Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© 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 219 – Mid-Tribulationism
06 Mar 2003
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
We’re working through the various views of trying to get Israel’s destiny and the church’s destiny put together in some sort of orderly fashion. And we’ve talked about the different scenarios that have been proposed among those who believe in the future, that is don’t believe the book of Revelation is already finished. Among the futurists we’ve looked at post-tribulationalism and post-tribulationalism puts the Rapture of the church at the end of the Tribulation, the end of Daniel’s 70th week, and as such does not really distinguish between the Rapture and the return, it sort of clusters those two events together and locates them at the end of the Tribulation period.
Then we dealt with the Three-quarter position which again, here’s the 70th week and it puts the Rapture here and the return there. So the Three-quarter trib position is the first one we’ve studied that does distinguish between the Rapture and the return, making these things a distinguishable sub-event to the overall return of Christ. However, as we’ve looked at the Three-quarter position we’re starting to go through some of the problems that have been associated with that position. What I’m trying to get at is after looking at the Three-quarter trib position it seems like it creates more problems than it solves. We’ve looked at one of them, bottom of page 130, there we found that in order to make sense, and I guess this is the point that I want you to encourage you with as you work through this, I know some of you are new to detailed Bible study, the thing to pick up out of this is how we measure these positions, what they do with certain elements.
One of the things we’re looking at for each position is how it makes sense of the New Testament promise that the church is not appointed to the wrath of God. How does it make sense of that? So the post-tribulation position has the church going through all of the Tribulation as well as Israel, of course, going through all of the Tribulation. The problem with that view is that if the church goes through the Tribulation, then how is the church immunized from the wrath of God? Because remember “wrath of God” in the context we’re talking about isn’t hell; the “wrath of God” that we’re talking about is historical wrath of God administered as a judgment in history toward the nations. So that wrath of God, how is the church immunized? The post-tribulation position assumes that there is some way, something parallel to how God protected the Jews in the Exodus, for example, is one mechanism that has been proposed. The problem with that mechanism is that it sort of flunks the test because in the book of Exodus there were no Jews harmed by those plagues. But in the Book of Revelation believers are martyred, so you can’t make an identity between those two.
When we come to the Three-quarter position, again we ask the same question. How do you make sense of the New Testament promise that the church is not appointed to wrath? The answer given by the Three-quarter position is that the wrath of God only occupies the last quarter of the Tribulation. The problem is if the wrath of God only occupies the last fourth of the Tribulation what do you do with all the judgments ahead of that time, all the other judgments? They’re not the wrath of God, and indeed the Three-quarter position says they are not the wrath of God; they are the wrath of men. It’s kind of fuzzy because the distinction is made that this is the wrath of God because it involved primarily natural catastrophes whereas the things prior to that are involving things like war, famine caused by war, that sort of stuff, and that’s caused by man.
Well, if you go back in the Old Testament, the theology that you have to bring into the New Testament is theology that’s already taught in the Old Testament. So you go to the Old Testament and you look forward in time at the day of the Lord and the different kind of judgments, you find God using … I mean, how did He conquer Israel in the Northern Kingdom? It was with an army; clearly it was the Assyrians, 721 BC. In the Southern Kingdom what did He use to conquer the Southern Kingdom? A human army, 586 BC. Was that called by the prophets the wrath of God? You bet it was. Is that scene a judgment of God? Yes it was. So the Old Testament theology doesn’t distinguish between human instruments and natural instruments. Both of those instruments are considered part of the wrath of God and the judgment of God. So resorting to that separate really doesn’t fit Old Testament theology coming into the New Testament.
We are working our way through those kinds of things. On page 130 we dealt with the wrath of God issue, and the top of page 131, that’s why I said in italics: “All the judgments during the 70th week, from the first seal to the last bowl, are expressions of the wrath of God unleashed by the Lord Jesus Christ acting as Judge.” That being the case, we’ve got the wrath of God throughout the whole period, not just the last quarter.
The next paragraph is another problem that’s created by this position. Follow with me on that paragraph and we’ll go to the verses. Turn to Matthew 24:8; in Matthew 24:8 Jesus uses the metaphor of a woman giving birth to a child, childbirth. And that metaphor occurs several times in the Scripture to refer to this time of Tribulation. In Matthew 24:8 Jesus is not talking about the last quarter of the Tribulation. He’s talking about the first part of the Tribulation. So He says in verse 8, “But all these things are the beginning of birth pangs.” The birth pangs occupy the whole period of the Tribulation. So the Lord Jesus Christ is using that metaphor, apparently, to depict the whole Tribulation period. Paul uses the same metaphor in 1 Thessalonians 5:3.
