Two responses to the posttrib position

The first response to the posttrib position is written by Craig Blaising coming from a pretrib point of view, but perhaps more importantly he writes from a Progressive Dispensational point of view.  This is important because much of the Historicist viewpoint that Douglas Moo had written into his essay serves as foundational for his presentation of the posttrib rapture.  Blaising starts off by noting the disagreements with these foundational points.  Of interest is the difference in how the term “tribulation” is played out.  Blaising doesn’t like that Moo states that tribulation is against believers, meaning the final tribulation will also be against the people of God.  He would rather say it (the great tribulation) comes upon the world with believers having to suffer as this event comes upon the entire world in general.  He also points out that Moo never clarified if he believed in a future seven year tribulation, which is true.

He takes issue with Moo’s approach that there is nothing to exempt believers from tribulation.  He insists that the pretrib position acknowledges that there will be believers within the great tribulation, but that the church is promised exemption from this unique, future time of tribulation.  He points to Revelation 3:10 as proof, which is surprising since this was not a major point in his original essay.  When he dealt with this verse he was not dogmatic at all, but now this is the only significant counterpoint he has to Moo’s assertion.  He terms Moo’s exposition of the Day of the LORD as shallow, stating that he missed the point that the entire complex of events includes tribulation and wrath together.  Of note he states that Joel 2:30-31 describes Day of the LORD features “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD”.  Quoting Blaising, “It is as if two days of the Lord are combined in one extended event complex.”

Blaising addresses Moo’s examination of the three rapture passages (John 14:3, I Corinthians 15:51-52, and I Thessalonians 4:13-18) by stating that Moo is assuming (not proving) that each one is describing a posttribulational event.  He believes he has proven that each one is describing a pretribulational event.  Blaising dismisses Moo’s attempt to link I Thessalonians 4:16-17 with Matthew 24:30-31 as insufficient.  He believes that they both describe a divine descent, just not the same one.  In I Thessalonians 5, he disagrees with Moo that the Day of the LORD overtakes unbelievers and believers alike.  He sees the passage describing the Day of the LORD as overtaking unbelievers, but believers are delivered at the onset of the day.  Concerning II Thessalonians 2, Blaising believes his primary essay has addressed this point.

Regarding the Olivet Discourse, Blaising points out that Moo’s approach is odd and at times contradictory.  For instance, Moo believes that the Olivet Discourse describes the final tribulation, but then later asserts that it only describes the ongoing tribulation of the church.  Also, the idea of the “local significance only” presents difficulties when applying the passage to Daniel, from whence is derived the prophecy of the abomination of desolation.  Blaising believes that the 70AD pattern and the end times tribulation pattern overlap in the Olivet Discourse, showing that the temple could be destroyed without resulting in Christ coming.  Concerning Revelation 20:4, Blaising does not believe Moo has sufficient evidence against the pretrib rapture or in favor of a posttrib rapture.

Hultberg has more in common with Moo in that they both believe the church will enter the final tribulation (Moo’s term) or the great tribulation (more common term).  The majority of his response is based in the book of Revelation.  He examines the passages that Moo has portrayed as arguing for a posttribulational rapture, meaning at the very end of the 3 1/2 year period. 

First he goes to Revelation 11:11-12 which Moo has suggested could represent the rapture.  This is a difficult comparison because while Hultberg sees a chronology in the book of Revelation, Moo doesn’t necessarily believe anything is chronological.  Surprisingly, Hultberg agrees that this passage could imply the rapture, but the timing is where the difference lies.  Moo has suggested that the 1260 days of the two witnesses occur during the first half of the final tribulation while the 3 1/2 days occurs during the second half, actually being equated with the second half.  It seems that while Hultberg agrees that the two witnesses prophesy during the first 3 1/2 years, he believes they are killed sometime during the final 3 1/2 years.  The 3 1/2 days being equated with 3 1/2 years is weak evidence according to Hultberg.  He points out the chronology of Revelation 6-7 undermines the earthquake of the seventh trumpet being the same earthquake of the sixth seal.  At the fifth seal, God’s wrath is prayed for but delayed.  At the sixth seal, God’s wrath is portended.  Only after the sealing of the 144,000 and the (prewrath) rapture of the church is the wrath of God brought to earth being mixed with the prayers of the saints.  When the seventh trumpet is blown, this signifies that God’s wrath is complete.  This shows that the earthquake which occurs just before the seventh trumpet is not in the same time frame as the sixth seal.

While Moo was not dogmatic about Revelation 14:14-16 describing the rapture, Hultberg takes this as an opportunity to reassert what he has presented in his primary essay, this time stacking it up against Moo’s views (hey that rhymes).  He points out Moo’s description of the scene as a parousia scene including the Son of Man coming on a cloud.  Building on this, he paints a different picture of the chronology surrounding the passage than Moo’s non-comittment to any chronological structure.  He sees Revelation 12-16 as a subunit whereby John prophesies again after eating the contents of the little scroll.  The Danielic persecution of God’s people is described with the background beginning with satanic opposition in the garden of Eden in chapters 12-13.  God’s intervention on behalf of His people is described in chapters 14-16.  The three angels announce the impending judgment, Revelation 14:6-12, the Son of Man harvests the earth at the parousia, Revelation 14:14-16, finally the judgment comes when the angel reaps the vintage, Revelation 14:17-20.  In chapters 15-16 this is expanded as we see those who are victorious over the beast standing before God in heaven, then the bowls are poured out as the final wrath of God.  Hultberg notes in favor of an extended period of time for the Day of the LORD wrath the fact that during specific plagues in the trumpets and bowls that time is given for humanity to repent, Revelation 9:20, 16:9, 11.  This runs contrary to Moo who has asserted that the Day of the LORD is a singular event, although he never commits to a one day limitation.

