s declaration is that a few paragraphs later in the article he characterizes his opposition as those who “did not deal with the issues, misrepresented the facts, or attempted character assassination.”2 This description is exactly what he has done in his characterization of pre-trib rapture origins. Why would Rosenthal make such outlandish and unsubstantiated charges about the pre-trib rapture?

THE BIG LIE

One of the things that facilitated the Nazi rise to power in Germany earlier this century was their propaganda approach called “The Big Lie.” If you told a big enough lie often enough then the people would come to believe it. This the Nazis did well. This is what anti-pretribulationists like John Bray3 and Dave MacPherson4 have done over the last 25 years. Apparently the big lie about the origins of the pre-trib rapture has penetrated the thinking of Robert Van Kampen 5 and Marvin Rosenthal to the extent that they have adopted such a falsehood as true. This is amazing in light of the fact that their own pre-wrath viewpoint is not much more than fifteen years old itself. Rosenthal must have changed his mind about pre-trib origins between the time he wrote his book The Pre-wrath Rapture of the Church (1990) and the recent article (Dec. 1994) since, in the former, he says that the pre-trib rapture “can be traced back to John Darby and the Plymouth Brethren in the year 1830.”6 Rosenthal goes on to say, “Some scholars, seeking to prove error by association, have attempted (perhaps unfairly) to trace its origin back two years earlier to a charismatic, visionary woman named Margaret MacDonald.”7 Even this statement is in error, since the Margaret Macdonald claim has always been related to 1830, not 1828. However, Rosenthal is correct in his original assessment that these charges are “unfair” and probably spring out of a motive to “prove error by association,” known as the ad hominem argument.

Pretribulationists have sought to defend against “The Big Lie” through direct interaction against the charges.8 In a rebuttal to these charges I made in 1990, I gave two major reasons why “The Big Lie” is not true. First, it is doubtful that Margaret Macdonald’s “prophecy” contains any elements related to the pre-trib rapture.9 Second, no one has ever demonstrated from actual facts of history that Darby was influenced by Macdonald’s “prophecy” even if it had (which it did not) contained pre-trib elements.10 John Walvoord has said,

The whole controversy as aroused by Dave MacPherson’s claims has so little supporting evidence, despite his careful research, that one wonders how he can write his book with a straight face. Pretribulationalists should be indebted to Dave MacPherson for exposing the facts, namely, that there is no proof that MacDonald or Irving originated the pretribulation rapture teaching.11

There is a third reason why MacPherson’s theory is wrong, Darby clearly held to an early form of the pre-trib rapture by January 1827. This is a full three years before MacPherson’s claim of 1830.

DARBY AND THE PRE-TRIB RAPTURE

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 1827.12 If this is true, 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 a fifteen-yea-old girl (Margaret Macdonald), Lacunza, Edward Irving, or the Irvingites. These are all said by the detractors of Darby and the pre-trib rapture to be bridges which led to Darby’s thought. Instead, he demonstrates that Darby’s 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.

Darby’s 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.”13 2) “During his convalescence JND learned that he ought daily to expect his Lord’s return.”14 3) “In 1827 JND understood the fall of the church. . . ‘the ruin of the Church.'”15 4) Darby also was beginning to see a gap of time between the rapture and the second coming by 1827.16 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.”17

German author Max S. Weremchuk has produced a major new biography on Darby entitled John Nelson Darby: A Biography.18 He agrees with Huebner’s conclusions concerning the matter. “Having read MacPherson’s 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.”19

When reading Darby’s 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 church’s focus and hope.20 Even in this earliest of essays, Darby expounds upon the rapture as the church’s hope.21

SCHOLARS DO NOT ACCEPT THE BIG LIE

The various “rapture origin” theories espoused by opponents of pre-tribulationsm are not accepted as historically valid by scholars who have examined the evidence. The only ones who appear to have accepted these theories are those who already are opposed to the pre-trib rapture. A look at various scholars and historians reveals that they think, in varying degrees, that MacPherson has not proven his point. Most, if not all who are quoted below do not hold to the pre-trib rapture teaching. Ernest R. Sandeen declares,

This seems to be a groundless and pernicious charge. Neither Irving nor any member of the Albury group advocated any doctrine resembling the secret rapture. . . . Since the clear intention of this charge is to discredit the doctrine by attributing its origin to fanaticism rather than Scripture, there seems little ground for giving it any credence.22

Historian Timothy P. Weber’s evaluation is a follows:

The pretribulation rapture was a neat solution to a thorny problem and historians are still trying to determine how or where Darby got it. . . .

