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  • Pastor Steve Conley

A Refutation of John Walvoord's 50 Reasons for the Pretribulation Rapture Part 1

Below are fifty reasons for the Pretribulational Rapture that were attributed to the late Dr. John Walvoord. I have answered each of them.

1. While posttribulationism appeared as early as 2 Thessalonians 2, many in the early church believed in the imminency of the Lord's return, which is an essential doctrine of pretribulationism.

An assertion that the early church believed in an any moment rapture is not the same as having proof. The Scriptures testify that Peter was told by Christ how he would die. He would die as a martyr in his old age (John 21:18-19). This being true, Peter could not have believed, nor would he have taught that Christ could come at any moment to take His church unto Himself. It is also true that aspects of Paul’s future were prophesied. It was necessary that Paul would also bear witness in Rome. So, Paul wouldn’t have taught that Jesus could come at any moment knowing part of God’s plan was for him to preach in Rome. The Bible doesn’t teach an any moment rapture, it teaches watchful expectancy for Christ’s return. There are many things that must happen before Christ will return to gather the church unto Himself.

2. The detailed development of the pretribulational truth during the past few centuries does not prove that the doctrine is new or novel. Its development is similar to that of other major doctrines in the history of the church.

It is nice to see that some pre-tribers understand that the pre-trib system is a recently derived teaching. Practically all the historic teaching of the church on eschatology involved the expectation that the church would see the Beast revealed, and experience great tribulation before Christ would come bringing deliverance. The pre-wrath model for the timing of the rapture is consistent with the belief of the early church, the pre-trib model isn’t.

Hermeneutics

3. Pretribulationism is the only view that allows literal interpretation of all Old and New Testament passages on the Great Tribulation.

That is not true. In fact, those who promote the pre-trib system will often abandon literal interpretation in an attempt to find even the smallest amount of support for their model (their interpretation of Rev 4:1-2 is an example). They will also use what I call hermeneutical gymnastics and eisegesis, reading the pre-trib model into the text (their handling of 2Thes 2:1-3 is an example). Pre-tribers frequently lump together all other views thinking that they hold the same positions. Pre-wrath proponents believe in the literal interpretation of Scripture.

4. Pretribulationism distinguishes clearly between Israel and the church and their respective programs.

The pretribulationists are not the only ones who distinguish between the church (Jew and Gentile believers, the elect) and Israel. Pre-wrath adherents do very much the same thing.

Nature of the Tribulation

5. Pretribulationism maintains the scriptural distinction between the Great Tribulation and tribulation in general that precedes it.

It should be noted that the definite article was not used by Jesus when he spoke of this future period of unprecedented persecution. He said, “then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” When the Beast is revealed in the rebuilt temple, thereby defiling it, the persecution of the church and Israel that is now taking place will increase in scope and severity so that it becomes unprecedented. The “Scriptural distinction” is that when the Beast is revealed the persecution becomes unparalleled.

6. The Great Tribulation is properly interpreted by pretribulationists as a time of preparation for Israel's restoration (Deu. 4:29-30; Jer. 30:4-11). It is not the purpose of the Tribulation to prepare the church for glory.

While it is true that Jacob’s trouble is brought upon Israel for their restoration, the unprecedented persecution, Jesus spoke of, is also said to be focused upon those who have the testimony of Jesus Christ (Rev 12:17). Jesus said that the persecuted would be slain for His name sake (Matt 24:9). Peter taught us saying, “rejoice” and “happy are ye” when we suffer for Christ. So, it is true that the unprecedented persecution of the great tribulation will focus upon the church (elect, believers in Christ) and Israel.

7. None of the Old Testament passages on the Tribulation mention the church (Deu. 4:29-30; Jer. 30: 4-11; Dan. 8:24-27; 12:1-2).

