Don’t Get “Left Behind”: When Prophecy Goes Rogue

by Ethan E. Harris

This book is an attempt to provide a more exhaustive study of the teachings behind the popular fictional stories created by Tim Lahaye. Those teachings have a serious theological following in the Evangelical Church. We count ourselves brothers and sisters in Christ with them, but disagree with the theology called Dispensationalism that drives much end-times hysteria in the world today.

And though some in that “camp” may not believe that we are indeed Christians (yes, it’s true, I have been told that to my face), we would like to point out the Scriptural and historical position that is contrary to their position in hopes that they abandon the confusion and divisiveness their system causes.


The introduction to Tim Lahaye’s book, “Rapture Under Attack,” claims that the success of the ‘‘Left Behind‘‘ series

  • “proves that laymen who take the Bible literally want to believe what it says…they want to believe that this [the rapture] will occur before the awful time of tribulation which our Lord said “will try the whole earth,” calling it the “great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21). 1)

The reasons given for why people should believe in the pre-tribulation rapture are:

  • The Bible clearly teaches the doctrine if you believe the Bible literally.
  • Jesus promised in John 14:1-3 that we were to be with Christ in His Father’s house and being with Him for those seven years of the tribulation “allows plenty of time for us to enjoy” that house.

After this period of a seven-year tribulation, according to Lahaye, Christ’s Church will return with Him and rule with Him for 1000 years on earth.

Lahaye argues that the pre-tribulation teaching is not new as many claim. He claims to have found the teaching in a document da-ting to 376 AD.

The author of “Rapture Under Attack” also claims that he is bewildered by the “attack” on the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine, which attacks, he says cause “many innocent victims to abandon their expectation of rapture in their lifetime and in the process” and that this attack has “not only stolen their hope but, in some cases, their zeal for service.” 2)

Along with “Dr. John Walvoord, the dean of all living prophecy scholars and authors,” 3) Charles Ryrie, Dwight Pentecost, Stan Tousaint, Gerald Stanton, Hal Lindsey, Tommy Ice and others, Tim Lahaye has formed a new ministry: The PreTrib Research Center! The purpose of this group is:

  • To consider attacks on the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine.
  • To study the Biblical arguments for that doctrine.
  • To provide Biblical responses to those who “attack” it.

The Tribulation, according to Lahaye, is meant for Israel. It is not intended for the Church. The Antichrist will govern the Tribulation period, for which a one-world government is already being prepared in our present time. Christ will descend during the Battle of Armegeddon “to conquer the world and usher in His wonderful kingdom of peace for one thousand years.” 4) We are told that this “marvelous plan…is the most inspiring challenge in the world. Don’t let anyone steal it from you! Hope-fully reading this book will make that ‘blessed hope’ real in your life.” 5)

The following pages are a deeper look into the claims of Lahaye and some of those who share his views. There is much confusion, paranoia and speculation about the events that we are told to expect in the future. But should it be? What is our blessed hope? And how should we understand Scripture’s teaching on the tribulation, the Church age, the rapture and the future coming of Christ?

The reason for this work is simply this: That Christians understand there is not ‘‘one‘‘ end-times view. For some, if you reject their end-times mischief, you are relegated to the camp of theological Liberalism and not worthy to be called brother.

Interpreting Scripture

We should always be conscious of our biases, for we all have them to one degree or another. Let us try to understand what we bring to Scripture that may influence our study. As an example, the following is taken from ‘‘Rapture Under Attack‘‘ by Tim Lahaye:

  • “As a general rule, whenever you hear someone preach prophecy, be sure he uses the two essential keys to understanding Scripture: 1) Take the Bible literally if you can (even the prophetic passages of Scripture); and 2) ask, Does he draw a distinction be-tween Israel and the church?” 6)

Here is the great double-key to rightly dividing the Word of God. You must first develop a particular theological bias, namely, a distinction between Israel and the Church, if you are to properly understand Biblical prophecy. Where is this rule found? Genesis chapter two? The book of Amos? How about in Romans? Titus? No. In the minds and theology of those who wish to keep a two-part Second Coming of Christ. They must have it or their system fails.

This particular rule of prophecy comes from an author who may take his own advice: “such people do not want to be confronted with Scripture that is in conflict with their theological system.” 7) This sentence is found just one line before the above “general rule” of prophecy where we are instructed to draw a distinction between Israel and the Church. This is rather saddening.

In still another book written by the same author, he lists three rules for understanding the book of Revelation:

  • “When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate text, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, clearly indicate otherwise.”

Locate the scene of activity. We must understand whether the event takes place in heaven or on earth. Then we have to study the handy wall-chart he provides so that we might better understand the book (presumably an unbiased approach).

Then we must understand that everything in the book of Revelation unfolds chronologically. Well, almost. Chapter 12 isn’t chronological. Oh, and neither is chapter 17. But “most of Revelation unfolds chronologically.” We can be assured of that! Wait. Don’t go reading Revelation yet. We “should memorize immediately the fact that the seal judgments of chapter 6 comprise the first quarter of the Tribulation and the trumpet judgments of chapters 8 and 9 comprise the second quarter of the Tribulation. The bowl judgments of chapter 16 comprise the last half, or three-and-a-half years of the Tribulation.” And then the most humorous instruction appears: “Everything else has to be studied in the context of the period with which it coincides.” 8)

It should be fairly clear that if you follow these broad instructions, then you should end up reading the book of Revelation literally and understand it completely as long as you have the “chronological sequence” chart provided (which said chart is claimed to cover ‘‘most‘‘ of the book of Revelation).

Without meaning to slander the gentleman, this has got to be the most ridiculous set of instructions ever offered to understanding a book of Scripture. Absolutely ludicrous!

That particular author presents theological bias first and then we are told if we do the same, we will end up sharing his view. Of course someone would end up sharing his view if it depends on the foundation necessary for his view. That same writer even shares his biased presentation with unsuspecting passers-by:

  • The plain sense of these Scriptures equal pre-millennialism…I was seated next to a salesman who claimed he had never read a Bible…I asked him if he would submit to an experiment, to which he agreed. Many people say the Bible is a difficult book to under-stand, particularly Revelation. Turning to Revelation 20:11-15, the description of the Great White Throne Judgment, I handed him my Bible with only a brief instruction: “‘‘This is a prophecy about a future event.‘‘” I waited as he read. His joyful mood changed abruptly, and soon he exclaimed, “If that’s true, I’d better get right with God.” This man, responding to the plain sense of prophetic Scripture, sufficiently understood God’s warning and took precaution for that event by receiving Christ.” 9) [emphasis added]

Wonderful. The first introduction this unbeliever had was to preload his mind with a theological bias and then understand Scrip-ture in that light. Just great. Here is a glaring problem with many in professing Christians today. Instead of attempting to under-stand the biases we hold, many purposefully set out to plague their interpretation beforehand. And this is supposed to be the “common sense” method to understanding the Bible!

What about the LDS? The Mormon Church is very literal when it comes to reading the Bible. In Genesis 1:26-27 we know that man was made in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, it is concluded, God is a physical being, with features just like ours.

If we would take this approach and apply it to Revelation 20:4 we would see that a “future millennium” is only for “the souls of those who had been beheaded” and those “who had not worshipped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark upon their hand” (Revelation 20:4). That’s it. There is no one else in the Millennium ever mentioned in any other place in Scripture. This is the only place where we are told explicitly who is in the Millennium. Read it for yourself in a “literal” and “common sense” approach. Don’t spiritualize or allegorize. Just read it for what it is. Does that mean, then, that only Christian martyrs will be in a “future” Millennium?

Wouldn’t Lahaye have us read the first chapter of Revelation and take it literally? Wouldn’t his view support the literal interpretation of:

  • 1:1 “things which must shortly take place.” The things in the book of Revelation must take place shortly. Surely 1900 years or more is not shortly.
  • 1:3 “Blessed is he who reads…for the time is near.” Again, for the time to be near, we wouldn’t expect a 2000 year delay. That is what it literally says!
  • 1:7 “Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him…” Christ will come with clouds and everyone will see Him. Not some. Not just the Church (or is this speaking of the “first” Second Coming?). And those who crucified Christ will see Him too.
  • 1:9 “I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in ‘‘the‘‘ tribulation…” Taken literally, the Apostle John wrote this book while the Tribulation was going on.
  • 1:11 The whole book of Revelation is for seven churches.
  1. Are we to suppose that only the first three chapters should apply to them and then the majority of the book deals with the Tribulation that is about 2000 years off? What other book of Scripture does that? None. Why would the Angel give a prophecy about an event that anyone reading the book would have nothing to do with? They wouldn’t see it; they would have no idea about it, be-cause according to Lahaye, the Church will be with Christ for those “seven years.”
  2. Additionally, if advocates of Dispensationalism are correct in their assessment that the book of Revelation deals with events when the Church isn’t present, it seems that knowledge of those events are largely inconsequential to the Christian life.
  3. Of course, the reader is more than welcome to read those verses and discover the Apostle’s intent.

Do we have the freedom to say that Scripture tells us to interpret it “literally,” whatever that may mean? We could define “literal” as “whatever the original author intended” but that doesn’t do any better. What if the original author was delusional? Should we take everything in that context? Should we suppose that Jesus has wings because He identified Himself with a hen (Matthew 23:37)? Of course not.

But why not? Because He was using a ‘‘simile‘‘. He was drawing an image that would remind us of a mother hen gathering her chicks to her to protect them. A very simple, but working definition of “literal” for our purposes here will be along the lines of “understanding the different genres of Scripture to determine the meaning and content of the message.” We shouldn’t go to the Psalms and call Christ a worm simply because He quoted from a particular Psalm. Is He also a bull of Bashan? Of course not, that’s just plain ridiculous. Yet, some would have us believe that the proper understanding of “literal interpretation” is to take every word in it’s simplest sense. It’s just not that easy.

Lahaye does not define his terms. He does not tell the reader what he means by “literal” but instead skips ahead and tells us, “Whenever men have accepted the Bible literally, Satan has hurried to offer another method or interpretation; that explains how heresy has crept into the church.” 10) It’s almost humorous that Lahaye suggests this point seeing that his own system (dispensationalism) could very easily be described as heretical (or that which is not part of the historically con-fessing church).

Lahaye, at another point lays blame for the dismissal of pre-millennialism in the early church against the allegorizing of Scripture of the Alexandrians “in the third century“11) (which is highly debatable anyway). Should we suppose that the Apostle Paul be cast aside as anti-pre-millennial because he interprets allegorically and admits it (Galatians 4:21-31)? Should we stand aghast at the audacity of Paul to utilize such a savage understanding of Scriptural interpretation? Of course not.

It’s the silly ramblings of a modern heretic who suggests something as simplistic as

  • The plain sense of these Scriptures [Revelation 19:19-20:6] equal pre-Millennialism. The study of prophetic passages is not difficult when we take the Bible literally whenever possible. If, however, a person begins to spiritualize or allegorize the text, he is hopelessly doomed to confusion and error. Taking the Bible literally makes even difficult passages understandable. 12)

How “doomed to confusion and error” the Apostle Paul must be for that allegorical blunder in Galatians.

Of course if Lahaye is correct, it may explain Nicodemus’ reaction to Jesus in Matthew 3 to which Christ responds, “If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” Nicodemus did not understand that Jesus was spiritualizing the term “born again.” Nicodemus was thinking “literally” as if he were to be born a second time from the womb.

Interpretation is not as simple as Lahaye suggests. We should not let ourselves fall into the error of poisoning the Scriptures to preserve our premillennialism or whatever else we hold dear. Know your weaknesses and let the Scriptures speak even if it means you may not understand the Word immediately or with complete comprehension.

The Real Reason for the Rapture

Many claims made by proponents of the future two-phase coming of Christ grow even stranger. The author of ‘‘Rapture Under Attack‘‘ claims that the belief in a Rapture Coming for the Church produces (1) holy living and (2) “an evangelistic church of soul-winning Christians” and (3) it “impels Christians and churches to develop a worldwide missionary vision of reaching the lost for Christ in their generation.” 13)

Holy living. What is the Biblical motive for holy living? Is it belief in an any-moment Rapture Coming for the Church? 1 Peter 1:1-2 states that we have been chosen by God by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit “that you may obey Jesus Christ.” But that’s not really a motive. That’s more of a purpose statement for receiving salvation.

Here we are. Turn to Phillipians chapter one and read verses 1:12 through 3:21. Yes, it’s a lot to read, but it will help in determining our proper motivation for holy living. In 1:18 and following we see Paul does everything so that the Gospel is proclaimed. That Christ be exalted. In 1:21, Paul states that “for to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” That is the great struggle. Our every moment is to proclaim the Gospel, yet when we are no longer living we will “attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Phillipians 3:11). Read over 3:7-21 again.

We do not live for a Rapture-Coming. We are not to forget that we are already citizens of heaven and eagerly wait for Christ (3:20-21). That is a promise of Christ to us to raise those who have perished and bring us together with Him. But it is not our motivation for holy living.

Evangelistic zeal? Does belief in a pre-tribulation rapture impel “Christians and churches to develop a worldwide missionary vision…”? Answer the following question honestly. Don’t write it down or say it out loud, but please do answer honestly:

‘‘If you knew Christ were coming back in 2 ½ minutes, what would you do? ‘‘Try not to answer what you think you should answer. Don’t try to give the most “spiritual” answer that you can think of.

Now, stop reading. Resist the urge to continue until you’ve really and honestly answered the question.

What did you say? Did you say that you would call as many unbelieving friends that you have on a conference call and tell them the Gospel? Did you answer that you would run across the street to the guy that owns the dog that barks all the time, you know the person, the one who always looks at you weird when you leave, all dressed up, to go to church on Sunday morning? Did you answer that you would call up that coworker that always makes fun of you for being a Christian and tell them the Gospel? Or did you sit there thinking that you would probably sit there thinking what you would do? Did you wonder “What Would Jesus Do”?

Do you tell people the Gospel so that they won’t go through the Tribulation? Does belief in the pre-trib rapture “impel” you to win folks to Christ?

Remember that we are also told that “[w]hen we believe Christ could appear at any moment, we seek to share Him with our friends lest they be left behind at His coming.” 14) If you have ever shared your faith with someone, why did you do it? Was it because you don’t want them to go through the Tribulation and get an implant under their skin? Maybe you evangelize your friends, family and others so they won’t have to be involved in a one-world government and face a single-monetary system!

But maybe, just maybe, you share the Gospel because you believe that to live is Christ and to die is gain. Perhaps you believe that you should do all things

  • “to prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may have cause to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain” (Philippians 2:15-16).

But then again, maybe you do believe that Christians should evangelize “our friends lest they be left behind at His coming.” After all, who is going to share the Gospel with them during this seven year Tribulation if all believers are gone?

Missionary zeal. Can you honestly say that belief in a Rapture Coming for the Church encourages you to strive for evangelism? What about the church you go to? Is it possible to go through a day, or a week, or even a month without any discussion of missions or missions programs? Does your Pastor stand in the pulpit and give messages on missions because, “hey, we believe in a Rapture Coming of Christ for the Church and we don’t want anyone to go through the Tribulation!”?

According to the author of ‘‘Rapture Under Attack‘‘, the pretribulation rapture doctrine is “the only one that provides Christians with an at-any-moment expectancy. …all other views leave something more to be accomplished before Jesus can return.” 15) Yet, in the very next paragraph the same author claims that “God’s prophetic clock is beginning to move again” and that “we have more evidence today that Christ could come in our lifetime than there was in A.D. 992.” But if that is true, then how do “all other views leave something more” when his view has evidences and prophetic indicators moving all over the place? If there is nothing more to take place before the Rapture Coming (the first phase of the Second Coming), how can there be evidences or prophecy unfolding more today than at any other time?

A few pages later, it is suggested that Christians be alert because Jesus warns us to “beware of false teachers” in the end-times.

  • “If we are indeed those end times believers, that is, those who see the signs of the times of the Glorious Appearing of Christ to this earth, then we have reason to beware of deception, both from without and within. Satan, the master deceiver, does not want us to get excited about the fact that there are more signs of Christ’s return today than at any time in church history…we can expect him to send all kinds of deceivers into the church…. In another book I shall give twenty reasons why Christ could come in our lifetime…we Christians living today have more evidence…”16)

Wait. Wasn’t the Glorious Appearing part 2b of the two phase Second Coming? But if we are the end-times believers, then should we expect to see the signs of the second phase? Aren’t we supposed to have an any-moment Rapture first before any signs have to be completed? Is Satan supposed to send deceivers before the Rapture Coming first?

And we’re supposed to have more signs today than before in history. Does that mean the early church was ignorant and didn’t have ‘‘any‘‘ signs indicating the Rapture Coming? Or maybe they believed in the Rapture Coming with nothing to substantiate their belief. Apparently, we know better today!

So which is it? Is this the view that provides “an at-any-moment expectancy” and that “all other views leave something more to be accomplished”? Or is it a view that has “more signs of Christ’s return today” than the early church and should we expect “deceivers” to be sent into the church by Satan?

It should be evident that “the attacks” in this work on the doctrine of the Rapture are not truthfully attacks on the validity or veracity of 1 Thessalonians 4. These criticisms are directed toward the authors and self-styled Bible prophecy scholars who split apart history into a fractured sea of events that are just as easily watched unfold in the local edition of the newspaper as they are out of the pages of Scripture. These are criticisms against the two-part Second Coming.

Why should we as Christians even care what happens in the Tribulation? We’re certainly not going to be a part of it. Shouldn’t we spend more time on the Millennium? We’re expected to be a part of that, yet it barely takes up half of one chapter at the end of the book of Revelation and hardly any popular level books if any. What about a book series called “Millennium Men” or “Adventures of the 1000 Years”? Strange indeed.

Rapture of the Church?

Since we are only trying to address the popular, tabloid-style teaching of the Rapture, Rapture Coming, Tribulation and second Second Coming, a discussion of Mikhail Gorbachev, the Pope or Saddam Hussein’s relevance to prophecy will not be considered at any great length. Neither will we be addressing a one-world government, Cobra helicopters or the Greco-Roman political identity of the AntiChrist. Nor will this material discuss matters of intrigue such as “Did you know that _______ Airlines only will hire one Christian pilot for fear that when the Rapture happens, they’ll at least have one pilot still on board,” nor will we mention how many incorrect dates have been set by those waiting for the Tribulation to kick into high gear. Many of us have an odd fixation on the prophetic passages of Scripture almost on the level of a sick form of entertainment. It would make a great movie, don’t you think?

These topics are part of the common “fireside” chat accompanied by many discussions of end-times events. All of this speculation and frenzy accompanies events that, according to some, should take place within a seven-year period. It is even suggested among too many Christians that events in the world today, from the Columbine High School shootings to the destruction of the World Trade Center are of Biblical-prophetic significance. How can believers be convinced of such things? It is due to the endless and irresponsible diatribes (reedited many times over to fit the latest cataclysm) of a few “prophecy experts.” Stories circulate about Pastors receiving calls from family members and church-goers asking if the Tribulation has commenced. I wonder how many were shaken in their faith when they thought they might have missed the “Rapture Coming.”

But what is the rapture? Where is it taught? When will it be? Those questions and many like them have filled book after book in the theology and fiction shelves of Christian and non-Christian bookstores alike. Visit almost any bookstore and look for end-times or Christian prophecy books and you’ll more than likely discover many titles dealing with the Tribulation, the Rapture or even something on how to properly interpret today’s events and determine how world events are currently a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy.

Before we delve into the Biblical portrait of the “gathering together of the saints” to the Lord or the Rapture and other matters of prophetic significance, let us first look at the popular portrayal and define our terms a little more clearly. In the book, “Revelation Unveiled,” this description of the rapture is given:

  • all Christians, both the dead and the living, will be “caught up” (or raptured) to heaven to be with Christ (1 Thess. 4:16-17). Jesus mentioned it only once, in John 14:2-3…. He spoke of his second coming many times, but in every other instance he had the climactic even Paul calls the “glorious appearing” in mind. That is usually the event most people think of when they speak of the many promises (318 total) in the New Testament regarding the second coming of Christ…Care must be taken when examining Second Coming passages to determine whether they refer to the Rapture or the Glorious Appearing. 17)

Confused? Are we to understand that Tim Lahaye claims that Jesus Christ, in the entire New Testament, speaks of the “pretribulation” rapture only once? Of all of promises of Christ for the Church, He only once tells them about His coming for them before the Tribulation? John 14:2-3 states:

  • In my Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.

It is rather odd that not once does Christ mention anything about His “coming before the Tribulation.” Not once does He say anything about Israel going through the Tribulation. Jesus nowhere in this passage says that “all Christians, both the dead and the living, will be ‘caught up’ (or raptured) to heaven to be with Christ,” as Lahaye claims, only to return again seven years later. The author of ‘‘Revelation Unveiled‘‘ claims that Paul taught the same thing (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) that Jesus does (John 14:2-3). Yet when we look at 1 Thessalonians 4:17, we find: “Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them [the dead in Christ] in the clouds…and so we shall always be with the Lord.”

We are specifically instructed that we will be with Christ in the clouds and so ‘‘there‘‘ shall we always be with Him. No returns are mentioned. Nothing about a period of suffering to follow or of a Second Coming that is still to come ‘‘after‘‘ the gathering of the Saints.

We are ‘‘not‘‘ told that we will come back seven years after the Tribulation, at the beginning of the millennium, nor are we told of a difference between some “glorious appearing” and a rapture-for-Christians-only. But of the alleged “318 total” promises of a second coming, apparently only two are found that explicitly teach this pretribulation rapture. Yet not even these two passages speak of what Lahaye wishes of them. No seven year Tribulation is mentioned. No separation of believers and unbelievers (arguments from silence not withstanding). No difference between Israel and the Church.

And although one ‘‘may‘‘ agree that John 14:2-3 ‘‘might‘‘ speak of a future gathering together of the Saints to Christ, Jesus in no way details identifies the ‘‘time‘‘ of the event that He is speaking of. Lahaye is guilty of nothing but horrible exegetical work. For the author of Revelation Unveiled to make such dogmatic claims without the benefit of textual data is irresponsible and misleading!

According to this pre-tribulation teaching, the Second Coming does not take place until after the seven-year tribulation. To stretch reason even further, we are told that:

  • …there is only one “Second Coming,” but it occurs in two phases. The first phase is only for His church, that is, all living and dead believers since the church was founded in AD 33. The second phase is for all those living on the earth at the end of the Tribulation. 18)

One second coming takes place in two phases? Christ, in this teaching, ‘‘comes‘‘ for His Church (only Christians that lived after 33 AD and before the Tribulation) and then seven years later, Christ ‘‘comes‘‘ in the Glorious Appearing. Sounds distinctly like two future comings, doesn’t it? But the author of ‘‘Revelation Unveiled ‘‘is very clear that it’s not two comings, it is only one but it is divided in to two parts.

But is this ‘‘the‘‘ rapture talked of in Scripture? No. It is the pretribulational rapture doctrine. It is not a teaching gathered from one particular chapter or verse of the Bible, it is a compounding and corruption of different verses with more systematic theology behind it than it appears. This particular “second-coming doctrine” is not a teaching that Christ’s second coming can take place at any time.

  • “It may shock many of my readers to learn that the Second Coming of Christ to set up His Kingdom cannot come now or any time soon! In fact, the Glorious Appearing of Christ cannot come for at least seven years! …But to expect His return in power and majesty to take control of this earth and set up His Kingdom for at least seven years is to expect the impossible.” 19)

So then, does the person who believes in a pretribulation rapture actually believe that Christ can come at any time? Yes and no. Yes, if it means that they believe Christ could come right this moment to rescue His Church from the Tribulation. No, if you mean that ‘‘the Second Coming‘‘, the Glorious Appearing of Christ, could take place now. The Second Coming of Jesus must wait until the end of the Tribulation period. This is the difference between the Rapture Coming and the Glorious Appearing Coming.

And there it is for all to see, pretribulation believers do not believe the Second Coming can happen at any moment. It takes a full seven years for the Coming of Christ to come to fruition after He initiates a prophetic unfolding of cataclysmic events.

The Coming of Christ wouldn’t even be an any-second surprise for those living during Lahaye’s Tribulation. They would just simply add seven years to the date when all the Christians disappeared from the earth.

In short form, belief in a pre-tribulation rapture contains the following features:

  • Christ’s Second Advent, a physical departure from heaven, is to consists of more than one phase separated by a period of Tribulation.
  • Christ will remove the Church before a Tribulation period.
  • The resurrection of the just will occur in multiple phases.
  • Israel and the Church do not share the same promises, “thus providing a rationale for a removal of Christians before God ‘again deals with Israel.’” 20)

But what about just the plain old rapture? Does all this mean that the rapture is not true? No. As a matter of Biblical teaching, one thing is quite clear. When Christ comes in the future, Christians will be gathered to Him. “Will there be a Tribulation immediately after that gathering together?” and the four questions above are entirely different questions.

When the Bible speaks of rapture (even though the word is nowhere found in Scripture) is it talking about and specifically mentioning a pretribulational rapture? Not one verse anywhere mentions the Rapture Coming and the Tribulation in the same breath. Yet, when the author quoted above teaches about the rapture, it is always assumed as the Rapture Coming. It is never in the context of meaning a final, victorious or ultimate coming of Christ. It is only for the Church, only for believers and not ‘‘the ‘‘Second Coming where Christ conquers His enemies, when the dead in Christ are resurrected and when Christ hands all things over to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:20-28).

Where do the teachings, or at least the impetus for the teachings, come from? There are a few places in Scripture that come to the forefront of end-times discussions. Some of the major texts commonly referred to are: Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27; Matthew 24; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and almost the entire book of Revelation. There are more Scriptures that play a part in these discussions, complementing or complicating the themes found in Dispensational theology. The list is definitely not complete, but it does provide a good starting point for our study at this point.

Daniel 9:24-27

Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy, which has provided many with apparent Biblical support in their belief in a future seven-year tribulation period (also known as “The Really Long Time between Daniel’s 69th and 70th Weeks”), is one of the key passages that have been used to promote a future Tribulation and is located in Daniel 9:24-27.

It is the view of the Tribulation which informs our understanding of the rapture. If the rapture does indeed precede the events of the Tribulation, we should discover what the Tribulation is as precisely as possible. If we can determine, in the following pages, the nature of the Tribulation to which Scripture speaks, we will be better able to define the rapture of the saints.

  • The author of ‘‘Rapture Under Attack‘‘ lists four “purposes” of God in a future Tribulation: 21)
  • To bring time to an end.
  • To fulfill Israel’s prophecies.
  • To shake man from his false sense of security.
  • To force man to choose Christ or Antichrist.

It is to Lahaye’s “first purpose” that we know turn.

Daniels 70-Weeks Prophecy

The argument is that the Prophet Daniel introduces “the events which culminate with the Tribulation and the return of Christ.” Further, Lahaye adds, “The Tribulation is a fitting consummation of the grand experiment of the ages from Adam to the Second Coming, giving individuals an opportunity to worship God voluntarily.” 22) That would be an exciting period, wouldn’t it? A time when people are not forced to worship God. Oh, if only we could experience a time like that.

It is suggested that if Daniel introduces particular dealings that result in the Tribulation or the return of Christ, we have found the first purpose of God for the Tribulation. And though Lahaye states the reason as “to bring time to an end,” he doesn’t really tell us what the end is, nor does he inform us where Daniel suggests that time will come to an end. So let us go there and discover what Daniel has to say.

Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be ware; desolations are determined. And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.

This is the prophecy upon which much theology of a future Tribulation is then built.

As the Pre-Trib Research Center’s Doctrinal Statement reads,

  • We believe that Christ will literally rapture His church prior to the 70th week of Daniel, followed by His glorious, premillennial arrival on the earth at least seven years later to set up His 1,000 year kingdom rule from Jerusalem over the earth.

This firm commitment to Daniel’s 70th week as a key to understanding the Tribulation is evident in the PTRC’s statement. But what is Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy?

70 weeks have been decreed. That “seventy periods of seven,” which is Daniel’s literal meaning, mean 490 years is not disputed by most evangelicals (7 years multiplied by 70 “weeks”). There will be a period of 49 years (7 weeks) followed by 434 years (62 weeks) and a final week.

This time period has been decreed in which six things will be accomplished (v. 24). In contrast to the ever-so-fictionalized beliefs of the pretribulationists, these six specific pronouncements were brought to completion in the 1st Century AD.

‘‘To finish the transgression‘‘. “Israel’s sinful rebellion against God climaxed with her rejection and crucifixion of the Messiah (Matt. 21:33-45; Acts 7:51-52).”

Israel has rejected her “chief corner stone.” They did not pursue righteousness by faith, but by works and have stumbled on “the rock of offense” (Romans 9:30-33). The Kingdom has been taken from her (Matthew 21:42-43).

Galatians 3:19 instructs us that the law “was added because of transgressions…until the seed would come to whom the promise has been made.” Christ is the seed who abolishes transgressions committed beforehand. We have comfort in Him, who fulfills the law and the prophets. It is Christ who is the answer to the situation of those who have rejected Him, whether for condemnation or salvation.

‘‘To make an end of sin‘‘. “Israel’s sins were reserved for punishment until the generation that rejected the Messiah (Matthew 23:29-36).”

