Archive for category Rapture

Distinction Between Israel and the Church as an Argument for the Pre-Trib Rapture

I am going to try to pick up my blogging again and perhaps speed it up, Lord willing.  I plan to do more personal things on Facebook (where my activity has picked up) but more academic/technical things on  I have been asked to speak at the Pre-Trib Study Group this coming December giving an analysis of Sam Storms’ book Kingdom Come which I blogged about a few times.  I hope to finish my string of blogs in response to Sam’s points which I had started to do.  My paper at the Pre-Trib Study Group will be an expansion of the paper I delivered at the Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics last year.  I want to be constructive in my criticism and not bombastic in my disagreements.  Please pray for me on this.

For this blog post, however, my main thought goes ahead to the upcoming Council meeting in September which I advertised in my last blog.   My presentation is entitled “What Do Israel and the Church Share from a Traditional Dispensational Viewpoint?”  I want to help traditional dispensationalists do a full-blown theology and not just hammer the distinction between Israel and the Church (which I firmly accept) as a matter of polemics in our debate with replacement theology.  In doing this, one area that gives me pause is the constant use by dispensationalists of the distinction between Israel and the Church as a theological switch that provides proof for the pre-trib rapture.  This argument would be more plausible if the distinction has been proven to be absolute on other grounds before we get to the rapture question.  To be sure, some dispensationalists in the tradition have argued for a pretty absolute distinction by keeping the Church out of the future earthly kingdom.  In addition, Lewis Sperry Chafer’s view of two distinct new covenants was at least partly caused by his desire to make the Israel-Church dichotomy more absolute.  As to the idea that the Church as a heavenly elect will have no part in the future earthly kingdom, this seems to be countered by Luke 19:11-27 and like passages.  As to the idea of two new covenants, very few dispensationalists today hold such a view.  The book I edited entitled “Dispensational Understanding of the New Covenant” shows three views defended, none of which are the two new covenants view.  No one showed up to defend this view at the Council when we discussed it.

Read the rest of this entry »

The “Apostasia” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3

At the Pre-Trib Study Group last December, Dr. Wayne House presented a paper on the meaning of apostasia in 2 Thess 2:3.  He had earlier made a presentation at the same conference study group back in the mid-1990s, but had done some more work on it and decided to present the main idea again.

The debate over apostasia in this passage stems from the two major options:  a departure from the faith or a departure from the earth as in rapture of the Church.  Of course, if the latter is true, then the debate about the timing of the rapture of the church is over — pre-trib wins.  However, the issue is far from clear as Dr. House shows.  Most dispenstionalists have probably held that it refers to departure from the faith or rebellion or declension.   Some have taught that the great decline of the Christian faith in the West (and in the Western Church) during the 20th century is a fulfilllment of this prophecy.  Both of the two options, if I remember correctly, are listed in the notes of the Old Scofield Reference Bible (1909).

The translation of apostasia as rebellion as found in the NIV was rejected by House.  He suggested that this thought has existed only as a translation of the word in English translations since the King James Version but earlier English versions had favored the simpler idea of departure.  House argued that the word meant departure and that the issue of what the departure was from or what the nature of the departure consisted of was something that only the context of a passage could deliver.  Grammatically, the word does not automatically carry the idea of rebellion by the simple use of the word.   House points to contextual ideas (the general focus of 2 Thess 1-2 on end-time issues and 2 Thess 2:1 talking about the rapture itself.  Thus, he argues the following:  “What makes the most sense in the context, that the Day of the Lord had not come because a rebellion against government or a defection from the faith had not occurred, or that the departure to be with Christ had not occurred? Remember, in 1 Thessalonians 1, the encouragement was that the coming of Christ would rescue believers from the coming wrath”  (page 5 of House paper).”

