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 220 – Applying Eschatology to the Christian Life (Part 1)
13 Mar 2003
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
We’ll go through mid-tribulationalism, get into a little pre-trib stuff, and then work a few weeks in applying the eschatology to the Christian life. If you look at page 133 in the notes we’re dealing with mid-tribulationalism and all views of last days attempt to do two things; they attempt to pull together the end of history as shown in the Old Testament program through Israel and it attempts to take the New Testament information and meld it together with that Old Testament information into a coherent picture. That’s difficult and that’s why there is disagreement. The church has really only been working on this problem for about a century and a half, and compared to other theological debates, this one hasn’t gone on very long. The other theological debates lasted centuries, literally.
We have looked at the futurist positions; we’ve talked about preterism and that one doesn’t work. All the futurists’ positions see the content of the Book of Revelation and Matthew 24 and the parallel passages to Matthew 24 as future. Preterism sees all that as past. We haven’t got into historicism because today on the scene there aren’t many historicists around. The futurists, we started with post-tribulationism, post means after the Tribulation. We talked about that position which is a very popular position. We said it had a number of problems. Then we dealt with the Three-quarter trib position and that put the Rapture of the church three-quarters of the way through the Tribulation.
We began with the mid-trib position. We’re on the bottom of page 133 and we’re going to go through parts and pieces of the mid-tribulation position. Drawing a picture of what it looks like, mid-tribulationism looks at Daniel’s 70th week, correctly so because they have interpreted Daniel’s 70th week as something happening in the future. And it’s something that’s going to happen with Israel. They accept the traditional classification that there are two halves to that 70th week, and that the Great Tribulation, this word “Great” Tribulation becomes a technical term actually for the last three and a half years. So that’s the position of the mid-tribulation position. “Mid” means that they place the Rapture right at that point, before that Great Tribulation starts. The Three-quarter position had a strange view, they took the classic trib position and then they injected this three-quarter point and said the Rapture occurs there.
Both the three-quarter trib and the mid-trib positions, if you look carefully at the charts do what as far as the Rapture and the return? They separate them. The post-tribulationalists do not. This position keeps the Rapture and the return as part and parcel of the same event. These positions don’t, they distinguish those as two things. Granted, it’s all part of the return in the larger sense of the return, the parousia (or the return) can be used narrowly of this little thing or broadly of the whole complex of events. That’s something in Bible study you have to watch, because you can get a word and you’ve got t tell from the context how that word is used, whether it’s being used in a very narrow sense or it’s used in a broad sense. One term that you’ve got to be real careful about is the term “Day of the Lord,” because Day of the Lord occurs many different ways. It can refer to a day of judgment in the Old Testament times, it can refer to this whole period of time, or it can refer to one climactic event inside that big Day of the Lord. Some believe it can even refer to the Millennial Kingdom. These terms are challenging because it appears that they are used contextually in different senses. You can’t just fix a meaning in your head and then boom, boom, boom, and mechanically say it always has that same meaning.
Let me give an analogy that’s very near and dear to our hearts; that’s the term eternal life. If you do a very careful concordance study and look up every time eternal life is used in the Bible, in the New Testament let’s say, and you’ll see that the Apostle John uses it in a distinctively different way than Paul does. When Paul uses the term eternal life he’s talking about almost the reward thing that happens after the Bema Seat. If you look at John he’s talking about something that’s a present possession. And you’ll get endlessly confused; it gets back to the rule of context. What’s the rule of context? It says if you don’t know what a word means look in the immediate context. If you can’t find it there gradually expand. Expand to all [of] that particular author’s writings and then go to another author. That’s the rule of context in Bible study. These terms get messy and you have to listen to how people use them. Just like in normal conversation there are different nuances. That’s one thing that does cause confusion in these positions.
On to mid-tribulationism; we know that mid-tribulationism has similarities to Three-quarter tribulationism in that both separate Rapture and return. The difference between the Three-quarter position and the mid position is where they locate the Rapture. That’s basically it. “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.” Figure 9 shows that view and on page 134 is the diagram of the mid-trib position.
Figure 9. The Mid-Tribulation Scenario retains the classical two-fold division of Daniel’s 70th Week. The Rapture occurs at the midpoint.