Literally, Israel’s sins “are sealed up.” Christ is “cut off,” as Daniel describes it, in reference to the Jews giving up Christ for crucifix-ion. “The sealing or reserving of the sins indicates that ‘‘within‘‘ the ‘Seventy Weeks’ Israel will complete her transgression, ‘‘and‘‘ with the completing of her sin by crucifying Christ, God will act to reserve (‘‘beyond the seventy weeks‘‘) her sins for judgment.” 23) The Apostle Peter even preaches to the “men of Israel” saying that Christ “delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death” (Acts 2:23) as an indictment of their transgression against God.

‘‘To make atonement for iniquity‘‘. “This was fulfilled in Christ’s atoning death (Heb. 2:17; 9:12-14, 26; 1 John 4:10).”

Christ’s life, death, burial and resurrection is the “atonement for iniquity”.

‘‘To bring in everlasting righteousness‘‘. “This has been accomplished through the redemptive work of Jesus (Rom. 3:21-22).”

As the Apostle Paul stated earlier in Romans: The Gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…for in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith” (1:16-17). The everlasting righteousness of God is realized as faith in Christ to everyone who believes.

And isn’t this Jesus’ argument to John the Baptist on why He must be baptized (at the beginning of His earthly ministry)? Jesus tells John to “permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). Jesus fulfills, in His own words, “all righteousness.” And it is this event that coincides with the beginning of Daniel’s 70th week.

‘‘To seal up vision and prophecy‘‘. “The eyes and ears of the Jews were ‘sealed’ from understanding the prophecies of God (cf. Isa. 6:9-10; 29:10-11; Matt. 13:11-16; John 12:37-41).”

The Apostle Peter declares “the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled” (Acts 3:18).

‘‘To anoint the most holy‘‘. “This was fulfilled by Christ (a name which literally means ‘the Anointed One’) in several ways (cf. Luke 4:18-19; Heb. 1:9; 9:22-28).” 24)

Jesus is the anointed one. Peter, again, says of Him “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power” in direct reference to the event that is the end of Daniel’s 69th week: The beginning of Christ’s ministry (Matthew 3:13-17).

These six purpose statements provide us with the foundation on which the rest of the prophecy resides.

From the time of the decree until Messiah the Prince there will be 69 weeks (v. 25). Although some may disagree with the exact date of “the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem,” the prophecy is only concerned with the time in between the decree and the Messiah (Christ). The introduction of the ministry of Christ, His baptism (Luke 3:21-23), coincides with the most likely da-ting of the end of Daniel’s 69th week in 26 AD.

After the 69 weeks, the Messiah will be cut off (v. 26). Not as in “after the 69 weeks, but before the 70 weeks,” but after the 69, naturally, the 70th week. As Daniel puts it, “after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off,” using the Hebrew word ‘‘karath‘‘, also found in Leviticus 7:20, relating to a penalty of or violent death. 25)

Lahaye’s reading of this verse is a little odd. Firstly, Daniel prophesies that from “the issuing of a decree” until “Messiah the Prince” will be a total of 69 weeks. Secondly, Daniel tells us “then ‘‘after‘‘ the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off” giving us the very simple idea that “after the Messiah comes, He will be cut off.” Yet Lahaye reads the text as saying

This period [the 62 weeks] was predicted to end when the “Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing.” Thus we see that this second period of time extended from the rebuilding of the Temple to the crucifixion of Christ, a total of 434 years. 26)

Daniel 9:25-26 reads:

  1. There will be 69 weeks between the decree and the Messiah (v. 25).
  2. After the 69 weeks, that is, during the 70th week the Messiah will be cut off (v. 26).

Simple? Here’s Lahaye’s version:

  1. There will be 69 weeks between the decree and the Messiah.
  2. After the 69 weeks, the Messiah will be cut off.
  3. Thus leaving a future, unfulfilled 70th week.

‘‘Lahaye ‘‘must‘‘ read Daniel this way. His belief in a future tribulation of seven years relies upon the 70th week finding absolutely no fulfillment in the ministry of Christ.

The people of the “prince who is to come” will destroy the city and the sanctuary (v. 26). The only other reference we have to a “prince” in this prophecy is “Messiah the Prince” in verse 25. Is it possible that Daniel is suggesting that the Jews of Christ’s time will be those who destroy their own city and sanctuary? This is only a suggestion as the exact identity is a matter of some dispute.

Regardless of the identity of the “people” or the “prince who is to come,” we can deduce that the destruction of the city will occur after the 69th week. But should we gather that it would occur in the 70th? Daniel’s six-fold purpose for this prophecy in verse 24 does not necessarily hinge upon the destruction of the city or the sanctuary. If Christ brings an end to sacrifice and offering through the work of the Cross, then we may envision the destruction of the city as a consequence of the rejection of the Messiah and the events which follow as indicators of the validity of Daniel’s prophecy once the time is fulfilled.

The end of the sanctuary and city will come with a flood and even to the end of it, there will be war and desolations (v. 26). Daniel prophesies: “the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary,” with certain events preceding “its end”:

  1. “And its end will come with a flood;”
  2. “even to the end there will be war;”
  3. “desolations have been determined.”

Lahaye translates the second half of verse 26 strangely. He suggests that the verses read:

  1. (He does not comment on this text)
  2. “War will continue until the end,”
  3. “and desolations have been decreed.” 27)

To which, he concludes, “This corresponds with…the Christian dispensation the year of God’s grace to the Gentiles. This, how-ever, culminates in…the seventieth week of Daniel or the Tribulation period.” 28)

Lest the reader be caught off guard, there is some slight manipulation in Lahaye’s renderings. Lahaye has mixed events and time frames in order to justify his position that the entire 70th week of Daniel is at some 2000 years after the time of Christ.

Daniel prophesied not that “war will continue until the end,” as in “the end of all time.” But the “its end” statement refers to and was directed toward the “city.” Daniel is not saying war will continue through the age of the Gentiles, leaving a very large gap between the 69th and 70th weeks. The Prophet was saying, however, that even until the end of the city there will be war. Daniel refers to the end of the city twice. He does not refer to the end of time at all or even suggest it. Again: “the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end [the “city’s,” not Lahaye’s “Gentile dispensation”] will come with a flood; even to the end [of the city] there will be war; desolations are determined.”

Any understanding, or miscomprehension, of “Gentile dispensation” from Daniel’s prophecy must be forcefully inserted into the prophecy. Lahaye purposefully misquotes the text to give it the nuance that he needs to justify his Tribulational belief system.

Lahaye should take caution from fellow dispensationalist John Walvoord who notes that “the present age [is] a parenthesis unexpected and without specific prediction in the Old Testament,” 29) and J. Dwight Pentecost, “this whole age [Lahaye’s “Gentile dispensation”] existed in the mind of God without having been revealed in the Old Testament.” 30)

Lahaye claims, however, that according to Daniel 9:26, “there will be a predicted time of interruption in this prophetic calendar,” 31) to which Lahaye means that Daniel prophesies of a gap that will appear between the 69th and 70th week, and which Isaiah refers to as “the year of the Lord’s favor” (Isaiah 61:2), culminating in the same passage as “the day of vengeance of our God.” Tim Lahaye is able to find all sorts of Old Testament references to the “Gentile dispensation” in the Old Testament just as easily as he mishandles Daniel’s prophecy.

So none are further confused by the reading of ‘‘Revelation Unveiled, ‘‘the multiple names given to all events after the 69th week of Daniel 9:24-27 by Lahaye, in just three paragraphs, are:

  1. “one ‘week’” or “heptad”
  2. The “period of time that Gabriel predicted,”
  3. “Israel’s prophetically determined history,”
  4. “The final period of time,”
  5. It is “such a time in history that the people of God are referred to as ‘the desolate,’”
  6. a “predicted time of interruption,”
  7. “the year of the Lord’s favor”
  8. the “Christian dispensation,”
  9. the “year of God’s grace to the Gentiles,”
  10. “the day of vengeance of our God”
  11. the “seventieth week of Daniel”
  12. and finally, the “Tribulation period.”

These names refer to one single prophetic event, which Daniel simply calls “after the sixty-two weeks” (v. 25).

Daniel’s chronology is much easier to navigate. His entire 70-week outline is as follows:

Topic: Seventy weeks have been decreed (v. 24).

Purpose: To accomplish six things (v. 24).

  1. 7 weeks and 62 weeks: A decree will be issued to rebuild Jerusalem. Jerusalem is rebuilt and then Messiah the Prince (v. 25).
  2. After the 69th week: The Messiah is cut off (v. 26).
  3. The people destroy the city and the sanctuary (v. 26).
  4. The city is plagued with war until “its end” (v. 26).
  5. “He” will make a covenant with many for one week (v. 27).
  6. In the middle of the week, “He” will put an end to sacrifice (v. 27).
  7. One will come after abominations and make desolate until there is a destruction of the one “who makes desolate” (v. 27).

So where is the mysterious 70th week in Daniel’s prophecy? In (2) above. After the 69 weeks, the Messiah is cut off. What comes after 69? 70. When is the Messiah cut off? As easily as the second week in January follows the first week, the 70th follows the 69th. There is no time for a person to say, “I’ll see you next week” to which you should have gathered “I’ll see you in one thousand years.” It even sounds ridiculous to draw an analogy to this line of reasoning.

So if the Messiah is cut off ‘‘in‘‘ the 70th week, how does Lahaye figure the 70th week is still future? Answer: He simply says that the Messiah is cut off at the end of the 69th week, thus enabling him to look forward to a future 70th week. Daniel only provides for 70 weeks. He does not provide for “7 plus 62 plus a really huge gap, which is what I mean when I say ‘after the 69,’ and then another 7 weeks.” Daniel simply gives 70 weeks as one unit of time to complete six very specific goals.

“He” will make a covenant with many for one week (v. 27). At the Last Supper, isn’t this precisely what Christ does (Luke 22:20)? Jesus ratifies the truth that the New Covenant is upon those who believe in Him.

We are not told of any particular event that brings the 70th week to a close. Perhaps Daniel or God decided that the event, if in fact there is any particular event of importance ending the 70th week, was significant in fulfilling the six purposes of verse 24. There is only one indicator to a specific time in the 70th week and that is “in the middle of the week” (v. 26) covered below.

There is a very interesting interpretation, found in the Appendix, which suggests that the accurate reading of the text should be

And one week shall establish the covenant with many; and in the midst of the week my sacrifice and drink offering shall be taken away; and upon the temple shall be the abomination of desolation; and at the end of the time an end shall be put to the desolation.

Thus rendering the Septuagint reading, as “The final week shall see a covenant ratified. In the middle of the week, sacrifice and offering will end.” This is provided exclusively for interests’ sake and will not be defended in this study. It does, however, allow for an alternate to the popular view that claims the “Messiah’s cutting off” and the “covenant in the middle of the week” are not the same event.

Jesus has become a servant in order to “confirm the promises given to the fathers” (Romans 15:8). That is what He came to do. Gentiles were “strangers to the covenants of promise,” but now are “fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel” (Ephesians 2:12, 3:6).

Christ “Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant,” and “He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises” (Hebrews 7:22, 8:6).

Some may attempt to argue that the “he” in verse 27 refers back to “the prince who is to come” as if this refers to some future Anti-christ. Yet, in verse 26, the “prince who is to come” is not the subject who destroys the city, it is “the people of the prince” who destroy the city.” Additionally, the only other reference to “prince” in this entire prophecy refers to the Messiah. There is no exegetical reason to assume the “prince” is anyone but the Messiah. The Messiah does not destroy the city, His “people” do. It is a matter of historical interest that the Jews still living in Jerusalem, during the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, destroyed the city and sanctuary from within during their infighting, war and cannibalistic acts. 32) But even as Daniel prophesies, they are not the ones that “make desolate,” that is the function of the “one who comes who makes desolate” (v. 27).

In the middle of the week, there will be an end to offering and sacrifice (v. 27). As stated above, there is only specific time indicator to events during the 70th week. This is one of two events that must occur during the 70, however. We have already seen that “after the sixty-two weeks,” that is “after the 69th week,” the “Messiah will be cut off” (v. 26). But we are not given a specific time in the week that this event occurs. We only learn that “in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and offering” (v. 27).

After giving the disciples the cup, Christ said that it was His “blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).

Christ is the sacrificial atonement for our sins in complete fulfillment of Old Testament typology. He is the perfect Lamb. His blood is better than all the sacrifices of the Old Testament priests; He is the High Priest (Hebrews 3).

Just as we are told in Hebrews 10:1-7, 9b-10:

  • For the law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when He comes into the world, He say, “Sacrifice and offering You have not desired, but a body You have prepared for Me; In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have taken no pleasure.” Then I said, “Behold, I have come (in the scroll of the book it is written of Me) to do Your will, O God.” …He takes away the first in order to establish the second. By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Jesus, by His perfect offering, “put an end to sacrifice and grain offering” (Daniel 9:27) as required by the will of God (Hebrews 10:7-10) in fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy, precisely 3 ½ years after His baptism. It is exactly as Daniel says, “in the middle of the week he will put an end to sacrifice and grain offering” (9:27), that Christ, the “Messiah” was “cut off” (v. 26). Christ was crucified, by a violent and sacrificial death, 3 ½ years after His baptism and brought an end to the Old Testament sacrificial system.

To recap Daniel’s prophecy, 70 weeks are decreed to complete these things:

  1. ‘‘To finish the transgression‘‘. Israel rejected the true Messiah and the kingdom has been taken from “her.” She has the blood of the prophets, the apostles and Christ on her hands.
  2. ‘‘To make an end of sin‘‘. Christ brings satisfaction to the justice of God.
  3. ‘‘To make atonement for iniquity‘‘. Christ brings an end to sacrifice and offering in His perfect atonement. This marks the “middle of the week” when the Messiah was “cut off.”

‘#’To bring in everlasting righteousness‘‘. The everlasting righteousness of God is revealed in Christ to all who believe. Christ is baptized to fulfill all righteousness.” This event marks the beginning of the 70th week; the 69th ended at the “coming” of the Messiah.

  1. ‘‘To seal up vision and prophecy‘‘. Christ did not come to abolish the law and the prophets, but fulfill them. Christ is the Messiah promised through the prophets.

Thus, 70 weeks have been decreed to bring about all six things that would be accomplished during and found in the 3 ½ ministry of Christ, marking the middle of the 70th week.

Daniel lists other events, which will either accompany his specific prophecies, or will happen as a result of the fulfillment of “six” purposes of God in verse 24. The other events will not be covered in detail for the purposes of this study.

Blaise Pascal, the 17th century theologian, noted “It was necessary that the four idolatrous or pagan monarchies, the end of the kingdom of Judah, and the seventy weeks, should happen at the same time, and all this before the second temple was destroyed,” 33) thus dating the end of the 70 weeks as occurring before 70 AD.

And it is Clement of Alexandria (150215 AD) who believed that Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy and the abomination of desolation were consummated in the destruction of Jerusalem. 34)

It is necessary at this point, however, to ask of Lahaye whether Daniel’s prophecy speaks to what Lahaye wishes.

Does Daniel’s prophecy speak of bringing “time to an end?” We have not found any such evidence. Does Daniel speak of a Tribu-lation? We did not read of any. Did we read of any “Gentile dispensation”? No. Did we read of war continuing until the end of the Tribulation or to the end of the Gentile dispensation or even to the beginning of the Millennium? Not in Daniel, we haven’t. Did we find “a resumption of God’s prophetic calendar for Israel” 35) in Daniel’s prophecy? Not at all. Do we find an Antichrist looming over some contract with the nation of Israel falling to his schemes? Absolutely not.

Every single one of Lahaye’s assertions concerning a Tribulation after some large gap in history is completely without foundation in the prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27. There is not one indication, in any verifiable textual evidence, that suggests Tim Lahaye has understood Daniel’s prophecy. The doctrine of a pre-tribulation rapture, and that of a future 7-year Tribulation, is without foundation in the prophecy of Daniel.

Notable early Christian sources which agree with the belief that Daniel’s 70 weeks have been fulfilled and do not await future realization (this list is in no way exhaustive): The Epistle to Barnabas. 16:6; Clement of Alexandria. Miscellanies 1:21; Homilies 3:15. (150-215 AD); Tertullian. Against the Jews. 8. (c. 160-220); Origen. Matthew 24:15. (c. 185-254); Eusebius. Demonstrations. 8. (c. 260-340); Athanasius, Incarnation 40:1 (c. 296-373); Augustine. 199th Epistle. (354-430).

Matthew 24

Another text cited by pre-tribulationists as proof of a future Tribulation preceded by the rapture and followed by a future earthly Kingdom is Matthew 24.

Lahaye says, “there are eight times as many prophecies in the Old Testament for the coming of Messiah to rescue His people and to set up a worldwide kingdom than there were for His first coming.” 36) In reference to Matthew 24, he says, “It is clear that our Lord believed and taught that He would come again to establish His long-promised government.” 37)

John Walvoord is quite clear when he tells us that Matthew 24 describes the Tribulation, “it will begin with ‘the abomination that causes desolation, spoken of through the prophet Daniel” (NIV), that is, the desecration of the temple which Israel will build in the last days and the stopping of the renewed Jewish sacrifices and ceremonies. This will signal the beginning of the awful period.” 38)

What is the impetus for Christ’s prophecy of destruction?

Beginning in Matthew 23:13, we see Jesus level eight “woes” against the Scribes and Pharisees. They had exalted themselves in their own works and sought after fame and honor. But Christ tells them that they are to be humbled (v. 12) and lists several reasons why they stand indicted:

  1. They have shut off the kingdom of heaven from people (v. 13).
  2. They devour the property of widows and make lengthy, meaningless prayers (v. 14).
  3. They have an unholy zeal for proselytes, making them worse than the teachers (v. 15).
  4. They insist on foolish oaths based on blindness to the things of God (v. 16).
  5. Their priorities are confused and legalistic as is their character (v. 23).
  6. Their “cups” and “dishes” are clean on the outside, yet full of robbery and self-indulgence on the inside (v. 25).
  7. Again, they are like white-washed tombs: Clean on the outside, full of death on the inside (v. 27). This may actually be considered as one “woe” with number six above as the meaning is much the same.
  8. They profess a false honoring of their fathers. They clean and adorn the tombs of the fathers, yet denounce them as murderers saying, “we would not have been partners with them in the shedding the blood of the prophets” (v. 29-30).

It is with the last “woe” that Jesus informs the scribes and Pharisees that He is sending more “prophets and wise men” (v. 34). They will not only persecute and kill them just as their fathers did, but they are full of the guilt of their fathers. They will “scourge” the ones that Christ sends to them in order that they will “fill up” the guilt of the unrighteous and upon them will “fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth,” from “Abel to the blood of Zechariah” (vs. 34-35).

Here, Jesus utters one of the most startling statements of all, “Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation” (v. 36), for “Behold! your house is being left to you desolate” (v. 38). It is to Daniel 9:27 that Jesus refers, as He does again in 24:15.

So Jesus has insightfully identified the crimes of the scribes and Pharisees and the nature of Jerusalem (vs. 1-37), passed sentence on those crimes (v. 38), and identified the time when the sentence would be carried out (v. 36).

When Jesus left the temple, the disciples came up to Him “to point out the temple buildings to Him” (24:1). We can imagine the shock and fright with which they must have responded to Jesus’ declaration that Jerusalem’s house is being left desolate. Not “is being” as in “will be in a long time,” but Jesus literally said, “Your house is being destroyed right now.” But the disciples were curious and started pointing out the buildings as if they were thinking, “Well, Jesus said they are being destroyed, but…the sanctuary is still here.”

It must have been extremely startling to hear Christ refer to Daniel’s prophecy of desolation that would come upon the city and the sanctuary. Jesus responded by telling them, “Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down” (24:2). It is this announcement that launches Christ into a lengthy discussion of the future events that must take place on the city of Jerusalem.

This single phrase encapsulates the Tribulation prophecy of Matthew 23:36 through 24:34. The condemnation of Jerusalem and the statement of impending doom upon “this generation,” by Jesus in chapter 23, is the very question to which the disciples in-quire and to which Christ responds throughout the majority of chapter 24. Jesus concludes His answer in 24:34 by referring to the original question, “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”

But what is this desolation (3:38; cf. Daniel 9:27) and how will it take place? The disciples ask three things of Christ: (1) When will these things happen, (2) What will be the sign of your coming, and (3) What will be the sign of the end of the age (4:3)?

To the first question, Jesus spends a considerable amount of time answering with great detail (4:4-35). The second and third questions are not answered with nearly the detail and exactness as the first. Jesus says, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (v. 36-44).

Jesus gives the events leading to the desolation of the city and sanctuary so that the disciples could “recognize” (v. 33) the timing. Yet, to His Second Advent, He tells them that not even He knows the time, only the Father knows (v. 36). Obviously, then, the desolation about to come on Jerusalem is a distinct event from His Second Coming.

This Generation

Pre-Tribulationists believe that “this generation” refers to a future time from our perspective, thousands of years after Christ’s prophecy. One popular scholar from this group claims:

A preservation of this nation [Israel] throughout this age [the “Church Age”] of her scattering was promised by Christ as recorded in Matthew 24:34…Here the word [genea], translated ‘‘generation‘‘, must since none of the events named in the foregoing prophecy have yet transpired be given its primary meaning of ‘‘race, kind, family, stock, breed. 39) ‘‘

And elsewhere, he adds:

The address [Matthew 23:37-39] is to Jerusalem’s children, which, in this instance, is a representation of the nation Israel. …The purpose will be executed perfectly at His second advent. 40)

This particular author suggests that “this generation” does not literally mean “this one” as the one that Christ was speaking to, but a “kind of generation” like that one. Maybe even a “race like that one” or possibly “a family like that one.” Was He not addressing His contemporaries, people then living?

What would Jesus really be saying? After casting out the eight woes, Jesus tells them that He is sending out more prophets and wise men, just like the ones their fathers killed, scourged and murdered, and then they will do the same. For the entire chapter of Matthew 23, Jesus directs His assaults at the “scribes and Pharisees” of that day. But then in 23:36, it is suggested by Pre-Tribulationists, Jesus somehow replies:

  1. ‘’Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this ‘‘race at least one thousand nine hundred seventy five years from now.’’
  2. ‘‘Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this ‘‘kind of rebellious people a long time from now.
  3. ‘‘Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this ‘‘family, but not your family, your children of at least 50 generations from now.
  4. ‘‘Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this ‘‘stock or breed. (?)
  • ‘‘For Christ to have declared His “woes” to the scribes and Pharisees and sentence them to desolation, one would really have to wonder how frightened they must have been. If the Pre-Tribers are correct, we can imagine the Pharisees thinking, “Hmm. Not bad. We get sentenced to destruction and it is taken out on people a couple millennia down the road. That’s not really that bad at all.” Or the disciple’s reaction? Why would the disciples even care when the events would take place if they were to understand that the events of the “tribulation” were not at their back door?

Jesus’ words were highly imminent. Jesus prophesied of the events of the Tribulation (vs. 9, 21, 29), which was to come upon that generation.

As C. H. Spurgeon commented on Matthew 23:36:

It was before that generation had passed away that Jerusalem was besieged and destroyed. There was a sufficient interval for the full proclamation of the gospel by the apostles and evangelists of the early Christian Church, and for the gathering out of those who recognized the crucified Christ as their true Messiah. Then came the awful end, which the Savior foresaw and foretold, and the prospect of which wrung from his lips and heart the sorrowful lament that followed his prophecy of the doom awaiting his guilty capital. 41)

Additionally, in the book of Matthew the phrase “this generation” is used five other times. Matthew 11:16 is clearly a reference to the people then living, as is 12:41, 42 and 45. And so, we suggest, it is the same as 23:36 and 24:34.

The Signs of the Great Tribulation

If Jesus is speaking of events to come upon those who were living at Christ’s time and which indicate the Tribulation is taking place, what do the signs indicate?

False Messiahs

The first of many signs to attend the tribulation is 24:4-5: “And Jesus answered and said to them, See to it that no one misleads you. For man will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.”

Of this historical fact, Spurgeon comments,

  • They were to beware lest any of the pretended Messiahs should lead them astray, as they would pervert many others. A large number of impostors came forward before the destruction of Jerusalem, giving out that they were the anointed of God…” 42)

That this is exactly what the Apostles record should be evident from the following passages:

Acts 5:36: “For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him….”

Acts 5:37: “…Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him…”

Acts 8:9-10: “Now there was a man named Simon, who formerly was practicing magic in the city and astonishing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great; and they all, from smallest to greatest, were giving attention to him, saying, ‘This man is what is called the Great Power of God.’”

Acts 21:38: There was the “Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness…”

1 John 2:18: “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.”

1 John 4:1: “…many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

Flavius Josephus, the Jewish General turned historian and witness to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, writes that as the Romans burnt the Temple and other buildings,

  • the soldiers also came to the rest of the cloisters that were in the outer temple…in number about six thousand. …the soldiers were in such a rage, that they set that cloister on fire; by which means it came to pass that some of these were destroyed by throwing themselves down headlong, and some were burnt in the cloisters themselves. Nor did any one of them escape with his life. A false prophet was the occasion of these people’s destruction, who had made a public proclamation in the city that very day, that God commanded them to get upon the temple, and that there they should receive miraculous signs of their deliverance. Now there was then a great number of false prophets suborned by the tyrants to impose on the people…that they should wait for deliverance from God… 43)

False prophets abounded, exactly as Christ foretold. It is also interesting to note that Josephus believed that the people of Jerusalem

  • did not attend nor give credit to the signs that were so evident, and did so plainly foretell their future desolation [!], but, like men infatuated, without either eyes to see or minds to consider, did not regard the denunciations that God made to them. 44)

It is interesting to observe that this is exactly what many pretribulationists think will take place, but in reverse. We are taught by them that at the end of the Tribulation, Christ will return in His Second Advent. Yet, it is in this passage, that we find Christ telling His disciples that this is simply not what is going to take place!

In Matthew 24, Jesus repeats His admonition to guard against false teachers in verses five (false “Christs”) and 11 (false “prophets”). Both are combined in verse 24, to read: “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.”

But what should we watch for exactly? Jesus tells them, in verse 21, that there will be greater tribulation than has been experienced even in the preceding signs accompanying His prophecy. It is for this reason that, once the abomination of desolation takes place, they are to flee the city (vs. 15-20). Christ tells them to watch for these false teachers because they will try to mislead Christians with “great signs and wonders” (v. 24).

The situation of that time was exactly as Christ prophesied. There were indeed many false messiahs running about, misleading thousands upon thousands of people. The historical record is filled with accounts like those listed above.

Is there more evidence to support the literal, historical interpretation given above? Yes, there is.

Wars and Rumors of Wars

In 24:6, Jesus tells His disciples that they “will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars.”

Can we honestly think of ourselves in a time now where hearing news of wars or battles is not common? When is the last time in history where a significant period of time transpired where “hearing of wars and rumors of wars” might actually be taken as prophetic? Many people have proposed that because we presently are watching these things take place, we are coming to the time of the Great Tribulation. Yet, what was the understanding of the disciples to whom Jesus gave this prophecy?

At that time in history, the Roman Empire had instituted what is called the ‘‘pax Romana‘‘, or “the peace of Rome.” This period, begun before the birth of Christ, was an overwhelming success and “in the Roman Empire proper, this period of peace remained comparatively undisturbed ‘‘until the time of Nero‘‘.”45)

These wars, Jesus tells His disciples, will cause them some terror, but “see that you are not frightened, for those things must take place but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (24:6-7). Chrysostom, the early “Church Father,” considered this prophecy to be exclusively referring to “wars in Jerusalem” before 70 AD because the “Roman arms were a matter of anxiety” to Jesus’ audience, that is, Jews then living in Israel. 46)

Threats against Christians in Israel came from Caligula, Claudius and Nero There “were serious disturbances at Alexandria,” and Seleucia “in which more than fifty thousand Jews were killed; and at Jamnia, near Joppa.” 47)

Famines, Earthquakes and Other Extremes

That there was widespread famine, earthquake (24:7), persecution (v. 9), apostasy (v. 10), false prophets (v. 11) and lawlessness (v. 12), one need only consult the records of the destruction of Jerusalem and Israel prior to its complete desolation in 70 AD.

Famines. Josephus’ ‘‘The Wars of the Jews‘‘, 5:8:2; 5:9:3, 5:10.

Acts 11:27-30. One of the early Christians “began to indicate by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world. And this took place in the reign of Claudius” (v. 28).

To which Eusebius, an early “Church Father” and historian, writes, “Caius had held the power not quite four years, when he was succeeded by the emperor Claudius. Under him the world was visited with a famine which writers that are entire strangers to our religion have recorded in their histories.” 48)

Earthquakes. There was a great earthquake when Christ was crucified (Matthew 27:54) and another at Philippi in the prison in which Paul and Silas were held (Acts 16:26). See also Josephus. ‘‘The Wars of the Jews. ‘‘6:5:3; also see 4:4:5. There were earth-quakes “recorded in Crete, Smyrna, Miletus, Chios, Samos, Laodicea, Hierapolis, Colossae, Campania, Rome, Judea, Pompeii and many other locations.” 49)

Persecution. Throughout the book of Acts, persecution is well documented: 4:3; 5:18-33; 6:12; 7:54-60; 8:1; 9:1-19 (Paul is recorded as a persecutor); 11:19; 12:1-3; 13:45-50; 14:2-19; 16:23; 17:5-13; 18:12; 20:3-19; 21:11-27; 22:30; 23:12-30; 24:5-9; 25:2-24 and 26:21.

We also find Paul’s description of his own persecution in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 and of others’ persecutions in 2 Thessalonians 1:4-5.