Hultberg takes the time to address one more point which he felt was substantial evidence in favor of a posttrib view.  Moo has asserted that Revelation 20:4, when describing the first resurrection, must include the church and Old Testament saints as well.  He has brought in I Corinthians 15 which quotes Isaiah 25:8.  This is good evidence of a posttrib rapture because all OT passages place the resurrection of the righteous as the kingdom of God is being established here on earth, or completely after the final tribulation.  Hultberg responds to this in two ways.  First, he suggests that the mention of the trumpet in the corresponding passages may correspond with the regathering of Israel, but then again it may correspond with an attack on Israel as God comes to their defense.  The second way he responds is to point out the ambiguity of these OT passages stating that the temporal relationship of events is not always clear.  He suggest that perhaps these OT resurrection passages are post-millennial.

I personally see a great advantage to reading the responses of each position to the others.  I think many of us have wondered, “what would a prewrather say in response to this?”  Here we have many of the answers of how each would respond to differing issues.  It also expands upon some of the material which is contained in the primary essays.  I have tried to present each case and responses without bias, but that’s really impossible.  It is obvious that I am prewrath.  Still, the main body of material in the book is contained in these posts.  To follow up, I will write a bit more on how Hultberg’s presentation of prewrath differs with the classic position as taught by Rosenthal, VanKampen, Cooper, and others.  I will also try to comment on how it stacks up with my position.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

Posted in Books, Eschatology, Posttribulationalism | 4 Comments

A Case for the Posttribulational Rapture by Douglas Moo

The third rapture position presented in the latest version of Zondervan’s book entitled Three Views on the Rapture is the Posttribulational Rapture view.  It is written by Douglas Moo who is well known for his scholarship in other areas and is the only author making a return appearance from the first version of this book.  Moo has the most agreeable writing style of the three, perhaps realizing from being a prior contributor that the relationships will outlast any written work which will be critiqued, quoted, and forgotten.  Many points he could drive home forcefully, but instead he is not dogmatic and makes room for disagreement.

Moo’s earlier presentation slightly differs from this one, perhaps due to his views slightly changing, but also perhaps due to the emergence of the prewrath position.  His earlier presentation has much in common with the prewrath position, so this essay needs to distinguish itself from prewrath.  As you may guess from Moo’s critiques of his colleagues, there is a historicist flair throughout this work.  This is reminiscent of the old school premillennialists who wrote from the posttrib position, so perhaps Moo has been influenced by some of the Historic Premillennialists of days gone by.  Let’s get into Moo’s presentation.

Moo begins his foundation differently than the previous two.  He states that the rapture is not the means by which believers leave the earth and enter heaven, but rather it is the means by which the church (which he terms the new covenant people of God) is brought into the presence of Christ.  His foundation of the word “tribulation” also is set apart.  He surveys the Greek word thlipsis showing that 37 out of 45 times the word indisputably refers to tribulation that believers experience throughout this present age.  He also touches on the term “last days” showing that the last days are really the current period of time in which we are living in anticipation of the LORD’s return.

When digging into the particular texts which may or may not describe the end times tribulation, Moo points out that the horror of God’s wrath in the judgment will occur after the final tribulation.  So it is with great care that he seeks to selectively view end times passages that indisputably refer to the final tribulation and not generically to the Day of the LORD which includes that end times wrath.  The book of Daniel is mentioned, but Daniel’s 70th week is presented as an entire package of events spanning from the first coming of Christ to the second coming in glory.  Moo points out that Isaiah 26:20-21 could refer to divine protection from the end times wrath while remaining here on the earth.

Reasoning through the idea that all believers are to live through tribulation, Moo asks if the end times tribulation will provide some type of exemption from tribulation that current Christians are denied.  Also in Moo’s mind is the question of whether believers must be absent from earth in order to be spared the wrath of God.  He treats the wrath of God as being distinct from the end times tribulation.  He seeks to show that Revelation pictures God exempting believers from His wrath, Revelation 9:4, 20-21; 16:2, 9, 11.   Only after these foundational principles does Moo begin to interact with specific passages which may or may not refer to the rapture (he’s never dogmatic).

John 14:3, I Corinthians 15:51-52, and I Thessalonians 4:13-18 are often used to describe the rapture.  Moo examines each one and finds no reason to believe that Christians will be taken to heaven.  In John 14:3, he notes that the promise is not to go to heaven, but to be with the LORD when He returns.  I Corinthians 15:51-52 contains the idea that through resurrection the saints will inherit the kingdom of God.  Since Isaiah 25:8 is quoted, the Old Testament saints will participate in the resurrection that will occur at this time.  The last trumpet here occurs when the nation of Israel experiences their end times salvation (he cross references Matthew 24:31).  Again, there is no specific teaching that the church will be raptured into heaven.  The final passage is handled in classic posttrib style.  In I Thessalonians 4:13-18 the passage is shown to picture believers rising to “meet” the LORD in the air in order to accompany Him back to earth as a sort of delegation.  The word apantesis (translated meet) is also used in Matthew 25:6 and Acts 28:15 where it means just that.  Again, there is no evidence that believers will go to heaven.  Throughout this presentation, Moo reminds his readers that the coming of Christ is always a posttribulational event.  He notes similarities between I Thessalonians 4:13-18 and Daniel 12:1-2 which both show a resurrection from sleep, noting again that Daniel 12:1-2 is posttribulational.

