A personal friend of mine who happens to be a college professor has written the following post. This person has asked that article be published anonymously.
Eschatology – the very sound of the word can send some people into paranoia fits! Visions of the earth ending in 2012, the apocalypse, the Hollywood dramatizations, and the book of Revelation coming to life – it is enough for some people to say, “I’ll just worry about today and tomorrow can take care of itself…”
Some Christians believe books like Daniel and Revelation are not meant to be understood. Yet, specifically, God gives a blessing to those who read and hear the words of Revelation. Obviously, He knows that with the Spirit’s help we can understand the big picture. If the Spirit is able to help us understand the end times, then why are there so many different views? A fair question!
Hermeneutical Principle. The reason there are so many different views concerning the end times is not the fault of God. Rather, the confusion can be attributed to a faulty hermeneutic. Since the Bible is God’s Word, and since every word is inspired of God, then it only stands to reason that we interpret those words in its grammatical, historical, and literal context. This does not mean that we cannot have figures of speech or symbolic language – rather, it emphasizes that if words have any meaning at all, we must interpret them in this manner. When this approach is applied consistently to Revelation just as one does with the Pauline epistles, much of the confusion disappears.
The Question of the Rapture. While Revelation covers many subjects, the focus of this blog is on the Rapture. The word rapture itself does not appear in the English Bible. However, this does not mean that the idea is not present. The word rapture refers to the catching away of the saved to be “forever with the Lord” (1 Thes 4.17). For today’s Bible-believing Christian, the issue is not whether the rapture will happen; the question is when.
The Rapture’s Relation to the Tribulation. In today’s theological arena, a broad-stroke of the issue divides believers into three positions: pre-tribulational, mid-tribulational, and post-tribulational. In essence, one group believes that the rapture will occur before the tribulation begins, another believes it will occur before it gets really bad, and the last group believes the church will go through the tribulation period.
What is the Tribulation? If we are going to come to a dogmatic conclusion on when the Rapture occurs, then we must understand what exactly is meant by the term tribulation. In eschatology, the term usually refers to a period of 7 years in which the Anti-Christ is revealed, the Jews are hunted down but many are miraculously saved, 144,000 Jewish evangelists preach the Gospel and many receive Christ as their Saviour – in short, much of the book of Revelation falls into this period.
There are a few terms in Revelation to describe the last half of this time period: 42 months; 1260 days, and times, time and a half. Each of these three designations equal 3.5 years. Thus, when someone refers to the “7 Year Tribulation” they are referring to both halves.
What some have failed to notice is that these time indicators were revealed long before John on the isle of Patmos. Over 500 years previously, God had revealed similar truths to Daniel. In fact, a key passage to understanding the timeline of eschatology is Daniel 9. In this chapter, Daniel receives his vision of the Seventy Weeks. However, the context makes it clear that we are not talking about a week of “days” as much as we are talking about a week of “years.” What God reveals to Daniel is 490 years of prophetic history.
Of the 490 years described in Daniel 9, 483 years (or, 69 weeks) have been fulfilled. In God’s prophetic calendar, one week (or, 7 years) remains to be fulfilled. In verse 24, we read the key phrase, “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city…” Question: for whom are these 70 weeks relevant? Or, to whom is the last 7 year period directed? The entire 70 week program was for Daniel’s people, the Jews, and for their holy city, Jerusalem. What this means is that the final period of 7 years is for Israel and for Jerusalem. (Jeremiah would allude to this as well in Jeremiah 30.7, referring to the time of “Jacob’s trouble.”)
Remember at the very beginning when we said the key to getting rid of confusion is to use the right hermeneutic? In Daniel 9.24, literally, who is the last week for? The only correct answer to this question is Israel. One will search in vain to find the church in Daniel 9. This tribulation period has nothing to do with the church and has everything to do with Israel!
What are the ramifications of this truth?
1. God will remove His church before He begins to work with Israel again. This makes the Rapture pre-tribulational.
2. During the tribulation, the Gospel is preached by 144,000 Jewish evangelists, which makes sense if the Church has been raptured.
3. The tribulation is Daniel’s 70th week and Jeremiah’s “time of Jacob’s trouble.” It is for Israel and not the Church.
4. When Christ comes to set up His Kingdom, after the Tribulation, the Church is seen as coming with Him from Heaven.
This cannot make sense within a post-tribulational scheme. While it could technically make sense from a mid-tribulation position, a compromise would be made in spiritualizing the church as part of Israel – a compromise that a literal interpretation of words in their historical-grammatical context will not allow.
Have we solved the world’s next big mystery? Are we ready to publish a book predicting the date? Absolutely not! However, we have established a principle: God intends for His words to be interpreted within a historical-grammatical framework. When that is applied consistently, we discover that God has a plan for Israel and a plan for His Church. The Tribulation is not part of God’s plan for the Church; this is for Israel. God has promised to save His church from the wrath to come; He has not promised to save Israel from it.
As these are kept in mind, and as Israel and the Church are kept separate, one finds that the Rapture is God’s plan for the Church as He prepares to begin working with Israel again. This leads one to a pre-tribulational position of the Rapture – a view which encourages believers to always be expecting His coming (and not expecting the Tribulation.)