We may even look to the chronicle of John Foxe and his ‘‘Book of Martyrs‘‘. Those killed for their faith include Stephen, James the Great, Timon, Parmenas, Philip, Matthew, James the Less, Matthias, Andrew, Mark, Peter, Paul, Erastus, Aristarchus, Trophimus, Joseph (Barsabas) and Ananias and many more during and preceding the persecution instigated by Nero and all before 70 AD. 50)

Apostasy and False Prophets. We find evidence of this as well in Acts 13:6, 20:29-30; Romans 16:17-18; 2 Corinthians 11:13; Galatians 1:7, 2:4; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; Titus 1:10-16; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 1 John 2:18-19, 4:1; 2 John 7 and Revelation 2:2. Also see section on False Messiahs above.

Lawlessness. Do any doubt that the Apostles frequently chastised their audience for falling into immorality and licentiousness as in 1 Corinthians 5:1-13?

Plainly, the fulfillment of the above does not have to wait for a future realization. Christ was very clear about the events to come up-on those who followed Him and those who lived in Jerusalem.

The Gospel of the Kingdom

Jesus declares, in verse 14, that “this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” Literally understood, “the whole world” means “inhabited earth” as noted in many study Bibles; ‘‘Easton’s Bible Dictionary‘‘ tells us that “In the New Testament “the earth” denotes the land of Judea (Matthew 23:35)…” 51)

Some may have us understand that in this passage, Jesus is commanding the Gospel be preached on every square inch of dirt on the face of the earth, but is that really what the disciples understood?

Mathison mentions five points as to why this particular prophecy finds a first century fulfillment: (1) The world “world” often refers to the Roman Empire (Luke 2:1; Acts 11:28 and 24:5). (2) The phrase “all the nations” refers to the nations of the Roman Empire. (3) The gospel of the kingdom “was primarily a witness to the Jews” dispersed throughout the Roman Empire that the Messiah has come (Acts 21:21 and 24:5). (4) Fulfillment is found not in conversion, but in testimony of the truth of Christ throughout the known world. (5) The prophecy is recorded in Scripture. 52)

Startlingly, Mathison claims that this has been fulfilled. But where and how? The message began at Pentecost (Acts 2:5) and continued for some time until the Apostle Paul declared the mission complete:

But we desire to hear from you what your views are; for concerning this sect, it is known to us that it is spoken against everywhere. (Acts 28:22)

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world. (Romans 1:8)

But I say, surely they have never heard, have they? Indeed they have; “Their voice has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” (Romans 10:18)

  • …the gospel which has come to you, just as in all the world…which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven… (Colossians 1:8, 23)

The ministry of spreading the Gospel has come into the entire world, just as Christ commissioned the Apostles to accomplish in their time, as CH Spurgeon agrees in his commentary on Matthew. 53) We should continue their example with such diligence.

Another indication that these events refer to the time before 70 AD is Luke 21:24, where Luke records that after Jerusalem is “surrounded by armies” (21:20) it will fall and “Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” As it is, Jerusalem is still being trampled under foot to this very day.

The Abomination of Desolation, Flee to the Mountains

“Therefore when you see the Abomination of Desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains” (24:15-16).

So when the abomination (or “idolatry”) of the desolation, to which Daniel refers, takes place, those living in the area should take flight and escape the wrath of those who destroy the city and the sanctuary (Matthew 24:15-22; cf. Luke 21:20 and Daniel 9:26-27).

Spurgeon says,

  • This portion of our Savior’s words appears to relate solely to the destruction of Jerusalem. As soon as Christ’s disciples saw “the abomination of desolution,” that is, the Roman ensigns, with their idolatrous emblems, “stand in the holy place,” they knew that the time for them to escape had arrived; and they did “flee to the mountains.” The Christians in Jerusalem and the surrounding towns and villages, ‘‘“in Judea “, ‘‘availed themselves of the first opportunity for eluding the Roman armies, and fled to the mountain city of Pella, in Perea, where they were preserved from the general destruction which overthrew the Jews. There was no time to spare before the final investment of the guilty city; the man ‘‘“on the house-top” could ‘‘“not come down to take anything out of his house’‘”, ‘‘and the man ‘‘“in the field” could not ‘‘“return back, to take his clothes‘‘.” They must flee to the mountains in the greatest haste the moment that they saw “Jerusalem compassed with armies “(Luke 21:20). 54)

One may ask “How are the “Roman ensigns” idolatrous? How is this possibly a fulfillment of Christ’s prophecy?”

The historical record is that as the Romans had Jerusalem “encompassed on every side,” soldiers went into Jerusalem and burnt the “holy house itself” and “all the buildings round about it….” They then brought their “ensigns” [“banners” or “flags”] to the temple and offered sacrifices to the ensigns, making Titus “imperator.” 55) Whiston, the translator of Josephus’ writings, reports that the Roman “ensigns” were worshipped and they preferred the ensigns before their other gods. 56) To this, Tertullian and Minucius Felix agree. 57)

But why does Jesus instruct them to flee? We read Spurgeon again:

  • The reason for this injunction was thus stated by the ‘‘Savior: “For there shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be‘‘.” Read the record written by Josephus of the destruction of Jerusalem, and see how truly our Lord’s words were fulfilled. The Jews impiously said, concerning the death of Christ, “His blood be on us, and on our children.” Never did any other people invoke such an awful curse upon themselves, and upon no other nation did such a judgment ever fall. We read of Jews crucified till there was no more wood for making crosses; of thousands of the people slaying one another in their fierce faction fights within the city; of so many of them being sold for slaves that they became a drug in the market, and all but valueless; and of the fearful carnage when the Romans at length entered the doomed capital; and the blood-curdling story exactly bears out the Savior’s statement uttered nearly forty years before the terrible events occurred. 58)

What do we find when comparing the historical record of Daniel’s “desolation” of Jerusalem with the prophecy of Christ concerning its destruction?

Prophecy: They will know “desolation is near” when:

  • Jerusalem will be “surrounded by armies.” Luke 21:20.


Jerusalem was “encompassed on every side” by the Roman army. Josephus. 59)


  • The people will destroy the city and the sanctuary. Daniel 9:26. And even though they “destroy the city,” that is not the end and additionally, Daniel prophesies that there will be war even until the end of the city, indicating that the destruction of the city by the Jews is not the full end of the city. Roman soldiers were to complete the desolation.


  • General Titus said to the Jews: You “brought your people, your city, and your holy house to destruction.” Josephus. 60) Titus laid the blame at the Jews feet for their rebellion and wickedness against their own people and against Rome. The Jews did, in fact, destroy much of the city and sanctuary before the Romans entered the city.


  • There will be abominations and the city and sanctuary will be made desolate. Daniel 9:27.


  • Both Jews and Romans committed abominations. The Romans offered sacrifices to their ensigns in the Temple. And after offering to spare the Jews, which offer they rejected, Titus ordered the city and sanctuary to be completely destroyed by fire. Josephus. 61) Much idolatry, murder, cannibalism, general carnage and civil war actually took place before the Romans infiltrated Jerusalem by Jews themselves.


  • Christians should watch for the abomination of desolation and flee from the city. Matthew 24:16-22 and Luke 21:21-23.


  • The Christians, seizing a rather bizarre opportunity, fled Jerusalem and went to their safety in the city of Pella, all according to the prophecy in Matthew 24. Spurgeon citation above; Eusebius62) and Josephus. 63)


  • They will fall by the edge of the sword and be “led captive into all the nations.” Luke 21:24.


  • Titus issued a proclamation that Jewish captives, because of their stubborn refusal of his offer to preserve their people, city and sanctuary, be treated “according to the laws of war.” Jews were taken to Rome as slaves as a sign of “their country’s fidelity to the Romans.” Josephus. 64)

And so, from these many accounts, we can quite comfortably lay claim that Christ was not mistaken when He said, “these things will come upon this generation”!

How is it that the Romans are the ones to whom this prophecy relates? Other than the incredibly historical accuracy and literal fulfillment found in these passages, how could we identify the Romans as the tool of Jerusalem’s destruction? In answer, we look to 24:28.

Jesus says that wherever the “corpse” (or “carcass”) is, there the eagle will be (v. 28). Just as in Deuteronomy 28:25-26, the Lord is causing their destruction in judgment of their disobedience. God is defeating Israel so that they might be an example of terror to all people. Their corpses will be food for the birds and beasts. Similarly, in Matthew 24:28, Israel’s corpse is where the eagles are found.

The “ensigns” carried in war by the Romans carried a particular image, as Josephus describes:

Then came the ensigns encompassing the eagle, which is at the head of every Roman legion, the king, and the strongest of all birds, which seems to them a signal of dominion, and an omen that they shall conquer all against whom the march…. 65)

The historian, Josephus, reports that these are “sacred” items in to the Roman soldier because it is the strongest of all birds; it is the king of all birds.

Charles Spurgeon agreed with this interpretation66) as did John Wesley:

  • ‘‘When ye shall see the abomination of desolation‘‘ - Daniel's term is, 'The abomination that maketh desolate' (xi. 31); that is, the standards of the desolating legions, on which they bear the abominable images of their idols. ‘‘Standing in the holy place‘‘ - Not only the temple, and the mountain on which it stood, but the whole city of Jerusalem, and several furlongs of land round about it, were accounted ‘‘holy‘‘; particularly the mountain on which our Lord now sat, and on which the Romans afterward planted their ensigns. 67) [Wesley]

When the Roman soldiers destroyed Jerusalem, during the “greater tribulation” of those days, they worshipped the sign of their eagle in the Temple. This is the ‘‘idolatry of the destruction‘‘ of Jerusalem (abomination of desolation) to which Daniel and Jesus both prophesied.

Great Tribulation

The pre-tribulational reader will notice the use of the phrase “greater tribulation” in the previous paragraph and likely not quite know what to think of it. This term is used to signify that in Jesus’ prophecy, He has already announced tribulation coming on those who believe in Him, “they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name” (24:9). This is precisely what took place during the persecution of Christians by Jews (as recorded throughout the New Testament), by Romans and particularly by Nero’s direct assault on the followers of Christ (as recorded in graphic detail in many historical texts, pagan and Christian).

Jesus is saying, in verse nine, that as nations battle against each other, Christians will be delivered into tribulation by them. But that when the Christians recognize the Daniel’s prophecy being fulfilled, they should flee because it is at this point when “great tribulation” will commence on all who remain (vs. 15-21). And again, this is exactly what took place prior to the desolation of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

Some may respond that this event is to be the “great tribulation” in which nothing like it has ever occurred or ever will, for this is what Jesus says (v. 21). Yet, was not the Flood of Noah much greater? The pretribulationists’ Tribulation will leave millions of people alive at the end of their 7-year period. But it was only Noah’s family who lived through the devastation of those days. Was the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah or the destruction of Jericho less than Jesus describes in Matthew 24?

Additionally, if we read Matthew 24:21 as if it historically will never be matched on scale or destruction, how then shall we read Exodus 11:6?

Moreover, there shall be a great cry in all the land of Egypt, such as there has not been before and such as shall never be again.

Maybe the language in Exodus of suffering in Egypt is a tool to express severity. Perhaps we should then turn to Ezekiel 5:9, where God says,

And because of all your abominations, I will do among you what I have not done, and the like of which I will never do again.

So was the 10th plague on Egypt the worst thing that ever happened to a people? Or was the Babylonian captivity the worst thing to ever take place? And just maybe, the difficulty of reconciling these verses with Matthew 24:21 is not so hard after all.

Jesus is using a figure of speech, based on existing Biblical patterns of extreme events, to describe a very incredible and very real destruction in historical Jerusalem in 70 AD.

Lightning and Clouds

Pre-Tribulationists would have us believe that after the “Great Tribulation,” Christ will return physically in His Second Coming. Yet this is the exact thing Jesus tells us not to expect! He tells us not to believe the reports of those who say that Christ has come (v. 23). For His coming is going to be “just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west” (v. 27).

But what can He mean by “lightning”? The Old Testament is replete with the same language that Christ used. And it is better for us to attempt an understanding from the pages of Scripture first, after all, that is to what Jesus appeals in His prophecy, than seek out our predetermined biases and insert them into the text beforehand.

How is the image of lightning used in Scripture? Lightning is used frequently in the Old Testament as a symbol of judgment.

We find this description used in the “historical books”: 2 Samuel 22:15 and Job 36:32. We find “lightning” used as a judgment motif in the “wisdom books”: Psalm 18:14; 78:48-49 and 144:6. And “lightning-as-judgment” language is found in the “prophetical books”: Ezekiel 19:16; 20:10 and Zechariah 9:14. We also find similar language used in the book of Revelation: 4:5; 8:5; 11:19 and 16:18.

From these descriptions and uses of “lightning” imagery, one is struck with the awesome power of God in creation, but even more so, with the incredible and swift justice of God revealed in such descriptions. The reader cannot but help to be reminded, through this prophetic and symbolic imagery, of the earth-shattering self-revelation of God at Mt. Sinai in Exodus 19:16-19: “there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled.” Clouds, lightning, earthquakes, wind and fire, as evidenced in so many accounts throughout Scripture, accompany the judgment and manifestations of the presence of God, for example, Exodus 3:2; Jeremiah 23:19; 25:32; Ezekiel 1:4, 26-28; Daniel 10:6 and Matthew 17:2-5.

“The coming of the Son of Man” will be exactly in the same manner as the other depictions of the glory and judgment of God in the revelatory Word of God (Matthew 24:27). Christ is not speaking of a physical coming, as in His Second Advent, at this point. He is, however, giving a direct prophecy of His involvement in the events that will take place in Jerusalem.

Jesus even explains a little further by adding that they will see “the sign of the Son of Man” and that He will be “coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory” (v. 30). And also, in verse 30, He sends “forth His angels,” but the disciples are not told that He will physically be there at that point. Jesus told them an exhausting amount of detail about the events of the Tribulation and the judgment on Jerusalem (23:1-14:35). But of His actual Second Advent (vs. 36-44), Christ Himself does not even know.

It is fascinating to note that Josephus (a Jewish General) and Tacitus (a Roman, and pagan, historian) relate an historical event describing armies in the clouds above Jerusalem:

Josephus records that “before sunsetting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armour were seen running about among the clouds” and

  • at that feast which we call pentecost, as the priests were going by night into the inner temple…they felt a quaking, and heard a great noise, and after that they heard a sound as of a great multitude, saying “Let us remove hence.” 68)

Tacitus says:

  • “In the sky appeared a vision of armies in conflict, of glittering armour. A sudden lightning flash from the clouds lit up the Temple. The doors of the holy place abruptly opened, a superhuman voice was heard to declare that the gods were leaving it, and in the same instant came the rushing tumult of their departure.” 69)

Eusebius, the Church historian (325 AD), relates the same historical event as a fulfillment of Jesus prophecy in Matthew 24. 70)

Pre-Tribulationists would have us believe that Christ’s “coming on the clouds” is a description of His Second Coming (His physical presence at the consummation of all things). 71) Yet, in keeping with Christ’s use of Old Testament, which His audience was very familiar with and which He came to fulfill, Jesus uses language describing destruction.

God’s rebuke toward His enemies is described as the Lord descending from heaven with darkness spread under His feet and “His canopy around Him, darkness of waters, thick clouds of the skies” in Psalm 18:9-11. Should the reader of this Psalm understand that God physically came against David’s enemies (and maybe even Saul) in this manner? Or is it a description of the tremendous majesty of God revealed in judgment language? The latter is much more likely.

In Isaiah 19:1, the “Lord is riding on a swift cloud and is about to come to Egypt.” Certainly, this event is not describing the physical manifestation of the Lord, but rather is a description of impending judgment on Egypt.

As further demonstration of this point, Lamentations 2:1 and Ezekiel 30:3-5 also use much of the same language.’‘

  • ‘‘One last passage should be considered concerning our Lord “coming on the clouds”:

I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven one like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. (Daniel 7:13).

The observation to be made is that when the “Son of Man” comes with the clouds, He comes ‘‘up‘‘ “to the Ancient of Days.” Christ does not descend on the clouds. He ascends to the Ancient of Days.

This is the sign of the Son of Man: When Jerusalem, who has killed the prophets and crucified the Messiah, is destroyed, then those who persecuted Him will realize His words to them concerning their desolation. For this reason, Jesus says that “these things will come upon this generation” (23:36) and as He also says to the disciples, “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His father with His angels…Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (16:27-28). This last passage is so incredibly similar with 24:30-31 (as is Matthew 25:64!) in language, imagery and meaning, that one is hard-pressed to explain it in any way other than literally: Jesus will manifest the power of God in His glory-cloud judgment on Jerusalem and this will take place within that generation, witnessed by some who were alive when Jesus gave His prophetic decrees.

Christ said that “all these things” will take place upon “this generation” in 23:36 and concludes a lengthy description of “these things” in 24:34. He then says “But of that day,” as opposed to “these things on this generation,” “no one knows, not even the an-gels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (24:36).

Jesus clearly and distinctly drew a line between the first and second questions of the disciples (24:3). They asked “when will ‘‘these‘‘ things take place” to which Jesus responds and says that “these things” will take place upon ‘‘this‘‘ generation. Jesus clarifies their own question for them. They were looking for a sign of His coming (v. 3), but He tells them the “sign of His coming,” in judgment, will accompany the destruction of Jerusalem (v. 30). Yet, His Second Advent will occur at a time that no one knows (v. 36).

Sun, Moon, Stars, Powers

After the Tribulation, “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (24:29). Are we really supposed to understand that the Sun will collapse, the Moon will stop reflecting the Sun’s light, all the stars will suddenly turn into comets and strike the earth and the powers of heaven will…well, what will the powers of heaven do anyway?

Read the following quotation and see if it is similar to the prophecy of Christ quoted in the last paragraph:

  • “For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; the sun will be dark when it rises and the moon will not shed its light.”

Strikingly similar? Is the quote from a modern writer’s paraphrase of Matthew 24:29? Is it an ancient pagan poets words? Yes, no and no.

It is Isaiah 13:10. Why is it so similar to Matthew 24:29? Because Isaiah’s words are a prophecy of the destruction and fall of Babylon to the Medes and Jesus’ words are a prophecy of the destruction and fall of Jerusalem. The entire 23rd chapter of Matthew had to do with the condemnation of Israel’s disobedience and the carrying out of that indictment in that latter part of chapter 23 and most of chapter 24. We should expect to find Jesus borrowing from the history of the Jews to describe their downfall, if that was indeed what He was doing. And it is exactly this that we find for Jerusalem. As a matter of fact, Jesus, in Matthew 24:29, is quoting Isaiah 13:10, but instead of Babylon centuries before, He applies it to Jerusalem.

Instead of inventing fanciful fictional depictions of Jesus’ prophecy, let us turn again to the pages of Scripture for further clarification. The language employed by Christ to Jerusalem’s destruction is identical to the language applied to Egypt in Ezekiel 32:1-8 and is clearly a poetic reference to the downfall of kingdoms, empires or nations.


“And 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” (24:31). Once more, “after the tribulation of those days,” Jesus will send forth His messengers to proclaim the Gospel in all the earth.

In keeping with Matthew 11:10, the Greek word translated as “angels” is rendered “messengers” and will be used in the same manner for our purpose here.

A conspicuous parallel appears in the text at this point. At the end of the “greater” tribulation of those days, the eagle gathers around the corpse of Jerusalem (v. 28). In much the same way, Jesus sends His messengers to gather others through the preaching of His word in the world. So on one hand, the destruction of Israel is experienced through the gathering of the Roman armies, and on the other, the salvation of God’s people is effected through the gathering of the saints by the armies of Christ through the preaching of His Gospel.


Other than the concluding words of Christ in parable and His declaration that “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place,” the remainder of chapter 24 does not bear a negative or positive impact on our study and so, it will not be discussed.

One of the most astounding admissions of a popular pretrib writer to date may be the following:

I do not believe that Christ’s Olivet Discourse (Mt 24; Mk 13; Lk 21) contains a single sentence, phrase, or term that ‘‘requires ‘‘a first century fulfillment, except for Luke 21:20–24. 72)

What then is Luke 21:20-24? There are three main subjects in these four verses.

  • “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near” (v. 20).
  • “Then those who are in Judea must flee…because these are the days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled” (vs. 21-22).
  • “…there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people, and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (vs. 23-24).

Entirely missing the parallel in Matthew 24, Ice dismisses all of Matthew 24 to the future but “allows” for a 70 AD fulfillment of Luke 21:20-24. Consider the following:

‘‘The desolation is near‘‘. Matthew 24:15 and Luke 21:20 both speak of the fulfillment of Daniel’s “abomination of desolation,” placing it at a time when Jerusalem is surrounded by armies (Luke) and the idolatry that will take place during the desolation (Matthew). Both are found to be fulfilled in the Roman soldier’s worship of their banners adorned with the symbol of the eagle, in the Temple and surrounding areas.

‘‘Fleeing Jerusalem‘‘. Both passages mention (1) “those who are in Judea” fleeing to “the mountains,” (2) Matthew talks of those “on the housetop” where Luke talks of those “in the city,” (3) Matthew speaks of those “in the field” and Luke speaks of “those who are in the country,” and (4) both mention “those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babes” (Matthew 24:16-19, Luke 21:21, 22).

‘‘Great distress‘‘. What Matthew terms, “great tribulation” coming on the land, Luke calls “great distress” and “wrath to this people” (Matthew 24:21 and Luke 21:23).

As a matter of fact, both are a record of the same discussion that Jesus had with His disciples. Both passages concern “nation rising against nation,” earthquakes, famines, persecutions and being hated for Christ’s name (Matthew 24:7-9 and Luke 21:10-17). Both passages speak of “the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30 and Luke 21:27). So before and after Ice’s point of contention, the passages are identical. How he separates Luke 21:20-24 from its immediate context is with-out exegetical grounds.

Additionally, Ice comments,

  • Since the timing of “this generation” is not innate in the phrase itself but is governed by its immediate context, then I believe it refers to a future generation because the events depicted have yet to take place. This can be seen most clearly in Luke’s account of our Lord’s Discourse since he answers all three of the disciples questions. I believe that Matthew and Mark only deal with the future questions. 73)

What is most staggering is that Tommy Ice so excludes Luke’s recounting of Jesus’ prophecy from Matthew, that he willfully claims Luke was fulfilled in 70 AD, whereas Matthew’s version concerns the distant future.

He even claims that the phrase “this generation” is not an indicator of timing in itself. This is a rather bizarre claim. “This genera-tion” is very much an indicator of a time period. If Jesus had said “that generation,” would that not be an indicator of a particular time? Jesus’ answer of “this generation” is a direct answer to the question of “when will these things take place?” It is nothing but a timing instrument!

And just because Ice’s end-times theology does not allow him to properly interpret our Lord’s prophecy in Matthew 24, does not mean that the events have not taken place. Ice basically says: “Since ‘this generation’ does not mean anything to me in this pas-sage (my end times view isn’t compatible), it must be overruled by my futuristic bias already in place. The events haven’t happened, so how can it really mean the generation to which Christ was speaking?”

Even more odd is the following statement by Tommy Ice:

  • The first part of the question “when therefore will these things be?” relates to the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70. This ex-plains the first century section in verses 20–24. Christ’s answer to their second question “what ‘‘will be ‘‘the sign when these things are about to take place?” relates to “signs” preceding His Second Advent. This is a different event than that of their first question, and the event is still future to our day. The second question is answered in verses 25–28, which follows the long period of time described in the second half of verse 24 “Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” Thus, verse 32, (“this generation will not pass away until all things take place”) will be fulfilled in the future, for the scope of “all these things” refers to verses 25–28, not verses 20–24. 74)

Ice has already claimed that “this generation” is not a time indicator, but in this citation, just one paragraph later, he claims that Luke 21:20-24 relate to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and the disciple’s question “when therefore will these thing be.” What was Christ’s answer to that question? “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these thing take place” (Luke 21:32).

It is unbelievable that Ice completely removes Christ’s answer to the disciple’s question to the far future, yet the realization of their question is intended for 70 AD. He must involve himself in this type of disharmony for the very simple reason that his eschatology does not allow him to read the passage in its literal and normal sense. He cannot draw a parallel between Luke 21 and Matthew 24 because his futurism would be demolished.

Humorously, though Lahaye previously decries “this generation” as not having any time reference in itself, in the last sentence of the last paragraph quoted above he uses “this generation” as an time indicator for the period in the future in which “all these things” will take place.

Lahaye also confuses his audience. In his argument against a mid-tribulation and post-tribulation view, he claims that Matthew 24:36 refers to the pre-tribulation rapture. And since “anyone can calculate precisely when He will come,” which he means the second part of the Second Coming also known as “the Glorious Appearing” at the end of the Tribulation, Jesus cannot be said to be coming suddenly and without warning. For Lahaye, the pre-tribulation rapture of the Christian Church Age is an imminent affair with no preceding signs or warnings. Whereas the “coming” at the end of the Tribulation is rather simple to figure out, because it will be exactly seven years after the Rapture.

Why is this so confusing? Because Jesus description in Matthew 24:36 is one that follows after “being delivered into tribulation” (24:9) and takes place some time after “the tribulation of those days” (24:29). The “coming of the Son of Man” takes place some time after the Tribulation already described by Christ earlier in the chapter. So how is it that Lahaye believes this coming will be secret? We have no idea.

For those who believe the Tribulation was fulfilled in 70 AD, the Second Advent will come as a surprise. There is only one physical coming of Christ to expect. We are not caught up with Christ, going back to heaven with Him, coming back to earth seven years later for His second Second Coming. There is no future Tribulation. Christ’s prophecies were not mistaken, they took place on the people Christ said it would. Christ preserved His Church and His people through a most amazing time. His Word was fulfilled exactly as He said it would and therefore, there is no reason to doubt Him. At some time in the future, He will return, physically and in glory and that is our blessed hope (Titus 2:13)!

Tim Lahaye’s second reason for the Tribulation is “To fulfill Israel’s prophecies.” 75) Throughout Matthew 23 and 24, we have seen Christ’s words ring true in their literal fulfillment of the destruction of Jerusalem. Not once have we been able to identify the need “to rebuild the temple” or the “renewing of temple sacrifices” that Lahaye finds so important to his beloved Tribulation period.

Therefore, we find Lahaye’s second reason for the necessity of a future Tribulation completely lacking any support in the “Tribulation passages” of the Holy Bible.’‘

Early Christian “Church Fathers” and others who agree with the interpretation above: Clement of Rome, Tertullian, Athanasius, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Eusebius, Chrysostom, Jerome, Augustine, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, John Owen, John Wesley, John Broadus, John Gill, Sir Isaac Newton, John Wesley and CH Spurgeon.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

Let us now turn to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. The Apostle Paul begins verse 13 by comforting those who had lost loved ones. Unbelievers, Paul argues, should grieve for those who have died. But we should not grieve, because those “who have fallen asleep in Jesus” will be raised “with Him.” “God will bring with Him,” speaking of Christ, “those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.” We should be receive consolation knowing that Christ will bring those who have perished in Christ “with Him.”

In verse 15, the Apostle teaches, “…we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep.” We also see similar teaching in 1 Corinthians 15:23-24, that Christ was resurrected first and those who are Christ’s will be raised at His coming. Just a few verses later in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, we are told that “we shall not all sleep, but we will be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.”

The “trumpet” mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:52 is also mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 4:16. In this verse, we are told that Christ “will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first.”

Verse 17 informs us that “we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.” We shall always be with the Lord. Here is our great expectation, here is the hope of the Christian and this is a great promise!

And as we see in verse 17, we are informed that we “shall always be with the Lord.” No instruction is given about being with those lost relatives in the Millennium, this would be a great place for that comfort, and nothing at all is said of being with Christ for a seven year tribulation and then being brought back to earth for a millennium. To argue otherwise is to insert one’s preconceived notions into the text.

The intent of the passage in 1 Thessalonians 4 is to comfort those who have lost loved ones. It is not intended to establish a pre-tribulation rapture, nor is it Paul’s intent to explain how Christ is supposedly going to come once for the Church and then seven years afterward come to set up His Millennial Kingdom.

Remember our instruction by Lahaye:

The “glorious appearing” obviously refers to His coming [at the end of the Tribulation] to the earth in “power and great glory.” To those who take the Bible literally, this interpretation passes the test of “making common sense” out of the Scripture. 76)

The “common sense” approach to Scripture would be then, that there are two future comings of Christ in one. Two phases to the single event. One silent coming, the Rapture Coming, which is the part “2a coming” of the Second Coming and the “second” Second Coming, “part 2b,” the Glorious Appearing. The Glorious Appearing Coming is the one where Christ is supposed to conquer His enemies so that one thousand years later, He can conquer them again as a victorious King. Many people will undoubtedly feel quite silly for never seeing Scripture present this to us so clearly!

1 Corinthians 15:20-28

The Apostle begins with a brief exposition of the Gospel. Verse 12 introduces a transition to a practical application of the implications of preaching the Gospel. At the time of Paul’s writing, there appears to have been some that believe in the Gospel, yet deny the resurrection of the body. The Apostle counters the belief that there is no resurrection, by arguing that if that were the case, then “not even Christ has been raised” (v. 13). And if Christ has not been raised, we are to be pitied for our foolishness.

