Category Archives: Eschatology (The Study of Last Things)
Biblical Evidences for a Pretribulational Rapture
by Mike Vlach
President of Theological Studies.org www.theologicalstudies.org
Introductory matters concerning the Rapture
Interest in the Rapture: A 1994 survey by U.S. News and World Report found that 61 percent of Americans believe that Jesus Christ will return to earth, and 44 percent believe in the rapture of the church. (Jeffery L. Sheler, “The Christmas Covenant,” U.S. News and World Report, December 19, 1994, pp. 62, 64)
Where do we get the term “Rapture”? The term “rapture” is not found in the Bible, so where does the word come from? The term “rapture” comes from the Latin translation of the Greek word translated “caught up” in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. Charles Ryrie explains, “The Greek word from which we take the term ‘rapture’ appears in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, translated ‘caught up.’ The Latin translation of this verse used the word rapturo. The Greek word it translates is harpazo, which means to snatch or take away. Elsewhere it is used to describe how the Spirit caught up Philip near Gaza and brought him to Caesarea (Acts 8:39) and to describe Paul’s experience of being caught up into the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2-4). Thus there can be no doubt that the word is used in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 to indicate the actual removal of people from earth to heaven.” (Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology, p. 462)
Passages referring to the Rapture There are three primary texts which refer to the Rapture: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 1 Corinthians 15:51-57 and John 14:1-3.
Components of the Rapture
The return of Christ “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout. . .” (1 Thess. 4:16). “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to myself” (John 14:3)
A resurrection of dead church saints “The dead in Christ shall rise first” (1 Thess. 4:16). “The dead will be raised imperishable” (1 Cor. 15:52).
A translation of living believers “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up” (1 Thess. 4:17).
A glorious reunion “We. . . 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 Thess. 4:17). “I will come. . . that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3).
A giving of glorified bodies “We shall be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:52-53). “We eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory” (Philippians 3:20-21).
Speed of Rapture “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Cor. 15:52).
The timing of the Rapture in relation to the Tribulation period
The debate “In the nineteenth century, teaching concerning the Rapture of the church began to be widely disseminated. This raised such questions as whether the second coming of Christ involves several stages, the relation of those stages to the Tribulation period, and the distinctiveness of the church from Israel in God’s program. In the twentieth century one of the most debated questions in eschatology concerns the time of the Rapture.” (Ryrie, p. 478)
The various views Amillennialists and Postmillennialists regard the coming of Christ as a single event to be followed by a general resurrection and judgment. Within Premillennialism, though, five main views have been promoted concerning the timing of the Rapture:
Pretribulationism teaches that the Rapture of the church will occur before the seven-year Tribulation period begins. Supporters of this view include John Walvoord, Charles Ryrie, Dwight Pentecost, Alva J. McClain, John Feinberg, and Paul Feinberg.
Midtribulationsim teaches that the Rapture of the church will occur at the midpoint of the seven years of Tribulation; that is, after three and one half years have elapsed. Supporters of this view include Oliver Buswell and Gleason Archer.
The Pre-wrath rapture view teaches that all Christians will be taken in the Rapture approximately three-fourths of the way through the Tribulation period. Supporters of this view include Marvin Rosenthal and Robert Van Kampen.
Posttribulationism teaches that the Rapture and Second Coming are facets of a single event which will occur at the end of the Tribulation period. Thus, the church will be on earth during the seven years Tribulation period. Supporters of this view include George Ladd, Robert Gundry and Douglas Moo.
The Partial rapture view teaches that only the “spiritual” Christians who are watching and waiting for the Lord’s return will be taken in the Rapture. Then during the seven years of Tribulation other Church Age saints who were not prepared for the initial Rapture will be raptured at various intervals. This view originated with Robert Govett in 1835 and was also taught by J. A. Seiss and G.H. Lang.
Why is this issue of the timing of the Rapture important?
The study of the Rapture is important because we want to know the whole counsel of God.
The Christian’s expectation The Rapture issue is important because it deals with the nature of the Christian’s hope and expectation. Are Christians to expect Christ’s return at any moment? Or, are we expecting to go through a time of worldwide tribulation?
A Biblical defense of Pretribulationism
Of these five views why is Pretribulationism to be preferred? The following are biblical evidences for a Pretribulational Rapture:
The pillars of Pretribulationism
The foundation of Pretribulationism has four elements:
(1) Consistent literal interpretation: The literal method of interpretation attempts to explain the original sense of the writer according to the normal usages of words and language. The literal method interprets all of the Bible in a normal and plain way, all the time understanding that the Bible, at times, uses symbols, figures of speech and types.
