3 Views on the Rapture

Though the book is dated (pre-wrath has replaced mid-tribulationism), it remains valuable for a number of reasons.  Reiter’s essay on the development of American premillennialism is worth the price of the book. Many have a tendency to lump all premils as rednecks who are looking for the Red Heifer.  But what Reiter shows is that early premillennials were aware of difficulties in the system, and they tried to fix them.Image result for 3 views on the rapture zondervan

Feinberg gives the standard pre-tribulational argument. Key argument: God has not only exempted the church from God’s wrath, but from the season of God’s wrath (Feinberg 58, 63). Feinberg’s key argument is that Revelation 3:10 means that God will keep the church out of the tribulation.  

He further claims there must be an interval of time between the Rapture and the 2 Coming (72). The Millennium has nonglorified bodies.  And since all wicked will be immediately judged in the Second Coming (Matt. 25:31-46), then there must be a category of saved yet nonglorified bodies?

Response: Douglas Moo

The most fatal argument is that the martyred saints in Revelation 6 are asking God when his wrath will begin?  This implies it hasn’t happened yet. Therefore, the time of Tribulation is not totally a time of wrath.

Response: Gleason Archer

Feinberg admits that the Day of the Lord referred to in 2 Thess. 2:3-4 does not start until the middle of the week (Feinberg 61). This is very close to pre-wrath.

Douglas Moo gives the post-trib argument, and since it is relatively familiar to American evangelicals, I will focus on Gleason Archer’s mid-tribulational view.  It never gained much ground and has since been replaced by pre-wrath.

The Case for the Mid-Seventieth Week Rapture

The rapture will precede the second advent of Christ. So far that sounds like pre-trib, but there are a few differences.  Archer places the rapture in the middle of Daniel’s 70th week.

Rider on the White Horse in Revelation 19.  This is the big weakness of post-tribulationism.  Where do these saints come from (Archer 120). These saints appear to have already been “clothed” (2 Cor. 5:2; 1 John 3:2).

Two phases of the Parousia (cf. response to Moo, 213ff).  There is no hint of apocalyptic struggle in the primary rapture passage (1 Thess. 4:13-18). In verse 14 it says “God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep through (dia) Christ Jesus.” Those who have died in Christ will not be raised until the rapture (214). They will not accompany the Lord in his descent without their resurrected bodies.

Conclusion

So who won?  Not really anyone.  Feinberg made a few good points, but his church/israel dichotomy hamstrung his whole project.  Moo’s responses were fairly good but post-trib is just so complex that I can’t follow him. Archer’s placing the rapture midway through the 70th week is interesting, if a bit arbitrary.  I think Alan Kurschner’s recent teaching on pre-wrath holds more promise.

Review: Keener on Revelation

Keener, Craig.  Revelation. NIVAC.  Zondervan, 2000.

I didn’t expect much out of a commentary series that had the letters “NIV” in it, but this was well-done. Keener demonstrated mastery of the current literature and made interesting, if sometimes stretched, applications.keener

Rev. 4-5 Throne Room

24 elders: Keener says they represent all believers (172). That reading is possible, but it is more likely the divine council. Further, the picture we have of believers in heaven (ch. 6) has them pleading before the altar.
Revelation 6:9-17

Keener raises the problem of the martyrs’ prayer for justice, but doesn’t give a satisfactory answer (221-22). He notes that it appears to conflict with Jesus’s love your enemies. He doesn’t bring up the imprecatory psalms. They aren’t psalm of vengeance, but psalms against God to arise in covenantal judgment. When we pray like this, we aren’t violating Jesus’s commands, but are asking God to be faithful to the covenant.

Revelation 7:1-8

Keener seems to suggest that the events following the 6th seal aren’t chronological. In fact, he breaks with premillennialism at this point: “those who can withstand the day of God’s wrath are those whom God has empowered to withstand the previous plagues” (230). That’s certainly a true proposition but there are easier answers. Pre-wrath, for one.

Revelation 12

The Mother: faithful remnant of Israel (314). The theological source most available would have been the OT, which the readers would have known.

Reasons it can’t be Mary: We don’t have evidence of Mary’s being persecuted by the Dragon.

Revelation 20

Defense of Historic Premillennialism

1. The binding of Satan during the thousand years hardly matches Satan’s deceptive and murderous activity during the present era (12:12-13; 13:11-15).
2. The saints have already been martyred, suggesting that the Tribulation period precedes the Millennium.
3. The resurrection of the righteous is parallel to and contrasted with the rest of the dead returning to life after the thousand years (20:4-6), suggesting a bodily rather than symbolic resurrection.
4. Revelation 20 presupposes all that transpired in chapters 12-19.

Extra notes on Revelation 20.

