I initially believed the second coming of Christ would occur in three phases. Thereafter, I believed it would it would occur in two phases. Please refer to marshillapologetics.tumblr.com/endtimes to catch a glimpse of my previous views. Now, however, I am convinced of the historic premillennialist view wherein Christians will meet Christ in the air post-tribulation and escort Him back down to earth to partake in a literal 1000-year Millennial Reign.
Views on the Tribulation
There are four different views concerning the Tribulation within Christianity:
Preterism: the belief that all (Full Preterism) or many (Partial Preterism) eschatological prophecies were fulfilled during the first century.
Historicism: the belief that eschatological prophecies have been fulfilled throughout history.
Futurism: the belief that although eschatological prophecies were somewhat fulfilled in the first century, they will be completely fulfilled in the future.
Idealism: the belief that eschatological prophecies are to be interpreted spiritually or non-literally.
I will not delve deeply into Full Preterism, Historicism, and Idealism, but I am convinced Scripture takes a Futurist view. In recent times, Partial Preterism has been gaining widespread acceptance. While I can agree that eschatological prophecies were somewhat fulfilled in the first century, I believe they will be completely fulfilled in the future. In Scripture, there is a near/far double fulfillment pattern of prophecy.
Partial preterists point to verses like Matthew 10:23 where it says that the disciples will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes to justify their belief that Jesus came in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. Dr. William Lane Craig has a more reasonable explanation for this, which he entitles 'contextual ambiguity' (Link). Essentially, Jesus sends out His disciples in Mark 6:7-13. Matthew draws from Mark's writing in Matthew 10:5-15. Subsequently, however, Matthew in verses 16-23 adds a portion which he draws from the Olivet Discourse in Mark 13:9-13.
7 And He summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits; 8 and He instructed them that they should take nothing for their journey, except a mere staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belt— 9 but to wear sandals; and He added, “Do not put on two tunics.” 10 And He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave town. 11 Any place that does not receive you or listen to you, as you go out from there, shake the dust off the soles of your feet for a testimony against them.” 12 They went out and preached that men should repent. 13 And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them. (Mark 6:7-13, NASB)
5 These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; 6 but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. 9 Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, 10 or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support. 11 And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city. 12 As you enter the house, give it your greeting. 13 If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. 14 Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city. (Matthew 10:5-15, NASB)
16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; 18 and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. 20 For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.
21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.
23 “But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes. (Matthew 10:16-23, NASB)
9 “But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them. 10 The gospel must first be preached to all the nations. 11 When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit. 12 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. 13 You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. (Mark 13:9-13, NASB)
The Olivet Discourse of Mark 13 is paralleled in Matthew 24 and Luke 21. In Matthew 24:1-3, the disciples wanted to know when these things would happen (the destruction of the temple) but also what will be the sign of His coming and of the end of the age. However, from Mark 13:4 and Luke 21:7, it seems that the statement concerning the sign is with regard to the destruction of the temple as well.
1 Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. 2 And He said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.”
3 As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:1-3, NASB)
“Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?” (Mark 13:4, NASB)
They questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, when therefore will these things happen? And what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” (Luke 21:7, NASB)
Given the above observation with regard to Mark 13:4 and Luke 21:7, partial preterists believe 'the end of the age' in Matthew 24:3 refers to the end of the Judaic age when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD. However, in Matthew 13:39, Matthew 13:49, and Matthew 28:20, 'the end of the age' do not seem to fit this narrative. I do admit that in 1 Corinthians 10:11, and Hebrews 9:26, the writer and initial audience (at the very least) are considered to be in 'the ends/consummation of the ages.' I believe we are still in 'this age' and that we will obtain eternal life in 'the age to come' which is hinted to be the eternal state after the Millennium based on Mark 10:30, Luke 18:30, and Matthew 19:28-29. However, from the partial preterist viewpoint, 'this age' is long past and we are in 'the age to come.'
Problematic to the partial preterist's view is Luke 20:34-36. It mentions that the sons of 'this age' marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to 'that age' and the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Since sons still marry and are given in marriage, and our resurrection has not occurred, we are still in 'this age.' A partial preterist could make the case that the 'this age' in Luke 20:34-26 refers to the Church age inaugurated on the Day of Pentecost which overlaps the outgoing Judaic age, but I find that inconsistent. One cannot claim that, in Mark 10:30 and Luke 18:30, the 'this age' is the Judaic age and that the 'age to come' is the Church age, only to switch to 'this age' being the Church age in Luke 20:24-36.
