Thursday, April 16, 2009

My Case for a Post-Trib Position

I compiled the following a couple months ago when I went back to evaluate my post-trib position to see if I still held it (I do). All quotes are from the NRSV.

THE CHRISTIAN RESURRECTION

I Cor 15
23But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

-"Christ the first fruits," Christ's resurrection-"then at his coming those who belong to Christ" Beginning of the millennium

24Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power.

- end of the millennium

25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

- By the end of the millennial reign Christ will have defeated Satan's last rebellion

26The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

51Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed,
52in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed

- The "last trumpet" in v. 52 refers to the coming of Christ in v.23, after which comes "the end" of v.24 referring to the outcome of the millennial reign of Christ in which he puts all enemies "under his feet" (v.25).


Rev 20

4Then I saw thrones, and those seated on them were given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

- This resurrection is at the end of the tribulation

5(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection.

- The second resurrection is at the end of the millennium

6Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. Over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him a thousand years.

- There is one resurrection for the church, at the beginning of the millennium. cf. I Cor 15:23

7When the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison
8and will come out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, in order to gather them for battle; they are as numerous as the sands of the sea.
9They marched up over the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from heaven and consumed them.

- cf. I Cor 15:25- Christ putting all enemies under His feet.


I Ths 4:14-17

14For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died.

- cf. I Cor 15:23, "then at his coming"

15For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died.

- A pre-trib rapture falsifies this verse. Consider: the pre-trib position splits the first resurrection into rapture 7 years before Armageddon, then resurrection of tribulation saints at his coming. In this scenario, the living at the rapture will be caught up prior to the resurrection of dead tribulation saints. Unless the "coming of the Lord" being referred to here is specifically referring to a pre-trib rapture, in which case you would expect Paul to explicitly say so in light of the looming contradiction. In fact, Paul does "split" the first resurrection, but only into two- Christ's resurrection and the resurrection of the saints (I Cor 15:23). Paul never attempts any further distinction in his epistles.

16For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

- The "last trumpet" cf. I Cor 15:52. If this is the beginning of the tribulation than what is the first trumpet? Pre-tribs say "last" should be understood as Christ's last command to the church at the end of the church age, but when prior have Christ's commands to the church ever been associated with trumpets? There is no Biblical precedent for that interpretation. It clearly seems to refer the last trumpet/last judgments upon the world at the end of the tribulation. This also gives further weight against the pre-trib interpretation of the preceding verse.

17Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever.

- Perhaps as we might meet a guest at the front door, only to return with them into the house.


Isa 27

12On that day the Lord will thresh from the channel of the Euphrates to the Wadi of Egypt, and you will be gathered one by one, O people of Israel.
13And on that day a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were lost in the land of Assyria and those who were driven out to the land of Egypt will come and worship the Lord on the holy mountain at Jerusalem.

Mat 24

29“Immediately after the suffering of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken.
30Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see ‘the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven’ with power and great glory.
31And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

"loud trumpet call"(Mat 24)="Great trumpet"(Isa 27)="last trumpet"(I Cor 15)="God's trumpet"(I Ths 4). Mat 24 and Isa 27 are clearly referring the end of the tribulation, and this seems to make clear that I Cor 15:52 and I Thess 4:16 are also referring to Christ's coming at the end of the tribulation.

Isa 25:9

It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

The final hope of Israel and the hope of the church converge in one event- the physical return of Christ at the beginning of the millennium and the resurrection of the righteous dead. This indicates a progressive dispensationalism rather than the classic dispensationalism that backs pre-trib doctrine.


DISPENSATIONALISM

Heb 11

39Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised,
40since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.

These verses, to me, are key to viewing the relationship between Israel and the church. The whole book of Hebrews is designed to show how the OT laws and sacrifices did not make perfect, but were fulfilled in Christ Who does. Israel and the church do not exist separately from each other.

Mat 15:24

He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

And so Christ's ministry was intended for the Jews only, at first.