Follow what we have done so far. What was the problem that post-tribulationists had? The problem they had was that if the church is promised respite and protection from the wrath of God and the wrath of God descends on the earth and all of human society in the Tribulation, how do you get those two statements together? If the church is going to be physically on earth during the pouring out of the wrath of God, what does it mean when it says the church is not set out for the wrath of God? The post-tribulationists have to work it one of two ways; they either have to say that the church in some sense is physically protected against the wrath of God during that Tribulational period, or the real wrath of God only occurs right here in the closing moments, that all this stuff that goes on in the 70th week isn’t the wrath of God. That’s kind of hard to buy for anybody that looks at Scripture so the best way for the post-tribulationists to do it is that the church is somehow divinely protected. The problem with that position is that in the Book of Revelation believers are martyred. So how is the church protected from the wrath of God? That’s the dilemma when you do this sort of thing.
It’s also the dilemma that happens here with the Three-quarter position because they’ve got the same problem. How do you protect the church from the wrath of God? The way the Three-quarter people do is they define the wrath of God to be this alone, and come up with a very innovative definition of the wrath of God. How they are able to do that is they define the wrath of God to be God’s catastrophic judgments that involve nature, whereas all the judgments prior to that involve human agencies, armies and the effect of wars, that sort of thing. So that’s their attempt to do justice to the passages that say the church is not appointed unto wrath, but yet put the church in the period of wrath. Well, then they sweep the wrath down toward the end and make all the rest of the judgments not wrath. We have discussed that.
What do you suppose, before we touch anything, we already see the logic developing here in these positions? Just predict, looking just at the chart, what do you think that mid-tribulationism has to do here? They have to confine the wrath of God to the last half of the Tribulation and that’s indeed what they do. They define this as the period of the wrath of God. They’re in a stronger position in my estimation than the Three-quarter people are, because the Three-quarter people are trying to split up the Great Tribulation and the wrath of God into two distinct and sequential time periods, whereas the mid-tribulation position doesn’t even attempt to do that. It just says this is the last three and a half years of the Tribulation, it’s the wrath of God and it’s the Great Tribulation. They don’t try to partition it off.
Let’s look at what they do on page 134. “Like all the futurist scenarios mid-tribulationism must deal with the promise to keep the church from the wrath of God. Post-tribulationism, you will remember, tried to do so by either protecting the church somehow from the wrath of God throughout the 70th week or by confining that 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 last half of Daniel’s 70th week.”
And there’s a footnote on that sentence. If you look at the footnote, I’ve made a point here. One of the proponents of the Three-quarter position, Mr. Rosenthal entitled his book The Pre-wrath Rapture, like this was something new. Well sorry, but all the views are pre-wrath Rapture. So by labeling the book Pre-wrath Rapture he doesn’t say anything; he thinks he’s saying something new when in fact mid-tribulationists are claiming they have a pre-wrath Rapture. Pre-trib people say they have a pre-wrath Rapture. Even the post-tribs say, except they kind of compromise and say we’ve got to protected from wrath Rapture. So the mid-trib people are just as pre-wrath as the Three-quarter people are. In fact, they kind of resent that title, but Rosenthal took that title to himself.
Let’s look at this, next paragraph. Now watch this because here’s the core of the mid-trib position. “Central to mid-tribulationism is its linking the Rapture of the church to a key event in God’s judgments upon Israel and the nations.” They all try to do this but you have to say why do they put the Rapture at the particular point they do? “The key link, according to mid-tribulation proponents, centers upon the identity of the “last trump” in one of the Rapture texts, 1 Corinthians 15:52.”
Turn to two passages, 1 Corinthians 15:52. This is a central passage on the end of the church. It’s this passage that deals with death; it’s this passage that you hear when you go to a Christian funeral. This is the time of the Rapture, “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.” There’s the resurrection of the dead and the transformation of the living. That is a Rapture passage. Included in that information is this reference to “the last trumpet.” Let’s move on to 1 Thessalonians 4:16 which is the parallel and sister passage to 1 Corinthians 15. It’s undeniable that these key Rapture passages make reference to this trumpet. “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.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds,” it’s a parallel teaching to 1 Corinthians 15:52, the same kind of thing, and a trumpet is featured in this thing.