Moo transitions into examining I Thessalonians 5:1-11 which acts as a springboard for a discussion regarding the term “the Day of the LORD” which Moo relates to the end after the final tribulation.  Moo makes his case by showing that in Revelation 6:17 and 16:14 that what is meant is an event associated with the parousia, which is always posttribulational.  Also, Malachi 4:5 and Joel 2:31 (I’m correcting what I’m sure is a typo in the book) describe tribulational events before the Day of the LORD.  So the Day of the LORD is not an any-moment, signless event if it occurs in this sequence.  Jesus taught that the saints would be raised on the last day, which would point toward the Day of the LORD rather than before the tribulation which precedes it.  He also argues that the Day of the LORD in I Thessalonians 5 would overtake believers, just not in the same way it overtakes unbelievers, like a thief.  The commands for believers to watch, or be in a state of watchfulness (in the Olivet Discourse as well) further drives home the point that what is being taught in the scriptures is a posttribulational parousia.

According to Moo, II Thessalonians presents many exegetical difficulties.  So while attempting to interact with anticipated objections of his view, covering everything is simply not possible.  He presents his view that in chapter 1 believers receive their promised rest at the glorious appearing of Christ after the tribulation.  Chapter 2 shows that Paul had to explain to the believers that the Day of the LORD parousia would not come until after certain tribulational events had been fulfilled, such as the appearance of the eschatological antichrist described in terms reminiscent of the antigodly king spoken of by Daniel.  Chapters 1 and 2 together show a united picture that the church will not be raptured until after the reign of the antichrist.

Moo has a lengthy section on the Olivet Discourse, lengthy by means of comparison to the other two presentations.  Here he wrestles with the ideas of things historical (ongoing throughout the church age), things preterist (fulfilled in 70AD), and things future (during the final tribulation, the Day of the LORD, and the second coming of Christ).  These positions of Historicist, Preterist, and Futurist are played off the others showing that each has some valid points to bring to the conversation.  Moo brings in more from a Historicist point of view than most would.  But as one is reading this presentation, they begin asking, what does this have to do with the rapture?  The idea that Moo is trying to get to the root of is – exactly who does the Olivet Discourse apply to, Israel or the church, or some combination of the two?  With Preterism versus Futurism, it is not either/or, but both/and.  Events were fulfilled in 70AD and they will be fulfilled in the future.  Adding on to this, events were fulfilled for the nation of Israel in 70AD (with the destruction of the Jewish temple), and there will be events fulfilled for the church in the future at the consummation of the age.  This section is difficult to sum up since Moo is bringing in very abstract concepts.  It is, however, worth studying what he has to say since conversations like this simply do not happen frequently.  Ultimately he concludes that the gathering of Matthew 24:31 includes the rapture and probably much more.

After all this, Moo is finally ready to move to Revelation.  Since this post is pretty long already, I’ll just cut to the chase.  The letters to the seven churches warn of possible persecution and death for believers.  Revelation 3:10 is akin to John 17:15 which promises spiritual protection from the hour of trial, not by being removed from the earth.  He presents the idea that Revelation 11:11-12 could refer to the rapture, which would be at the end of the final tribulation, especially since the seventh trumpet depicts the end of the age.  (He believes the sixth seal also pictures the end of the age, as in, both the seventh trumpet and sixth seal describe the last day as parallel passages, if I’m understanding him correctly.)  Revelation 14:14-16 may describe the rapture, then again, maybe not.  Revelation 20:4 is where he presents a firmer case.  He examines the usage of terminology throughout the book of Revelation showing that the first resurrection described here must include the church, the saints from all ages, and the tribulation martyrs.  Therefore the first resurrection and rapture occur as a posttribulational event.

Moo makes some concluding remarks which include some comments about the term imminency.  Instead of the idea of “any moment”, he shows the scriptures to mean “watch for” and “eagerly wait for”.  All in all, even if he is not dogmatic which results in ambiguity at times, this is a good presentation of the posttrib position.  I have devoted a little more space to this presentation than pretrib or prewrath, probably because there are more foundational issues to wrestle with in his essay.  Also, I have not discussed the posttrib position at length on my blog, while I have discussed pretrib and prewrath extensively, although it’s been a little while.  These posts are not meant to take the place of the book, but to summarize it and encourage you to purchase it.  The responses to the posttrib position will be forthcoming in a separate post.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

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Two responses to the prewrath position

The two responses to the prewrath position are worth studying in themselves.  I point out that prewrath is making somewhat of a debut in this edition of Zondervan’s book.  The last edition included the pretrib view, the midtrib view, and the posttrib view.  Now with prewrath replacing the midtrib view, this gives us the opportunity to see in print how pretrib and posttrib respond to Alan Hultberg’s presentation of prewrath.

Craig Blaising writes the pretrib response.  It becomes obvious within the first three pages that Blaising is going to take the debate into the arena of dispensationalism.  This did not come as a total surprise to me since Progressive Dispensationalism is Blaising’s area of expertise, having coauthored Progressive Dispensationalism along with Darrell Bock.  Here I was disappointed.  Instead of addressing the true nature of the debate, Blaising mischaracterizes Hultberg’s position.  He labels Hultberg’s view as supersessionist trying to cite David Turner against his position.  Also, Blaising finds Hultberg’s point that the church will enter Daniel’s 70th week to be unconvincing in support that the church will not experience a pretrib rapture.  He claims that Progressive Dispensationalism has no problem with seeing the church both before the rapture and after the rapture.

