Trying to Get the Rapture Right (Part 8)

The Church in the Seventieth Week?

Of the several options on the timing of the rapture only the pretribulational view keeps the Body of Christ entirely out of the Seventieth Week of Daniel 9. But that fact says little if in fact the Church is said in Scripture to go through some or all of it. To my mind, it is no good trying to place the Body of Christ in the Seventieth Week unless there are solid reasons for doing so and appropriate excuses for diminishing the very Jewish emphasis in passages which do concern this period.

We have seen that God had in mind “Your [i.e. Daniel’s] people” in the prophecy. It also focused in on “your holy city”—Jerusalem. It is within this same period that the Olivet Discourse is situated. And there, as we have seen, Jesus is talking to Jews about Israel. We get the same story when we look at Daniel 12 or Jeremiah 30. In the Revelation the Church is not mentioned after chapter 3 and the stress is mainly upon all things Israel (7:3-8; 9:4; 11:1-2, 7-8; 11:19; 12:1, 13-14; 14:1-4; 15:3; 16:16), which is just what one would expect from reading earlier texts.

Paul in Romans 11 uses the term “Gentiles” as a kind of eponym for the Church. For instance, in 11:11, 12, 13, and especially 11:25 he is pointing out that God has deliberately turned to the Gentiles in this era. Israel as a nation is judicially blinded (11:7-10, 25, and 32), and although there will always be a saved remnant even in the Church (11:5), the fact remains that the Church is predominantly Gentile in complexion. But Paul says that God will once again turn to Israel (11:24), once “the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (11:25b).

I do realize that this does not go on to say “when the Church is removed”. All I am concerned with is delineating the [national] Israel-Church divide which seems apparent in these passages from Revelation and Romans. I do not see the Church in any reference to the Seventieth Week. I do see that God is focused back on Israel as predicted in Daniel 9 (and 7 & 12). The “fullness of the [saved] Gentiles” must mean something, for it has to be accomplished before this turning can happen. It can either happen as some Dutch-school amillennialists predict, and God can save a bunch of Jews just prior to Jesus’ return, or it can happen with the rapture of the Church at itscompletion. I reject the first option because it ignores an important point in the Apostle’s argument; namely the fact that it is national Israel that is in view (see Rom. 9:1-5, 10; 10:1, 21; 11:1-2, 7, 25-29). All those approaches which do not recognize this are, I believe, at fault. This includes those Progressive Dispensationalists who are okay with people becoming “Christians” in the Tribulation, and there being just one people of God. It also ignores the specific Israeli focus of the Seventieth Week as I understand it. Those who are fine with God dealing with the Church and the nation of Israel at the same time have not provided a clear rationale for it that I have seen.

Lastly, since the Church shall be married to Christ (2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:25, 32) before Christ comes back (Rev. 19:6-9), I think it reasonable to relate this to a pre (or mid) tribulational rapture (I reject the mid-trib. alternative here because of what I’ve said above). I think this is grounds for rejecting post-tribulationism, as well as suspecting Pre-Wrath, which needs Christ to return to collect the Church. This is what forces them (along with some other views), to look for the signs of Matthew 24 with regard to the Church.

Is Imminency a Biblical Teaching?

The pretribulational doctrine of the imminent return of Jesus is not a necessary component of the approach, but the strength of it as a biblical idea definitely reinforces the pretribulational claim. This position says that the warning signs in the Olivet Discourse are intended for Israel (cf. 1 Cor. 1:22), not the Body of Christ.