Going back to the paragraph on page 134, “Since another Rapture text, I Thessalonians 4:16, mentions a “trump of God” both of these passages are linked to the last of the seven trumpet judgments in Revelation 11:15.” Remember the three kinds of judgments in the book of Revelation? There are the seal judgments, then there are the trumpet judgments, and then the vial judgments, the bowl judgments. Here’s where people can jump to conclusions. Because they hear the word “trumpet” in the trumpet judgments of the book of Revelation, and they see in 1 Corinthians 15 the last trumpet, they make the deduction that the last trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4 must be the last trumpet. Do you see what they’re doing here? If you’ve got seven trumpets in the book of Revelation that announce seven judgments of God and in 1 Corinthians you’re talking about the last trumpet, it’s but a short step of logic to say well then the Rapture must be at the seventh trumpet. So what they do is they identify, by means of this trumpet - that becomes the magnet or the pivot in this particular view of prophecy, that this trumpet is the last trumpet and since it’s the last trumpet it must be the last of the seven trumpet judgments. So you have the seven trumpet judgments here. Does everybody understand where the mid-trib people are coming from on this?
Continuing, I didn’t break the notes up when I wrote this but it’ll help you if you take your pen and where it says where they are linked to the seven trumpets, put a little 1 in the margin because that’s the essence of their position. I’m going to try to show you the pieces of the position here. “To make its case, however, mid-tribulationism has to make two further assertions: (1) that no wrath of God occurs before the seventh trumpet judgment; and (2) that the seventh trumpet judgment occurs at the midpoint of Daniel’s 70th week. Thus mid-tribulationism must prove three points to establish its position.” It’s got to prove an identity between the last trumpet of the Rapture and the seventh trumpet of the series of seven judgments. The second thing it’s got to prove is that no wrath of God occurs until the seventh trumpet judgment. You’ve had seven seals, now you get the seven trumpet judgments—no wrath of God until the seventh trumpet judgment. And they’ve got to prove that the seventh trumpet judgment occurs at this point.
Now if you’ve been following, this causes another problem to happen, and the problem that causes is you’ve got to take all the seals now and the trumpets and squash them into the first three and a half years. The Three-quarter people would take the seals and not finishing them until that sixth seal, the sixth seal was the wrath of God that’s now going to be poured out, so they were moving all the judgments and clustering them toward this end of the 70th week, whereas in mid-tribulationism they are clustering all the judgments in the first part of the week to get them over with so they can get the seventh trumpet judgment in there at the midpoint. Now we’re putting an awful load on the front end of the tribulation when you do this.
Continuing on page 135 we’ll go through these points. The first paragraph on page 135 is dealing with that problem how do I identify the trumpets and all this. What they do, “Mid-tribulationism bolsters this link by pointing to what is claimed are hints of the Rapture in Revelation 10–11.” Turn to Revelation 10:5, we’re talking about an angel, “And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land lifted up his right hand to heaven,” and before I go any further let me draw your attention to that kind of thing, like this verse that we just read. You see the characteristic of life in the Tribulation, see how it’s different than life today. Every one of these passages, every one of these chapters describes Daniel’s 70th week is talking about, not the gospel, the gospel as it were has faded away, there’s a harshness, there’s a judgmental nature here. You don’t see believers the center of the action either. Who are the agencies doing the action throughout the Tribulation? They are angels operating and carrying out these horrible judgments on the earth. It’s a totally different kind of history. This is not normal history from our perspective; it isn’t even the kind of history you’d encounter in the Old Testament. The Book of Revelation has some strange stuff going on here. This is an unusual period of history, this tribulational period, and it’s the end of grace. You don’t see much grace going on in the Book of Revelation. You see judgment after judgment after judgment. There is very little word about mercy and grace in the Book of Revelation after you get through chapter 3.
So we have this angel and he’s part of this regime to pour out judgment, verse 6, “And swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things in it, and the earth and the thing in it, and the sea and the things in it, that there shall be delay no longer.” See that, no longer will we delay. What does that imply? It implies that grace, this is Revelation 10:6—the point is that something’s drawing to a close here. There’s been a delay, a delay, delay, delay, delay, delay. When we studied the ascension of Christ and God the Father says to God the Son, “Sit Thou at My right hand until …” “until I make Your enemies Your footstool.” There’s a delay, sit and the right hand and You just wait. I’m going to turn your enemies so they’ll kiss your feet before this thing is over. History is drawing to a close and the book of Revelation gives you the close of this.