(2) Distinction between Israel and the Church: The more one recognizes the biblical distinction between Israel and the church, the clearer one will be able to see God’s distinct plan for each group. According to Thomas Ice, “If Israel and the church are not distinguished, then there is no basis for seeing a future for Israel or for the church as a new and unique people of God. If Israel and the church are merged into a single program, then the Old Testament promises for Israel will never be fulfilled and are usually seen by replacement theologians as spiritually fulfilled by the church. The merging of Israel’s destiny into the church not only makes into one what the Scriptures understand as two, but it also removes a need for future restoration of God’s original elect people in order to fulfill literally His promise that they will one day be the head and not the tail (Deuteronomy 28:13).
The more that believers see a distinct plan for Israel and a distinct plan for the church, the more they realize that when the New Testament speaks to the church it is describing a separate destiny and hope for her. The church becomes more distinct in the plan of God. Israel’s future includes the seven-year tribulation, and then shortly before Christ’s return to Jerusalem she will be converted to Jesus as her Messiah. . . . On the other hand, the distinct hope for the church is Christ’s any-moment return.
Thus, a distinction between Israel and the church, as taught in the Bible, provides a basis of support for the pretribulational rapture. Those who merge the two programs cannot logically support the biblical arguments for pretribulationism.” (Thomas Ice and Timothy Demy, The Truth About The Rapture, pp. 25-26)
(3) Futurism: Pretribulationism takes a futuristic interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27 and the book of Revelation. Daniel 9:24-27 gives the seven-year chronological framework of the Tribulation while Revelation 6-18 details the judgments that make up this period. Futurism sees prophecy as being fulfilled in the future, namely with the Tribulation period, the Second Coming of Christ to earth, and the Millennial Kingdom. Futurism is opposed to preterism, which sees prophecy as already being fulfilled in the past, predominately in A.D. 70. Futurism is also opposed to historicism which sees prophecy being fulfilled in the current Church Age.
(4) Premillennialism: At the end of the seven year Tribulation period, Jesus Christ will return to earth in power and glory to set up an earthly Kingdom from Jerusalem that will last for a literal one thousand years (see Rev. 20:1-6).
Proper methodology for addressing the rapture issue
What is the proper method for addressing this issue of the timing of the Rapture?
Examine the Rapture and Second Coming passages:
Go first to the portions of Scripture that speak directly about the Rapture and the return of the Lord to earth.
Study John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58; and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 for the Rapture.
Examine Zechariah 14:1-21; Matthew 24:29-31; Mark 13:24-27; Luke 21:25-27; and Revelation 19 for the Second Coming to earth.
Examine implications of conclusions Proper methodology does not stop with an examination of the primary texts addressing an issue. As John Feinberg says, “While one should begin with passages that speak directly about the doctrine under consideration, one must also pay attention to the implications of the doctrine. This is especially important if, as in the case of the rapture, the passages about the rapture and return of the Lord do not determine the question of the rapture’s timing in relation to the time of the Tribulation. . . . Implications and relations of doctrines to one another are crucial. If one’s position on a given theological issue is correct, it will fit with other known theological and biblical truths rather than contradict them. (John S. Feinberg, “Arguing for the Rapture: Who Must Prove What and How” in, When the Trumpet Sounds, Thomas Ice and Timothy eds. p. 191)
Putting it all together “The key point to remember is that proper theological methodology dare not allow us to ignore either the rapture and parousia passages or the doctrines that have implications for one’s views on the rapture and second advent. Although study should begin with passages that speak directly to the topic at hand, both are equally important. It is surely no victory to uphold one’s views on the timing of the rapture at the expense of denying what God’s Word says, for example, about the relation of the church to God’s judgmental wrath.” (John Feinberg, p. 192)
Biblical evidence for Pretribulationism
The Bible does not explicitly tells us the timing of the Rapture. Thus, no one verse tells us that the Rapture will be pretribulational (or midtribulational or posttribulational for that matter). Does this mean that the doctrine of pretribulationism is unbiblical? Not necessarily. Many important biblical doctrines are not given to us directly in one verse. Some doctrines are based on a harmonization of multiple passages. For example, no one verse explains the doctrine of the Trinity or that Jesus Christ is the God-man. Yet a harmonization of passages shows these doctrines to be biblical. Likewise a harmonization of biblical texts shows the pretribulational rapture view to be biblical. The following are the biblical evidences:
God has promised the Church deliverance from divine wrath (1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9; Rev. 3:10) God made a special promise to the church that it will be delivered from the future, tribulational wrath of God. It is best to take this deliverance as a physical removal (Rapture)from this time of divine wrath.
1 Thess. 1:9-10 The Thessalonians were wait[ing] for His Son from heaven. . . that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come. Why does this wrath refer to the Tribulation? First, the context of 1 and 2 Thessalonians deals with the Day of the Lord and the judgment of God that precedes the coming of Christ. Second, the text states that it is a future wrath (“wrath to come”). Third, it is a wrath one can be rescued from by the return of Christ. Thus, The wrath referred to then is the wrath of the Tribulation period and not God’s eternal wrath in general.
