REASONS TO BELIEVE IN THE
PRE-MILLENIAL, PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE
OF THE TRUE CHRISTIAN CHURCH
by David Chagall
There is a lot of confusion about the End Times, the Great Tribulation, the Rapture and the Millenium, when Jesus Christ is destined to rule planet Earth for 1,000 years. Because of prophetic confusion that stems mostly from Augustine, some churches teach that all these prophesies have been fulfilled in the 1st Century. They claim we are already in the Millenium, have been since AD 70--which makes those thousand years already well over 1,900 years and counting. And last time I looked, the lions were not napping with the lambs but eating them for dinner, and Jesus was not yet ruling from Jerusalem as the prophets have foretold.
So where does the truth lie?
Like everything else about The Last Hour, I will never ask true seekers after truth to check their brains at the door. Check out the Biblical prophesies, compare them to historical events, and be alert to the happenings of our geo-political circus called modern civilization. That's why I wrote this study which I urge you to research for yourself as you read. The one abiding principle I ask you to apply to Bible prophesy is the same standard I trust you apply to everything else--if the plain sense makes good sense, don't look for any other sense.
So pull out your Bible, grab pencil and paper, and go for it!
AMILLENIAL VS. PREMILLENIAL
Daniel 9:27 presents the most trouble to Bible scholars of all the verses in Daniel. There are two major interpretations of this verse--the Amillenial view which holds this prophesy was already fulfilled in history, and the Premillenial view which considers this last seven years to refer to sometime yet in the future.
Amillenialists say Daniel 9:27 occurred in one of four ways. (1) liberal amillenialists see its fulfillment in the 2nd century B.C. when the Maccabees were persecuted under Antiochus Epiphanes; (2) Jewish orthodox scholars ascribe the 70th seven to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.; (3) conservative amillenialists claim that the 70th seven, especially the last half, is not a literal 3 1/2 years but actually an indefinite period of time; and (4) some amillenialists also believe in seven literal years starting with the first 3 1/2 years of Jesus' ministry climaxing in his crucifixion, followed by another 3 1/2 years for which they offer no precise interpretation.
The amillenarist and orthodox Jewish views all share a big problem. They do not explain the prophesy in its normal, literal sense. No precise fulfillment is offered for major elements of the prophesy, notably the last half of the seventieth seven. Since no temple existed after 70 A.D., and obviously no temple sacrifices could therefore be offered, then the "he" mentioned in 9:27 must refer, not to Titus but to a coming leader of this same people who destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D., descendants of the original Roman Imperial nations--Italy, Spain, Britain, Germany, Gaul (France), etc. Clearly, that final prophesy concerning the treaty with Israel, its violation after 3 1/2 years and the "decreed end" has to this very day never been fulfilled.
However, the Book of Revelation among other Scriptures, confirm that this last seven will climax in the Second Coming of Christ. First, turn to DAN.12:6-7 (read)--in prophetic Hebrew, a time (shu-uh)is one year (shu-nuh). So here again, we have 3 1/2 years for the great destruction to be completed. Now look at verses 9-11 (read). How long is 1290 days? Exactly 3 1/2 years of 360 days! Finally, turn to REV.11:2-3 (read)--how long is 42 months? 3 1/2 years. And 1260 days is--3 1/2 years. Here in the Book of Revelation, Jesus confirms Daniel's 70th unit of 7, and its last half, 3 1/2 years, as the destruction of the tribulation immediately preceding his Second Coming. Now turn back to DAN.9:26-27--
Premillenialists say this refers to a future fulfillment, identifying "the ruler who will come" of verse 26 with the "he" of 9:27, the future world ruler. Normal grammar refers a pronoun back to the last preceding person cited. In this case, it is "the ruler who will come" of verse 26. But Amillenialists argue that the one who confirms the covenant in verse 27 is Christ Himself with the New Covenant in His blood. But the New Covenant clearly covers far longer than a 7-year span--nearly 2,000 years so far and promised by God to last eternally. So how can the Lord break it after 3 1/2 years in 36 A.D.? If He'd done that, all of us here tonight would be the most miserable of creatures! The only reasonable interpretation is that this covenant-guarantor is a future world leader, the antichrist of the end time, who is a leader related to the various nationalities of Roman Legions who destroyed Jerusalem.
