© Charles A. Clough 2003
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 6: New Truths of the Kingdom Aristocracy
Chapter 5 – The Destiny of the Church
Lesson 216 – Post-Tribulationism: Mixing the Rapture & Second Advent; the Church & the Tribulation
06 Feb 2003
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
We’re going to review just a little. I want to clarify vocabulary again; remember these two words, futurism and preterists. These terms refer to where the majority of the prophecies in the Bible about the return of Christ occur. Preterists obviously place it in the past, AD 70 is a favorite time among modern preterists; some of them may have a few passages left over to describe the Second Advent of Christ, but Matthew 24, the Mount Olivet Discourse and the Book of Revelation are associated with AD 70, so it’s past, preterism. Futurists are those who hold that Matthew 24 and Revelation are yet in the future. As we said, what we’re dealing with now is that if we are futurists and if these passages occur in the future, then we have a coalescing of two plans of God, actually three plans of God. And it’s that that causes the modern debates. It’s not easy, it’s hard stuff here. It’s not like people are deliberately trying to be antagonistic. If we had lived during the late 1500–1600s people had massive disagreements about how you’re saved and that went on for a couple of centuries until finally the lines were drawn between Rome and Protestantism on that issue. It took a while to do that back and forth.
That’s what’s happening here and the preterist issue basically concerns three programs. First, from the days of Noah you have the sons of Noah going out and forming nations. That’s the table of nations in Genesis 10. Those nations have a destiny all the way into eternity because in the book of Revelation it says that worshiping before the throne of God are those people who come from every people group, every language group, every nation. So the nations have a destiny and their place in the future thousand year kingdom, the Millennial Kingdom, the place of those nations in that Kingdom is also part of a plan of God that has to be worked out.
Then we have beginning with Abraham the Jew and we have the nation Israel. The nation Israel had as its function in history basically three things to do. It was the nation that God entered into contractual agreements with called covenants. There is the Noahic Covenant, the ecological covenant but most of your biblical covenants—the redemptive biblical covenants—are through Israel. So Israel becomes the contractual party to God’s plan of salvation; we mean contractual, it has terms in it that just like a mortgage agreement or anything else, it’s a contract, a series of contracts that exists.
Then we have the origin a strange new thing called the church and the church has a destiny, so it goes into the Millennial Kingdom, and of course this age prior to the Millennial Kingdom, this period of time before the thousand-year period, that is, the Tribulational period. Futurism and the schools of thought we’re going to cover are trying to deal with these three plans of God as they penetrate through that Tribulational period getting into the Kingdom. We said when we started this whole thing that there are certain milestones that you want to watch for. The program of Israel from time to time has been clocked, i.e., it’s locked into a calendar and it is a program of a nation. A nation has a place that exists, it has a government, so this redemptive plan of God has to do with this thing called Israel which is a nation occupying a place, real estate, that has law and that has a functioning social order under these contractual agreements, the Mosaic Law Code, etc.
That nation is not sinless; that nation is sinful just like everybody else is sinful in the human race. So God, in order to work with them, has to get them in shape. In the pages of the Old Testament woven into the contractual terms is this statement that there will be a time of wrath and trouble, Jacob’s trouble it’s called. It’s not called Gentile trouble; it’s called Jacob’s Trouble. It is specifically a period of time, seven years to be exact, because that’s what Daniel says, a seven-year period during which something happens to Israel. Let’s put it in the big picture. What do you suppose happens to Israel? If Israel is being worked on in that seven year period prior to the Millennium and she’s going to go into the Millennium, then you would think that whatever is going on in the Tribulation period helps determine the state of Israel, and that’s true. It’s a time of purging, and it’s a terrible time on earth, because there never has been and there never will be again a time like this period. That is the time in which Israel is to be purified to become ready to be the pivot nation in the Millennium Kingdom, to be ready to accept the Messiah. When she gets down to the end of this period, this Tribulational period she will say “Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.” And at that point when they’re looking for the Messiah, the real Messiah, that’s when the return of Christ happens.
So that’s the program of Israel and you don’t really have to know too much of the New Testament to know this. The one thing you do want to know is that Matthew 24 spoken by Jesus to the disciples prior to Pentecost is an exposition of the program for Israel. Jesus is expounding, filling in details that are there from Jeremiah, that are there from Isaiah, that are there from Daniel, that are there from Amos. That’s where Jesus gets this. Jesus is adding things to it but there’s no startling new truth in Matthew 24 that isn’t already there in the Old Testament. In fact, there is stuff in the Old Testament that isn’t even in Matthew 24, such as the resurrection. Nowhere in the Mount of Olivet Discourse is resurrection discussed. That being the case, if Matthew 24 has to do with Israel and if the Book of Revelation correlates with Matthew 24 and the Book of Daniel, then it also follows that the Book of Revelation has largely to do with Israel.
And the nations are going to be judged here, and what Jesus does say is a clarification of a theme of the Old Testament and that is what Gentiles get to go into the Kingdom? The answer is those Gentiles that submit to the authority of revelation coming through the nation Israel and who help during this time, identify themselves with Israel rather than with the antichrist, the sheep and the goat judgment that happens there. Some Gentiles are going to go into the Lake of Fire because they sided with the antichrist and didn’t want to go along with this rebellious movement which is the believers during the tribulational period.
Then comes the church; the church started as a subset of Jews which was a subset of the nation of Israel. Who and under what circumstances did the church start? Hopefully we know that because we’ve gone through it. The church is defined to be those believers who have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ since the day of Pentecost. There was not a church during Jesus day, He said I will build My church, it hadn’t been built yet. After the first wave of the apostles the church had already been built because in Ephesians it says the church has already been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, it’s a past tense. So the founding of the church went on for a certain period of time in the latter part of the book of Acts, and while the epistles were being written. This creates a new entity, and as we said earlier, there was a bifurcation that the Jews remaining inside who did not like the Jews that trusted in the Lord Jesus, there was a social rupture that went on throughout the whole Mediterranean. And believers, particularly Jewish believers who accepted the Messiah were persona non gratis with the Jewish synagogues after about AD 130.
