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Will Church Go Through the Great Tribulation

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Submitted By Shiferaw
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Will Church Go Through the Great Tribulation?
Critical Evaluation of Dispensational & Historic
Premillennialism views on Tribulation

Tekalign Shiferaw
Box, M-4

Evangelical Theological College
Addis Ababa
Submitted to: Dr. Seblewengel Daniel
Course: Ecclesiology and Eschatology
November 1st, 2012


1. Introduction
Whether the church will go through the Great Tribulation or not is one of the massive debatable topics among Evangelical scholars. For example, prominent Evangelical Scholars such as: C.I.
Scofield, Tim Lahaye, Robert L. Thomas, John Walvoord, Paige Patterson, et al. argue for the position that church will not go through the Great tribulation, and on the other side, D.A.
Carson, Wayne Grudem, George Ladd, Robert Mounce, Gundry Robert Horton, et al. argue for the position that church will go through the Great Tribulation.1 “The view that Christ will take the church to himself prior to the tribulation is called pretribulationism; the view that he will take the church after the tribulation is called posttribulation”.2 Which view is nearly biblical,
Pretribulationism or posttribulationism? This paper will explore historical development of the teaching of the secret rapture [which is the teaching of pretribulationism], scriptural evidences and arguments which both view advocates bring to validate their views, and the writer’s position and arguments.
1. The Great Tribulation
Before we engage in investigating historical development of pretribulational teaching of the
‘secret rapture’, let’s know what the issue itself is. What is the Great Tribulation? How it is distinct from other sufferings which church has been passing throughout in centuries?
According to Grudem, Great Tribulation is an expression from Matthew 24:21 referring to a period of great hardship and suffering prior to the return of Christ.3 Since genuine churches
[believers] are the enemies of satanic kingdom, it is obvious that spreading the gospel without any challenges is unimaginable. Therefore, because of her reaction to satanic kingdom, church has been passing through different suffering and trials. But the Great Tribulation is quite unparalleled within history, and it will be a period of transition of concluding God’s dealings with the Gentiles and preparing for the millennium and the events which will transpire therein.4
Ordinary sufferings and trials act as a disciplining or purifying tool, but the Great Tribulation is not to be understood in this sense. 5

Michael L. Bryant, New Testament Elective: The Book of Revelation. Class Lecture Note (Addis Ababa:
Evangelical Theological College, July 2-13, 2012) page number is not given.
Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (USA: Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker, 1995), p. 1217.
Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994),p.1243.
Erickson, Christian Theology, p.1218.
Ibid. p.1218


2. Dispensational Premillennialism/Pretribulational Premillennialism
3.1 The Historical Background of the Pretribulational Teaching of the “Secret Rapture”
One may base his historical background for the pretribulational view of rapture back to the first century evidence of Paul’s letter to Thessalonians (1Thess. 4:17). It cannot be fully plausible because as Ladd said this is the only one passage in the word of God describes the rapture by name.6 And also this verse is exegetically controversial and it does not give us a clue that whether early church fathers developed their ecclesiological doctrines [like the doctrine of the secret rapture] from this verse or not. After detail exploration of early church fathers’ teachings on ecclesiology, Paul Thigpen showed that the novel idea of the secret rapture was apparently unknown even for the protestant reformers.7 So, when did it begin? The teaching of the secret rapture was begun in eighteenth century after Increase Mather wrote a book about Christians being “caught up in the air” before the world was consumed by the fire of the divine judgment. 8
In 1788, a Baptist pastor and educator, Morgan Edwards, published an essay prompting a similar idea with Mather’s that Christians would be taken to heaven three and a half years before Christ judge the world.9 The other hint for the beginning of the doctrine of the secret rapture is Manuel
Lacunza’s book entitled “The Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty” published in 1812 in
Spanish. In his book he concluded that, “Toward the end of the world, Jesus would “snatch up
“or rapture from the earth the faithful believers who regularly received the Eucharist10. After fifteen years later Lacunza’s book was translated into English by Edward Irving, a minister of the protestant church at Scotland. Even though Irving influenced many American Protestants with his teaching of secret rapture, he was excommunicated from his denomination by his heretic teaching that “Christ’s human nature was sinful”.11 So, if this is the historical background of the teaching of the secret rapture, what are the conviction and the biblical evidences of dispensational premillennialists for their teaching of ‘secret rapture’?
3.2 Dispensational Premillennialists’ Conviction and their Biblical Evidences for “Secret