According to the Apostle Paul, there are specific events that precede the “end” (as he identifies it). “But each in his own order,” suggests Paul. Christ is the “firstfruits.” After Christ’s resurrection, the next to be raised are “those who are Christ’s at His coming.” Paul identifies this as a resurrection that takes place upon those “who are Christ’s” and it occurs at “His coming” (verse 23). There is no mention of the “glorious appearing” seven years later. Paul identifies the “coming” as taking place at the resurrection of “those who are Christ’s at His coming.” Then comes the end.

It is the same Apostle who wrote to the Thessalonians saying “the dead in Christ” will rise first and then we who are alive will be “caught up together” with them (4:16-17). The same writer states “at the last trumpet” (1 Corinthians 15:52) we will all be changed. This “trump of God” will sound just before “the dead in Christ” are raised.

The pre-tribulation group would have us believe that there are yet more trumps sounding still after the resurrection mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4. Yet, Paul does not mention anything between this resurrection and “the end” except for one very important event: Christ hands all things over to the Father (verse 24).

This event is an amazing victory. Christ hands the kingdom over to the Father. He “has abolished all rule and all authority and power” and “has put all things in subjection under His feet” (vs. 24-27). Christ demolished “death” as His last enemy. Paul does not say that Christ came for believers, waited seven years, raised more believers and some unbelievers, almost conquered Satan, ruled for 1000 years, then had it out with Satan again and finally won the battle and ‘‘then comes‘‘ the end. He does say that Jesus raises “those who are Christ’s at His coming” and we know from 1 Thessalonians “we who are alive” accompany them, ‘‘then is the end‘‘ when Christ hands the kingdom over to the Father. All is destroyed that resisted Him. That’s it. The last trump sounded. The end.

Compare 1 Corinthians 15:23 with 1 Thessalonians 4:16. Christ descends with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and the sound of the trump and the dead in Christ will be raised first. We, who are still alive, will be “caught up together with them in the clouds.” So shall we always be. Christ hands over the kingdom to the Father. He is not ‘‘Christus Vanquished‘‘ (so that He might have to wait 1000 years to get another shot at Satan). He is ‘‘Christus Victor ‘‘at His coming and He receives that which is His!

The Book of Revelation

The book of Revelation is the cultist’s playground. This book which contains so much symbolism, imagery and extreme apocalyptic language has been the impetus for a plethora of odd religious beliefs and even more bizarre doctrines. 77)

That the content of the book of Revelation provides pre-tribulationists with much ammunition for their view should not be surprising. Prophetic language is extremely flexible and easily molded to provide just about any “prophecy expert” a pulpit.

Tim Lahaye, in his book ‘‘Revelation Unveiled‘‘, tells us how we will benefit from a proper understanding of Revelation:

  • …this book will help the Bible student know what God has in store for this world before it comes to pass, so he may prepare him-self and not be taken unaware. It will also afford him a confident faith with which to confront the political, social, and religious chaos that is imminent. Only a biblical illiterate is unable to see that these are the last days. 78)

Amazing, isn’t it? Lahaye has tackled the purpose of the book of Revelation and shown us the significance of this most interesting book.

It is interesting then that the Apostle John doesn’t quite agree. John states the purpose of the Revelation: “to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place…Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it, for the time is near” (Revelation 1:1, 3).

Lahaye suggests that Revelation provides us with the knowledge “of what God has in store for this world” so that we may be pre-pared “and not be taken unaware.”

Yet, in Lahaye’s belief system, Christians who are alive today have absolutely nothing to do with the following parts of Revelation:

  1. Revelation 2:1-3:13. These are representations of church history and therefore do not involve Christians living today. Laodicea in 3:14-22, according to Lahaye, is a representation of the Apostate Church after the year 1900 AD. 79)
  2. Revelation 4:1-19:14. After the Apostle John concludes the address to the Seven Churches, he is taken to heaven. Lahaye in-forms us that this “is a picture of the Rapture of the Church just before the Tribulation begins.” 80) The Church is completely absent from the rest of the book of Revelation until we see them as part of the “armies of heaven” which “consist of the angelic hosts, the Old Testament saints, the Church, and the Tribulation saints,” 81) and takes place at the end of the Tribulation when Christ destroys the Antichrist (again, all this is according to Lahaye).

And this benefits us how? How is the book of Revelation supposed to prepare us for “what God has in store for this world before it comes to pass” so that we “may prepare” ourselves “and not be taken unaware”? Aware of what? According to pre-tribulational teaching, no prophecy is supposed to unfold during the “Church Age” and so no awareness is even possible. We cannot prepare for what Jesus says is a day that “no one knows” about (Matthew 24:36).

Are we really supposed to believe that the literal interpretation of Scripture would be that the Apostle John wrote this entire book of Revelation, addressing it to seven specific churches, about events that had nothing to do with his contemporary audience? Should we suppose that the recipients of this letter said to themselves, “Great. Just Great. John writes us this huge revelation that Jesus gave to him and it has nothing to do with us?” No other book of Scripture is written to a specific group of people with nothing to do with them. Is this how literal interpretation is carried out?

The Purpose of the Book: Allowing the Apostle John to write, the Lord says that the purpose statement of the Revelation of Jesus Christ is “to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place” (1:1). That is the reason, and the only reason given for the delivery of this incredible prophetic vision. It was not written so that we might not be taken unaware of events that don’t concern us. It was not written so that the Christian might be able to confront the socio-politico-religious nuances of the early 21st century.

In order to better understand and interpret the book of Revelation, Lahaye gives his readers three very simple guidelines:

  1. When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate text, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, clearly indicate otherwise.
  2. Locate the scene of activity. Hopeless confusion will be generated in the study of Revelation unless one keeps firmly in mind whether the scene under discussion takes place in heaven or on earth. The action should also be followed closely, for sometimes a scene in heaven results in activity on the earth. For example, chapters 4 and 5 are scenes in heaven, chapter 6 a scene of earth. [Lahaye then provides instructions for reading his chart of the chronology of Revelation.]
  3. With the exception of chapters 12 and 17, most of Revelation unfolds chronologically. It is easier to understand this book if one expects it to fall into chronological sequence except for these two chapters. This is particularly important in the events of the Tribulation. The student of the book of Revelation should memorize immediately the fact that the seal judgments of chapter 6 comprise the first quarter of the Tribulation and the trumpet judgments of chapters 8 and 9 comprise the second quarter of the Tribulation. The bowl judgments of chapter 16 comprise the last half, or three-and-a-half years of the Tribulation. Everything else has to be studied in the context of the period with which it coincides. 82) [He then provides yet another chart for the confused chronology addressed in this third “study suggestion”.]

It doesn’t take long to notice which of the three study suggestions receives the most attention.

The student of Revelation is prepared for a nice, relaxing unbiased tour through the book of Revelation, right? Not so. Unbelievably, this third suggestion so predisposes the student to Lahaye’s position that one could hardly be expected to have any fruitful study of Revelation whatsoever.

Lahaye has informed his audience that “most” of the book of Revelation unfold in a chronological fashion. But, of course, chapters 12 and 17 should be removed out of its context beforehand and then, ‘‘most‘‘ of the book will be chronological.

The student is also supposed to memorize ‘‘the fact (?)‘‘ that chapters six, eight, nine and 16 are to be kept in the context of the Tribulation and that “everything else” should be studied in its context. This is amazing, simply and unbelievably amazing. How Lahaye considers himself to be reading the book of Revelation in a literal fashion is beyond the abilities of this study.

On the second map, we find Revelation chapters 6, 8, 9, and 17 fulfilled in the first half of the Tribulation. In the second half of the Tribulation, we see chapters 13, 15, and 16. So the memorization of the chapters isn’t quite so easy nor is the chronology of Revelation so clear as he tries to make it. Remember, chapters four through 19 concern a time when the church is gone from the world. That is another item that needs remembering when one wants to end up pre-tribulational in their beliefs.

Lahaye knows that his system is confusing and admittedly lacks cohesion. He must provide his readers with two different maps in order to understand his rather interesting interpretation and views on the book. To use Lahaye’s words against him, “This requires mental gymnastics that are unnecessary if one would apply the Golden rule of interpretation”! 83) Truly, Lahaye’s method of interpretation is a confused jumble of preformed rules and biases against the natural reading of the book.

Our suggestion to the student of Revelation would be: Know the audience to whom the book is written. Determine the purpose of the book as stated by its author. Determine the themes of the book as one progresses through the book noting special allusions back to the introduction of the book. Know the date of the writing of the book, as best as possible, as this may influence your reading of other texts or understanding of external events.

The Audience: The Revelation was given to John and written to seven very literal churches (v. 4).

Lahaye suggests that the Seven Churches, although real, “represent the seven basic divisions of church history.” 84) This is the same author who, just pages before, informed as that a basic rule to understanding the book of Revelation “is to accept the book as literal unless the facts are obviously to the contrary.” 85)

So what key fact is mentioned by the Apostle John that would tell us to interpret the Seven Churches as anything but literal? Lahaye even admits to interpreting these Churches as representations of history. That, surely, is not literal nor is it a fact that is “obviously to the contrary” of the normal reading of the text.

In an effort to bolster his position, Lahaye claims the error of the Nicolaitans (Revelation 2:6) “is the doctrine of a strong ecclesiastical hierarchy ruling over the laity…”86) It is a wonder that Lahaye does not pursue a denunciation of the Council of Jerusalem presented in Acts for its ecclesiastical rule over the early Church. Lahaye even warns us of the seriousness of ecclesiastical rule: “This teaching has ruined more churches and denominations than any other.” 87)

Irenaeus, the early Bishop of Lyons, stated the real reason the Nicolaitans were denounced as heretical:

The Nicolaitans are the followers of the Nicolas who was one of the seven first ordained to the diaconate by the apostles [Acts 6:5]. They lead lives of unrestrained indulgence. The character of these men is very plainly pointed out in the Apocalypse of John, [when they are represented] as teaching that it is a matter of indifference to practice adultery, and to eat things sacrificed to idols. Wherefore the Word has also spoken of them thus: “But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.” 88)

So the error was not ecclesiastical rule over the laity, which all churches practice to some degree, but the error was not heeding the teaching of the Church and its leaders to avoid idolatry and wanton vice.

Pre-tribulationists commonly interpret Revelation 1:7 as a global event, instead of a reference to the known civilized world. While attempting to refute this, Tommy Ice cites the following:

What does a localized judgment hundreds of miles away have to do with the seven churches in Asia? John uses two long chapters in addressing those churches regarding the implications of the coming of Christ for them….the promise to shield the Philadelphian church from judgment (3:10-11) is meaningless if that judgment occurs far beyond the borders of that city. 89)

Ice makes a very good point for our position. We would ask of the pre-tribulationist, “What does a Tribulation some 19 centuries later have to do with seven literal churches?”

The promise to shield the Philadelphian church from judgment is meaningless if that judgment occurs 2000 years from their time! Because, after all, John spends two entire chapters addressing Christ’s judgment that will “soon take place,” for “the time is near” (Revelation 1:1, 3).

And as soon as John concludes addressing the seven very real churches, he adds: “Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him” (1:7)

Astonishingly, it is this event which we are told will occur “immediately after the tribulation of those days” in Matthew 24:29-30. Not only does the prophecy in Matthew directly refer to the destruction of Jerusalem 40 years after the crucifixion of Christ, but also as the Apostle John informs the reader, “those who pierced Him” will witness the event, obviously a reference to those who really and historically crucified Him.

The division of the book: Jesus informs the Apostle John that he must write the things he has seen, in other words, John must write this revelation and deliver it to “His bond-servants” (1:19 and 1:1). He must write of (1) “the things which are” and (2) “the things which will take place after these things” (1:19).

John is writing during the time when the Tribulation began, for he says that he is a “brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation” with those who are of his audience (1:9). These are “the things which are.” Christians alive at the time when John was writing were enduring the beginning of the Tribulation. Believers were delivered up to this Tribulation by those who opposed Christ and His people (Matthew 24:7-9). It was only the beginning of a very grueling period for the early Church (24:8). It is later in Revelation when John speaks of the “great Tribulation,” out of which come even more saints persecuted for Christ’s name (Matthew 24:15-22 and Revelation 7:9-17).

Themes of the book. In the opening chapter of Revelation, John says that this Revelation “must soon take place” (v. 1). Surely, “that generation” (Matthew 23:36 and 24:34) was considered a part of “those who are standing here” that would “not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Matthew 16:28). It is no surprise then that John tells his audience, just like Christ did, that these things “must soon take place.”

Furthermore, that John not be misunderstood, the Apostle includes much language in the Revelation to inform his audience of the immediate expectation of these events:

  1. The events “must ‘‘shortly‘‘ take place.” (1:1).
  2. “For the time is ‘‘near.” (1:3).
  3. “I am coming to you ‘‘quickly‘‘.” (2:16).
  4. “I am coming ‘‘quickly‘‘.” (3:11).
  5. “The third woe is coming ‘‘quickly‘‘.” (11:14).
  6. “The things which must ‘‘shortly‘‘ take place.” (22:6).
  7. “Behold, I am coming ‘‘quickly‘‘.” (22:7).
  8. “For the time is ‘‘near.” (22:10).
  9. “Behold, I am coming ‘‘quickly‘‘.” (22:12).
  10. “Yes, I am coming ‘‘quickly‘‘.” (22:20).

In spite of these statements, Tommy Ice states: “It appears presumptuous at the outset of the interpretative process that these verses are labeled ‘time texts’ by DeMar.” 90)

That is exactly what the Apostle John does in 1:3 and 22:10: “the time is near.” It is a time indicator! How can that not be excruciatingly clear? Must the Apostle John say, “for the time is near. No, really. I mean it. It’s close. Real close, in fact. So close, that I would really have to say, ‘the time is near,’ it’s going to ‘shortly take place,’ and that it’s going to happen ‘quickly’?” What should the Apostle have written to indicate anything other than his very clear meaning?

The Greek words themselves, by definition, are words of “time” and indicate everything to do with delay or quickness. Grab a concordance online at or at a local church or even a library and look up the definitions for these words. The challenge is this: Dedicate yourself to proving Tommy Ice correct. Just try it.

Although one does not have to presume upon John for the meaning of the words ‘‘near, quickly, shortly, ‘‘and ‘‘soon, ‘‘Ice would have the reader believe that it is poor exegetical work to understand John’s words literally. It is precisely at the “outset of the interpretative process” that we should seek to find the themes set forth in the rest of the book. Shall we wait until the book is done or wait until Revelation 4:1 to determine the context of chapter one? Should we not seek to gleam all possible information as early in Revelation as possible?

It is in the first chapter that the Apostle John provides his audience, major themes, purpose, structure, timing and warnings to the reader. When would Tommy Ice have us label these “time texts”? What else could they be? Are they grocery lists? Are they driving directions? Of course not, that’s ridiculous.

The answer is provided for us by Ice: “…these terms are more properly interpreted as ‘‘qualitative indicators ‘‘(not chronological indicators) describing how Christ will return. How will He return? It will be ‘quickly’ or ‘suddenly.’” 91)

Oh. So we should understand the Apostle John to say:

Revelation 1:1. “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place [once they start happening]?”

Revelation 1:3. “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the thing which are written in it, for the time is near [the time is about 2000 years away, but whatever’s going to happen will happen real quick when it finally takes place].”

Of course we shouldn’t understand that distortion of the text. Ice proposes that we read the Apostle John’s statements as “qualitative.” Apparently, the reader should not read that these things take place in slow motion. He says the reader should understand that these events, once they start taking place, will take place real, real fast. What other way would Christ return in judgment? Slow-ly? Meandering about? Ice’s interpretation is a sloppy and ridiculous treatment of the text.

Or should we understand that these things “will soon take place” in contrast to “will be delayed indefinitely”? Which seems the better reading of the text? Is it read as an ‘‘imminent event‘‘ or as Ice suggests, ‘‘exceedingly fast once it finally begins‘‘? What is the literal reading of the text? Simply this, that the events in this book actually are going to take place very soon after the Revelation was given to John. As a matter of historical record, this is exactly what happened in 70 AD.

As in Matthew 24, a major theme of the book of Revelation is the judgment of Christ on Israel. “Cloud-coming” language is mixed with talk of “those who pierced Him” in 1:7. This judgment is witnessed by a vast multitude, including those who delivered Him up for crucifixion.

When did John write the Revelation?

Lahaye says “Quite apparently our Lord wanted to assure us that He would come again and that His coming would be a world-shaking event [Hebrews 12?]. He will return gloriously in power and ‘every eye will see Him.’” 92)

One can only imagine Lahaye’s straining at the bit not to include the next five words of the verse he attempts to quote: “Even those who pierced him.” The full passage reads:

  • Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen. (Revelation 1:7).

How should we read this verse “literally”? Who are “those who pierced Him”?

Dating the book of Revelation has serious ramifications on the meaning and interpretation of the themes of the book. If Revelation was written in 95 AD, as some suggest, then it obviously cannot be a prophecy of the events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem in the 70 AD time period.

Gentry provides a “bold example” of the significance of the importance in dating prophetic books by using the ‘‘Book of Mormon‘‘. If the Book of Mormon was written in the 1800’s then it is obvious that it is fraudulent. However, if it is truly “another Testament” writ-ten contemporaneously with the Bible, that is a matter of monumental significance. 93)

And before setting the evidence for an early date of the writing of John’s Revelation, it would be helpful for the reader to reflect on Lahaye’s claim:

The futurist view [that the Book of Revelation refers to events some twenty centuries away], which seems to me to be the most satisfactory, accepts the book of Revelation as prophecy that primarily is yet to be fulfilled, particularly from chapter 4 on. This was the interpretation of the early church during its most evangelistic history, from the apostles until the fourth century. 94)

Really? Chapter four and forward speaks of events that held no meaning for its intended audience? Not only that, but he claims that this is the view of the early church. He does not hesitate to include the entire early church in his claim. Keeping this comment in mind, let us turn to the early church.

To guard against the accusation that may be forwarded, that “no serious scholars believe the book of Revelation is written before 70 AD,” we can find no less than 135 New Testament scholars that do place the date of Revelation before 70 AD. 95) Among those scholars are some very recognizable names including, Jay Adams, Greg Bahnsen, FF Bruce, Adam Clarke, FW Farrar, Hugo Grotius, David Hill, FJA Hort, Francis Nigel Lee, JB Lightfoot, CFD Moule, John AT Robinson, J. Stuart Russell, Philip Schaff, Henry Sheldon, D. Moody Smith, Augustus Strong, Moses Stuart, Milton Terry, Cornelius Vanderwaal, Brooke Foss Westcott and Robert Young. All are “conservative” scholars of the evangelical faith.

This list is admittedly not to demonstrate ‘‘the proof‘‘ in itself of an “early date,” but is only to demonstrate that many serious scholars and theologians do believe Revelation was not written after the destruction of Jerusalem.

Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons. (130-202 AD)

Some may argue, heavily, that Irenaeus is a prime piece of evidence for a date of Revelation around 95 AD. They rely on a faulty translation and read:

We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision. For that was seen no very long time since, but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian’s reign. 96)

Firstly, Irenaeus associates the “Antichrist” with the Beast. To him, they are the same. Secondly, as Gentry lucidly explains, the reading of Irenaeus is more properly and to paraphrase Irenaeus, “We will not risk identifying the name of the Antichrist. If it was necessary to name him, he would have been named by the Apostle John who was seen almost in our day.” 97)

As further proof that Irenaeus was not speaking of the “revelation,” but of John, we read Irenaeus own description of the book of Revelation and the number of the Beast: “this number being found in all the most approved and ancient copies, and those men who saw John face to face bearing their testimony [to it]…” 98)

Here, just paragraphs before the disputed “what was seen?” text, Irenaeus speaks of the book of Revelation as “most approved” and copies of this book are described as “ancient,” yet there are men who have met John “face to face.” It seems rather obvious that the Revelation was quite old and had been copied, time and time again, by the time the others met John face to face. Here the church father refers to what (or who) was seen as “no very long time since, but almost in our own day,” and the copies of the book of Revelation are ancient and approved because of the testimony of other Christians who met John. It is blindingly obvious that Irenaeus was saying that John was seen not long ago and that John would have announced the name of the Beast if it were necessary, but it wasn’t necessary, so John didn’t say.

Many would like to use Irenaeus as a proof that Revelation was written around 95 AD, and many have in fact quoted him throughout the church to bolster their beliefs. Yet it is Irenaeus himself that disallows this interpretation.

Clement of Alexandria (about 150-215 AD)

This early Church Father, believed that the “teaching of our Lord at His advent” began “with Augustus and Tiberius” and “was completed in the middle of the times of Tiberius. So too, “that of the apostles, embracing the ministry of Paul, ends with Nero.” 99) The teaching ministry of the apostles ended somewhere around 68 BC; plenty of time for John to have written his Revelation before the 70 AD destruction of Jerusalem.

Clement believed that the Abomination of Desolation and the times of the Tribulation were fulfilled:

These two thousand three hundred days, then, make six years four months, during the half of which Nero held sway, and it was half a week; and for a half, Vespasian with Otho, Galba, and Vitellius reigned. And on this account Daniel says, “Blessed is he that cometh to the thousand three hundred and thirty-five days.” For up to these days was war, and after them it ceased. 100)

It is also Clement who believed that Nero banished the Apostle John to Patmos, thus giving us a very precise date of the writing of Revelation, 101) as did the early Church Father, Tertullian (160-220 AD). 102)

It is interesting to note that those who would give the date of the writing of Revelation around 95-98 AD, would have us believe that John the Apostle would do the following:

After being released from his imprisonment in Patmos, he traveled “the contiguous territories of the nations” appointing bishops, setting churches in order and ordaining some to preach.

After this, John found a “youth, powerful in body, comely in appearance and ardent.” The Bishop of that youth committed him to John’s care.

John took the youth to his home in Ephesus. John “reared, kept, cherished, and finally baptized him.” After relaxing his “stricter care and guardianship,” the young man met some of his own age.

First, his new friends enticed him “with costly entertainments.” Then they let him come along with them as they robbed people at night. After a while, he grew accustomed to this robbery and “had gone aside from the right path.”

After this, the man “entirely despaired of salvation in God” so that he gave himself up to “his fate.” He became, after a while, the “captain of the bandits, the fiercest, the bloodiest, the cruelest.”

Clement says “Time passed, and some necessity having emerged,” the Bishop of the church where John met this Christian-turned-Robber, called John back for other matters. The Bishop asked John to return the man to their fellowship. But the “old man,” meaning the Apostle John, told the Bishop the man was dead to God. The “youth” now a man, had “turned wicked and abandoned, and at last a robber; and now he has taken possession of the mountain in front of the church, along with a band like him,” John said.

At this point, the Apostle John tore his clothes and beat his head with “great lamentation” over his charge to care for the man who was now a very accomplished murderer and thief. John took a horse, “just as he was” in his beaten condition with torn clothes and rode away from the Church.

When the Apostle came through the “robbers’ outpost,” he was arrested. But instead of fleeing, John said, “It was for this I came. Lead me to your captain.” The man was waiting for John, completely armed, knowing John was coming. But when he saw John, he turned, ashamed” and ran. John chased him

  • with all his might, forgetting his age, crying, “Why, my son, dost thou flee from me, thy father, unarmed, old? Son, pity me. Fear not; thou hast still hope of life. I will give account to Christ for thee. If need be, I will willingly endure thy death, as the Lord did death for us. For thee I will surrender my life. Stand, believe; Christ hath sent me. 103)

The man was led back to Christ with cries of repentance and forgiveness.

Can anyone imagine the length of time for all these things to take place? A few years, perhaps. Maybe more. Maybe many more years that at first glance. There is quite a bit of development in the story between events. Growth, rearing, discipleship, becoming hardened over a period of time, becoming captain of a group of outlaws.

Yet, pre-tribulationists would have John getting out of Patmos and writing the Book of Revelation no later than 95 AD when the Apostle John was in his late 80’s to early 90’s. Then the above takes place. How old must John have been to fully complete his circuit through the nations, doing all the things he did and then turn to the events in the life of the youth. This is a whole lot of time to account for after the writing the book of Revelation. Should we really suppose that John was physically capable of those things? Would a 100 year old, or older, man possibly be physically able to “flee” on a horse and chase down a man who was the head of a criminal organization? Remember that this is the Apostle John who was beaten, tortured, physically wounded and persecuted for his faith. That is stretching credulity to its limits.

But, Clement was sure of at least this much: The teaching of the Apostles did not last longer than the reign of Nero (see above).

Justin Martyr (about 100-165 AD)

Out the outset, we should note that the pre-tribulation rapture was never taught in Christian history before, and the most likely earliest teaching, the Baptist preacher Morgan Edwards around the year 1788 in the United States. Others have taught the doctrine since that time and with much more enthusiasm, but with any conviction, it is Morgan Edwards who stands out as the first verifiable proponent.

That said, there are many who claim that belief in a future millennium and all other events in the book of Revelation are prophecies of the future. Tim Lahaye is one of those: “This was the interpretation of the early church during its most evangelistic history, from the apostles until the fourth century. 104)

In response to this, let us read Justin Martyr in a section entitled “The opinion of Justin with regard to the reign of a thousand years. Several [Christians] reject it.” In a hypothetical dialogue, a Jew has confronted Justin Martyr with a question: “Do you really admit that this place, Jerusalem, shall be rebuilt; and do you expect your people to be gathered together…?” Martyr replies:

I admitted to you formerly, that I and many others are of this opinion, and [believe] that such will take place as you assuredly are aware; but, on the other hand, I signified to you that many who belong to the pure and pious faith, and are true Christians, think otherwise. 105)

So which is it? Is Lahaye correct or is one who actually lived at that time a better judge? Lahaye seems to make claims outside his realm of expertise when it best serves his needs to support his futurism. Keep in mind, Martyr never explicitly mentions a 1000-year kingdom of Christ. We can assume as much, but it is never explicitly stated.

The futurist interpretation of prophecy is not now nor has it ever been the only, or probably even the majority, position of the Christian church.

The Muratorian Canon (written between 127-157 AD)

Likely written by Caius, Presbyter of Rome and student of Irenaeus, this document gives us a better understanding for our dating of the book of Revelation. While addressing the issue of which books are truly written by the Apostles for inclusion in the accepted canon, mentions the writings of the Apostle Paul in relation to the writings of the Apostle John.

As the blessed Apostle Paul, following the rule of his predecessor John, writes to no more than seven churches by name… 106)

Caius describes the writings of Paul by noting that Paul writes to the Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Galatians, Thessalonians and the seventh, to the Romans. But though Paul wrote to only seven churches individually, Caius explains, Paul addresses all just like John addressed all the churches with the one letter.

Here is unequivocal language directly informing us that the Apostle John wrote the Revelation ‘‘before (!)‘‘ the Apostle Paul wrote his seven. This places the writing of the book of Revelation somewhere prior to at least 67 AD.

Tertullian (about 160-20 AD)

Not only does Tertullian give a very lengthy explanation of dates concerning the fulfillment of Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy and relate it’s fulfillment to the First Advent and the destruction of Jerusalem, 107) but it also recorded that “Tertullian’s legend of the Roman oil-martyrdom of John seems to point to Nero rather than to any other emperor, and was so understood by Jerome (Adv. Jovin. 1:26).” 108)

There are additional testimonies found in the centuries to follow which either rely on the above witnesses or add to their credibility. Among them, we include the following as a sample.

Epiphanius of Salamis (about 315-403 AD)

This Bishop in the realm of Cyprus stated that the Apostle John “prophesied in the time of Claudius” and “the prophetic word according to the Apocalypse” was disclosed at that time. 109) This Claudius identified by Epiphanius was none other than the Emperor Nero. 110)

Eusebius Pamphili (about 260-340 AD)

Bishop of Caesarea, Eusebius wrote the most detailed history of the Church up to his time among all other early Church Chris-tians. Although some may like to cite him as one who believed John wrote Revelation around 95 AD, we cite him here for two rea-sons.

Commenting on the works of Papias, who is reputed to have been a disciple of the Apostle John, Eusebius states:

  • This same writer [Papias] gives also other accounts which he says came to him through unwritten tradition, certain strange para-bles and teachings of the Savior, and some other more mythical things. To these belong his statement that there will be a period of some thousand years after the resurrection of the dead, and that the kingdom of Christ will be set up in material form on this very earth. I suppose he got these ideas through a misunderstanding of the apostolic accounts, not perceiving that the things said by them were spoken mystically in figures. For he appears to have been of very limited understanding, as one can see from his dis-courses. But it was due to him that so many of the Church Fathers after him adopted a like opinion, urging in their own support the antiquity of the man; as for instance Irenaeus and any one else that may have proclaimed similar views. 111)

This would make sense of Justin Martyr’s statement concerning that fact that many Christians did not believe in a future 1000-year, earthly millennial kingdom from Revelation 20.

The combined histories of Jerome and Gennadius (about 480-498 AD) agree with Eusebius. Writing on Papias, Jerome says “He is said to have published a ‘‘Second Coming of Our Lord or Millennium‘‘. Irenaeus and Apollinaris and others who say that after the res-urrection the Lord will reign in the flesh with the saints, follow him.” 112)

Papias, if the accounts can be trusted, misunderstood the talk of the reign of the kingdom of Christ and applied His reign instead to a future earthly kingdom. Because of his proximity to the Apostles, Christians after him accepted his belief in a futuristic Millennium. Others not influenced by Papias would not have been instructed in his “misunderstanding of the apostolic accounts” and hence, the development of chiliasm (premillennialism) in the early Church and its rejection by many Christians.