Ephesians 2:7 curiously mentions 'the ages to come.' Generally, however, I believe there are two ages described in Scripture and that we are in the 'present evil age' as per Galatians 1:4. The wisdom of 'this age' is foolish as per 1 Corinthians 1:20. The rulers of 'this age' are passing away as per 1 Corinthians 2:6. The god of 'this age' is blinding the unbelieving as per 2 Corinthians 4:4. To our support, however, Jesus is far above every rule, authority, power, and dominion in 'this age' and 'the age to come' as per Ephesians 1:21. Those who refuse to be guided to Jesus by the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven 'in this age' or in 'the age to come' as per Matthew 12:32.
I believe we have been in 'the last days' since the era of the New Testament writers as per Acts 2:17 and Hebrews 1:2 . Partial preterists would see 'the last days' as a referring to the last days of the Judaic age. However, this seems odd because 'the last day' is used to refer to the day of our resurrection in John 6:39, John 6:40, John 6:44, John 6:54, John 11:24, and the day of judgement in John 12:48. 2 Peter 3:3-4 even says that scoffers will come in the last days asking about His promised return. 2 Timothy 3:1 says that the perilous times will come in the last days. James 5:3 equates hoarding of riches with the last days. Putting it all together, I cannot escape the notion that we are in 'the last days' leading up to 'the last day' of resurrection and judgement.
Notably, Isaiah 2:2 and Micah 4:1 mention that in 'the last days' the house of the Lord will be established, exalted, and people will flow to it. I do not see this being fulfilled in the last days of the Judaic age, and instead take this to refer to the Millennial Reign of Christ. There are so many interconnecting passages on 'the last days' and the 'last day,' but I'll leave it at that.
Going back to Matthew 10:23, I do not see the verse as referring to the 12 disciples' mission but rather to the persecution during the last 3.5 years of the seven years of tribulation. This is evident when comparisons are made to the 'fleeing' found in the Olivet Discourse texts, from which the verse was extracted.
On a side note, the Apostle Paul in Colossians 1:23 states the Gospel was preached to every creature under heaven. Paul certainly did not preach to every individual so we must take it in another sense. In Matthew 24:14, it is clear that once the gospel is preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, the end will come. In Matthew 28:20, Jesus in His Great Commission tells them He is with them even unto the end of the age. So it seems like this has a future reference.
Partial preterists will point to Matthew 16:28, and the synoptic parallels in Mark 8:38 and Luke 9:27, where Jesus promises some of His disciples that they will not taste death till they see the Son of man coming in His kingdom. Dr. William Lane Craig notes that in Mark 9:1, it says they will not see (future tense) that the kingdom of God has come with power (past tense). He argues that it is best to take it as referring to the disciples' acknowledgement of the resurrection. Yet, in all three passages, the ensuing verses are on the topic of the transfiguration. Therefore, I believe it is best to consider the transfiguration to be His coming in His kingdom.
Partial preterists will also point to John 21:22 to say that Jesus wanted the beloved apostle (presumably John) to be alive until He returned. Yet, in the ensuing verse, it is made clear that Jesus was not saying the beloved apostle would not die and that His main point was that it was none of their business.
Furthermore, partial preterists will point out that in Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, and Luke 21:32, Jesus says this generation will not pass until they see the coming of the Lord. While there may have been a first century fulfillment, the complete fulfillment rests with the generation who witnesses all the signs outlined in the Olivet Discourse. Jesus could not have said that the current generation would see His coming because that assumes Jesus knew the time of His coming and we are told in places such as Matthew 24:36 that Jesus does not know the day nor the hour of His return.
The 'parousia,' a technical term which I expound upon in a section below, is linked to the coming of the Son of Man in the Olivet Discourse. It refers to the one fluid event of our gathering unto Him in the air and His coming back down to the Mount of Olives. Therefore, I do not believe we can say that eschatological prophecies have been completely fulfilled within the first century with a coming in 70 AD. Based on Hebrews 8:13, the old covenant was ready to vanish. The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD seems to align well with a vanishing point, but given the above arguments I believe in a near/far double fulfillment of prophecy.
Views on the Millennium
There are three different views concerning the Millennium within Christianity:
Premillennialism: the belief that Jesus will physically return to earth prior to a 1000-year Millennial Reign on earth.
Postmillennialism: the belief that Jesus will physically return to earth after an unknown length of revival (Revivalist) or after a 1000-year theocracy (Reconstructionist).
Amillennialism: the belief in a earthly or heavenly Millennial Reign between the first and second comings.