There was a split here, so that Christianity emerged not as a Jewish sect any longer but on its own. Gentile joined in much to the chagrin of Jews. There was a big argument in the book of Acts whether Gentiles should become allied with Israel prior to becoming a Christian and being allied to the church. And in Acts 15 we have that grand council in which it was clarified: no, Gentiles do not have to become Jews in order to become Christians; Gentiles can become Christians directly without first becoming Jews through circumcision, etc. So that was all clarified.
Here’s the problem. We’ve got nations, we’ve got Israel and we’ve got the church. What we’re studying now is theories of how this is organized inside this Tribulation. The key in wading through all this is to ask yourself which view is most consistent with the big picture of the Scriptures. We started with post-tribulationalism. Post-tribulationalism in its modern form, we’re not going to bother with the historical forms, if you want to study church history that’s fine but this isn’t a class in church history. So here’s the seven-year period, Daniel’s 70th week. It starts, according to Daniel with a covenant that is made with a nation. Halfway through that period, a three-and-a-half-year period, the Antichrist, who makes this treaty with some Jews, desecrates the Temple and he does so in such a way that it’s a parallel to something that already occurred in the past.
Thankfully we have an event in the past that we can kind of look at to see what this is going to be like. That is, Antiochus Epiphanies who, before the Romans actually controlled Israel, Antiochus Epiphanies desecrated Jewish areas of sacred worship and he did so by idolatry, by deliberately breaking Jewish taboos, for example, he’d make Jews sacrifice pigs, deliberately make them do it. He was apparently a very well-liked individual, he was a politician, a key politician—his whole program was to develop one culture. And he wanted to amalgamate the different people groups in one culture and he got irritated that the Jews were the only nonconformists; they would not conform to his political agenda of uniting everyone in this one social order. So he decided to crush the Jewish opposition by hitting at this religious root. He was very smart; he recognized that you can’t put them down unless you attack the religious foundation. So he did this and it caused a big revolt, etc.
But there’s going to come a future time that makes Antiochus look like a Sunday school picnic boy because the real antichrist is going to come, he’s going to be a world renowned politician and he is going to work this treaty, there’s going to be a treaty made and the clock starts again. Remember with Israel’s program frequently in history she has a clock. The clock stops, the clock starts, the clock stops again, etc. Here’s where the clock begins again; it starts counting down at the time that that treaty is made with Israel, and it’s only going to go for seven years. And at the end of this period we have the return of the Lord Jesus Christ who will crush the antichrist and his program.
Several things follow from this. By the way, the Lord Jesus tells you that, He talks about this desecration event. If the antichrist is going to desecrate the Temple it follows that prior to the Lord Jesus returning to earth there is going to have to be a Temple there somehow. Nobody knows how but somehow there has to be a Temple there because there’s got to be some place that can be desecrated and Jesus is going to come and He’s going to cleanse. So the key actors in this role need a stage in which to perform this drama. One of the set pieces on the stage is the Temple. It’s not a temple anywhere, it’s not a temple somewhere in the middle of Europe or Africa - it’s a temple that is located on the Temple site in the city of Jerusalem. This is going to happen on the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ and every prophet of the Scriptures. It doesn’t matter whether the United Nations like it, whether we like it, whether the Europeans like it, whether the Africans like it, whether the Asians like it, it doesn’t matter, it’s going to happen, regardless of what men say. We don’t know how it happens but it happens.
That’s the Tribulation and that’s largely the story of Matthew 24 and the Book of Revelation. The question is where is the church in all of this? We have to look at these programs and the church, if you look at what happens to the church, this period of time, this seven-year period is an extension of …, back in Deuteronomy 4 the very word “trial” or “tribulation” is there, and this period theologians call it the Tribulation. It’s not arbitrary, it’s because in the Old Testament theology looking forward there would be a time of tribulation. Understand I’m going to use capital “T” for this; Tribulation is not equal to tribulation in the sense of all of our trials, from our health, from our economy, from our personal spiritual travails, to the sorrow and heartaches of life. That’s tribulation; that’s not to say that we don’t live in tribulation. Jesus said in the world you shall have tribulation. But understand there’s a difference between the proper noun, Tribulation, and its connotations in the light of the prophetic program coming out of the Old Testament. It is applied by theologians to Daniel’s 70th week, this seven-year period.
There’s another proper noun called the Great Tribulation. That is used in the Scriptures, it’s not just theologians putting a label on it, it is actually used by Jesus and the prophets. And the Great Tribulation refers to this three-and-a-half-year period. That’s the Great Tribulation. Why is it called “Great Tribulation?” Because the first part of the Tribulation isn’t as intense as the second part, as you can see in the Book of Revelation where you have these judgments that keep getting worse and worse and worse, more intense. So Great Tribulation is a technical term found in Scripture, no debate about this. This word, Tribulation, in a general sense is a label that theologians have attached to Daniel’s 70th week as a handle. It’s like Trinity; Trinity is not in the Bible either but it’s a wonderful handle on a set of doctrines.
Now if you forget all this for a moment and look at the New Testament epistles when we’re looking at the church, the church is looked as something that proceeds on down through history until Jesus, who said in the Upper Room Discourse, He said “I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go to prepare a place for you I will come and receive you that you may dwell with Me.” 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15 talk about this thing where the church ends in this thing called the Rapture. The Rapture is equal to two things; it’s equal to resurrection and transformation and they both occur at the same time.