Secondly, for those who would like to cite Eusebius as believing in a “late date” for Revelation, Eusebius himself stated that the exile of John occurred in the persecution of Nero when Peter and Paul were martyred. 113)

Other Testimonies:

“That John saw these visions in the reign of Nero, and that they were written by him during his banishment by that emperor, is confirmed by ‘‘‘Theophylact‘‘‘,’‘‘ Andreas‘‘‘,’‘‘ Arethas‘‘‘, and others. We judge, therefore, that this book was written about A.D. 68, and this agrees with other facts of history.. There are also several statements in this book which can only be understood on the ground that the judgment upon Jerusalem was then future.“ 114)

‘‘‘Arethas of Caeserea‘‘‘ (5-6th Century): On Revelation 7:1:’‘‘ ‘‘‘”Here, then, were manifestly shown to the Evangelist what things were to befall the Jews in their war against the Romans, in the way of avenging the sufferings inflicted upon Christ.” On Revelation 7:4: “When the Evangelist received these oracles, the destruction in which the Jews were involved was not yet inflicted by the Romans.” 115)

‘‘‘Andreas of Cappadocia‘‘‘ (6th Century) was a Bishop in Cappadocia.

‘‘‘Theophylact‘‘‘ (11-12th Century) was an Archbishop of Ochrid and Bulgaria.

‘‘‘The Geneva Bible‘‘‘ (1599). Revelation 12:14 is interpreted as finding fruition of the Christian exodus to Pella during the lull in the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans. The “time, and times, and half a time” of 12:14 is also interpreted as beginning in the reign of Nero, finding completion in the destruction of Jerusalem.

This space of time is reckoned in manner from that last and most grievous rebellion of the Jews, to the destruction of the city and temple,for their defection or falling away, began in the twelfth year of Nero, before the beginning of which many signs and predic-tions were shown from heaven, as Josephus wrote, lib.7, chap.12, and Hegesippus lib.5, chap.44, among which this is very memo-rable. In the feast of Pentecost not only a great sound and noise was heard in the Temple, but also a voice was heard by many out of the Sanctuary which cried out to all, Let us depart from here. Now three and a half years after this defection by the Jews began, and those wonders happened, the city was taken by force, the temple overthrown, and the place forsaken by God: and the length of time John noted in this place.

‘‘‘John Wesley‘‘‘ (1707-1788) finds the language of Revelation 1:1 in a literal fashion. “The things contained in this prophecy did begin to be accomplished shortly after it was given; and the whole might be said to come to pass shortly…”116)

‘‘‘Philip Schaff‘‘‘ (1819-1893), noted Church historian and scholar, notes the relation of Luke 21:24 and that of Revelation 11:2:

The destruction of Jerusalem would be a worthy theme for the genius of a Christian Homer. It has been called “the most soul-stirring of all ancient history.” But there was no Jeremiah to sing the funeral dirge of the city of David and Solomon. The Apoca-lypse was already written, and had predicted that the heathen “shall tread the holy city under foot forty and two months. 117)

It should not be said that the view of the early Church was futurist. Even those who followed in the history of the Church found no difficulty in the evidences, internal or external, to a dating of the book of Revelation and the events flowing from that great prophe-cy, before and concerning 70 AD.

From the identification of the last week of Daniel’s 70 weeks being fulfilled in or before the destruction of Jerusalem and it’s direct relation to the Tribulation period of Matthew 24’s “this generation,” Clement of Alexandria118) and Tertullian119) agree, writing in great detail, that these are com-pleted.

The “Beast of Revelation” is identified as Nero by Victorinus (late 2nd Century), and this same early Church Father is one who spe-cifically states that the “thousand years” of Revelation 20 signify the time from “the first advent of Christ” until the end of the age. 120) Sulpitus Severus (about 363-420 AD) also identifies Nero as the Beast, 121) as does Lactantius (260-330 AD), although generically. 122) Chrysostom calls him the “Antichrist” citing Paul’s words “the mystery of iniquity” as referring Nero; 123) Commodianus (about 240 AD), too, believed Nero to be the Antichrist. 124)

Is it possible for the reader to agree with Lahaye, who says:

  • The futurist view [that the Book of Revelation refers to events some twenty centuries away], which seems to me to be the most sat-isfactory, accepts the book of Revelation as prophecy that primarily is yet to be fulfilled, particularly from chapter 4 on. This was the interpretation of the early church during its most evangelistic history, from the apostles until the fourth century. 125)

Tim Lahaye unwittingly undermines all vestiges of credibility when he suggests that “among those who take the Bible literally thee has never been any serious question about either the author of the book or the date when it was written.” 126) He claims “all the external evidence points to the writing of Revelation by John when he was banished to the Isle of Patmos during the reign of Roman Emperor Domitian (A.D. 91-96).” 127)

Furthermore, Lahaye suggests that “During the past century many post- or amillennialists…have tried to assert that the book of Revelation was written during the reign of Nero, about A.D. 64,” and that this “idea is fraught with all kinds of distortions of history; it contradicts known statements of Irenaeus and other early church fathers that” 128) it was written during Domitian’s reign.

He foolishly teaches that “the traditional date of A.D. 95,” was “the official view of the Western Church and all churches through the centuries that took the Bible literally” and “all the external evidence points to the writing of Revelation by John when he was ban-ished to the Isle of Patmos during the reign of Roman emperor Domitian (A.D. 91-96).” 129)

Lahaye believes it is “difficult to understand” why anyone would question the late-date theory “when it was so readily accepted by the early church” yet offers no significant evidence other than the quote of Irenaeus, thinking that is proof enough for his position. He says that it is easier to believe Irenaeus than those who are 1800 years afterward as if an early-date position was created in the last century.

Finally, Lahaye believes that those who hold to an early-date of around 64 AD, read Scripture allegorically and symbolically. Yet, on the very next page, Lahaye informs us that the Seven Churches of Revelation, according to the “normal reading of the book” are “seven church ages, some of which are still in progress, all the other events in the book are yet to come.” 130)

Lahaye has pursued a purposeful study in researched misdirection and untruths. He may not ‘‘know‘‘ he is incredibly wrong, but that does not excuse him in making the assertions that he has without sufficient proof and which has been shown to be entirely ungrounded.

The doctrine of a pre-tribulation rapture is dependent on the doctrine of a future 7-year Tribulation (the fulfillment of Daniel’s 70th week, Matthew 24:1-34 and of Revelation chapters 4-19). Those beliefs are also dependent on a future earthly Millennial rule of Christ.

Those living closest to the Apostles were certainly not all futurists, as we’ve seen. None of them refer to this “secret rapture” theory of Lahaye’s. Some do mention a future period of Trouble, but none speak of a secret rapture where Christ comes to Earth for Christians only, followed by Daniel’s 70th week, followed by Christ coming back again, followed by the Millennium, followed by more judgments, resurrections and finally the eternal state. It’s just not there to be found.

Out of the Tribulation?

The third reason given for a “purpose” of the Tribulation is “To shake man from his false sense of security.” Supposedly, things will get so bad in Tribulation of Lahaye’s, with earthquakes and famines and other incredible events, that unbelievers will “be more open to the offer of forgiveness and grace.” 131) Even though he does not provide us with a particular passage of Scripture that gives us this teaching, he is nonetheless convinced of its truth. But where does Revelation say that the Church will be secretly raptured out of the way in order that unbelievers will be scared silly by the events to come?

Citing Revelation 3:10, Lahaye concludes, “The guarantee of rapture before Tribulation could hardly be more powerful.” 132) If Jesus promised the Philadelphian Church to be “kept from the hour of testing” and He meant “would be taken out of the world by rapture before the Tribulation,” then why did He tell the Church of Smyrna that they will be delivered “into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation” (2:10)?

Lahaye has already informed us that the Seven Churches represent historical periods of the Church and that the Church of Philadelphia represents the “missionary church (A.D. 1730-1900)” and Smyrna represents the “persecuted church (A.D. 100-313).” 133) Here’s the interesting part: If Smyrna is to be in the tribulation (2:10) and Philadelphia is not (3:10), how is this reconciled with their historical periods that they are supposed to represent? Smyrna (the persecuted church) is delivered into tribulation, Philadelphia is not and they are allegedly 1400 years apart.

Lahaye escapes this problem by redefining the words in 2:10. It’s easy to avoid complications if the interpreter defines “tribulation” as “persecution,” thus dodging any uncomfortable implications.

Revelation 2:10 is in complete agreement with Matthew 24:9 in many ways. The Church of Smyrna and the believers addressed in Matthew 24:4-7 are told they will (1) be delivered into tribulation and will (2) experience death for their faith in Christ. It is the same as Luke 21:12-19: Some will be put to death through much persecution, “yet not a hair of your head will perish” (v. 18). And in all three places, the same thing is taught, “the one who endures to the end, he will be saved” (Matthew 24:13; cf. Luke 21:19 and Revelation 2:10).

How is that they will experience death, but not one hair on their head will perish? A helpful insight is provided in ‘‘Barnes Notes on the New Testament:

‘‘This is a proverbial expression, denoting that they should not suffer any essential injury. This was strikingly fulfilled in the fact that in the calamities of Jerusalem [in 70 AD] there is reason to believe that no Christians suffered. Before those calamities came on the city, they had fled to ‘‘Pella‘‘, a city on the east of the Jordan.” 134) ‘‘

‘‘Those who were to experience the Tribulation were repeatedly warned about false messiahs, false prophets, false teachers and the dangers of apostasy in general in Matthew 24, Luke 21 and in Revelation 2:1-3:22.

An interesting theme that appears throughout these Tribulation prophecies is that those who persevere in the faith will not be hurt by the “second death,” but will be saved (see above). The same thing is found in Revelation 3:10. It is not, as Lahaye wishes, that they will be removed from the Earth by the Secret Rapture before the Tribulation, but that they will be kept from falling away from the faith. The Church of Philadelphia has “kept the word of My perseverance” and so Christ “will keep them from the hour of testing.” It is this Church that has “kept My word,” and has “not denied My name” (v. 9), so they will be kept from apostate beliefs and should have no fear of falling away by the deeds of false teachings.

So the promise is not being removed by rapture prior to the Tribulation, but during Tribulation, they will persevere!

It is also true that another trial facing Christians during this time was widespread persecution by the Romans. And although we may not know the exact nature of the “trials” coming on them, for there may have been different issues presenting different churches throughout the Roman Empire at this time, one thing is sure, Christ “would give them grace to bear up under trials with a Christian spirit, and in such a manner that their salvation should not be endangered.” 135) In other words, what may cause others to forsake Christ, will not do so to them.

And so we come, finally, to Lahaye’s fourth purpose for the Tribulation: “To force man to choose Christ or Antichrist.” 136) Not one place in Scripture is the Christian or unbeliever informed of this purpose. There is no teaching anywhere in the Word of God giving anything close to the admonition to those who reject Christ. This time right now is there only opportunity to believe in Christ. There are no optional time periods set aside to choose Christ or His adversary. During the Tribulation, leading up to 70 AD, people did have the option to reject Christ, just like all have since.

It is also true that Nero killed those who believed in Christ in terrible and horrible ways. While many possibilities exist as to the meaning of “receiving the mark of the Beast,” it should be evident that unless Christians associate themselves with the Beast, they will be persecuted and martyred.

The Apostle John even informs his audience that he “is a partaker in ‘‘the‘‘ Tribulation” (Revelation 1:9). He does not say “‘‘a‘‘ Tribulation,” but purposefully inserts the article “the” to make it “the Tribulation.” This does not easily comport with the pre-tribulationists structure.

All three major passages, Matthew 24, Luke 21 and Revelation 1-3, have the same content, the same temporal expectations and the same warnings for perseverance in the face of persecution. All have direct fulfillment in the events of 70 AD. All three had true meaning to the audiences to which they were written. All three use the word “Tribulation” to describe the time of testing that is com-ing on them. And these are all points that pre-tribulationists cannot abide. It does not work for their system and it undermines all they hold dear.

Commenting on Revelation 4:1-2, Lahaye states “John, a symbol of the church, is taken up to heaven.” 137) Is that a “literal” translation? Where does the Apostle John ever claim to be a “symbol” of the church? Not only is the church nowhere said to be taken up in John’s account, this spiritualizing of the text only leads to erroneous conclusions. This is an excellent example of the direct insertion of one’s preconceived notions of future events thus changing, by his own bias, the reading of the text for all his readers.

Lahaye has spent a considerable amount of writing on the “literal” interpretation of Scripture in his many books. He has chastised his opponents for what he calls “mental gymnastics that are unnecessary if one would apply the Golden Rule of Interpretation.” 138) The Golden Rule of interpretation is cited above among his other “special suggestions for studying this book.”

But when Tim Lahaye hits Revelation 4:1 that Golden Rule flies to the four winds. Where is the “plain sense” or “common sense” of finding John as a symbol of the Rapture of the Church? Here, to support his presuppositions, Lahaye jumps to the use of spiritualizing the text. He would not approve of this use of allegory if it were his opponent’s interpretation.

For more on early patristic teaching on eschatology and the early church's view of events, refer to this wiki: eschatalogy_history_early_church

How many resurrections?

For those who hold to a future seven-year Tribulation period, we must also ask when believers of the Tribulation age will be resurrected or brought to Christ or even if they will. What of unbelievers during this time?

For Lahaye, there are quite a few resurrections:

  • “Phase 1” “The Saints of the church age will be resurrected in the first phase of the first resurrection.” 139) This resurrection concerns only those who are dead in Christ.
  • “Phase 2” “…we may assume that Israel will resurrected ‘‘before‘‘ the Glorious Appearing…” 140)
  • “Phase 3” “…Tribulation saints are raised ‘‘during‘‘ or ‘‘at ‘‘His Glorious Appearing.” 141)

Oddly enough though, all three phases take place over a seven year period in which Lahaye considers all three to be “phases” of the first resurrection.

Not to confuse matters more, but these three phases of the first resurrection coincide with the two phases of the Second Coming of Christ, at which time (the pre-tribulation rapture) is a transition between part two of God’s plan (the one for the Gentiles) and part three of God’s plan (part one was before Pentecost) which is a continuation of the Jewish Age (the Tribulation), but before the combined age where Israel and Gentiles cohabit the earth for 1000 years, but that is before the “end of all things,” also known as “the eternal state.” And all this occurs in seven distinct time periods called “dispensations.” Simple, huh?

For Lahaye, the Second Resurrection is an event taking place after the Millennium and is exclusively for “unbelievers of all ages.” 142) According to the author of Revelation Unveiled, following the three resurrections, there will be one more. The second resurrection is for the “rest of the dead” mentioned in Revelation 20:8. Lahaye claims that “The Second Resurrection involves those deceived by Satan (Rev. 20:8) and unbelievers (21:8).” And it will “occur after the Millennium.” 143)

Lahaye is quite dogmatic in his assertions, and however unbelievably it may be, neither Revelation 20:8 nor 21:8 states anything of the timing of the second resurrection. We do discover from 21:8 that the “second death” refers to a “taking part” in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. But still, no explicit timing of the second resurrection is mentioned in either place. In his attempt to justify the timing of the second resurrection, not even one of Lahaye’s references to Scripture mention it (Matthew 25:46; 25:30; Revelation 20:8, 11, 12, 14-15; 21:8). One could have tried quoting verses four and five implying a “second resurrection,” but the passage does not state it explicitly. Again, a teaching of “second death,” is to be found here, but no “second resurrection.” It may be true that the second resurrection occurs at this point (post-Millennium), yet Lahaye fails to present his case, arguing instead from assumption and equivocation. This spoof-texting is akin to a theological hoax that is nothing short of absurd.

We have seen that believers, living and dead, will be raised or “caught up” at the last trump and also the last trump takes place at Christ’s coming. But what of unbelievers? When will they be raised? Lahaye says ‘‘after‘‘ the Millennium. What saith Scripture?

John 5:28-29

“Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.”

All who are physically dead will be raised at one judgment event. There are those who may argue that John is using “hour” in a sense that allows for a long period of time between resurrections. That may be the case if that were the main thrust of the passage. Jesus does not appear to be focusing so much on when the events will occur as much as what occurs at a particular time. In other words, when the time comes, a judgment will occur in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice. Not some of the dead. Not just believers who have died. All dead will hear His voice.

Some of the dead will be raised in a resurrection of life and some will be raised in a resurrection of judgment (some translations read “damnation”). There appears to be a sense of two resurrections taking place at one time. Some go this way, some go that way. They are all raised to a living status. Believers will have eternal life (John 3:16-18). But, this judgment of Christ’s is but one resurrection with two possible results. For unbelievers, “their” resurrection is to eternal death. For believers, “their” resurrection is to eternal life.

The same Apostle writes of the same event using a little more colorful language in Revelation 20:11-15. John saw a “great white throne” and he “saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds…and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds…And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (vs. 11-13, 15).

Here we have an interesting parallel. John 5:28-29 speaks of “all that are in the tombs” coming forth just as Revelation 20:12-13 mentions “the dead” coming forth. In John 5:29, we see that those “done good” deeds receive life and those who have done evil receive accordingly to their actions; in the same manner, Revelation 20:12 and verse 13 tell us that all of them are judged “accord-ing to their deeds” and that if anyone’s name was not found in the book of life, he was thrown in to the lake of fire” and that is “the second death” or the “lake of fire” (20:14-15).

Perhaps the reader is still not convinced of the singularity of this future judgment. Let us turn then, to Romans 2:5-8.

But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself ‘‘in the day of wrath‘‘ and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. [emphasis added]

Against this incredible testimony, we have Tim Lahaye’s words:

  • One truth must be emphasized at the outset of this study: This ultimate judgment of the Great White Throne is for unbelievers only. …This group will include ‘‘all‘‘ the dead without Jesus Christ. 144) [Emphasis original]

Or maybe we should simply review Matthew 25:31-46 as evidence of this universal judgment? Or even Daniel 12:2, Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, Matthew 12:36; 13:41; 25:14-30; Acts 10:42; Romans 3:6; 2 Corinthians 5:9-11; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10; 2 Timothy 4:1; He-brews 10:27-31; Jude 14-15 and then back to Revelation 20:11-15. 145)

God judges our deeds according His holy standard and if our names are not written in the Book of Life, we will be cast into the Lake of Fire. The author of ‘‘Revelation Unveiled‘‘ offers a solution to how the Lord achieves this review of our deeds:

  • In some way every person must have a recording angel who in this life is tabulating everything he or she does…Almighty God can play His divine film and recording at the judgment. Not only will the actions and words of a person be recalled at this judgment, but “every hidden thing.” This indicates that God has a special X-ray camera that takes photographs of the thoughts and intents of the heart…” 146)

This is a wonderful example of the absurdities one may be driven to when not applying a consistent interpretation of Scripture. Lahaye repeatedly claims to own a “literal” understanding of Scripture. The reader must ask of Tim Lahaye how the teaching of God’s revealing of “every hidden thing” possibly “indicates that God has a special x-ray camera”!

First and Second Resurrections

But is this the first and/or second resurrection? We can see that they are not distinguished as taking place seven years or even 1007 seven years apart in any passage of Scripture.

Two groups of people are raised at one time, believers to everlasting life and unbelievers to their eternal torment. Could the Apostle John be speaking of the Second Resurrection only? Certainly. The Second Resurrection is the last judgment. It includes all who have ever lived, whether believers or unbelievers.

But what of the first resurrection? If the Second Resurrection is an event tied to the judgment of our actions, could the first resurrection mean something not physical, but spiritual?

Revelation 20:5

“The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection.”

It would appear from this verse alone that “the rest of the dead” come to life after the thousand years and that event is the first resurrection. We can see in verse four that there are some that “came to life” and reigned with Christ a thousand years. Their coming to life precedes that of the “rest of the dead.” We gather that the first resurrection coincides with something much earlier than the second and by implication, is a second resurrection to judgment (i.e. the “second death” upon unbelievers) occurs after the thou-sand years of Christ’s reign and is the ‘‘last‘‘ judgment.

Is it possible, then, the first resurrection is an event referring to the salvation of a person in history and the second resurrection is the event which is identified in John 5:28 as the last judgment? We think so. Charles Hodge, the celebrated theologian of the 19th century, has this to say:

…the doctrine that there are to be two resurrections, one of the righteous and another of the wicked, the latter separated from the former by an unknown period of time, is entirely foreign to the New Testament…. The passage in Revelation, however, is altogether too uncertain to be made the rule of interpretation for the plainer declarations of the epistolary portions of the New Testament. …it is clearly taught in the gospels and epistles that the resurrection of the righteous and of the wicked is to be contemporaneous. 147)

John 11:24-26 provides a parallel between physical and spiritual resurrection. Martha says to Christ that Lazarus will “rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Notice also that she identifies the resurrection of a deceased believer as taking place on “the last day.” This is the Second Resurrection.

Jesus responds to her that He is “the resurrection and the life, he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” She was speaking of physical things and of the last day, whereas Christ was teaching her something much more monumental. He ‘‘is‘‘ the resurrection. If one believes in Him, they have experienced resurrection already. This is the First Resurrection.

We see this same parallel in John 5:24-29, where Jesus compares believing in Him as passing “from death into life” and then speaks of those who “are in the tombs” will be raised to resurrection. Christ identifies both resurrections and nowhere identifies the first as occurring at the beginning of the “Tribulation,” while actually finding completion at the end of the Tribulation period involving Old Testament Saints and Tribulation Saints. Neither does Christ identify the second resurrection taking place only after the Millennium is over.

But what of Revelation 20:5? The “first resurrection” spoken of here seems to imply that those who take part in it reign with Christ in a time called the Millennium. If Christ is reigning in His Kingdom now (see the chapter on Christ’s reign), then believers those who have experienced the first resurrection from death to life in Christ by faith are reigning with their King at this very moment! Whether dead or living, Christians take part in the Kingdom of Christ. Christians do not have to wait for a future Millennial kingdom to participate in the glorious, conquering, ever-expanding and victorious Kingdom of Christ Jesus. They are the people of the First Resurrection: The Church.


In short, those who believe in Christ experience two resurrections. The first is spiritual birth into Christ and is a resurrection from spiritual death with an active participation in the Kingdom of Christ. The second resurrection is unto the last judgment and is a resurrection of the flesh. It is a welcoming of perfect, physical resurrection into the eternal Kingdom of God.

The unbeliever never tastes a ‘‘first‘‘ resurrection; they are resurrected one time only. They experience a first death in their spiritual enmity toward God in their state of unregenerate sin. They taste a second death in their physical ‘‘and‘‘ spiritual everlasting condemnation. This is cast on them at the last judgment when they are resurrected to participate in the ultimate judgment of their sins.

The last judgment takes place at the consummation of the Kingdom of Christ when He brings about the Second Resurrection of those who believe in Him.

The Reign of Christ as King

Acts 2:29-36

Peter addresses the men of Judea and Jerusalem by pointing to a specific promise of raising up Christ, putting an end “to the agony of death” (v. 24). Peter explains a prophetic passage concerning the power of the raising of Christ by clearly demonstrating David’s Messianic focus to “seat one of his descendants on his throne” (v. 30). David was a prophet, Peter suggests, and because he was a prophet, the promise to seat one of his descendants on his throne was actually a looking ahead to the “resurrection of Christ” (v. 31).

Lahaye disagrees when he speaks of this “throne promise” that God made to David. It “will yet be fulfilled during the Millennial kingdom when Christ, the legal heir of David, will rule the world as King of kings and Lord of lords.” 148)

In Peter’s sermon, we find that God had sworn an oath to David to seat one of his descendants on his throne and that Christ received this promise of the Spirit and has been exalted to the right hand of the Father (v. 33). Christ now reigns on David’s throne until all His enemies are made His footstool (v. 35).

Luke 1:32 tells us that the “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.” And so it is, in Acts 2:29-36, that Christ is reigning as King over His kingdom until his enemies are vanquished. We are reigning with Him, as we shall see below.

Commenting on Luke 1:31-32, Lewis Sperry Chafer suggests

Here the observation may be made that David himself believed this promise was of an earthly throne, which would not be located in heaven then or ever. 149)

Where in Luke chapter one does Chafer find David making this observation? Where does the prophet David, as the Apostle Peter calls him, ever indicate that the throne promise given to him would “not be located in heaven then or ever”?

We should note in response to Chafer’s assertion, that “David believed this promise was of an earthly throne,” where the Apostle Peter informs the men of Judea and those who lived in Jerusalem: “Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the partiarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day” (Acts 2:30). Peter’s response, then, is that the Jews commonly believed David would inherit an earthly throne, but that because David was a prophet, David was actually looking “for-ward and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ…” (2:31). David did not believe what Dr. Chafer claimed. The Patriarch David was speaking prophetically of the resurrection of Christ. Christ received the promise, and has been exalted to the right hand of God at His ascension (2:33).

Chafer continues:

  • David was not promised a heavenly, spiritual throne, and the one who contends that David’s throne is now a heavenly rule is by so much obliged to name the time and circumstances when and where so great a change has been introduced. 150)

Happily, we meet the challenge above by directing the reader back to Acts 2. We may even refer to Christ as the “ruler of the kings of the earth” as the Apostle John does, in Revelation 1:5. Certainly, John would not have us think of this mighty Messiah as postponing His reign as King to some future time, when he considers Jesus “ruler” at the time of his writing. Jesus even said of Himself that He is the “Christ, a King” (Luke 23:2-3; John 19:14). It is what Nathanael says of Christ (John 1:49); it is the proclamation of the large crowd before the Passover (John 12:13).

And yes, the most amazing act in all of history, the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and His victory over death, should be regarded as “so great a change”!

It is to this very issue, that Paul drives the point in the Acts of the Apostles. The Apostle just finished with a related point on the fulfillment of Old Testament promises “made to the fathers” and adds that

  • as for the fact that He [the Father] raised Him up from the dead, no longer to return to decay, He has spoken this way: “I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.”

What is Paul saying here?

Remember, Paul is continuing his point in preaching what he defines as the “good news of the promise made to the fathers.” He made the point earlier (v. 22-25) that Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise of a savior to Israel. Judges have come and gone, prophets and kings have come and gone, but the Messiah has come. It is “to us the message of this salvation has been sent” (v. 26). Christ was crucified, laid in a tomb, but God raised Him from the dead and Christ appeared after His resurrection to many wit-nesses.

So “the good news of the promise made to the fathers” is “that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus” (v. 32-33). There can be no mistaking Paul’s point. The promise made to the fathers is completed in Christ’s resurrection.

Paul continues by adding that “as for the fact that He raised Him up…’I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David’” (v. 33). In absolute agreement with Peter’s message of the Gospel in Acts 2, Paul tells his audience that Christ fulfilled the Davidic promise at His resurrection. Christ has been seated on the Davidic throne in full completion of the promise of God to David. Christ was raised up and received the “sure blessings of David.” The promises to Abraham and David have been met with success in Christ our Lord. That is the Gospel; it is the good news; it is the promise made to the father’s. The Gospel is the fulfillment of a promise made to Old Testament saints.

1 Corinthians 15:23-25.

As the reader may recall from the preceding pages, Christ is raised as the “firstfruits” and “after that, those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.”

Christ is reigning now. When He comes, He raises “those who are His” and then the end comes when He gives “the kingdom” over to the Father. Christ has a kingdom now (cf. Ephesians 1:20-23). But the pre-tribulation pundits would have us believe that Christ does not begin His reign until a future earthly rule of 1000 years. They must deny His present Kingship. If Christ is the “Davidic” King now, then we are ruling now in His kingdom.

In case the point is lost, Chafer clarifies that

  • “One needs only to search the Scriptures to discover the fact the He is never mentioned as King of the church, nor even king of the nations until He comes again as ‘KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS’ (Rev. 19:16).” 151)

So much for some of our favorite hymns that identify Christ as “King of Kings and Lord of Lords, glory, hallelujah!” One must also wonder at which future “coming” Christ becomes King. Does He become King at phase two of the first resurrection coinciding with the second phase of His second coming after the continuation of the second Jewish Age? Is it 2(b) or not 2(b)?

Opposed to this line of reasoning are the actions of “Jason and some brethren” because they acted “contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus” (Acts 17:6-7). We may comfortably rest in the knowledge that Christ is presently “the ruler of the kings of the earth” (Revelation 1:5).

The Apostle Paul tells us quite clearly that Christ “is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:15) and as much as Chafer may not like the implications, Christ is King of Kings at this present time. Christ will come back at His own time, in His appearing, and He will hand His kingdom over to the Father (1 Timothy 6:14-15, cf. 1 Corinthians 15:24).

Hebrews 12:20-24.

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to the myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.”

Even after looking at the above texts, the thought that we rule with Christ may still be resisted. Here, in this passage from Hebrews, we see the spiritual nature of our presence with God, the heavenly Jerusalem, angels and Jesus. But that’s not all. We have come, as believers that is, to the “general assembly and church of the firstborn ‘‘who are enrolled in heaven‘‘…and to the ‘‘spirits of the righteous made perfect‘‘…” (vs. 23-24, emphasis added).

Isn’t that what we see in Revelation 20? Does John not witness the souls of those who have departed because of their faith? Yes, it is and yes, he does.

Ephesians 2:4-6. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…”

Christ has made us alive, we who were once dead in sin. We have been raised from death to life, for He is our resurrection (John 11:24-26). Here we are as believers on earth, yet we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places.

So then, those who participate in the first resurrection do not taste death a second time. Those who are in Christ actively participate in the reign of our King, Jesus Christ, whether they are in the heavenlies or on earth. The second resurrection does not end in physical death for them; the second death is reserved for those who have rejected Christ. During the Second Resurrection, there are only two destinies: With Him or banishment.