I will not delve deeply into Postmillennialism and Amillennialism, but I convinced Scripture indicates a literal 1000-year Millennial Kingdom on earth that is distinct from the dynamics of the current world and the dynamics of the eternal state. In this regeneration of creation (Matthew 19:28), there is a taste of eternity although sin and death will still be present. Amongst many attributes, mortals living during the Millennium will experience longevity (Isaiah 65:20), animals will again be vegetarian (Isaiah 11:6-9, 65:25), Israel will inhabit the land promised by God, Ezekiel's temple will be built and commemorative sacrifices will be instituted (Ezekiel 40-48). During this time known as the banquet or marriage supper of the Lamb (Matthew 22:1-14, Luke 13:28-29, Revelation 19:9), the resurrected immortal saints will reign with Christ while Satan will be bound in the bottomless pit (Revelation 20:1-7).
With regards to Amillennialism, many passages (2 Peter 3:10; Isaiah 65:17-19; 2 Corinthians 15:54, Isaiah 25:8, Revelation 21:1-4; 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10; etc.) seem to suggest that the resurrection of the just and the unjust, and the establishing of new heavens and a new earth, occur at the same instance. However, when we get to Revelation 20 it is clear that the two resurrections are separated by a future literal 1000-year Millennial Kingdom. The word for 'resurrection' in the Greek is 'anastasis' (Strongs: G386). N.T. Wright notes that this word can only refer to a bodily resurrection. Ironically, as an Amillennialist, N.T. Wright spiritualizes the first resurrection. However, Revelation 20:5 says 'the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished,' which indicates the nature of the first resurrection is the same as the nature of the second resurrection. Amillennialists believe Satan is bound, but only in terms of his ability to deceive the nations prematurely. Yet, this conflicts with Revelation 13:14. Furthermore, it seems like Satan joins the Antichrist and the False Prophet who were already in the Lake of Fire. Another point against Amillenialism is that Jesus will only rule with a rod of iron beginning with Armageddon according to Revelation 19:15 which leads into the great supper of Revelation 19:17. Revelation 2:25-27 links the coming of Jesus to His rule with a rod of iron.
"N. T .Wright unequivocally affirmed that “there is no evidence that the anastasis [resurrection] root meant anything other than bodily resurrection, either in the paganism that denied it or the Pharisaic Judaism that affirmed it” (p. 215), "meaning of ‘resurrection’ throughout the literature . . . pagan, Jewish and Christian” always refers to bodily life after death. Wright then concedes that to argue that the word refers to something other than this is “to strain usage well beyond breaking point” (p. 474)
Excerpted from The Resurrection Of The Son Of God via (Link).
Within Premillennialism, there are four recognized views with all accepting that Jesus will physically return to earth post-tribulation:
No pre-trib rapture in the Olivet Discourse
One important misunderstanding I had of the end times was the identity of those ‘taken’ in the Olivet Discourse. When comparing Matthew 24:36-41 with Luke 17:22-27, it is evident that the flood of Noah’s time ‘took them all’ or ‘destroyed them all’ in judgement. The passages make it clear that the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah and the days of Lot. So, in context, the hermeneutically correct interpretation of those ‘taken’ at the coming of the Son of Man is that they are ‘taken’ in judgement while the righteous are left. Just like how the unrighteous of the antediluvian world and of Sodom and Gomorrah were ‘took’ leaving the righteous. Therefore, it is not hermeneutically correct to identify those ‘taken’ as those who go to be with the Lord in the rapture.
36 But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. 37 For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. 40 Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left (Matthew 24:36-41, NASB)
22 And He said to the disciples, “The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. 23 They will say to you, ‘Look there! Look here!’ Do not go away, and do not run after them. 24 For just like the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day. 25 But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. 26 And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27 they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; 29 but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day, the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house must not go down to take them out; and likewise the one who is in the field must not turn back. 32 Remember Lot’s wife. 33 Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. 34 I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left. 35 There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will be taken and the other will be left. 36 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left.” 37 And answering they said to Him, “Where, Lord?” And He said to them, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered.” (Luke 17:22-37, NASB)
Some like to think of it from the angle of Noah and Lot being taken out of the way of destruction, which is true, but the context isn’t portraying it that way. The context is portraying it like the unrighteous are the ones taken and the righteous are the ones left. In fact, if we go to Genesis 7:23, Noah was 'left’ and not 'taken.’ In Luke 17:37, the disciples even ask Jesus 'Where, Lord?’ and He replies telling them that vultures will be gathered where the body is. Those taken are certainly taken in judgement. Furthermore, when the public advent is described in Revelation 19, there is mention of birds assembling or gathering to eat the flesh or corpse of those 'taken’ in judgement.