A newer though still not totally convincing view contends that the doctrine initially appeared in a prophetic vision of Margaret Macdonald, . . .

Possibly, we may have to settle for Darby’s own explanation. He claimed that the doctrine virtually jumped out of the pages of Scripture once he accepted and consistently maintained the distinction between Israel and the church.23

American historian Richard R. Reiter informs us that,

[Robert] Cameron probably traced this important but apparently erroneous view back to S. P. Tregelles, . . . Recently more detailed study on this view as the origin of pretribulationism appeared in works by Dave McPherson, . . . historian Ian S. Rennie . . . regarded McPherson’s case as interesting but not conclusive.24

Posttribulationist William E. Bell asserts that,

It seems only fair, however, in the absence of eyewitnesses to settle the argument conclusively, that the benefit of the doubt should be given to Darby, and that the charge made by Tregelles be regarded as a possibility but with insufficient support to merit its acceptance. . . . On the whole, however, it seems that Darby is perhaps the most likely choice–with help from Tweedy. This conclusion is greatly strengthened by Darby’s own claim to have arrived at the doctrine through his study of II Thessalonians 2:1-2.25

Pre-trib rapture opponent John Bray does not accept the MacPherson thesis either.

He [Darby] rejected those practices, and he already had his new view of the Lord coming FOR THE SAINTS (as contrasted to the later coming to the earth) which he had believed since 1827, . . . It was the coupling of this “70th week of Daniel” prophecy and its futuristic interpretation, with the teaching of the “secret rapture,” that gave to us the completed “Pre-tribulation Secret Rapture” teaching as it has now been taught for many years. . . . makes it impossible for me to believe that Darby got his Pre-Tribulation Rapture teaching from Margaret MacDonald’s vision in 1830. He was already a believer in it since 1827, as he plainly said.26

Huebner considers MacPherson’s charges as “using slander that J. N. Darby took the (truth of the) pretribulation rapture from those very opposing, demon-inspired utterances.”27 He goes on to conclude that MacPherson did not profit by reading the utterances allegedly by Miss M. M. Instead of apprehending the plain import of her statements, as given by R. Norton, which has some affinity to the post-tribulation scheme and no real resemblance to the pretribulation rapture and dispensational truth, he has read into it what he appears so anxious to find.28

CONCLUSION

F. F. Bruce, who was part of the Brethren movement his entire life, but one who did not agree with the pre-trib rapture said the following when commenting on the validity of MacPherson’s thesis:

Where did he [Darby] get it? The reviewer’s answer would be that 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.29

John Walvoord’s assessment is likely close to the truth:

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.30

I challenge opponents of the pre-trib rapture to stick to a discussion of this matter based upon the Scriptures. While some have done this, many have not been so honest. To call the pre-trib position Satanic, as Rosenthal has done, does not help anyone in this discussion. Such rhetoric will only serve to cause greater polarization of the two views. However, when pre-trib opponents make false charges about the history of the pre-trib view we must respond. And respond we will in our next issue where we will present a clear pre-trib rapture statement from the fourth or fifth century. This pre-trib rapture statement ante-dates 1830 by almost 1,500 years and will certainly lead to at least a revision of those propagating The Big Lie. 

ENDNOTES

1 Marvin J. Rosenthal, “Is the Church in Matthew Chapter 24?” Zion’s Fire (Nov-Dec 1994), p. 10.

2 Ibid.

3 John L. Bray, The Origin of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Teaching (Lakeland, FL.: John L. Bray Ministry, 1982).

4 Dave MacPherson, The Unbelievable Pre-Trib Origin (Kansas City: Heart of America Bible Society, 1973). The Late Great Pre-Trib Rapture (Kansas City: Heart of America Bible Society, 1974). The Great Rapture Hoax (Fletcher, N.C.: New Puritan Library, 1983). Rapture? (Fletcher, N.C.: New Puritan Library, 1987). The Rapture Plot (Monticello, Utah: P.O.S.T. Inc., 1994).

