Monday, May 18, 2009

My Eschatelogical Woes: The Rapture

I have finished with Matthew 24. So far I am in favor of a post-millennial view of revelation. There are several reasons why I like this view:
  • It places Christ on the throne now, giving Him the authority He claimed to have at the end of Matthew [Matthew 28:18]
  • It means that the church through Christ will ultimately prevail, making me an optimistic person in times of seeming hardship
  • If the church is to succeed, it will be with the gospel. This makes Pauls statement that the gospel is 'the power of God unto salvation' [Romans 1:16] is true, because people will be saved
  • It presents consistency between periods of time. A long period at revelation 20 rather than at the beginning of Revelation 4 ('thousand years'1 versus 'after this' [Rev 4:1])


I still have some issues and I am afraid that English translations of the bible are not quite what they should be. Either that or I need to improve my Greek. Probably both. What was really peeling my onion this week was the issue of the rapture. The rapture is not found in Matthew 24, but it is mentioned by Luke and Paul:

9And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes,11and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."[Acts 1:9-11]


"16For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord." [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]


This clearly speaks of a personal coming of the Lord. But wait... there is some devil in this detail. The very argument I use in Matthew 24 can be used against me: This passage is using personal pronouns. Now the dispensationalist will say: "You see that personal pronouns can be used with future intentions, since we know that Paul was beheaded, so he could not have been talking about himself." Well... not really. Personal pronouns are personal. But could this one be different from the usage in Matthew 24? Well, if it's the same we have a real hermeneutical problem, because in the one context we have Jesus speaking to His disciples on a hill, in the next we have Paul writing a letter to Thessonalica.

If I said "we humans landed on the moon" I would be correct in saying so, but to assume that I personally have landed on the moon would be a mistake in interpretation (as implied by the structure). Is that the case with the rapture? Do I convert to a premillenial view because a personal pronoun dictates that it must be a future 'we?' Well, no, that would be stupid because words start losing their literal meaning. The fact of the matter is that the 'we' is qualified as to whom it belongs: "who are alive [and] remain." This indicates that Paul himself didn't expect to see it, although it was probably his hope. His audience becomes the believers everywhere and everywhen. He even exorts us to 'comfort one another with these words (verse 18).' It is an instruction of hope, that we can tell other members of the Christian faith.

A premillenial view isn't the only one that has a future sight of the rapture. But the order of this rapture is very important. Some say that this connects to Matthew 24, but it doesn't. The context of the rature is the ressurection of the dead. There is no ressurection of the dead in the Olivet Discourse. Premillenialists seem to believe in a 'secret rapture' where no one will see Jesus. They must be deafened first to miss the trumpeting.

I'll leave it there for now. God bless and keep well!

1 I would rather be accused of taking the 'thousand years' to mean a long period of time that 'after.' Please note that in the Greek, much like English, a prefix would usually indicate numeracy, meaning that this actually does not mean one thousand.

4 comments:

tyrellh said...

Hey QJB

I love the clarity of your writing, I am not a fan of jumbled talk (though I do it myself sometimes, guess it helps me not be my own fan).

I don't really want to take you to task on your (potentially proof-texting) reasons for leaning to a post-mil view, just want to through some questions about what you have written.

You address the whole issue of personal pronouns... have you considered its use in Matthew 26:64? Here the Chief priest is told he will see Christ coming, with clouds even (note that the chief priest was dead by A.D. 70, I don't see the value of going into proving that in this comment). Potentially there is a 'prophetic' manner of making prophecies? A telescoping-type of speech, like you must admit is use it many passages, which had near predictions, but far fulfilments (i.e. Haggai 2:6-7 & Hebrews 12:26; Joel 2:1 & Acts 2:16-21, Revelation 6:12 etc.)

Also, on your use of the word 'literal' perhaps in a South African context we should rather say 'natural' since it seems to mean two different things between SA and the USA. Seeing as though Clouds and coming and all that is taken in that I assume you would suggest should not be taken literally, but rather 'naturally' ie what is the natural understanding of these words to the hearers.

Now, far be it from me to defend the rapture, since I am not sure where I stand on this yet (although it does seem a bit weak to me)... But:

Notice who responds to the trumpet of the Archangel in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, do you see any response there by unbelievers? Could there be something of how those who are blind, deaf and dead in sins respond to God?

Furthermore, if this is not talking about a Rapture (and I am not arguing for that anyway, just things that are there), why does it appear in 2 Thessalonians 2:2-3 that after all the teaching the Thessalonians had, they thought they could miss the coming of the Lord? Why didn't Paul say, "Guys, did you hear a trumpet? No." It seems like it was something they thought themselves capable of missing.

Please note, I do not believe in a Rapture apart from a one-time second coming event (thus making me not a dispy:) I just think these are things we must deal with in thetexts as well.

Thanks for your insightful writing. Lord Bless

Quintin said...

Hi Tyrell,

Thank you for you compliments!

You address the whole issue of personal pronouns... have you considered its use in Matthew 26:64? Here the Chief priest is told he will see Christ coming...

57Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. 58 And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end. 59 Now the chief priests and the whole Council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, 60 but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward 61 and said, "This man said, 'I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.'" 62 And the high priest stood up and said, "Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?" 63 But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, "I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God." 64 Jesus said to him, "You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven." 65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, "He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. 66 What is your judgment?" They answered, "He deserves death." 67 Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, 68 saying, "Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?" 69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, "You also were with Jesus the Galilean." [Matthew 26:57-69]

The word we have to consider, I think you (singular) will agree is the word 'humin,' G5213 in the greek text (The Blue Letter Bible seems to leave out the pronouns, I had to go to e-sword). If we look it up in Strongs, we find "Irregular dative case of G5210; to (with or by) you: - ye, you, your (-selves)," which indicates a plural usage, or at least the possibiliy. When we see it used in Matthew 3:7, 3:9, 5:18,20,22,28,32 and (actually the whole sermon on the mount), and throughout the whole book, it never seems to be personal to one individual. The best example of the usage is actually in the same chapter:
What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.[Matthew 26:66 - KJV]
It is clear here that the same word means a group. Therefore the answer to many, not just to Caiaphas.

As for those passages which indicate 'near and far fulfillments' - I read all those verses and only through the lense of pre-millenialism can I see both near and far fulfillments because the doctrine necesitates it, not the text itself. These verses would require much more attentive study than meerly mentioning in passing.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 Here is how I am understanding it today: The first bodily resurrection takes place before the millenium. This is what is required from the text and it's relatives (Rev 20). Then there is a resurrection of the rest of the world. I never claimed to have it all down, I'm still figuring it out.

I also agree with the rapture being a one time second coming event. I just don't believe it ushers in a millenial kingdom. That is why I am struggling with Rev 20 and 1 Thess 4. They seem to be talking about the same thing but I actually have no reason to connect these passages yet.

markpenrith said...

Hi there,

So let me get this straight... Are you a Post-Millennial New Covenantalist? Hahaha, that’s pretty cerebral.

In Christ,

Mark

Quintin said...

Greetings Mark!

My Eschatology studies are going a bit slowly now, but it's funny that you ask because I was thinking about it in the car on the way to work this morning.

I am a Post-Mill as far as I know. With that said I have some questions, and I certainly do not subscribe to preterism in any form (as far as I understand even partial preterism).

I do believe in covenants however, and I believe that covenants are still the way that God deals with His people. I believe we are under a covenant at the moment, it is of grace.

God bless!