“This birth-pain metaphor encompasses all seven years as a time of tribulation. The term ‘tribulation’ as a title for the entire 70th week, therefore, is legitimate.” Now we come to the next point. There’s the problem of the wrath of God, there’s the problem of the birth-pain. Now we come to the third problem. “Three-quarter Tribulationism correctly holds that the expression ‘Great Tribulation’ begins after the midpoint of the 70th week as Daniel 9:27 and Matthew 24:15 reveal.” In Matthew 24:15 Jesus is talking about an event that is going to happen in the middle of this tribulation period. “Therefore,” Jesus says, “when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand),  then let those who re in Judea flee to the mountains.”
The signal is the abomination of desolation, which is when the antichrist, whoever he be, the antichrist who has made a treaty with Israel, decides he’s going to break that treaty halfway through that seven year period and he’s going to express his breaking of the treaty by doing what Antiochus Epiphanies did back in the century or two before Jesus. And that was to strike at the heart of Jewish theology, to undermine Jewish theology. The way he does that is openly walk into the Temple and desecrate it, because if he can walk into that Temple and desecrate it without getting hit by lightning, he can claim that real estate for himself, that he controls it and there’s no God around to bother him from controlling it. That’s the event.
Now, as you go through that event, verse 21 gives it a name, so in Matthew 24:21, “for then,” when? When that abomination of desolation occurs, “then there will be a great tribulation, such as had no occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall be.” So this last part of the Tribulation is called the Great Tribulation, GT. People that hold the Three-quarter position rightly point out,—they’re correct in this—that the Great Tribulation does start with the abomination of desolation. That is a correct point. But, the Three-quarter position, because it is putting the Rapture here and has to keep the wrath of God after the Rapture, not before it, and because it distinguishes the wrath of God from the GT, it can’t really do this, so it cuts the GT short.
Now the problem is that we have the Great Tribulation period throughout the Scriptures identified as three and a half years, but they can’t let it be three and a half years because if this view lets it be three and a half years, now they’ve got it on the wrong side of the Rapture, because they distinguish… it’s not our distinguishing, this view is not our distinguishing, this view tries to distinguish this and they get in trouble with it.
So follow the paragraph that begins: “Three-Quarter Tribulationism correctly holds that the expression ‘Great Tribulation’ begins after the midpoint of the 70th week as Daniel 9:27 and Matthew 24:25 reveal. Because of its confused notion of tribulation, however, this view can’t allow the tribulation of the Great Tribulation to last a full 42 months or else the church would be exposed to the wrath of God that occurs in the third part of the 70th week. To try to resolve this dilemma, Rosenthal seizes upon Jesus’ remark about the Great Tribulation being shortened (Matthew 24:22)”. “Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days shall be cut short.” So his interpretation of that verse is that the 42 months have been cut short. “Interpreting this remark as a modification to the prior-announced 42 month period (Daniel 12:1-7), he concludes that the Great Tribulation will last less than 42 months. Another problem now arises. The text of Revelation 12:7-17 that was written decades after Jesus’ remark still requires the Great Tribulation to last a full 42 months.”
So if it’s shortened, if Jesus shortened it and Jesus is making this comment in AD 30, that’s about the time Jesus would have made that, AD 30 or 32 depending on how you date things, and then you have John who is being told by angels, say he wrote Revelation in AD 90, and the angel is telling him that it lasts 42 months, how can you say that Jesus shortened it in AD 30? You have a problem there. What is the interpretation of verse 22, being “cut short”? What it apparently refers to is that when God set up the 42 months that was cutting it short, He could have let it go on more than 42 months. But He limited it to 42 months because that is as much as the human race can endure.
Let me expand on a lesson of practical Christian life here for a minute. Set aside the details of the prophecy and look at a principle that you can take away and use every single day. In the New Testament that same principle is taught. Turn to 1 Corinthians 10:13. It’s taught in many places in the Bible; it is a corollary to the sovereign omnipotence of a loving God, and that is, in an evil world God will not permit evil to have unlimited power. Evil is always constrained. Verse 13 is one of the great promises that you can apply in your Christian life. This takes away all our excuses why we sin. Oh, we sinned because the pressure was so great on me I just couldn’t help it. This verse, while it’s an aid, it’s also sort of an incriminating promise. Look what it says: “No tempting” or “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able; but with the temptation will provide or make a way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” That’s a neat verse because it means that the trials and tribulations that come our way have to go through a screen. Remember Job, Satan wanted to go after Job and God said you can to that but you can’t do this. God has the final say over the domain of evil.