1 Thess. 5:9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. Why does this wrath refer to the Tribulation? The immediate context is the wrath of the Day of the Lord (5:1-8). Plus, this must be the same wrath as 1 Thess. 1:10.
The whole seven year Tribulation period is a time of God’s divine wrath so the protection promised must be for the whole seven years. Some have tried to say that divine wrath does not characterize the whole seven year Tribulation period. They say that the early judgments (the seals) of the tribulation are the wrath of man and Satan. The following points, however, show that the whole Tribulation period is a time of divine wrath.
Jesus is the One who directly opens all the Tribulation judgments including the seal judgments which begin the Tribulation period. In Revelation 4 and 5 Jesus is the One found worthy to open the seals which He begins to open in 6:1. The opening of the seals by Christ indicates that the seal judgments are divine wrath.
The seal judgments which open the Tribulation are consistent with divine wrath “The judgments of these four seals include the sword, famine, pestilence, and wild beasts, frequently used in Scripture as the expressions of divine wrath. Indeed, they are all included and named when God calls His ‘four severe judgments upon Jerusalem: sword, famine, wild beasts and plague’ (Ezek. 14:21).” (Gerald B. Stanton, “A Review of the Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church, Bibliotecha Sacra, vol. 148 #589, January 1991) Plus, plagues such as pestilence and wild beasts can hardly be caused by man.
As early as the sixth seal, unbelievers declare that God’s wrath “has come” (Rev. 6:16-17). Unbelievers recognize that all six seals that have happened so far are the direct wrath of God. Robert L. Thomas says “The verb elthen (‘has come’) is aorist indicative, referring to a previous arrival of the wrath, not something that is about to take place. Men see the arrival of this day at least as early as the cosmic upheavals that characterize the sixth seal (6:12-14), but upon reflection they probably recognize it was already in effect with the death of one-fourth of the population (6:7-8), the worldwide famine (6:5-6), and the global warfare (6:3-4). The rapid sequence of all these events could not escape public notice, but the light of their true explanation does not dawn upon human consciousness until the severe phenomena of the sixth seal arrive.” (Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7, pp. 457-58)
Revelation 3:10 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 upon the earth. Here is a promise to the Church of preservation outside of the time of Tribulation. Thus, believers are not only promised deliverance from divine wrath but from the time period (“hour”) of divine wrath. This rules out the possibility of the Church being on earth during the Tribulation. As Ryrie says, “It is impossible to conceive of being in the location where something is happening and being exempt from the time of the happening.”
Differences between Rapture passages and Second Coming passages indicate that the two are different events happening at different times.
The central passages dealing with the Rapture are John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
The central passages dealing with the Second Coming to earth are Zechariah 14:1- 21; Matthew 24:29-31; Mark 13:24-27; Luke 21:25-27 and Revelation 19. A careful examination of these texts will show that there is enough reason to conclude that the Rapture and the Second Coming to earth are not the same event:
(1) The Second Coming is preceded by signs but the Rapture is presented as imminent with no signs preceding it. “In passages that deal with the Second Advent there are signs or events that lead up to and signal the return of Jesus Christ (e.g., Matt. 24:4-28; Rev. 19:11-21). In each of these passages of Scripture there is the careful and extensive itemizing of details that should alert believers in that day that the Second Advent is about to occur. . . . On the other hand, there is no mention of any signs or events that precede the Rapture of the church in any of the Rapture passages. The point seems to be that the believer prior to this event is to look, not for some sign, but the Lord from heaven. If the Rapture was a part of the complex of events that make up the Second Advent, and not distinct from it, then we would expect that there would be a mention of signs or events in at least one passage.” (See Paul D. Feinberg, “The Case For The Pretribulation Rapture Position,” in Gleason Archer, Paul Feinberg, Douglas Moo, The Rapture: Pre-, Mid-, or Post Tribulational? p. 80)
(2) The Rapture is presented as a coming in blessing while the Second Coming is a coming for judgment. “In the clear Rapture passages, the Lord’s coming is presented as a coming in blessing for the saints. Nothing is said about His coming for judgment. On the other hand, passages about the second advent speak of the Lord’s coming in judgment upon His enemies (Rev. 19:11ff; Joel 3:12-16; Zech. 14:3-5).” (John Feinberg, p. 198). “In each of the Rapture passages there is no mention of trial before the event. Rather, there is the bare promise of Christ’s return for His own.” (Paul Feinberg, p. 81)
(3) Second Coming passages are in the context of the setting up of the Kingdom while the Rapture passages make no mention of the Kingdom. “Second advent passages are invariably followed by talk of setting up the kingdom after the Lord’s return (e.g., Matt. 24:31; 25:31ff; Zech. 14; Joel 3; Rev. 19-20). So, the second advent is preparatory to the establishment of the millennial kingdom. On the other hand, clear rapture passages give no hint that after the rapture the Lord establishes the kingdom.” (John Feinberg, p. 198)
(4) Glorified bodies at the Rapture: “It is very clear from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:51ff that at the rapture those gathered to the Lord will be glorified. On the other hand, second advent passages say nothing about anyone (living or dead) receiving a glorified body.” (John Feinberg, p. 198) “Nowhere in the texts that deal with the Second Advent is there the teaching about the translation of living saints.” (Paul Feinberg, p. 82)
(5) No mention of meeting in the air in Second Coming passages: Nowhere in the Second Coming passages is a meeting in the air mentioned.
