for a Pretribulationist
Robert Van Kampen & Rev. Roger Best
position continues to gain support as serious Bible students examine
it in light of Scripture. For that is the crucial test and is why
the Bereans ". . . received the word with great eagerness,
examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were
so" (Acts 17:11). The important factor is not what we may teach
or believe but rather, what does Scripture say when we take it for
what it says. We need to read the language of Scripture in its normal,
natural, customary usage, as we are careful to take it in context,
and then compare Scripture with Scripture. Too often Christians
are not like the Bereans and are led astray and ". . . tossed
here and there by waves. and carried about by every wind of doctrine,
by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming. . ."
(Eph. 4:14). We need Bereans who are faithful in saturating themselves
with the Word of God and willing to check out everything they hear
to see if indeed it is truth.
We are thankful
for many who we hear from who are excited about seeing what God
really says about end-time events. One of the many encouraging comments
to us was made by Dr. Walter Kaiser, the former dean of faculty
at Trinity Seminary, who made the observation that the prewrath
position is the only prophetic position that properly understands
and utilizes Old Testament prophecy concerning the Day of the Lord.
He also stated that if the fathers of dispensationalism had had
the choice between pretrib and prewrath, he genuinely believed that
the prewrath position would have gotten their vote, hands down.
Dr. Kaiser understands the prewrath position as he listened to two
5-6 hour presentations of the prewrath position that we gave to
the department heads of Trinity Seminary several years ago.
position on the timing of the rapture of the Church is often questioned,
especially by pretribulationists. Many find it difficult to give
up their traditions, what they have been taught, or perhaps what
they have taught. The prewrath position is simply an enhancement
of the historical position held by the early church fathers. The
pretribulation position, on the other hand, is a relatively new
position, first gaining popularity in the late nineteenth century.
Those who attack the prewrath position, more times than not, have
never read The Sign because either they never considered
the position or they fear the consequences if they adopted the position,
consequences they are were unwilling to endure. For these reasons,
they aggressively try to shoot the position down without really
understanding it and how it is arrived at via the teaching of Christ
of several books and articles that have been written against the
prewrath position by Christians which dogmatically maintain that
they take Scripture for what it says, we have compiled a list of
a few of the problems with pretribulationism. These must be answered
both logically and biblically if one is to have real biblical integrity
concerning the view he is espousing. Perhaps this list of issues
will be helpful to those who are asking us, "How do we get
our pretrib pastor to honestly consider the problems associated
with what he is teaching?" After all, it is the lives of the
flock they are told to shepherd and protect that are directly at
risk if their position is wrong. If pretribulationism is true, these
problems must be answered honestly from Scripture with logical,
unforced answers that do not contradict other passages. Biblical
truth does not spawn confusion. If, however, pretribulationism cannot
be clearly argued and substantiated from Scripture, pastors must
have the right to teach their conscience on this matter without
the fear of reprisal from their fellowship leaders. Lives of God's
elect are at stake (Mt. 24:21-22), not some remote doctrine that
will have no severe consequences if one is wrong. Without going
into any great depth, here are a few questions that concern pretribulationism.
IS PRETRIB'S ORIGIN?
all, pretribulationism didn't exist before 1830 and there is considerable
documentary proof that it was initially introduced in England by
Edward Irving, the father of the charismatic Apostolic Church and
not John Darby. Edward Irving probably picked up the idea of an
"any moment rapture" from his work on the translation
of Emanuel Lucunza's book, The Coming of the Messiah in Glory
and Majesty, a Catholic priest who initially wrote the book
in Spanish under the pen name of Rabbi Ben Ezra. In reality, with
whom the pretribulationism position originated really does not make
that much difference other than the fact that it contradicts the
first 1800 years of prophetic thought and contradicts the plain
teaching of the New Testament. On the other had, the basic tenant
of prewrath (that the Church will undergo the persecution of Antichrist
before the return of Christ) was taught clearly and consistently
by early Church fathers. Among the evangelicals, what other basic
doctrine of Scripture, other than pretribulationism, has been "discovered"
in the past 160 years and directly contradicts the basic, accepted
teachings (as a whole) of the early church fathers? There is none.