The idea of the resurrection is not new with the New Testament, but the idea of instant transformation is in the sense that you go directly in a resurrection body. Not all rapture apparently does that because we have certain little individual raptures in the Old Testament; we have Elijah raptured, Enoch is raptured, etc. People laugh and say oh well, the Rapture is a silly concept. No it isn’t, look at what happened to Elijah, look what happened to Enoch. We’ve seen this happen before, except this time instead of going into some kind of natural body, whatever they’re in, a soulish body, it’s a holding thing prior to the resurrection; this is going to be directly to the resurrection.
The church has the Rapture, then the church has a second thing that has to happen, the Bema Seat judgment where human good is purged from our records, and we are left with that which was genuinely done as unto the Lord, out of a proper motive and a response to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Paul said he couldn’t tell in his own life what was true and that’s why the Lord has to sort that out. The third thing is there’s going to be a marriage supper where the bride and groom are married, and this marriage supper is spoken of in the Book of Revelation; it involves the church. Then the church comes back to reign with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Those are the two programs. The Gentiles, by the way, are judged at the end of this in the sheep-goats thing, their plan looks like this. The Gentiles go on down through history and they come down to this momentous time, they pass through the Church Age and individuals in Gentile nations are being asked to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, but they come down to this period of Tribulation and the question is going to be how do they respond to persecuted Israel? And you have this judgment of the sheep and the goats, and the sheep go into the Kingdom and the goats are rejected. That is a natural judgment, there’s no resurrection apparently associated with that.
Now we come to post-tribulationism. What post-tribulationalism does it says that here’s the seven weeks, here’s the covenant, here’s the return of Christ. The church is to parallel Israel. In other words, Israel is going through the Tribulation, the church goes through the Tribulation. So Israel and the church go through the Tribulation together. And the church is raptured at the end of the Tribulation. Hence the name of this school of thought called post-tribulationalism, meaning after the Tribulation the Rapture occurs.
In the notes, we started through post-tribulationalism and the first thing that post-tribulation has to do, post-tribulation has to show that the Rapture and the return can be coalesced into one event, and not just to coalesce into one event that spans seven years but coalesced in one event that happens at the end of the Tribulational period. So post-tribulationalism says that the Rapture is included as part of the return and this happens at the end of the Tribulation period. To see this whole thing, that’s why I’ve constructed Table 9, because this table lists for you the features that we see in Scripture of the Rapture and the return. Now understand what I’m saying here. I’m not saying that the post-tribulationalists don’t distinguish between the Rapture and the return; they do. But they argue that the two events are so unified they cannot be separated one from the other; the Rapture is part and parcel of the return.
In order to do that they have to minimize differences that occur between these two events and that’s the crux of this whole issue, is what do you do with these differences that show up between the Rapture and the return. If there are differences here, then they can be separated and considered as separate events. If the differences don’t really matter, they can be combined. But as long as there are unexplained differences it opens the door to bifurcating them into two events.
It’s not like people want to be hair-splitters here, but think about the First and Second Advent of Jesus. It was sort of mish mashed together in the Old Testament but there was enough of a difference so the rabbis had a real problem with this. One of the rabbinic solutions in the Old Testament was that they had two Messiahs coming. They had the son of Joseph who would be the suffering Messiah and then they had the Son of David who would be the glorious Messiah; it was their way of trying to figure out, how do deal with these two things. They properly recognized that you couldn’t just combine these two things together in one, there had to be two things. Where they erred is they made them two Messiahs rather than two sequential acts.
So what we’re saying here by way of analogy is is the Rapture and the return are an illustration of what we had in the Old Testament with the First Advent of Christ, namely we’ve got parts here that are not identical, they’re speaking of two different things. That’s what Table 9 is all about. I think we worked our way through the first three rows of this Table.
Just to review, in the first row we’re speaking about the resurrection issues and on the left side I quote 1 Thessalonians 4, and notice the wording, 1 Thessalonians says only and all those “in Christ” are resurrected or translated. In the context the people who are resurrected are those (quote) “in Christ.” That is a signal, whenever you see “in Christ” in the New Testament, it’s not talking about Old Testament people, it’s talking about New Testament people. Every time, look it up in a concordance, it’s always talking about New Testament people. So that’s why on the left side of the chart, first row, we’re talking about the Rapture has to do with those who are “in Christ.” That’s not speaking about the Old Testament.
In the right side of row 1, the resurrection, when Jesus speaks in Matthew 24 where He’s telling them the whole final days of Israel, He doesn’t even mention the resurrection. It’s not there. The resurrection is not mentioned in the Olivet Discourse and Old Testament resurrection references speak of some dead saints but not a translation. You can go back to Daniel 12:2 and Isaiah 26 which are the Old Testament passages dealing with resurrection and there’s no information there about any transformation; it’s just information about a resurrection. It’s interesting that Jesus doesn’t appear to mention it in Matthew 24. Now there is a passage in Matthew 24 which we’ll get to that post-tribulationalists try to say is a resurrection and Rapture and we’ll get to that passage in a moment.
The second row: what happens when this occurs, this Rapture event? “Physical union with Christ in the air with all Church Age believers in resurrection bodies; no mention of inauguration of the Kingdom on earth with natural bodies.” There are no details in any of those passages that are written to the churches, no exposition of the Messianic Kingdom, the parole of nations, none of it, it’s all missing. It’s talking about all believers are going to be resurrected and be with the Lord Jesus Christ physically.
On the right side of row 2 and you have the “judgment of nations with everyone in natural bodies and inauguration of the Kingdom on earth.” Come, those of you who are prepared for Me, into My Kingdom. So there’s a difference here; one is resurrected and the other one is not, because the Kingdom, again think of context, the word “Kingdom” has to be loaded with meaning from where? Where did the word start? Old Testament, and in the Old Testament it talks about death, even in that future Kingdom. So these people have to have bodies that can die. Well, if you’ve got resurrection bodies you can’t die, so we’ve got a little problem here. These two events, you’ve got a little problem trying to mish mash them together like this.