5 Robert Van Kampen, The Sign (Wheaton, IL.: Crossway Books, 1992), pp. 445-47.

6 Marvin Rosenthal, The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990), p. 53.

7 Ibid., pp. 53-54.

8 Some of the pre-trib responses include the following: R. A. Huebner, The Truth of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Recovered (Millington, N.J.: Present Truth Publishers, 1976); Precious Truths Revived and Defended Through J. N. Darby, Vol. 1 (Morganville, N. J.: Present Truth Publishers, 1991). Gerald B. Stanton, Kept From The Hour, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1956). John F. Walvoord, The Blessed Hope and the Tribulation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979). Robert L. Sumner, “Looking For The Blessed Horrible Holocaust!” A book review of The Late Great Pre-Trib Rapture in The Biblical Evangelist (Vol. 10, Num. 1; May, 1975); “Hope? Or Hoax?” The Biblical Evangelist (Vol. 18, Num. 3; Feb., 1984). Hal Lindsey, The Rapture: Truth Or Consequences (New York: Bantam Books, 1983). Charles Ryrie, What You Should Know About the Rapture (Chicago: Moody Press, 1981). Tim LaHaye, No Fear of the Storm: Why Christians will Escape All the Tribulation (Sisters, Ore.: Multnomah, 1992). Thomas D. Ice, “Why the Doctrine of the Pretribulational Rapture Did Not Begin with Margaret Macdonald,” Bibliotheca Sacra 147 (1990), pp. 155-68; “The Origin of the Pre-Trib Rapture,” Part I & II, Biblical Perspectives, vol. 2, no. 1, Jan./Feb. 1989 & vol. 2, no. 2, Mar./Apr. 1989; “Did J. N. Darby Believe in the Pretrib Rapture by 1827?” Dispensational Distinctives, vol. I, no. 6, Nov./Dec. 1991.

9 The following books are some of those which have the full text of Macdonald’s utterance: MacPherson’s Cover-Up, and Hoax. R. A. Huebner, The Truth of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Recovered (Millington, N.J.: Present Truth Publishers, 1976), pp. 67-69. Hal Lindsey, The Rapture: Truth Or Consequences (New York: Bantam Books, 1983), pp. 169-172. William R. Kimball, The Rapture: A Question of Timing (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1985), pp. 44-47.

10 Ice, “Why the Doctrine of the Pretribulational Rapture Did Not Begin with Margaret Macdonald,” pp. 158, 161.

11 Walvoord, The Blessed Hope and the Tribulation, p. 47.

12 R. A. Huebner, Precious Truths Revived and Defended Through J. N. Darby, Vol. 1 (Morganville, N. J.: Present Truth Publishers, 1991).

13 Ibid., p. 17.

14 Ibid., p. 19.

15 Ibid., p. 18.

16 Ibid., p. 23.

17 Ibid., p. 24.

18 Max S. Weremchuk, John Nelson Darby: A Biography (Neptune, N. J.: Loizeaux Brothers, 1992).

19 Ibid., p. 242.

20 J. N. Darby, “Reflections upon the Prophetic Inquiry and the Views Advanced in it” The Collected Writings of J. N. Darby, vol. 2 (Winschoten, Netherlands: H. L. Heijkoop, reprint 1971), pp. 1-31.

21 Ibid., pp. 16-18, 25, 30.

22 Ernest R. Sandeen, The Roots of Fundamentalism: British and American Millenarianism 1800-1930 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1970), p. 64.

23 Timothy P. Weber, Living In The Shadow Of The Second Coming: American Premillennialism 1875-1982 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1983), pp. 21-22.

24 Richard R. Reiter, The Rapture: Pre-, Mid-, or Post-Tribulational? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publication, 1984), p. 236.

25 William E. Bell, A Critical Evaluation of the Pretribulation Rapture Doctrine in Christian Eschatology (Ph.D. diss., New York University, 1967), pp. 60-61, 64-65.

26 Bray, Ibid., pp. 24-25, 28

27 Huebner, p. 13.

28 Ibid., p. 67.

29 F. F. Bruce, Review of The Unbelievable Pre-Trib Origin in The Evangelical Quarterly, (Vol. XLVII, No. 1; Jan-Mar, 1975), p. 58.

30 Walvoord, p. 47.

[PUBLISHER’S NOTE: You may want to order our booklet The Rapture and the Revelation detailing the various distinctions between these two monumental yet separate events. Dr. Mike 2 Tim. 2:2]

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