Rom 11

1I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin.
2God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel?
3“Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars; I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.”
4But what is the divine reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”
5So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.

Rom 9

6It is not as though the word of God had failed. For not all Israelites truly belong to Israel,
7and not all of Abraham’s children are his true descendants; but “It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you.”
8This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as descendants.

Rom 11

11So I ask, have they stumbled so as to fall? By no means! But through their stumbling salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.
12Now if their stumbling means riches for the world, and if their defeat means riches for Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!
13Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I glorify my ministry
14in order to make my own people jealous, and thus save some of them.
15For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead!
16If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; and if the root is holy, then the branches also are holy.
17But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the rich root of the olive tree,
18do not boast over the branches. If you do boast, remember that it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you.

God is still dealing with Israel today! But not all of Israel are true Israelites because the promise is counted to the seed Isaac... a clear explanation that He is dealing with Israel through His Son, and only those who accept Christ remain grafted in... others are cut off. We as Christians are also heirs to the promise through Christ. The New Covenant is firstly a covenant with believing Israel and secondly to the whole world- "to the Jew first and also to the Greek." (Rom 1:16)

It is true that God is not dealing with Israel on a national level right now. But this was true even at times before Christ, after the kingdoms of Israel and Judah fell, when the Jews were dispersed. The only difference between the Biblical Diaspora and today is that before Christ, all Jews were part of the covenant who kept the Law, whereas today, only Jews who receive the Messiah are part of the covenant (Rom 9:6). There was never a turning away from Israel and God's heart still burns for those in the house of Jacob who do not believe.

Jer 30

3For the days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will restore the fortunes of my people, Israel and Judah, says the Lord, and I will bring them back to the land that I gave to their ancestors and they shall take possession of it.
4These are the words that the Lord spoke concerning Israel and Judah:
5Thus says the Lord: We have heard a cry of panic, of terror, and no peace.
6Ask now, and see, can a man bear a child? Why then do I see every man with his hands on his loins like a woman in labor? Why has every face turned pale?
7Alas! that day is so great there is none like it; it is a time of distress for Jacob; yet he shall be rescued from it.
8On that day, says the Lord of hosts, I will break the yoke from off his neck, and I will burst his bonds, and strangers shall no more make a servant of him.
9But they shall serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.

The Lord will bring Israel back to their land and set a ruler over them... "David their king." This is a messianic reference to Christ, who will rule in the millennium. Even when the Lord saves Israel and brings them back to their land, it will only be those of Israel who believe in the Messiah and accept Him as their King! Classical dispensationalism would almost lead one to believe that there is coming a universal salvation for the house of Jacob- but there is not! Rom 9:6 still applies even here. Only through Christ is the promise received:

Dan 12

1At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise. There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book.

Notice "your people" has the qualifier, "everyone who is found written in the book." Many if not most of the Jews, upon seeing Christ come in glory, will finally turn and accept. But God's dealing with the house of Jacob in the time of their distress does not represent a new dispensation. It is a special effort by God that includes the two witnesses (Rev 11) to evangelize Israel and turn them towards Christ- a last call, if you will.


THE MARRIAGE OF CHRIST AND THE HIS BRIDE, THE CHURCH

Rev 19

6Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.
7Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready;
8to her it has been granted to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
9And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.”

V.7 tells us that the marriage occurs at the second coming, along with the marriage supper.

The seven days of the traditional Jewish “(c)huppah” (wedding chamber), where the new couple spent time alone, were concurrent with the marriage feast (Edersheim’s Sketches - Ch9), and so would find their place after the second coming, not representing the seven prior years of tribulation.

We find the Hebrew word “chuppah” three times in the OT: Psa 19:5, Isa 4:5, and Joe 2:16.

Isa 4
2On that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and glory of the survivors of Israel.
3Whoever is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem,
4once the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning.
5Then the Lord will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over its places of assembly a cloud by day and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night. Indeed over all the glory there will be a canopy[CHUPPAH].