Thus He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky, and they were blotted out from the earth; and only Noah was left, together with those that were with him in the ark. (Genesis 7:23, NASB)
Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, “Come, assemble for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great.” (Revelation 19:17-18, NASB)
The last verse from Luke 17:22-37 about how the vultures will be gathered where the body led me to see another misunderstanding. The timing of this event is made clear when we go to Matthew 24:15-28. If the parallel isn’t clear enough using the gathering of the vultures at the end, the instruction concerning not leaving one’s housetop or field to take things is also found in the passage from Luke 17. The day and hour for the coming of the Son of Man, which no one knows but the Father alone, which will be just like the days of Noah and the days of Lot, in which the unrighteous perish and the righteous remain, is here said to happen after the abomination of desolation. The abomination of desolation occurs 3.5 years into the seven years of tribulation as per Daniel 9:27. Only after a period of great tribulation, that is cut short, will the Son of Man come just as the lightning comes.
15 “Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16 then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. 17 Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get the things out that are in his house. 18 Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak. 19 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 20 But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath. 21 For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. 22 Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. 25 Behold, I have told you in advance. 26 So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them. 27 For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. 28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. (Matthew 24:15-28, NASB)
The clarification of these misunderstandings shook my beliefs a bit. First, it took away some of the Scriptural basis for the rapture I had previously looked to. At this point I still believed a pre-tribulation rapture to be Biblical, I just thought it was for some reason not mentioned in the synoptic Gospels. Second, it also meant that the appearance for the elect was not a mid-tribulation appearance for tribulation martyrs as I had been taught, but rather coincidental in timing with His post-tribulation public advent. In essence, the entire Olivet Discourse points to this post-tribulation public advent.
No mid-tribulation appearance
In the Parable of the Ten Virgins or the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids found in Matthew 25:1-13, I was taught that the Bridegroom coming at midnight refers to His appearance in the middle of the seven years of tribulation. However, with my earlier misunderstandings of the Olivet Discourse clarified, it became clear that verse 13 carries a phrase used for the post-tribulation public advent of Christ. As defended above, similar verses like Matthew 24:36,42 are talking about the post-tribulation public advent of Christ as an event for which we do not know the day nor the hour. Therefore, I no longer believed the passage to be referring to a mid-tribulation appearance, even though at this point I still believed in a mid-tribulation appearance based on the passages in the Book of Revelation.
Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour. (Matthew 25:13, NASB)
But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. (Matthew 24:36, NASB)
Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. (Matthew 24:42, NASB)
Since the only two support passages for believing in a mid-tribulation appearance now rested on only two passages in the Book of Revelation, namely Revelation 7:9-17 and Revelation 14:14-16, I decided to look into them again. It then became apparent to me that the tribulation martyrs were to be gathered only at the end of the seven years. In Revelation 7:14, it says that the tribulation martyrs came out 'the great tribulation.’ This doesn’t just mean the tribulation was great, it refers specifically to the last 3.5 years of the seven years of tribulation. In Matthew 24, this 'great tribulation’ occurs only after the abomination of desolation which is at the mid-point of the seven years of tribulation. Therefore, Revelation 7:9-17 cannot be referring to a mid-tribulation appearance for tribulation martyrs.
I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Revelation 7:14, NASB)
For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. (Matthew 24:21, NASB)
The wheat and grape harvests of Revelation 14:14-20 are a bit more confusing. Joel 2:31 says that certain signs will occur before the day of the Lord. The day of the Lord includes the time of Jacob’s trouble or the great tribulation which is the second 3.5 years of the seven years of tribulation. This is clear when comparisons are made with Jeremiah 30:7 and Matthew 24:21. The footnotes of the following article expound on this connection (Link).
“The sun will be turned into darkness
And the moon into blood
Before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. (Joel 2:31, NASB)
'Alas! for that day is great, There is none like it; And it is the time of Jacob’s distress, But he will be saved from it. (Jeremiah 30:7, NASB)
For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. (Matthew 24:21, NASB)
The sun darkening and the moon becoming blood are also found in Revelation 6:12-17 as part of the sixth seal. The sixth seal initially seems to occur halfway through the seven years of tribulation because everyone in that passage fears that the 'great day of His wrath’ has come. However, Matthew 24:29 says that immediately after the tribulation of those days or the great tribulation the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light. Since the next verse even talks about the public advent, it is clear that the sign will not occur until near the end of the seven years.
I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; (Revelation 6:12, NASB)'
Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Revelation 6:15-17, NASB)
“But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. (Matthew 24:29, NASB)
That being said, Joel 3:2,12-14 goes on to talk about the events which will happen when the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. The sickle, the harvest, and the winepress correspond to Revelation 14:14-20. The ending of the passage in Revelation and the mention of the valley of Jehoshaphat in Joel indicate that the harvest could take place at the end of the seven years of tribulation. The day of the Lord includes the time of Jacob’s trouble or the great tribulation, but it also notably includes the Battle of Armageddon. Ultimately, we have to decide whether the day of the Lord being near refers to the great tribulation as a whole or specifically the Battle of Armageddon. I now believe the latter because Joel 3:14 specifically says the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.
