Monthly Archives: February 2012
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are described in the last book of the New Testament of the Bible, called the Book of Revelation of Jesus Christ to Saint John the Evangelist at 6:1-8. The chapter tells of a “‘book’/’scroll‘ in God‘s right hand that is sealed with seven seals“. The Lamb of God/Lion of Judah (Jesus Christ) opens the first four of the seven seals, which summons forth four beings that ride out on white, red, black, and pale horses. Although some interpretations differ, the four riders are commonly[clarification needed] seen as symbolizing Conquest, War, Famine and Death, respectively. The Christian apocalyptic vision is that the four horsemen are to set a divine apocalypse upon the world as harbingers of the Last Judgment.
I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come and see!” I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.
Due to the above passage (the most common translation into English), the White rider is referred to as Conquest (not Pestilence, see below). The name could also be construed as “Victory,” per the translation found in the Jerusalem Bible (the Greek words are derived from the verb ?????, to conquer or vanquish). He carries a bow, and wears a victor’s crown.
The other three horsemen represent evil, destructive forces, and given the unified way in which all four are introduced and described, it may be most likely that the first horseman is correspondingly evil. Artwork which shows the horsemen as a group, such as the famous woodcut by Albrecht Dürer, suggests an interpretation where all four horsemen represent different aspects of the same tribulation.
The first horseman is often associated with military conquest. One interpretation, which was held by evangelist Billy Graham—casts the rider of the white horse as the Antichrist, or a representation of false prophets, citing differences between the white horse in Revelation 6 and Jesus on the white Horse in Revelation 19. In Revelation 19 Jesus has many crowns, but in Revelation 6 the rider has just one.
Irenaeus, an influential Christian theologian of the 2nd century, was among the first to interpret this horseman as Christ himself, his white horse representing the successful spread of the gospel. Various scholars have since supported this theory, citing the later appearance, in Revelation 19, of Christ mounted on a white horse, appearing as The Word of God. Furthermore, earlier in the New Testament, the Book of Mark indicates that the advance of the gospel may indeed precede and foretell the apocalypse. The color white also tends to represent righteousness in the Bible, and Christ is in other instances portrayed as a conqueror. However, opposing interpretations argue that the first of the four horsemen is probably not the horseman of Revelation 19. They are described in significantly different ways, and Christ’s role as the Lamb who opens the seven seals makes it unlikely that he would also be one of the forces released by the seals.
Besides Christ, the horseman could represent the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was understood to have come upon the Apostles at Pentecost after Jesus’ departure from Earth. The appearance of the Lamb in Revelation 5 shows the triumphant arrival of Jesus in heaven, and the white horseman could represent the sending of the Holy Spirit by Jesus and the advance of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The second horseman as depicted in a thirteenth-century Apocalypse manuscript
When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come and see!” Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword.
The rider of the second horse is often taken to represent War or mass slaughter. His horse’s color is red (??????, from ???, fire). In some translations, the color is specifically a “fiery” red. This color, as well as the rider’s possession of a great sword, suggests blood that is to be spilled. The second horseman may represent civil war as opposed to the war of conquest that the first horseman is sometimes said to bring. Other commentators have suggested it might also represent persecution of Christians.
The third horseman as depicted in the Angers Apocalypse Tapestry (1372-82)
When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come and see!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a day’s wages, and three quarts of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!”
The third horseman rides a black horse and is generally understood as Famine. The horseman carries a pair of balances or weighing scales, indicating the way that bread would have been weighed during a famine. The indicated price of grain is about ten times normal, with an entire day’s wages (a denarius) buying enough wheat for only one person, or enough of the less nutritious barley for three, so that workers would struggle to feed their families.
Of the four horsemen, the black horse and its rider are the only ones whose appearance is accompanied by a vocal pronunciation. John hears a voice, unidentified but coming from among the four living creatures, that speaks of the prices of wheat and barley, also saying “and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.” This suggests that the black horse’s famine is to drive up the price of grain but leave oil and wine supplies unaffected (though out of reach of the ordinary worker). One explanation for this is that grain crops would have been more naturally susceptible to famine years or locust plagues than olive trees and grapevines, which root more deeply. The statement might also suggest a continuing abundance of luxuries for the wealthy while staples such as bread are scarce, though not totally depleted; such selective scarcity may result from injustice and the deliberate production of luxury crops for the wealthy over grain, as would have happened during the time Revelation was written. Alternatively, the preservation of oil and wine could symbolize the preservation of the Christian faithful, who used oil and wine in their sacraments.