Israel/Church Distinction

If we recall the second rule for proper prophetic interpretation of Lahaye, we are told that we need a distinction between Israel and the Church. That in itself is one of two rules that are “essential keys” to understanding end-times events. Where is this rule given? It’s not found in the pages of Scripture. It is imported from the minds of those previously committed to an anti-Semitic understanding of prophecy.

Lahaye claims that

  • First, one must interpret the Bible literally unless the context provides good reason to do otherwise. Second, we must understand that Israel and the church are distinct! They had different beginnings, purposes, commissions, and they have different futures. If a person fails to acknowledge these two facts of Scripture, all discussion and argument is fruitless. The issue is not so much prophecy as it is one’s view of Scripture and the church. 152)

What is truly staggering is that Lahaye argues that these two points are “facts of Scripture.” Where does the Apostle Paul say “To the Corinthians, you must understand that Israel and the Church are distinct or I won’t talk to you anymore”?

Where does any author of Scripture lay claim that “all discussion and argument is fruitless” if one does not accept Lahaye’s Israel/Church distinction?

“But what is the Church?” one may ask. One believer in the pre-trib rapture helps us identify our terms as either “‘‘church‘‘ includes saints of all ages,” or “applies only to a certain body of saints, namely, the saints of this present dispensation.” 153) Belief in the pre-tribulation rapture necessitates the second definition, namely, that the “Church” is limited to the Saints from Pentecost to the Pre-Tribulation Rapture.

No one is claiming that the Church is actually Old Testament national, physical Israel. It is more a matter of who is a part of the body of Christ. How many bodies of believers are there? Pre-tribulation believers are convinced that there are at least two different people of God.

‘‘Dispensationalism‘‘ is a system of theology based on the distinction between “Israel” and the Church. As one noted Dispensationalist claims, the “essence of dispensationalism, then, is the distinction between Israel and the Church.” 154) The concept of a future Tribulation in which the Gentile Church is absent relies upon that system of theology.

Why is this important? If there is no distinction between the Church and Israel, then there the doctrine of the pre-tribulation rapture is without purpose and is moot. The pre-trib rapture depends on the distinction.

If the term ‘‘church‘‘ includes saints of all ages, then it is self-evident that the church will go through the Tribulation, as all agree that there will be saints in this time of trouble. If, however, the term ‘‘church‘‘ applies only to a certain body of saints, namely, the saints of this present dispensation, then the possibility of the translation of the church before the Tribulation is possible and even probable. 155)

We should not be surprised, then, to discover Lahaye’s adamant protestations that “[f]ailure to comprehend that fact [his Israel/Church distinction] will hinder anyone’s understanding of prophecy.” 156) But we should respond, that it does not “hinder” our interpretation of Scripture. It does, however, stop us from drawing conclusions that necessarily result in a pre-tribulation rapture.

Additionally, because of this foundational teaching of Dispensationalism, there arises a need for a time period in which these promises to Old Testament Israel can be completed. If the post-Pentecost period is that time of fulfillment, the doctrine of a future Jewish-Age-Millennium fails. Without that future Millennium, there is no Tribulation in the future where the Church will be absent. If there is no future Tribulation, like the one described by Dispensationalists, there is no pre-tribulation rapture.

Once a particular theological bias such as the “Israel/Church” distinction is inserted into our study of Scripture, of course we will end up with what are really just foregone conclusions. It’s not really a study at all if we set out and determine our ending place be-fore we get there.

The book ‘‘Rapture Under Attack‘‘ identifies four reasons why the Church is a separate entity:

  1. They have different originators.
  2. They have different foundations.
  3. They have different purposes.
  4. Their prophetic futures are different. 157)

The first reason given for separation between Israel and the Church is one of unity of origin. Lahaye claims that the two are not united because Israel ‘‘physically‘‘ came from “a unique manner not only in the selection of Abraham and Sarah, but also in the choosing of their son Isaac’s wife to preserve their ethnic identity.” 158) The Church, however, was founded on Christ’s promise, “as He promised in Matthew 16:13-20 and sent the Holy Spirit to indwell it.” 159) This is based on Peter’s proclamation in Matthew 16:18, where Jesus says that He will build His church on “upon this rock.” This is hardly a ‘‘physical‘‘ origin of the Church, yet this is the contrast that Lahaye offers up to the reader.

Lahaye appears to be arguing that physical Israel is not the spiritual Church. There is no quarrel with this claim. But the reader may ‘‘assume‘‘ from the lack of definition in ‘‘Rapture Under Attack‘‘, that Lahaye’s opponents are saying natural Israel ‘‘is‘‘ the Church. No citations are given by Lahaye to validate his claim, and as close as we come to finding a definition of his terms is the statement about the physical origin of Israel compared to the spiritual origin of the “rock” that Jesus mentions in Matthew 16:18. So it is rather safe to assume that he is not presenting an argument between (a) believers of all time with (b) believers between Pentecost and the pre-trib rapture. He is rather posing the argument as one between physical/natural Israel and “gentile church” established after Jesus was crucified.

The second reason given by Lahaye as to why the Israel and the Church should be considered distinct is that “they have different foundations.” He then gives us a definition of the ‘‘physical‘‘ founding of the Church as occurring “after Christ died…and ascended into heaven.” 160) He then proceeds to inform the reader that Israel was founded “on God’s promises to her, which are still in force and will yet be fulfilled,” 161) thus giving us a spiritual, or perhaps, goal-oriented foundation.

One could hardly doubt that the two events, Abraham and Pentecost, are two distinct physical events and still be considered rational. Still, it does appear that the reasons given us in Rapture Under Attack are not well-thought through or cohesive. We shouldn’t compare physical vs. spiritual origins and then draw the conclusion that one’s opponents are guilty of this kind of slight-of-hand negligence. Let us, instead, compare promises with future fulfillments or the lack of fulfillment if we are to determine a shared unity or disunity between these groups of believers.

Let us grant, for a moment, that Lahaye takes issue with the definition of the Church as “believers of all ages” as his colleagues do (as seen above). How are the two groups of believers identified? We are not primarily concerned with unbelief in the Church or in the nation of Old Testament Israel. Our concern here is with how Scripture identifies believers only. Are New Testament believers a part of something that includes Old Testament believers? Are they distinct or are they united? What is their condition in Christ? Or do they “both” have a part in Christ at all?

We will address the first two objections of Lahaye in the following section, since complaints are so similar regarding the spiritual foundations of “Israel” and the Church. We will not address whether or not the physical founding of either group is identical, since Israel was brought about as a nation some 1500 years prior to Pentecost. We are asking, again, what role, condition or position do believers in the New Testament find themselves in relation to the promises of the Old Testament or the lack of such condition.

Unity or Disunity?

Ephesians 2:11-3:12.

Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.’‘‘

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, who were Gentiles by birth and culture, prefaces the above text by stating their position in Christ. They were “dead in their trespasses and sins” (v. 1), but God had made them “alive together with Christ” (v. 5). He then reminds his audience that God has created them “in Christ Jesus for good works” beforehand (v. 10).

In 2:11-12, Paul begins an even greater discourse by comparing their status in Christ to their position before they came to know Him. They, as Gentiles, were at one time:

  1. Separate from Christ.
  2. Excluded from the commonwealth of Israel.
  3. Strangers to the covenants of promise.
  4. Having no hope.
  5. Without God in the world.

Having been separate from Christ (1.) in the past, the Gentiles now find themselves as being reconciled by the blood of Christ: “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (2:13)

At one time they had been excluded from the commonwealth of Israel (2.), but now they “are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household” (2:19). They are now part of the commonwealth of the saints. Notice that the “saints” mentioned here are in relation to Israel and not Gentiles.

Without Christ, they were strangers to the covenants of promise (3.), but now that they are in Christ, “the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel” (3:6). Here we discover that “the body” was something that predated the Gentiles being brought into Christ and that the promise of the Gospel is not unique to the Gentile church.

The Gentiles had no hope (4.), but now in Christ “we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him” (3:12).

And finally, the Gentiles were without God in the world (5.), but now are “one body” (2:16), they have “access in one Spirit to the Father” (2:18), they are of “God’s household” (2:19), they have grown into “a holy temple in the Lord” (2:21) and they are “being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit” (2:21).

Their condition has changed. They are no longer separate from the people of God (Israel), but have been brought near. It was this that Isaiah prophesied of in Isaiah 57:19, “And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near.” It is this very verse from the Old Testament that the Apostle Paul uses to justify his theological point about the Gentiles being brought into the commonwealth of Israel. They are no longer far off aliens and strangers; they have been brought into “one body” and made a part of “God’s household.”

As Edmund Clowney observes:

  • Separation from Christ meant exclusion from all the privileges of God’s chosen people. Withouth Christ, heathen Gentiles were also without citizenship in Israel. They had not stake in God’s promises, nor were they joined to his covenant. They were without hope because they were without God.
  • But then come the total change. Those who were afar off are brought near through the blood of Christ. He has made Jews and Gentiles one, reconciling them both in his one body through the cross. Both have the same access, in one Spirit, to the Father. No longer are Gentile Christians aliens from the commonwealth of Israel; they are now fellow-citizens with Jewish saints, included in God’s covenant, heirs of his promises, members of the household of God. 162)

We should remember, however, one of the two most important rules to interpreting prophecy, according to Lahaye, is that “we must understand that Israel and the church are distinct.” 163) It is also important to remind the reader of Lahaye’s warning that if a reader fails to keep that distinction, “all discussion and argument is fruitless.” Well, so much for the book of Ephesians.

Did the Apostle Paul suddenly stop being a part of Israel when he became a Christian? How about the other Apostles? When Pentecost arrived, did they suddenly stop being a part of Israel?

One very well-known advocate of the Israel/Church distinction went so far as to claim:

  • The expression ‘‘‘in Christ‘‘’ is uniformly used in the New Testament, wherever it has theological meaning, as a reference to those who have been baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ’‘, and is never used‘‘ in reference to saints before the Day of Pentecost. 164) [emphasis added]

Let’s briefly turn back to Ephesians 2:11-22. “Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles…were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel…but now ‘‘in Christ‘‘ Jesus…you are fellow citizens with the saints…” and in 3:6, “the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise ‘‘in Christ‘‘ Jesus through the Gospel.”

It should be fairly obvious that the term “in Christ” does appear and it is in direct reference to Israel. It appears at least three more times earlier in chapter two. Both “categories” of people are mentioned as being in Christ. Israel and the Gentiles are not separate; they are one in Christ our Lord.

Romans 11:11-24

There remains much debate on the implications of a future for the physical nation of Israel in the plan of God. Our discussion and conclusions do not necessarily rely on one interpretation over another. Whether a large-scale conversion of physical Israel is yet future or whether Paul was speaking simply of a continual and growing conversion of ethnic Jews before the second coming of Christ, does not affect the single question we are raising here. Namely, “what is the condition of Gentile believers in relation to believing Israel?” Do we see one group of believers (of all ages) or do we see different and distinct groups of believers separated by Pentecost and the pre-tribulation rapture?

Assuming that Paul is speaking of national, ethnic, natural, physical Israel in the first 10 verses of Romans 11, should not meet with much controversy by Lahaye or others who hold his position. 165)

In verse 17, we learn that some branches of “the olive tree” have been broken off. Some branches have also been grafted in to the true olive tree from a wild olive. The wild branches, having now been grafted in to the “cultivated olive tree” (v. 24), have “become partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree.” Who are the wild branches? The “Gentile” believers mentioned in verses 11-13. The natural branches “were broken off for their unbelief,” in reference to “natural” or “unbelieving” Israel.

So the wild branches are now partaking of the benefits of the rich root of the natural olive tree. They are now part of and supported by the root (v. 18). These wild branches are grafted in based on faith, not of natural origin. If branches are taken out based on un-belief, Paul argues, then do not be arrogant or conceited concerning your newfound inheritance.

Tim Lahaye must deny that Gentile believers are united with believing Israel, for if he doesn’t deny the connection, his pre-tribulation rapture doctrine will fail. He would have us believe that there are two distinct olive trees. He argues that believers “of this age” have a different origin and foundation than Israel. It is as if, in Lahaye’s view, there must be two trees, planted at different times in different gardens.

The Apostle Paul reveals that there are not two distinct trees with different roots, but that believing Gentiles have been brought into the one, true root, believing Israel. It is just as he argued in the previous chapter of Romans, “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him” (Romans 10:12). Believing Gentiles are represented, not as a different tree with a different purpose and different origin, but as wild branches that have been made a part of a single olive tree. There are not multiple trees with separate purposes having different origins and foundations. One tree, with a purpose of “the righteousness based on faith” (9:23-10:13), with its origin in the mercy of God (Romans 9:1-22).

The Apostle Paul is quite clear when he informs us in Romans 9:6-8 that

  • For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “Through Isaac your descendants will be named.” That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as his descendants.

It is not our physical origin that determines our status in the promise of Christ. Those who are counted as having faith in Christ are truly the descendants of Abraham and heirs according to promise (Galatians 3:29).

Galatians 3:6-29, especially 16, 29

By citing the events surrounding Cephas’ hypocrisy in front of the Gentiles, Paul reminds the Galatians that receiving the Spirit did not come by the works of the Law, but by “hearing with faith” (3:5). To emphasize his point, the Apostle reflects on the real root of righteousness and blessing, that it is not through inheritance based on law otherwise it would not be a promise (v. 18).

Paul, in 3:6, quotes Genesis 15:6 to demonstrate that Abraham was not blessed because of the law, but because he believed God. “Therefore,” Paul continues, “be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham” (v. 7). He then proceeds in verse eight to demonstrate that the Scriptures prophesied “God would justify the Gentiles by faith” and this Gospel was the same that was “preached beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed in you.” Here, we see Paul quoting Genesis 12:3, fulfilling the promise Old Testament promise of granting to Abraham the almost unbelievable promise of blessing to many nations and families.

It is not ethnic ancestry that makes one a descendant of Abraham. In one rather explicit teaching, John the Baptist forcefully instructs the Pharisees and Sadducees that it is not their physical lines of genealogy that makes them children of Abraham, “for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham” (Matthew 3:7-9).

  • “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed” and find their fruition in Christ (v. 16) “so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe” (v. 22). But the author of ‘‘Rapture Under Attack‘‘ still professes that “God’s promises to her [Israel]…are still in force and will yet be fulfilled.” 166)

Paul proceeds to drive the point in Galatians that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law…in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (vs. 13-14).

Paul, in numerous places, teaches us that we “are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (v. 26). But if we recall the argument of Walvoord, “The expression ‘‘‘in Christ‘‘’ is…a reference to those who have been baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ’‘, and is never used‘‘ in reference to saints before the Day of Pentecost,” 167) we can see that some simply deny this beautiful doctrine of Scripture. To preserve their end-times views, the unity of God’s people is forfeited.

Commenting on Galatians 3:29, Clowney clarifies:

  • Gentiles become full members of God’s people because they are joined to Christ, whose death is the only atoning sacrifice for Jew or Gentile. As Adam represented the old humanity, bringing death on all, so a new humanity is created in Christ (Rom. 5:12ff). The sin of those represented by him is put to his account, and his righteousness is put to theirs. 168)

Not only are believing Gentiles fellow citizens, partakers, part of the same household, included in the commonwealth of Israel, grafted into the true olive tree and the fulfillment of Old Testament promises made to Abraham, but also, “if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise” (v. 29). And since “there is neither Jew nor Greek…you are all one in Christ Jesus” (v. 28).

In Philippians 3:1-11, we find the same concept of “true” in contrast to “false” Israel. As Paul presents his argument, he uses the idea of “true circumcision” as opposed to “false circumcision” as a matter of belief in Christ, reminding us of his words in Ephesians chapter two. It is “that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith” that is the determining factor in one’s condition.

Clowney adds:

  • In the apostolic church, the controversy over circumcision took place only because both sides thought of the church as the true Israel. Those who required Gentile Christians to be circumcised obviously thought that those converts were being added to God’s people. Paul never challenged this. He never explained that Christians were joining a new entity, the church, and not Israel, and that circumcision was therefore inappropriate. On the contrary, he claimed for the church the true spiritual circumcision of Christ, gained by union with him. Apart from Christ, circumcision was only mutilation of the flesh. 169)

Which is true Israel? True Israel is defined by the Apostle Paul as those who share belief in Christ. Paul never identifies a believing Israel apart from a believing Gentile Church. The Gentiles share in the “spiritual things” of those saints (Romans 15:27). Natural, physical, ethnic Israel is a false circumcision. The true Israel of God is one that is in Christ by faith and heirs of the promise.

Hebrews 11:39-40

Much of the same imagery and content found in the passages above are condensed in the words of Hebrews 11. The motif of interest to us here is that if one endures in suffering for the sake of Christ, their “better possession” and “great reward” is none other than receiving “what was promised” (vs. 10:34-36).

Verses 37 and 38 of chapter ten inform the reader of the content of that promise: “For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. But my righteous shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” We read the statement that “we are of those…who have faith” in verse 39, launching the writer of Hebrews into a lengthy treatise on examples and the definition of faith beginning in 11:1.

We are shown examples of the faith of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets, women and “others” (vs. 4-38).

But none of them “did not receive what was promised” even though they gained approval through their faith (v. 39). They “died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance” (v. 13). These noted believers had faith, and though they did not receive the fulfillment of the promises, they saw them and “welcomed them from a distance.”

What is the promise? The answer is found in Hebrews 10:37. “He who is coming will come, and will not delay.” These Old Testament believers endured in their faith, conscious that they might not see the promise come to be realized in their time. They were content in their faith in God.

Why did they not receive this promise? “Because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect” (v. 40). Apart from who? Those who have faith in Christ. We are the ones who have seen the promise fulfilled. It is Christ who is “the perfecter of faith” (12:2), in whom we have become as sons to God, enduring in His name, showing gratitude toward God “with reverence and awe” (12:28).

We who believe in Christ will not be made perfect apart from those saints of old. We share a common faith, we share the same promise and the “perfecter” of our faith is Jesus Christ our Lord.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, evangelist and preacher, stated

  • Difference of dispensation does not involve a difference of covenant; and it is according to the covenant of grace that all spiritual blessings are bestowed. So far as dispensations reach they indicate degrees of knowledge, degrees of privilege, and variety in the ordinances of worship. The unity of the faith is not affected by these, as we are taught in the eleventh chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews. The faithful of every age concur in looking for that one city, and that city is identically the same with the New Jerusalem described in the Apocalypse as “a bride adorned for her husband.” 170)

The foundation of our faith is Christ, the Messiah. He is the one who was prophesied of as “He who is coming will come” and He has. The promise to the Old Testament patriarchs, saints and martyrs has been fulfilled with us in mind and is not apart from us. The promise of the Messiah is for all believers of all ages so that we will not be apart from any, but of one group, just as we are all descendants of Abraham according to the promise of God.

1 Peter 1:10-2:10

The Apostle Peter states that of all the trials that attend the believer, we will obtain “as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls” (v. 9). And it is to “this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you…” (v. 10) sought to know what would follow and how events would transpire. And it “was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you” (v. 12).

This passage contains much of the content, in a more summarized fashion, as in Hebrews 11-12. The prophets of the Old Testament prophesied of this grace that has come upon those living after the crucifixion and after Pentecost. They were serving those who have now believed by making careful searches and inquiries in “these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven” (v. 12).

Because of this new realization, believers are called to exemplify the beauties and excellencies of Christ. Peter appeals to this group of people by reminding them that they are a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession” and that “you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (vs. 9-10).

The group that was “not a people” became a part of the people of God, a holy nation. They have been brought into something from which they were previously foreign. They were outside the mercy of God, and have now received mercy (cf. Hosea 2:23). This group is part of the people of God of all time. The prophets prophesied of this salvation that would come upon a future people. This passage speaks all of inclusion into one race and nation without allowing any room for exclusion except for anything but unbelief.

The teaching according to ‘‘Rapture Under Attack‘‘ denies any shared foundation between believers of all ages.

They have different foundations. Jesus Christ is the living foundation of the church (1 Corinthians 3:11). He had not even been born at the time of Israel’s foundation…. Israel was not founded on the finished work of Christ on the cross but on God’s promises to her, which are still in force and will yet be fulfilled. 171)

A certain amount of caution should be exercised at this point. Lahaye never explicitly defines Israel or the Church except to give “origins” and “foundations” of each. We do find the Church described as being believers from Pentecost to the pre-tribulation rapture.

Lahaye is not careful to avoid confusion on this issue. He contrasts physical origins of Israel compared to spiritual promises to the Church as proof of his thesis. He then compares physical origins of the Church and contrasts that with spiritual promises made to Israel in an attempt to prove different foundations.

‘‘Rapture Under Attack‘‘ continually refers to promises that have yet to be fulfilled, but it is the Apostle Paul himself who argues strongly that we, as Gentiles, are in fact counted among the “Jerusalem above” for she is free and “she is our mother” (Galatians 4:26). Abraham had two sons; one son was by “the free woman through the promise” (v. 23) and we “like Isaac, are children of the promise” (v. 28). The other woman’s son “was born according to the flesh” (v. 22) and “corresponds to the present Jerusalem” (v. 25). Gentile believers are born according to the Spirit and are included in the promise just as in the same condition as Isaac. Mr. Lahaye reaches far different conclusions.

Additionally, Lahaye presents his argument as if there are numerous people who believe that national, physical, ethnic Israel ‘‘is now‘‘ the Church. Our purpose here is not an attempt to prove that ethnic Israel has become the Church. As we have seen in multiple texts, the “promise” made by God in the Old Testament has been fulfilled and this fulfillment is found to be inclusive of believers of all ages.

This teaching is not some novelty invented in our present day. The Scripture are replete with this instruction and so, too, was taught by those in the first generation of post-Apostolic believers. Justin Martyr (100-165 AD), early Christian “Church Father, taught the same. In a “Dialogue with Trypho” (a Jew), Martyr comments:

As therefore from the one man Jacob, who was surnamed Israel, all your nation has been called Jacob and Israel; ‘‘so we from Christ‘‘, who begat us unto God, like Jacob, and Israel, and Judah, and Joseph, and David, are called and are the true sons of God, and keep the commandments of Christ. 172)

There are no multiple plans of God, one for Israel and one for the Gentile Church. All the texts we have looked at speak quite clear-ly of “one household of God,” “one body,” “fellow citizens,” as Paul says, “for you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26) and “heirs according to promise” (3:29). This is truly an amazing and beautiful plan of God. He has brought those who were outside and delivered them into His fold. That is grace and that is wonderful mercy; God fulfills His promises!

Revelation 21:9-14

John, the Apostle, is given a vision of the “great city, the holy Jerusalem” (vs. 1, 2, 10). This city has twelve gates and “names were written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel” (v. 12; cf. Ezekiel 48:31). “The New Jerusalem is the eternal residence of the children of God, and this is indicated at every gate. None can enter who do not belong to that people; all who are within are understood to be of their number.” 173) On the walls of this city are the names of the “twelve apostles of the Lamb” (v. 14).

This city has several important features:

  1. It is a great city, the holy Jerusalem.
  2. It has a foundation built on the prophets and apostles.
  3. Christ is the chief cornerstone.

It is fascinating to note the similarity between this description of the “city of God,” this “heavenly Jerusalem” of Revelation 21, and the description of the Church in Ephesians 2:20-22. Paul speaks of the church as “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone” (v. 20). Not only are we built on this foundation with Christ as the cornerstone, but “the whole building” is “growing into a holy temple in the Lord” and that this building is “being built together” from what had previously been two distinct groups (v. 21-22).

All three points outlined from Revelation 21 are found in Ephesians 2. (1) The Church is described as a holy temple, a building that God has designed. (2) This group is built on the “foundation of the apostles and prophets” and (3) Christ is the chief cornerstone. We certainly don’t find two different foundations, as Tim Lahaye would have us believe.

It is just as Hebrews 12:22 describes us coming to “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” so that our citizenship is a current reality. We are surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses” (12:1), ranging from Abel and Enoch to Moses, Abraham and David and that in this city of God, we have also come to the “general assembly and the church of the firstborn” and “to the spirits of the righteous made perfect” (v. 23). In this “heavenly Jerusalem,” we have come to “Jesus the mediator of a new covenant” (v. 24), whose blood is better than that of Abel.

Here again, we see much language that is later echoed in Revelation 21. (1) This is the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. (2) It is a place where we find the “general assembly,” the “church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven” and the “spirits of the righteous made perfect.” And finally, we have come to (3) Jesus, the mediator and His blood. This kingdom we receive can-not be shaken.

In still another passage, the Apostle Peter informs us that the prophets prophesied of “this grace that would come to you,” which salvation “was revealed to them” before our time (1 Peter 1:10-12). Peter describes believers as “as living stones” that are being “built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood” and that Christ Himself is “a choice stone, a precious corner stone” (2:1-8).

All three ideas found in Revelation 21 are to be found here in 1 Peter. (1) It is a spiritual house, (3) laid on the chief cornerstone, Christ Jesus. It is that which the (2) prophets prophesied of in the Old Testament.

So it is in Revelation 21:10-14, that we find believers of all ages brought together into one city, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. It’s foundation is made up from the Old Testament prophets and New Testament Apostles. Their faith is our faith. Christ Himself is the tie that binds us all together: “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs accord-ing to the promise” (Galatians 3:29).

Spurgeon’s comment on this theme is insightful: “The faithful of every age concur in looking for that one city, and that city is identically the same with the New Jerusalem described in the Apocalypse as ‘a bride adorned for her husband.’” 174)

It is based on the texts above that the Church is not “Israel” as if there is one smooth continuous, national association. The Church is the fulfillment of the promises made to Israel, made up of all believers of all ages, through, and only through Christ: “For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes, therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

“3. They have different purposes.”

Now we come to the third objection for an Israel/Church distinction. Apparently, since “Israel was never given the great commission,” 175) and the “church was given the promise and presence of the Holy Spirit with which to fulfill Christ’s ‘great commission,’” we should not confuse the two groups. Israel’s purpose, according to ‘‘Rapture Under Attack‘‘ was to be a “torchbearer of God’s faithfulness” in order to “enjoy his blessings,” but mostly Israel “was a testimony to God’s judgment on sinners….” 176)

It is at such an important juncture that Lahaye again fails to give any Scriptural support for his outlandish claims (no pun intended). He does tell us that the “gates of hell shall not prevail against” the church and that the Great Commission is found in Matthew 28:19-20. Yet neither passage says anything about a distinction between Israel and the Church.

And though we have already seen many passages that speak of a common purpose between believers of all ages, we should also take some time to look at additional passages that may further assist our study.

Genesis 12:1-3.

Now the Lord said to Abram, go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and will make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.

Genesis 12:1-3 lay the foundation for three very important promises made to Abraham. These three distinct blessings are given to Abraham in what is termed by theologians, the Abrahamic Covenant and are found repeated throughout Genesis:

  1. A promise of a seed (Genesis 12:2; 13:16; 15:5; 16:10; 17:2-6; 18:18; 22:17; cf. 20:4; 28:4, 14; 32:12) 177).
  2. A promise of a land (Genesis 12:2, 7; 13:15, 17; 15:7, 18; 24:7; cf. 28:4).
  3. A promise of many nations/families (Genesis 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; cf. 26:4; 28:14).

Since Lahaye’s objection at this point has to do with differing “purposes,” let us see what we can gather from key passages concerning Old Testament promises and their purpose in God’s plan.

Of the many passages that speak of a promise of a seed given to Abraham, let us turn to Genesis 22. We have just witnessed the offering of Isaac as a demonstration of Abraham’s faith in God. Because Abraham was willing to give his only son, God repeats His promise that He “will greatly bless you” and that Abraham’s “seed shall possess the gate of their enemies” (v. 17). Through this promise “all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (v. 18).

In an attempt to interpret Scripture as accurately as possible, we should try to find language of the same form with the same concept of meaning in a consistent, systematic fashion. We should interpret the less-clear by the more-clear. We do find similar statements in the New Testament.

The Seed

In Matthew 16:13, Jesus identifies Himself as the Son of Man. Only one time does the Old Testament use the term, “the Son of Man,” and that is in Daniel 7:13. In Daniel’s account, the Son of Man comes before the Ancient of Days and was given “dominion, glory and a kingdom” and “His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed” (v. 14).

It is Stephen, in Acts 7:48-49, that informs us that “the Most High does not dwell in Houses made by human hands; as the prophet says: Heaven is my throne, and earth is the footstool of My feet….” In verse 56, Stephen says, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

And as we witnessed earlier in this study, the Apostle Peter, in Acts 2, describes the fulfillment of the Davidic Throne promise as taking place at the resurrection. It is this event that Daniel foresaw in the Old Testament. Jesus has been seated on David’s throne and is reigning now. The Son of Man has a kingdom that cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:28), as in Acts 2:25 where we read “He is at my right hand, so that I will not be shaken.”

But now, in Matthew 16:18, Jesus blesses Peter with the words “upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” That is, upon the confession that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v. 16). 178)

“The gates of Hades” will not overcome the church, as Dr. John MacArthur has argued. The gates of any city are not offensive weapons as some have considered it. They are defensive barriers to the intrusion of a force offensively intruding into the city. They are defensive and protective. They guard against and keep safe the occupants who are hid behind. Christ’s Gospel breaks down and will not be overcome by the defenses of the enemy. There is nothing that is able to stand against His Word.