(6) Differences in timing of resurrections “There seems to be an inconsistency between the time of the resurrection at the Rapture and at the Second Coming. In the central Rapture passage dealing with this issue, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, the time of the resurrection of dead saints in clearly stated to be during the descent of Christ of to the earth. Those raptured, living and dead saints, will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Contrast that information with what is found in Revelation 19-20. There, the order seems to be: the descent of Christ, the slaying of His enemies, the casting of the Beast and the False Prophet into the lake of fire, the binding of Satan, and then the resurrection of the saints. It seems as though the resurrection of the dead will be during the descent at the Rapture, but after the descent at the Second Coming.” (Paul Feinberg, p. 84)
(7) Differences in destiny at time of comings: “There seems to be an inconsistency between the destination of those who are raptured in the Rapture and the destination of those who participate in the Second Coming. In the posttribulation understanding of the events that surround the Second Coming, the church will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air and will immediately accompany Him on His continued descent to the earth. Compare that with John 14:3. In the Rapture the Lord is going to come and take those raptured to be with Him. The clear implication is that the raptured saints will be taken to heaven, not earth. If this is so, then the destination of those caught up in the Rapture will be heaven. According to the Second Coming passages, however, the saints involved are headed for the earth.” (Paul Feinberg, p. 84)
(8) The role of the angels in the comings: At the Second Coming, the angels are the ones who will gather the elect (Matt. 24:31). At the Rapture Jesus is the direct agent of the gathering (1 Thess. 4:16).
(9) The “mystery” nature of the Rapture: “Paul speaks of the Rapture as a ‘mystery’ (1 Cor. 15:51-54), that is, a truth not revealed until it was disclosed by the apostles (Col. 1:26). Thus the Rapture is said to be a newly revealed mystery, making it a separate event. The Second Coming on the other hand, was predicted in the Old Testament (Dan. 12:1-3; Zech. 12:10; 14:4). (Thomas Ice in “The Biblical Basis for the Pretribulational Rapture,” in Basic Theology Applied, p. 269)
(10) No mention of the Church in Revelation 4-18: Revelation 4-18 gives the most detailed account of the seven year Tribulation period. If the Church were to be in the Tribulation period, surely one would expect at least one reference to the Church in this time period. The Church, however, which is referred to nineteen times in the first three chapters of Revelation, is suddenly silent and never referred to in chapters 4-18. “It is remarkable and totally unexpected that John would shift from detailed instructions for the Church to absolute silence about the Church for the subsequent 15 chapters if, in fact, the Church continued into the tribulation.” (Richard L. Mayhue, Snatched Before the Storm, p. 8)
(11) Pretribulationism best explains the presence of nonglorified saints who will enter the Millennial Kingdom. The Bible indicates that living unbelievers will be removed from the earth and judged at the end of the Tribulation. Yet the Bible also teaches that children will be born during the Millennium and that people will be capable of sin (Isa. 65:20 and Rev. 20:7-10). How can this be? The pretribulational view allows for people to be saved after the Rapture and during the Tribulation who will then enter the Millennial Kingdom in nonglorified bodies. As John Feinberg says, “According to pretribulationism, after the rapture the Tribulation begins. The gospel is preached throughout the Tribulation and there are some who believe. Though many who believe are killed (e.g., Revelation 13:7, 15), not all believers are killed during the Tribulation. Those who live through the Tribulation go into the kingdom in natural bodies. In addition, some people accept the Lord when he returns at the end of the Tribulation (e.g., Zech. 12:10). Many of these people do not die at that point, and there is no evidence that they are given a glorified body when they receive Christ. These people are also available to go into the kingdom in natural bodies. For a pretrib position, there are seven years to get people saved prior to the kingdom, and some of those can go into the kingdom in natural bodies. . . . The position that is really in trouble with respect to this issue is the posttribulation rapture view. If everyone who goes at the rapture is glorified, and if the rapture occurs at the end of the Tribulation, who is left to enter the kingdom in natural bodies? All believers will have been raptured and glorified by that time.” (Italics mine) (John Feinberg, p. 201)
The nature and purpose of the Tribulation excludes the Church from being part of it.
