Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Gathering, Part 1

Back in the 90s, when the Left Behind books were so popular, I (like many others) became interested in End Times theology.  Having been raised Catholic, the "End Times" was not something that was ever taught or discussed.  So as I began to read the books (and yes, I read them all), it was my first realization that the Bible really did talk of the return of Jesus.  Growing up, I had heard references to the "second coming," but frankly, I had no idea what that meant.

I told my pastor (at that time) that I was reading the Left Behind books, and he said, "That's good, but you really need to watch their theology."  That's all he said.  He did not elaborate, or try to convince me of his own viewpoint.  Hmmm.... the researcher in me really woke up!  (Turns out he was an amillenialist - see the next paragraph to find out what in the world THAT is).

I discovered that there were numerous theological opinions regarding the End of the World.  I began to study all of them.  One thing became clear to me:  the events of the last days are completely centered on Israel!  For centuries, the church taught Replacement Theology and had to allegorize away most of Revelation (amillenialism), because the coming kingdom is centered on God's covenant people in the physical land of Israel.  If you are teaching that the church replaced Israel, Revelation can be a tough book to rationalize.

Today, it seems that within evangelical Christianity, the pre-tribulational rapture viewpoint is the most popular.  This is the idea that the church will be zapped away into heaven before the start of Daniel's seventieth week, which is the final seven years of History on Earth before the Lord's return.  It is a step in the right direction, because at least it acknowledges Israel, but it still separates out the"church" from Israel.  I don't know about you, but I'M grafted in to the commonwealth of Israel and an heir according to the promise to Abraham.

The history of the pre-trib viewpoint goes back to about 1830, with a supposed dream or vision had by a fifteen-year-old girl, Margaret MacDonald in Scotland. 

John Nelson Darby, the founder of a group known as the Plymouth Brethren, began teaching this new theory after visiting Miss MacDonald.

Later, by 1917, C. I. Scofield had published his improved edition of the Scofield Reference Bible which contained the pre-tribulation teachings of Darby and others. Soon many Bible Colleges such as Moody Bible Institute and seminaries such as Dallas Theological Seminary became staunch promoters of dispensational theology that included the doctrine of a pre-tribulation rapture.
In 1970 Hal Lindsey, who attended Dallas Theological Seminary, popularized this teaching with his book titled The Late Great Planet Earth. Several million copies have been sold and a movie by the same title was made.

The more I studied scripture, however, the less I agreed with this point of view.  There were just too many things that didn't line up.  Eventually a friend gave me a book, "The Rapture Question Answered, Plain and Simple," by Robert Van Kampen.  This book helped greatly in clearing up my confusion, and helped to harmonize all the scriptures regarding the End Times for me.  I went on to read his very thick book "The Sign," which helped to further clarify things (even though I don't agree with all of his conclusions).

There are several scriptures that pre-trib people use to help justify their viewpoint.  One is 1 Thessalonians 1:10 -  and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.  See?  God wouldn't have us undergo the wrath that is coming in the tribulation.  Hmmm, ever read Foxe's Book of Martyrs?  There has been persecution and tribulation for believers since Jesus went back to heaven. 
Another verse used is Revelation 3:10, from the letter to the church at Philadelphia:  Because you have kept My command to perservere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.  Bullinger's Greek Lexicon explains "keep from" in this manner:  "to watch over, take care of, keep an eye on, observe attentively."  In other words, it's a promise of protection to the faithful within a sphere of danger.  But it's a promise made to only one of the seven churches in Revelation.  What about the warnings to the other six?  I want to be a part of Philadelphia, the faithful church!

The problem I have with the pre-trib viewpoint is that it assumes that the whole 70th week of Daniel is "the tribulation."  This just ain't so.  The first three and a half years will be relative peace and safety, albeit with birth pangs.  The second half is the great tribulation - severe persecution by satan against the people of God.  The pre-trib view also lumps together the great tribulation and the wrath of God.They are two separate things!  The gathering of the saints DOES happen, just not when the PTs think. 
I have found that Matthew 24 and the seven seals of Revelation 6-8 parallel each other and give us the clearest picture of what is to come.  So in my next post, I will take a closer look at them.  Stay tuned!

Click here for part 2.

No comments:

Post a Comment