Wednesday, July 11, 2012

No Pre-trib Return of Christ


For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  1 Thes. 4: 14-17 
Some teachers falsely teach that Christ is coming back three times.  It seems that they need that doctrine to add weight to the theory that The Church will not pass through the great tribulation.  They say that first Christ will come in the air for the Church, that is the rapture, then, after the seven year great tribulation Christ is coming to set up the Millennial kingdom and when that is finished Christ will return to judge the non-Christians and those people who made themselves Christians without the holy spirit’s help; because the spirit of God ascended with the Church at the rapture one thousand and seven years earlier.
In spite of Christ’s and Paul’s words, the argument continues.  A few people believe that Christ is coming back halfway through the great tribulation.  There is almost no evidence that lends weight to that theory at all, so it will be ignored here.  Many (Wikipedia says that about 95% of Evangelical Christians) believe that the return of Christ, in the air, will be before the great tribulation.  Mr. Thiessen is a proponent of this theory.   We will look at his arguments, in his book of theology, and using them, prove that his theory is hanging precariously, by slender threads.  Those threads are fastened on hooks called “if, we can surmise, and probably”.
To no avail, Mr. Thiessen quotes Moffat, It is impossible from the grammer and difficult from the sense to decide (if the text) means successful endurance or absolute immunity.  Here, Mr. Thiessen has gained no strength for his argument.  Even the person he is quoting says the argument is not definitive or conclusive.
Mr. Thiessen uses Noah as an example of one who was taken out of “the great tribulation” in the ark.  Actually, this is a story from history, and it has nothing to do with the Church.  However, if for the sake of argument, we agree that Noah symbolizes the Church, it must be pointed out that Noah is a picture of a person who was “safe in Christ”, not a person who went to heaven.  After all, Noah had to come back to earth after the ordeal of the flood, but the Church will not come back to earth after the rapture.  Noah is a very poor example, with no argumentative value, to show that the rapture will happen before the great tribulation.
Lot’s deliverance from Sodom, also used by Mr. Thiessen as an example of a pre-tribulation rapture, is also an historical event and has absolutely nothing to do with the Church or with the great tribulation and so that case cannot be used as an example.
Mr. Thiessen attempts to make a case for a pre-tribulation rapture from the 69-70 weeks of Daniel chapter nine.  Many Bible teachers try to do this.  However, after having made his closing argument, he says if that week is still future.  What if it is not, then he has made no valid argument at all.  This is a good example of how weak the whole line of reasoning for a pre-tribulation rapture really is.
Next, he quotes from Isaiah 26. Come, my people, enter your chambers, And shut your doors behind you; Hide yourself, as it were, for a little moment until the indignation is past. Mr. Thiessen suggests that the indignation speaks of the great tribulation, and that hiding indoors, represents the rapture of the church.  Did Mr. Thiessen not notice the words, for a little moment?  The effects of the rapture are not just for a little moment, they are eternal.  If he wants to take portions of Scripture out of context, and apply them where they do not belong, he should at least follow through with that method and try to make it all fit, not just the words that suit his ideas.  When a Bible teacher tries to prove ideas that the Bible does not endorse, that teacher must “grasp at straws” or else he ends up with nothing in his hands.
Mr. Thiessen then turns his attention to the twenty-four elders around the throne of God in The Revelation.  One argument that he uses that these represent the redeemed is that twenty-four priests served in the temple in Jerusalem at one time.  What, in this world, does that have to do with the Church or Christ’s return?  Thiessen writes, they are representatives of all the saints of Old and New Testament times up to the rapture.  The Jews probably had twenty-four priests on duty at one time in the temple because that is how many were needed to perform all the required duties.  Why does he insist on putting “facts” into the Bible that are not there?
In the Revelation there are seven trumpets that sound.  Each one signals the start of a new period or a new style of tribulation.  The seventh one is recorded in 11:15.  At that point six facets of the great tribulation period are past.  The seventh is the worst one, because after that one there is no more chance for sinners to repent.  In 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 Paul mentions only the seventh trumpet; that is the trumpet that signals the return of Christ.  Paul wrote, For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the call of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, all the Christians who have died will rise from their graves.  Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever.  Since Christ is coming back at the sound of the seventh trumpet, the great tribulation, which is heralded by the first six and the seventh trumpets, must already have taken place. 
Paul Strandburg, a defender of the Pre-tribulation doctrine uses the following example to explain the disagreement concerning the seventh trumpet.  If your friend John said he went to his favourite restaurant last night, and another friend Larry said he also went to his favourite restaurant last night, is it logical for you to assume they both went to the same restaurant? Obviously not, because even though John and Larry went to their favorite restaurants, they may have had two different eating establishments in mind. The same logic should apply with the word trumpet. 

    His example might have some meaning except for the fact that in the Bible, the trumpets are specifically named.  In Strandburg’s example, this equates to John saying, “the restaurant on the corner of 5th and James.”  Larry, however says, “the restaurant on the corner of James and 5th”.  Even though the wording is different, the location is the same.  It is like that with the trumpets of the New Testament.  Paul spoke of the last trumpet blast, St. John, speaking of the last trumpet blast called it the seventh trumpet blast, and since there are only seven mentioned, they were speaking of the same event.

 We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound. 1 Cor. 15:51-52

    To the Corinthian Christians, Paul wrote that at the last trumpet’s blast Christ would be returning, and we know that in The Revelation, there are seven trumpets, each one of which heralds a tribulation.  John tells us that the seventh trumpet heralds the return of Christ.  It is easy to correlate the two references to the last trumpet blast.  It is a common error not to think of Christ’s return as being a tribulation.  It is the greatest of the tribulations because after that there is no more time for repentance and forgiveness for those who have not yet become Christians.  How anyone cannot accept that the “last trumpet blast” of 1 Corinthians is the same as the “last trumpet blast” of The Revelation goes beyond belief. 

    Brian Scheurtley writes: Although the pre-tribulation rapture theory is very popular today, given arguments that are offered in support of this doctrine we must declare Pre-tribulationalism to be contrary to the clear teachings of Scripture. Simply put, there is not one shred of evidence that can be found in the Bible to support the pre-tribulation rapture. The typical Pre-tribulational arguments offered reveal a pattern: of imposing one’s presuppositions onto a text without any exegetical justification whatsoever; of finding subtle meaning between words and/or phrases that were never intended by the author; of spiritualizing or ignoring passages that contradict the Pre-tribulational paradigm; and, of imposing Pre-tribulationalism upon passages that actually teach the unity of the eschatological complex (i.e., the rapture, second coming, general resurrection, and general judgment all occur on the same day—the day of the Lord). It is our hope and prayer that professing Christians would cast off this escapist fantasy and return to the task of personal sanctification and godly dominion.  
Pre-trib is (in) a really quite a mess. It is a complicated colossus of disharmony and confusion. Post-Trib, on the other hand, is simple, elegant, orderly and beautiful.