Some will tell you that pretribulationism is a result of "progressive
revelation," but look out. There is a lot of baggage when you
take that position. Where do you stop and who decides where? The
revelation of God ceased with the completion of Scriptures.
PRETRIB HAVE SOLID SCRIPTURAL BASIS?
pretribulationism has no clear biblical basis of support, only problem
passages such as 2 Thessalonians 2:1-8 (which is ignored) and Matthew
24:15-31 (which is ascribed to unsaved Israel). By comparison, the
prewrath position can be clearly argued from the books of Matthew,
Mark, Luke, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Peter, 2 Peter,
and the Book of Revelation, with absolute consistency and no contradictions,
letting the student of God's Word compare Scripture with Scripture
without fear of contradiction, finding instead perfect harmony in
all that is recorded in the New Testament.
AND REVELATION FOR THE CHURCH OR UNSAVED ISRAEL?
views substantial sections of New Testament Scripture as having
no application to the Church (in fact, many pretribulationists find
it necessary to eliminate the entire Book of Matthew). For this
reason, the applicability of the Beatitudes to the Church is denied,
as well at the Great Commission in order to protect pretribulationism
from the plain and obvious teachings concerning the timing of Christ's
return as given in the Olivet Discourse! However, the flawed position
that the Olivet Discourse describes the coming of Christ at Armageddon
(instead of the coming of Christ for His elect at the rapture),
is both logically and expositionally an absolute impossibility if
one takes the time to consider the context of His coming (parousia)
as it relates to other clear passages. For example, Christ teaches
in the Olivet Discourse that "in those days which were before
the flood they were eating and drinking, they were marrying and
giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and
they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away;
so shall the coming of the Son of Man be" (Mt. 24:38-39). In
other words, Christ taught His disciples that life will be going
on "as usual" right up until the time of His coming. How
can the world be going on like nothing has happened, when if pretribulationism
is correct and the Olivet Discourse is referring to the battle of
Armageddon, the earth has just undergone the worse series of events
known to mankind, leading up to the final battle at Armageddon,
including the death of a third of mankind (the sixth trumpet), the
turning to blood of all the seas and all the rivers and every spring
of water (the second and third bowl judgments), and all the armies
of the world preparing for battle against God in the plains of Armageddon
(the sixth bowl) and, immediately prior to Armageddon, the destruction
of every island and mountain by the worst earthquake known to man,
followed by 100-pound hail stones rained down upon those in flight
(the seventh bowl judgment).
if the Olivet discourse is written for unbelieving Jews going into
the seventieth week, why the repeated use of the personal pronoun
"you" (vv. 4, 6, 9, 15, 20, 23, 25, 26, 33, etc.), when
Christ was addressing His disciples, His followers that soon thereafter
would build His Church and would suffer and die for the cause of
Christ? And how can the elect (vv. 22, 24) be unsaved Israel, if
the unsaved remnant of Israel does not come to know Christ until
after the seventieth week is complete (Dan. 9:24; Rom. 11:25-26,
cf. Rev. 10:7), and how is it that every other use of the term "elect"
in the New Testament is a direct reference only to the Church, and
suddenly the elect in the Great Tribulation (Mt. 24:21-22) refers
to unsaved Israel. And if not unsaved Israel, how can this be a
reference to Gentile converts during a time devoted exclusively
to Israel (remember, pretribulationism teaches that the entire seventieth
week is a different dispensation, devoted to the nation Israel),
especially in light fact that Paul tells us that during the reign
of Antichrist there will be little if any salvation. ". . .
Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all
the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did
not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. And for this
reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they
might believe what is false in order that they all may be judged
who did not believe the truth . . ." (2 Th. 2:9-12). During
the Great Tribulation, those unbelievers who are not deceived by
Satan will be deluded by God. The elect in the context of the Olivet
Discourse cannot be a reference to a huge Jewish or Gentile revival,
if Paul's words are taken at face value. Therefore, the Olivet Discourse
cannot be a reference to the battle of Armageddon. It must be a
reference to exactly what Christ says it is, to His coming when
"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" (Mt. 24:31). In other words, the rapture
of the Church.
the prewrath position sees all of the Book of Matthew as applicable
to the Church and thereby consistent with the command of Christ
to teach new believers "all that I command you" (Mt. 28:20).
