Eschatological Confusion

Q. I am wrestling with the different schools of thought regarding eschatology. (Historism, Preterism, and Futurism)…..Some of the questions that I am trying to answer are?

1) Does the bible clearly teach that there will be a pre-tribulation rapture? If so, why are there so many of the original reformers not on board with that view. This lead me to research what actually caused this view to change over time. I then found out about Darby and how dispensationism developed. Apparently, it is through the template of dispensationism that the pre-trib (futurism) developed. (I hope this is correct, but I am not convinced).

2) Does the bible really teach a 7 year tribulation? I realize that this gets back to Daniel 9 and the idea of the 70 weeks has truly been delayed. Some of the reasons that I have my doubts are as follows:

“The entire prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27 covers a period of “seventy weeks,” or 490 years. Logic requires that “seventy weeks” refers to one consecutive block of time, in other words, to seventy straight sequential weeks. There is no example in Scripture (or anywhere else!) of a stated time period starting, stopping, and then starting again. All biblical references to time are consecutive: 40 days and 40 nights (see Genesis 7:4), 400 years in Egypt (see Genesis 15:13), 70 years of captivity (see Daniel 9:2), etc. In Daniel’s prophecy, the “seventy weeks” were to begin during the reign of Persia and continue to the time of the Messiah. Daniel 9:27 says nothing about a seven-year period of “tribulation,” a “rebuilt” Jewish temple, or any “anti-Christ.” ”

My goal is to have the best possible understanding of scripture related to these areas. I am not trying to prove an argument, but rather to learn and to be guided by God and the Word of Christ.

A. I appreciate your situation, what with so many differing and at times contradicting views. When I first became a believer, someone I trusted gave me some advice that was invaluable in sorting it all out.

He said that my first challenge was to decide how I was going to view the Bible. Was I going to accept it as God’s Word in its entirety, it’s writers inspired by the Holy Spirit to write exactly what the Lord told them to write? Or was I going to want to depart from a literal view in some parts of it, accepting the idea that it’s essentially a human document subject to human error and requiring interpretation by people more learned than I?

Making that prior decision solved a lot of problems for me because only the futurist view of prophecy can be reconciled with a literal, historical, grammatical interpretation of scripture.

Literal, historical, grammatical means you you believe that each passage means exactly what it says unless you’re given clear indication otherwise, that you consider the historical context surrounding each passage, and that you understand the then current meanings of the words the writers used in the language in which they wrote.

All other views require a moderate to massive re-interpretation of some very clear passages that are meant to be taken exactly as written. Daniel 9:24-27 is one of them, and perhaps most important.

If you decide not to adopt the literal view, then all the rules of Biblical interpretation go out the window and you’ll have to choose from a large selection of human inspired opinions of what God was really saying.

Of all of these, the Preterist view requires the most dramatic departures from a literal understanding. According to Preterists, almost nothing is what it seems and it doesn’t matter anyway because it’s all in the past.

As for your questions.
1) Since the Rapture is a secret event, disconnected from any other, and meant to take both those who go and those who stay by surprise there isn’t any clear teaching on its timing. But in two places that are impossible to misunderstand from a literal view, God promises to rescue us from His coming Wrath. In 1 Thes. 1:10 the Greek word translated from is “apo” and means the Lord will rescue us from the time, place or any relation to His wrath. It denotes both separation and departure. In 1 Thes. 5:9 Paul wrote that we’re not appointed to suffer wrath but receive salvation.

There’s simply no reason to takes these passages at anything other than face value. According to Rev 6:17 His wrath begins well before the Great Tribulation, introduced in chapters 11-13.

By the way, the notion of the pre-trib rapture originating with Darby cannot be reconciled with 1st Century writings, and parts of Paul’s 2nd letter to the Thessalonians don’t make any sense unless he had taught them a pre-trib rapture view. Darby merely helped resurrect the literal view after hundreds of years of treating prophecy allegorically.

2) The Great Tribulation is one of the most clearly defined periods of time in the Bible. It’s variously described as lasting for 3 1/2 years, or 42 months or 1260 days. If you take the world’s original calendar of twelve 30 day months, the three measurements are all the same. People who talk about a 7 year tribulation are confusing it with Daniel’s 70th week. The Great Tribulation is the last half of that week and begins when the anti-Christ defiles the Temple as written in Daniel 9:27 and 2 Thes. 2:4.

As far as Daniel’s 70 th week is concerned, the events described in 9:27 simply have never happened in the way Daniel described them. Those who say they were fulfilled during the Macabbean revolt ignore the Lord’s warning to look for them in the future (Matt. 24:15) and those who say they were fulfilled in Roman times, ignore the lessons of Macabbean history where the only other recorded Abomination of Desolation in history took place and is described in detail.

In order to support his conclusion, the commentator you quote is ignoring historical facts. From the Red Sea Crossing where the nation was born, the history of Israel can be divided into four 490 year periods, each one of them interrupted by a period of judgment, and trying to argue that since Daniel doesn’t mention specific terms means they don’t exist is like trying to say the devil doesn’t exist because the word Lucifer doesn’t appear in Hebrew scripture.

The Great Tribulation is a phrase first used by Jesus in Matt. 24:21. It’s called the Time of Jacob’s Trouble in Jeremiah 30:7 and the Day of the Lord in Amos 5:18. Anti-Christ is a term first used by John who wrote 600 years after Daniel, and Herod’s temple was destroyed before an Abomination of Desolation as described in 1 Macabbees could take place there.

Fulfillment of Daniel 9:27 as it’s written requires a Temple. There hasn’t been one since Herod’s and therefore these things cannot have happened. The commentator you quote is relying on your ignorance of biblical History.

In summary, if you just decide to take God at His word and concentrate on learning it as best you can, you’ll save yourself untold confusion and frustration, and can eliminate from your reading anyone who’s trying to persuade you of a view that relies on sinful man’s interpretation of what God “really” means rather than on what His inspired word actually says. It might not be as intellectually sophisticated an approach, but it’s a whole lot safer.

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