Pale or Green Horse
When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come and see!” I looked and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.
The fourth and final horseman is named Death. Of all the riders, he is the only one to whom the text itself explicitly gives a name. Unlike the other three, he is not described carrying a weapon/object, instead he is followed by Hades. However, illustrations commonly depict him carrying a scythe (like the Grim Reaper), sword, or other implement.
The color of Death’s horse is written as khl?ros (??????) in the original Koine Greek, which can mean either green/greenish-yellow or pale/pallid. The color is often translated as “pale”, though “ashen”, “pale green” and “yellowish green” are other possible interpretations (the Greek word is the root of “chlorophyll” and “chlorine“). Based on uses of the word in ancient Greek medical literature, several scholars suggest that the color reflects the sickly pallor of a corpse. In some modern artistic depictions, the horse is given a distinct green color.
The verse beginning “they were given power over a fourth of the earth” is generally taken as referring to Death and Hades, although some commentators see it as applying to all four horsemen.
Signs of Christ’s Return
The Bible states:
Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” [Acts 1:9-11]
Many, but not all, Christians believe:
- The coming of Christ will be instantaneous and worldwide. “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” ~ Matthew 24:27
- The coming of Christ will be visible to all. “Then 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.” Matthew 24:30
- The coming of Christ will be audible. “And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” Matthew 24:31
- The resurrection of the righteous will occur. “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.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:16
- In one single event, the saved who are alive at Christ’s coming will be caught up together with the resurrected to meet the Lord in the air. “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:17
The following approaches arose from the study of Christianity’s most central eschatological document, the Book of Revelation, but the principles embodied in them can be applied to all prophecy in the Bible. They are by no means mutually exclusive and are often combined to form a more complete and coherent interpretation of prophetic passages. Most interpretations fit into one, or a combination of, these approaches.
Preterism (from the Latin praeteritus, meaning “gone by”) is an approach which sees prophecy as chiefly being fulfilled in the past, especially (in the case of the Book of Revelation) during the first century. Prophecies in general, therefore, have already been fulfilled. Revelation, for example, may be seen as referring to the major players and events leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 AD, or the struggle of Christianity to survive the persecutions of the Roman Empire, as many other interpretations are considered. There are two major views within preterism, Partial preterism and Full preterism.
Historicism says that Biblical prophecies provide us with a broad view of history, as well as an explanation of the religious significance of historical events. Historicists attempt to identify prophetic passages with major events in history.
In Futurism, parallels may be drawn with historical events, but most eschatological prophecies are chiefly referring to events which have not been fulfilled, but will take place at the end of the age and the end of the world. Most prophecies will be fulfilled during a global time of chaos known as the Great Tribulation and afterwards.
In Idealism, also known as “spiritual” or “symbolic“, the events described in prophecy are neither past, present, nor future, but are representative of larger ideals and principles. Eschatological prophecy deals with the ongoing struggle between the forces of light and darkness, and the ultimate triumph of good over evil. Its message is purely a spiritual one, an allegory of the spiritual path, which is equally relevant in all ages and for all people.
<a href=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0310277205/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=japabiblinsi-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0310277205″>Three Views on the Rapture: Pretribulation, Prewrath, or Posttribulation (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology)</a><img src=”http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=japabiblinsi-20&l=as2&o=1&a=0310277205″ width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”” style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” />
Major theological positions
There are diverse opinions concerning the thousand years of peace (Millennium) described in Revelation and the events associated with it. Some interpret a literal, future, thousand-year time period in which Christ will rule over the Earth, a time which will be characterized by peace and harmony. Others understand a literal age of peace, but think the “thousand years” is a figure of speech. Still others see the Millennium as symbolic of a spiritual ideal, with no corresponding earthly condition. All of these positions fall into the category of millennialism, a broad term which includes any and all ideas relating to the millennium of Biblical prophecy. The most commonly held viewpoints are usually categorized as follows:
Main article: Premillennialism
Standard premillennialism posits that Christ’s second coming will inaugurate a literal thousand-year earthly kingdom. Christ’s return will coincide with a time of great tribulation. At this time, there will be a resurrection of the people of God who have passed away, and a rapture of the people of God who are still living, and they will meet Christ at his coming. A thousand years of peace will follow, during which Christ will reign and Satan will be imprisoned in the Abyss. Those who hold to this view usually fall into one of the following three categories:
Main article: Pretribulationism
Pretribulationists believe that the second coming will be in two stages separated by a seven-year period of tribulation. At the beginning of the tribulation, true Christians will rise to meet the Lord in the air (the Rapture). Then follows a seven-year period of suffering in which the Antichrist will conquer the world and persecute those who refuse to worship him. At the end of this period, Christ returns to defeat the Antichrist and establish the age of peace. This position is supported by a scripture which says, “God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” [1 Thess 5:9]
Main article: Midtribulationism
Midtribulationists believe that the Rapture will take place at the halfway point of the seven-year tribulation, i.e. after 3½ years. It coincides with the “abomination of desolation” – a desecration of the temple where the Antichrist puts an end to the Jewish sacrifices, sets up his own image in the temple, and demands that he be worshiped as God. This event begins the second, most intense part of the tribulation.