In my own commentary, First and Second Thessalonians: Looking for Christ’s Return (2009), I respectfully discuss House’s position using his earlier paper that ended up published in When the Trumpet Sounds (1995).  However, I gravitate to the position that the word means apostasy, rebellion, or declension and that it is associated in some way with what follows — the appearance of the man of lawlessness (the anti-Christ figure).  However, I respect the argumentation of Dr. House and must remain open to the possibility that he is right.  Why do I go to the later connection of the man of lawlessness instead of linking to the immediate context given earlier along with the general theme of the book?  In this matter, I cannot be dogmatic.

Memories of Bobby Goldsboro and “Come Back Home”

I graduated from Butler High School in Huntsville, Alabama in 1971.  It was that year that a song came out in an album with the same name — “Come Back Home” (shown here–released by United Artists).  It was by Bobby Goldsboro who had already become my favorite songwriter and singer.  He crossed over from country to soft rock to pop and all around.  I enjoyed his style.  But this song more than all the others got my attention.  “Come Back Home” is a song that is a prayer asking for the Lord Jesus to return to earth– “if only for the children, come back home” says the last line of the chorus. 

What is especially intriguing is that I did not become a Christian until 1974.  Why would I listen to this kind of a song?  I played it over and over and over.  I think the reason was that the Spirit of God was speaking to my heart.  I was listening to Billy Graham whenever he came on television.  I had picked up a Bible to try to understand it.  I was in search mode for my life.  This was one aspect of my search.  The song captivated me and made me think about the fact that the Bible said Jesus was still alive and that he was coming back.  The song told me we would not make it on our own if He did not come back.

Read the rest of this entry »

Are Pre-trib Rapturists No Good for this World? Part 4

In earlier posts, I mentioned Tom Krattenmaker’s article “What if the end isn’t near?”  (USA Today in August 2010).  It is largely a criticism of the pretrib view of the rapture and the alleged motivation such a view is toward inaction on the part of the Christian in the world to engage social problems, etc.  In my first post, I listed some concerns which I began to flesh out briefly in other posts.  I have provided them below.  In this post, I want to finalize my initial analysis.

 1.  How many pre-trib Christians hold different views of nuclear weapons and environmentalism from the author’s because of factors other than biblical views of the end times;
2.  The generous use of overstatement throughout the article;
3.  Unwarranted assumptions and limited options that are sometimes given (why are there only two futures?  why not 3 or 4? are we really dealing with all the possibilities?);
4.  The false charge of fatalism in light of the true nature of the doctrine of imminency;
5.  The use of fringe views or minority views instead of scholarly and thoughtful presentations of the pre-trib perspective;
6.  As a corollary to # 5, the futurism of the pre-trib view which does not allow for predictions of the future in a true pre-trib perspective.  In other words, the article seems to be unaware that it is being critical of historicist misrepresentations of the pre-trib perspective rather than the pre-trib perspective itself.
7.  As a corollary to # 1, the idea that the article (may) assume that current political environmentalism is what the Bible teaches about care for the created order.

To begin, I want to make some remarks about unwarranted assumptions and limited options that are given in Krattenmaker’s article.  This is demonstrated at the very outset of the article.  Citing Tyler Wigg-Stevenson (favorably), Krattenmaker says “he sees two futures.  In one, the world has rid itself of nuclear weapons.  In the other, the world has been destroyed by them.”  These two options appear to be the thrust of the title of Wigg-Stevenson’s organization the Two Futures Project.  It is quite appropriate for someone to voice his view of the dangers of nuclear weapons.  I have absolutely no problem with that.  All wars are to be avoided if at all possible, not just nuclear ones.  However, is the opinion that these are the only two options (world-wide destruction or no nukes exist) a wise one to possess on such a critical issue? Is there no middle position that is possible?  Why craft the issue in these stark terms?  One must live in reality not in a dream world.  It is not at all a sure conclusion that the world will destroy itself with nuclear weapons if they are allowed to exist.  It is certainly a theoretical possibility.  However, it is not an inevitable one.  One cannot assume the world-wide catastrophic end when the next nuke is used (although some pretribs do hold this view).   Of course, this view could be seen as playing it safe to prevent the catastrophe.  Unfortunately, in a fallen world this may not be appropriate.  If evangelicals rose up to be against nuclear weapons and helped lead America to unilaterally destroy all their nuclear weapons, it is not at all assured that the same would be true of other parts of the world.  A wise use of nuclear weapons as deterrents has been quite effective for decades in preventing catastrophe and/or servitude.