Like I said, verse 13 is a promise and it’s also an incriminating thing. Notice what it says, “no tempting has overtaken you but such as is common to man,” and I guess, I don’t know how your mind works but mine, when it’s always looking around for an excuse, will try to argue inside me that well, the trial that you face is unique, nobody else ever had that one, so you can kind of be excused for this. This doesn’t give us that right. It says the testing is not unique to you, the testing that comes your way, comes my way, comes their way, it’s common to man. Furthermore “God is faithful,” that’s part of His character, the nature of the testing and temptation is always underneath the sovereign omnipotence of God, no matter what it is, it’s always underneath that and submissive to it. And God “will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able,” now “you are able” doesn’t mean human works here, it doesn’t mean operation bootstrap where you devise some sort of gimmick and you’ve got some clever technique for handling the problem. That’s not what it means. “You are able” why? The next clause describes why we are able, we are able because He’s going to “provide the way of escape, that we may be able to endure it.” We are able because He provides a way of escape.
I don’t know whether that’s a new promise to you, if you’ve read your Bible it isn’t, but if this is new to you you ought to write it down somewhere, because that’s the promise that you can use to say that all the kind of flack that comes your way, all the trials that come your way, all the pressures that come your way have been screened, and there is a way around it.
I remember a letter I got one time from a family that we knew years ago in Texas and a mutual friend of ours who was a Christian for some reason stole something, got involved in some criminal thing, the police were chasing him out of town and he stopped, got a gun out of his car and blew his brains out before he could be arrested. And the family that knew this person had written me and they were in their sorrow and shock over this event, what happened here? And I’ll never forget the lady that wrote that letter because she said at the end of it, quoting this verse, she said “I guess he didn’t understand that in his trouble God was going to provide a way that he could deal with it.” He didn’t, he ignored a provision of the Lord in this situation. He thought there was no other way, he was ashamed of himself when he realized what he’d done, didn’t want to be arrested and have the humiliation of a trial so he killed himself. He didn’t harm the policeman, he just killed himself. And that was his way out of it.
But I thought that was a neat application about a person who saw that, was grieved by it, personally hurt by it because it was their friend, and yet was able to put it together, deal with it and say I guess he didn’t remember … and she’s right, he didn’t. He didn’t remember that there’s a way of escape and the way of escape isn’t suicide.
Back to the eschatology; in eschatology we’re dealing with that same kind of principle here, the shortening of the Tribulation. And it’s just another example of the same thing, that God has limited; the limitation of 42 months is the shortening. It’s not going to be shortened less than 42 months; 42 months God says you can take it, it’s not going to be 43 months, it’s not going to be 42 months and one day, it’s going to be 42 months period, because that is as much as you can bear. It’s a horrible time, but apparently He thinks it’s okay, people can survive that—with My assets.
We come to the paragraph at the bottom of page 131, “Other examples of unnecessary secondary problems created by Three-quarter Tribulationism could be cited. This view insists that the cry of unbelievers after the opening of the sixth seal that the wrath of God has come is an anticipatory comment, not a conclusion from past experience.”
Turn to Revelation 6:16, we worked with this a little bit last time but these details are kind of messy and they exasperate beginning students of Scripture, so that’s why I go over them several times; they exasperate me too, but I would imagine we exasperate God. Here are the seals on the parchment, then we have the trumpets, then we have the vials, and various interpretive schemes put these together. Revelation 6 begins with the first judgment, look at verse 1. At verse 1 the Lord Jesus Christ begins the Tribulation; He begins the Tribulational judgment. That’s why we say all of the Tribulation judgments are an expression of the wrath of God, not some, all of them. They are there because the Lord Jesus Christ is acting as a Judge as He breaks the seals He authorizes the last chapter of a vast angelic conflict to take over.