Some interpreters find support for the “midtrib” position by comparing a passage in Paul’s epistles with the book of Revelation. Paul says, “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, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Cor 15:51-52). Revelation divides the great tribulation into three sets of increasingly catastrophic judgments: the Seven Seals, the Seven Trumpets, and the Seven Bowls, in that order. If the “last trumpet” of Paul is equated with the last trumpet of Revelation, the Rapture would be in the middle of the Tribulation. (Not all interpreters agree with this literal interpretation of the chronology of Revelation, however.)
Main article: Post-Tribulation Rapture
Posttribulationists hold that Christ will not return until the end of the tribulation. Christians, rather than being raptured at the beginning of the tribulation, or halfway through, will live through it and suffer for their faith during the ascendancy of the Antichrist. Proponents of this position believe that the presence of believers during the tribulation is necessary for a final evangelistic effort during a time when external conditions will combine with the Gospel message to bring great numbers of converts into the Church in time for the beginning of the Millennium.
Main article: Postmillennialism
Postmillennialism does not believe in a premillennial appearance of Christ. The postmillennial position is that the millennium began at the inauguration of Christ’s kingdom reign when he ascended to his heavenly throne and happens, not as a result of the coming of Christ, but as the global population converts to Christianity as a result of evangelization. The age of peace is still a progressing work of divine grace, but without the visible presence of Christ to take the place of an Earthly ruler. Christ will appear at the end of the millennium to lead his people into the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem.
Main article: Amillennialism
Amillennialism does not believe in a literal Millennium. The “thousand years” is an expression, a way of referring to the entire period from the first coming of Christ, two thousand years ago, until the future second coming. Many amillennialists believe that during this time period, the church will continue to evangelize and grow as well as suffer declination in periods until Christ’s coming. The Second Coming will be a natural culmination of the process of world evangelization, rather than a revolutionary event that brings sudden and dramatic change.
Interpretive and hermeneutical overviews of the Bible
The hermeneutic method held by an individual or church will greatly affect their interpretation of the book of Revelation, and consequently their eschatological scheme.
Christian eschatology is a major branch of study within Christian theology. Eschatology, from two Greek words meaning last (???????, last) and study (?????, lit. discourse), is the study of the end of things, whether the end of an individual life, the end of the age, or the end of the world. Broadly speaking, Christian eschatology is the study of the destiny of man as it is revealed in the Bible, which is the primary source for all Christian eschatology studies.
The major issues and events in Christian eschatology are: death and the afterlife, Heaven and Hell, the Second Coming of Jesus, the Resurrection of the Dead, the Rapture, the Tribulation, Millennialism, the end of the world, the Last Judgment, and the New Heaven and New Earth of the World to Come. Eschatological passages are found in many places in the Bible, both in the Old and the New Testaments. There are also many extrabiblical examples of eschatological prophecy, as well as church traditions.
Eschatology is an ancient branch of study in Christian theology, presumably starting with the Olivet discourse, The Sheep and the Goats, and other discourses of end times by Jesus, with the doctrine of the Second Coming of Christ first touched on by Paul of Tarsus and Ignatius of Antioch (c. 35–107 AD), then given more consideration by the Christian apologist, Justin Martyr (c. 100–165). Treatment of eschatology continued in the West in the teachings of Tertullian (c. 160–225), and was given fuller reflection and speculation soon after by Origen (c. 185–254). It was increasingly recognized as a formal division of theological study during the 20th century.