This view harmonizes with other prophesies that the antichrist will halt temple sacrifices midway through the last seven years, a conclusion confirmed later in Daniel 12:7 which states that the final 3 1/2 years "will shatter the power of the Holy People" (by placing the abomination on the altar), and this will be the flash point for the Great Tribulation. The idea of a time gap for Daniel's last seven years between 9:26 and 9:27 has lots of Scriptural confirmation. A most important Old Testament one is in Isaiah 61:1-2 (read). These two verses actually prophesy both the first and second comings of Christ. If an entire Church Age of 2,000 years can be squeezed inbetween two verses, it certainly sets a precedent for placing a time gap between the 69th and 70th "sevens" of Daniel 9:24-27. As with most problems of prophesy, difficulties come when interpreters do not heed the specific details. Once we understand that a prophesy requires it be fulfilled both literally and completely, most of these problems disappear.
Summing up, the best explanation of this 490-year prophesy holds that the first 483 years were concluded just before Jesus was crucified, and an unspecified period of time would elapse before the Roman legions would destroy Jerusalem and the temple (actually 37 years to 70 A.D.), thereby fulfilling DAN.9:26. The final seven years must wait until a world leader appears who is related to the people who destroyed the temple. Which people did that? Imperial Rome. So the moment this leader who must come from these same people "confirms" or guarantees a peace treaty between Israel and her enemies, we who trust the word of God can know the name and identity of the person the Bible calls "the antichrist."
This interpretation literally fulfills the prohesy, while it simultaneously agrees with all other "end times" prophesies in both the Old and New Testaments. Taken as a whole, the "seventy sevens" of Daniel span the entire history of Israel from Nehemiah's time in 444 B.C. up to the time of the Second Coming of Christ. Sandwiched inbetween is the post-Temple or Church Age, only briefly alluded to in the Old Testament as in ISAIAH 61:1 and 2, the first verse describing a period of grace and the second "the day of vengeance." It also is alluded to in ISAIAH 65:1,2 (read) This describes God's blessing on a "nation..not called by My name" contrasted to a "rebellious people..who provoke Me in anger." Who are these two nations? Now turn back to IS.49:1-7 (read) This describes Israel's taking God to all the gentiles. When did this happen? From 45 A.D. when Cornelius was baptized, and thereafter both by the Jerusalem church but most powerfully by Paul's work and the universal Christian church ever since.
PRE-, MID-, AND POST-TRIBULATION RAPTURE
We know with Scriptural certainty that the Rapture of the Church is clearly separate from the Second Coming inasmuch as the Rapture is when Christ comes for His own people, while the Second Coming involves His coming with His saints in triumph and glory. The big question remains--how long before the Second Coming? There are a few different Scriptural analyses we can look at to answer what for the believing Church is a most important question.
One interpretetaion, called the Posttribulation view, teaches that the Church will be present on earth during the entire tribulation period, with the comings and goings of His saints taking place almost simltaneously at the end of the tribulation. What Scripture do they use to sustain their argument?
1. The Rapture and Second Coming are described by the same words in MATT.24:27 and 1 THES.4:15 ("parousia" = presence, or being near).
2. Saints are mentioned as being present on earth during the tribulation in MATT.24:22 ("the elect"), and that means The Church.
3. Revelation 20:4 describes a resurrection of Christian martyrs at the start of the millienium, so assuming this is the same resurrection that occurs at the rapture, these events take place just before the millenium, i.e. at the end of the tribulation.
4. Despite being subjected to the tribulation, The church will be supernaturally protected from harm while living through the horrors, and not by being taken out of harm's way, just as Israel was divinely protected from the plagues while living in Egypt.