In some mysterious way that the Bible doesn’t tell us all about, we don’t know why this happens in all the details. All we know is that the Lord Jesus Christ ascended into Heaven in a resurrected body from the city of Jerusalem in AD 30 or 32, He went into heaven, right now, tonight, that human body of the Lord Jesus Christ is somewhere, it’s not omnipresent, the Lord Jesus in His deity is omnipresent, but His human body is a human body, it’s finite, 5’10” however tall the Lord Jesus was, and that’s His resurrection body. He in His humanity is waiting in Heaven for the completion of His body, which is you and me and all the other believers that have gone on to be with the Lord before us, and believers who are going to come after us.
It’s going to be very interesting in history because you might be the person that witnesses to the last person who is ever going to accept Christ in the body of Christ. Do you know what’s going to happen? The Rapture is going to happen. Someday, there are x million people that are in the body of Christ, when that last person accepts the Lord the body is complete, and when that happens history moves on to the next chapter. That would be a rather stunning thing for you to be there some day and you happen to be the person who led someone to the Lord and that was the last person, the Lord said that’s it, the body is complete, boom; next chapter please, and things begin to happen.
After the body is complete it appears that is what qualifies Jesus because in Rev. 5 the elders say who is worthy to open it, and they sing this hymn, and the rationale for the reason that the Lamb and not the angels or the archangels, only the Lamb has the right to break the scroll because He’s done something that the angels haven’t done. What is it that the Lamb has done that the angels have not done? What qualifies Him to break the seals? That hymn says, Revelation 5:9 says, “Worthy are You to take the book, and to break its seals; for You were slain, and did purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.  And You have made them” and the better texts say “have made us to be a kingdom of priests to our God; and we will reign on the earth.”
“You have made them to be a kingdom,” it’s finished, the action is done. So now the Lord Jesus, being qualified by this previous redeeming work, He now can be judge. That fits the whole pattern of God; there is always grace before judgment. That’s the way He works. But we always misinterpret grace. We always think the grace is going to go on and on and on and on and on and on and on, and the problem with that position that grace is going to be forever is that if grace is forever then evil is forever because grace is how God conducts Himself in an evil world. It’s a postponement of judgment; that’s what grace is. It’s not some goo that He spreads around like sugar; that’s a fallacy, and that’s a common popular view of grace—it’s some sort of divine sugar that he passes around. That’s not it. Grace is His postponing judgment when He should judge right now. He has full authority to judge right now and He doesn’t, He holds off, He holds off, He is patient, patient, He waits, He waits, He waits, and then finally it’s over. And there’s going to be a day when there’s no more grace, that’s it; judgment happens.
So this is it, in verse 1 the Lamb stops being the Lamb of God of a gracious redeemer and He starts being a judge. So these seals come out, and one after another hits the earth. You can see the first seal in verse 2, “And I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow,” that’s a weapon, a military weapon, “and a crown was given to him; and he went out conquering, and to conquer.  And when He broke the second seal, and I heard the second living creature saying, ‘Come.’  And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth; and that men should slay one another; and a great sword was given to him.  And when He broke the third seal,” and now we have famine, and so forth and so on.
Now we come to the end of chapter 6 and we come to this section of the text, verse 12, “And I looked when He broke the sixth seal,” who is doing the breaking here? It’s the Lord Jesus Christ doing the breaking, “and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood,” so there are the astronomical events that happen, and I believe that the reason you have physical astronomical events in this judgment is because the entire universe has been polluted by sin, not just planet earth, the whole cosmos. The whole cosmos today is a playground for angelic conflict; it’s a battle ground, not a playground, it’s a battle ground where the powers of good and evil strive, outside of our Milky Way, outside of our cosmos. Verse 13, “and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts it unripe figs when shaken by a great wind.  And the sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.”
Verse 15, “And the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains.” Why do you suppose “the rich and the strong and every slave and free?” It’s saying that all segments of society at this point in history come to a conclusion; verse 16 is the chilling spiritual conclusion that the global population has chosen to go along with. “They said to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.” Are they atheists?
At this point in history where are the atheists? The same place they’ve always been, they don’t exist. People who claim to be atheists are people who have fooled themselves into believing they don’t believe, when as a matter of fact they know all along that God is there and when this hits in history, they admit that they know that He’s there because look at what they are worried about. They are fearful “of Him who sits on the throne,” just as after Adam and Eve sinned where did they go? They fled from the presence of God. Now why did they flee from the presence of God? Because they know He’s there, they know His character. They fear His wrath, because as guilty sinners we fear condemnation. The same principle from Eden all the way down to here. And then they say in verse 17, “for the great day of their wrath has come,” look at that, they believe in the Father and the Son, really profound theology for unbelievers, “the day of their wrath is come, and who is able to stand?”