This doctrine holds that there is a Resurrection-Rapture of living believers in Jesus Christ at the end of the age (or the “End time“). Post-tribulationists believe that Christians will remain on the Earth through the three and a half year great tribulation period. This period starts at the Abomination of Desolation and ends at the Battle of Armageddon. They will be gathered by the angels to meet Christ in the air (raptured) at Christ’s second coming immediately after the great tribulation just before the battle of Armageddon and then return with Him as Christ descends to the Earth, to usher in the Millennium (World to Come) on earth.
|Matthew 24:29-31 ASV||1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 ASV|
|29But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: 30and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31And he shall send forth his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.||15For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we that are alive, that are left unto the coming of the Lord, shall in no wise precede them that are fallen asleep. 16For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first; 17then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.|
For additional references, see also the parallel passages from Mark 13:24-27 and Luke 21:20-28. While the passages in Luke 21 parallels Matthew and Mark, it offers a couple of interesting clarifications. This passage in Luke offers interesting references to some of the major events which are greatly elaborated on in the Book of Revelation. Reading all three Books of the Bible in parallel, it would appear that Luke elaborates on the “abomination of desolation” describing Jerusalem being surrounded by the armies of the world and of Jerusalem’s imminent destruction (Luke 21:20).
Another account which lends support to the idea of a post-tribulation rapture is in 2 Peter 3:10-13, where the idea of the “Day of the Lord” coming as a “thief in the night” comes from. This idea of imminence, according to the post-tribulation view, only applies to the wicked and the spiritually unprepared people that are still alive before the Return of Christ. Therefore, only God’s elect (Christians) will fully have a clear understanding of the timing of the second coming, and therefore Christ’s coming will not catch the believers by surprise, but only those who are spiritually ignorant regarding the truth. In the passage of 2 Peter 3:10-13, Christ’s return is equated with the “elements being melted”, and “the earth also and the works therein shall be burned up”. Opposing views are not non-existent within the realm of Christian Eschatology. Two opposing views, pre-tribulationism and mid-tribulationism, see the rapture and the Second Coming (or Greek, paraousia) of Christ as separate events; while in post-tribulationism the two events are identical or simultaneous.
Another key difference between the pre-, mid-, and post-tribulation lines of theology is the number of times that Jesus Christ must return. Although it is not directly referenced, in both the pre- and mid-tribulation raptures, Christ must then return a third time, at the end of the Tribulation period.
The belief is that God’s Elect from all ages will be translated from mortal bodies into immortal glorified bodies at the Second Coming of Christ and that this will be at the end of the age. This event, it is believed, will come at the conclusion of what is termed the 70th Week of Daniel, the final seven years of this present age. This view was held by the early Church Fathers and has been held by Christians since that time. The doctrine of the Post-Tribulation Rapture is today held by a growing number of evangelical Christians. For Post-Tribulationists concerned about the recent decline of Christian faith, doctrine, and morals in the western church, an important reason to advance the Post-Tribulation Rapture doctrine relates to the importance of preparation of believers for “witness under trial”.
The “witness under trial” issue was of major concern to evangelist Corrie Ten Boom, whose family suffered in Nazi prison camps during World War II for the crime of protecting Jews. Corrie Ten Boom preached that the Pre-Tribulation Rapture would leave the Christian church ill-prepared for witness under persecution, just as it had in China when Mao Zedong rose to power, and warned that Pre-Tribulationism was the sort of false doctrine that Jesus warned about.
Another idea is that following the Great Tribulation, the False Prophet, or “The Beast out of the Earth” and the Antichrist or “The Beast out of the Sea” will be condemned upon Jesus Christ’s return, and all those who endured or died for Christ‘s return will be raptured to heaven and, following the Millennium, Satan will be condemned and the remaining dead believers will be raised and raptured into the new heaven.
Post-tribulationists broadly base their doctrine on the complementary concepts that a two phase pre-Tribulation rapture is never mentioned explicitly in the Bible, and that the “whole counsel of Scripture” seems to clearly teach that the resurrection and rapture of the Church will be the result of the visible, physical Second Coming of Jesus Christ to Earth and that Christians are to look and watch for that event.
Matthew 24:29-31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 both mention the same actors (Jesus, his angels) and the same events (Jesus coming, the trumpet of God, and the gathering of the elect) in the same order. The latter passage written by the Apostle Paul is seen as being based on the former because of the usage of “by the word of the Lord” in verse 15 and that they are talking about the same event, but the first passage is explicitly dated “after the Tribulation”, and the second is where we get the term Rapture.
Contrasting opinion maintains that the passages are not talking about the same event despite some similarities because of details that are absent between the two passages and that the rapture event was a “mystery” until it was revealed in First Corinthians which the Thessalonian recipients would have been unaware of.