5. The early church, they argue, held this posttribulation view.
Midtribulationists believe that Christ will come for His people in the midpoint of the tribulation, exactly 3 1/2 years after it begins and 3 1/2 years before it ends when the Lord returns with His saints to set up the millenial kingdom. Support for this position argues that--
1. The last trumpet of 1 COR.15:52 is the same as the 7th trumpet of REV.11:15, which sounds at the middle of the tribulation.
2. The great tribulation is only the last half of Daniel's 70th 7-year period, and the Church is promised deliverance only from that in REV.11:2 and 12:6.
3. The resurrection of the two great evangelists during the tribulation in REV.11:11 pictures the rapture of the church, with their resurrection at the middle of the tribulation after 1260 days (11:3).
Partial Rapture holds that only worthy believers will be snatched out of the world before the tribulation begins, while others will be left behind to suffer its wrath during a time of purging. This idea relies on verses like HEB.9:28, which seems to describe a remnant waiting for Him on earth, based on the idea that good works are a prerequisite for being in the Rapture. This contradicts 1 COR.15:51 which plainly teaches "we shall all be changed."
Finally, the Pretribulation view holds that the Rapture must take place before the entire seven-year tribulation period begins. Then, seven years later when the tribulation has run its course, the Lord will return with His people to set up His millenial kingdom. The arguments for the Pretribulation view are as follows--
1. The tribulation is called "the great day of wrath" in REV.6:17. Believers who know the "Deliverer from the wrath to come" in 1 THES.1:10 are given the assurance that they have "not been appointed to wrath" in 1 THES.5:9. In context, Paul in 1 THES.5:2 was describing the start of the day of the Lord, or the Tribulation, and so clearly seems to promise that Christians will be removed before any of that wrath is poured out. That could only be true if the Rapture happens before the tribulation.
2. In REV.3:10, the Risen Lord promised the Philadelphia church to keep them from the "hour of temptataion which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." Pretribulationists interpret this promise, like the promises made to all the other local churches, as a larger prophesy made to the entire church alive at the time of fulfillment. This understanding comes from the understanding that this "hour of temptation" is in fact the tribulation because it is "worldwide." Notice that the promise here is not only to keep believers from the trouble itself but to keep them from the hour of trouble, which implies they are kept from being anywhere around this time. Since the tribulation will be worldwide, being exempted from it requires physical removal from the earth before it begins. If Posttribulationists are right, then this promise has to be understood some other way, because we know that many saints during tribulation days will not be protected from the persecutions while living through it. Turn to REV.6:9-11; 7:9-14; 14:1-3; 15:1-3. Clearly, many saints during this time will die for their faith before the Second Coming.
3. 2 THES.2:1-12 gives us an important chronological sequence. In v.3, Paul says that the Day of the Lord, or the tribulation cannot begin until certain things happen. First the apostosy must come and then the man of perdition is revealed. But this man of sin can't be revealed until something in v.6 ("what restrains him now," the neuter pronoun "hay") and someone in v.7 ("he" in the masculine form) are both taken out of the way. Then, and only then, can the man of perdition be free to do his dirty work. Whatever, and whoever, the restrainer is, he is now holding back the man of sin and Paul evidently had already told the Thessalonian church sometime before this letter the identity of the restraining "what" and "he" as set forth in v.6 ("And you know..").
This restrainer must be stronger than Satan, since the man of sin gets his power directly from Satan. Many commentators claim the restrainer is the Roman Empire of Paul's day with its highly developed legal system "which restrained." But we know no human law or government is more powerful than Satan--only God is. Therefore, whatever restrains Satan must be the Person of Almighty God, who Himself restrains. Many pretribulationists identify identify the Holy Spirit as the Person of the Godhead who work it is to restrain. Turn to GEN.6:3--(read) Whether Paul is here referring to the Holy Spirit is not totally clear. But the pretribulation argument using these verses does not require that certainty--
We know the Restrainer is God. Who is the main human instrument of God's restraint? Turn to 1 COR.6:19 (read)--now EPH.2:19-22. Jesus taught concerning the divinely indwelt church that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." MATT.16:18. Since the restrainer must be removed before the man of sin goes into action and the tribulation begins, and God Himself is the restrainer who as the Holy Spirit indwells all believers, only one of two alternatives must be true--either He must leave the hearts of all believers as they remain on earth to suffer through the tribulation, or when He is withdrawn, all believers must be withdrawn with Him in the Rapture. The Bible nowhere teaches that believers can be disindwelt, so we are forced to accept the second alternative. This doesn't mean the Holy Spirit won't be working on earth during the tribulation, but it will be like in Old Testament times when the Spirit does His work primarily by influencing people and not indwelling them.