So we have this closure, and verse 7 says, “but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished, as He preached to His servants the prophets.” They take that word “mystery” in verse 7 to say that that’s referring to the church, and if the mystery is finished the church is finished; there’s an identity going on here. They build their case that the Rapture must be close by to this point. In Revelation 11, right after this, it’s talking about John being given a measuring rod; you go measure the temple, etc. And when you work your way further through chapter 11 there’s this great earthquake in verse 13, “And din that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; and seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.” Notice again in verse 13 the theology that you see embedded in this verse. Do you see any grace here? Is there any talk about a gospel? Is there any talk about redemption? Not at all. The theme of Revelation has gone beyond the gospel; it’s gone beyond grace to doxology. It’s gone to the glory of God; it’s doxological. God is vindicating His character; the gospel has been eclipsed at this point.
Verse 14, “The second Woe is past; behold, the third Woe is coming quickly.  And the seventh angel sounded; and there arose loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become, the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” This is the one that Handel picked for his Messiah. Verse 16, “And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God,  saying, ‘We give Thee thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who art and who wast; because Thou hast taken Thy great power and hast begun to reign,” meaning He hasn’t been reigning up until this point in the sense of… obviously in His sovereignty He’s been in control, but now He takes force.
Verses 18, “And the nations were enraged, and Thy wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to give their reward to Thy bond-servants the prophets and to the saints and to those who fear Thy name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.  And the temple of God which is in heaven was opened…” so forth and so on. So what we’re saying is that the mid-tribulational people pick on chapters 10 and 11 as the most likely location of the Rapture.
If you look at the notes on pages 135, we’ve briefly looked at the passages, [and] now let’s watch the logic; watch the thought process. “Mid-tribulationism bolsters this link by pointing to what is claimed are hints of the Rapture in Revelation 10–11. Revelation 10:7 speaks of a ‘mystery of God’ that is about to be ‘finished.’ This reference to mystery mid-tribulationism identifies with the ‘mystery’ of 1 Timothy 3:16” where that word there does refer to the mystery of the incarnation, “and thus, the completion of the church. Revelation 11:3–12 speaks of God’s two witnesses who are killed, but then resurrected, and called up into heaven in a cloud.” If you look at Revelation 11 there are two prophets and in verses 5–6 these guys have a certain amount of power.
Verse 7, “And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them.” By the way, that’s another interesting point, if the church is protected from the wrath of God, here the two big spokesmen getting killed doesn’t look quite like they’re being protected, but in any case in verse 7 they are killed, they become martyrs. Verse 8, “And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified,” clearly the city of Jerusalem. Verse 9, “And those from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will look at their dead bodies for three days and a half, and will not permit their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb.  And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry; and they will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.” In other words, the majority rules and the majority at this point in history are unbelievers. So everybody rejoices that these two guys that are always going around the world talking about judgment and God’s mad at everybody, thank God we got rid of those guys. That’s one of the things the antichrist is able to do; he is able to overcome God’s servants and crush them and destroy them.
In verse 11, here’s a text that’s important to the mid-trib position. “And after three days and a half the breath of life from God came into them, and they stood on their feet; and great fear fell upon those who were beholding them.  And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here.’ And they went up into heaven in the cloud, and their enemies beheld them.” There is a Rapture of sorts of two witnesses, so what mid-tribulational people do is say that there’s a Rapture going on right there, right around that seventh trumpet, so that must be where the Rapture of the church is. Keep in mind, however, that there are many raptures in the Bible. There is the Rapture of the church. What happened to Elijah? He was raptured. What happened to Enoch? He was raptured. So remember that the Rapture, this mystery of whatever this thing is where people suddenly go from this life right into heaven, that has happened several times before. So once again, even the word rapture isn’t a technical term, you’ve got to look at context.
Let’s go back to the notes and we’ll see what they do. “Revelation 11:3–12 speaks of God’s two witnesses who are killed but then resurrected and called up into heaven in a cloud. Noting some similarities with Rapture texts, mid-tribulationism uses Revelation 10–11 to clinch its case.” So there it clinches the case based on this passage.
“Let’s evaluate the three key assertions above and the supplementary assertion just made. Mid-tribulationism must make the case that no wrath of God occurs prior to the seventh trumpet judgment in Revelation 11:18. Unfortunately,” what did we read about in Revelation 6, what was the wording used of the six seal judgments? The wrath of God has come, so there’s a problem here, once again this wrath of God thing keeps tripping up these positions because now we’ve got the Rapture being identified with the seventh trumpet judgment but the seal judgments have already occurred and part of them clearly means the wrath of God. So if you’ve got the wrath of God expressed before the seventh seal, how do you protect the church against the wrath of God? We’re back to the same question.