Blaising points to his primary essay which shows that the parousia of Christ is a complex event involving the labor pains, the rapture, the great tribulation, and the return of Christ.  This can also be termed the Day of the LORD.  So Blaising agrees with Hultberg when he sets forth the idea that the Day of the LORD includes the rapture, the eschatological wrath of God, and the return of Christ; Blaising just thinks Hultberg doesn’t include enough in that complex event.  (Toward the end of his response he states, “The foremost problem with the prewrath rapture view, as it seems to me, is its reductionist view of the day of the Lord.”)  He also asserts that the gathering of the elect in Matthew 24:31 is the OT prophesied event of the gathering of the nation of Israel as described in Deuteronomy 30.

Concerning II Thessalonians 2, I mentioned already that Blaising has another interpretation of verse 3.  Since this is a major battleground between the two positions, it seems only logical that Blaising would bring it up.  You are just going to have to read Blaising’s alternate understanding of this passage to see if you believe it has any merit. 

Concerning the book of Revelation, Blaising states that Hultberg has not proven the identification of the rapture in either passage which he cites, neither chapter 7 nor chapter 14.  He states that there is no mention of resurrection, transformation, or catching up in either of these passages.  He also postulates that perhaps Revelation 7:9-17 does not occur in heaven at all but perhaps on the new earth.  For the identification of the sixth seal as the beginning of the Day of the LORD’s wrath, Blaising points out that Hultberg is not consistent with his view that the wrath is seen as just arriving at the sixth seal.  There is another identical use of the aorist verb at Revelation 11:18 which Hultberg admits is at the end of a period of God’s wrath.  So the sixth seal as a time marker for the Day of the LORD could be retroactive just as the use in Revelation 11:18 is retroactive as Hultberg admits.

Douglas Moo writes his adversative (his word) from the posttrib point of view.  He admits up front that Hultberg knows more about the book of Revelation than he does.  But he still attempts to show why classic posttrib is the more preferable view.  He begins asserting that Daniel’s 70th week is not necessarily a seven year period at the end of the age.  This is problematic because Hultberg did not spend any time whatsoever developing this in his case.  Hultberg just dove into the issue of the timing of the rapture without building this foundation.  This plays into Moo’s thesis that believers are not necessarily rescued by rapture at the onset of the Day of the LORD.  Examining language in I Thessalonians 4-5 he shows that instead believers will not be overtaken by surprise since becoming Christians has allowed them to enter into the eschatological day, the last days in which we are living.

Moo focuses the rest of his time in the book of Revelation, which is understandable because that is where the majority of the disagreement comes from between Hultberg’s presentation of prewrath and classic posttrib.  For starters, Moo suggests that the 144,000 of Revelation 7:1-8 and the great multitude of Revelation 7:9-17 both represent the church.  This skews the timing issue which Hultberg has presented as a sixth seal rapture.  Moo also mentions two other possible references to the rapture which are Revelation 11:11-12 and 20:4 which he presents in his primary essay.  Since Hultberg relies so heavily on chronological sequence, Revelation 20:4 gives him contextual problems since this is termed the first resurrection.  Hultberg has interacted with this briefly in his primary essay, but does not answer definitively what is meant by this first resurrection.  Hultberg has suggested it is either chronologically displaced or refers only to the resurrection of martyrs.  Moo exploits the admission of a chronological displacement since undermining the chronology of prewrath would be a point in favor of posttrib, and he also points out the weakness of a martyrs only resurrection after the return of Christ.

Moo then revisits Hultberg’s chronological claims in Revelation 6-8 and 14-16.  Moo has no problem seeing the rapture in the passages that Hultberg cites.  In Moo’s opinion, these passages simply were not meant to teach a chronological progression.  He states that the sequence in which John sees these things is not necessarily the sequence in which they occur on earth.  He admits that there may be a parallel between the two passages, but states that we cannot be certain concerning the nature of timing.  He notes that while the bowls are described as God’s wrath, the trumpets are never described in such terms.  This undermines the idea of the prewrath rapture as Hultberg has presented it in the sequence of Revelation 6-8 (at the sixth seal) and Revelation 14-16 (at the parousia harvest of the Son of Man).

I want to bring up one issue which Hultberg mentions in his rejoinder.  Blaising has stated that Hultberg’s view means he cannot be a Progressive Dispensationalist, which Blaising says Hultberg claims to be one.  I find this to be a bit disconcerting that Blaising considers himself such an authority on Progressive Dispensationalism that he can determine who is “in” or “out”.  I have read Bock and Blaising’s book and find nothing in Hultberg’s statements which would indicate he should be ostracized from that viewpoint.  I quote Hultberg in his rejoinder to close this post.  He writes, “Blaising claims I argue Matthew is supersessionist (teaching that the church forever replaces Israel), a perspective he maintains is wrong.  However, I make no such claim.  I merely show that Matthew views the church as “in some sense” the inheritor of the messianic kingdom.  The church is the messianic community founded by Jesus, the present phase of the kingdom.  One would be hard-pressed to find a Matthean scholar who would disagree with this, including David Turner, whom Blaising cites against me.  My only point is that one cannot argue that in Matthew 24 Jesus speaks to his disciples as representatives of Israel and not the church.”  I bring this up because Progressive Dispensationalism has specifically not made an issue out of diverse timings on the rapture.  If comments like these in Blaising’s critique continue, an issue will have to be made about it.  That would be unfortunate.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

“All of the language describing the church in the New Testament is either directly drawn from or is compatible with the genres of covenant promise and the Messianic kingdom.”