12 Let the nations be aroused
And come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat,
For there I will sit to judge
All the surrounding nations.
13 Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe.
Come, tread, for the wine press is full;
The vats overflow, for their wickedness is great.
14 Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision!
For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. (Joel 3:12-14, NASB)
The sixth seal, therefore, does not actually line up with the middle of the seven years of tribulation. With this in mind, I believe the timeline on the seven seals needs to be examined using the details given in the Olivet Discourse. The following file simplifies the relationship (Link). The fifth seal seems to bring on the great tribulation.
Christ is the man-child
I was taught that in Revelation 12, the woman represented the Church whereas the man-child represented the overcoming Bride of Christ that the church was producing. I was taught that the woman and the remnant of her seed were left-behind to suffer persecution. The argument was that that the man-child being 'caught up' corresponded to the being 'caught up' in the rapture of 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17. Furthermore, in Revelation 12 it says the child was to rule all nations with a 'rod of iron' and ruling with a 'rod of iron' was a promise given to the Church of Thyatira in Revelation 2:25-27.
However, Revelation 12 seems to be indicative of Jesus for the following select reasons:
Nowhere in Scripture is the Bride of Christ considered to be a man-child. Rather, Isaiah 7:14 talks about a sign given concerning God entering the world as a son. Interestingly, Revelation 12 is also about great signs or wonders in heaven.
After Jesus was brought forth as per Matthew 1:25, we learn through the Gospels that Satan had plans to destroy Jesus just like how Revelation 12 portrays it.
Micah 5:3 talks about how Israel would be handed over to enemies until the woman in travail gives birth and the remnant is reunited with the people of Israel. This is within the context of a ruler, Jesus, coming from Bethlehem in verse 2. So Jesus was the result of a woman travailing in birth, just like how Revelation 12 portrays it. In fact, the entire scene with the woman in Revelation 12 parallels Joseph's dream in Genesis 37 of Israel as a woman. Unlike how dispensationalism (the basis for a pre-tribulation rapture) portrays it, Israel and the Church are one and the same. To be more specific, the New Testament church formed on the Day of Pentecost is the eschatological fulfillment of Israel. This is why the Apostle Stephen in Acts 7:38 says there was a 'church' (Strongs: G1577) in the wilderness, and Galatians 6:16 talks of the New Testament church as the 'Israel of God.' There is one body that consists of Jews and Gentiles as per 1 Corinthians 12:13, there is one building that consists of two groups made one as per Ephesians 2:14, and there is one olive tree that consists of the natural branches of Israel and the wild branches of Gentiles as per Romans 11. The distinction of Israel and Gentiles in verses like Romans 11:25 proves that God is not finished with natural Israel, but it does not negate the fact that Gentiles are spiritual Israel (Romans 2:29, Romans 9:6, Galatians 3:29, Philippians 3:3).
Through His ascension, Jesus was 'caught up' to heaven. Our being 'caught up' post-tribulation is supposed to reflect His ascension, we do not have to equate 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 to Revelation 12.
Jesus is the primary one who will rule with 'rod of iron' although He has granted us a share in this. Isaiah 11:4, Psalm 2:9, and Revelation 19:15 are clearly references to Jesus ruling with a 'rod of iron.'
There are time-gaps within the wonders in Revelation 12. There is the gap between Jesus' birth and His ascension. And there is the gap between His ascension and the mid-tribulation point where the woman flees into the wilderness.
In Daniel 7:23-25, the Antichrist is the little horn who will reign for the second three and a half years of the seven years of tribulation. The phrase ‘times, times, and half a time’ is representative of three and a half years. A 'time’ is one year, 'times’ is two years, and 'half a time’ is half a year. The same terminology is also found in Revelation 12:14 where it talks about the woman being nourished in the wilderness during three and half years of tribulation. I was taught that this referred to the first three and a half years of the seven years which was supposedly to be against 'left behind' Christians who the woman allegedly represented However, that is not the case. The Antichrist has to first speak out against the Most High according to Daniel 7:25, which is the event known as the abomination of desolation spoken of in Matthew 24:15/Mark 13:14/Luke 21:20 and Daniel 9:27 which occurs mid-way through the seven years. Furthermore, Matthew 24:16/Luke 21:21 notably mentions that those in Judea would 'flee' to the mountains.
