This article first appeared in the Baptist Bulletin. © Regular Baptist Press, Arlington Heights, Illinois. Used by permission. Read Part 1.
The heart of the debate comes down to determining our role in God’s plan to reestablish the Mediatorial Kingdom. Do we have a job? Are we supposed to be helping God establish His kingdom? It would seem that most Christians believe this to some extent, simply judging by phrases like, “Helping God bring in the kingdom,” and “We need to reclaim culture for the kingdom.”
Where’s the truth in all of this? Ephesians 2:10 says, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” If God has asked us to work for Him, and if God’s overall goal in world history is to reestablish His kingdom, then our work must contribute to this in some way. But to what extent are we partners with God in this endeavor? Are we supposed to help God with everything He’s trying to accomplish?
There are three main views on the coming kingdom, and each view answers this question differently.
Premillennialism teaches that the kingdom has not come yet, and that it is going to come in the future in all of its glory, as predicted in Old Testament prophecy, with Jesus ruling and reigning this planet as the mediatorial, human (and divine) ruler.
This article first appeared in the Baptist Bulletin. © Regular Baptist Press, Arlington Heights, Illinois. Used by permission.
On a recent vacation, I took the opportunity to spy on another church. My family was visiting friends out of state who took us to their nondenominational, nonaffiliated church. My radar was tuned in. From the moment we stepped onto the property to the moment we left, I was analyzing everything.
In such settings, I play a game: see how quickly I can figure out the pastor’s theological perspective and his alma mater. As I was collecting evidence, I noticed several points of interest. A statement at the bottom of the bulletin made an impassioned plea for more people to help in various ministries. The motivational tagline at the end said, “Come join us as we build God’s kingdom.” Interesting. Using a theology of the kingdom to motivate ministry service.
I peered into the church library and spotted the Left Behind series prominently displayed. Interesting. At the end of the service, the pastor announced that they would soon begin a study of Daniel. At this point I was certain the pastor was most likely pre-millennial in theology.
(Read the entire series.)
This is the final part of this exploratory series on the rapture of the Church. Its main purpose has been to show that none of the competing positions on the “taking out” of the saints merits more than an “inference to the best explanation.” Within the Rules of Affinity this would be a C3. I have looked at posttribulationism and midtribulationism in the last post; here I shall look at the prewrath and pretribulational views.
This view is of very recent vintage, but for all that, it has articulated its position well and has won many advocates. In my opinion this position mounts some serious challenges for the other approaches. It deserves to be taken seriously.
(Read the entire series.)
As I bring this series to a close, I want to provide some summaries of the various rapture positions, along with a few pros and cons. Of course, I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, and I understand that much more could be said in support of each position. Still, my main goal has been to come at the doctrine from a slightly different angle and to present the theological issues which arise.
The posttrib position is that the church goes through the Tribulation. Proponents of this view rightly call attention to what they see as a natural correspondence between the Second Coming of Jesus and the rapture of the Church. Christ only comes once, they say, and it makes no sense to seek out any other event slotted into God’s calendar seven years before that great event.
This installment may be thought of as a digression, but I think it belongs to the overall argument.
Imagine a world where the removal of the saints from planet Earth happened but no one had the foggiest idea of when that might be. If the NT alluded to such a thing there would still be some hope that we just may be the ones to get called up. The doctrine of the rapture would still be a “sure thing”, it just wouldn’t be very concrete in our minds. Well, as a matter of fact, as a starting place for considering the rapture this isn’t that bad; there are far worse ones. A “worse” one would be the dogmatic insistence that the catching away of the Church as pretribulational is a dead-certainty. Another would be the blithe notion that the rapture occurs when Jesus returns to earth and any theories to the contrary are speculative fancies.
I am a pretribulationist. I think my main reasons for being so are theological, in particular the covenantal issues concerning the nation of Israel are a central concern to me. But I am not pretribulational because I adopt a form of theological hermeneutics (now so fashionable in some quarters). I have already made it clear that rapture scenarios cannot (in my opinion) rise above a “best explanation” conclusion. That is equivalent to a C3 in my Rules of Affinity. It will just not do to conflate Israel’s restoration promises with the future of the Church. The Body of Christ needs no restoration.
Often in the prophetic literature we come across predictions of final restoration and comfort for Israel, presaged by a time of great upheaval. Many times the texts involved include the phrase “In that day.” A sampling would include: Isa. 10:20-23; Isa. 24:17-23; Isa. 35:1-10; Isa. 40:1-5; Isa. 61:1-3; Jer. 30:3-11; Ezek. 34:11-31; Ezek. 36:1-38;Dan. 12:1-3; Zech. 13:8-9; Zech. 14:1-9.