A quote by Craig Blaising from Progressive Dispensationalism

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A Case for the Prewrath Rapture by Alan Hultberg

The second position presented in Zondervan’s latest version of Three Views on the Rapture is the Prewrath Rapture.  In every circumstance in this book, the positions are listed in this order, pretribulational, prewrath, then posttribulational.  The reason is most likely that the pretrib position places the rapture at the earliest chronological point in the end times sequence, posttrib puts it at the latest possible point in the end times sequence, and prewrath puts it somewhere between those two.  So pretrib presented the case first, followed by prewrath, then last of all there is posttrib.  The responses are listed the same way.  If Blaising has a response, his is listed first.  If Moo has a response, his is listed last.  Hultberg’s response is either first or last depending on which one he is responding to.  Maybe that’s not detrimental to this review, but I thought it was interesting.

Alan Hultberg writes his thesis on the Prewrath Rapture attempting to prove two foundational points.  The first is that the church will enter the last half of Daniel’s 70th week.  The second is that between the rapture of the church and the return of Christ is when the eschatological wrath of God will occur here on the earth, which Hultberg will later equate with the Day of the LORD.  As my readers can probably see, the first point is against the pretrib position while the second point is against the posttrib position.

Hultberg begins in the Olivet Discourse showing that the plain language that Jesus used shows that the church will experience the great tribulation of which Jesus spoke.  He interacts with Walvoord and Renald Showers who assert that Jesus was addressing the disciples as members of the Jewish community.  Hultberg doesn’t object to this categorization.  Rather he concedes this point and moves to establish that the church in some sense inherited the promises of the Jewish kingdom.  Rather than see a radical discontinuity, Hultberg sees a direct continuity between the twelve disciples and the new testament church.  His main points are that Israel comes to its fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ, the new community that Jesus founded was centered in the twelve disciples, and that the purposes of the discourses in Matthew were to train the church in discipleship.  But the point here that sticks out more than others is that “The Jewish rejection of Jesus leads to the rejection of Israel and the establishment of the church.”  The parable of the vineyard in Matthew 21:33-45 especially with the proclamation of verse 43 is where Hultberg makes his case.

Hultberg is not so concerned with proving from the Olivet Discourse alone that the rapture is included in Matthew 24:31 with the gathering of the elect as with the fact that the church will live through the description of events that Jesus gives.  The sign that Jesus stated that the disciples are to watch for is the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel.  The church will see this sign and enter the great tribulation.

Hultberg moves to the Thessalonian epistles to continue his case.  He notes the dependence of Paul’s description of the coming of Christ (in I and II Thessalonians) to the content of the Olivet Discourse.  The specific event of the rapture described in I Thessalonians 4:13-17 has parallels in the Olivet Discourse such as a trumpet blast, angels, along with Jesus in the clouds to gather the saints.  He brings II Thessalonians 1:6-10 into the picture noting the further parallels with the glorious coming of Christ with His angels.  So according to Hultberg, even though the rapture is not specifically mentioned in the Olivet Discourse, the apostle Paul places it at the gathering of the elect in Matthew 24:31.

If up to this point Hultberg has been laying the foundation, now he begins driving anchors deep into the ground.  It is necessary to read the argumentations for yourself but I will attempt to sum up.  He asserts that I Thessalonians 5:1-11 continues the same topic that chapter 4 ended with, the coming of Christ and the rapture of the church.  These are identified with the phrase “the Day of the LORD”.  The coming of Christ as a thief does not mean as a signless event.  Interacting with Walvoord’s view, he states that the Day of the LORD would overtake believers, but not as a thief.  The exhortation for watchfulness on behalf of believers shows that they will experience it in some way.  While unbelievers will be overtaken by the wrath, believers will be brought to salvation not having to experience that wrath.  Moving to the second Thessalonian epistle, Hultberg continues Paul’s line of thinking in showing that the rapture will be preceded by certain events, including the abomination of desolation.  II Thessalonians 2 is straight forward.  The coming of Christ and gathering of the saints (which occur together) will not occur until after the revealing of the man of sin, also known as the antichrist.  The church must enter the Danielic tribulation and see the abomination of desolation in order for this to occur.

Now Hultberg moves to the book of Revelation, where I think he excels.  He concludes his first section by pointing to passages like Revelation 7:9-17 and Revelation 13:1-18 which picture the church either in the Danielic tribulation or coming out of the Danielic tribulation.  Then he moves into his second section which is designed to differentiate between Prewrath and Posttrib.  Essentially the idea is that even though the church will witness the abomination of desolation and enter the Danielic tribulation, there is a rapture which occurs before the wrath of God which spans a length of time.  The sequence which Hultberg illustrates points to “a complex parousia involving the rapture, an outpouring of wrath, and the return of Christ to earth.”  While the rapture occurs after the midpoint of Daniel’s seventieth week, it also occurs before the end of Daniel’s seventieth week.

Two passages are cited to give this chronological sequence in the book of Revelation.  The first is Revelation 6-8.  Hultberg has already spent considerable time in noting that the great multitude of Revelation 7:9-17 is the church.  Now he sets forth the Prewrath, sixth seal rapture as taught by Rosenthal and VanKampen.  But intertwined with his view is that Revelation 14-16 also portrays the rapture, something that neither Rosenthal nor VanKampen taught.  Hultberg sees the rapture occur at the sixth seal which results in the church before the throne of God in Revelation 7:9-17.  He also sees the rapture occur in what he terms “the parousia harvest” in Revelation 14:14-16 which results in the church before the throne of God in Revelation 15:2.  In Revelation 6-8, the wrath of God occurs after the rapture in the seven trumpet sequence.  In Revelation 14-16 the wrath of God occurs after the rapture in the wrath harvest (grape harvest) and the seven bowl sequence.  Within this section Hultberg frequently refers back to the Olivet Discourse and the Thessalonian epistles for comparison noting that they all have parallels with each other.