Post-Tribulationists respond to the opposing views of Pre-Tribulationists in a variety of ways:
Some Post-tribulationalists see the Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ as part of one main event. Support for this claim is found in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 in part because of the way the Apostle Paul introduces his topic, “Now concerning the coming of our Lord and our gathering together with him.” This was an ancient way of introducing your topic of discussion and later Paul refers back to the two nouns at least twice as “the Day of the Lord” or “that day.” Thus, “the coming” and “gathering” seem to be two ways of referring to one event, “the day of the Lord.”
It seems impractical for Paul to go to great lengths describing the coming of the Antichrist (and the falling away) to the Thessalonians in order to calm them down that the day of Christ’s reign on earth had not happened yet if they were not going to be there for it as maintained by the pre-tribulational position. He would be more comforting by reminding them that they wouldn’t be present for it than to precisely detail his recognition and say “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction”.
The most common passage used in defending a pre-tribulational position is 1 Thessalonians 4. This passage alone does not mention where the gathered ones finally end up but that those who are alive will be caught up to meet Christ in the air and always be with the Lord. Rather it mentions the dead rising, Christ’s coming, angels, the trumpet of God along with the gathering of the elect and all of these participants are present in Matthew 24:30-31 31, which is clearly a Second Coming passage even agreed to by pre-tribulationalists. The author, the Apostle Paul says the Rapture will occur “at the last trumpet”. To be consistent with Revelation 11 this trumpet call must occur after the Tribulation. In the same way, Revelation 21 mentions the first resurrection after the Second Coming in Revelation 19. By definition, there can be no trumpet call after the last one, and no resurrection before the first.
Linguistic support for a one-event 2nd Coming are in the words “meet” and “coming” in 1 Thessalonians 4. The meet in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 and in Matthew 25:1 (a Second Coming parable) refers to the custom of people going out to meet a dignitary as he was approaching their city before he got there, and accompanying or welcoming him back to where they came from. This is also the usage in Acts 28:15 of those going out to meet Paul as he headed toward them in Rome. Also, the Greek term parousia has the idea of a grand dignitary making his arrival to a certain location. The rest of the passage supports this grand arrival with His coming being heralded with trumpet, angels, and a surging ‘city’ of gathered believers going out to meet Him. Who more grand than the Lord Jesus Christ at His coming to reign on earth? This passage lends more weight to the post-tribulational position.
Another strength for this position is Paul saying when the church would receive rest for its suffering. It would take place at the revealing of Jesus Christ with fire and judgment and at this time those who were afflicting the church at Thessalonica would be repaid for such treatment. No mention is made of a Pre-tribulational removal but that rest comes at His Coming and so does judgment.
A passage much debated regarding the timing of the Rapture is Revelation 3:10, which speaks of the Philadelphian church being “kept from the hour of trial which is about to come upon the whole earth to test those who dwell on the earth.” The debate centers around the phrase “kept from” which could be taken to mean “physical removal from” (Pre-trib) or “preservation from or in the midst of” (Post-trib). However it is interesting to note that the verse denotes that the testing is for “those who dwell on the earth.” This is a common phrase referring to unbelievers. What we see later in Revelation, on at least 3 occasions, is that the saints are “sealed” and kept out of harm’s way when God pours out specific judgments which only affect His unbelieving enemies.
Linguistic highlight the idea that Christians are preserved by God through tribulation rather than removed:
I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
This passage is one of the most blunt verses, showing that Jesus himself did not want the Christians taken out of the world in order to protect them from evil but had the intention of preservation in the midst of it. This is a place where pre-tribulationism lacks linguistic favor because this verse and Revelation 3:10 are the only places where the exact phrase tereo ek translated from Greek into keep from are found and that by the same author, the disciple John.
The pretribulational argument that there are ‘two phases’ to Christ’s coming (a Rapture and a later Second Advent) runs into difficulties with Acts 1:11, which nearly equates Christ’s Ascension to heaven with his Second Coming. Logically, the Second Coming cannot have two phases if the Ascension only had one. This eliminates two phases of His Coming with a 7 year interval. Likewise, heaven must “receive” or contain Jesus “until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time”. Most scholars see this “restoration of all things” as the one-thousand year reign of Christ on earth (as prophesied in the Old Testament) which begins just after the Second Advent. If Christ is to remain in heaven until this coming rule of His according to thess verses (see also Hebrews 9:27,28), it would seem the next main prophetic event would be the Second Coming rather than Him coming 7 years prior to get the church, bring them back to heaven, and then leaving heaven for earth again as the pre-tribulational rapture position indicates.