(12) Nature of Tribulation centers on Israel: According to Daniel 9:24-27, the “seventy weeks” prophecy including the final “one week” (seven years) is for Israel (“your people”). Jeremiah 30:7 refers to the Tribulation period as a time of “Jacob’s distress.” “While the church will experience tribulation in general during the present age (John 16:33), she is never mentioned as participating in Israel’s time of trouble, which includes the great tribulation, the day of the Lord, and the wrath of God.” (Ice and Demy, The Truth About The Rapture, p. 36)
Purpose #1: Preparation of Israel “The Bible teaches that the Tribulation is a time of preparation for Israel’s restoration and conversion (Deuteronomy 4:29, 30; Jeremiah 30:3-11; Zechariah 12:10).” (Ice and Demy, p. 36)
Purpose #2: Judgment for an unbelieving world Revelation 3:10 refers to the Tribulation period as “the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth.” The second major purpose of the Tribulation, then, is to test the unbelieving world. “Those who dwell upon the earth” refers to those who are unbelievers on earth during the period described in Revelation 4-19. (Thomas Edgar, “An Exegesis of Rapture Passages,” in Issues in Dispensationalism, p. 216)
(13) The nature of the Church: If the nature of the Tribulation is Jewish and the purpose of the Tribulation is to bring Israel to belief and to judge the unbelieving world, what purpose does the church have in relation to this period? As shown already, the church is promised deliverance from this time of wrath (1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9; Rev. 3:10).
(14) The expectation of the Church is the imminent coming of Christ not the Tribulation period. “Passages such as 1 Corinthians 1:7; Titus 2:13 and Philippians 3:20 are applicable at this point. The believer is pictured as eagerly waiting and earnestly expecting the Savior. Watching for signs is entirely foreign to these passages. It never occurs. Not even once. Furthermore, not only is the believer to look for the any-moment return of the Lord, but he is to direct his life in the light of it (cf. Rom. 13:11-14; James 5:7-8; 1 John 3:1-3). If, on the other hand, there are specific prophesied signs, in reality we would not be looking for the Savior at any moment but instead should be watching for the revelation of the man of sin, the Great Tribulation, etc. There would be at least a seven-year preparation period.” (Earl D. Radmacher, “The Imminent Return of the Lord,” in Issues in Dispensationalism, pp. 264-65). “It is incongruous then that the Scriptures would be silent on such a traumatic change for the Church. If posttribulationism were true, one would expect the epistles to teach the fact of the Church in the tribulation, the purpose of the Church in the tribulation, and the conduct of the Church in the tribulation.” (Mayhue, p. 9)
(15) The Thessalonian’s expectation: That Paul had taught a Pretribulational Rapture can be inferred from 2 Thessalonians 2:2-3. In this passage, Paul notes that the Thessalonians had been “shaken” and “disturbed” because they had been led to think that they were presently in the Day of the Lord (i.e. the Tribulation period). The fact that they were disturbed is significant. If Paul had taught a posttribulational rapture, the Thessalonians would have had no reason to be disturbed since they would be expecting signs and persecution before the coming of the Lord. Thus, they could joyously look to the soon coming of the Lord after the Tribulation. However, the fact that the Thessalonians were shook up indicates that they did not expect to be in the Day of the Lord. A fair inference is that, in line with Paul’s previous teaching, the Thessalonians expected to be raptured prior to the Day of the Lord.
Concluding thoughts The purpose of this work has been to present a positive, biblical case for the pretribulational rapture position. The judgmental and Jewish nature of the Tribulation seems to exclude the Church who is promised deliverance from this time of wrath. The differences between Rapture and Second Coming passages, though not convincing to all, seem weighty enough to make it very possible that the two are different events happening at different times. If this be the case, this view harmonizes well with the fact that the Church is nowhere to be found in the very detailed Tribulation section of Revelation 4-19. This view also harmonizes well with the fact that there must be a time period allowed for people to be saved and then enter the Millennial Kingdom in nonglorified bodies.
JOHN PIPER AND THE RAPTURE
(Tom’s Perspectives posted originally at http://www.pre-trib.org/data/pdf/Ice-JohnPiperandTheRaptu.pdf)
by Thomas Ice
A new movie version of Tim LaHaye’s and Jerry Jenkins’ Left Behind novel is scheduled for release in movie theaters on October 2014. This version features Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage cast in the role of pilot Rayford Steele. The announcement of this movie release has lead to a number of articles critical of the pretribulational rapture. Morgan Lee produced a piece primarily quoting William Craig, a Philosophy professor at historically pretribulational Talbot School of Theology in Southern California. Another article appeared a week later: “Nine Reasons Why John Piper Disagrees with Nicolas Cage’s ‘Left Behind’ Movie’s View of Rapture.”  Apparently a number of folks within the Evangelical community are concerned that the new movie may have a great impact upon the thinking of the Christian community, so they are trying to get a head start on bashing the biblical basis for our blessed hope.