The angel’s binding of Satan (20:2; 9:14) is a common motif throughout Jewish literature (1 Enoch 10:4-6

Gog and Magog. In Ezekiel Gog is the ruler of Magog, but here they merely symbolize all the evil nations

Other notes: it’s doubtful John had Matt. 12 in mind when he spoke of the binding of Satan. It’s unlikely his earlier readers would have had access to the Synoptics.

Criticisms

Keener utilizes a lot of material from Tony Campolo and Ron Sider. Rev. (so-called) Jeremiah Wright of Chicago (of Obama fame) also makes an appearance (194).

 

A response to Riddlebarger’s Huge Premillennial Problem

He asks, “Where is this mixture of resurrected and unresurrected individuals taught, or even implied in the Scriptures? “

Answer:  Why can it not be taught in Revelation 20? Why is that chapter suddenly off-limits?

Further:  As we have seen, the New Testament writers all anticipate the final consummation to occur at the time of our Lord’s Second Advent.  They do not anticipate the half-way step of an earthly millennium before the final consummation such as that associated with all forms of premillennalism.

But that is not how 1 Cor. 15:20-27 reads.   One can legitimately make the case that the tagmata represent three different orders of events, given Paul’s eita…epeita construction.  Even progressive’s like Jurgen Moltmann concede the point and even advance this reading.

His strongest argument:

Perhaps even more problematic is the following dilemma raised by the premillennial insistence upon people in natural bodies living on the earth alongside of Christ and his resurrected saints.  How do people living on the earth at the time of Christ’s second coming escape the resurrection and the judgment?  The Scriptures are very clear that Christ returns to judge the world, raise the dead and renew the cosmos.  According to Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, those who have died in Christ are raised from the dead at his coming.  Those who are Christ’s and who are still alive when he comes are caught up to meet the Lord in the air.  This includes all believers, whether living or dead.  But those who are not Christ’s, we are told, will face his wrath and will be taken away to face final judgment (Matthew 24:37-41).  This includes all unbelievers living at the time of our Lord’s return.  Therefore, premillennarians must explain just who, exactly, are these people in unresurrected bodies living during the millennium.

Why is this exactly a problem?  Premillennialists have dealt with these rebuttals for a long time.  Dr Paul Henebury notes,

So what?  If someone born in the Millennium can be summoned by Satan to rebel against Christ at the end of the thousand years, surely there are a lot of unsaved people who need saving?  Why is that a problem?… So what?  Does the Bible say anywhere that there will be no death after Christ’s second coming?  What about Rev. 20:7-10? … Zech. 8? Easy, apocalyptic.  Isa. 65? same.  Zech 14? more of the same.  Rev. 20? symbolic.

I should point out that Dr Riddlebarger’s criticisms are theological in nature, not exegetical.   If this is what the Bible teaches, then I fail to see the problem.  We must adjust our ontology about created reality if that’s the case.

Review: God, Heaven, and Har Magedon

This book is a mix of very good, and very, very, very bad. While containing brilliant insights into biblical symbology, Kline felt obligated to include every one of his unique (and often controversial) positions into this book.

He begins on a promising note. There is a “meta” reality to heaven, as it exists beyond our dimension. It is a holy location and contains sacred architecture. It is a palace/royal court (Deut. 26.15). Heaven is a temple that names God’s throne-site (Psalm 11 and 47). It is even identified with God in Revelation 21.22. “Heaven is the Spirit realm and to enter heaven is to be in the Spirit, Rev. 4.1” (9). Quite good.

He notes that in the biblical story we see a parallel warfare between two mountains, the mount of the Lord (usually, though not always Zion) and Mt Zaphon. Further Armageddon is Har Magedon and is not to be confused with the plain of Meggido, but that the Hebrew actually reads Har Mo’ed, the Mount of Assembly. And this is the part of Kline’s argument that is truly good and noteworthy. Assemblies are “gathered together” throughout the Old Testament, and Rev. 16.16 points out the act of gathering.

Whenever Har Moed appears in the Bible (Isa. 14.13) it is sometimes paired with its opposite, Hades or Sheol. Revelation pairs it with the pit of Abbadon (Rev. 9.11).

At the end of the book Kline identifies Har Magedon with Mt Zaphon in the North (251ff). This is a promising line of thought. Zaphon was the domain of Ba’al and can be seen as the center of wickedness. This makes sense if Gog is the Antichrist figure and comes “from the North.”

Zaphon was the Caananite version of Mt Olympus. This makes sense when we remember that Zaphon is paired with the Abyss. In Revelation 9 Apollyon (Apollo) is from the abyss. Apollo is the demon lord of the Abyss. (That’s my argument, not Kline’s). Kline also notes that when Har Mo’ed is mentioned, it is sometimes paired with the Abyss (Isa. 14:13-15; Rev. 16:16).

I will begin my analysis (and subsequent criticism) with his exegesis of Revelation 20.