Daniel 12:1-2 refers to the unprecedented persecution saying, at that time there will be a deliverance of those who are written in the book and that it is associated with the resurrection. Most certainly the church will take part in that resurrection and deliverance (rapture). So, the statement is not true, the church having been graffed in among the remnant of believing Israel (Rom 11:17) will also be the recipient of the dragon’s wrath (Rev 12:12, 17).

8. None of the New Testament passages on the Tribulation mention the church (Matt. 13:30; 39-42, 48-50; 24:15-31; 1 Thess. 1:9-10; 5:4-9; 2 Thess. 2:1-11; Rev. 4-18).

This is absolutely false. The church is found in each of these passages even though the word church is not used. Such a statement is incredulous. It is pernicious enough to try to steal away the Olivet Discourse from application to the church, as has been done for many years, but to say that the epistles to the Thessalonians and the Revelation of things that shall be hereafter given unto the seven churches did not refer to them is an unthinkable abuse of the position held by such teachers.

9. In contrast to midtribulationism, the pretribulational view provides an adequate explanation for the beginning of the Great Tribulation in Revelation 6. Midtribulationism is refuted by the plain teaching of Scripture that the Great Tribulation begins long before the seventh trumpet of Revelation 11.

Great tribulation begins in the middle of the week and continues until it is divinely cut short to save some of the elect alive upon the earth (Matt 24:15, 21-22; Dan 9:27). The unprecedented persecution is consistent with what John sees at the opening of the 4th and 5th seals. It is important to note that this is the unparalleled persecution of the church and Israel and is distinct from the wrath of God poured out after the rapture of the church following the opening of the sixth seal.

10. The proper distinction is maintained between the prophetic trumpets of Scripture by pretribulationism. There is no proper ground for the pivotal argument of midtribulationism that the seventh trumpet of Revelation is the last trumpet in that there is no established connection between the seventh trumpet of Revelation 11, the last trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15:52, and the trumpet of Matthew 24:31. They are three distinct events.

It is true that the seventh trumpet judgement is not the last trump. However, the last trump of 1 Cor 15:52, the trump of God of 1Thes 4:15-16, and the great sound of a trumpet in Matt 24:31 all refer to the same thing.

11. The unity of Daniel's seventieth week is maintained by pretribulationists. By contrast, postribulationism and midtribulationists destroy the unity of Daniel's seventieth week and confuse Israel's program with that of the church.

Indeed, 70 weeks are determined upon Israel and Jerusalem, however, to say that God doesn’t work with the church and the nation of Israel at the same time is utter foolishness. God was dealing with the Jews who rejected their Messiah in 70 AD when the destruction of the city and Temple took place. The church was already in existence by any account for over thirty years. Today, He is provoking Israel to jealousy by choosing out for Himself a people from among the Gentiles. Also, I’ve not heard of a single pre-tribber who believes that God didn’t have anything to do with the restoration of the nation of Israel in 1948. The truth is that the unity of the Scriptures is being destroyed by the pre-trib model. Note, straw men are being set up in attempt to lend credence to the pre-trib position. Post-tribulationism and midtribulationism also have their share of errors. We gladly acknowledge any truth within any of these three eschatological systems but denounce all three as having significant errors.

Nature of the Church

12. The translation of the church is never mentioned in any passage dealing with the second coming of Christ after the Tribulation.

This is a blatantly false statement. Since there is only one future coming (parousia) of Christ, which involves His arrival and continuing presence, the catching up will follow His appearance and the resurrection. Acts 3:19-21 tells us that Jesus will remain in Heaven until His coming. Heb 9:28 tells us He will come the second time. Luke 17:26-30 tells us that the day of our rapture will be the day God’s wrath begins to fall upon the unbelieving. The rapture (our gathering to Him) happens at the second coming of Christ (2Thes 2:1). Pre-tribbers fail to see the comprehensive nature of the second coming. Parousia is used to describe both the arrival in glory with the holy angels and the gathering of the saints (Matt 24:3, 27; 1Thes 4:15).