Retired pastor and author John Piper has a large following, especially among younger Evangelicals. While he is premillennial, he is decidedly anti-pre-trib and not a supporter of the modern state of Israel. According to Noske, Piper recently tweeted his nine reasons against pretribulationism. Even though space is limited, I will attempt to evaluate those reasons. 
1. “To meet” in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 means to meet and accompany back to earth, thus, cannot be pretribulational. The Greek word for “to meet” does NOT mean what Piper says. Piper’s view was developed in the 1930s and more recent scholarship has disproved his speculation.  “To meet” does not imply any direction on the basis of the word itself. Instead, spatial direction is indicated by the context of a passage.
2. 2 Thessalonians 1:5–7 refers to the second coming. I agree this passage refers to the second coming and not the rapture. Perhaps there are some pretribulationists who see the rapture in this passage but I have never meet one. Many of Piper’s objections, such as this one, are based upon a false understanding of what pretribulationists actually believe. He is chasing after windmills.
3. In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 Piper equates the “gathering together to Him” and “the day of the Lord” as referring to the same event, the second coming. I disagree! They are separate items. The phrase “gathering together to Him” and “to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:17) are identical concepts. Both refer to the rapture as a separate event from that of the “day of the Lord.” The “day of the Lord” is used in the Old and New Testaments to primarily refer to the seven-year tribulation period and is not at all a synonym for the second coming. The phrase “great and terrible day of the Lord” is a reference to the second coming (Isa. 13:9; Joel 2:31; Zeph. 1:14–16; Mal. 4:1, 5). If Piper is correct concerning his view on this matter, then it would mean that the man of sin (the antichrist) would come after the second coming, which does not make sense within anyone’s viewpoint.
Piper says further support for his view is that “gathering” is also used in Matthew 24:31, which is clearly a posttribulational event. He claims it is the same word as in 2 Thessalonians 2. Actually, both are from the same root but are not the same word. One is a noun (2 Thess. 2) and the other is a verb (Matt. 24). The contexts of the two passages are very different, just like the rapture and the second coming are also very different events.
4. If Paul intended to teach pretribulationism then why did he not just come out and say that in 2 Thessalonians 2:3? I have been arguing in a number of articles  over the years that the Greek word often translated “falling away” or “apostasy” is best translated “departure.” Since the context supports the idea of a spatial or physical departure in 2:3, then Paul is saying exactly what Piper suggests. Paul tells them that they are not in the day of the Lord or the tribulation since the departure of the church, which is the rapture, has not taken place. The false teachers in 2 Thessalonians are teaching posttribulationism and Paul corrects them with pretribulationism.
5. Piper says no pre-trib rapture is found in Matthew 24 or Mark 13 or Luke 21. I totally agree that the rapture is not found anywhere in the Olivet Discourse. That Discourse provides Jesus’ outline of the seven-year tribulation period leading up to the second coming with no mention of the rapture. The rapture of the Church is not revealed by Christ until the night before He was crucified. The Upper Room Discourse (John 13–16) contains Christ’s introduction to Church Age truth that He expands upon in the Epistles. It makes sense that the new revelation about the rapture was introduced to His disciples shortly before His death and resurrection (John 14:1–3). 
6. Piper notes the New Testament teaches saints will be protected by God during the tribulation by the seal of God (Rev. 9:4). How is this an argument against pretribulationism since all holding to a pre-trib position believe that there will be saints who will be protected during the tribulation? Those saints in the tribulation are never called the church, instead they are the hundreds of millions who will be saved after the rapture of the church during the tribulation (Rev. 7:9–17). Many will be martyred (Rev. 6:9–11) and many will make it through the perils of that time and will enter into the millennial kingdom in their mortal bodies. So it means all will not be protected during the tribulation as Piper intimates. Revelation 9:4 speaks specifically of the five month torture of the demonic locusts (Rev. 9:1–11).
7. Next, he speaks of the command to “watch” as admonished by our Lord in Matthew 25:1– 13 when speaking of the parable of the ten virgins. Matthew 25 is a parable to Israel about watching for the second coming, not the rapture. The rapture is never found in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24—25). Instead, the church, in relation to the rapture is “waiting” for His Son from heaven . . . Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:10). Since the rapture is signless, unlike the second coming, there are no signs to watch for, thus, the church is charged with waiting for her Bridegroom (1 Cor. 1:7; Phil. 3:20; 1 Thess. 1:10; Titus 2:13; Heb. 9:28; 1 Pet. 1:13; Jude 21).