George Eldon Ladd. The Blessed Hope (USA: Grand Rapids, Michigan, WM.B. Eerdmans, 1956), p.77.
Paul Thigpen. The Rapture Trap: A Catholic Response to “End Times” Fever (USA: Ascension Press, 2001),
Ibid. p.143.
Ibid. p.143.
Ibid. 144


3.2.1 Dispensational Premillennialists’ Conviction
The teachings of pretribulationism are different from posttribulationism’ in a number of ways.
Dispensational premillennialists believe that there will be two phases in Jesus’ second coming, the first one is invisible [secret] for unbelieving eyes and its purpose is to remove the church from the world or the great tribulation; and the other coming will be visible and accompanied with saints after seven years’ of Great Tribulation.12 They also believe that there will be three resurrections: the first will be the resurrection of the righteous dead at the rapture; the second will be a resurrection of those saints who have died during the tribulation, and the third will be a resurrection of unbelievers at the end of the millennium.13
3.2.2 Dispensational Premillennialists’ Biblical Evidences for “Secret Rapture”
Dispensational premillennialists quote different scriptural passages to support their position that the Church is no way involved in the time of future trouble.14 In the book of Revelation God has promised to his church that he will keep from the tribulation. “Because you have kept the word of
My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour (τηρήσω ἐκ τῆς ὥρας (Rev 3:10 GNT) of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth. (Rev 3:10 NAS)”. Based on this passage they argue that the church is promised exemption from the time of wrath.15 One of the most clear biblical evidence which this view holders quote boldly is 1Thessalonians 4:17. In fact, this is the only passage in the word of God describes the rapture by names.16 “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up (ἁρπαγησόμεθα GNT) together with them in the clouds to meet (ἀπάντησιν GNT) the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.”(1Th 4:17 NAS). They also argue that church is not only promised exemption from the time of wrath but also from the divine wrath.17 This idea is mentioned many places in the scripture. For example, Paul clearly mentioned in Rom.5:9 that “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him”


Erickson, Christian Theology, p.1218.
John F. Walvoord, The Rapture Question: Revised and Enlarged Edition (USA: Grand Rapids, Michigan,
Gleason L. Archer, Jr… [et.el]. Three Views of the Rapture: Pre, Mid, or Post-Tribulational? (USA: Grand
Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1996), p.63.
Ladd, The Blessed Hope, p. 77
Ibid, p.51.


(Rom 5:9 NAS.) And also in 1Thess.1:10 it says,


to wait for His Son from heaven,

whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come”
(1Th 1:10 NAS). The

other argument is the absence of the name of church in Matt.24. In the one of

the most important Great Tribulation texts, Matt.24, church is not mentioned even though the term elect is found.18 In addition to these all scriptural supports, dispensational premillennialists strongly believe that tribulation has a twofold purpose in the time of Great Tribulation. One is that God will use the tribulation to bring the times of the Gentiles to conclusion; and the other is that God will use the tribulation to prepare the people of Israel to the restoration and regathering for the millennial reign of Christ following the Second Advent.19

Posttribulationism /Historical Premillennialists’ View on the Great Tribulation

This view advocates the idea that Christ will return after the Great Tribulation.20 In other words, unlike Walvoord’s conviction that the church is no way involved in the future trouble; this view holds the idea that church will go through the Great Tribulation. The writer of this paper supports the view of historical premillennialism on this specific point and will argue against dispensational premillennialists’ view by critical exegesis of the biblical passages which were used to support the pretribulation view and adapting some prominent posttribulationists’ arguments. The writer of this paper agrees with dispensational premillennialists’ idea that God will intervene to escape his people from His wrath and intense suffering which will pure out all over the earth. But his disagreement is the issue of the manner. How will God intervene to deliver his people from that terrible situation? What is the method which God will use to exempt the church from divine wrath— Removal [Rapture] or Protection?21 Removal or rapture is the only appropriate option for dispensational premillennialists. But I would rather argue that rapture cannot be the only option for God to deliver his people. Rev.3:10 (“Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour (τηρήσω ἐκ τῆς ὥρας
(Rev 3:10 GNT) of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those