What we’re arguing about in this paragraph is what we saw on page 134, “that no wrath of God occurs before the seventh trumpet judgment.” In this paragraph we’ve shown that there is wrath of God occurring before the seventh trumpet judgment because it’s already said so in Revelation 6. You might be able to get around that by making the trumpets parallel to the seals. And now we’re wrenching around the text of Revelation. Let’s finish the paragraph: “Mid-tribulationism must make the case that no wrath of God occurs prior to the seventh trumpet judgment in Revelation 11:18. Unfortunately, earlier in Revelation 6:16–17 the wrath occurs, clearly prior to the seventh trumpet. Moreover, Revelation 7:14, where the only occurrence of the term ‘great tribulation’ occurs in the book, occurs before any of the trumpet judgments.”
Turn to Revelation 7; this is before the trumpet judgments, certainly before the seventh trumpet. If you’re going to make the trumpets parallel to the seals you’ve still got a problem because this isn’t even the seventh seal yet, but in Revelation 7:14 it says, he’s trying to ask the identity of this group of people he sees, “And I said to him, ‘My lord, you know.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation,” that’s the only place this term occurs in the whole book of Revelation, right here, “who come out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” If they’ve come out of the great tribulation and the great tribulation is over here, in this scheme, then Revelation 7 must be occurring after the mid-point of the Tribulation. But if that happens then the trumpet judgments are also moved over here.
What I’m trying to show you is you get problems with these schemes; they’re not so obvious when you get to dealing with the details of the text. Continuing in the notes, “Mid-tribulationism at this point is no more successful than Three-Quarter tribulationism at postponing the wrath of God into the latter part of the seven-year period.”
“The other mid-tribulational assertion says that the seventh trumpet judgment occurs at the midpoint of Daniel’s 70th week. The problem with this position comes from the fact that all seal and all trumpet judgments have to be completed by the midpoint when none of them are said to express the wrath of God! Moreover, the seventh trumpet judgment appears in Revelation 11 to be very close to the end of the 70th week since the return is very close at hand.” Remember what we said, that thing from Handel, the kingdoms of the earth are ready to be reigned, God is about to begin His reign; that’s going to be at the end. This is topical, a lot of the Book of Revelation is topical, it’s not necessarily always chronological sequential. So we’ve got the problem that Revelation 11 appears “to be very close to the end of the 70th week. Only the vial judgments remain to happen. Mid-tribulationism merely asserts without strong exegetical evidence that the seventh trumpet judgment occurs at the midpoint of the 70th week.”
They’re forcing that identity not because of exegesis but because of their identity of the last trump with that seventh trumpet judgment. Once they’ve made that key, now they’ve got to do all this to make everything else fit.
Next paragraph, again, if you’re new to the Bible I know you’re wondering what is going on here, I’m lost with trumpets, bowls and everything else. Again keep your eye on the big picture. We’re talking about history coming to a controlled and deliberate end and the end is going to solve a problem that everybody fusses at God about. Boy if God was really God He wouldn’t let all this evil happen. God is going to end the evil, and you know what, when He goes to end the evil now people are fussing at Him because He’s ending the evil. Before they were fussing at Him because He didn’t end the evil; now He does it and oh, I think that’s a horrible time, gosh, look at all these judgments. That’s how He’s ending evil, isn’t that what you asked for? That’s the big picture of what’s happening here so keep that big picture in mind and just tolerate all these details for a little bit.
“The other crucial mid-tribulational assertion links the Rapture’s ‘last trump’ with the seventh trumpet judgment. This assertion claims that the ‘last trump’ terminology implies that there are previous trumpets in a coordinated [or sequential] chain. The trumpet judgments provide such a chain.” However, if the seventh trumpet judgment occurs here there’s another trumpet judgment and that’s found in Matthew 24:31, so let’s look at Matthew 24:31. This is the Lord Jesus in the Mount Olivet Discourse. Here He’s talking about His angels at the end of the Tribulation gathering Israel. “He will send forth His angels,” remember I said this comes out of the Old Testament, there’s nothing mysterious about verse 31, it’s referred to all the way back into Deuteronomy. It’s talking about the regathering of Israel, the church isn’t even in view in Deuteronomy. “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.” That’s the elected ones of Israel, that’s a quotation out of the Old Testament. So you understand verse 31 by understanding the Old Testament context which has to do, not with the church, but with Israel. So He’s going to gather His angels.