In Genesis 22:17, we find Abraham being blessed so that his “seed” will be numerous and that his seed will “possess the gate of their enemies.” Here is the victory prophesied to Adam. The enemies of the seed will be crushed. The enemy cannot stand against the promised seed.

The purpose of the seed in Genesis 22:17 is to possess that which belongs to its enemies. But who is the seed?

Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is Christ” (Galatians 3:16). And just a few verses later, we find that “if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise” (v. 29).

With these texts in mind, we discover the following:

  1. We find that Abraham’s seed will “possess” the gates of its enemies (Genesis 22:17). Compare and contrast with the promise (“cf”) of Matthew 16:18.
  2. Christ is the “seed” of Abraham (Galatians 3:16).
  3. The Church is that which is based on faith in Christ (Matthew 16:18; Galatians 3:26).
  4. His kingdom is now in effect; He is enthroned beside the Father (Acts 2:25, 29-36). The kingdom of the Son of Man is a dominion that cannot be shaken , nor will it be overcome (Daniel 7:13-14; Acts 2:25; Hebrews 12:28).
  5. The enemies of the Church will never prevail because the Church is founded in Christ and He is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. We are heirs of Abraham because, and only because, we are in Christ, the true seed (Matthew 16:18; Galatians 3).

Recalling the critique of Lahaye opposed to any continuity between believers of all ages (true Israel of the Old Testament and believers since Pentecost), we find that “the church, by contrast” is given the Great Commission and “according to our Lord’s promise, ‘the gates of hades shall not prevail against’ [the Church].” 179)

Romans chapter nine is filled with language that speaks to advocates of an Israel Church distinction, as do the other letters of Paul. Jesus Himself addresses the issue in quite a few places, as does the Council of Jerusalem. The Scriptures speak much more to this issue in direct contradiction of Lahaye’s statements, as we shall see.

The Land

Belief in the pre-tribulation rapture also hinges on the “land promise” given to Abraham. Lahaye claims that the

Many unfulfilled promises of a kingdom of righteousness…will yet be fulfilled during the Millennial kingdom when Christ, the legal heir of David, will rule the world as King of kings and Lord of lords. All the promises of greatness to the children of Israel will come to fruition at that time. 180)

Why, do we ask, is there such a burden on Lahaye to make his point? For the reason that if the promises to Israel are fulfilled in the Church, there is no reason for a pre-tribulation rapture and no earthly reason for a Millennial kingdom in which Christ will reign on the Davidic throne. If Christ fulfills the throne promise now, or if the land promises somehow do not apply to some future time, dispensationalism and it’s daughter-doctrine, the pre-tribulation rapture, are without Biblical foundation and should be rejected in our churches.

The promise made to Abraham, again, is that Abraham will go “to the land which I will show you” (Genesis 12:1), and God will give him “this land to possess it (15:7), so that “to your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates” (15:18).

Concerning the Biblical view of the land, Dr. Gentry notes the following:

  • The land of Israel is “‘‘His‘‘ holy Land” (Lev. 25:23; Psa. 78:54). It depends on His favor upon Israel (Hos. 9:3; Jer. 2:7) and His dwelling therein (Num. 35:34; Lev. 26), which continues as long as Israel is obedient to Him (Deut. 4:40; Isa. 1:19; Jer. 15:13-14; 17:1-4). When Israel is rejected by God, the promise of the Land is rejected by God. 181)

So what of the land promise mentioned in Scripture?

If we turn to Joshua 11:21-12:1, we see that Joshua “took the whole land, according to all that the Lord had spoken to Moses” (v. 23). Joshua cut off the other nations from this land and defeated the kings of the land, “whose land they possessed” (12:1).

And after a lengthy description of the partitioning of the land that God has promised, it is recorded that “the Lord gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they possessed it and lived in it” (Joshua 21:43), so “not one of the good promises which the Lord made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass” (v. 45). Incredibly, Scripture’s account of these events is that ‘‘all‘‘ the promises that God had made had come to pass, including and focusing on the promise of the land.

Physically and naturally speaking, the land promise has been fulfilled in history. When the Messiah came, however, we see a fuller and even clearer idea of the significance of those promises. It is common among Pre-Tribulationists to argue over the exact geo-graphical boundaries in an attempt to bolster the wooden interpretation required by their system. They must denounce the concept of any sort of land promise fulfillment.

The Apostle Paul brings to us the proper perspective on these promises of God to Abraham in Romans 4:1-25. Paul continues his discussion of sin, the law and righteousness by citing Abraham as an example of justification by faith and not through works.

Paul asks the pointed question, “Or is God the God of the Jews only? Is He not the God of the Gentiles also? Yes, of the Gentiles also” (3:29). In other words, Paul is asking if God is the God of those who are of the Law only. Of course not. God is the God of all who have faith in Jesus (3:26). Is God the God of only those who have received circumcision? No. The God who justifies accord-ing to faith, justifies the “circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith” is one God. He is not confused in His purpose. He has one purpose: He demonstrated His righteousness through Christ, where we find “propitiation in His blood through faith” (3:25-26).

Paul never speaks of justifying one group of believers, the circumcised, for a different purpose than the justification of the uncircumcised. Paul’s argument is that God is one, He is the justifier of all who have faith in Christ. If God, we can infer, were to justify two groups apart from each other, God would be confused in His purpose. But God is unified, there are no multiple plans in God. He deals with all believers of all ages in the same way, as Paul states, “in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time” (3:25-26).

In chapter four, Paul notes that Abraham was not justified after he was circumcised

  • …so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them, and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised. (Romans 4:11-12)

He is not the father of only those who have received circumcision, meaning physical descent, but Abraham is the “father” of all those who “follow in the steps of [his] faith.”

Those who believe in the pre-tribulation rapture consistently deny that the Abrahamic promises apply to believers of the “Pentecost to Rapture” time frame. Yet, it is the Apostle Paul who repeatedly reminds his audience that “the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith” (Romans 4:13). Paul clarifies the issue for us that if the heirs of the promise are those who are physical descendants only, then “faith is made void and the promise is nullified” (v. 14). It is not natural descent that makes one an heir of the promise of God, but faith in Christ is the determining factor for defining those who the promises of Abraham are given.

Clarity of the Abrahamic land promise is evident in Paul’s wording. The “promise to Abraham” was “that he would be heir of the world” (Romans 4:13). Paul has taken what was a promise, physically fulfilled in Joshua’s time, and now revealed as something greater, namely, that those who have faith in Christ are heirs of the world.

Christ did not come to abolish, or even postpone, the “Law and the prophets,” He came to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). His mission was not to offer a kingdom to Israel, have it rejected, and then delay His kingdom until some thousands of years later when, separated by multiple “comings” and multiple resurrections, He would again institute the fulfillment of Old Testament promises. He came to fulfill that which the Law and prophets foresaw. He is the blessed Lamb of Old Testament typology. He is the righteousness that surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees.

We are heirs, yes, even as post-Pentecost believers, to the promises given to Abraham. Our inheritance is based in Christ through faith in His name. We are among those who, Jesus tells us, shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).

We are joint heirs with the Saints of all ages, including those who lived before the ministry of Christ. Our glorification with all believers of all times. Abraham did not desire “a country of his own,” he desired something far greater, “a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:14-16). He died without receiving the promises (vs. 12-13), and though he and others of the Old Testament died in faith without receiving the promises, “apart from us they would not be made perfect” (11:39-40).

The promises made to Abraham, the patriarchs and the prophets, properly understood in the revelation of Jesus Christ, are not fulfilled apart from us. God has prepared a city for them (11:16), a “better country” which is a “heavenly one” (v. 16), and we post-Pentecost believers have come to this “city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (12:22), which is based in faith in Christ. This is the majestic and complete fulfillment of the land promise made to Abraham.

Unbelieving Israel, the natural, physical descent of Abraham, has been cut off from any inheritance (Romans 11). The “false circumcision” has nothing to do with the promises of Abraham, because the “true circumcision” will receive the promises only “on the basis of faith” (Philippians 3:1-11).

The Kingdom was taken away from those not producing fruit and given to a people who do produce fruit (Matthew 21:43; Luke 12:13-34). They believed in Moses and the prophets; they did have faith in the promise of God (John 5:33-47). They didn’t accept the message as a means to salvation; they believed ‘‘in‘‘ the messenger. God made the promise. That promise was given by God and they believed in Him to fulfill His Word.

In contrast to those who believe in the pre-tribulation rapture and the divorce of the people of God, Scripture teaches that it is through faith in Christ “that we have access in one Spirit to the Father” (Ephesians 2:18). Post-Pentecost believers are “no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens” with true Israel (v. 19). We are, just as believers of the Old Testament are, “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (v. 19) with Christ as the pillar on which we all stand.

Despite glaring Scriptural evidence, we cite J. Dwight Pentecost as claiming the “term ‘‘Israel‘‘ is nowhere used in the Scriptures for any but the physical descendants of Abraham” 182). This is in direct contradistinction from Romans 9:6-8 and Galatians 6:15-16.

Jesus never tells us that He has different plans for different groups of believers in God. Paul never indicates that anything other than unbelief separates groups of people.

Those who receive the promise of Abraham include post-Pentecost believers. We “are all one in Christ Jesus” for “if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:28). We are not separate from Israel, for we have been made a part of Israel (cf. Romans 11:13-24; Galatians 3:1-29). We are the “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16). There is only one group of people in the plan of God that receives His great salvation: Believers. Believers of all ages are properly defined as, and only including, believers in Christ Jesus and they, and only they, are the heirs of the promises to Abraham.

Despite the best intentions of Dr. Pentecost, the Scriptures are overwhelmingly clear: Israel is in fact used to denote something other than physical descendants of Abraham. The Apostle Paul describes the New Testament Church as part of the “Israel of God.”

The Families of the Earth and Many Nations

We must recall the importance of rejecting the continuity between Israel and the Church for those who hold the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine in such high esteem. If the Church, in any way, fulfills the Old Testament promises made to Abraham, then the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine is without basis and its parent system of theology, dispensationalism, is without foundation.

God made this promise to Abraham: “I will make you a great nation…and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Gene-sis 12:2-3).

If the New Testament truly teaches the fulfillment of Old Testament land promises as taking place in unity with the Church, then it should come as no surprise that we return to many of the same passages we’ve investigated earlier and find the “many nations” promise discussed as well. After all, the promise to Abraham was threefold: He would receive a “seed,” a “land” and a “great nation,” in which “all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

In Romans chapter four, we saw Paul’s understanding of the fulfillment, not only of the land promise (vs. 13-14), but , “the promise” is to “those of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all” (v. 16). So Abraham is not only the physical father of many, to whom the original promise was made, but we are heirs of the true promise by faith. It is not those “who are of the Law” who are heirs of the promise, but the promise to Abraham “is by faith” (vs. 14, 16).

Paul, again and again throughout his writings, informs us of the simple condition we find ourselves. He says, “they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants” (Romans 9:6-7). And in case there is any mistake, Paul clarifies his statement by telling us that “it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of promise are regarded as his [Abraham’s] descendants” (v. 8).

The Apostle cites Hosea 2:23 as applying to post-Pentecost believers. We are vessels of mercy, prepared for glory,

  • even us whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. As He says also in Hosea, “I will call those who were not My people, ‘My People,’ And her who was not beloved, ‘beloved.’” And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, ‘you are not My people,’ there they shall be called sons of the living God.” (Romans 9:24-26).

Paul identifies the Gentiles as those who were not God’s people, but the prophet Hosea looked forward and saw the Church. He prophesied that God would bring us in and we would be called “sons of the living God” in the place where we were formerly considered “not My People,” which place is the physical land of Israel. Gentiles were considered outside the commonwealth of Israel, but now are a part of that people (Galatians 2:12, 3:6). We are “the remnant” and the true “sons of Israel” (Romans 9:27), distinct only from unbelieving Israel.

Our father is Abraham according to faith. The promise to Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, that he would be a great nation and through him all the families of the earth will be blessed, is fulfilled in the inclusion of post-Pentecost believers into the true Israel, the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16).

He is not the father of only those who have received circumcision, meaning physical descent, but Abraham is the true and prophesied “father” of all those who “follow in the steps of [his] faith” (Romans 4:12) according to the promise that he was given in Gene-sis 12:2-3.

The broad system known as Dispensationalism would have us believe the Old Testament is completely and entirely silent about the “Church Age”, as some writers call it.

The Apostle Peter knew that the promises of God to Abraham are fulfilled in the post-Pentecost believer. It was “the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward” that “announced these days” (Acts 3:24). The events transpiring when Peter uttered this announcement were after Pentecost, therefore part of the “church age,” which time period pre-tribulationists tell us cannot be a time of Old Testament prophetic fulfillment. And thus, in Christ, “in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (v. 25).

All of mankind is heir to the promise of God to Abraham. God has not limited the blessing to physical Israel only. The prophets looked forward and spoke of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-36). The event of Pentecost is also where Peter instructs his audience that Christ has ascended the Davidic Throne and is now reigning.

As far as this study has examined, there is a mountain of Scripture to support continuity of Israel through the Gentiles. It is this very issue that divided the council of Jerusalem in Acts 15. Some early Christians thought Gentiles who were coming to faith in Christ should be circumcised according to the Law of Moses (vs. 1, 5). After quite a bit of debate, Peter stood up and argued that the Gentiles would “hear the word of the gospel and believe” (v. 7). The Gentiles were given the same Holy Spirit and “He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith” (vs. 8-9).

Peter pinpoints the issue in verse 10 of the implications of distinguishing between the two groups of believers by asking the others, “Now, therefore, why do you put God to the test” by suggesting that Gentile believers must be circumcised? Surely Peter is not mistaken in his understanding of the believers’ responsibility to the Law of Moses. Some would suggest that in the future Millennium, Israel will continue to make sacrifices and offerings at a future, earthly temple reminiscent of Solomon’s temple. Certainly, this passage is applicable to that situation as well as applying to our discussion at this point in our study. Gentiles, who were thought of by some to be a distinct group of believer. Christians, are not apart from the Jews at all. Perhaps this is the earliest form of Dispensationalism found. It was rejected by the Apostles, but nonetheless, a distinct line was drawn between Israel and the Gentile Church by the Jews in Jerusalem.

When Peter, Barnabas and Paul had finished speaking, James continued Peter’s point. James reminds the Council of Jerusalem, “Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name. With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written” (vs. 13-15). James quotes from Amos 9:11-12, Jeremiah 12:15 and arguably from Isaiah 45:21, 63:19, Jeremiah 14:9 and Daniel 9:19 to show that God had spoken to the “Prophets” about bringing in Gentiles to the faith. This Gentile conversion and enveloping into the early Church was foreseen in the Old Testament. Again, some did in fact consider the Gentiles a separate group, but there were the Inspired Apostles who held out for thinking of the Gentile believers as being a part of them and not distinct after all. Keep in mind that all the Apostles were technically Old Testament Saints. There may be some argument for Paul being a Gentile believer, but he admitted that he was a rabbi and killed the Gentile believes out of sanctity of Old Testament principles.

Notice that the Church, this post-Pentecost group of believers, is something that was prophesied of in the Old Testament prophets. The entire argument by James relies upon the Old Testament prophets for inclusion of Gentiles into the group of people who had faith in Christ. There is no argument proposed anywhere to the effect that “no, Gentiles are separate and distinct from us Jews.” There is no mention at the Council of Jerusalem about Jews being the outsiders to a Gentile church.

The Lord Jesus Christ has become a “servant” to all believers “on behalf of the truth of God” (Romans 15:8):

  1. To the circumcision, Christ confirms “the promises given to the fathers…”
  2. To the Gentiles, that they may glorify God for His mercy (v. 9).

From texts in Deuteronomy 32:43, 2 Samuel 22:50, Psalm 18:49, 117:1 and Isaiah 11:10, Paul instructs the reader that God informed the Old Testament people concerning the future of the Gentiles.

Gentiles would become part of the people of God according to the promise given to the fathers. The Gentiles, as the Old Testament prophets looked forward to the time when Paul wrote, will (1) give praise to God, (2) rejoice in God as a part of the people of God, (3) have hope in Christ.

It is the grace of God toward sinners that Christ tasted death (Hebrews 2:9). It pleased God “in bringing many sons to glory” (v. 10) to “perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.” We are counted as “sons of God.” And it is true that “He who sanctifies” and “those who are sanctified are all from one Father” (v. 11). We are one group of believers through one Father. We are, as the Word proclaims, “children whom God has given Me” (v. 13; cf. Isaiah 8:18). It is said that Christ’s ministry is one of freedom for “those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (v. 14). But it is not a ministry to angels, but “He gives help to the descendant [literally, “seed”] of Abraham” (v. 16).

We are the children of God through the promise. He has made us a holy nation. We, who are post-Pentecost believers, have be-come a part of “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession” (1 Peter 2:9; cf. Exodus 19:5-6 and Deuteronomy 7:6).

It is the very passage of Exodus 19:5-6, which finds direct fulfillment in 1 Peter 2:9, that speaks of the covenant to make “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” of the people of God. These are the words that are to be spoken by Moses “to the sons of Israel” (v. 6). This message is the message of “My covenant,” as God considers it.

This same promise of God is interpreted even by the Apostle John to refer to the Church! In Revelation 1, we are told that it is “Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth” who has “released us from our sins by His blood and has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father” (vs. 5-6). We, as “New Testament” believers or post-Pentecost believers, are God’s holy nation. Christ has made us such through His atoning work and His perfect life.

We see the Apostle Paul, in Acts 13:17-41, describes how Christ is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promises and preached to all the message of “the good news of the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled this promise to our in children in that He raised up Jesus” just as it was prophesied (13:32-33, cf. Isaiah 55:3). The promises have been fulfilled in Christ. There can be no question of the Apostle’s language.

The Christian Church is not made perfect apart from Israel. Just the contrary: We are made perfect together in the one plan of God for all eternity. Conversely, Israel is not waiting for a better fulfillment to the promise of God. Hebrews 12:40 informs us that the Old Testament saints did not receive the promises of God “because God ‘‘had provided something better for us‘‘, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.”

And we have also seen in very clear terms, and in many passages by different authors of the New Testament, that in the Church, the promises to Abraham and David have been fulfilled as Solomon declares: “Now, O Lord God, Your promise to my father David is fulfilled, for You have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth” (2 Chronicles 1:9).

It is staggering to remind ourselves of those who would deny this beautiful blessing of Christ on Gentile believers. Opponents to this teaching of the prophets and apostles relegate the promise of the patriarchs to a future earthly millennial kingdom.

All the promises of greatness to the children of Israel will come to fruition at that time. 183)

The Gentiles are brought into something much larger than themselves which is not unique to them. They are brought into fellow-ship with the true people of God, to glorify God for His mercy.

Abraham is the father of many nations. He is the father of us all. We are his sons who have faith in Christ. The prophets looked forward and spoke of the grace that came to us according to the promise of Abraham. We are the fulfillment of Old Testament promises and we have been brought into true Israel and are part of God’s holy nation; we are His royal priesthood of all believers, Old Testament or New.

Although this list is not an exhaustive list of fulfilled promises cited in the New Testament, it should serve as an overview of the singular plan of God to bring the post-Pentecost Church and count them as the “commonwealth of Israel” and “fellow partakers” in the promises to the Old Testament Saints.

Promise to Israel

  • Genesis 12:7 Land Promise
  • Fulfillment Galatians 3:16

Promise to Israel

  • Genesis 15:6 Abraham’s descendants
  • Fulfillment Galatians 3:6-29 (Colossians 3:10-11)

Promise to Israel

  • Isaiah 49:6 The preservation of Israel
  • Fulfillment Acts 13:47

Promise to Israel

  • Isaiah 54:1-3 Enlargement of the tent of Israel
  • Fulfillment *Galatians 4:27

Promise to Israel

  • Jeremiah 31:31-34 New Covenant
  • Fulfillment *Hebrews 8:8-12; 10:16-20

Promise to Israel

  • Hosea 2:23 “Not my people” will be His people
  • Fulfillment Romans 9:24-26

Who is the Israel of God?

  • Galatians 6:16 (Romans 9:6)

By faith, all the promises to Israel have found fruition in the ministry of Christ and the Apostles to the Church.

Different Futures

The last of Lahaye’s objections arguing for an Israel-Church distinction are: (1) “The promises of God to Israel revolve around the restoration of the kingdom” and (2) “the church is awaiting the coming of her Lord to take her to the Father’s house as He promised.” 184)

The first part of his objection has been handled in some detail in the preceding pages. Lahaye has attempted his point that the promise of Israel’s “kingdom of righteousness…will yet be fulfilled during the Millennial kingdom,” when Christ becomes the “King of kings and Lord of Lords. All the promises of greatness to the children of Israel will come to fruition at that time.” 185)

God said He would make Israel a great nation and has done exactly that through Christ and uniting “wild branches” with the “rich root of the olive tree” (Romans 11) and making a people who once were “excluded from the commonwealth of Israel,” into “God’s household” (Ephesians 2:12, 19). Those “who were far away” are “being built together” into “one dwelling of God in the Spirit” (vs. 17, 22). And since “neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation,” we are all “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:15-16).

But in relation to the first part of this objection, the second seems rather odd. Are we to understand that the future of the Church is to await the coming of the Lord at which point Christ will take us to the “Father’s house”? So we, this separate group of believers from Pentecost to the Rapture, are supposed to be in heaven and Israel is supposed to have a millennial kingdom apart from us Gentiles?

If this is so, it most strange that Gentile believers are said to be

  • …fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22)

There is only one dwelling that the Apostle Paul knows of. There is only one “Father’s house” that Paul mentions. They, the believers of all ages, exist as one people of God.

The Church is no doubt fulfilling the promises of Old Testament Israel as a part and a continuation of the remnant or true people of God. Christians are, now and at this present time, part of the dwelling of God. Christians are, right now, participating in the reign of Christ. The Davidic-throne-promise has come to pass and is realized.

Lahaye also lets us in on a very “sobering fact that Israel can look forward to enduring the Tribulation period,” without the Christian Church. He tells us “The Church is not needed during the Tribulation period, for the commission to reach the world for Christ will be extended to the Jews during that time.” 186)

However, wasn’t it that same author who, in his third objection, argued “Israel was never given the great commission” and the Church “is seen as the lampstand” to which is “given the promise and presence of the Holy Spirit to fulfill Christ’s “great commission” (Matthew 28:19-20)” 187)?

If the Great Commission is understood as one that makes disciples of all nations and it is given to and fulfilled by the Church, then who is left to make disciples of? Why do we have, now, a second Great Commission? We see one for the Church out of Matthew 28. But we look in earnest for one applying to Israel during the Tribulation.

Apparently, Israel is supposed to have a ‘‘different future‘‘ (Lahaye’s fourth objection) from the Church, one which involves “the commission to reach the world for Christ” and at the same time has a ‘‘different purpose‘‘ (third objection) from the Church because “Israel was never given” the commission.

It is at this point we must suggest that the arguments presented in ‘‘Rapture Under Attack‘‘ are very, very confusing.

A Shared Heritage and Inheritance

We suggest to the reader that the future of “Israel” and the purpose of “Israel” coincide, compliments, continues and is brought to completion in the past, present and future of the Church. And though differing externally in many ways, in essence believers of all ages are one group.

We should not close our eyes to the patent fact that the name “Church” (Heb. q’‘ahal, ‘‘rendered ‘‘ekklesia ‘‘in the Septuagint) is ap-plied to Israel in the Old Testament repeatedly, Josh. 8:35; Ezra 2:65; Joel 2:16. The fact that in our translations of the Bible the Old Testament rendering of the original is “gathering,” “assembly,” or “congregation,” while the New Testament rendering of it is “Church,” may have given rise to misunderstanding on this point; but the fact remains that in the Old Testament as well as in the New the original word denotes a congregation or an assembly of the people of God, and as such serves to designate the essence of the Church. 188)

  1. The “Christian Church” is without foundation or even definition if not founded and based upon the promises to Israel, as is evident in earlier pages of this study.
  2. The Christian Church receives the Messiah promised to Adam, the Patriarchs and the Prophets and Who was revealed in history to His people.
  3. The Christian Church shares the same status as people of the promises of God, for it is His chosen nation, His holy priesthood, and His own possession for His glory.
  4. The Gospel is, itself, the very promise made to the Old Testament saints and realized in Christ (Acts 13:32) and it is also the message of the ascension of Christ onto the Davidic throne as King of kings and Lord of lords.

As we’ve seen elsewhere in this study, “there is one body and one Spirit,” but we are to know that there is also only “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6, cf. 1 Corinthians 8:6, 1 Timothy 2:5).

There is only one Mediator, “one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him” (1 Corinthians 8:6, cf. Ephesians 4:4-6, 1 Timothy 2:5).

There is only one way of salvation, for Christ says that He Is “the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6) and Christ’s promise is good “that of all that He [the Father] has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day” (John 6:39). It is this message that “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” that the Apostles carried to the people (Acts 4:12).

There is only one gathering of the saints, whether they are dead or alive, to Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:15, 17, cf. John 5:24-29 and 1 Corinthians 15:20-28).

Believers of all ages share “one hope” (Ephesians 4:4) and are of “one body” with Israel (3:6). Believers of all ages are one house-hold (2:19), one holy city, the heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:22-24, Revelation 21:1-27) and one flock (John 10:16).

There is only one purpose for all. Our “adoption as sons through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:6), our “inheritance” (v. 12) and our “redemption” as “God’s own possession” (v. 14) are for, and only for, “the praise of His glory.” Gentile believers have been adopted into the household of God (1:6 and 2:19), to which we have “obtained an inheritance” that was according to the promise (1:13) and have been redeemed as part of God’s people of all ages (1:14, cf. Exodus 19:5, Deuteronomy 7:6, Titus 2:14), just as God has promised.

For those who wish to find some other type of fulfillment of the promises to Abraham and to physical Israel, let them look no further than Nehemiah 9:21-24!

Indeed, forty years You provided for them in the wilderness and they were not in want; their clothes did not wear out, nor did their feet swell. You also gave them kingdoms and peoples, and allotted them to them as a boundary. They took possession of the land of Sihon the king of Heshbon and the land of Og the king of Bashan. You made their sons numerous as the stars of heaven, and You brought them into the land which You had told their fathers to enter and possess. So their sons entered and possessed the land.

But these promises had greater expectations all of which are brought into clearer context through the inheritance found in Christ (Hebrews 11:39-40). All the promises that Christ has fulfilled fully belong to those that are in Him and this was the exact manner in which the Old Testament saints understood the promises (Acts 3:18-26, 15:15-18, Romans 15:4-12, Hebrews 11).

The Apostle Paul puts it yet another way: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us…in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:13-14) in full accordance with Old Testament prophecy (v. 13)!

As mentioned above, the Gospel, “the good news,” the message of Christ, was none other than a promise made to Israel (Acts 13, especially vs. 32-41). Paul’s defense to Agrippa in Acts 26:6-7 says essentially the same thing:

And now I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers; the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve God night and day. And for this hope, O King, I am being accused by Jews.

A Messiah would be sent to the people of God; Christ would come and bring an end to sacrifice and sin and to make atonement for iniquity (Daniel 9:24). It is Jesus to whom Malachi prophesies:

“Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming” says the Lord of Hosts. (Malachi 3:1)

Christ brings fulfillment to the promises of God to Israel. Christ is the messenger of God’s covenant. The “good news” of the Gospel isn’t “good” for the reason that there is an opposing “bad news” of condemnation. The “good news” is that Christ has brought to pass that which God had promised to the Old Testament saints, so it should be no wonder that the “good news” was pro-claimed in conjunction with the statement of Christ: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Jesus Christ is the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2) in full accordance with the plan of God since the time of Adam.

In case any miss the importance of this observation, let us read the words noted pre-tribulationists:

  1. “That the Christian now inherits the distinctive Jewish promises is not taught in Scripture.” Lewis Sperry Chafer citing CI Scofield’s ‘‘Reference Bible‘‘ notes.
  2. “The whole tenor of the chapter [Romans 11] is against either the idea that Israel has lost all future hope of fulfillment of their promises through cancellation or that the church has received these promises and Israel is disinherited.” John F. Walvoord
  3. “Since the church today is composed of both Jews and Gentiles without national distinction it would be impossible for the church to fulfill God’s promises made exclusively to the nation of Israel.” J. Dwight Pentecost
  4. “The church is not fulfilling ‘‘in any sense‘‘ the promises to Israel.” [emphasis added] Charles C. Ryrie189)

J. Dwight Pentecost even went so far to state that the promises to Israel are earthly and based “in the covenants,” yet the promises to the Church are “heavenly promises in the Gospel.” 190)

Since Adam, Old Testament believers have been promised a Messiah. But in time, Christ was revealed with a message of repentance for all to hear. It is Peter who preached repentance and forgiveness “for the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself” (Acts 2:38-39).

Completely missing the issue, the “Doctrinal Statement” of the Pre-Trib Research Center states:

We believe that God’s plan for history demands a consistent distinction between national Israel and the church which includes an ongoing plan for national, ethnic Israel that culminates in Christ’s millennial kingdom. 191)

The framers of this statement have departed from consistent dispensational beliefs. It is not a distinction between ‘‘national‘‘ or ‘‘ethnic ‘‘Israel and the Church that leads one to belief in a pre-tribulation rapture, multiple plans of God in history, a future Tribulation based on Daniel’s 70th week and a future Davidic Throne rule of Christ in the millennium. It ‘‘is‘‘ a matter of distinguishing who receives the promises made to Abraham, the patriarchs and the prophets of the Old Testament.