As such, it permits us to accept the parallel teachings concerning
the parousia of Christ recorded in the Gospels of Mark and Luke
without the confusion of which Gospel is for the Jews and which
is for the Church. It also negates the question of why, if the teaching
in Matthew is only for the Jews (and it is not), it is included
in the other Gospels if they are intended solely for the Church.
sees much, if not all, of the Book of Matthew and most of the Book
of Revelation as not written for the Church, but rather for "unsaved"
Israel that will come to know Christ during the 70th Week. How can
the Church not be in mind in these key passages in light of the
given audiences to whom these books are written (Rev. 1:1 - His
bondservants, and 22:16 - the churches, and Mt. 28:20 - the new
disciples from all nations)? In reality, pretribulationism accomplishes
for the conservative Christian what he dare not do with culture.
Liberalism throws out Scripture because it says it is cultural.
Pretribulationism throws Scripture into what Greek scholar, Samuel
Tregelles, called "The Jewish wastebasket" because it
says it is not applicable to the Church.
TWO PAROUSIAS OF CHRIST?
pretribulationism sees two separate parousias (comings) of Christ,
one when He comes "for His Church" and the second, when
He comes "with His Church," a grammatical position with
not one verse of substantiation or explanation. One second coming
of Christ (parousia) is referred to, never two, never spoken of
in the plural, and never differentiated by any writer, including
Christ. As important as the return of Christ is, if two separate
parousias were the teachings of Christ and Paul, there would be
no confusion in this matter. What's even worse, the proof text of
Christ coming "with" the Church is a singular passage
given in Revelation 19. At the great and final battle of Armageddon,
"the armies which are heaven, clothed in fine linen, white
and clean, were following Him [Christ] on white horses" (v.14).
Simply because they are wearing white linen clothing some assume
Christ's army must be the "bride of Christ," even though
the angels are seen wearing the exact same clothing (Rev. 15:6).
Both Christ and Paul taught that it would be His angels that accompany
Christ in battle during the day of the Lord (Mt. 16:27; 2 Th. 1:7-8).
The idea that the new bride of Christ is to, immediately after the
marriage ceremony described earlier in the chapter, follow her bridegroom
into battle stretches one's imagination, especially in the light
of the other clear teachings of Scripture. The prewrath view sees
only one parousia of Christ, at a time that perfectly harmonizes
IS THE TEACHING OF REVELATION 3:10?
try to use Revelation 3:10 as the key verse to prove that the Church
will not be present during "the hour of testing." However
some of the greatest recognized Greek scholars of the past several
centuries (i.e. Moffatt, Goodspeed, Fausset, Beckwith, Zahn, Trench,
Swete, Alford, Tregelles, and Robertson to name just a few) take
the position that this verse promises removal out from within the
sphere of danger, not kept outside it. If protection outside the
sphere of danger had been what was intended, clearly other Greek
words (i.e. apo) would have been used instead of ek.
if pretribulationism is going to use Rev. 3:10 (the church of Philadelphia)
as a proof text, then it must also be consistent and use the church
of Thyatira with the same end-time application. In that church Christ
directly tells John that "My bondservants" (Rev. 2:20)
who have been led astray by Jezebel, "I will cast . . . into
great tribulation unless they repent of her [Jezebel's] deeds"
(Rev. 2:22). The next verse goes on to say that "all the churches
will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts."
Therefore, the bondservants are part of the Church, not a group
of believers that come to Christ after the Church has been raptured.
As it is, only Christ uses this term "great tribulation"
and only three times in Scripture. In the other two cases (Mt. 24:21;
Rev. 7:14) there is no question that it refers to the second half
of the seventieth week. To accommodate its position, pretribulationism
must deny the obvious. On the other hand, If Christ meant what He
said, and "great tribulation" refers to exactly how He
used the phrase in His other teaching concerning the last days,
the pretribulation view of Revelation 3:10 is directly contradictory
to Revelation 2:22.
always implies separation of ranking. There is no need to test the
whole world after the separation has already taken place. However,
pretribulationism maintains that the testing occurs after the rapture
of the Church. The prewrath view, by comparison, shows that the
Church is removed during the testing as the Scripture says, "the
Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation [the same word
translated "testing" in Rev. 3:10] and to keep the unrighteous
under punishment for the day of judgment" (2 Peter 2:9).
doctrine of imminency is nowhere taught in Scripture. The concept
that Christ could return at "any moment" since His departure
back to heaven is simply not taught anywhere in the entire Bible.