Here’s the point, here we go down one seal after another after another until we get to that sixth seal. And as they see that sixth seal broken they come to this conclusion, “the day of wrath has come.” What the Three-quarter position says is that what they’re saying is that the wrath of God is going to come over here. The wrath will come, that’s the picture. Why are they saying this? Because they place the Rapture inside this 70th week, and they’ve got to place it such that the wrath of God doesn’t touch the church. So if the wrath of God is expressed back here in seal #1, seal #2, seal #3, seal #4, seal #5, we’ve got a big problem, because if any of those seals are the wrath of God, the church is still there. But the place the Rapture of the church right here and to make it work, the way you have to make it work is to make verse 17 refer to a prophecy that the wrath of God is going to come.
Most commentators, regardless of what position they hold in eschatology will tell you that verse 17 is not looking forward to anything. Verse 17 is not a gift of prophecy; the unbelievers don’t have some hidden gift, a crystal ball they kept under the table here. The unbelievers are concluding from what they’ve experienced with #1, #2, #3, #4, and #5 and they’re saying this…. now maybe at first when they saw the wars they said well you know, there are an unusual number of wars tonight, but we’ve always had wars. And then when they start seeing the famine they say well, you know, maybe we’re having global warming or something. Then as these seals continue they say wait a minute, somebody is trying to tell us something here. So by the time the sixth seal opens up and they get these astronomical things going on, this is the wrath of God. See, they’ve concluded that based on these seals. That creates a problem because the wrath of God then would naturally be back here but the church is still there so you’ve got a problem.
Furthermore, if you make the Rapture here, then what you have to do is compress all the trumpets and the vials into that last quarter and you can’t do it, so what happens is the vials are removed beyond the Tribulation in the period after the return of Christ, between the time He returns and the time He cleans things up for 75 days before He starts His Kingdom. That’s where those vials have to go because there is just not enough room to pack them all in that quarter.
Now we have another problem. The problem is that if you’re going to compress everything, on page 132, “Following logically from this unique interpretation of Revelation 6:16–17, the bowl or vial judgments must occur after Christ returns in the 75-day preparatory period just before He begins the Millennial Kingdom,” by the way, you say 75 days, where do you get the 75 days? It’s because of the numbers, it all works out, there is 42 months of the Tribulation, yet there’s some extra time after the desecration of the Temple and that sort of thing, so there’s a 75 day gap there before the Millennium officially starts.
“Now we encounter yet another unnecessary interpretative problem with the text of Revelation. The bowl or vial judgments occur in Revelation 15-16 before the Return of Christ which occurs in Revelation 19.” Turn to Revelation 15, notice what it says in verse 1, “And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels who had seven plagues, which are the last, because in them the wrath of God is finished.  And I saw, as it were, a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had come off victorious from the beast and from his image and from the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, holding harps of God.” This is the people that have come out of the Tribulation. Verse 5, “After these things I looked, and the temple of the tabernacle of testimony in heaven was opened,  and the seven angels who had the seven plagues came out of the temple, clothed in linen, clean and bright, and girded around their breasts with golden girdles.  And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God, who lives forever and ever.  And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power; and no one was able to enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished.” So now we have more of the wrath of God poured out in these seven [can’t understand word]. Notice what chapter number; this is happening in Revelation 15.
Notice what it says, Revelation 16:1, “And I heard a loud voice from the temple, saying to the seven angels, ‘Go and pour out the seven bowls of the wrath of God into the earth.” And then it goes on and on and on, it talks about all the different angels, verse 10 is the fifth angel, verse 12 is the sixth one, verse 17 is the seventh one. Now chapter 17, I want you to watch the chapter flow here. “And one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying, ‘Come here, I shall show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters,” so one of the angels who administered the bowl judgments comes to John and he says I want you to watch the destruction of Babylon. And he goes on and describes the judgment of Babylon.
Revelation 18:1, “After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illumined with his glory,” and he announces the destruction of Babylon. We have chapters 17 and 18; it’s true that the Book of Revelation can sometimes trace a topic and then it will go back and pick up the topic again. That’s known. But the point is that in 18:1 you have a marker, a sequential marker, “after these things I saw an angel” taking these things. Chapter 17 tells you what has happened after the bowl judgments. In chapter 19 the Lord Jesus Christ comes, verse 1, “After these things,” 19:1 is a sequential marker.