The third row: “Christ comes in blessedness to delivers His body into eternity.” That’s the step, there’s no intermediate Kingdom thing in view. And He comes to rescue, He comes to save, He comes to deliver, He comes to bless. There’s not an antagonism or an animosity or a judgment that happens here. He comes because He has made a place and He is coming to receive us. That’s why these passages are used to deal with death, because they’re friendly. It’s not a fearsome thing, it’s a friendly thing, it’s a warm event, it’s a happy occasion, there’s joy in this.
But you come over to the right side and we’re talking about serious judgment here. There’s a theme that is not present in 1 Thessalonians 4, 1 Corinthians 15, John 14, now all of a sudden Christ is talking about He comes in judgment against the nations, including judgment against Israel. You don’t find Him coming in judgment against the church in 1 Thessalonians 4 and those passages on the left side. There’s imagery here and I want to turn to Matthew 24:29, “But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened,” etc. Verse 30, “and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky,” and then He says the heavens and earth will pass away [v. 35] and it starts to make a comparison with the flood in verse 37, “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.  For as in those days which were before the flood,” evidently from reading this text Jesus must have been so ignorant of historical geology that He didn’t realize there shouldn’t have been a global flood, but He’s talking about a global flood anyway. “… they were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark,  and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.”
In verse 39 who is taken away, believers or unbelievers? Unbelievers; unbelievers did not understand until the flood came and took them all away. Now verses 40–41, “Then there shall be two men in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left.  Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left.” This symbology shouldn’t be a big mystery. I’m mentioning this verse because that is where the post-tribulationalists put the Rapture. For them that passage speaks of the Rapture, the taking away, etc. The problem is it’s a hundred and eighty degrees off. Here’s why. Remember the passage when John the Baptist came to introduce the Lord Jesus, in Matthew 3 he says “His fan [or His shovel] is in His hand,” it’s a picture of a guy harvesting grain and he’s shoveling the grain up with the wind and the chaff flies off and blows away, leaving the grain. The grain doesn’t go away, the grain stays, that’s what the whole point is, get the chaff out of the grain. So again in John the Baptist, who picks up the exact Old Testament theme before the Kingdom can come on earth unbelievers have to removed. So the removal here is a removal of unbelievers; they are removed from the Kingdom, Jesus is not going to start His Kingdom with unbelievers; He’s going to start it all with believers.
Back to the chart: “Christ comes in judgment against the nations” and he gets rid of unbelievers. On the Rapture side of the chart He’s gathering the believers to Him and the unbelievers are left on earth. This is a radical thing, there’s a big difference here. You can’t just slap these two events together and harmonize them that easily. People who do that have to resort to all kinds of shenanigans with the text to make it happen. That’s why the next row in Table 9 is where I explicitly point this out and I refer you to Matthew 3:12, where the same kind of idea happens. The unbelievers are removed and the believers are kept. The chaff is removed and the wheat is kept.
The next row: “Christ comes for His globally-dispersed church.” So what you see when you see these Rapture passages is Christ … the focus of all those Rapture passages is that Christ wants His church, and He comes to get His church in resurrection form physically. The church, you know, to be absent from the body is face to face with the Lord in our souls, we don’t have our resurrected bodies. Now what we are like in this interim period is another whole study in itself. But this is when Christ says He’s going to come and get the church in resurrected bodies.
On the right side it says He “come with His church back to the Mount of Olives.” Acts 1:11 says He will come just like you saw Him and in Revelation 19 He’s bringing the armies of heaven with Him clad in white, right after this Marriage Supper of the Lamb. So it appears that He comes with His church; in the return He comes for His church in the Rapture.
Next line, left side of the chart: the “church is delivered from the wrath of God.” Now “the wrath of God is a term out of the Old Testament and it referred to this period when all this stuff is going on, the period of the wrath of God. The church is to be delivered from this. Now there’s a debate now, the post-tribulationalist says well if the church goes through the Tribulation how is it delivered from the wrath of God. Well they have answers for that, we’ll get into those but I want you to see from the chart first; you’ve to handle it, you’ve got to come up with something to handle this. The church is supposed to be immune from the wrath of God.
The right side of that row: the “entire globe, including believers dwelling on it at that time, experience the wrath of God.” Believers and unbelievers, who experiences the earthquakes? Earthquakes aren’t caused by men, they’re caused by God. Who is it that’s breaking the seals here in the book of Revelation? It’s the Lord Jesus. What are the seals? The authorization to begin judgment, the authorization to claim earth, they’re His, it’s His property rights. So all the people that are squatters, out; My property; I’ve come; I’m going to claim it.
Finally, last line left side: the “church is to look forward to physical union with Christ” and there doesn’t appear to be any intermediary signs. I listed almost every passage I can think of in the New Testament where we’re told to look for the return of the Lord. Isn’t it strange that apart from the 2 Thessalonians or 1 Thessalonians 5 passage, there’s not one of these that’s talking about any intermediary event. We’ll return to that point later.
On the right side of the chart: “Numerous signs are associated with the Tribulation and Day of the Lord prophecies.” There are signs to be seen, signs that ought to be seen, signs that indicate His coming is clear.
It’s that area, where people who date set get in trouble. I introduced two vocabulary words at the beginning tonight, futurist and preterist. The people who date set are actually mixed up into a third word called historicists. The historicists blend the church and Israel together so that the clock that is Israel’s is applied to the church in an allegorical fashion so the days become years and they go through all this computational routine to try to compute when Christ is going to come back. How they do that is that they’re borrowing the clock passages that have to do with Israel, bringing them over onto the church now, in this age. The clock is running now, that’s why they can predict when Christ is going to come, they think.