Now people dive into this verse and see, ooh, a trumpet is there, and ooh, He’s gathering His elect, it sounds like the Rapture. So they want to put the Rapture there. The post-trib does that; that’s how the post-trib gets the Rapture all the way over to the end. But the problem is the mid-trib is kind of stuck because he’s got the last trump identified with the seven trumpet judgments and the seven trumpet judgments aren’t the last thing that happens in the Tribulation, now we’ve got another trumpet over here at the end of the Tribulation. So now the last trumpet identification collapses because that the last trumpet, Matthew 24:31. So, “If mid-tribulationism requires that the Rapture occur at the last of a chain of trumpets, it has to identify the seventh trumpet with this trumpet in Matthew. Once this identification is made, mid-tribulationism becomes indistinguishable from post-tribulationism, since Matthew 24:31 occurs long after the midpoint of the 70th week.” So mid-tribulationism basically dissolves itself and flows more into a post-tribulational position.
“In fact, mid-tribulationism and Three-quarter tribulationism both slip toward post-tribulationism in their treatment of Matthew 24. By insisting that this major Scriptural passage includes revelation of the Rapture event, both views wind up trying various maneuvers to avoid concluding that Matthew 24:31 occurs at the end of the 70th week—mid-Tribulationism by either ignoring the passage or by reinterpreting its chronological sequence and “Three-quarter” tribulationism by splitting it away from Matthew 24:31. Among the three views, therefore, it seems that post-tribulationism is the most stable,” because these other views, when you get right down and start dealing with details, you wind up getting forced over toward a post-tribulational position.
“Finally, the case for the Rapture being implied symbolically by the two-witness event in Revelation 11 depends upon an allegorical hermeneutic. The two witnesses die in the literal city of Jerusalem, and their bodies lie for a literal number of days in Jerusalem’s streets. The text seems to invite a straightforward literal interpretation. Nowhere in the text are there any hints at individuals besides the two witnesses. The only way this passage could imply a Rapture of the entire church would be by allegorical interpretation, a move that flies in the face of the futurist interpretative approach.”
“We have now discussed the preterist scenario and three futurist scenarios (post-tribulationism, Three-Quarter Tribulationism, and mid-tribulationism). Notice that each of the futurist views is struggling to combine events having to do with the church (Rapture and union with the ascended Lord Jesus) with events having to do with Israel’s 70th week.” We’ve been over these. [“The first of the futurist views, post-tribulationism, unites the Rapture and the return into one indivisible event. Thus it combines very clearly the church and Israel. In doing so, however, it forces the post-Rapture events of the church (Bema Seat Judgment and the Marriage Feast) to occur instantaneously while it nearly destroys the OT picture of the Messiah coming to establish His Kingdom on earth with saints in natural bodies.”]
The last paragraph on page 136, “The last two futurist views—Three-quarter Tribulationism and mid-tribulationism—correctly distinguish the Rapture from the return” so they’re right there, they are precise there making that distinction, “but continue, like post-tribulationism, to include the church inside the 70th week. Once this inclusion occurs, however, the church’s immunity from the wrath of God arises as a crucial problem. Both of these views seek to redefine “wrath” so as to keep it from occurring during the first part of the 70th week when the church is present. In the light of Old Testament theology behind the 70th week, these attempted redefinitions of God’s wrath fail. The Old Testament makes clear through its vocabulary of the pain of childbirth, vocabulary that Jesus adopted in Matthew 24 to describe both halves of the Tribulation, that the entire 70th week is a period of God’s wrath. Moreover, its purpose is directed to Israel (to produce repentance toward the coming Messiah Jesus) and to the Gentile nations (to divide them on the basis of their response to God’s work in Israel), not to the church. Unnecessary exegetical complications arise from these two views.”