Hultberg represents the Prewrath position very well.  He has an additional task of anticipating the objections of his colleagues which will be giving their responses, and he has done this well also.  I believe his writing style is easy to follow while substantively engaging the opposing views.  I also laud the introduction of an official publication within the Prewrath community setting forth the idea that Revelation 14:14-16 pictures the rapture of the church.  The critiques of the Prewrath position will get their own post.  For now I encourage my readers to get this book.  There is much more in there that space constrains me from delving into.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

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Two responses to the pretrib position

After each author presents his case for the rapture, the other two have the opportunity to critique the position that has been presented.  They are termed responses, but critique is probably the better word while rebuttal would be going too far.  Of course each author is going to point to his primary essay that he has written.  Some additional insight can be gleaned from reading the responses because it is here that we see how each position “stacks up” against the others.

Alan Hultberg writes from a Prewrath perspective.  He is in agreement with Blaising’s first thesis, namely that the church will be raptured before the Day of the LORD and the coming wrath of God which is associated with it.  However, he disagrees that the Day of the LORD is coextensive with Daniel’s 70th week.  Hultberg points out to readers in specific verses that Blaising has cited that these references do not necessarily mean that the entire seven year period is the time of the end.  Further, the use of the word “wrath” in Daniel does not refer to God’s eschatological wrath during the Day of the LORD, but rather to the wrath of Gentile kings against God and His people (Daniel 11:30 which shows the context of Daniel 11:36 which Blaising has cited in his essay).

My estimation of Blaising’s position was that he built his foundation on Daniel, and then moved to the Olivet Discourse.  Hultberg states that the lynchpin of Blaising’s argument is found in his conclusions on the Olivet Discourse, so that is where he spends the majority of his time in his rebuttal.  Hultberg points out that the labor pains within Matthew 24:4-14 are distanced from the end by verse 8.  So instead of these introducing the Day of the LORD, they are distinguished from it.  While Blaising has not asserted in such terms, Hultberg points out that what Blaising has subtly done is present a two stage coming of Christ.  He comes once at the beginning of the Day of the LORD to rapture the church, and then again at the end of the great tribulation in power and glory.  Perhaps the reason why Blaising used the terminology of “complex event” in application to the Day of the LORD is that Hultberg himself as Prewrather holds to somewhat of the same view.  So Hultberg needs to bring out this refinement in order to distinguish between the two positions.

Hultberg notes the agreement with Blaising that the Thessalonian epistles present the same coming as described in the Olivet Discourse.  On this basis, Hultberg notes the weaknesses in Blaising’s case.  Moving to Revelation, Hultberg gets specific in Revelation 6 concerning the timing of the arrival of the Day of the LORD.  The parallel between the first five seals and the birthpangs in the Olivet Discourse is conceded, but as noted above, Hultberg has placed these in the category of being distinguished from the Day of the LORD.  In classic Prewrath style, Hultberg points out that the recognition of the Day of the LORD at the sixth seal is not retroactive, but adequately positioned right at the sixth seal.  Hultberg will have much more to say on the chronology of Revelation in his primary essay.

Douglas Moo writes from a posttribulational perspective.  Moo approaches his response from somewhat of a Historicist viewpoint.  Moo points out that the time of tribulation in Daniel is focused on the second half of the week.  He states that Blaising never explains why his pattern is not that of a 3 1/2 year pattern rather than a 7 year pattern.  He shows that much in Daniel is occupied with the Maccabean events which have been fulfilled historically.  He also suggests that Daniel’s 70th week is being fulfilled in the last days which are occurring throughout the Christian era.  Then Moo gets specific in citing references in Revelation which designate a 3 1/2 year period.  For Moo, this provides support that Blaising has built his initial foundation of a 7 year future period known as the Day of the LORD on shaky ground.

Moo also spends a bit of time focusing on the Olivet Discourse.  He lays a bit of groundwork by exhorting the readers to take seriously some aspects of inaugurated eschatology.  The last days were brought in by the appearance of Christ, which leads to many fulfilled prophecies in relation to the ministry of Christ and the ongoing ministry of the church.  Moo’s main point is that Blaising’s distinction between an event (the rapture) which precedes this end times complex of events and the glorious coming is completely unwarranted.  For Moo, there is only one second coming of Christ and it occurs after the great tribulation.  All references to the coming will point back to Matthew 24:29-35 where the coming is a posttribulational event.

Moo concludes his response by focusing on the Thessalonians letters.  He points out that the translation that Blaising suggests for II Thessalonians 2:3 is on shaky ground.  But for Moo, the translation doesn’t affect his view.  As long as the word “first” is in the passage, there is a sequence intended.  Therefore the idea is that the Day of the LORD can come with certain events before it, not necessarily as a signless event.  Since this was a significant part of Blaising’s thesis, Moo can not agree with his conclusions.