Thus he said: ‘The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth, which will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth and tread it down and crush it. As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings will arise; and another will arise after them, and he will be different from the previous ones and will subdue three kings. He will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time. (Daniel 7:23-25, NASB)
Then the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there she would be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days. (Revelation 12:6, NASB)
"Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. (Matthew 24:15-16, NASB)
Internal or external preservation
Revelation 3:10 is often used to justify the notion that Christian believers will be removed from the earth via a pre-tribulation rapture to be kept from the hour of testing. However, this verse is talking about internal preservation and not external preservation. The Greek phrase in place of 'will keep - out of' in Revelation 3:10 is 'tereso - ek' (Strongs: G5083, G1537) These two Greek words appear together in only one other Scriptural instance, and that is John 17:15. There, in Jesus' High Priestly Prayer, Jesus mentions to the Father concerning His disciples not that 'you should take - out of' or 'ares - ek' (Strongs: G142, G1537) but rather that 'you should keep - from' or 'tereses - ek' (Strongs: G5083, G1537) the evil one. The Apostle John wrote both the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation. Since he uses a different phrase to communicate the notion of being taken out of the world in contrast to being kept from the evil one in John 17:15, it is best to conclude that his usage of the phrase 'tereso - ek' in Revelation 3:10 is consistent with how it is applied in John 17:15.
Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. (Revelation 3:10, NASB)
I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. (John 17:15, NASB)
1 Thessalonians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 5:9, Romans 5:9, and Ephesians 5:6 are other passages used to justify the notion that Christians will escape God's wrath by removal rather than preservation. However, the coming wrath in the context of these passages is the wrath of eternal separation from God. This is clear from John 3:26 which continues from the famous verse in John 3:16. That is why 1 Thessalonians 5:9 says we are not appointed to suffer wrath but to receive salvation. One could make the argument that the rapture is when the salvation of our bodies occurs, but that is stretch. Even if we apply the passages in that way, the wrath of man is often equated with the first three and half years of tribulation whereas the wrath of God is often equated with the last three and a half years of tribulation. So that argument at-best aligns with a mid-tribulation rapture or pre-wrath rapture. Furthermore, in the post-tribulation rapture view, Christians do not suffer the wrath of God and are instead internally preserved just like how the Israelites were preserved in the land of Goshen as many of the plagues affected the Egyptians.
and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:10, NASB)
For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, (1 Thessalonians 5:9, NASB)
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. (Romans 5:9, NASB)
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. (Ephesians 5:6, NASB)
He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36, NASB)
In line with Acts 14:22, from His resurrection to the Christian's resurrection, it is the case that through tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. In fact, the Greek word in Acts 14:22 for 'tribulations' (Strongs: G2347) is used in 1 Thessalonians 3:3 as 'afflictions' which interestingly 'we have been destined for.' This contrasts with 1 Thessalonians 5:9 where there is the 'wrath of God' which 'God has not destined us for.' Therefore, the wrath of God is not synonymous with the time of tribulation.
Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22, NASB)
so that no one would be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this. (1 Thessalonians 3:3, NASB)
Place prepared for us
In John 14:1-4, Jesus tells the disciples that in His Father's house are many mansions and yet that He is going to prepare a place for them. Furthermore, Jesus states that He will come again and receive them unto Himself so that they could be where He is. One position I held during reluctance to accept a post-tribulation rapture, was that at least it was taught in John 14:1-4, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, and 1 Corinthians 15:51-52. The first two passages are especially alike and allude to the notion that Jesus will receive us to be present where He is, and I assumed that this would be the place He mentioned as being prepared in heaven.
That is a fallacious argument because 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 mentions that we will ever be with the Lord. We are not going to ever be in a place, we are going to ever be in His immediate presence wherever that is. Those who espouse the pre-tribulation view do not believe we will forever be in that place Jesus mentioned as being prepared in heaven. This is evident because they believe those raptured will come down to earth with Jesus for the Millennium. In the post-tribulation rapture view, in one instance Jesus will receive us unto Himself and we will be where He is or His presence forever when He comes down to the Mount of Olives.
Furthermore, I misunderstood the nature of the many mansions in the Father's house. In the Greek, it says many 'rooms' or 'monai' (Strongs: G3438). It could be that these were resting places that will merge into our final permanent dwelling place. So when Jesus said He was going to 'prepare' (Strongs: G2090) a place for us, He could have been referring to His death and resurrection through which the price was paid for our admission and through which heaven was furnished with His presence. In fact, there is a parallel in Mark 14:12-16 and Luke 22:8-12 where Jesus sends Peter and John to 'prepare' (Strongs: G2090) a guest room for the Passover. Peter and John did not go and add a second storey to the building, they went to make it ready.
