1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
Note: The opening diagram for today's post is found at the following link: www.sunriseonline.ca/sermons/future_imperfect.html
Introduction and Review:
Yesterday we first considered five arguments for a posttribulational rapture. We then followed by proposing five pretribulational counter arguments and an additional five pretribulational arguments that demonstrate why the Bible favors the rapture of the church occurring prior to the tribulation period. In today's post we will follow a similar format in exploring the midtribulational viewpoint in comparison to the pretribulational viewpoint.
Briefly describing the midtribulational viewpoint
A conservative Bible believing scholar, Gleason L. Archer, describes his midtribulational viewpoint: "It simply regards the first three and a half years, during which the antiChrist will increase his power and mount his persecution against the church, as a lesser tribulation, not nearly as terrifying or destructive of life as those fearsome plagues that will dominate the last three and a half years. In other words, the interpretation makes a clear division between the first half as the period of the wrath of man, and the second half as the period of the wrath of God." 1 The chart below summarizes this view and derives from the site: christiankonnections.com
With the viewpoint briefly defined, we will lay out three main arguments that one could propose for the position, followed by three pretribulational counterarguments and two additional pretribribulational arguments that demonstrate why the church will not experience the tribulation period at all.
Three arguments used by midtribulationalists to bolster their view
1. The tribulation period, referred to as Daniel's seventieth week in Daniel 9:26-27, is immediately further defined as being divisible into two periods of 3 1/2 years each. Daniel 12:11 states: "From the time that the regular sacrifice is abolished and the abomination of desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days (i.e 3 1/2 years)." All viewpoints of the rapture agree that the AntiChrist's blasphemy against God will escalate and begin midway through the tribulation period. Thus it stands to reason that the church would be raptured shortly before that event occurs, as indicated in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4.
2. Jesus makes the same distinction about the second half of the tribulation period, calling it "The Great Tribulation" as indicated in Matthew 24:21. According to midtribulationalists, Jesus speaks about the rapture in Matthew 24:31, closing out His particular discussion on the period of time leading up to His second coming.
3. When we read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 in light of Daniel 9:26-27; 12:11 and Matthew 24:21-31, it would seem then that the rapture will occur in the middle of the future seven year tribulation period. Furthermore, God's Divine Wrath does not officially begin until the second half of the seven year tribulation period, as seen in its sudden escalation and intensity in the judgment sequences of Revelation 6-19.
Three pretribulational counterarguments to the midtribulational rapture position
1. Though it is true that Daniel 12:11 and even Jesus Himself indicate the second half of the tribulation being worse than the first half, the rapture event itself is never presented as having any definitive signs that can pinpoint its occurrence. Furthermore, the prophecies of Daniel are referring to God's dealings with the nation of Israel in the tribulation, and nothing whatsoever is said about the church, since it would not be revealed until the New Testament.
2. The weakness of the Midtribulational argument is the same as the Postribulational position on Matthew 24 - namely assuming that the rapture is being referred to by Jesus. Again the elect being gathered from the four winds in Matthew 24:31 are being gathered by angels and fit the context of Jewish believers being raised at the time of Christ's second advent as marking the tail end of the sequence of events in the resurrection of the righteous. (see Daniel 12:1-2) Rapture passages such as John 14:1-3 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 have Jesus himself gathering the church saints unto himself, marking an earlier stage in the overall sequence of events that is the resurrection of the righteous.
3. To distinguish between man's wrath and the Anti-Christ's wrath in the first half of the tribulation versus seeing Divine wrath only in the second half is saying too much. Paul Feinberg, a pretribulational scholar, has pointed out that when Christ began breaking the seals of the scroll in Revelation 6, that began the sequence of events of God's wrath covering the whole seven year tribulation period. Feinberg's point is what began convincing this blogger that a pretribulational scenario, rather than a postribulational ordering was the preferred interpretive method. Such an argument can likewise be used to critique the midtribulational point of view.2
Two additional pretribulational arguments in light of the above discussion
1. For midtribulationalism to be true, we have to contend with the fact that people are still getting saved even past the mid-way point of the tribulation period. Why would Christ take church saints but not those other saints? It appears then that the church being raptured out prior to the tribulation avoids such confusion.
2. Let the reader consider 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 as well as the often discussed 2 Thessalonians 2:1-11. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-11 speaks of the tribulation period and the revealing of Anti-Christ. In 2:12-17 we see Paul switching gears to comfort his readers with the truth of their "gaining the glory of Jesus Christ" in 2:12. What does that tell you? That Paul is most likely referring back to his remarks in his prior letter of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, where he spoke to them in similar terms about the rapture. The rapture event is treated separately from the discussion of AntiChrist in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 because that actually is Paul's whole point: the Thessalonians had not missed it and furthermore would not have to be concerned about going through the tribulation.
1. Stanley N. Gundry, Series Editor., Gleason L. Archer Jr., general editor. Three Views on the Rapture: Pre-, Mid-, or Post tribulation. Zondervan. 1996. Page 139.
2. To read Feinberg's complete argument for pretribulationalism, see his essay "The case for the pretribulation rapture position in the book:
Stanley N. Gundry, Series Editor., Gleason L. Archer Jr., general editor. Three Views on the Rapture: Pre-, Mid-, or Post tribulation. Zondervan. 1996. Pages 45-86.
Feinberg's remark to which I am referring to in the post is found on page 62 of his essay. Well worth the read!