The first guy to do this with precision was William Miller who predicted that Christ would come back in 1844; not too good a forecast but that was the origin of what we call today the Seventh Day Adventists. That’s what the word “Adventist” means, those are the people who got with William Miller in New York and all got up on a hill, on this particular day that it was supposed to happen. And then we’ve had a few other guys write a book, The Rapture, some guy wrote it, He’s coming in 1988 and then the most famous historicist in our lifetime is the people at Waco, Koresh, known in theological circles as the Wako from Waco. Basically he was the guy that thought that the end of the world was coming, they thought they were in the Tribulation, that’s why they had arms and guns and people couldn’t figure out what it was doing.
Of course the theological depth of our modern journalists is so shallow, they had to drive up to Dallas and talk to Dr. Pentecost, a couple of them, to get a clue as to what Koresh believed. Pentecost sat down and told them he was historicists and this is why he believes what he believes, etc. and it explains what they’re doing. But had they understood what they were doing maybe they would have operated a little differently.
We’re coming to a second point. The first point I made about post-tribulationalism is that the Rapture and the return are not necessarily the same. There are enough differences in these two sets of passages to argue that they can indeed be separated, that they are referring to two different events. The post-tribulationalist has to prove that they cannot be distinguished and that’s a very hard argument to pull. He’s in the position of having to say not merely that they are the same, but in order to make his case the post-tribulationalist has to prove that they can’t be different. That is difficult and I do not believe any of them have ever proved that.
Next point: the second problem with the post-tribulationalist is, and if you’re sharp you’ve already seen it, if every believer is in his resurrection body at the end of the Tribulation, who goes into the Kingdom. Where do we get all the natural bodies? Where do we get believers in natural bodies to populate the Kingdom? If the Rapture has happened there aren’t any around because who is left after the Rapture? Unbelievers. Well then where are the believers coming from here? What they try to do, top of page 127: “Sometimes post-tribulationalists attempt to generate living survivors,” they’ve got a problem here, so they’re going to try to generate living believers in natural bodies and they use several techniques to try to get this to work. One is they “attempt to generate living survivors from the Tribulation in natural bodies from the 144,000 witnesses of Revelation,” who are apparently Jews because they’re broken down to 12,000 from each tribe of Israel. So they say there’s the nucleus, they’re not really believers so they’re not raptured but after the Rapture maybe they believe and that’s why they can survive and become the nucleus of the Kingdom. The problem is that they are all males; they’d have a problem trying to reproduce anybody in the Millennium if you’re going to start it with all males. So that hasn’t proved very useful.
The next source that they to use to get natural bodies is from repentant Jews in Matthew 24:30. If you look at Matthew 24:30 people are going to see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, because in the post-tribulation idea the Rapture is happening when all of this is going so they see the Son of Man and they repent, but they repent too late to be caught up with the church so they’re kind of left there. The problem with that is Matthew … [blank spot: notes say: “Matthew 24:30 fails, because the Rapture which would translate all such Jews into resurrection bodies leaving none in natural bodies.”] … Rapture, according to their position, then they’re still on the wrong side of the Rapture, because they get raptured if they’re believers. So that doesn’t work.
So what’s happened is most post-tribulationalists today try to use, if you work out all the numbers in Daniel, when Christ comes back there’s a 75-day period of cleansing prior to the Millennial Kingdom and they to say that somehow during this 75-day period believers happen. The problem still is that the sheep and goats judgment has occurred on the other side of the 75 days so again there’s a problem here. This is one of the habitual weaknesses of post-tribulationalism, trying to get the Kingdom started with people in natural bodies when they don’t appear to be around.
Page 128, “The third problem for post-tribulationalism, which insists that the church remains on earth during the Tribulation, is reconciling the Scriptures that immunize the church from the wrath of God.” Turn to 1 Thessalonians 1. I hope you realize as we go through these how complicated an issue this thing is and why it is that it takes a lot of men studying a lot of years to put this stuff together and to thrash it out. One person cannot do this; it has to be thrashed out by a lot of people interacting with each other. 1 Thessalonians 1:10 says we are “to wait for His Son from heaven, whom the Father has raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.” We could repeat it, in 1 Thessalonians 5:9. [“For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”]
If the Tribulation is a time of the wrath of God, has the wrath of God in it, and the church is immune from the wrath of God, how do you keep the church going through the Tribulation? Here’s how they do it. Follow and I’ll read to show you how the post-tribulationalists try to get the church inside the Tribulation but protected from the wrath of God. “The church positionally distinguishes itself from both Israel and the nations because it started as the community of Jews who did receive the Messiah and because it contains Gentiles who have submitted to the authority of Israel’s God. Therefore, the church has no purposeful connection with the Tribulation.” The Tribulation is designed to accomplish things on the unrepentant nations and on unrepentant Israel, it’s not designed to purge the church; the church is getting purged all the time. Jesus said the world hates you, I mean, look around. We’ve lost more Christian believers in the 20th century than all 19 centuries before. It’s atrocious, it takes a Jew that Colson works with, I forget his name but he’s going around saying you evangelical Christians don’t realize you’re the new Jews, and by that he means you’re the people that are going to be fed to the lions, you’re the people that are going to go to Auschwitz next; we Jews had our time in the 20th century, it’s time for you Christians, in the 21st century it’s going to be the Christians.
Post-tribulationalists have to resort to various schemes to explain the presence of the church inside Daniel’s 70th week when it isn’t part of the first 69 weeks. Now here’s how some try to do this, “Some writers try to eliminate the wrath of God from the seven-year Tribulation and confine it to the moment of Christ’s return.” Let’s draw a picture of what this is and try to understand what’s going on here. What they try to do is say here’s the 70-year period, here’s the Rapture, here’s the return of Christ and the wrath of God occurs in this little narrow time period, so the church is protected from the wrath of God for a day or so, the wrath of God between … because remember the Rapture and the return in the post-tribulationalism has this together, the same act, coming down, etc. Because remember their view is that Christ comes down from heaven, the church comes up to meet Him and then He comes to earth; not much time for the wrath of God in there. So that’s one technique, obviously not too satisfactory.