8. Piper cites Revelation 3:10 and pronounces it as the strongest passage for pre-trib, then says it means to be preserved through the tribulation. Piper cites Galatians 1:4 and John 17:15 in an attempt to support his misguided notion that “kept from the hour” in Revelation 3:10 really means preservation instead of its normal meaning of kept from the time and place of the tribulation.  First, Galatians 1:4 does not employ the Greek phrase “tereo ek” used in Revelation 3:10, therefore, the Galatians passage is not a factor to help one understand the meaning of 3:10. Next, the only other time tereo ek is used in the Greek New Testament is John 17:15 where it speaks of God the Father keeping believers from the evil one. I am sure Piper would agree Christ’s prayer has been answered since all genuine believers are protected from Satan. In the same way, all church age believers will be kept out of the time of the tribulation via the rapture before that seven-year event.
9. His final reason is “New Testament moral incentive is . . . that we should love the appearing of the Lord so that we want to be pure as the Lord is pure.”  This is hardly an argument against pretribulationism since we believe most mentions of the rapture in New Testament Epistles are accompanied with a moral imperative applied to the present. Piper cites 1 John 3:1–3 as an example. Pretribulationists believe this passage is an example of multiple references to moral purity in the present in light of a future event. This verse and many others refer to the rapture and admonishes believers to “purify oneself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3).
Evangelical leaders like John Piper appear to be on a crusade against the New Testament teaching of the pre-trib rapture doctrine as introduced by Jesus Himself in the Upper Room Discourse and expounded upon and applied in the Epistles by the Apostles, especially in Paul’s letters. In fact, Paul calls the rapture a believer’s “Blessed Hope” (Titus 2:13). Since the early 1970s in North America, God has used the teaching of pretribulationism as a key factor in seeing millions of people come to faith in Christ. Opposition to pretribulationism in the 70s came from liberals and unbelievers. Now, in 2014 many Evangelical leaders lead the way warning of the supposed dangers of preaching such a message. As a new movie is about to be released featuring the pre-trib rapture, believers should be praying that God will use it as a catalyst to proclaim the gospel to an unbelieving world so our Lord will use it to see an influx of unbelievers getting saved, similar to the early 70s. Maranatha!
 Morgan Lee, “No, Christians Should Not Believe in ‘Left Behind’s’ Rapture Theology, Says Prominent Christian Philosopher,” The Christian Post, July 30, 2014; http://www.christianpost.com.
 Lauren Leigh Noske, “Nine Reasons Why John Piper Disagrees with Nicolas Cage’s ‘Left Behind’ Movie’s View of Rapture,” The Gospel Herald, August 6, 2014; http://www.gospelherald.com.
 I am also drawing from Piper’s “Definitions and Observations Concerning the Second Coming of Christ,” Desiring God Ministry, August 30, 1987; http://www.desiringgod.org
 See the following: Kevin Zuber, “1 Thessalonians 4:17 and the meaning of ‘to meet’”, http://www.pre- trib.org/articles/view/1-thessalonians-417-and-meaning-of-to-meet-meeting-dignitary-or-retrieving- bride. Thomas Ice, “The Meeting in the Sky,” http://www.pre-trib.org/data/pdf/Ice- TheMeetingintheSky.pdf. Michael R. Crosby, “Hellenistic Formal Receptions and Paul’s use of APANTSIS in 1 Thessalonians 4:17,” Bulletin for Biblical Research Vol. 4, 1994, pp. 15-34.
 See Thomas Ice, “Is the Rapture in 2 Thessalonians 2:3?” http://www.pre-trib.org/data/pdf/Ice- TheRapturein2Thessal.pdf. Thomas Ice, “The ‘Departure’ in 2 Thessalonians 2:3” http://www.pre- trib.org/data/pdf/Ice-TheDeparturein2Thess.pdf.
 See Thomas Ice, “The Rapture and John 14” http://www.pre-trib.org/data/pdf/Ice- TheRaptureandJohn14.pdf.
 See Thomas Ice, “Kept from the Hour” http://www.pre-trib.org/data/pdf/Ice-KeptFromTheHour.pdf.
 Piper, “Definitions and Observations.”
A Comprehensive Biblical Look At Heaven
Book Review By David P. Craig
Having already read Suffering and Goodness of God (2008); The Glory of God (2010); The Deity of Christ (2011); The Kingdom of God (2012); and Fallen: A Theology of Sin (2013) I was anxiously anticipating this sixth installment of the Theology in Community Series. Heaven (as all the other books in this series) did not disappoint. Each book in this series features chapters written by different theologians; pastors; and scholars that demonstrate how the particular theme is taught in history, systematically, biblically, and its practical relevance and ramifications for the modern Church.
