Monday, November 03, 2003

Lesson 5: A Future Kingdom for Israel (Part 4)

Pretribulation Rapture: Three More Reasons

3. The pretribulation rapture is demanded by the Book of Revelation. The church, after being prominent in the first three chapters of Revelation, is totally absent from chapters 4 through 18, which describe the tribulation.

Instead of the Church, the people mentioned explicitly in the tribulation text are the 144,000 Jewish converts chosen and sealed from among the tribes

Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel. (Rev. 7:4)

1Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads. 2And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. 3And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. (Rev. 14:1-3)

Some dispensationalists interpret Rev. 4:1 as a reference to the rapture:

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this." (Rev. 4:1)

The notes in The New Scofield Reference Bible read105:
Beginning with [Rev. 4.1] the viewpoint of John is from heaven. Since the word "church" does not appear again in Revelation until 22:16, the catching up of John from earth to heaven has been taken to be a symbolic representation of the translation [rapture] of the Church as occurring before the events of the tribulation described in chs. 6-19.

Consistent with this viewpoint, the twenty four elders represent the "church rewarded" which has been raptured and is now in heaven during the tribulation:

Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. (Rev: 4:4)

Finally, in what Lewis Sperry Chafer declares to be the "determining passage"106, we have a promise to the godly Philadelphia church that they will be spared:

Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you 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)

The Philadelphia church is viewed as representing the entire Church, hence the Church will be kept from the hour of trial, i.e., it will be raptured.

4. Paul’s declaration that the restrainer must be removed, as found in the following: passage:

6And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. 7For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. 8And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. (2 Th. 2:6-8)

The unnamed restrainer is identified by dispensationalists as either the Church or the Holy Spirit working through the Church to curb iniquity.

Once again, the notes of The New Scofield Reference Bible , concerning the restrainer:
It seems evident that is the Holy Spirit: (a) in the O.T. the Holy Spirit acts as a restrainer of iniquity (Gen. 6:3); (b) the restrainer is referred to by the use of both neuter and masculine genders as in John 14:16-17; 16:12-13 concerning the coming of the Holy Spirit; and (c) it will be when the restrainer is “taken out of the way” that the man of sin will be revealed; this will be when the church is translated [raptured] and the Spirit’s restraining ministry through it will cease. Observe however, that it is not said that the restrainer will be "taken away", but "taken out of the way"; thus the Holy Spirit will continue a divine activity to the end time… [e.g., the tribulation saints]107

The bottom line is that the church be removed before the lawless one [the antichrist] can be revealed. For this reason a pretribulation rapture is demanded.

5. Demanded by dispensationalism itself. This is actually the most important reason and one we have mentioned repeatedly. If God has two plans for two peoples, and the plan for Israel has been placed in abeyance, then it is logical that the Church is removed when God turns his attention back to the Jews.

Stay tuned for scriptural arguments against dispensational premillennialism.

105 The New Scofield Reference Bible, C. I. Scofield ed., see reference to Rev. 4:1.
106 Chafer, Systematic Theology, 4:369.
107 The New Scofield Reference Bible, C. I. Scofield ed., see reference to 2 Th. 2:3.

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