Pre-tribulational usage of Luke 17 can also be counter-balanced. In this eschatological scenario, Luke 17:37 explains what happens to the people that are “taken”: the eagles gather together at their [dead] bodies. Do they eat them? “Taken” may also have the idea of judgment and that Luke 17:22-37 is referring to the unmistakable visual nature of the Second Coming. Even the disciples are warned not to believe reports that Christ has come if they have not seen it “for just as 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. Many take the fact that vultures hovering over a dead body is clearly visible from a great distance away to mean that the Second Coming will be clearly visible and will not be hidden. It seems that Luke 17 can be compared to Revelation 19, which reads that the fowls are invited to a feast—on the flesh of men, small and great, at the Lord’s coming.
The Parable in Matthew 13 explains that the unsaved (tares) are destroyed first before the saved (wheat) are addressed. This parable describes what the kingdom of heaven is like and it uses agricultural metaphor to explain that believers and unbelievers will remain together until the harvest. When is the harvest? Well, when Jesus explains the parable. He says the harvest is the “end of the age” in verse 39. At that time he sends his angels to destroy the tares while the wheat (believers) remain and shine forth as the sun in His Father’s kingdom. This seems to fit better with the Rapture and the Second Coming being one event rather than a time gap of 7 years.
Zechariah 14, speaks of the “Day of the Lord” and that “in that Day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives.” This exactly parallels the angel’s statement in Acts 1, “that as He left so shall He return.” Tying this with I Thessalonians 4:16-17, we see all the living and dead Christians are gathered to Jesus at that time. Going back to Zechariah 14:5 we read, “Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. ” This inexorably links the return of Jesus to the glorification and “rapture” of Christians to Him.
In Revelation 2:25 31 Jesus says to the faithful at Thyatira, “Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come.” In other words, ‘hold onto the truth of the Christian faith and its obedience amidst the false teaching of Jezebel and her sins, until My coming again.’ Pre-trib commentators agree this could be talking about the Second Coming of Christ (John MacArthur, Robert L. Thomas). Would Jesus say hold on to the faith until I come again if they were not going to be there when he returned, but would have already been raptured? Expositor’s Bible Commentary also makes this assertion.
Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold the farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
They are to be patient amidst persecution until when? Until the coming (parousia) of the Lord. Parousia is well known to mean “presence” and refers to His second coming many times in the New Testament. Also notice that the farming analogy seems to indicate that the farmer is aware of the coming rains just as the believer is aware of coming end time events. For example Jesus warned “when you see these things begin to take place [end time signs in the sun, moon, and stars / world chaos], straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” This manner of expectancy is objected to on the grounds that it destroys the idea of Christ’s rapture of the church being imminent, or able to occur at any moment. But imminent probably doesn’t mean ‘at any moment’ in the New Testament. Many New Testament passages implicitly rule out an “any second” imminency (Matthew 24:45-51…25:5,19;Luke 19:11-27;John 21:18-19…Acts 9:15…). At the very least Apostles Peter and Paul could not have believed in this kind of imminency because Peter was told by Jesus what manner of death he was to die and that it would take place many years later. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself, and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands [be crucified], and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” Could Peter think the Rapture was at any moment with this enduring prediction by Jesus? Also, it was told of Paul that he would bear Christ’s name “before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel” and that God would “show him how much he is to suffer for My name’s sake.” Does an any moment Rapture fit with such a massive missionary plan revealed by God for Paul’s life which took decades to complete? Jesus encouraged the first disciples and all Christians, to look for certain events which would indicate His coming was “at the doors.” This coupled with other passages like 1 Thessalonians 5:2-6, seems to indicate moral watchfulness, waiting in expectancy, and sobriety (“be sober”) and that the wrath of that day will overtake those in darkness (unbelievers) like a thief “but you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief.” Thus a different concept of imminency emerges.
Jesus, speaking chronologically in the Olivet Discourse regarding end time events, goes from the escalation of troubling times beginning in the 1st century and the present age (highlighting the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome in A.D. 70) to the time of tribulation and then to His Second Coming without any mention of a prior removal of the church 7 or 3.5 years before it. One author sees Jesus as advocating a “delay” between the destruction of Jerusalem and His Second Advent. On the contrary, he states that “immediately after the tribulation of those days…they [the world] shall see the son of Man coming…and He shall send His angels, and they shall gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” Therefore, Jesus seems to put the rapture just before his second coming or on his way to earth. The phrase “gathering together” describes the rapture in 2 Thessalonians 2:1 using the noun form of the same Greek word.