The Lord’s “chuppah” is created over Mt. Zion at the second coming.

Isa 2
2In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it.
3Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

Isa 2 and Isa 4 tie the chuppah and the Lord’s house together- both on Mt. Zion, both placed at the second coming.


GOING TO PREPARE A PLACE

Jhn 14
1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.
2In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.

“canopy”(Isa 4)=”Lord’s house”(Isa 2)=”my Father’s house”(Jhn 14)

Isa 2 and 4 place Jhn 14:3 at the second coming. Notice Christ says “take you to myself,” not “take you to my Father’s house.” God’s house will be placed on Mt. Zion at the second coming.

Through the Scriptures, the “Lord’s house” or “God’s house” has the tabernacle or temple in view. This is how the 12 would have understood His reference to the Father’s house. That there would be many dwelling places is evidenced by the following passages:

I Kgs 6:5 - He also built a structure against the wall of the house, running around the walls of the house, both the nave and the inner sanctuary; and he made side chambers all around.
I Chr 9:26 - for the four chief gatekeepers, who were Levites, were in charge of the chambers and the treasures of the house of God.

The Tabernacle and Temple were designed to mimic the heavenly, which place Christ will prepare and bring down to Mt. Zion. (Not to be confused, of course, with the New Jerusalem.)

IMMINENCE

Mark 13

32“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
33Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.

What day or hour? The “or hour” indicates a specific point of time when these things begin, rather than a general reference to the day of the Lord. But what is this referring to? Looking back to verse 4:

4“Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?”

What things?

2Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”

The temple is not being thrown down at the beginning of the tribulation.

29So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates.

Who is “he?” Jesus Christ at His second coming at the end of the tribulation:

26Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory.
27Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

What is our attitude to be?

28“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.
29So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates.
[…]
35Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn,
36or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.
37And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

The message is not one of being caught unaware. The message is one of looking for signs, and when you see the signs, you know the time is near. This is why we are commanded to keep awake. We will never know exactly when Christ comes, but will know the events leading up to His coming. We can accurately predict the Lord’s coming in a general sense based on Scriptural signs and prophecy, but never accurate in the sense that we can set a date. Thus Christ says that no one knows the “day or hour.”
As a matter of fact, woe to the Christian for whom the Lord’s coming does catch unaware! We have been told what is yet to come, and we must not sleep.

I Ths 5

1Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you.
2For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
3When they say, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape!
4But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief;
5for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness.

The Lord will come as a “thief in the night,” but only to the unbelieving world. To us who watch for Him, we will not be overtaken by it, we will be prepared and ready. It will not catch us off guard unexpectedly.

Also, if anything has to happen before Christ comes, that means it is not imminent. Several things were prophesied that all would agree preclude the Lord’s coming:

-Peter’s becoming a martyr (Jhn 21:19)
-The preaching of the gospel to the Samaritans, Gentiles, and the entire earth (Acts 1:8)
-The Great Apostasy and the revealing of the Antichrist (I Ths 2:3)
-The existence of scoffers (II Pet 3)

Some have occurred, some are waiting to occur.

2 comments:

ChrisNC said...

In the Johannine writings, the "first resurrection" refers to the new birth. See, for example, Jn 5: 24-29. Also, I Jn 3:14, "We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death." That is why the participant in the first resurrection isn't subject to the second death, which is final judgment 9the first being natural death). Paul uses similar imagery in Eph. 2:5-6, "...even when we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ - by grace have you been saved - and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus..." By placing the first resurrection in time, beginning in the apostolic period, the millenium of the Revelation must necessarily be interpreted as as a symbolic reference to the time between the first and second advents. The second resurrection is general, at the time of Christ's return (Dan. 12:2, Acts 24:15).

David T. said...

Rev 18 places the first resurrection at the end of the tribulation. Unless of course all of Revelation prior to that happened before the end of the apostolic age. Then where is the New Jerusalem? I just can't see your point of view.