Not one of the passages used to sustain imminency, actually teach
imminency. Expectancy, yes. Imminency (an any-moment rapture), no.
If imminency had been the concept that the writers had wanted to
convey, it could have and would have been clearly stated (in fact
19th century promoters of pretribulationism initially taught expectancy
rather than imminency for this reason). In addition, there were
many events prophesied by Christ, known throughout the Christian
world at that time, that still had to occur before He could return,
such as the destruction of the Temple (Lk. 21:6) and the death of
Peter (Jn. 21:18-19). Imminency was an impossibility until the Temple
was destroyed in 70 A.D.
Christ taught that His rescue of the elect of God will occur "on
the same day" that His wrath will begin upon the wicked that
remain (Lk 17:26-30). There is no gap of time between the rapture
and His wrath. If the seventieth week of Daniel is really the wrath
of God, as pretribulationism maintains, and the seventieth week
begins with Israel's covenant with Antichrist (Dan. 9:27), then
Israel must be back in the land and Antichrist must be on the world
scene before the Rapture, a simple deduction which once again destroys
the unbiblical concept of imminency. But the prewrath position has
no problem with any of these passages, including Revelation 12:12,
where the persecution of Antichrist against the "elect"
of God during the great tribulation is not called the wrath of God,
but rather, the wrath of Satan. Pretribulationism makes Antichrist's
persecution of God's elect the wrath of God. Prewrath rapturism
sees this great persecution as the wrath of Satan (Rev. 12:12 being
the proof text). Antichrist's persecution of God's elect is never
the wrath of God (Mt. 24:21-22; Rev. 12:7; 13:7; 14:12-13).
GREAT TRIBULATION CUT SHORT?
why does pretribulationism deny the clear, plain teaching of Christ
that states His coming will occur when He cuts short (amputates)
the great tribulation for the sake of the lives of the elect (Mt.
24:21-31)? This theme is repeated and expanded upon in Mark and
Luke with the same substance and sequence again perfectly confirmed
by the teaching of Paul to the Thessalonian church. Why deny the
clear warnings given to the Church that enters the last days? The
stakes are so very high!
CHURCH AT RISK?
teach pretribulationism run a big risk by telling believers that
this does not concern them. Christ specifically told the disciples
to teach His disciples from all nations "to observe all that
I commanded you" (Mt. 28:20) and again told John "to show
to His bondservants that things which must shortly take place"
(Rev. 1:1). Yet, pretribulationism teaches that these two critical
passages (Matthew 24 and Revelation) are not written for the Church,
but for unsaved Israel that enters into the final seven years of
human history as we know it. Why are His "bondservants"
told to read, hear, and heed the words of the prophecy of Christ's
revelation to John (Rev. 1:3)? Woe to the one who "takes away
from the words of the book of this prophecy, [because] God shall
take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city"
(Rev. 22:19). If one compares all the passages of Revelation, they
all fit perfectly and give no comfort to the compromising Church
of the last days.
such an overwhelming concern for the Church today. We are upset
about what is being taught because the teaching of Christ is so
clear concerning the persecution the Church will undergo before
Christ returns, and the cost will be so high to those who are unprepared.
DOES SCRIPTURE TEACH?
It is very
interesting to read the negative reviews on the prewrath position.
Not one review to date has dealt with the biblical position of prewrath.
Some have set up straw men, and when they tear these straw men down,
they think they have accomplished something. Others rehash the idea
that certainly all the great men who held to pretribulationism could
not have been wrong. The reason, we believe, is because the prewrath
position cannot be attacked by taking Scripture at its face value.
It is too firmly based upon Scripture.
is not with us, it's with the Word of God. We have only taken it
for what it says, harmonized it with all the other passages saying
the exact same thing and gone on record that the Bible clearly tells
us what will occur just prior to the coming of Christ.