Paul says: “we who are alive and remain [on the earth] until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep[died].” Then he points out that the Lord’s coming with angels and the trumpet call will invite those already dead in Christ to rise from the dead before the ones on earth participate in the event. Then Paul states: “Then we who are alive and remain [on earth] shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.” Some commentators note that because Paul used the plural “we” when referring to those who “are alive and remain[on earth]” indicates that Paul believed that he and all believers on earth might witness and be a part of the Second Coming of Christ from earth. This would indicate that he would be on earth just prior to the coming of the Lord and the Rapture. This is also the usage when he speaks of the same event saying: “We shall not all sleep [die], but we shall all be changed-in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” This passage adds the fact that believers will receive glorified bodies which is missing from the Thessalonian passage].” If believers were raptured before the tribulation then why would Paul use “we” and consider himself with all Christians to possibly be those who would be “alive and remaining [on earth] until the coming of the Lord?” They wouldn’t be alive and remaining on the earth at His coming in a pre-tribulational scenario but would already be with Jesus in clouds along with the other believers who had died in Christ.
Published September 22, 2011 | By JapanKen
- Augustine of Hippo, The City of God, Chapter 23.
- Barnabas, The Epistle of Barnabas, chapter 4
- Caecilius Cyprianus (Bishop of Carthage; Post-Tribulationist) [Treatise 7.2]
- Didache (speaks of Jesus gathering the elect after the Tribulation)
- Ephrem the Syrian (Post-Tribulationist)
- George Müller (19th Century Christian evangelist and orphanage coordinator)
- Greg Koukl (Evangelical Radio Host, Apologist, Author and Speaker for Stand to Reason)
- Hermas, The Shepherd of Hermas
- Hippolytus (Writer of the early Christian Church; Speaks of the Antichrist’s reign and persecution of the Church )
- Irenaeus (Post-Tribulationist; Disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of John the apostle)
- John Charles Ryle (19th Century Anglican bishop and theologian)
- Benjamin Wills Newton (Evangelist, leader in the Plymouth Brethren, theological rival to John Nelson Darby.)
- John Gill (Held the view that the Church was not raptured out in any event prior the tribulation)
- Justin Martyr (Christian apologist and Post-Tribulationist)
- Charles Spurgeon (Christian English Baptist Preacher. Known as the “Prince of Preachers”.)
- James Montgomery Boice (Former Pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, PA.)
- John Piper (Evangelical Calvinist, Pastor, Author) Article listed below.
- Samuel Prideaux Tregelles (19th Century Bible scholar)
- Tertullian (Father of the Latin Church; Post-Tribulationist)
- Victorinus (third or fourth century; Book of Revelation first commentary writer)
- Walter Ralston Martin (20th Century American Apologist, Minister, Author, and Founder of Christian Research Institute)
- George Eldon Ladd (Baptist minister and Theologian. Taught at Fuller Theological Seminary.)
- Gordon Clark (Christian Philosopher and Theologian.)
- Francis Schaeffer (Christian Philosopher, Theologian, and Presbyterian Pastor.)
- Wayne Grudem (well known Christian theologian, author, and professor)
The Early Church
In this section I wish to show evidence of post-tribulationism in the early church. From what we can gather, they expected to see and be persecuted by the antichrist before the Lord came back, and they expected to go through the Tribulation. They also applied passages which speak of the Tribulation to the church while pre-tribulationists would say that these are for the Jews or for the “tribulational saints” who will be on earth during that time.
The Didache (possibly before A.D. 100)
The author of this work substituted “church” for “elect” where Jesus spoke of gathering together his elect after the Tribulation (Matt. 24:29-31; Mark 13:24-27).
So let Thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy kingdom [chapter 9].
Remember, Lord, Thy Church, to deliver it from all evil and to make it perfect in Thy love, and gather it from the four winds, sanctified for Thy kingdom which Thou hast prepared for it [chapter 10].
Barnabas (A.D. 100)
The final stumbling-block approaches . . . [here the author begins to describe the beast, or antichrist]. We take earnest heed in these last days; for the whole [past] time of your faith will profit you nothing, unless now in this wicked time we also withstand coming sources of danger, as becometh the sons of God. That the Black One may find no means of entrance [The Epistle of Barnabas, chapter 4].
Justin Martyr (A.D. 110-165)
The man of apostasy, who speaks strange things against the Most High, shall venture to do unlawful deeds on the earth against us the Christians . . . [Dialogue with Trypho, chapter 110]
Irenaeus (A.D. 120-202)
Tradition says that Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of John the apostle.