Who would even attempt to dispute that “national, ethnic Israel” is different from the Church? There is no argument with this statement. However, the statement by the PTRC (Pre-Trib Research Center) is extremely misleading. It would have the reader assume that those who do not believe in a pre-tribulation rapture denounce a distinction between ethnic Israel and the Church.

As we have seen throughout this study is that the promises given to the Old Testament saints find their fulfillment in and including the “New Testament, Gentile Church” and are not found apart from it.

In God’s plan of history, there is only one group of believers and one group of unbelievers. There are not more or less than that. All believers of all ages are heirs of the same promise given by the same God. All unbelievers receive the same curse of condemnation for their rejection of Him.

The Old Testament promises are for all believers of all ages and it is this message that is deemed by the Apostle Paul as the “good news” (13:32). The Church does, in contrast to the protestations of Charles Ryrie, Tim Lahaye and their compatriots, fulfill promises made to Israel and therefore, their belief system is without foundation and is bankrupt.

The New Covenant(s) ?

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people…for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

One Dispensationalist, writing of the covenant in Jeremiah 31, explains that if there is any way “the church fulfills this covenant, she may also fulfill the other covenants made with Israel and there is no need for an earthly Millennium.” 192)

It is still an issue of fulfilled promises that distinguish one’s view of the pre-trib rapture and of the millennium. In previous chapters of this study, numerous authors have been cited indicating their disenchantment with any notion of covenantal promises being fulfilled in the Church. The reason is very simple: If any promises made to national Israel find fruition in the Church, their system of theology is without foundation. It is this essential theme that we return to again.

This Cup

When His disciples were eating with Him, Jesus took the bread, broke it, blessed it and said, “Take, eat; this is my body” (Matthew 26:26). Then He took the cup, gave thanks and “gave it to them saying ‘Drink from it all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins” (vs. 27-28).

In allusion to that [the sprinkling of blood by Moses], Jesus says, this cup is the ‘‘NEW covenant‘‘ in my blood; that is, ‘‘ratified‘‘, or ‘‘sealed‘‘ and ‘‘sanctioned by my blood‘‘. Anciently, covenants or contracts were ratified by slaying an animal; by the shedding of its blood; imprecating similar vengeance if either party failed in the compact. So Jesus says the covenant which God is about to form with men, the new covenant…is sealed or ratified with ‘‘his‘‘ blood. 193)

This “new covenant,” which Luke and Paul call it (Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25) is not in the cup itself, for that would be the wooden-literal interpretation, but it is Christ’s blood to which Jesus refers. Jesus reference to His blood in the New Covenant is reminiscent of the sealing of a covenant with sacrificial blood as in Exodus 24:8. And so Christ is the perfect sacrifice for He is the High Priest Himself who offers His own blood, contrasted with the offerings of Old Testament priests (Hebrews 5). The old sacrificial system was repeated time and time again, but Christ’s atonement was an event with no equal, an event with perfect achievement.

We must ask, in view of Luke 22:20 and 1 Corinthians 11:25, what people living at that time must have understood as the “new covenant”? Since early believers were no doubt familiar with the promise of a New Covenant in Jeremiah 31, we would expect some clarification of their comprehension of this particular promise.

2 Corinthians 3:1-6 is an incredible referent to the language of Jeremiah 31. Paul states that we Christians are a letter of commendation in Christ. We have no need for documents to that effect; we are “a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts (v. 3).

It is striking to note God’s words in Jeremiah 31:33, where His promise reflects a deviation from former things to a time when His law will not be written on “tablets of stone” (2 Corinthians 3:3), but “within them and on their heart I will write it” (cf. Jeremiah 31:33 and 2 Corinthians 3:3).

But Paul is not done with his allusion to Jeremiah 31. In verses five and six he informs the Corinthians that we are “not adequate in ourselves” however, “our adequacy is from God,” so we have been made “adequate as servants of a new covenant….”

We are His servants in a new covenant, just as Jeremiah wrote, “I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (31:33). God’s law for us is not one of stone, but one of the Spirit, for “the Spirit gives life” (3:6).

There are some, Paul argues, that have hardened minds and do not turn to the Lord, “for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ” (3:14). They focus on the veil of the Old Covenant, which has faded and is a “ministry of death” (v. 7), instead of on the New Covenant, which is in the Spirit, and is life.

There should be no doubt left as to the intention of Paul in speaking as he does. The New Covenant is based in Christ and is a present reality. The Old Covenant has passed away. The Old Testament promise in Jeremiah 31 has been realized with post-Pentecost believers in mind.

What can be clearer than Hebrews 6:13-7:28? It is here we learn that “when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one great, He swore by Himself, saying, ‘I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply you’” (6:13-14). But Abraham waited patiently and has “obtained the promise” (v. 15).

Jesus is the guarantee of the better covenant (7:22); He is the Mediator “of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises” (8:6). It is because the “first covenant” was found to have fault that a New Covenant was promised. And from Hebrews 8:8 through verse 12 and again in 10:16-17, we find Jeremiah 31:31-34 quoted to indicate the exact context of the New Covenant to which the phrase “a better covenant” refers. There is no question but to accept the words of Hebrew: The Old Testament promise is directly related to and brought to fore in the post-Pentecost Church.

God has made the old covenant obsolete and has instituted the New Covenant. There is no ambiguity. Christ “is the mediator of a new covenant” (9:15) it is said, and this is in direct relation to fulfilling the promise of God in Jeremiah 31.

God has provided His Son for our iniquities and has forgiven our sins in Christ (Hebrews 8:12; cf. Jeremiah 31:34 and Daniel 9:24). By His “one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” in accordance with Jeremiah’s prophecy, “their sins and lawless deeds I will remember no more” (Hebrews 10:14, 17). And so it is that “where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin” (v. 18). Christ’s atonement is the event that is the foundation for our redemption. His perfect offer-ing is the ultimate achievement and better promise of Old Testament sacrifice and offering symbolism. The things of the Old Tes-tament only foreshadowed Him. He is their fulfillment.

Jesus tells us that everyone who have believed in Him “has heard and learned from the Father,” and comes to Him in direct fulfillment of Jeremiah 31:34 (John 6:45). Jesus Himself interprets Jeremiah’s promise, relating it to faith in His name. Our Lord directly applies the fulfillment of Jeremiah 31 to all those who believe in Him.

The fulfillment of the “My people” aspect of Jeremiah’s prophecy is covered in an earlier section of this study. It should be sufficient to note at this point that God ‘‘has‘‘ called a people who were not His people and they are Gentile believers. We Gentile believers are the direct fulfillment of the “My people” promise of the Old Testament.

The Old Testament ties the old covenants together with the New. That the New Covenant is the ultimate fulfillment of Old Testament covenants and promises can be seen in Ezekiel 37:24-26. This passage ties together specific Abrahamic, Davidic and Mosaic promises and combines them with the promise of a New Covenant using the language of Jeremiah 31:31-34.

The New Testament interprets the “New Covenant” as completing and continuing to a greater degree the covenants of the Old Testament.

  • In the New Covenant era itself, we discover ‘‘continuity‘‘ with the preceding covenants. Romans 16:20 harkens back to the Adamic Covenant. Second Peter 3:5-7 draws a parallel with the Noahic Covenant. Romans 4:16 founds the New Covenant on the Abraham-ic. Romans 3:31 demonstrates the validity of the Mosaic. Romans 15:12 harkens back to Davidic Covenant. As mentioned above, Paul summed up the various Old Testament covenants as being “the covenants [plural] of the promise [singular]” (Eph. 2:12). There is both a basic unity undergirding the divine covenants, as well as a progressive development in them. Thus, with the coming of the New Covenant in the ministry of Christ, “the fullness of time” has been reached (Galatians 4:4). And these concern redemption… 194)

But surely there must be other passages where this teaching is further confirmed. In Romans 15:8, as discussed earlier, Paul does just that, he describes “the promises given to the fathers” as being “confirmed” in Christ.

It is the same Apostle who describes the “good news” as that which is “of the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus…” (Acts 13:32-33). And whether “promise” singular or plural, there is no mistake that Paul considers Christ the culmination of Old Testament promise.

If the New Covenant is fulfilled in the Church, then no new covenant can supersede or supplant it. It is the terminus of all previous covenants (Ezekiel 37:24-26).

If the New Covenant is satisfied in the Church, there is no future dispensational millennium. For if the New Jerusalem and the land promise to the fathers are brought to a head in Christ, the “future millennium” is being realized at this present time. And if any promises to Old Testament Israel come to pass in the Church, as many dispensationalists have admitted, there is no reason to hold to a belief in a pre-tribulation rapture or earthly, future millennium.


Tommy Ice, an associate of Tim Lahaye, has summarized the implications of preterism in his little manuscript ‘‘Has Bible Prophecy Already Been Fulfilled?‘‘

If we could take the time to study the rest of the Old Testament we would find that it is an expansion, consistent with the early prophetic roadmap, of God's prophetic plan. Dozens of passages predict a glorious future for Israel. 195)

Ice is limited to his anti-promise position. He cannot accept a belief that there is only ‘‘one‘‘ plan of God and that our Lord’s promises to Israel are brought to their intended purposes in the post-Pentecost Church.

If these texts are taken literally and historically then they have to have a future fulfillment. Jesus, in the Olivet Discourse and in the Revelation, in concert with the Old Testament also expands upon, but is consistent with, that prophetic roadmap begun in Deuteronomy.

It’s so nice to know that Jesus is consistent with Old Testament prophecy. For it is Him, very God of very God, who commissioned the Apostle Paul to tell the Ephesians that they “are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow-citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22)

It is no wonder that the teachings of those like Tim Lahaye, Tommy Ice, Grant Jeffrey, Hal Lindsey, Charles Ryrie, John Walvoord, CI Scofield and LS Chafer have been losing ground over the past century. Since it’s rise, dispensational teachings have had monumental shifts in its key tenets. There is a new movement within Dispensationalism’s ranks which has foregone the Israel/Church distinction in the face of the testimony of Scripture. It is called Progressive Dispensationalism.

Ice summarizes his approach:

  • Unless one just arbitrarily imports the theology of the church replacing Israel into many key texts, it is clear that hundreds of prophecies still speak of a literal and thus future fulfillment. I think it becomes clear that futurism is the only approach that makes sense of the Bible and its prophesies. 196)

The Futurism of Tommy Ice and his fellow pre-tribulationists has not made sense of the Bible. Their position and teaching have led to a mass of confusion and has led to serious Christians dividing over the issue of end-times theology.

To many people today, the pre-tribulation rapture has become an article of faith by which you can know a Christian. I have heard it preached and taught that if one rejects the pre-tribulation rapture, they are not a Christian and they will go through the future Tribulation like all other unbelievers. And all this time, I thought it was unbelief in Christ alone that decided one’s salvific future.

Ice complains “Like many of the arguments presented by preterists, they appear to have some initial merit when looked at by the biblically uneducated, but upon closer examination prove to be without merit. 197)

RC Sproul, noted theologian of our time, believes the preterist interpretation. Is he “biblically uneducated”? How about Spurgeon? Greg Bahnsen? John AT Robinson, Philip Schaff, Milton Terry, Jay Adams, David Chilton, CFD Moule, Augustus H. Strong, Adam Clarke, Westcott and Hort?

Lahaye claims almost the same as Ice when he says “Only a biblical illiterate is unable to see that these are the last days.” 198) One has to wonder how many times that statement of Lahaye’s will have to be updated to fit the latest pre-tribulational schemes in the decades to come. Scouring the newspapers for material is surely exhausting research, but it doesn’t qualify as Biblical exegesis. Sure, the Lord may come back whenever He likes, but it is commonly true that those who freeze them-selves into pre-tribulational paranoia do nothing but torture Christians with wave after wave of false predictions.

If this teaching is so true, where are the systematic theology texts based on the Israel/Church distinction? According to some pre-tribulationists, the Church is one of restraint and not supposed to engage in cultural transformation.

Christ will rule until all His enemies are vanquished and then He will give all things over to the Father (1 Corinthians 15-20-28). Apparently though, this does not involve the efforts of the Church. Our job, it appears, is to push tome after tome of theological drivel into the mass of the Church, hoping they digest the confusing and errant teachings, but for what purpose? To prepare Christians for the Tribulation when they are allegedly not even going to be here? Lahaye claimed that a proper understanding of the book of Revelation will give the Christian a “confident faith with which to confront the political, social, and religious chaos that is imminent.” 199)

So how does one accomplish this exactly? I have never heard of a Christian come before a Senate assembly, armed with the knowledge of the book of Revelation, and confront political chaos. And if this chaos is imminent, where is it? Why do these pre-trib teachers stress this utter pessimism of God’s plan of the ages? Christ presents us with a Gospel in His Body, the Church, which will never be vanquished. What do we have to fear from the world if Christ is for us? Surely, only a biblical illiterate would even propose that Christians should learn and study the Book of Revelation so they are not taken unaware by events they supposedly will never encounter.

Due to his inability to get past his Dispensational groundings in an Israel/Church distinction, Ice professes that “Preterism is false-ly built upon their misguided assumption, that they attempt to “prove” from various prooftexts, that Bible prophecy ‘‘had ‘‘to have its fulfillment within about 40 years of Christ’s first advent. 200) However, the case is just the opposite: Many Christians, and often the most historically significant, have stated that it is the very words of the Scripture that drives them to an early date for much New Testament prophecy. It is not an assumption. It is a literal hermeneutic driving the reader to understand the words of Christ as He meant them. Orthodox preterism is an attempt to admit that perhaps we are so arrogant in thinking that our modern Church is so important that we have missed out on the wondrous prophetic unfolding of the 1st Century Church. And it may not involve Cobra helicopters after all. There are no grand lists of interpretive rules that one must take to the Bible. The Preterist is not pre-disposed to towing a party line of futurism or pre-tribulationism.

Yet it is the pre-tribulationist who inserts all manner of interpretive rules in order to drive the student to their beliefs. To believe in a pre-tribulational rapture, you must believe in a Church/Israel distinction. You must believe that the whole book of Revelation is chronological, except for six chapters that are scattered throughout some end-times chart. You must believe, despite any evidence to the contrary, that certain texts can speak of the distant future, whereas some cannot. You must believe that God has multiple plans for different groups of people. You must believe that the post-Pentecost Church is an event completely unknown in the Old Testament. You can not believe that any promise made in the Old Testament is intended for the post-Pentecost believer.

The Dispensational approach to Scripture is a fool’s errand. It is arrogant and, in keeping with the teaching of Scripture and the history of the Church, it is heresy.

We agree with Tommy Ice when he notes that “There are many implications, both theological and practical, that would require a major adjustment to the Christian faith if they are right.” 201) In the arguments outlined above, one must admit that there is only one plan of God. One must admit that, in Christ, the promises made to the fathers are one and found in the Church. One must purge themselves of eschatological paranoia. One must believe that the Gospel is not one of defeatism. One must believe in a King now. One must believe that when Christ returns, it is not a rescue mission; it is a time of rejoicing in His victories over His enemies. Yes, it does make a “major adjustment” to one’s belief when one scrubs the cobwebs of pre-tribulationism from one’s eyes.

But Ice believes that “Because of the recent spread of Preterism, pastor and teachers need to be prepared to defend orthodox eschatology from this attack. 202) This is almost sad. Would the pre-tribulationist be willing to defend “orthodox eschatology” from John Wesley, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Isaac Newton and many others throughout Church history (including many Church Fathers)? His phrase “orthodox eschatology” is practiced deception. For him to defend his beliefs, he would have the reader believe that his view is the “recognized” truth of all time. But this is not even close to being partially true. His view is no older than 200 years old. Orthodoxy is defined as that which is the historic profession of the Church. He might try to argue premillennialism as ‘‘an‘‘ orthodox position, but then again, this belief was denounced as heretical early on in the Church’s history.

When our Lord and Savior comes again, He will raise “those who are His at His coming, then comes the end” (1 Corinthians 15:23-24). The Apostle Paul does not allow for a time period between the resurrection and the end. “Then the end” immediately follows the raising of “those who are His at His coming.”

Christ’s coming is not one-part rescue mission and the next coming “the real Second Coming” of the Lord. His coming for the saints is “His coming.” The final “coming” to which Scripture speaks is the only one which believers in Christ participate in. It is at that point when Christ hands over His kingdom to the Father, “for He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet” (15:25).

Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy, Matthew 24 and Revelation do teach a future Tribulation. However, that Tribulation was fulfilled as Jesus said it would to those He promised it would. There is no room for a Pre-Tribulation rapture if the Tribulation has come and gone. The preterist approach has been an acceptable position throughout Church history, whereas premillennialism was found to be heresy after it arose in the early Church. It was a belief grounded in rabbinical theology, namely, that the promises of the Old Testament regarding the Kingdom of the Messiah must be physical and on earth in a vast Holy City exclusively inhabited by believers, destroying all unbelief in open conflict. This is not the Church in the world. It is the Church banished from influence in an unbelieving world.

Yet, the Christian “inherits” the promises made to Israel and is made part of true Israel. The Old Testament promises to the “Fathers,” find their fruition in those who believe in Christ regardless of the time or people-group they may have been born into. The New Covenant is in Christ’s blood to all those who believe in Him. This is a distinctly “Jewish” promise fulfilled in the Church.

Finally then, here is the ‘‘sine qua non‘‘ of pre-tribulational convictions: “Those who believe that Christ came in A.D. 70 will certainly not be found looking for our Lord's any-moment return when He does rapture the church without any signs or warning before this blessed event. 203) Tommy Ice is convinced that professing Christians who do not believe in his view are not true Christians at all. This is horrible. How has the Church that Christ instituted come to such divisiveness? In Ice’s system, those who reject the novelty of the pre-tribulation rapture and its futurism will go through what he believes is reserved only for unbelievers.

This is the reason for this work. That Christians understand there is not ‘‘one‘‘ end-times view. Disagreement should not mean dis-fellowship. Yet to many, that is exactly what it means. For some, if you reject their end-times mischief, you are damned and not worthy to be called brother.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

Author Page

Christianity | History

Layahe, Tim. ‘‘Rapture Under Attack: Will You Escape the Tribulation?‘‘ (Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Publisher, Inc., 1998), 11.
Rapture Under Attack. 12.
Rapture Under Attack. 13.
4) , 5)
Rapture Under Attack. 15.
6) , 7)
Rapture Under Attack. 234.
Revelation Unveiled. 17.
Rapture Under Attack. 229.
10) , 152) , 163)
Rapture Under Attack. 222.
11) , 159)
Ibid. 229.
13) , 14)
Rapture Under Attack. 23.
Rapture Under Attack. 24.
Rapture Under Attack. 26-27.
Lahaye, Tim. ‘‘Revelation Unveiled.‘‘ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1999), 101.
18) , 19)
Revelation Unveiled. 105.
Bell, William Everett. ‘‘A Critical Evaluation of the Pretribulation Rapture Doctrine in Christian Eschatology. ‘‘Unpublished doctoral dissertation. (School of Education of New York University, 1967). 26-27. Cited in Boyd. ‘‘A Dispensational Premillennial Analysis. ‘‘90n.
Lahaye. Rapture Under Attack. 63-64.
Lahaye. Rapture Under Attack. 63.
Gentry. He Shall Have Dominion. 325.
Citations on the multiple fulfillments of Daniel 9:24 from Mathison. Postmillennialism. 221.
Gentry. He Shall Have Dominion. 327.
Lahaye. Revelation Unveiled. 135.
27) , 28) , 31) , 35)
Lahaye. Revelation Unveiled. 136.
Walvoord. Millennial Kingdom. 227. Quoted in Mathison. Dispensationalism. 19.
Pentecost. Things to Come. 137.
See Josephus’ accounts in War of the Jews.
Pascal, Blaise. Pensees. 9:709.
Clement of Alexandria. Miscellanies. Book 1, chapter 21. In ANF 2:651.
Lahaye. Rapture Under Attack. 89.
Lahaye. Rapture Under Attack. 90.
Walvoord. Armegeddon. 152.
Chafer. Systematic Theology. 4:316.
Chafer. Systematic Theology. 5:116-117.
Spurgeon, Charles Haddon. The Gospel of the Kingdom: A Popular Exposition to the Gospel According to Matthew. (Albany, Oregon: Sage Software, 1996 [1893]). Pg. 413.
Spurgeon. The Gospel of the Kingdom. 417.
Josephus, Flavius. Wars of the Jews. 6:5:2.
Josephus, Flavius. Wars of the Jews. 6:5:3.
Reicke, Bo. The New Testament Era: The World of the Bible from 500 B.C. to A.D. 100. (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1968). 110. Cited in Gentry. He Shall Have Dominion. 357.
Chyrsostom, John. The Homilies in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. 1:10:945.
Vincent. NT Word Studies. 1:253.
Eusebius. Church History in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. 2:1:191 [Chapter eight of book two].
Mathison. Postmillennialism. 112.
Foxe, John. The Book of Martyr’s. 16-22
Easton’s Bible Dictionary. 352. Sage Software.
Mathison. Postmillennialism. 113.
53) , 54) , 66)
Spurgeon. Commentary on Matthew. 420.
Josephus. The Wars of the Jews. 6:6:1-2.
Whiston. The Life and Works of Josephus. 2096.
Tertullian. Apologetic. Chapter 16, page 162 as cited by Whiston; Felix, Minucius. The Octavius of Minucius Felix in Ante-Nicene Fathers. 4:346-347. Chapter eight.
Spurgeon. Commentary on Matthew. 421.
59) , 60)
Josephus. The Wars of the Jews. 6:6:2.
Josephus. The Wars of the Jews. 6:6:1.
Eusebius. Church History. 3:5.
Josephus. The Wars of the Jews. 4:9:2.
Josephus. The Wars of the Jews. 6:6:3-4.
Josephus. The Wars of the Jews. 3:6:2.
Josephus. The Wars of the Jews. 6:5:3.
Tacitus. Histories. 5:13.
Eusebius. Church History. 3:7-8.
Lahaye. Rapture Under Attack. 89-90.
72) , 73) , 74)
Ice, Thomas. Has Bible Prophecy Already Been Fulfilled? PDF document from the Pre-Trib Rearch Center. 15.
75) , 131) , 136)
Lahaye. Rapture Under Attack. 64.
Revelation Unveiled. 105-106.
For an introduction to this cult mentality based on Revelation and other prophetic Biblical texts, see DeMar, Gary. Last Days Madness. (Atlanta: American Vision Inc., 1994). 7-24.
78) , 198) , 199)
Lahaye. Revelation Unveiled. 10.
79) , 133)
Lahaye. Revelation Unveiled. 36.
80) , 81)
Lahaye. Revelation Unveiled. 99.
Lahaye. Revelation Unveiled. 17.
83) , 85) , 94) , 104) , 125) , 138)
Lahaye. Revelation Unveiled. 19.
Lahaye. Revelation Unveiled. 35.
86) , 87)
Lahaye. Revelation Unveiled. 63.
Irenaeus. Doctrines of Cerdo and Marcion: Against Heresies. 1:26:3.
Ice. Has Bible Prophecy Already Been Fulfilled? 21.
90) , 91)
Ice. Has Bible Prophecy Already Been Fulfilled? 17.
Lahaye. Rapture Under Attack. 95.
Gentry. Before Jerusalem Fell. 19.
Gentry. Before Jerusalem Fell. 30-38. Full citations are given by Gentry.
Irenaeus. As to the Number of the Name of the Antichrist in ANF. Book 5, chapter 30, section 2. 1:1122.
Gentry. Before Jerusalem Fell. 45-67.
Irenaeus. ANF. 1:1120.
Clement of Alexandria. Miscellanies. Book 7, chapter 7. ANF: 2:1128.
Clement of Alexandria. Miscellanies. Book 1, chapter 21. ANF: 2:660.
Gentry. Before Jerusalem Fell. 68-85; cf. Clement of Alexandria in Miscellanies, 2:1221 (Salvation of the Rich Man, section 42).
Tertullian. Exclusion of Heretics. 36. Cited in Gentry. Before Jerusalem Fell. 95.
Clement of Alexandria. Miscellanies. Book 7, chapter 7. ANF: 2:1122-1123.
Justin Martyr. Dialogue with Trypho. Chapter 80. ANF, 1:462.
Caius. Muratorian Canon in ANF, 5:1220.
Tertullian. Answer to the Jews. In “Part First,” Chapter 8. ANF: 3:284-289.
Schaff, Philip. History. 1:428.
Heresies. Cited in Gentry. Before Jerusalem Fell. 104.
“Other scholars who agree with an assessment such as Hort’s include Moffat, Guthrie, Robinson, and Mounce,” in Gentry. Before Jerusalem Fell. 104.
Eusebius. Church History. 39. In ANF: 2:1:252-253.
Jerome. Live of Illustrious Men. 19. In ANF: 2:3:739.
See Evangelical Demonstrations, cited by Gentry. Before Jerusalem Fell. 103.
Hurte, William. Catechetical Commentary. (Edinburgh: 1884).
Cited in Gentry. Before Jerusalem Fell. 107.
Wesley, John. Notes on the Bible. Volume 1, chapter 1.
Clement of Alexandria. Miscellanies. Book 1, chapter 22.
Tertullian. Answer to the Jews. Chapter 8.
Victorinus. Commentary on the Apocalypse, in On the Creation of the World. Chapter 17:11; 20:1-3.
Severus, Sulpitus. The Sacred History, in The Works of Sulpitus Severus. In ANF: 2:11:233. Chapter 29.
Lactantius. Of the Manner in Which the Persecutors Died. 2.
Chrysostom. Homilies on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans. Homily 31.
Commodia-nus. Elucidation. Commentary by Dr. Schaff. 4:431.
Lahaye. Revelation Un-veiled. 26.
127) , 128) , 129)
Lahaye. Revelation Unveiled. 26.
Lahaye. Revelation Unveiled. 26-27.
Lahaye. Rapture Under Attack. 50.
Barnes Notes on the New Testament. 248.
Barnes Notes on the New Testament. 1568. Revelation 3:10.
Lahaye. Rapture Under Attack. 58.
Revelation Unveiled. 325.
Revelation Unveiled. 325
141) , 142)
Revelation Unveiled. 328.
Ibid. 329.
Revelation Unveiled. 349.
Thanks to Dr. Ken Gentry for these texts.
Revelation Unveiled. 350.
Hodge, Charles. Commentary on 1 Corinthians. 351. Sage Software version.
Rapture Under Attack. 230.
Chafer, Lewis Sperry. Systematic Theology (Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1948) 4:323.
Chafer. Systematic Theology. 4:324.
Chafer. Systematic Theology. 5:341.
Walvoord, John F. The Rapture Question, revised edition (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), 21-22.
Ryrie, Charles. Dispensationalism Today (Chicago: Moody Press, 1965), 47.
Walvoord. The Rapture Question. 21-22.
Rapture Under Attack. 233.
Rapture Under Attack. 231-232.
Ibid. 231.
Clowney, Edmund P. Countours of Christian Theology: The Church, ed. By Gerald Bray (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1995) 42-43.
164) , 167)
Walvoord, John F. The Millennial Kingdom (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1959), 280.
For example, Lewis Sperry Chafer Major Bible Themes (Chicago: Moody Press), 278.
166) , 171) , 175) , 176) , 179)
Lahaye. Rapture Under Attack. 231.
168) , 169)
Clowney. The Church. 43.
170) , 174)
Spurgeon, Charles Haddon. There be some that Trouble You, in The Sword and Trowel, (March 1867). 120.
Martyr, Justin. Dialogue with Trypho. Chapter 123. ANF, 1:512.
Barnes, Albert. Barnes Notes on the New Testament. Ed. By Ingram Cob-bin, eighth printing. (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1975), 1721.
Passages for these categories noted by Gentry, Kenneth L. He Shall Have Dominion (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1997). 197.
Many disagree with this interpretation of “this rock” meaning the confession of Peter. This work takes for granted the Evangelical, Protestant definition and will not address that area of contention.
180) , 183) , 185)
Lahaye. Rapture Under Attack. 230.
Gentry. He Shall Have Dominion. 199.
Pentecost. Things to Come. 127.
184) , 186)
Lahaye. Rapture Under Attack. 232.
Lahaye. Rapture Under Attack. 231-232.
Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology, second edition, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1941), 571-572.
Citations appear in Mathison, Keith A. Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God? (Phillipsburg: P & R Publishing, 1995) 19: Chafer, Lewis Sperry. Systematic Theology, 8 vols. (Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1947), 4:316; Walvoord, John F. Millennial Kingdom (Grand Rap-ids: Zondervan, 1959), 172; Pentecost, J. Dwight, Thy Kingdom Come (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1990), 173; and Ryrie, Charles C. The Basis of the Premillennial Faith (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1953), 136.
Pentecost, J. Dwight. Things to Come (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1958), 201.
Pentecost, J. Dwight. Things to Come (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1958), 116.
Barnes Notes on Matthew 26:28.
Gentry. He Shall Have Dominion. 115-116.
195) , 196)
Ice, Thomas. Has Bible Prophecy Already Been Fulfilled? 35.
197) , 200) , 201) , 202)
Ice, Thomas. Has Bible Prophecy Already Been Fulfilled? 35.
Ice, Thomas. Has Bible Prophecy Already Been Fulfilled? 35-36.

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