Walvoord, The Rapture Question, p.45
Ibid, p.41.
Grudem, Systematic Theology, p.1251.
Robert H. Gundry, The Church and The Tribulation: A Biblical Examination of the Posttribulation (USA: Grand
Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1973), p. 53.


who dwell upon the earth. (Rev 3:10 NAS)”) cannot be exact passage to prove the rapture for two reasons. One is that the best translation of the Greek words in this verse, “τηρήσω ἐκ is “I will protect [guard] … out from within”. So, as Gundry argues, if the church will be in heaven with the Lord’s presence during the hour of testing, where will be the dangers which require God’s protecting hand upon her?22 The second objection is raised by Grudem. Grudem argues that the promise which God has given in Rev.3:10 is for specific church which was planted at
Philadelphia. So, applying one church’s message to the whole churches is not hermeneutically advisable.23 Does 1Thess. 4:17 really tell us about the secret rapture? Was it the intention of the author to make his audiences ready for the rapture? Let us closely look at the text. “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up (ἁρπαγησόμεθα GNT) together with them in the clouds to meet


GNT) the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.”(1Th

4:17 NAS). The text is vague. Even it does not give detail information which will happen after the believers meet the Lord in the air. So, developing such a huge doctrine on this vague text is a mistake. We need to study its historical background and other scripture writers’ echoes in this passage to investigate the meaning of this passage. Before we go to the writer’s observation and conclusion let’s see how other biblical scholars commented on this text. Regarding to interpreting this text, Leon Morris warns that since this is the only place in the NT that speaks unambiguously of the rapture, we must not be dogmatic about it, and we must not put our pet theories into them.24 Having studied the word usage of “ἀπάντησιν”[to meet], Ladd argues that the idea which “to meet” suggests a welcoming party that goes out to meet someone on the way and accompanies him back where they came from.25 The writer of this paper has observed the usage of this root word [to meet] in the Gospel of John in three passages, John11:20; 12:13; and
12; 18. In the first passage we read that Martha went out to meet Jesus while he was coming to their house. In the second passage we read that the great crowd from Jerusalem went out to meet
Jesus while he was on the way coming from Bethany to Jerusalem. In the last passage we read that the whole people who were gathered at Jerusalem to celebrate the feast went out to meet

Gundry, Church and Tribulation, p.58.
Grudem, Systematic Theology, p.1132.
Leon Morris, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The First and Second Epistles to the
Thessalonians, Revised Edition (USA: Grand Rapids, Michigan, Wm. B. Erdmann’s pub. 1991), p.145.
Erickson, Christian Theology, p.1222.


Jesus while he was going towards them. Therefore, Paul is may be indicating that how we will welcome our conqueror king, Jesus Christ among us rather than going with him somewhere else or staying with him on air for seven years.
Since we are justified by Jesus’ work on the cross, the argument which God has not destined us for His divine wrath seems plausible. But the problem arises from misunderstanding of the word wrath and tribulation. The Greek word “ὀργῆς” stands for God’s anger about twenty-seven times in NT, so, as Paul clearly stated the believers are “saved from the wrath of God through
Him [Christ] (Rom.5:9), “delivered …from the wrath to come (1Thess.1:10), but the scripture does not guarantee the absence tribulation “θλῖψις” in genuine believers life.26 In fact, as Gundry mentioned, the blessedness of the blessed hope does not consist in exemption from persecution and trial, but in seeing the savoir face to face.27
Since the scripture tells us the vindication of the persevered saints in the great tribulation
(“And I said to him, "My lord, you know." And he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Rev 7:14 NAS), and God is omniscience how to deliver his people out of the temptation (then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the Day of Judgment, 2Pe 2:9 NAS), let’s stop reading our theories or other political presuppositions into the scripture. Instead, let’s exhort and equip our people in order that they may endure worldly temptation, pray persistently, live holy lives and carefully discern the teaching of the scripture from heresies while waiting the Lord and passing through the Great Tribulation with their Lord Jesus Christ!!