And they [the ten kings] shall lay Babylon waste, and burn her with fire, and shall give their kingdom to the beast, and put the Church to flight. After that they shall be destroyed by the coming of our Lord [Against Heresies 5.26.1].
But he [John] indicates the number of the name now [the mark of the Beast], that when this man comes we may avoid him, being aware who he is [Against Heresies 5.30.4].
For all these and other words were unquestionably spoken in reference to the resurrection of the just, which takes place after the coming of Antichrist, and the destruction of all nations under his rule; in [the times of] which [resurrection] the righteous shall reign in the earth [Against Heresies 5.35.1].
Tertullian (A.D. 145-220)
He equates Paul’s description of the rapture of the church in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 with Daniel’s description of the second coming.
For we shall, according to the apostle, be caught up into the clouds to meet the Lord [even the Son of man, who shall come in the clouds, according to Daniel] and so shall we ever be with the Lord [Against Marcion 3.25].
And that the beast Antichrist with his false prophet may wage war on the Church of God . . . Since, then, the Scriptures both indicate the stages of the last times, and concentrate the harvest of the Christian hope in the very end of the world [On the Resurrection of the flesh, chapter 25].
Now the privilege of this favor [to be clothed with immortality] awaits those who shall at the coming of the Lord be found in the flesh, and who shall, owing to the oppressions of the time of Antichrist, deserve by an instantaneous death, which is accomplished by a sudden change, to become qualified to join the rising saints; as he writes to the Thessalonians: [He goes on to quote 1 Thess. 4:15-17, On the Resurrection of the Flesh, chapter 41]
Hermas (A.D. 160)
Happy are ye who endure the great tribulation that is coming on, and happy they who shall not deny their own life [The Shepherd of Hermas, Vision 2:2].
Now some have seen a pre-tribulation rapture in the following passage:
Go, therefore, and tell the elect of the Lord His mighty deeds, and say to them that this beast is a type of the great tribulation that is coming. If then ye prepare yourselves, and repent with all your heart, and turn to the Lord, it will be possible for you to escape it, if your heart be pure and spotless, and ye spend the rest of the days of your life in serving the Lord blamelessly [Vision 4:2].
However, if we keep reading we see that the way of escape is by protection through the Tribulation:
For as gold is tested by fire, and thus becomes useful, so are you tested who dwell in it. Those, therefore, who continue steadfast, and are put through the fire, will be purified by means of it. For as gold casts away its dross, so also will ye cast away all sadness and straitness, and will be made pure so as to fit into the building of the tower. But the white part is the age that is to come, in which the elect of God will dwell, since those elected by God to eternal life will be spotless and pure. Wherefore cease not speaking these things into the ears of the saints. This then is the type of the great tribulation that is to come. If ye wish it, it will be nothing [Vision 4:3].
However, this is not a doctrinal work but is the record of a vision which Hermas experienced. Here a woman is telling him these things which he is in turn recording. This entire book is riddled with very strange teachings.
Now, concerning the tribulation of the persecution which is to fall upon the Church from the adversary, John also speaks thus: “And I saw a great and wondrous sign in heaven . . .” That refers to the one thousand two hundred and threescore days [the half of the week] during which the tyrant is to reign and persecute the Church [Treatise on Christ and Antichrist, chapters 60-61].
Cyprian (A.D. 200-258)
With the exhortation of His fore-seeing word, instructing, and teaching, and preparing, and strengthening the people of His Church for all endurance of things to come, He predicted and said that wars, and famines, and earthquakes, and pestilences would arise in each place . . . as the Lord Himself promises, saying, “But when ye see all these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is at hand” [Treatise 7.2].
The day of affliction has begun to hang over our heads, and the end of the world and the time of Antichrist to draw near, so that we must all stand prepared for the battle . . . A severer and a fiercer fight is now threatening [Epistle 55:1].
Victorinus (third or fourth century)
Victorinus wrote the first known commentary on the book of Revelation. Notice how he expects the church to see these events in his comments on 7:2:
He speaks of Elias the prophet, who is the precursor of the times of Antichrist, for the restoration and establishment of the churches from the great and intolerable persecution [Commentary on the Apocalypse of John 7:2].
But he who reads this passage[Daniel 12], even half asleep, cannot fail to see that the kingdom of Antichrist shall fiercely, though for a short time, assail the Church before the last judgment of God shall introduce the eternal reign of the saints [The City of God, Chapter 23].
 Saint Augustine, The City of God, in The Nicene and Post-Nicean Fathers vol. 2, (Grand Rapids MI: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), 443.
copyright: 1999 by William Arnold III