So the Second Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ is in chapter 19. That’s the return of Jesus Christ to the earth. The bowl judgments are back in chapters 15 and 16. So how can you take them out of chapters 15 and 16 and move them all the way and make them after Christ returns to the earth? That’s what the Three-quarter trib does. They have to do that in order to make things fit in this scheme. But you see, when you do that you jerk the text around, if you had three problems after you get through doing this you’ve got six. This is not solving problems; this creates problems in the text.
So for that reason and a number of other reasons, this view while it was popular when it first came out, has really not caught on too well among people who study the Bible. We’re still on page 132 of the notes. The next question, “If the Rapture is distinguished from the Return, where in the flow of Revelation does it occur according to Three-quarter Tribulationism?” I’m going to make another diagram. Here’s the 70th week, the Rapture occurs here, the return occurs here. You would like, in every position, everybody, pre-, mid-, three-quarter, post, would love to have a clear-cut verse that points out where the church is in all of this. It would certainly make things a lot easier. So what people generally do is try to look, of the many different groups of people cited in the Book of Revelation, can you identify any of those as the church particularly or are you left, they are believers but you can’t tell what dispensation they came from. Watch what happens here, here we go with another problem.
“Three-Quarter Tribulationism selects a textual reference to people in heaven that is closest to and just after the sixth seal judgment text of Revelation 6:12–17. The reference is Revelation 7:9–17, which speaks of a great multitude.” So turn to Revelation 7:9; there are many groups in the book of Revelation, but the Three-quarter position needs to have a group in heaven after this Rapture point. Then it not only has to be in heaven, they have to be the raptured church. So in Revelation 7:9 it says, “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands;  and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’  And all the angels were standing around the throne…” so forth and so on.
Up to this point you say gee, that’s kind of nice, that might be the church, and it does occur right after chapter 6 with that beginning of the wrath of God. So you start saying well, you know, it’s possible. But continue reading the text. In verse 13, “And one of the elders answered, saying to me, ‘These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and from where have they come?’” And you say well, gee, that was the raptured church, you think. Verse 14, “And I said to him, ‘My lord, you know.’ ”
Now isn’t that interesting, the apostle John doesn’t recognize who these people are. You might say well, there’s so many of them that he wouldn’t know. But yet it does kind of seem strange that the apostle who was one of the founders of the church doesn’t recognize the church. Whoever these people are that he sees here are strangers to him. “My lord, you know.” Now he gets his answer, “And he said to me, ‘These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” There are two ways of taking verse 14; they are the people who have come out of the Tribulation in the sense that they died during the Tribulation, or they, in the Three-quarter position are the church that’s been just raptured out of the Tribulation.
Suppose, for the sake of argument, we identify that group as the church (with the Three-quarter position) just for the sake of argument. It creates another problem. On page 132 the reference is Revelation 7:9-17 which speaks of a great multitude. “This view interprets the multitude as the raptured believers in Christ and Old Testament saints who have just been brought into heaven. In order to solidify this group of people as the raptured group, Van Kampen argues that the text shows them in resurrected bodies because of the fact that they are pictured wearing white robes, standing on their legs and holding palms in their hands.” One could argue, well, all groups are doing that. “Again, we see the same pattern emerging of secondary problems developing as a consequence of Three-quarter tribulationism’s exegesis. Here the problem is that the text cited clearly labels the group as one unknown to John which has just come out of the Great Tribulation.”
“Besides the strangeness of John’s ignorance of who these people are, if they are the church raptured, this view creates tension with the group” of people cited in Revelation 6. If you look back in chapter 6, prior to the seal, in verses 9-11, “And when He broke the fifth seal,” notice this other group; see there are many groups in the Book of Revelation. The fifth seal is before the Rapture, according to this scheme, so number five is right there. So we’re talking about something that’s prior to the Rapture, “And when He broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained;  and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, wilt Thou refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?  And there was given to each of them a white robe,” notice the same clothing, “and they were told that they should rest a little while longer, until the number of their fellow-servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, should be completed also.”
Now look at the paragraph on page 133, “Three-quarter tribulationism insists that this group of obviously martyred believers cannot be the same as the raptured saints in Revelation 7:9–17 because they former have entered heaven through martyrdom and don’t have resurrected bodies. However, since they were martyred [blank spot: prior to the sixth seal and because according to Three-quarter Tribulationism the church still exists on earth up to the sixth seal, so they must be ‘in Christ’ when they are martyred. If so, then] it follows they are dead in Christ and must be part of the Rapture, which this view insists occurs in Revelation 7.” So the group in Revelation 6 must be part of the group in chapter 7, in this position, and yet it’s strange that both Van Kampen and Rosenthal insist that these are not the same groups of people. Well you can’t have it both ways, so we’ve got another little problem.