“Others try to invoke the protective method” I think the more intellectual post-tribs use this, they to “invoke the protective method for the church that God that God used to protect the Jews in Egypt during the Exodus judgments.” They’ll say well God can protect, the church can go through the Tribulation all protected because after all God protected the Jews in Egypt when He was judging Egypt. Sounds like they got a biblical precedent, it’s a lot better than the first solution. The problem with that is it “fails because during the Exodus no physical harm came upon believing Jews,” remember Goshen, the difference at the judgments were made, “whereas during the Tribulation numerous believers are martyred.” Judgment does fall on believers in the Tribulation according to the Book of Revelation. So there’s a little problem with that. Plus the fact, if you’ll turn to Revelation 3:10 the structure of that verse seems to negate any attempt to protect the church during this Tribulation period.
Revevlation 3:10, and by the way, there’s a serious verse division problem here, I don’t have time to go through this but that first clause, “Because you have kept the word of My perseverance,” appears in some editions of Greek to go with verse 9, it doesn’t even belong in verse 10 but that’s another whole discussion. “I will keep you from the hour of testing that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth.” What does He say? Look carefully at the grammar. He doesn’t say I will keep you from the testing. What does it say? “I will keep you from the hour of testing,” the time period of testing. See the point, the Lord Jesus is saying I will keep you from that hour, I will keep you from that historical time period of testing that is to come upon the whole earth. So this tends to knock out the idea that the post-tribs have of the fact that you can have the church going through the Tribulation for the wrath of God.
Now let’s go to the fourth point on page 128: “Finally, a fourth problem for post-tribulationism concerns the sequencing of the Bema Seat judgment and the marriage feast of the church, and the return of Christ to earth. If the Rapture doesn’t occur until the return of Christ, then” what happens to the Bema-seat and the marriage? If you have the Rapture that occurs simultaneously with the return, now you’ve got the Bema-seat and the marriage supper to deal with. Where are you going to put these? Continuing to read: “If the Rapture does not occur until the return of Christ, then the Bema-seat judgment and the marriage feast must follow the return, since the church would not have been removed for these events until after Christ descends to the earth. However, several texts in the book of Revelation indicate that the marriage super occurs in heaven before the return of Christ to earth,” if you read the sequence of events in Revelation 19:7–9, which puts the marriage supper, which we presume the Bema Seat has already happened because of the white robes, etc. cleansed, that this thing is happening before the return. Now we’ve got everything squashed together and it seems like these things go boom, boom, boom, boom, like this. So those are some problems.
“Theologically, one would expect that prior to the marriage feast, the Bema judgment would have had to occur for the bride ‘to have made herself ready.’ Moreover, in addition to the requirement to be made ready for the marriage supper, there is the requirement to have already received reward-based-assignments for the coming Kingdom by the time that the church return with Christ” to satisfy the Kingdom.
Next page: “We conclude that post-tribulationism along with preterism fails to properly relate the church to the Tribulation and Old Testament prophecy. Preterism fails because it continues the same interpretation methodology of Roman Catholicism, i.e., an amillennial or post-millennial perspective. Post-tribulationism, while adapting a reformed hermeneutic for eschatology, errs in not being sufficiently consistent with that hermeneutic. It stops short of logically integrating its exegesis of New Testament prophetic passages so as to produce a coherent view of the distinct historic roles of Israel, the church, and the Millennial Kingdom.”
Next week we’re going to deal with the three-quarter Tribulational view recently popularized by Rosenthal but it’s actually started by a man by the name of Van Kampen who was a very wealthy Christian publisher. If you have mutual funds you might recognize that name, Van Kampen. But whatever, this is the next view. I’m working my way from one end of the Tribulation to the other; this is not sequential or chronological. But this is a view that was very popular in the 1990s, it’s somewhat waned as people have looked at it more carefully and found certain discrepancies that weren’t at first apparent in the viewpoint. So we’ll work with that next week, and then the next position we’ll deal with is mid-tribulationalism which is an older position.
Question asked: Clough replies: The two passages on the Bema Seat are 1 Corinthians 3 and 2 Corinthians 5. He makes a point that … what he’s doing there, it’s interesting, and I think this is a good point to discuss for a minute. The thing that you have to think about all the time that we’re talking about this, I mean granted, what we’ve done tonight because this is a framework and I’m looking at structures and moving on and I’m not going verse by verse, this is not a class in exegesis, it’s really not even a class in eschatology, but we mustn’t look beyond the detail of when those passages happened, 1 Thessalonians 4, 1 Corinthians 15, understand that they were originally addressed to believers in a local church that were having practical problems. That’s why you’ve heard me say facetiously from time to time that this guy Paul was so deep in the Word of God that he couldn’t talk about brushing his teeth without bringing the Trinity into the discussion somewhere along the line. When there were local congregational problems, he didn’t approach it like we would; let’s hire a counselor or let’s get an advisory board in here or something. He’d immediately plunged into some deep theology and I’ll be dollars to donuts if we had our people, most of the average church-goer in Paul’s day they’d say where is this man coming from? Because they couldn’t grab the fact that you can go from practical problems immediately into some deep thing about the Second Advent of Christ. And the inability … the inability to see the links is a sign of our very sloppy faith.
To get to the question, it’s interesting, I can’t remember the passage but I can remember the situation that spawned his discussion. What Paul was dealing with was the tendency every group of Christians has, and that is we want to be able to judge the other person. The problem with doing that always is that we always pit our strong area against their weak area so we come out ahead. Oh, well, I’m not afflicted with that. Maybe the other person is and the other person doesn’t have sins of pride like you do. So the point that Paul is saying is that there are some things about judging other people that are best left in the Lord’s hands. That’s the context of that thing.