  1. James 5:8-9 – If Christ cannot return at any moment the coming of the Lord could never be said to be “at hand” and this passage simply makes no sense.
  2. 1 Thess. 1:9-10 – The idea here is an expectant waiting for the Lord’s return. If the “wrath to come” is that of chapter 5:3 and 9, called “the Day of the Lord” (5:2). This is the “wrath” we have been delivered from. If my previous argumentation holds any water then this is not wrath after the Second Coming. If it is the Coming itself then it is hardly earth-shattering news for saints to be told they won’t get stomped on.
  3. Titus 2:13 – If Paul believed Christ would have to return only after a long time, why would he describe believers as “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ”? He would tell them to look for the signs of Matthew 24 the way the Lord did to Israel.
  4. 1 Jn. 3:2-3 – This text indicates that the coming of Christ is a motivation to consecration. This would hardly be the case if the Apostles taught that He couldn’t return for a great while (i.e. if they denied imminency).
  5. Jn. 14:1-3 – Surely Christ will not come for believers just to bring them straight back again to Armaggeddon. He will take us to the mansions He has prepared for us.
  6. Rev. 22:7,12 and 20 – These again would be redundant statements if He could not come until some time after the start of the Tribulation.
  7. 1 Cor. 1:7 – Why wait for a revealing which is situated within or after the Tribulation?
  8. 1 Cor. 16:22 – If Jesus could not “come” at any time because the Tribulation precedes Him then why pray for this? After all, many saints are murdered in the Tribulation, or die en masse from other nasty things before the advent occurs.

Again, these are not airtight proofs of a doctrine of imminence, but they do pose questions which those who oppose the teaching should answer. i think a cogent argument for imminency can be built from these passages. And when brought together with the other reasons for pretribulationism already given they strengthen the abductive case for that point of view.

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Like a lot of important ideas, hard to spell!

Appreciate the synthesis here. I continue to see immanence as one of the stronger legs supporting the premil. understanding... and also find pondering it to be good fuel for the soul.

Paul Henebury's picture

Yes, I too think it is a strong plank, even if not a necessary one.  I believe I have spelled the word correctly though  ;-)

Re. your previous comment about the role of deduction in exegesis (which I apologize for not getting to), my position is that induction relates principally to C1 and C2 statements of Scripture (in context).  As far as the competing hypotheses of C3's are concerned, the best road is to seek to reduce, or "manage" our inferences (deductions) as much as possible.

Exegesis is often an abductive exercise, but it often doesn't have to be.  Anyway, the deduction I was pointing out was that which calls for an unequal weight given to our inferences.  The modern trend in theological hermeneutics and typological interpretation are examples.

 

God bless,

 

Paul  

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

James K's picture

That is an interesting theory about the James 5 passage.

Matthew 24
32 "Now learn this parable from the fig tree: As soon as its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near.
33 In the same way, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near-at the door!
34 I assure you: This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things take place.

Jesus said that they would be able to recognize that he is near and at the door...when they see all these things.  That is in fact, exactly what James said, that Jesus is near and at the door.  Should we believe that James interprets the end of all things differently than Jesus?

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Paul Henebury's picture

Well, firstly, I remind you that I did say that none of these are airtight.  I recognize that there must be some room for dissension.  That said, I do not find the direction of your argument persuasive because Jesus is expressly talking about Israel passing through the tribulation, whereas James, if we grant that he has the Church in view, may not.  Personally speaking, I am open to the connection you make because of Jam. 1:1; 5:10-11, 17.  But that would require a direct connection between the Olivet Discourse, and the things in it, and James 5.  If so, James 1:1 takes on a more distinctive aspect.  But this does little to impact the thrust of imminence in other passages.  Besides, it is one plank in a hypothesis.     

 

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

James K's picture

I do understand that it was only one point that I plucked out.  However, is it your argument that if we:

1. Infer that Israel is exclusively in view of Matt 24 and

2. Infer that the rapture already happened and

3. Infer that the DOTL is the same time frame as the "tribulation" and

4. we can then conclude that Jesus and James use the exact terminology of Jesus' return in entirely different times with completely separate meanings?

I want to make sure I understand that if we start with the needed parameters that we will in fact reach the desired conclusion.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Paul Henebury's picture

Yes.  As I said, the second (non-church) scenario fits your scheme.  If the first (church) scenario is correct I think imminence is on the cards.  I don't really consider the terminological issue to be decisive.  The Lord is speaking prior to Pentecost; James some time after.  But I don't want to minimize your point either.  You have brought up a valid objection to my use of James to teach imminency.  

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

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