Friday, November 14, 2003

Lesson 5: A Future Kingdom for Israel (Part 9)

More Problems for the Pretribulation Rapture

We begin with the Olivet discourse (Matt. 24). We note that most dispensationalists view the bulk of this prophecy as directed toward believing Jews during the tribulation—for it is filled with signs of what is about to happen. The rapture, given the "imminence of the blessed hope", is expected to catch people by surprise. Signs, in this view, must apply to the Glorious Appearance, not the rapture.

The first problems for dispensationalists are structual. All agree that Jesus begins His discourse with an amazing prophecy regarding the destruction of the temple at the hands of Roman legions, to occur about 40 years later in 70 A.D:
1Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 2"Do you see all these things?" he asked. "I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down." (Matt. 24:1-2)

Scofield argues that the tribulation begins at verse 4. The New Scofield Reference Bible has the heading: Daniel's Seventieth Week of Years: the end time. So Scofield puts it this way:
3As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?"

Daniel’s Seventieth Week of Years: the end time

4Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you. (Matt. 24:3-4)

Scofield puts the middle of the seventieth week, i.e., the middle of the tribulation, after verse 14:
14And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

The middle of Daniel’s seventieth week: the abomination of desolation

15"So when you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel--let the reader understand— (Matt. 24:14:15)

Non-dispensationalists see two structural problems for dispensationalism. One is that the Lord, in this penultimate end times passage, seems to have neglected to mention the rapture. The other, not unrelated criticism, is that the entire passage is easier understood as addressed to the entire church, and describing a tribulation followed by a single Second Coming.

Note also a further difficulty for the dispensationalist interpretation. Verse 14 is not an optimistic promise that evangelism will reach all the nations. For in dispensationalism, it refers to a different gospel altogether (the gospel of the kingdom) and describes evangelism that takes place after the church is gone.

More to come...

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