13. The church is not appointed to wrath (Rom. 5:9: 1 Thess. 1:9-10; 5:9). The church therefore cannot enter "the great day of their wrath" (Rev. 6:17).

This statement is absolutely true. However, pretribulationists teach that the wrath of God begins with Christ opening the first seal. This is a wrong assumption. We know it is wrong because, when the fifth seal is opened Christ’s vengeance has not fallen yet upon the earth dwellers (Rev 6:9-11). When the sixth seal is opened John sees the cosmic sign which portends Christ’s coming and the day of the Lord (Rev 6:12-17; Joel 2:31). The earthquake and cosmic sign takes place right before the revelation of Christ in the clouds with the holy angels for every eye to see (Rev 1:7). His wrath doesn’t fall till later the same day after the resurrection and rapture take place.

14. The church will not be overtaken by the day of the Lord (1 Thess. 5:1-9), which includes the Tribulation.

It is true that the church will not experience the wrath of God in the day of the Lord. However, there are two distinct periods of tribulation during the second half of the week. The first is the unprecedented persecution of the church and Israel that Jesus called great tribulation (Matt 24:15, 21), the second is the wrath of God upon the Beast worshiping earth dwellers in the day of the Lord (2Thes 1:6-10). The church will be here for the wrath of Satan (Rev 12:12) but not for the wrath of God.

15. The possibility of a believer escaping the Tribulation is mentioned in Luke 21:36.

It isn’t the possibility, it is a certainty that true believers will escape the wrath of God which comes suddenly upon the earth-dwellers. The children of light are not in darkness that the day should overtake them as a thief (1Thes 5:4-9).

16. The church of Philadelphia was promised deliverance from "the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth" (Rev. 3:10).

This is true. The key to correctly understand what the hour of temptation is, is to notice that it is focused upon the earth-dwellers. The earth dwellers are those who receive the mark and worship the Beast. “Earth dwellers” is sort of a technical term used throughout the eschatological passages of the NT. It is the earth dwellers who will persecute the church and Israel unto death until Christ comes to rescue the elect and tribulate them. This He does at His coming (2Thes 1:6-10).

17. It is characteristic of divine dealing to deliver believers before a divine judgment is inflicted on the world as illustrated in the deliverance of Noah, Lot, Rahab, etc. (2 Peter 2:5-9).

Absolutely true.

18. At the time of the translation of the church, all believers go to the Father's house in heaven (John 14:3) and do not immediately return to the earth after meeting Christ in the air as postribulationists teach.

Absolutely true.

19. Pretribulationism does not divide the body of Christ at the Rapture on a works principle. The teaching of a partial rapture is based on the false doctrine that the translation of the church is a reward for good works. It is rather a climactic aspect of salvation by grace.

That is also true of the pre-wrath position.

20. The Scriptures clearly teach that all, not part, of the church will be raptured at the coming of Christ for the church (1 Cor. 15:51-52; 1 Thess. 4:17).

Absolutely true.

21. As opposed to a view of a partial rapture, pretribulationism is founded on the definite teaching of Scripture that the death of Christ frees from all condemnation.

It is true that there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. But pre-tribulationists are not the only ones who believe that.

22. The godly remnant of the Tribulation are pictured as Israelites, not members of the church as maintained by the posttribulationists.

There is a portion of Israel that is protected and fed in the wilderness from the wrath of the Dragon (Rev 12), however, it is an absolute certainty that the last generation of the church will see the Beast and experience unprecedented persecution at his hand. Jesus says that it will be so severe that He has to cut it short to save some of the elect alive upon the earth (Matt 24:22). The elect are those who are Christ’s from among the Gentiles and the Jews.

23. The pretribulational view, as opposed to posttribulationism, does not confuse general terms like elect and saints, which apply to the saved of all ages, with specific terms like church and those in Christ, which refer to believers of this age only.

Pre-tribulationists having no explicit statements to support it attempt to read their eschatological system into the text by wresting words like elect from their consistent NT usage.

To be continued


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