Pretribulation Rapture Signpost #1: Premillennialism
Why do we believe that the rapture will happen before the tribulation? While I enjoy writing about the signs of the last days, at the same time I recognize the necessity of equipping believers to defend what they believe, which I will endeavor to do in the coming weeks, beginning with this post.
The first signpost pointing the way toward a pretribulation rapture is premillennialism, the belief in the thousand-year reign of Jesus before the eternal state (see Rev. 20:1-10). Those who hold to this position also believe in a literal seven-year tribulation after which Jesus returns to earth to setup His kingdom and rule over the nations of the world.
Do you see why a defense of premillennialism must come first? If one denies the reality of the tribulation, the timing of the rapture in relationship to the tribulation does not matter. Many amillennialists deny the reality of the rapture altogether.
Therefore, in order to establish a solid basis for providing biblical evidence of a pretribulation rapture, we must first show how and why amillennialism contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture.
Amillennialism Makes God a Breaker of Covenants
Amillennialists believe God has rejected Israel and replaced her with the church. They say that the covenants of Scripture regarding Israel must be applied to the church, that God’s promises of physical blessings for Israel contain hidden spiritual blessings that now pertain to the body of Christ.
If these things are true, does it not mean God has defaulted on His promises to Israel? Some of His covenants were conditional, but one covenant in particular was not.
In Psalm 105:8-11, the Psalmist tells us in no uncertain terms that God’s promise of land to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is “an everlasting covenant.” If the words of Psalm 105 are true, this covenant remains in effect today. God’s promise of land to the descendants of the patriarchs has not expired; it’s just as true today as when God made the covenant with Abraham.
In words that cannot be regarded as allegory or explained away in any other way, the Lord through the prophet Jeremiah states that Israel will remain a nation in God’s eyes as long as the “fixed order” of day and night exists (Jer. 31:35-37). The prophet repeats this promise in Jeremiah 33:23-26 for the Israelites in his day who were saying the Lord had rejected them.
The rising of the sun each day testifies to Israel’s abiding place as a nation in the eyes of the Lord.
Amillennialism Cannot Explain Jesus’ Promise to His Disciples
In Matthew 19:28, Jesus made this remarkable promise to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” These early followers of Jesus had no other way to understand Jesus’ promise to them apart from reigning with Jesus over a restored nation of Israel.
How else could the disciples have understood this? Jesus is not telling them a parable; He’s making a specific promise to them, assuring them of a future kingdom for Israel as well as a role in ruling over it.
Did the disciples retain a literal hope in this promise after Jesus’ death and resurrection? Yes, they did.
In Acts 1:6 they asked Jesus, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” In response, Jesus did not reprimand them for such a foolish question or dispel any of their hopes. He told them that their timing was wrong and diverted their attention to the task at hand, that of taking the Gospel to the world (Acts 1:7-8).
Jesus did not dampen their hope of a future kingdom or contradict His earlier promise in any way. He only corrected their timing of the matter.
Amillennialism Began with an Effort to Combine the Bible with Platonism
As I explained in another post, amillennialism began with an effort to combine the teachings of the Bible regarding the millennium with those of the pagan philosopher Plato.
Augustine, the one who led the way in turning the church from premillennialism to amillennialism, found the idea of feasts and other physical blessings of the millennium repulsive. Motivated by his love for teachings of Plato along with his hatred of the Jewish people, he resorted to the use of allegory in order to turn the physical promises God made to Israel into spiritual blessings for the church.
Calvin followed this same pattern. Driven by his hatred for the Jewish people and his own Platonic leanings, he retained the amillennialism of Augustine.
This use of allegory, however, comes with other severe problems besides this compromise. Those who seek these hidden spiritual meanings in biblical prophecy cannot explain how the writers of the Old Testament can switch from accurately predicting events related to Jesus’ first coming to writing in allegory, in almost the same breath, in regard to the restoration of Israel as a nation.
For example, how could Isaiah write about Jesus’ birth as a baby with precision and then in the next sentence write allegorically about Jesus’ reign on the “throne of David” (Isa. 9:6-7)? Allegories do not switch in and out of a story in such a way.
Amillennialism Leads to Further Erosion of Biblical Truth
Over the course of time, amillennialism leads to a further erosion of biblical truth. It happened after the time of Augustine and it will happen again with the resurgence pastors, teachers, and writers who today deny the reality of the tribulation, millennium, and a future for Israel.
By relegating of large portions of Scripture to allegory, amillennialism opens the door wide to further abuse of God’s Word. If the apostle Paul did not really mean what he wrote about God not rejecting Israel in Romans 11:1-2, for example, then perhaps we can apply other meanings to his words elsewhere. Do you see how quickly the slide downward happens with the use of allegory to interpret the Bible?
This open door not only leads to a variety of false teachings regarding the future, but also over time diminishes the truths of the Gospel as amillennialism constantly undermines the trustworthiness of God’s Word.
Amillennialism Negates God’s Purpose for Revealing the Future
God possesses a passion for revealing the future. We see this clearly in Isaiah 46:9-11, “. . . I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’ . . . I have spoken and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.” God loves to reveal the future; it demonstrates His sovereignty over life and all events on this planet. Prophecy also proves the veracity of His Word given to us through the writers of Scripture.
Jesus fulfilled many Old Testament prophecies with His first coming. The Lord revealed these things to the prophets so the Jews would recognize their Messiah and so we would recognize God’s purpose in sending His Son to the world. God reveals the future far in advance so we will learn to trust Him and His Word to a greater degree.
We see this in Jesus’ words in John 14:29, “And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.” He told His disciples what was about to happen so they, when His words came true, would believe and not panic at what was about to happen.
God reveals the future so that, when people see His ancient words come to life before their eyes, they will believe.
Amillennialism Overlooks the Miracle of Current-Day Israel
As a result of their use of allegory to explain away future biblical prophecy, those who hold to amillennialism remain blind to the current fulfillment of prophecy unfolding before their eyes.
I remember explaining the miracle of current-day Israel to an amillennialist. It seemed as though he had a veil over his eyes as I showed him from Scripture the many prophecies relating to Israel. He could not see what was right before his eyes.
From start to the present day, the miraculous rebirth and preservation of Israel as a nation fulfills God’s promise of future blessings for His people. This is not yet the millennial restoration of the kingdom to a repentant Israel, but today we see the beginnings of God’s promise to His people found in Ezekiel 36:22-37:28.
In our journey along the road to believing in a pretribulation rapture, this is the first signpost we see. If we miss this one, we will never arrive at our destination.
There are two important reasons why we must start with premillennialism when examining biblical support for placing the rapture before the start of the tribulation:
It makes no sense to discuss the timing of the rapture if one does not believe in a literal tribulation or millennium. Such beliefs make the Lord’s appearing for His church a non-event.
Secondly, premillennialists have a higher regard for the words of Scripture in prophetic passages. Without such respect for the literal meaning of prophecy, it’s not possible to establish a basis for a pretribulation rapture.
Stay tuned for more signposts on our journey toward a biblical basis for a pretribulation rapture.
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