To say that
we are concerned is an understatement. Whereas we refuse to set
dates and hopefully will never be guilty of trying to squeeze Scripture
into fitting current events, rather wait for current events to fulfill
Scripture; nevertheless, there is a sense of urgency that drives
our aggressiveness, as you may sense from the tenor of this study.
The condition of the Church today and the world's political scene
are such that the beginning of the seventieth week of Daniel could
begin, as it were, overnight.
if it is wrong, will result in the untold agony of innocent Christians
who have believed it. In light of that, end-time prophecy becomes
very relevant, "For it is time for judgment to begin with the
household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the
outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And if it is
with difficulty that the righteous is saved [delivered], what will
become of the godless man and the sinner?" (1 Peter 4:17-18)
On the other
hand, if the prewrath view is wrong, it has only helped make Christians
more alert and watchful for the return of Christ through holy living
(2 Th. 1:4-11; Lk. 21:25-36; 1 Jn. 2:28). The problem is that we
know that the words of Christ, substantiated by Paul, are for the
Church, and the unprepared Church has been set up for "a great
tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the
world until now, nor ever shall, and unless those days had been
cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the
elect, those days shall be cut short" (Mt. 24:21). That makes
all previous persecutions pale in comparison to the persecution
the elect of God will undergo during the great tribulation of Antichrist.
The truth must be proclaimed, no matter how unacceptable it is to
those who seem more concerned with tradition than the clear teaching
of Christ, especially in the day and age we live in today. "It
is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe that man through
whom the stumbling block comes" (Mt. 18:7).
warning the confused Thessalonians to "let no one in any way
deceive you" (2 Th. 2:3) concerning the timing of "our
gathering together to Him [Christ]" and the timing of when
"the day of the Lord has come" (2 Th. 2:1-2), ends his
profoundly clear sequence of events that must precede the "appearance
of His [Christ] coming" (2 Th. 2:8) with this admonition: "If
anyone does not obey [listen, attend to] our instruction [words]
in this letter [which is almost entirely prophetic concerning the
second coming of Christ], take special note of that man and do not
associate with him so that he may be put to shame. And yet do not
regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother." (2
Th. 3:14-15). Why? Because the stakes are too high for genuine believers
to be misled by teachers in whom they have put their trust. The
beginning of the seventieth week could occur almost overnight. We
are the first generation of the Church since 70 A.D. to be in this
peculiar position in history. As never before, we must be alert
that there are many views concerning prophecy. However, there is
a major disagreement by sincere men of God over every position one
chooses to take and be dogmatic about. If one employs the proper
hermeneutic (consistent literal interpretation), truth can be known
by those willing to study to show themselves approved, by rightly
dividing the Word of God. But truth is truth no matter who agrees
or disagrees, or how sincere their motives. So it is with end-time
theology. The truth of what is being taught is Scripture is so simple.
What are complex and confusing about the coming of Christ are the
systems and traditions of men which have absolutely no biblical
basis. Men and their wishful thinking make the issues concerning
the last days confusing, which aids the cause of Satan who cannot
afford to have the Church prepared for the last days. Satan will
do all he can to keep men out of the Book of Genesis, upon which
fact all men will be held accountable (Rom. 1:20). He will also
do all he can to keep men out of the Book of Revelation, because
end-time events, in particular the "hour which is about to
come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth"
(Rev. 3:10), will determine what will happen to Satan (Rev. 20:2)
and who will rule the world (Rev. 11:15).
have seen our heart, our passion, and why we are driven the way
we are, especially as we see the compromised condition of the Church
today and know the cost of being unprepared. Our prayer is that
the Church will not be "surprised at the fiery ordeal among
you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange
thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the
sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation
of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation" (1 Pet. 4:12-13)
rather than "shrink away from Him in shame at His coming"
(1 Jn. 2:28). We realize the battle that we are in, yet we know
that God has given us the grace to overcome whatever hardships go
with the territory. Yet we have the quiet peace that what we do,
we do for the sheep we are commanded to shepherd, based upon the
authority of Scripture that we teach them "to observe all that
I [Christ] command you; and lo I am with you always, even to the
end of the age." Praise God.