Thursday, January 14, 2010

Differing Views of the Rapture: Part 3 Post-Tribulation


Posttribulationists believe that Christ will come for his church after the Tribulation. They avoid using the term Rapture because they believe it to be unbiblical and that it suggest that the church will escape from the Tribulation which is contrary to their beliefs.[1] However it is referred to, posttribulationism teaches that the Rapture and the Parousia will occur at the same time. The church will, therefore, go through the Tribulation though will be protected from God’s wrath and judgment (1 Thess. 5:9).

Scripture verses concerning the end times are interpreted less literally in this view compared to pretribulationism. Where pretribulationism teaches that the Tribulation will be seven years, posttribulationism believes this period will last a substantial amount of time.[2] Additionally, Revelation 3:10 has a different meaning for posttribulationism. In their interpretation, the verb τηρέω (tereo /tay·reh·o) means to attend to carefully; to keep on in the state in which he is.[3] Posttribulationism points out that the verb αἴρω (airo /ah·ee·ro), which means to raise up or take up[4], could have been used in Revelation 3:10 as it was in John 17:15 had John intended to teach that Jesus would “rapture” the church. It would seem that John had in mind in Revelation 3:10 the same idea he expressed in John 17:15 that this would be a guarding of believers rather than removing them from the presence of danger.[5]

There is further biblical evidence to support the belief that the church will go through the Tribulation. In the Old Testament book of Daniel, there is mention in 11:36 of divine wrath during a period of intense persecution but nothing is said about the extent of this wrath and is does not indicate that this wrath falls on the saints.[6] Daniel does not make mention of the objects of the Tribulation wrath but a related text, Isaiah 26:20-21 does describe the selective nature of God’s wrath. If this passage of Scripture refers to the Tribulation then it is a clear indication that the saints on earth will be protected from God’s wrath. If this passage does not refer to the Tribulation, as some may argue, then there is a principle of a selective wrath of God that remains and may apply.[7]

Posttribulationism is certainly a less complex approach to eschatology. Since the Rapture and the Parousia occur at the same time in their view, there is no need for what they see as two second comings. There is also no need for more than two resurrections as pretribulationism teaches. They see only the resurrection of believers at the end of the Tribulation and the resurrection of the ungodly at the end of the millennium.[8]

Being less complex does not leave posttribulationism without problems of its own. Strong evidence of a two-phase Parousia are seemingly ignored rather than addressed head on. Additionally, rather than addressing ρπάζω (harpazo), posttribulationism seeks instead to focus on τηρέω (tereo /tay·reh·o) in Revelation 3:10. While the argument for the use of αἴρω (airo /ah·ee·ro) in place of τηρέω (tereo /tay·reh·o) seems compelling, the fact remains that ρπάζω (harpazo) means what it means and this is to be caught up.

The timing of the Rapture in this view necessarily means that the church will experience the wrath of God contrary to Scripture. This is an obvious problem. Yet another issue is that since the church merely meets Christ in the air and then returns to earth with Christ in this view, how then is the church to be in heaven for the marriage of the Lamb to His bride (Rev. 19:7-9)? There are other issues but the point seems clear: posttribulationism does not harmonize the conflicting passages of Scripture any better than pretribulationism.

[1] Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology 2nd Edition. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998), 1226.

[2] Ibid, 1227.

[3] Strong, James. The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order (electronic ed.). (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1996), G5083.

[4] Ibid, G142.

[5] Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology 2nd Edition. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998), 1228.

[6] Archer Jr., Gleason L., Paul D. Feinberg, Douglas J. Moo, and Richard R. Reiter. Three Views on the Rapture. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984, 1996), 173-74.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid, 1229.

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