Gundry, Church and Tribulation, P.49.
Ibid, p.50.


Archer, Gleason L. Jr… [et.el]. Three Views of the Rapture: Pre, Mid, or Post-Tribulational?
Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1996.
Bryant, Michael L. New Testament Elective: The Book of Revelation. Class Lecture Note. Addis
Ababa: Evangelical Theological College, July 2-13, 2012.
Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker, 1995.
Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994.
Gundry, Robert H. The Church and The Tribulation: A Biblical Examination of the
Posttribulation. Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1973.
Holy Bible. The New American Standard. USA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995.
Ladd, George Eldon. The Blessed Hope.USA: Grand Rapids, Michigan, WM.B. Eerdmans, 1956.
Morris, Leon. The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The First and Second
Epistles to the Thessalonians Revised Edition. Grand Rapids, Michigan, Wm. B. Erdmann’s pub. 1991.
Thigpen, Paul. The Rapture Trap: A Catholic Response to “End Times” Fever. USA: Ascension
Press, 2001.
Walvoord, John F. The Rapture Question: Revised and Enlarged Edition. Grand Rapids,
Michigan, Zondervan, 1979.


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................................................................................6 MOTIFS OF MISSION THEOLOGY............................................................................................8 CONCLUSION............................................................................................................................... 9 BIBLIOGRAPHY 11 INTRODUCTION There is evidence from the beginning of the Biblical text starting in Genesis, to the conclusion of the text with Revelation that God desires for man to fulfill His call for missions. The story of missions begins with around four thousand years ago when God calls Abraham. The Scriptures offer a clear explanation of the original calling of Abraham. God commands Abraham, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1 ESV) Genesis 12:1-3 signifies an assurance whose completion extends throughout the Scriptures, it is the original representation of the Abrahamic covenant. This covenant is a fourfold everlasting covenant. First, is the seed, which refers to Christ? Paul replicates this when explaining, “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’” (Galatians 3:8) The “Good News” signifies the news of...

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Personal Credo

...I believe that God has chosen to reveal Himself through miraculous means to include physical appearances of God, dreams, and visions, the written Word of God, and most importantly—Jesus Christ. The Bible records God appearing in physical form many times (Genesis 3:8, 18:1; Exodus 3:1-4, 34:5-7), and the Bible records God speaking to people through dreams (Genesis 28:12, 37:5; 1 Kings 3:5; Daniel 2) and visions (Genesis 15:1; Ezekiel 8:3-4; Daniel 7; 2 Corinthians 12:1-7). Also, God chooses to reveal Himself as taught in Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Like Psalm 19, Romans 1:20 teaches that God’s eternal power and divine nature are “clearly seen” and “understood” from what has been made. I believe the primary importance in the revealing of God is His Word, the Bible. God miraculously inspired the authors of Scripture to correctly record His message to mankind, while still using their own styles and personalities. God sets forth in the infallible Scriptures combines Jesus’ own declaration of the present reality of the Kingdom of God with the apostles’ account of the person, place, and work of Christ, and how sinful humans benefit from it. The Word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). The Word of God is inspired, profitable, and sufficient (2 Timothy 3:16-17). God determined to have......

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...|Introductory Note | |  | |  | |BEN JONSON was born of poor parents at Westminster in 1573. Through the influence of Camden, the antiquary, he got a good |  1| |education at Westminster School; but he does not seem to have gone to a University, though later both Oxford and Cambridge gave | | |him degrees. In his youth he practised for a time his stepfather’s trade of bricklaying, and he served as a soldier in Flanders. | | |  It was probably about 1595 that he began to write for the stage, and within a few years he was recognized as a distinguished |  2| |playwright. His comedy of “Every Man in His Humour” was not only a great immediate success, but founded a school of satirical | | |drama in England. “Sejanus” and “Catiline” were less popular, but are impressive pictures of Roman life, less interesting but more| | |accurate than the Roman plays of Shakespeare. | | |  For the court of James I, Jonson wrote a large number of masques, which procured him substantial rewards in the form of ......

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