Robert Peterson (PhD, Drew University; is Professor of Systematic Theology at Covenant Theological Seminary) opens the book up with four ancient and modern stories of how false teaching on Heaven has resulted in some cases tragically. He then examines the Noetic effects of sin on our understanding of Heaven. In closing his chapter he asks and answers seven common questions people ask concerning Heaven: (1) Will everyone go to Heaven? (2) What happens when believers die? (3) What about purgatory? (4) Will we recognize others in Heaven? (5) Will we be married and enjoy sex in Heaven? (6) Will there be sorrow in Heaven over those in Hell? (7) What kind of bodies will we have in heaven?
Raymond C. Ortlund Jr. (PhD, University of Aberdeen; is Senior Pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, TN.) tackles six key texts on Heaven in the Old Testament: Genesis 28; Exodus 24; 1 Kings 22; Job 1-2; Isaiah 6; and Daniel 7. In each passage Ortlund mines exegetical, theological, and practical principles that we learn about Heaven as taught in the Old Testament. Earth and Heaven are currently very distinct, but the unfolding revelation of Heaven from the Bible as Ortlund makes clear is that Heaven and Earth will one day be transformed together into the dwelling place of God.
Jonathan T. Pennington (PhD, University of St. Andrews; is Associate Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) writes about the language of Heaven in the Synoptic Gospels and Acts. The word we typically translate as “heaven” in English from the Greek is used 161 times in the Synoptics and Acts. Pennington demonstrates in his chapter that the word for Heaven conveys various ideas. He brings out the crucial aspects of how the worldview of the biblical writers and of our own day are in conflict and how we need to return to a biblical worldview in order to make sense of Heaven as a real physical and non-abstract place.
Stephen J. Wellum (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; is Professor of Christian Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) approaches Paul’s teaching on Heaven in three distinct ways: (1) How Paul understands Heaven according to the Old Testament; (2) How Paul thinks about Heaven in a Systematic and meditative way; and (3) How Paul hones in on Heaven as the believer’s final, and future state prior to and as a result of Christ’s Second Coming.
Jon Laansma (PhD, University of Aberdeen; is Associate Professor of Ancient Languages and New Testament at Wheaton College) writes concerning how the 8 general canonical epistles (Hebrews, 1&2 Peter, James, Jude, 1-3 John) represent the distinctive perspectives on heaven by sketching out their primary concerns and contours with references to their pastoral intentions. He is very helpful in showing how the Christological elements of Heaven are tied to the practical concerns of Christians on Earth.
Andreas J. Kostenberger (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; is Professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) explores the distinctive contributions that John makes in his Gospel and the book of Revelation to helping us understand what Heaven is and what it is like.
Robert A. Peterson writes his second essay in this compilation on Pictures of Heaven that are portrayed throughout the Scriptures. Taking into consideration the story line of the Bible (creation–fall–redemption–consummation) Peterson demonstrates how the Bible is a picture book that sketches the gospel story of these four stages of the story line by using five pictures to illustrate the gospel: Heaven and Earth; Sabbath Rest; The Kingdom of God; The Presence of God; and The Glory of God. Peterson presents a masterful biblical theology of Heaven and ties it into the macro-storyline of the Gospel from Genesis to Revelation.
Gerald Bray (DLitt, University of Paris-Sorbonne; is Research Professor of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School) writes about two themes in his essay: (1) Heaven as Understood before the Coming of Christ; and (2) Heaven as Understood since the Coming of Christ.
Stephen F. Noll (PhD, University of Manchester; is Vice Chancellor Emeritus of Uganda Christian University) gives a biblical theology of angels (good and evil) and about their relationship to God and us in Heaven as revealed in the Scriptures.
Ajith Fernando (ThM, Fuller Theological Seminary; is Teaching Director of Youth For Christ in Sri Lanka) addresses how the reality of Heaven helps Christians who are being persecuted historically and in the present. He spends the bulk of his chapter showing how the “biblical foursome” of (1) Evangelism triggers (2) persecution. (3) The presence of Christ helps us bear the persecution and gives a foretaste of heaven. (4) The Heavenly vision helps us be faithful amidst persecution. Fernando reminds us the prospect of Heaven is a great motivation to be faithful in taking up our crosses and following Christ.
David B. Calhoun (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary; is Professor Emeritus of Covenant Theological Seminary) closes out the book by writing about his own struggle with cancer and how suffering and pictures of the hope of Heaven are crucial when going through the hard trials and tests of life.
All of the essays in this book were biblical; theologically thought-provoking; dealt with current practical scenarios; and were gospel centered and Christ exalting. I highly recommend this book for Christians who want to learn what the Bible has to say rather than much of the subjective drivel that is being churned over Heaven in many of the popular books of our day.
*I was furnished with a copy of this book for review by the publisher and was not required to write a favorable review.