Finally, the last paragraph, this is kind of a summary, we’ve looked at some difficulties. “Unlike preterism, Three-quarter Tribulationism holds to a literal hermeneutic.” So we’re going back to this position; it does hold to a literal hermeneutic, it’s not like preterism that tries to symbolize everything. “It genuinely seeks to unravel the textual details of the Rapture and return. It is a midway position between post-tribulationism and mid-tribulationism,” which is the next position we’re going to start. “As a midway position it suffers from some of the weaknesses of both. Like post-tribulationism it faces the problem of keeping the church out of the wrath of God during the Tribulation period. Whereas post-tribulationism tried to solve the problem by positing some sort of divine protection for the church during the Tribulational judgments, Three-quarter Tribulationism tried to redefine the wrath of God as something distinct from tribulation so it could be compressed down to a few months at the end of the seven-year period. As we have noticed, however, secondary problems of interpretation erupt all over the text. This view also shares some of the weaknesses of mid-tribulationism,” which we are now going to begin.
So in the remaining time we’re going to introduce another position. We talked about post-tribulationism. Post-tribulationism says Rapture and return are right at the end; that’s post-trib, post-after. Then we have Three-quarter trib; that at least separates the Rapture and the return. They’ve got straight, those are not identical; those are different, occurring at different times. The problem is that this compresses the wrath of God down to here or has to set some protection agency all during the time of the Tribulation because the church is there. This one has the church all the way up to that point, so it has to do something to protect the church there.
Mid-tribulationism is actually the forerunner of Three-quarter tribulationism. That’s where they got most of their ideas from actually. It’s an older view. Mid-tribulationism holds to the fact that when the abomination of desolation occurs, the midpoint, that’s when the Rapture is happening. So it says the church is there until the midpoint of the Tribulation. Bottom of page 133: “A fourth scenario attempts to extend the Church Age into half of Daniel’s 70th week rather than into three-quarters of it. Much of the previous Three-quarter view relied upon features first articulated by proponents of the mid-trib position. In agreement with the Three-quarter view, mid-tribulationism distinguishes between the Rapture and the return. Unlike that view, however, mid-tribulationism adheres to the conventional two-part view of Daniel’s 70th week.”
These people are more conventional. The Three-quarter trib position has a really weird view of Daniel’s 70th week. The post-tribs hold to a two part; these people hold to a two part, pre-tribs hold to a two part of the Tribulation, they just divide it into two sections, two three and a half year periods. On page 134 I’ve diagramed this view. You can see clearly why it’s called the mid-tribulationism, because the church comes out in the mid part of the Tribulation.
Figure 9. The Mid-Tribulation Scenario retains the classical two-fold division of Daniel’s 70th Week. The Rapture occurs at the midpoint.
“Like all the futurist scenarios mid-tribulationism must deal with the promise to keep the church from the wrath of God.” See how we keep going back to that, how do the views handle keeping the church from the wrath of God. That is a promise unambiguously stated several times in the New Testament. “Post-tribulationism tried to do so by either protecting the church somehow from the wrath of God throughout the 70th week or by confining what wrath to the closing moments of the 70th week. Three-quarter tribulationism tried to do so by confining the wrath of God to the latter half of the last three and a half years by claiming that the Great Tribulation consisted solely of the wrath of man and that it had been ‘shortened’ to leave a little space for the wrath of God to occur. Mid-tribulationism also has to deal with this problem. It does so by identifying the Great Tribulation with the wrath of God, both of which then occur in the” second half of the Tribulation.
So in this case, Great Tribulation and wrath of God are synonyms for that whole second part. In Three-quarter trib that wasn’t so, it was a very complicated scheme here, whereas the Great Tribulation was here, and the wrath of God was here. Mid-tribulationism holds that they’re just synonyms; they’re talking about the same thing.