Blaising gets a rejoinder at the end in which he tries to address the critique’s of his fellow contributors.  It is obvious that he understands what they have said but still holds to his conclusions.  For those who have followed thus far, you will want to purchase this book to stay abreast of how the differing views of eschatology are currently represented.  If you are wondering what the difference between Prewrath and Posttrib are, stay tuned.  Each will have their chance at an essay with a critique by the other.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

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A Case for the Pretribulation Rapture by Craig Blaising

The first view presented in Three Views on the Rapture is the Pretrib view.  Many know Craig Blaising from his work within Progressive Dispensationalism.  I must say that Blaising presents a better case for the pretrib view than I have ever read.  If, when I was studying the scriptures in search of the pretrib rapture, I had come across this presentation, I may have been persuaded that the view was at least plausible.  Instead, the pretribbers I talked to and notes that I read simply did not make a good case.

Blaising realizes, like most scholars now, that the battle is being fought over the nature and timing of the Day of the LORD.  He starts out recognizing the link between the rapture as described in I Thessalonians 4:13-18 and the term “Day of the LORD” in I Thessalonians 5:2.  Already you can see that Blaising is not inserting a false dichotomy in the chronology of the passage.  Now Blaising has a case to prove concerning the nature of Daniel’s 70th week.  He asserts that the entire seven year period is the Day of the LORD which includes the great tribulation.  He goes back to Daniel to lay the foundation which he states makes the Day of the LORD to be an extended period of time (or complex event) which includes a future antichrist, tribulation, and God’s wrath.  Here is what he writes:

The picture of the “time of the end” in Daniel is built up and reinforced by repetition and overlapping elements placed into a common structure that has an identifiable chronology and basic narrative sequence. Generally, it is the time of the end, the time of wrath (8:17, 19; 11:36, 40; 12:7, 9). Specifically, it is “one seven” – a seven-year period, with special attention on the time from the middle of this seven-year period to the end (9:27), a duration also specified as “time, times and half a time” (7:25; 12:7), 1,290 days (12:11), and “later in the time of wrath” (8:19).

Blaising will build on this foundation as he turns to the Olivet Discourse and the Thessalonians epistles.  He points out the overall similarity in the language in the Olivet Discourse noting tribulation, wrath (which he gets from Luke 21:23), and even language suggesting there may be an antichrist in the phrase the abomination of desolation.  He makes a point to highlight Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32 which most pretribbers do.  Since no man knows the day of the hour, this means that this seven year complex event known as the Day of the LORD will begin sometime in the future.  The conclusion is that the rapture will begin that seven year period.

Instead of dividing the Thessalonian epistles from the Olivet Discourse, Blaising embraces the idea that they are talking about the same coming of Christ.  This is new territory for pretribbers, as far as I know.  Blaising carries over the idea of a complex event to the Thessalonian epistles, still holding that the rapture is what begins this entire period.  He even goes to far as to say that “our being gathered together unto Him” in II Thessalonians 2:1 is the rapture.  He addresses the chronology of II Thessalonians 2, specifically the language which states that the coming and gathering will not occur until the man of sin is revealed.  Here Blaising’s argument gets weak.  He points to a questionable interpretation of the passage, and suggests that Paul is really pointing back to an earlier oral tradition or the first letter.  In this case, Blaising is assuming that they already knew about a pretrib rapture.  After all, he has just explained it from Daniel and the Olivet Discourse.

In moving to the book of Revelation, Blaising starts with the seals noting their similarity to the birth pangs as described in the Olivet Discourse.  For Blaising, this is further proof that the Day of the LORD is a complex event which includes many things.  When we arrive at the sixth seal, the Day of the LORD has already come because the living creatures have summoned these events at seals one through four commanding “Come”.  So the Day of the LORD is not portended at the sixth seal, but is acknowledged as what has come to be.  The conclusion is that the rapture must have occurred before any of these events since it occurs before the Day of the LORD.

An argument from silence, Revelation 3:10 (I will keep you from the hour of testing),  and dispensationalism (the distinction between Israel and the church) all are mentioned in somewhat abbreviated terms.  These issues are not foundational for Blaising’s position, which is sort of refreshing.  He does explain how these issues give pretrib credence and an overall coherence.  I will give high marks to how he interacts with preterism as he delves into the Olivet Discourse.  I feel he did a better job than the other two presenters in that aspect.  I was curious as to why he was making an issue out of how to dissect the passages that speak of events that were fulfilled in 70AD.  When I read Moo’s perspectives I realized why.

Summing up, I will say that this has been the most credible presentation of the pretrib position that I have ever read.  However, as the critiques will show, there is much to be desired as it stacks up against other views.  I wasn’t the only one who noticed the weakness in II Thessalonians 2.  I will post the critiques in another post.  Kudos to Blaising for presenting pretrib in such a way that it could be debated on a level playing field with Prewrath and Posttrib.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

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Thank you Rob Bell!

With all the buzz about Rob Bell’s new book, I thought I would come at this from another vantage point.  I will not be buying the book and I don’t recommend it either.  What Rob Bell has inadvertantly done is divide who believes in the Biblical doctrine of hell [or everlasting punishment because of His holiness] from who speculates what may or may not be.  Rob Bell is clearly speculating, while those who expound upon the scriptures are simply proclaiming God’s truth, see Matthew 8:10-11, 22:11-14, 25:41-46, Mark 9:42-50, Revelation 14:11, 20:11-15 (and that’s just for starters).

Rob Bell is stirring up the godly and reigniting their passion for the scriptures.  I myself feel emboldened to warn anyone who reads this blog of the very real lake of fire that all who do not receive forgiveness for their sins from a merciful God will experience for all eternity.  Christ Himself paid for those sins, all that we need to do is repent and believe in His work, not trusting in ourselves.  Those who will not receive Christ are condemned already.  Their fate is already determined because they have not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God.  Rob Bell claims that He can’t understand how a God of love could sentence people to eternity in the lake of fire.  I myself can’t understand how a God of holiness would come personally and die (suffer separated from the Father) for my sin.  Does He really love me that much?  But questions shouldn’t determine our doctrines.