Exegesis of Revelation 20

Background is Isa. 49: 24, 24. He is a Warrior who binds the Strongman (Matt. 12:29). Kline elsewhere identifies Jesus with Michael the Archangel, so Revelation 12:7-8 = Revelation 20: 1-3 (162).

Against premillennialism he argues that the chiastic structure of Revelation 12-20 favors Gog/Magog happening before the millennium.

a. Rev. 12.9. Dragon
B. Rev. 13:14. False Prophet
C. Rev. 16:13-16. Dragon, Beast, False Prophet
B’. Rev. 19.19-20. Beast and False prophet
A’. Rev. 20:7-10. Dragon.

And since they all refer to the same time period, and to the same event, this means premillennialism is false. Maybe. The chiasm is good but chiastic literature doesn’t always refer to the same event (many of the historical books form one whole chiasm, yet refer to various events).

Kline admits that the biblical evidence also supports premillennialism as well as amillennialism (170). Nevertheless, he argues that the millennium is the church age (171ff). Kline identifies the first resurrection in Revelation 20 as….I’m not quite sure. It seems he says “opposite of the second death” (176), so is it conversion? I think he is saying it is “the intermediate state of believers.”

Sed contra:

1* There are numerous premil responses to the claim that the binding of Satan = Jesus’s ministry. If the events refer back to Rev. 12, and Satan is bound and can’t deceive the nations, then what exactly was Satan doing in Rev. 13? Kline interacts with zero premillennialists (or postmils, for that matter).

2* He says the two resurrections, if interpreted literally, would confront us with a bizarre scenario (175). Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean it is logically or textually false. And biblical supernaturalism is strange.

3* Interestingly enough, Kline doesn’t deal with the conclusion of Christ’s argument. If Christ has bound the strongman, then he is plundering his house. This sounds like Christendom and dominion!

Kline argues that postmillennialism is wrong because it cannot account for the final apostasy at the end (186). However, on Kline’s account it is hard to understand how there can be an apostasy, since history is always getting worse. I have to wonder how familiar with postmillennial writings Kline really is. Kline then can’t avoid a few cheap shots: “The melding of church and state and its coercive power, the arrangement which theonomic reconstructionism regards as the kingdom ideal to be attained during the millennium, is precisely what is anathematized in the Apocalypse” (186).

No Reconstructionist argues for this. Indeed, they have written books outlining the various covenants in society and how church doesn’t control state. Kline isn’t engaging in scholarship at this point. He is using scare tactics. His analysis isn’t just wrong. It beggars belief.

Kline only once deals with specific postmillennials, and that is David Chilton in a footnote on p. 269.

This book suffers from severe repetition. Page 185 is almost identical to p. 268. Some paragraphs are word-for-word the same.

A Discussion on Common Grace

Kline tells us that we live in the common grace age, but he never gives us a detailed discussion of what is the content of common grace. Kline argued that some of God’s more extreme measures (Canaanite genocide) are actually intrusions of God’s final justice. Well, yes and no. True, that was a positive command and not to be repeated by the church today. However, we do not see biblical evidence of an ‘order’ or ‘sphere’ of common grace. Is this a time or sphere of common grace? But even if it is, God’s blessings fell upon elect and non-elect within theocratic Israel.

What does it mean to rule according to common grace? How could we even determine which application of “common grace” is more “gracey” or right than the other one? General Franco of Spain probably had more common grace than either Hitler or Stalin, yet one suspects that the modern advocate of intrusion ethics wouldn’t praise Franco’s regime.

As Klaas Schilder notes, it is true that sin is being restrained. But by similar logic the fullness of Christ’s eschaton is not fully experienced. Apparently, it is restrained. (and this is true. So far, so good) If the first restraining is “grace,” then we must–if one is consistent–call the restraining of the blessing “judgment.” Kline’s position falls apart at this point.

Uneasy tension of choosing and eschatology

A brief history:

In college and seminary I was a postmillennial reconstructionist.  To put it delicately today, I am not. When I left seminary I understood the reasons behind Historic Premillennialism.  Exegetically, I still think it is the strongest case.  My own position, rather, was a mix between postmil and premil.

When I left the EO debate I was a convinced historic premillennialist.  I stayed like that for about 3 or 4 years. One of the reasons that historic premillennialism won by default was that idealist Amillennialism was just so bad. It’s gnostic.  But when I read the Reformed Scholastics I realized that they had a very interesting eschatological timeline worked out.  Ultimately, I couldn’t accept it. It’s tied in with historicism, which says the Pope is the Antichrist.  Mind you, it’s easy to pick on Francis today, and he deserves it, but he isn’t the eschatological Man of Sin who sitteth in the temple of God.

So that couldn’t work.  So here I am today.  I feel a strong tug in my heart back to historic premil.