The central feature of mid-tribulationism, turn to 1 Corinthians 15:52. In this passage, and there’s no debate, this passage is referring to the Rapture, everybody agrees to that. “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” By the way, the “twinkling of an eye,” isn’t that pretty fast. How fast do you blink your eyes? It’s less than a second; time it on your watch. A second is counting one a long time; well you can blink your eye faster than that, you can blink your eye several times a second. So what that tells you is that the Rapture is going to happen in less than a second. Talk about a shock system! That’s pretty amazing stuff, that all of a sudden you have all of this stuff happening, people being transported up to heaven and bodies coming out of the grave, resurrections and everything else going on here, and it’s going to happen so fast, within a second or so. That’s one of the most famous seconds in all of history.
The feature, however, that mid-tribulation points to, is it’s trying to identify something, and the “something” it’s trying to identify is in verse 52, where it says “the last trumpet.” Central to mid-tribulationism is an identity of this Last Trumpet, and the Last Trumpet is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:52 and in 1 Thessalonians 4. Turn to the other Rapture passage—it, too, speaks of a trumpet noise. A trumpet is used to announce things in the ancient world; even to this day when you go, say to watch the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and you get a composer and he splits up the music assignments among the instruments of an orchestra, you have the violins doing their thing and the violas and the bass violins and the clarinets and the flutes, etc. everybody has their thing. But when that composer wants to have a marshal attitude, a marshal spirit to that music, what instrument does he use? The trumpets. Composers down through the centuries do this; there’s just something about the noise of a brass musical instrument that is commanding, it’s attention getting, it’s somewhat harsh. The French horn is a brass instrument that’s a lot more mellow than the harshness of the trumpet. The trumpet was used in the military to announce [can’t understand word]. In the Korean War the Chinese were using trumpets to get all the poor Chinese soldiers to charge.
1 Corinthians 15:52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first.” Whatever this is, just like a composer composes a symphony and he assigns that first trumpet, the second trumpet and the third trumpet, okay, you guys come in NOW, just at the right moment those trumpets bark into the music. This is what’s going to happen here in verse 16, into the realm of history suddenly there’s this trumpet. Whether the unbelievers hear this or not, we don’t know, but there’s this trumpet associated with it. So the Last Trumpet occurs in Rapture passages.
What mid-tribulationism tries to do is since it says “the last trumpet” it tries to identify the last trumpet of the Rapture passages and make that equal to the last of the seven trumpet judgments in the Book of Revelation. That’s the equation that is central to mid-tribulationism, that the last trumpet of Rapture is to be identified with that seventh trumpet judgment in Revelation 11:15. Furthermore, some of them will identify the trumpet with yet another Scripture passage, not the Rapture passages, not the Book of Revelation, but they will try to identify it with Matthew 24. So let’s go to Matthew 24:31, “And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.” Surely, they say, that refers to the Rapture. So we make the Trumpet of 1 Corinthians and 1 Thessalonians equal to the last thing of seven trumpets in Revelation, also equal to Matthew 24:31.
Next time we’ll deal with this equation, but that’s the central feature of mid-tribulationism. Of course what we’re going to do is we’re going to say all right, if that equation is correct, what does that do with these other textual problems? That’s the problem with all of these, even pre-tribulationism which is the one I’m going to come up with eventually, is not free of trouble. The problem is with all these positions is we’re ahead of history. That history hasn’t happened yet and when God fulfills His promises He always has surprises and He always fills up contexts.
I want to leave you with this; at least we get started on mid-tribulationism so next week we’ll work through the mid-tribulation position. Keep in mind that if this is confusing to you don’t worry about it. The point is God has a plan for history; every single detail will fall into place, it will all be compatible with His Word. God has superintended every single facet of history. The reason that’s important for you to grab is because you’re going to have crises in your lives come out of the clear blue some day, bam, why did this happen, and you’re going to be in shock. And you’re going to be running around, you have two ways to go. You can fall apart and wallow all over the place and totally lose your testimony, or you can in shock come back and realize that God loves you, that God has His plans, that God is sovereign, that Jesus Christ is resurrected from the dead and He’s going to come for us, and you’re going to have a chance to see Him face to face and God will get history to the point where there will be no more tears, no more sorrow, no more crying. It’s going to come, and that’s our hope. And we can hope that because we have an empirical basis in history for it. Jesus is already got there; the game is over as far as Jesus is concerned. He’s finished, He arrived at the finish line, He’s got a resurrected body, He’s ready to go. He’s waiting to pick up pieces of His body and He’s going to introduce this drama of the Book of Revelation. He’s going to start peeling the seals off and history will accelerate very rapidly and we’ll get to the Kingdom long-awaited for man.