Recently yet another view of the Rapture, the Pre-Wrath position, has been advanced by Marvin Rosenthal of Zion's Hope. This argues that the "restrainer" in 2 THES. is not the Holy Spirit but is actually Michael the Archangel. Turn to DAN.12:1 (read). Now the word translated as "stands up" is the Hebrew "Amad," which has a number of possible meanings, only one which is rarely used is "to cease." The pre-wrath scenario suggests that Michael stops restraining Satan, which allows the Great Tribulation to flower in all its fury. Briefly, this interpretation sees the Rapture of the church immediately preceding the terrible "Day of the Lord," the time of great world destruction prophesied in IS.13:1-13 (read). Compare this to what the Lord told us in MATT.24:29 (read). And REV.6:12-17 (read)--This Day of the Lord is the outpouring of God's indignation, fury and vengeance. The Pre-Wrath reasoning says that if the Day of the Lord starts at the mid-point of the 70th 7-years of Daniel, and the Rapture occurs just before that sixth seal of judgment is broken, then the Rapture cannot be pretribulational but actually pre-Day of the wrath of the Lord. One major weakness in this argument is its reliance on Michael the Archangel as being the one who restrains Satan. Turn to JUDE 9 (read)--here it seems clear that Michael does not have the power in himself to combat Satan directly, but must call on the Lord Himself to do the job.
Summing up, then, according to the best traditional Biblical exposition and scholarly thought, the Disappearance of the Church will occur sometime before the last seven years of Daniel's prophesy which starts with the peace treaty between Israel and her neighbors. This is the eschatalogical view called the "Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church." The question still remains, how long before? Turn to 1 THES.5:1-9 (read). Now to LUKE 12:35-40--(read). So now we know for sure, that the Lord is coming for us when? When we least expect Him! In fact, it should not come as too great a surprise if, this very moment, all of us in this room hear a shout from heaven, followed by the blast of a shofar, and tomorrow morning the neighbors will find an open door and a pile of clothes and eyeglasses lying on the floor.
We do have clear prophetic signs pointing to the outer limits of our Disappearance from planet earth. In the Book of Revelation, the Church is mentioned 19 times in the first three chapters, but is never mentioned even once as being on earth from Chapters 4 through 19 which describes all the destructions and outpouring of God's wrath, and completes the prophesies of events preceding the Millenial rule of Christ on earth. Turn to REV.2:11; 17; and 29 (read)-now REV.3:6; 13; and 22 (read)--now turn to REV.13:9 (read).
Notice, this is the very same phrase as before except that the church has been left out! Like all Scripture, this is not mere coincidence. In Chapter 13, read of the great world power that will emerge to rule the planet and the antichrist who will make war with the saints and overcome them for 42 months--how many years is that? Right, 3 1/2 years. I believe this clearly shows that the church will not be present for this time of testing.
From DAN.12:11, we know the terrible Day of the Lord is scheduled to occur exactly 3 1/2 years, 11 days of our modern calendar after the Jews are ordered to cease sacrifices in the Jerusalem holy place. DAN.9:27 tells us that cessation of sacrifices occurs about 3 1/2 years after Israel signs a peace treaty with her enemies. So we need to keep our eyes on the Middle East as so-called "peace talks" continue to develop. I believe in due time, this treaty will be hammered out in negotiations and Israel will be pressured into signing this peace treaty as prophesied in DAN.9:27. And then the doomsday clock will start its final ticking.
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