I appreciate PJ Miller mentioning this recently by quoting JC Ryle, read about it here.  But mainly TC Robinson at New Leaven has kept an unbiased handle on simply informing his readers of the developments.  You really should watch this seven minute interview in which Martin Bashir cuts to the heart of the matter leaving Rob Bell squirming for a little wiggle room, fortunately none came exposing the scriptural weakness of his position.  BTW, some of you may think it odd that Rob Bell denies that he is a universalist.  But this is classic emergent language.  No emergent will ever take a label, that’s just part of their modus operandi.  They are supposedly emerging from labels.  So to take the label of universalist would be to exchange one theological system for another, and no emergent can take a solid stand resulting in a theological system.

Watch the video here, and you too may wind up thanking Rob Bell.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

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Pretribulation, Prewrath, or Posttribulation

I have just finished Zondervan’s latest edition of Three Views on The Rapture, subtitled Pretribulation, Prewrath, or Posttribulation.  I set aside my other reading (The Coming Millennial Kingdom) and blogged a little less in order to get through this book.  Now I’m going to give you my summary of it, and then later I will blog about some of the individual issues within the book.

Overall this book is a must read for those who want to stay versed on how the debate over end times events is progressing.  While some may think that the rapture is a small portion of the entire scope of events so this book is not worth it, consider the following.  This book focused more on the eschatological Day of the LORD, great tribulation, and wrath of God than the actual rapture.  While the rapture was a focal point, the aforementioned issues played a significant role in how each view developed their case.  Also, the introduction of the Prewrath view changed the playing field from the last version of this book almost beyond recognition. 

The case presented by each one was cordial, giving respect to their colleagues for their esteemed work.  The critique that each one gave of the other two was irenic, not giving in to petty comments, but actually engaging with the very substance of each one’s main points.  Blaising, Hultberg, and Moo all asserted that the timing of the rapture is not something that should divide Christians, and that no one can know for certain the exact nature of its timing.

So who wins the debate?  That’s what everyone wants to know, right?  Well, you’re just going to have to keep reading over the course of the next month or so as I blog about it.  I will tip my hand just a bit though.  It’s no surprise that I am Prewrath, for over ten years now.  But humor me a bit.  The Prewrath view has caused each other view to more clearly define the Day of the LORD.  No longer are general ideas good enough to represent one’s view in the debate.  Scripture is required to define the timing and nature of the Day of the LORD and accompanying wrath of God that occurs in the last days.  Because of the acute nature of the Prewrath position, each other position has had to “up their game” so to speak.  Entire arguments that were once standards have been totally discarded, or relegated to a mere honorary mention.

So, buy the book and then read along with me as together we discuss the issues that lead us to our rapture position.  I haven’t blogged on the rapture in quite a while, so I think it’s timely to bring the subject back for a bit.  I will be blogging through the rest of The Coming Millennial Kingdom (LORD willing) and other things that may be of interest to all you prophecy scholars.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

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Everlasting Dominion

I occasionally do these “where is it found in the Bible” type posts as a kind of poking fun at the “who said that” type things that other people do.  It seems that our culture is fixated on knowing what famous people said what and in what context.  Historians are doing it with the founding fathers of our nation, religious leaders are doing it with religious leaders of days gone by, and sports fans are doing it with famous athletes.  (Don’t even get me started on Hollywood gossip.)  I believe we should be more interested in what God has to say than any of those things I just named.  We should be so familiar with scripture that when a certain passage is quoted, we know where it is, or we at least have a general idea.

So here is the latest passage.  Can you find in the scriptures where these two passages are located?  They are in the same book, but separated by a couple of chapters.  No cheating by using search engines or concordances, just use your knowledge of the scriptures to find these two passages.  Here they are in the ESV:

for his dominion is an everlasting dominion

and his kingdom endures from generation to generation

all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing

and he does according to his will among the host of heaven

and among the inhabitants of the earth

and none can stay his hand

or say to him, “What have you done?”


for he is the living God

enduring forever

his kingdom shall never be destroyed

and his dominion shall be to the end

He delivers and rescues

he works signs and wonders

in heaven and on earth


Leave your guesses in the comments below.  I’ll post the reference after a few days.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

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Resource on the 144,000

I came across an article on the 144,000 from Revelation 7:1-8 & 14:1-5.  I have taken a little flack for some of my views even from people who agree with me about many other things.  The thing that people usually disagree with me about concerning the 144,000 is that I believe this is the believing Israelite remnant during the great tribulation to be preserved through the Day of the LORD wrath, which occurs immediately after the great tribulation.  What’s so controversial about that?  Mainly, that I believe these are saved individuals from the nation of Israel who will be preserved through the wrath of God, but they will not be raptured with the rest of believers from all ages.  The dead in Christ will rise first, then those which are alive and remain will be caught up to be with the LORD, but I don’t believe the 144,000 will be included, even though they will be just as saved as the rest.

Here is an online resource which agrees with my view.  All the questions that have been posed to me over the years are most likely answered in this very complete study.  The one thing that struck me was the explanation of how these 144,000 are virgins.  They don’t somehow wind up pure and consecrated by accident after the rapture.  The description of these believers shows an ongoing committment to Christ to remain pure to Him in the midst of adversity.

Read about it at this link here.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

P.S.  The article is by Reverend Larry Wolfe, a fellow PreWrather.

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