And the other place that’s interesting is where in Corinth you were getting believers so angry at each other that they were going out to the local courts for law suits and he says what is wrong with you people, don’t you realize, this is found in Revelation, don’t you realize that you are going to be judging angels. Can you imagine that, I don’t know whether the angels squabble or what, or this is going back to Satan’s fall or what, but he’s saying you, your Corinthians, of all churches, gee, here’s the church that had more problems per square foot than any other church in the New Testament and he’s saying you guys, don’t you understand what’s in your future here, you’re going to be judging angels, so get in shape, learn how to do it. Have you ever heard of theological reasoning like this? It’s very foreign to the way we think today and I think it shows something of our separation from the New Testament text in depth.
But all these passages, every single one of these passages, not the Book of Revelation, I’m not talking about Revelation, I’m talking about Corinthians, 1 Thessalonians, James is talking about the Second Advent of Christ. Watch when you read those texts, we talk about the Second Advent as you read your Bibles and you come across those verses you’ll stop and say wait a minute, what is he talking about here that brought that into the argument. Why did he refer to the Second Advent in the middle of this discussion, and see if you can back out the logic of why he connected the Second Advent of Christ with whatever it was that he was talking about. If you’ll do that, it’ll be far more beneficial spiritually than worrying about every little detail of post-tribulationalism, amillennialism, preterism and all the rest where you can lose the trees for the forest.
Understand the context, the practical context, which in our class we really don’t have time … that’s one of the problems; if I was going through this verse by verse I’d do that but I can’t because that’s not what we’re about. But all those questions were raised, most of them in Corinth with all the problems in that congregation.
Question asked: Clough replies: I think if you look at the structure of post-tribulationalism, when I first started studying eschatology many, many years ago I realized that there were certain positions that are like magnets, they attract each other and they’re stable. It’s pretty unstable, I think, to be a premillennial post-tribulationalist because of that problem. I think it’s a lot more stable if you’re going to go that way to be an amillennialist because it cleans things up for you. You can put the Rapture and the return together and let’s forget about the problem of the Millennium, it’s not going to happen anyway. But once you do that, now you’ve bought into the entire hermeneutic of Rome and its allegorical interpretation and you’ve kissed off the literalness of the Old Testament text. There’s a price to pay for that but it does give you stability in the sense that you’re not constantly trying to dig around and solve this body problem.
Question asked, something about how strict are they going to be when they rebuild the Temple to the measuring of the cubits: Clough replies: I have no idea. I’m not sure, you look in a Bible dictionary there are different cubit sizes and debate, but it doesn’t seem to me like that’s an insurmountable problem. All they would have to do is get an artifact and calibrate. But what they’re doing, all I can tell you is that the Jews right now are serious, dead serious about setting up the Temple. The state of Israel, by the way, doesn’t like this. Right now the mainline Jews in Israel aren’t buying into that because they realize you’re playing with a nuclear bomb here. If you thought the Arabs had a problem with … remember how the intifada started. Remember the act of the intifada, when the Palestinians just tore up the place. Remember what triggered that? It was [Ariel] Sharon walking onto the Temple Mount, just walking on the Temple Mount. Now can you imagine if that started the intifada what would happen if they started bulldozing for the Temple.
So I think it’s going to have to come in a weird way. That’s why you heard me say in the gulf war that I was hoping Saddam Hussein’s scud missile would take out the Al-Aqsa mosque or something. It wouldn’t be Jewish caused, the fools did it themselves. And they may well do so. Someone said they read an article where the engineers are concerned now because the Arabs, not all Arabs, the Muslims are trying to make the case that the Temple Mount was never occupied by Jews. In order to make that case they are bulldozing away layers that have Jewish artifacts trapped in them and ruining a lot of archeological digs that haven’t been done because you can’t get to them because they’re on their side. The ironic thing, however is, that in all this bulldozing action that’s going on and scraping away signs and evidence of Jewish occupation, is they’ve weakened the retaining wall that holds up the Al-Aqsa mosque.
This could be a classic case where Esau does his thing again. His hatred for the Jew is so strong that he winds up destroying his own temple. How politically else can you envision … I mean, I’m not trying to say that’s the way God’s going to do it but knowing what we know politically it seems to me that the only way you’re going to get a Temple on there to get rid of the Muslim thing is the Muslims are going to have to do it themselves. [someone says something] An earthquake, it could be, something like that. But I can’t imagine Israel just walking up there and doing it and the nation doesn’t want to do it. They don’t want to start another thing. They’re happy, they’ve got their wailing wall and they’ll put up with that.
But the Jews, to get back to your question, the Jews who are dead serious about this, I mean, they’re talking about going back, they’re studying Ezekiel, they’re studying what kind of things the Levites are supposed to do. They’re trying to identify which Jews today have the genes of Levi. They’re working with a red heifer and it sounds to me like they’re being very literal. They’re not allegorizing the Old Testament if that’s the way they’re thinking.
Question asked: Clough replies: I think Arnold Fruchtenbaum in his Footsteps of the Messiah mentions some Old Testament text that gives you the sense that some of the nations round about Israel will be excluded and some will be included. For example, Egypt will participate in the Millennial Kingdom, not all Egyptians but there will be a subset that can be identified as Egypt to come. I can’t tell you about specific passages, but I think there are some of those kinds of borders on that area. They are really prophetic portions, as I recall, very few by the way, excluded; it’s nations that have such intense hostility to the Jew that it seems like their hearts are hardened during the Tribulation and there’s just no people within those nations that are going to be too friendly throughout the Tribulation so they’re excluded. But nations will come into the Millennial Kingdom. How, the Bible just doesn’t satisfy our curiosity; it just says Jesus is going to rule with a rod of iron, that the Millennial Kingdom will be a time when Satan is put in jail. By the way, once that happens…
Here’s something else that’s going to be interesting. Let’s project ourselves forward in time and let’s pretend we’re teaching history to kids in the Millennial Kingdom. And you’ve got a class of students and you’re talking about the history that by then you will be in. So you’re talking about the history and the climate is benign, there aren’t any wars, swords will be beaten into plow shears, the one Bible verse that’s in the UN, and you have world disarmament, you have peace, you have world government headed by Jesus in some way, ruling with a rod of iron so He has some sort of authority somehow, with some force to it. You have people living tremendously long lives, healthy, and yet they become unhealthy if they sin so there’s a one to one relationship unlike today. That’s the kind of history that you and your students would be enmeshed in.