Which leads us to the last position that we’re going to work with, and that is the pre-tribulation position. In the pre-tribulation position you have Daniel’s 70th week, at the end you have the return, but this one places the Rapture before the Tribulation. If you look at Figure 10 I put a gap on the left side of the diagram. I deliberately put the gap in there because people sometimes think that pre-tribulationism has already decided that the Rapture is what triggers off the Tribulation, that it’s going to happen, you know, the Rapture occurs, I’m watching my watch now and boom, the Rapture happens, the next minute the Tribulation starts, the antichrist is going to make his treaty. I have never read a pre-tribulational author that said that in that detail. The point is, it’s less ambiguous, there could be a cushion of time in here, we don’t know. But the Rapture happens sometime … [blank spot]
Figure 10. The Pre-Tribulation scenario retains the classical two-fold division of Daniel’s 70th week and places the Rapture prior to its beginning. Some pre-tribulationalists believe there may be a gap between the Rapture and the signing of the treaty between the antichrist and Israel that starts the 70th week.
… It may not. Remember, God is full of surprises in history. We think we’ve got everything aced and it doesn’t work that way. God could inject a whole sequence of events in there. There can be a gap going on. All that’s required, the weak version of pre-tribulation, by “weak” I’m saying that it is not tight, it’s loose here, it says that the Rapture occurs before the Tribulation, it doesn’t say how much earlier than the Tribulation, it’s all flexible. We don’t know.
On page 137, “Pre-Tribulationism. The fifth and final scenario of combining the destinies of Israel and the church places the Rapture prior to Daniel’s 70th week rather than trying to fit it inside the 70th week. In agreement with the Three-quarter and mid-tribulational views, pre-tribulationism distinguishes the Rapture and the return as separate features in the Second Coming complex of events.” So in that it agrees with the mid-trib position; it agrees with the Three-quarter position. It doesn’t agree with the post-trib; they combine Rapture and return. “It adheres, too, to the classical two-part division in the 70th week, agreeing with mid-tribulationism but rejecting the tri-partite division of Three-quarter tribulationism. Figure 10 pictures the scenario.”
“Advocates of this position believe that it best solves several challenges in the textual references to the Second Coming. It clearly solves the problem of keeping the church from the wrath of God in a way compatible with the Revelation 3:10 reference to the time of tribulation.” So let’s go back to Revelation 3:10, if this were a class in exegesis then we’d be going verse by verse very carefully, I would note that the first part of verse 10 may be combined with the last part of verse 9. That first clause, “Because you have kept the word of My perseverance,” there are Greek editors that argue that that actually finishes verse 9, it’s not even in verse 10. That’s a technical question, we won’t get into that. “I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth.” Notice what it says; in verse 10 it’s not saying that I am keeping you from the testing as though I were shielding you through the testing, like a submarine going through the water or like the Jews going through the judgment on Egypt unscathed. Rather, what verse 10 is doing is it’s saying I’m keeping you from the time… from the time of the testing that is coming upon the earth. How is the church going to be kept from the time of testing unless the church is excluded from the time of testing, which means it’s raptured prior to the time of testing? So, one of the accomplishments of the pre-trib position is that it gets the church out of the way of the wrath of God. That’s the first thing.
Secondly, again referring to the notes, “It maintains the entire 70th week as a time of judgment focused upon Israel and the nations as this judgmental period is presented in the Old Testament.” So, by keeping the church out of it, it takes a very Old Testament view of that tribulational period. Next, “It allows enough time for the Bema Seat judgment and Marriage Supper of the Lamb to occur prior to the church returning with Christ at the end of the 70th week and permits a literal interpretation of the Millennial Kingdom starting with people in natural bodies,” because if the church is raptured at this point, the church goes to be with the Lord, then you have everyone at this point in history now is an unbeliever, so the population here is 100% unbelievers. Now the judgments start falling. The truth of the gospel hasn’t disappeared, Bible texts are still left around, information is still available, there are prophets who obviously are going to speak about how you get saved by a holy righteous God by substitutionary blood atonement, like prophets have said all the way back to Abel and Cain.
As time marches on believers occur, people come to know the Lord. Apparently they are not baptized with the Holy Spirit and joined in union with Jesus Christ and people find that odd. How can you have a believer that’s not … the same way you had believers before Pentecost. All the disciples, they weren’t baptized into union with Christ until after Pentecost. We’re not talking salvation here; we’re talking positional truth after salvation. And these saints have a particular positional truth, they’re saved, saved the same way we are, but the population, I don’t know, maybe it’s 90% unbelievers. And then we have this period when the antichrist comes into power and you have the persecutions begin because he knows, Satan at this point knows his time is limited, so we have the rise of the antichrist and now we begin to have tremendous martyrdoms happening.