Read the rest of this entry »

Are Pre-Trib Rapturists No Good for This World? Part 3

Here I would like to pick up again my critique of an article by Tom Kratttenmaker in August 2010 entitled “What if the end isn’t near?”  His article is a criticism of Christians who hold to a pre-trib rapture.  Those of us who hold that view, according to Krattenmaker (as well as others), are too focused on the future and not willing to work on problem-solving in the present world. So we are not good for this world — that is the way I am saying what he means.

The particular issue I want to raise in this post is the tendency of overstatement that I found in a few cases in the article. One particular statement that needs to be highlighted is the following:

Those enraptured by the rapture tend to view current events through the lens of biblical prophesy [sic], reading everything from the Obama election to the oil disaster in the Gulf Coast as fulfillment of one or another cryptic passage from Revelation.

Read the rest of this entry »

Are Pre-Trib Rapturists No Good for this World? Part 2

In responding to the USA Today article “What if the end isn’t near?” from August 23, 2010, I want to deal in this particular posting with some basic thoughts on how the article and some (more liberal?) evangelicals think about the motivation of pretrib rapturists when it comes to social issues like nuclear weapons and environmentalism.

The basic idea I want to suggest is that there are many more factors involved in one’s view of such things than how end time events are understood.  Let’s take the two issues of nuclear weapons and environmentalism one at a time.

Read the rest of this entry »

Are Pre-Trib Rapturists No Good for this World?

I have mentioned Tom Krattenmaker, editorialist for USA Today, under the topic of “Evangelicals and Sports.”  I’ll be doing more of that in the days ahead.  However, I consider our differences in that arena somewhat mild and less important than in the area of a recent editorial:  “What if the end isn’t near?” (August 23, 2010).  The subtitle comment of the article tells the basic thrust:  “Too many evangelical Christians welcome the biblical rapture with an unsettling eagerness.  This fatalistic view serves neither fellow humans nor the planet.  A new breed of believers thankfully is taking another path toward Jesus.”  In general, I read the editorial as a gigantic caricature of my own pre-trib rapture view which I consider to be main stream among my kind of evangelicals.

The article goes on to champion the work of Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, founder of the Two Futures Project, who is attempting to get evangelical Christians to “join the nuclear abolition cause.”  The article bemoans the fact that many evangelicals who hold the pre-trib rapture are enamored with end times stuff and are therefore not willing to engage the needs of the world such as abolishing nuclear weapons and helping the environment.  This article reminded me of an event that occurred when I was an aerospace engineer working on F-16s for General Dynamics in Ft. Worth while I attended Dallas Theological Seminary.  A fellow worker came to sit down in my cubicle and told me that Christians were responsible for pollution.  He was a member of the Sierra Club and had rather strong feelings about this.  When I asked him why he thought this way, he gave me two reasons:  1.  Christians use the cultural mandate passage in Gen. 1:26-28 to give us the right to rape the planet; 2. Christians believe Jesus is going to come back and jerk us off this planet so we don’t care about fixing anything that is wrong.  This was the first that I had encountered that thought.  It is interesting that at the time I had been a pre-trib rapture kind of Christian for 8 years and had never heard that in any of the churches I was involved in.  I have encountered it since, but I don’t view those who shun all social activism as representing the majority of Christians who believe strongly in the Second Coming.  I feel so strongly about the caricature of this article that I intend to make several posts highlighting various facets that I think need to be explored along different lines instead of the in-your-face drubbing that is given.

Read the rest of this entry »