Not put yourself in that kind of a classroom and look back on our history. Our history is going to appear unbelievable, unbelievably cruel, unbelievably violent to people who are raised who know nothing but this benign climate, economy, health, terrain, geography, the Temple where you can go see God, and they’re going to look back on our history and say what a bleak time that was. I mean, these people didn’t have a Temple, they didn’t have any Shekinah glory to look at like we can, they had to have armies, they spent billions of dollars funding these weapon systems and all the rest of it, they were always fighting one another and there was war and rumors of wars, and all the disease and pestilence. Good grief, we’re so blessed today we don’t have any of that.
Now one more step. After you’ve made that contrast in your mind, think about why? And “why” is because Satan and his demon hordes are in jail, and their absence from the historical scene is evidence geopolitically, etc. Now work your logic machine backwards. If that’s the case, then what about our history today and the things we see around us? That is demonically affected; the spirit of this world and the hordes of demon forces that are constantly aggravated. In Isaiah it says you deceive the nations Satan … you deceive the nations. So who is it that breeds wars? Who is it that breeds upheaval? Who is it that breeds catastrophes? Satan has something to do with all that and his absence makes the world a paradise.
So don’t pass off the demonic forces as so spiritual that they don’t enter into physical things, they don’t cause physical things. Yes they do cause physical things.
Question asked: Clough replies: That’s a question that always comes up with premillennialism and it’s the question about why does the sacrificial system apparently return in the Millennial Kingdom, and why is there to be bloody animals. First, the bloody animals in the Old Testament did not save; they were a picture looking forward to the Lord Jesus Christ and bloody animal sacrifices started in Eden; they started in Eden. Think of the fact that Adam and Eve never knew what death was until they had to stand there and watch God Himself kill an animal in front of them, blood, guts, and they had to watch this animal die. God killed this animal and then He tore off the skin … it’s too bad to see these animals by the side of the road but here God killed this animal, skinned it, and said you put these one. I don’t know whether He cleaned the blood all off of it or what, maybe He didn’t.
Why did He do that? It wasn’t righteousness, but why did He have to do that, or He didn’t have to, maybe, He could have put it in a [can’t understand word]. But why do you think God went through this bloody drama, because the animal didn’t save Adam and Eve, Christ saved Adam and Eve. Why was the animal killed like that? It’s a symbol but it’s a gory symbol, it’s a horrid thing to have to watch, and it’s a graphic, because it is so horrid to watch, God wants us to be shocked. It’s a shocking picture of what sin causes.
And I believe that He restores that in the Millennial Kingdom for several reasons. One, as in the Old Testament, even though those sacrifices did not save in the soteriological sense, they were necessary for cleansing in a social sense. You were not a participant in that society if you had not partaken of that ritual; sorry, you’re excluded. That was the law. Now it doesn’t mean salvation in your soul, but it meant that you had to live and your whole social life schedule was hanging on this. So I believe that’s it’s brought back for that reason in the Millennial Kingdom, it’s going to be some ceremonial cleansing type thing, because we remember we go back to a national thing. Today we don’t, churches in a nation; then it will be, there will be laws, civil laws that are somehow integrated with this ritual where you will be excluded from doing certain things in society if you don’t participate in it.
Second, who’s going to be born into the Millennial Kingdom that needs salvation? You’ll have thousands of unbelievers born; every baby that is born from day one of the Kingdom is going to be born as an unbeliever, so they’ve got to be won to the Lord just like people are won to the Lord today. The earth will be full of the knowledge but they still have to trust personally, just like we do. And in that situation, again, if this horrifying bloody type of thing, it’s repulsive, I mean, when I first became a Christian I can remember liberal Christians telling me that one of the things they despised about fundamentalists was that you had a bloody religion. I remember going home after the first time I ever heard it and I remember thinking about that as to a bloody religion? Yeah, it is bloody, but it’s blood for a reason, because sin is bloody, and it’s to show the horror of sin. And until we get serious about the horror of sin, and that’s the shock to get us to think about that, then we’re not going to appreciate salvation. So I think there are lots of reasons for the restoration. I don’t have a problem with that. It did not save in the Old Testament; it is not going to save in the Millennial Kingdom.
We have a benign version of it called communion, but remember, where did communion come from? Jewish Passover. And it was a covenant, but we get very, shall we say anesthetized by communion. In any case, the communion is so benign when we take this cup of wine we forget the history behind that; this is what of the New Covenant? The blood of the New Covenant. You know, it’s grape juice, but we forget what’s all wrapped up with that, and I think it would be a lot less anesthetic if we had to sit there and watch an animal get sacrificed, which the people will have to do in the Millennial Kingdom.
Question asked, something about is this sacrificial system going to be just in the Tribulation and when the Millennium comes then Christ is in the Temple …: Clough replies: Apparently all during the Millennium; if the prophecies of the Temple, the priests are doing that sacrificial system. They’re going to try to revive it during the Tribulation but no, it’s going through there because the amillennialists will always raise that question. It’s always raised about premillennialism, I’ve never heard a premillennialist say that it’s not going to happen. They just defend it but they never say it’s not going to happen.