So these believers are under siege, in fact they’re under such siege that that’s where the phrase came from in Matthew 24, Jesus said if this period were any longer than seven years there wouldn’t be a believer left. The pressure is so great, just psychological pressure, spiritual pressure, physical pressure, never in the history since Adam and Eve has there ever been a period of history like this. Talk about pressure and stress, this is it. The human race will see what God’s righteous wrath looks like in practice. So this period goes on and these people who are survivors, many of them aren’t survivors. You find those people in Revelation 6 or 7, somewhere in there, and then you have the group in Revelation 11, there are several groups in the Book of Revelation that are martyred. They cry out, Lord, Lord, how long are you going to hold off, this is awful, when are you going to revenge the blood of our brethren who have been defiled by this antichrist, and this whole sinful world system, and basically God says hold on, it’s coming, you’ve got to hold on for a little bit longer and then I’m going to do it. And He does down at the end, but when He does down at the end maybe there’s 90% unbelievers still because some people have believed, some people have been killed, so we have, say 10% of believers at this point out of the population of the world. It is those 10% in natural bodies, because they haven’t been raptured, who then become the nucleus to re-populate the earth after all unbelievers…see 90% of the population, they basically go to hell.
So God gets rid of all these people and leaves the 10% as the nucleus of the coming Kingdom on earth. [someone says something] Yeah, Jews and Gentiles. The issue is whether they’re saved. The Gentiles, the ones that responded, they saw God’s work with the Jews, it’s interesting, the basis of judgment there doesn’t appear to be quite like the gospel. It appears more to be like, the gospel in their day, I mean the gospel truth is involved of course, they were saved the same way, but the judgment is linked to how they’re viewing what’s happening here during the Tribulation. They are the ones that go visit in jail; they risk their lives to go help the persecuted. … Why would they do that, this is a social siege here. You’d risk your identification, your right to buy and sell and everything else by being a revel against the system.
Every one of these believers here, you can view them as an underground movement. You know, like World War II when the Nazis occupied Europe there were the underground, the French, they did have a few people in France that knew how to fight and the French underground people and the German underground people and the Italian underground … there were German underground people. There were some people in the German army that wanted to assassinate Hitler and tried very hard to do so. They didn’t get any cooperation from us by the way. But they actually proposed it, in fact there was a Lutheran minister, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who said it was the righteous thing to do, to murder, and the Lutherans went all like this when Bonhoeffer said that; he said we murder in the name of Jesus Christ. It’s a famous book that he said this, and Christians still vibrate over this Lutheran pastor saying this sort of thing, we are called to murder the Nazis.
This is the underground movement during the Tribulation. These people sneak around, they probably offer bribes, bribery is authorized in Proverbs 20 or wherever it is, just don’t take a bribe, but you can offer one. So all this goes on during the Tribulation. And as a result of that they are the ones who are chosen to begin God’s Kingdom on earth. And there’s no Rapture or anything else. They may be a Rapture of Old Testament saints here, or it may be part of the Rapture of the church, whatever, and that’s argued, I have my position but there are others who don’t, but the point is that there are people in natural bodies; you’ve got to have people in natural bodies who are believers at the beginning of this or you do not have a Millennial Kingdom. So if you’re pre-millennial you’ve got to have that. That’s the other problem with the futurist positions. What did we say that they tend to coalesce toward? Post-tribulationalism, all the other positions. Now if you really coalesced with post-tribulationalism what’s going to happen to the Millennial Kingdom? It goes amil.
Let me draw something for you to watch, to observe in this. There are basically two stable positions in all the views you’ve heard so far. All the views tend to do one of two things. They either tends to drift to a pre-trib pre-mil position of they tend to drift to a post-trib amil position, because those are the two stable points. All the other positions are basically halfway houses that are kind of wobbly because the logic forces you in one direction or it forces you in the other direction.
Hold on to your questions, we’ll continue and finish the pre-trib position, much to the relief of the people who are snowed by all the details. We’ll try to pull it together and make meaningful sense when it’s all over. As I said, this is not a class in eschatology; we got into this simply because we had to deal with the last event of history, so I decided I’d spend some time in some of these details. But as you can see it’s not easy and you could spend a lot more time on these details than I’m spending on them. But that’s not the scope of this particular class.