Some commentators take the Greek word used here (monē) to mean “stopping place” or “resting place.” This theory suggests that heaven is a place of progression, with many resting places or stopping places along the way. It seems better, however, to seek the meaning of this word in another direction, interpreting it in light of the Greek verb (menō), meaning “to remain,” and so suggesting a permanent dwelling place. The verb “to remain” plays a significant role in John’s Gospel, and it is natural to see a connection between the noun monē and the verb menō, since both words come from the same stem. Moreover, the presupposition that it means a permanent dwelling place is supported by the indications in Jewish literature of a belief that heaven has many dwelling places.
Excerpted from UBS Translator's Handbook (a Logos resource) (Link)
In both the Olivet Discourse and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, the word used for the 'coming' of the Lord in the Greek is 'parousia' (Strongs: G3952). It is a technical word that refers to when a king or some other official makes a public visit to deal with something. Prominent theologian Dr. N.T. Wright, with whom I do not agree concerning eschatology and other things, talks about how this referred to the homecoming of Caesar after a victory, in which the inhabitants of a city would go out of the city to meet Caesar, honour him, and usher him back into the city. Going backwards, when Caesar left to go out to war, the inhabitants of a city would go out of the city to send him away. Similarly, the disciples went outside of Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives to send our King away. As the angels proclaimed, the same way He left is the same way He will return. When Jesus publicly returns as our victorious King, we will be translated in the twinkling of an eye to go out and meet Him, glorify Him (2 Thessalonians 1:2), and usher Him down to the Mount of Olives where He will deal with His enemies at the Battle of Armageddon.
3952 parousía (from parōn, "be present, arrive to enter into a situation") – properly, coming, especially the arrival of the owner who alone can deal with a situation (cf. LS). 3952 (parousía) is a "technical term with reference to the visit of a king or some other official, 'a royal visit' " (Souter) – "hence, in the NT, specifically of the Advent or Parousia of Christ" (A-S).
Excerpted from HELPS Word-studies (Link)
2. the presence of one coming, hence, the coming, arrival, advent,… In the N. T. especially of the advent, i. e. the future, visible, return from heaven of Jesus, the Messiah, to raise the dead, hold the last judgment, and set up formally and gloriously the kingdom of God...
Excerpted from Thayer's Greek Lexicon (Link)
Creation eagerly waits
In Romans 8:19, it is clear that the whole creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. Verse 20 mentions how the whole creation was subjected to futility, and verse 21 mentions that it will be set free into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. The whole creation was subjected to futility alongside humanity according to Genesis, therefore it makes sense for the whole creation to be set free alongside humanity. However, in the pre-tribulation rapture view, the whole creation is not set free until seven years after the children of God are set free.
Verse 22 mentions that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. Verse 23 mentions that the children of God groan within themselves as they eagerly wait for the redemption of their bodies. This redemption of the bodies of children of God occurs at the rapture, the event wherein believers are gathered together unto Christ. The whole creation and believers are groaning and eagerly waiting for the same event. However, in the pre-tribulation rapture view, the event that the whole creation is groaning and eagerly waiting for is seven years after the event that believers are groaning and eagerly waiting for.
19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:19-23, NASB)
Rest at His public advent
Pre-tribulation rapture proponents create a false dichotomy where God does not deal with unbelievers at a pre-tribulation rapture, and only deals with them at His post-tribulation public advent. 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 dismantles these claims and proves otherwise. The passage talks about the day when Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, and will deal out retribution to those who do not know God, ending with them paying the penalty of eternal destruction. This clearly refers to the post-tribulation public advent. Yet, the passage mentions that Jesus will 'give relief to you who are afflicted and to us' on that day. Furthermore, it mentions that Jesus will be glorified in His saints on that day. Under a pre-tribulation rapture, Jesus would have already given relief to them and would have already been glorified by them. Scripture is clear that will not be the case until the post-tribulation public advent.
6 For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, 8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed. (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10, NASB)
Rapture only after Antichrist's abomination
In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4, the Apostle Paul introduces a topic regarding 'the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him.' This coming, notably including our gathering to Him, is referred to as 'the day of the Lord' in the passage. The Apostle Paul makes it clear that 'the day of the Lord' will not come until the man of lawlessness or the Antichrist takes his seat in the temple of God displaying himself as being God. The event of the Antichrist taking his seat in the temple of God is known as the 'abomination of desolation' and is spoken of in Daniel 9:27, the Olivet Discourse, and Revelation 13:5. In the middle of the prophetic 70th week, referring to the seven years of tribulation, the Antichrist will break his seven-year covenant with the Jews by bringing sacrifices and offerings to a halt. The pre-tribulation rapture view is faced with a glaring issue in this passage because it alleges that our gathering together to Him is prior to the man of lawlessness taking his seat in the temple of God 3.5 years into the seven years of tribulation. As the Apostle Paul says, we should let no one in any way deceive us.
Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4, NASB)
"Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), (Matthew 24:15, NASB)
And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.” (Daniel 9:27, NASB)
There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him. (Revelation 13:5, NASB)
Lesson from the fig tree on imminence
I have always found it intriguing that the Olivet Discourse mentions that we should learn a lesson from the fig tree. Matthew 24:32-33 can be read alongside Song of Solomon 2:13. The first passage mentions that when He is near, the branches will be tender and put forth its leaves. The second passage alludes to the notion that when He comes for His bride, the figs will be ripe and blossomed vines will give forth their fragrance. Those who believe in a pre-tribulation rapture are negating the fact that all of the signs of the times mentioned in the Olivet Discourse have to be fulfilled prior to His coming to gather His bride. The notion that the Scripture teaches imminence is wrongly founded on verses about the post-tribulation public advent of Christ, for which we do not know the day or the hour.
"Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. (Matthew 24:32-33, NASB)
The fig tree has ripened its figs, And the vines in blossom have given forth their fragrance. Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, And come along!'' (Song of Solomon 2:13, NASB)
Not as a thief to them that believe
Jesus is not coming as a thief to snatch Christians away to heaven. He is coming as a thief, in terms of the surprise factor, to those that do not believe. 1 Thessalonians 5:2-6 makes it clear that the day of the Lord will not overtake us like a thief by surprise. They will not escape destruction, but we will escape through internal preservation. The same phraseology with regard to a thief and the need to be alert is paralleled in the Olivet Discourse where the context is concerning the post-tribulation rapture/public advent.
Pre-tribulation rapture proponents will say 'the day of the Lord' does not include the rapture and that it is a day of judgement from which Christians will escape. The day of the Lord, however, is what comes as a thief in the night. The same day that we have to be on the alert for, the same day for which we know not the hour, and the same day we have to stay awake and keep our clothes for.
2 For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. 3 While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; 5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; 6 so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. (1 Thessalonians 5:2-6, NASB)
"But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. (Matthew 24:43, NASB)
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. (2 Peter 3:10, NASB
So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. (Revelation 3:3, NASB)
(“Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame.”) (Revelation 16:15, NASB)
Historic Premillennialism refers to the position which includes a post-tribulation rapture prior to a literal Millennial Reign. This is the historic position of the early Church Fathers (Link). Polycarp (69-155 AD) was a disciple of the Apostle John (6-100 AD). Irenaeus (130-202 AD) was a disciple of Polycarp, and his writings bear witness to a post-tribulation rapture prior to a literal Millennial Reign.
Justin Martyr (100-168): “The man of apostasy [Antichrist], who speaks strange things against the Most High, shall venture to do unlawful deeds on the earth against US THE CHRISTIANS…” (Dialogue With Trypho, 110).
Irenaeus (140-202): “And they [the ten kings who shall arise] shall lay Babylon waste, and burn her with fire, and shall give their kingdom to the beast, and put the CHURCH to flight” (Against Heresies, V, 26).
Dispensational Premillennialism, specifically referring to the position which includes a pre-tribulation rapture prior to a literal Millennial Reign, likely originated in the 1820s with John Nelson Darby and the Plymouth Brethren.
To be fair, there is a one questionable reference to a pre-tribulation rapture by Pseudo-Ephraem (7th century). However, when comparing the later Latin version and the earlier Syriac version, it is evident that a pre-tribulation rapture is not being taught. (Link) (Link) (Link)
"For all the saints and elect of God are gathered, prior to the tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins." (later Latin version - On the Last Times, the Anti-Christ, and the End of the World A Sermon by Pseudo-Ephraem)
"Pronouncing the good fortune of the deceased Who had avoided the calamity: 'Blessed are you for you were borne away (to the grave) And hence you escaped from the afflictions!” (earlier Syriac version - Sermon Of Pseudo-Ephrem On The End Of The World)
In fact, quotes from Ephraem the Syrian and even Pseudo-Ephraem demonstrate a belief that the Antichrist would be revealed prior to His coming.
Ephraim the Syrian (306-373): “Nothing remains then, except that the coming of our enemy, Antichrist, appear…” (Sermo Asceticus, I).
Pseudo-Ephraem (7th century): “…there is not other which remains, except the advent of the wicked one [Antichrist]…” (On the Last Times, the Antichrist etc., 2).
Given that Dispensational Premillennialism is a relatively young doctrine, it should raise flags in terms of veracity. I would much rather hold a position passed down by the Apostle John, who is the very person who wrote the Book of Revelation as he was inspired by God.